Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye, 2013!

It was a pretty good year, but I have high hopes for 2014.  The Google Doodle for today shows 2013 partying in a 70's style disco while a 4 waits in the wings, ready to make it 2014, That's about the way I feel, except I never liked disco that much.

Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's almost Christmas!

I won't be blogging in the next several days, so I want to wish everyone Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, have a wonderful Kwanzaa! Whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope they're wonderful!  In the case of Hanukkah, that would be a past tense wish. :)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Finally, a draft at least!

The cover for Saronna's Gift has been plagued by problems. This is my first cover that used an actual model, and the photographer had technical difficulties that required a reshoot.

Anyway, it's only a draft, because the colors aren't right and the typography is missing, but here is (more of less) what the cover of Saronna's Gift will look like.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Kindle finally has web-based collections!

Something interesting has happened. The Kindle currently lets you create "collections" (i.e., you can label your books and see all the books with a given label) but the set of collections you create is specific to that single device. Ergo, if own a Kindle and create collections on it, and then you buy a new Kindle, you have to import all the books you want to appear in collections onto the new Kindle and then import the collections from the first Kindle. This will label all the books currently on that Kindle. But if, after you import the collections, you later send one of your older books to your newer Kindle, it will not arrive with the collection label it had on the first Kindle.  This was tedious!

However, Amazon has announced that you store collections in your Cloud Reader, too, and the Cloud collections can be imported to any Kindle.

The Cloud reader is really just a browser-based app that lets you read all your Kindle books from a PC, but since all your Kindle books (or possibly all your Kindle books from a specific date; I am not certain) go into your cloud reader, it should mean you can label the books once then import them to how every many Kindles you have.

I am very hopeful this will be as handy as it sounds! I had not yet created any collections on my Paperwhite so now I think I will create them in the Cloud and see how this works.

Addendum: Sigh. Not nearly as useful as I had hoped. You still have to create the collection on the Kindle Paperwhite, which means all the books you want to label have to be downloaded to the Paperwhite first.   If you have just bought a Kindle Paperwhite, this is a great feature. If you're on your 5th Kindle, like me, not so much.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, 2013!

I am thankful for many things, first and foremost being my family. And right now I am thankful that Saronna's Gift is back from the copyeditor. I hope to be thankful for a cover soon.

But in the meantime, I am cooking a turkey for 18 people this year, so I won't be posting again any time soon.  Here's a painting of the somewhat mythical first Thanksgiving, to remind us all to give thanks for our modern appliances as we prepare (and clean up from) our own feasts.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

eBooks Down Under now includes a Kindle store

Amazon just opened a Kindle store for Australia! My books are all there, although, sadly, The Sixth Discipline is $1.03 AUD instead of being free. If you have an Australian account with Amazon, do us all a favor and click the link that says “Tell us about a lower price,” and then report the link for that book in iBooks in Australia, where it's free. You can add a link for it being free in the Kobo store for Australia, too, if you like.

And g'day to you, too!

Monday, November 4, 2013


Let me just say that I appreciate all reviews. Even low-star reviews mean the person at least read the book, and cared enough to comment. But of course, positive reviews are more fun to read, and glowing reviews that praise the story or the writing are a real mood enhancer. Plus, it means instead of actually bragging, I just have to point to the good reviews!

Recently, an Amazon customer who goes by the online handle of Mara gave my two newest books 5-star rave reviews:

Here's what Mara said about The Nostalgia Gambit:
This woman can WRITE! 
What a good story! Masterful writing with such a brilliant plot. The characters become real enough to want to talk with and the story is completely enthralling and flawless. It's also a story to make you think about ethics and how scary it is that it might soon be something that could really happen; it will stay in my mind for a while to come.

For King of Trees, Mara has this to say: 
A favourite author
This isn't a simple story but, my gosh, it's a good one!
An alternate world with a history that diverged sometime after the Roman conquest of "Albion", two generations after a small group of modern people managed to settle in London. The world building and character development is wonderful as Bardolph and Melissa struggle to find their way together through their different cultures.So good! Really well worth reading.

