Sunday, April 29, 2012

I am guest blogging this week!

Head on over to the Indie Book Blog, and you will see that I am this week's guest blogger with a post called Y is for the Y Chromosome. That blog has run an interesting A-Z writing challenge where each guest blogger had to come up with a theme for a post based on a letter. I picked Y because a) it was one of the few slots left, b) being at the end of the alphabet gave me time to write the post, and c) I planned to write about YA fiction and why I like it.

However, when I started writing, I realized it was trying to describe why I like strawberries; the post was too short and too personal. Ergo, I decided to save the YA post for this blog (in a week or so) and to write instead about writing from the male POV when I am female.  That was much easier to do at length because I could use actual examples from my books, particularly in Tribes, where I attempt to turn gender stereotypes around by having a male character who has been a whore and a female character who has been a warrior.  Neither one is the sum total of his or her past, but they aren't coming from the usual Pretty Woman perspective, either.

Some of the other posts in the alphabet are really interesting, too.  Be sure to check out my favorites, the one on S for space hotel and M is for magic systems. It's a fun blog, and an interesting challenge,

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Upcoming freebie and a new release is near

I have the converted copy of Shades of Empire back from the conversion house and I'm proofing one last time. In honor of that, I have scheduled Where Magic Rules to be free in the Kindle store on May 4. This is my first foray into KDP Select promotions. The KDP Select author interface allows me to select a date or a range of dates that a book can be free. I'm going to start with one day the first time, and see how it goes.

Funny to think that I hope to give away a lot of books!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Amazon wish list

This isn't a list of things I want to buy from Amazon, it's things I wish Amazon would do for their Kindle platform and/or bookstore.

  1. Allow the user to select which Kindle or Kindle app is the default. I constantly send things to the wrong Kindle when I buy a book or download a free book because it won't let me change the default "Send to" button from my husband's Kindle 3 to my Kindle Touch. 
  2. Provide a button to pre-order a free sample. When a book is available for pre-order, you can either buy it or not, but you can't see a sample online and you have no way to say "Send me a sample of this as soon as it comes out." I see a lot of books in Amazon marketing emails that sound interesting but if I don't know for sure I want the book, I am not pre-odering it without a sample. If I forget to check my wish list, I might never check out that book any further.
  3. Restore the header line! I really miss seeing the author/title of the book at the top of the screen when I am reading. I know it takes a line of text from the screen, but why can't they at least make it a display option for those of use who want it?
  4. Make the page shorter when in read-aloud mode. On the Kindle Touch, the menu stays on the bottom of the screen when it is reading aloud. I like that because it is faster for pausing, turning it on and off, but it covers up the text beneath it. I like to proof on my Kindle, so I want to hear and see the text at the same time! The same is true for folks with dyslexia, who use ereaders to help with comprehension. 
  5.  Provide an epub email conversion. They must be able to do this; converting from epub has got to be easier and more reliable than converting from MS Word. Amazon lets publishers submit epub books and converts them to Kindle format, so let Kindle owners use that conversion, too!    

There you go, five things! Is that too much to ask? Come on, Amazon, get with it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Availability and pricing update

I have been checking the various retail outlets, and the price change to make Tribes and No Safe Haven $2.99 again is in place in the KindleNookiBooksSmashwords, and Sony ebookstoresKobo now has Tribes back (it had lost it for a while) but the book is still priced at 99¢, and there's no sign of the other two novels.  Diesel has still lost all my books! And the newest outlet, Blio, has Tribes and The Sixth Discipline, both  for 99¢ but with no sign of No Safe Haven.

Actually, Blio is no longer the newest outlet for me, because I recently uploaded The Sixth Discipline to Goodreads in ePub format.  You can buy it there DRM-free, just like Smashwords.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where Magic Rules has been loaded to KDP!

I just finished loading the file for the novella into the KDP interface. It's a very easy-to-use interface if you have everything ready; 52Novels does a great job on the conversion, so there were no problems at all, and the book looked great.

