Saturday, March 31, 2012

eBook production update

The fantasy novella Where Magic Rules is done, and Shades of Empire is back from the copyeditor. I'm making final edits on the novel now.  Everything should be ready to go to 52 Novels, the conversion house, in about two weeks. I use them because they don't just convert the files, they impose a distinct design on the books, applying a style for scene breaks and chapter headings. If I just wanted to convert the text, I could use Calibre or Scrivener, but I don't know ebook formats well enough to be able to impose that style myself.

The one drawback to using a conversion house is that unless you know what you're doing, you can't edit the files easily once you get them back. Ergo, careful proofing before you submit the m.s. is essential. I use Calibre to convert my MS Word file so that I can proof on my Kindle, which I find very helpful. Them, when I get the files back from 52 Novels, I send the Kindle version to my Kindle and proof yet again to be sure that everything came through okay. This is especially important for things like blocks of indented text or places where you rely on italics to convey something other than ordinary narrative and dialog.  52 Novels will do minor corrections and certainly fix anything that didn't convert well, but you don't want to ask for substantive edits at this point because it would cost you.

This stage is exciting and tedious at the same time. Inserting commas and rewording awkward or unclear phrasing  is much less fun than writing. On the other hand, it means the book is near to being out there in the world, which is what every writer wants!
In some ways, it's a lot like those last few weeks of pregnancy. I'm about to have a bouncing baby ebook, and in this case it's twins!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

To Touch or to Keyboard, that is the question!

I've had my Kindle Touch for a while now, and I have to say, I like it better, over all, than my old Kindle 3 (a.k.a. my husband's "new" Kindle Keyboard), but there are few things I think the K3 did better. For me, typing is much easier on the touch screen, which is great for searching in books and in the Kindle store, and for typing passwords (as when you log onto a new wireless network). I can still read one-handed using the tap feature to go forward a page, which is great.

But sometimes I brush the screen without meaning to and the page flips forward or backward! I'm sure I'll get better at that over time, but for now, it's very annoying.

Using collections is definitely easier with the KT, as is navigating pages and pages of home screen, which is what you get when you have hundreds of documents on your Kindle.

While making annotations is easier with the KT, reading them was actually a little easier on the K3, at least for my own manuscripts and other documents.  When you annotate a Kindle book, the annotations go into a special file, and every annotation is linked to where it occurs in the book. When you have the book open and use the menu option to view the "Notes," you get a list of these annotations (and with the KT, the highlights are intermixed). What you actually see in the list is a snippet of text that occurs right after the annotation and the annotation number, as if it were a footnote. With the K3, you could move the cursor down the page, to each annotation in turn, and the text of the note the cursor is on displays at the bottom of the page. With the KT. in order to read what your note says, you have to tap the annotation number, and that opens that note. But you can't tap it too long, it takes you to that part of the book. It has taken me a while to get the hang of that.

For Kindle books you buy from Amazon, it's actually easier to go to your Highlights page on the web ( where you can not only read them more easily, you can copy and paste them if needed.  However, when I use the Kindle to proof one of my own manuscripts, the annotations and highlights don't appear on that web page, which is very annoying!  I have observed that the manuscripts and other files I send, including non-Kindle books, (Amazon calls them all "private documents") do now go into my Kindle archive, which is nice.

So overall, the KT is still better, but what I really want is a hybrid Kindle, with no keyboard but with page forward and backward buttons on the edges, and a screen you could turn on and off for touch activation. That would be cool!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two out of three is a good start!

I checked over at the Blio ebookstore, and The Sixth Discipline is now for sale there!  So is Tribes, but No Safe Haven seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, possibly because there's already a book with that exact title (although they don't seem to have any problem with Seth Godin's book also being named Tribes so maybe that's a red herring).

I bought a copy of my own book so that I can check it out on the Blio ereader, which I downloaded onto my smart phone. Blio works on Android, iOS, and Windows. I want to see how the book looks, but also I want to see how long it takes for Blio to send Smashwords the sales data.

Smashwords did just update both Sony and Apple's sales numbers, and again, I'm doing better in iBooks than in the Kindle store, especially in Australia. Go Aussies!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Virtual Reality Becomes Reality

A friend posted a link to this Huffington Post article on a Japanese virtual pop star named Hatsune Miku. If you watch the video, you'll see in her “live” concerts she appears three-dimensional. She's also kind of a walking, singing Barbie doll, as far as her appearance—incredibly long legs and a tiny waist. She's not as well endowed as Barbie, because she is, after all, Japanese. Aside from the technology that produces her, the interesting thing is that her songs are, in effect, crowd sourced, written an refined by her fans.

According to her Wikipedia page, she's supposed to be sixteen. She even wears her virtual hair in long pigtails. In a lot of ways, she creeps me out. I write science fiction novels, but I'm queasy at the idea of the image of a teenage girl as a saleable object. It's tad like the camel's nose in Paolo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl tent.

But I can see why Crypton Future Media, the company that created her, would see her as a good investment. She'll never get old, never get fat, and never die of a drug overdose. They call her a "vocaloid," and I'm sure they don't pay her overtime.

Here's the video on one of her concerts if you want to watch her.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A new retail outlet for self-published authors

It looks like Smashwords must have been working on the deal with Baker & Taylor for some time. I say that because I noticed that not only does my Smashwords Sales & Payment Report now hold a line for Baker & Taylor sales (mine says 0, naturally), but the Distribution Channel Manager (also accessible from the left panel of the Dashboard) shows that my three novels have already shipped to Baker & Taylor.

Baker & Taylor are the distributors for Blio, free ereader software that runs on many devices and supports many aspects of the typography of the printed page without locking in page layout, like PDF. A search for my name in the Blio ebookstore yields no results, however, so it might be a while yet before that zero changes to something more positive. I had never visited the Blio bookstore before.  Interestingly enough, it does not allow you to sort by price, only by popularity, title, author, and date. It does offer a genre filter, though, which is nice for those of use who read and/or write in a specific genre.

A related feature of the Baker & Taylor deal is that it will also make Smashwords books available to libraries. I think that's totally cool!  Kudos to Mark Coker for making it happen!