Whoo hoo! Color me tickled pink!  And let me just say that Mara is no relation and has several hundred reviews to her (I assume) credit. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A wonderful new feature for KDP Select

Amazon might be reviled by some as a disruptive force in publishing, but they are certainly committed to offering opportunities for self-published authors. They just announced a new feature for Kindle Select books called Kindle Countdown Deals, and it looks like a great idea!

Basically, if your book is in KDP Select, and has been in it for 30 days or more without a price change, and the price is between $2.99 and $24.99, you can put the book on sale for up to a week; you can even have it go on deep discount to start and then incrementally go back up during the week.

Of course, any KDP author can change the price of their book any time, but this new feature has some real advantages. The biggest is that Amazon customers see the original price and the sale price and know it's currently discounted and how long that discount will last. The second is that if the “real” price of the book is eligible for the 70% royalty rate (which means it has to be at least $2.99 but not more than $9.99 in the US store), then the author keeps that rate even when the price drops during the promotion. So if your book is on sale for 99¢, you still get 70% of 99¢ instead of 30% (i.e., 69¢ per books instead of 30¢). It looks like right now Countdown Deals might be available only in the US and UK Kindle stores because those are the only stores for which price ranges are listed, but I don't know if that's certain.

There's also a special website for book browsers to see what's on sale, and there's a new Promotions link on the KDP Reports page to show more elaborate reporting of  Countdown sales, letting you see how each price point is doing.

I don't have any KDP Select books at the moment, but once I launch Saronna's Gift, I plan to use this new feature.

The KDP Reports page also added a way to search the current month's reports for specific books, which I don't find terribly useful since it seems to apply only to the selected Kindle store. Now if it searched for a specific book across all the Kindle stores, that would be helpful. There's a View All link but it doesn't seem to look at all the stores, either so I don't see it as helpful at all. 

All in all, this is a positive development. It would be mush more useful if it weren't limited to books in KDP Select, but Amazon's commitment to authors extends only as far as they think it will make money for them. It's important to remember that.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween is just around the corner!

So here's a nice Halloween still life in anticipation of the day. I will be home handing out candy for the first time in several years, and I'm looking forward to it.  I love to see what costumes the kids come up with.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I gave away a book in Finland! (or possibly Fiji)

The Smashwords retailer report for Apple reports sales (even for free books) by country, so you can see where your books are going. I gave away a copy of The Sixth Discipline to someone in "Country_FI" but I don't know for sure which country that is. My first guess was Finland, but I really don't know for sure.  I can tell "Country_SE" is Sweden because someone there bought a copy of No Safe Haven and since it says they paid 25 SEK, I could Google that and see it's Swedish krona.

Mostly my foreign sales are in the UK, Canada, and Australia but every now and then I see sales in places live New Zealand or Spain, and lately The Sixth Discipline has been very popular in Germany.

In a way, it's a little like traveling to those exotic places to know my books are being read there. Well, not nearly as much fun, but still kind of cool.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Saronna's Gift has gone to the copyeditor!

I have (finally) finished my structural and character-based revisions to Saronna's Gift, and it's ready for the copyeditor's attentions. I was hoping that I could post the cover but the artist isn't finished with it yet, so instead, here's the first page of the story:
A warm summer breeze caught Saronna’s veil and almost pulled it loose. She stopped to tuck the folds around her face, to ensure nothing showed except her eyes. By the time she had picked up her valise, her father had almost disappeared into the crowd. She hurried to catch up, darting in and out among the throng as fast as she could without attracting notice.
Where were they going? Her father had told her to pack her belongings. That had to mean he planned another attempt to sell her, but he had given her no clue whom he planned to visit today.
Even after their earlier trips to New Jerusalem, the city still disconcerted Saronna. Vendors’ cries, chattering voices, ground cars rolling past, and countless footfalls were enough to distract her, let alone the sight of so many strangers. Faces flashed past, some veiled, some bearded, and disappeared into the mass of humanity, never to be seen again.
She caught up to her father just as he turned suddenly, moving through the tall steel supports of the Strangers’ Gate into the off-world quarter. Saronna had never been there. She gripped her valise tighter as a shiver of apprehension ran through her. Would her talent work as well on an off-world man?
After a block, Saronna noticed women in trousers, walking with their faces uncovered. She looked away in confusion, but the men bewildered her just as much. They walked beside the women, sometimes even touched them. Even elderly men had no beards. The buildings, by contrast, seemed ordinary, although many were very tall. Ten and twelve-story structures dwarfed their neighbors, seeming to shut out the sun.
The crowd thinned first, then the buildings, and Saronna realized they had entered a residential area. After a few blocks, her father made another abrupt turn to enter the arched doorway of a large, sprawling house. Saronna stepped back a pace to study the facade as her father waited at the door. The gray stone house looked very like the ones back in her village except more spread out. Only the recessed archway that sheltered the entrance broke the line of the featureless walls. A few noticeable oddities caught her attention—two small cylinders mounted on either side of the door, and a flat rectangular screen placed at eye level on the right.
That's all for now. I hope to have a cover image to post soon!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful debut novel! It's nice to find a fantasy in such an original setting, and with such a cool mix of fantastic creatures. If you are as tired of werewolves, vampires, and zombies as I am, this is a good book to try.