I opted to do it as a Kindle Select title, which will be an interesting experience. Since it's a novella instead of a novel, I priced it at 99¢. Being in the Kindle Select program means people who are Amazon Prime members can borrow it, and I am wondering if anyone will. Since they are limited to one free book per month, I am not sure they would bother borrowing a  99¢ novella, but we will see,

Once it's available, I will update the Latest Release box to show that.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Kobo and Diesel: my books are not there right now

I had my books on sale for a while at 99¢ each, but now they are back to $2.99 for No Safe Haven and Tribes, while The Sixth Discipline stays at it loss-leader price of 99¢.  When I was checking to see if this change on Smashwords had been passed on to other retailers, I noticed that Kobo and Diesel appeared to have dropped my books. I am trying to resolve this situation. I don't get a lot of sales from those stores, so I don't know how long they have been missing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Countdown to publication

I've delivered Shades of Empire to the conversion house and I've gotten back the novella Where Magic Rules. I'm proofing the novella on the Kindle now; that final post-conversion proof is really important. 52 Novels does a good job, but MS Word is not a great format to convert from. So far everything looks pretty good. the only conversion errors I have seen have been with double and single quote marks occasionally going the wrong way (e.g., what should be a close quote comes through as an open quote).

After some soul searching, I have decided to publish the novella as a Kindle Select book. That means for 90 days it will be available only on the Kindle. I really don't want to limit my readership that way. I know a lot of folks with Sony or Kobo or Nook readers (like this blogger) hate it when an ebook is only available on Amazon. But if I make it a Kindle Select book, I can make it free in the Kindle store for short periods of time, and that's a valuable tool.

When you think of it, it's kind of amazing that being able to give away your work should be so important, but that's the way it is in the digital world.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm in (Book) Labor!

Both Shades of Empire and Where Magic Rules have been delivered to the conversion house. In a week or two I should have the files back for final review. The twins are on their way!

I feel like I need a cigarette and I don't even smoke.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Another thought on the Hugos

Just another brief post on the Hugos. . . . DAW publisher and long-time book editor Betsy Wollheim posted on Facebook (you need to be logged on to FB for the link to work) that she was on the Hugo ballot for the first time in 37 years.

This highlights the invisibility of book editors to all but industry insiders. Unless the author mentions the editor's name in the dedication, it never appears in the books he or she edits. It certainly isn't in the cataloging info for print books or the metadata for ebooks. Until the Hugos added a category for long-form editing a few years ago, book editors were nominated much less often than short story (magazine) editors. I don't even know if a book editor ever won.

I wish the Hugo voting packet included a list of the books the nominated long-form editors edited! It would be much easier to make a choice. Maybe I will suggest that to the Worldcon folks?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hugo bargain basement shopping

This year, Worldcon will be Chicon 7,  because it's being held in Chicago, IL.  I won't be heading to Chicago in August, but I did buy a supporting membership to Chicon.   If you want to know one big part of my reasons, take a look at this list of Hugo nominations for 2012, just announced today.

There are 5 novels, 6 novellas, 5 novelettes, and 5 short stories nominated, as well as several works of nonfiction and some screenplays. As a member of Chicon, I get to vote for the Hugos; to help voting members decide how to vote, Chicon will send them each a digital packet of pretty much all the nominated works, all 5 novels, all 6 novellas. etc. The last couple of years, they've been very good about providing a variety of formats, so putting these works on an ereader is pretty easy.

It's a lot of stuff! My usual plan of attack is to read the shorter works all the way through.  With the novels, if it holds my interest, I finish it. If it doesn't, I move on.  But when I get my ballot, I have a pretty good idea how I want to vote, and I feel much better about picking one work over another because I've at least started everything.

If you're interested, check out the online registration page. Supporting memberships are still $50.  But don't put it off, because you'll need time to read all those works in time to vote!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Another Smashwords downtime problem? (Fixed now!)

Smashwords occasionally has downtime problems and it's looking like this morning could be one of them.  I only see a little bit of Twitter traffic on it, but the problem seems to have started early this morning, US EDT.

Here's hoping it doesn't last as long as last time!

p.s.  I found a service that reports when a website is down.

UPDATE: (1:15 pm, US EDT) Looks like it's back up. Hopefully, it will stay that way!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Self-publishing: The 10-Step Program

Many people ask me about this, once they find out I have self-published, so I thought I would put the info into a post that I can just refer them to it; I may also load this to its own page on this site, if needed.