For those who aren't familiar with golems, they are creatures of Jewish mythology, created from clay and endowed with a semblance of life by arcane spells known only to learned rabbis. In a way, a golem is the thinking man's Frankenstein's Monster.

Jinnis (aka genies) are familiar from the genie in a bottle tale, and indeed this jinni is not only trapped in a bottle, he is trapped in human form. In spite of that, he has some superhuman abilities. His fingers can generate fire, because his true form is actually fire-based.

The huge influx of immigrants from both Europe and Asia bring the two supernatural creatures to New York city in the early part of the 20th century. The golem ends up in a Jewish neighborhood and the jinni in Little Syria. Eventually, their paths cross (neither of them sleeps, so they are both awake all night) and they know each other at once.

In addition to the eponymous main characters, this novel employs many secondary characters to narrate the story. I had no feeling of “head hopping” because each of them has a distinctive voice and clear motivations. Most of the story is set in the East Side of Manhattan but there are scenes in Poland, the Middle East, and on an ocean liner. Everyone's part in the story is like a piece of yarn that the author knits into the story to create a cohesive whole. The nonhuman characters are just that: not human. They have their own natures and they stay true to them.

There is some resolution at the end, but clearly, a sequel could easily happen, so don't say I didn't warn you. I also want to commend the publisher for an extremely clean Kindle copy of this book. Kudos for no formatting errors!

All in all, an excellent read! The only thing I didn't like was the cover, which I thought found neither appealing nor helpful in determining what the story was about.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 4, 2013

Writing by the rules

I have belonged to a writer's group for well over a decade. Sometimes called critique groups, writer's groups are one of the most powerful tools a writer can have— if he belongs to a group that works for him. The wrong group is worse than no group, but the right group is a treasure.

Our group has minimal rules. We let writers submit short stories or novels, and the novels can be submitted in chunks as they are written, or as an entire manuscript after they are complete (although those require at least two months reading time). We don't require a specific number of words from every writer, and although we are all speculative fiction fans, we will look at mainstream work or stories in other genres. Critiques are presented at a more-or-less monthly meeting where we go around the room, but unlike some workshops, we don't impose a strict “absolutely no comments or questions while the critiquer is speaking” rule. The writer and other critiquers can speak up if they feel so moved.

The membership has fluctuated between six and twelve members over the years with people dropping out when they get too busy and sometimes dropping back in as their circumstances change. There are a few members who have been in the group even longer than I have. I have stayed in the group because I find it valuable, and sometimes I find myself harking back to other people's comments on mine and other member's stories, some of which we have solidified into “X's rule.”

The Kathy Rule
If possible, don't give minor characters a name. Referring to them by name signals the reader that they have some importance, that they are worth keeping track of. If characters aren't actually important, try to avoid naming them.

The Sharon Rule
In writing spec fic, avoid figurative verbs that could be taken literally in some circumstances. That is, don't say the hero flew across the room, or the heroine vanished from the doorway, unless those characters are literally doing what the verb says. This is especially true in the first few chapters where the reader is figuring out the rules of the world the writer has created.

The Tom Rule
The protagonist must protag! That is, he or she needs to be an active player in his or her own destiny. Circumstances might force an unpleasant choice on him or her, but the protagonist needs to be the one making the choice.

The Carmen Rule
Avoid flashbacks, when possible. This is partly personal preference, but I do generally prefer a linear story line, so long as this allows the story to start at a good place.

Of course, like any good rule, any of these can be broken by a good writer!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Achtung! The Sixth Discipline is free in the German Kindle store!

Well, Germany has fallen in line!  The Sixth Discipline is not only free in the German Kindle store, it is now #30 in free science fiction books! That was fast!

Of course, I don't think it has a whole lot of competition, but it's still nice to be up there so quickly.  Now only France and Mexico remain to be conquered.  They may be on the way, as I just checked France, and there was no price info at all. It said:

"Les informations sur les prix ne sont pas disponibles."
Google Translate tells me that means that price information is not available, which I think means they are changing it to free.  And I know enough Spanish to know the Mexican Kindle store's

"Información de precios no disponible"

means the same thing. Here's hoping the book is free worldwide really soon! 

Addendum: I just checked and now it's #13 in free science fiction in the German Kindle store!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Have you got a yen for some free science fiction?

The title is a rather bad pun, in honor of the fact that The Sixth Discipline is now free in Japan!

Someone must have clicked the "tell us about a lower price" link, because it's now as low as it can get.  That just leaves France, Germany, and Mexico.  For some reason, the Mexican Kindle store does not seem to offer a lower price link.  I hope someone is working on that!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Meu livro é grátis! میری کتاب مفت ہے

The title of this post means "my book is free" in Portuguese and in Urdu.  Apparently, there's a worldwide demand for free science fiction novels, because The Sixth Discipline is now free in the Kindle store in Brazil and also, the Kindle store in India!

That's a total of seven Kindle stores, plus iBooks, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony and some other retailers.  Check the Free eBook tab for all the info.

Portuguese is enough like Spanish I am sure that part of the post title is correct, but I only hope Google Translate didn't let me down on the Urdu.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hola, España! Mi libro es gratuito!

The Sixth Discipline is now free in the Spanish Kindle store! I'm not sure why, but I suspect someone clicked the link to tell Amazon about a lower price— or in this case, un precio más bajo. So, there you go, España! Start clicking that “buy” link!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I was right! There is now a Kindle store for Mexico!

I knew it might be there, because a line for it showed up on my KDP report page again, and when I went to Amazon.com.mx, instead of getting redirected to plain old Amazon.com, I ended up at the page above.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am bemused. This book was very different from anything I have ever read. The characters in it don't just “break the fifth wall,” they cut a window, install drapes, and pull up a chair to enjoy the view.

It starts with people on some far-future starship noticing how many of them die on away missions. Eventually they figure out their fate is driven by something outside their universe. WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

These folks discover that for each of them there is a corresponding actor in a TV show, and if the plot calls for that character to die, then the starship crew member dies, too. So many layers of unreality end up layered together, it's like practicing archeology to read the narrative.

After seeing everything from the alternate future universe crew member's point-of-view, we move to our own earth and see things from the TV show scriptwriter's POV, and then from one of the actor's POV. And along the way, every character seems just as real as any other character. It's clever, it's well written, and it's entertaining. I'm just not sure it's actually a novel.

I liked it a lot, but I am bemused.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Is Kindle going "South of the Border, Down Mexico Way"?

I am so showing my age by knowing the title of that song!  On the KDP platform, when you check your sales reports they are separated geographically, for the Kindle stores in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, India, Canada, and Brazil. When I checked it yesterday, I swear I saw an entry for "amazon.com.mx" which could only be Mexico. Right now there is no Kindle store in Mexico; if you type "amazon.com.mx" into a browser, it redirects you to the regular US-based amazon.com.

This morning the amazon.com.mx line is gone! Missing! I think someone goofed and released something early (or maybe they were testing, and it was deliberate) and this means Amazon will open a Kindle store in Mexico.  I wish I had thought to take a screen shot!