Once you have decided to self-publish, what are the steps involved?
  1. Commit! The very first thing is to make sure you want to make a big commitment in either time or money or both. Publishing is work, if you do it right. You either have to do it all yourself, or get someone else to do it for love or for money.
  2. Review and edit! Next, make sure your story is ready. Every book should go through an editorial review process, either by being read by an editor or by a group of other writers, or at the very least, by someone other than your mother. This is not  merely to get validation that your story is good; it is to get the feedback you need to make the story better. This will often include getting comments about characterization, dialog, pacing, and other things that make a book easy to read.  Once you have these comments, you need to decide what to change in your book.
  3. Copyedit! Once the substantive edits are made, you need to get someone to copyedit the book. Copyediting is distinct process, different from substantive edits. Copyeditors check style, grammar, word usage, and the internal logic of the story. Do you say the protagonist is 23 in Chapter One but a year later in Chapter Two is he suddenly 26? A good copyeditor will catch these things. If you know one, cherish him or her; if not, you might be able to trade copyediting work with another writer, as copyediting your own work is really hard. Don't pay someone to do this unless you are sure they are qualified; if you're not sure, I suggest you hire them only to copyedit a sample (10 or 20 pages, say) as a check of their abilities.
  4. Pick the platforms! Decide if you will publish in print or as an ebook or both, and then decide what platforms you will sell your book through (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks, etc.). For ebooks, the publishing platform is usually the retail outlet as well. For print books you will also need to be sure your book is laid out in pages, in a way that looks good and is readable. You also need to decide how you would get your printed book to customers. Two good print platforms for self-publishing are CreateSpace and Lulu.
  5. Get a decent cover! If you have an eye for design, you might be able to make your own, especially if you know how to use PhotoShop. But there are artists out there who will create a cover for you for about $200 on up (way up!). Be aware of copyright issues where photographs and artwork are concerned. You definitely can't steal someone else's images from the web if you are putting them on work that is for sale. If you publish in print, you need to worry about the whole cover (front, back, and spine), not just a single front-cover image. Be sure to check the cover requirements for every platform you plan to publish on.
  6. Layout the pages/style the files! If you're publishing in print, you need a PDF of your pages.  If you're publishing in ebook form, you need to convert from word processing format to ebook format. The PubIt platform (Barnes & Noble) uses ePub format, Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) has its own format based on Mobi-pocket, and Smashwords has its own style guide for formatting an MS Word file in a way that works for their conversion program (ominously dubbed "the meat grinder"). Again, you can pay someone or you can do your own conversion using Calibre or Scrivener. If you aren't tech-ey and you can't afford a conversion house, KDP actually accepts many formats, as does PubIt, but then you have to take whatever formatting you get. If you want to control what your book looks like, you might do better to put it into the right format to begin with. Default conversions often yield bland-looking or even badly formatted ebooks. Smashwords has said they will eventually accept ePub, but for right now you are stuck using their MS Word and their style guide.   
  7. Proof again! Assuming you convert the books or have them converted, once you have files in the right format, it is really a good idea to load them into an ereader or an ereader app and proof them again to be sure you don't have formatting errors like run-together words, bad paragraph indenting, and so on.    
  8. Decide about ISBNs! Before you load your book, you need to decide if you want to get your own International Standard Book Number (ISBN). It costs money to get them for yourself, but if you want the book to have an ISBN on all platforms, you will need to do that.  Smashwords will assign one for you if your book is formatted well enough to go into their premium catalog, but that won't work for print or the Kindle because you need an ISBN for each format (print, Kindle ebook, ePub ebook). You can purchase ISBNs from Bowker.
  9. Write a blurb! Once you have the cover, the files you need to load the book, the ISBN (if needed), you need to write a blurb for the book, and decide what tags you will apply to it (mystery, adventure, science fiction, etc.). The blurb should be short and oriented toward making someone interested in reading the book rather than being a plot synopsis. Tags will vary depending on the platform.
  10. Create a marketing plan! Finally, have a marketing plan in place. Once your book is for sale, how will people know it? You can contact book review blogs and offer a free copy of the book, you can plead for reviews on Amazon and other retail sites, and (in some cases) you can make the book free for a short period of time. 

Once you've done all this, then you're ready to publish. Check out how it works on the platforms you're using and get going!