The good thing about self-publishing is you own worldwide rights to your own work, so you can publish worldwide from any platform that supports global sales. Olé!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

iBooks sales versus Barnes & Noble Nook sales

In an earlier post about my use of a BookBub promotion  back in May, I mentioned that I was guessing that Apple didn't seem to report how many free books they give away any more, but actually, they do. It's just it takes a lot longer to get free book numbers from Apple than it does sales numbers. Interestingly, since my May and early June sales of No Safe Haven (the sequel to the free book) were higher for iBooks than for B&N, I was assuming that I had given away more free copies of The Sixth Discipline on that platform than on B&N. Not so! I actually gave away noticeably fewer (only a little over 2,500 in iBooks, versus 4,000 on B&N). So what does that mean?

I could hypothesize either that there are more free books on the iBooks platform, which makes it harder for an unknown author to stand out, or that there are simply fewer iBooks customers. But either way, iBooks readers have a higher follow-through on actually reading books they get for free. I know from my own experience and from anecdotal evidence that lots of books downloaded for free are never even opened, let alone read. You'll notice I'm assuming that sales of the sequel will be higher for folks who read the first book!

On the other hand, in July, I had higher sales numbers on Nook than on iBooks, so go figure.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rankings and reviews

While the recent flap about JK Rowling writing a non-best-selling mystery as Robert Galbraith proves reviews aren't everything, Amazon reviews really do help! That's why I was happy to see that The Sixth Discipline reached the half-century mark on Amazon.com—50 reviews!

At the same time, I am also looking at its ranking, which has fallen a bit lately, after the huge rise in May.  In Italy though, where the book has just recently become free, it would look like it's doing really well.

That's 762 in all free Kindle books, and 8 in "Fantascienza" Kindle books in English.  I think Fantascienza is Italian for science fiction, except it looks like it could also come from the word for fantasy. Actually, that's probably a pretty good word for my books, as I make no claims that the science in them is plausible. Some folks would call my work science fantasy. I hope bambini e ragazzi doesn't mean Amazon has classified it as a kid's book!

But to return to the number, 762 sounds great, and 8 sounds even better, but remember that the Kindle store in Italy seems to consist almost entirely of books in English. All the top sellers and top free books are in English. And in fact, the number of books I have given away in Italy is still in the single digits, which means there are not a lot of people in Italy downloading free Kindle books!

I guess this means I can get in on the ground floor—or as they would say in Italy, the pianterreno.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Amazon adds a great new feature to Kindle: automatic delivery of corrections

I went to my "Manage Your Kindle" page on Amazon today, to send a copy of the J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith mystery novel The Cuckoo's Calling to my husband's iPad, and I noticed something new.  There was a notice above the section with the list of my books that said I could sign up for automatic updates when a corrected version of an ebook comes out. Naturally, I clicked OK!

A big advantage of ebooks over print is they can be corrected if errors (typos as well as formatting errors) are found. Newer Kindles even offer a way to report these kinds of mistakes (in the More menu that comes up when you highlight a phrase).  But once the publisher has fixed the mistakes, someone who has already bought that book won't see that fix unless they download the book again.  Amazon will email buyers if the mistake is significant, but then they buyer has to request a new copy. This new feature is a "sign up once, and it's automatic from then on" thing, which is much better.

The number of errors in ebooks from self-publishers is widely variable, depending on the author's attention to detail. The number of errors in traditional books used to be just awful, mostly because of workflow issues, but they have (mostly) gotten better. I have found a couple of typos in The Cuckoo's Calling, though (an excellent book, by the way!). I will have to report them and see how well this new feature works!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Finally! The Nostalgia Gambit is now available in iBooks!

Such a time I have had, getting my sixth book into the iBooks store! Finally, it's there! And it only took me over two months of trying.

That was sarcasm, by the way. My experience with this book was a good illustration of the difficulties in dealing with one retailer via another retailer. The folks at Apple don't make self-publishing easy, so I use Smashwords to get my books into the iBooks store.

In the past, Smashwords only accepted MS Word documents formatted with their specific styles. They had a program called the meat grinder that they used to create all the various formats they support (epub, Kindle, PDF, txt, etc). You uploaded your cover image and the Word file, and it took it from there. The books came out kind of vanilla, as far as style, but you got a valid epub file, and that was what made it possible to sell that book on the other retailer platforms. All the major online bookstores except Kindle rely on epub format.

If the epub book had an ISBN and made it into the Smashwords premium catalog (which meant it was well formatted) then it could be sent to iBooks. It sometimes took a week or two to show up but it arrived. Smashwords tries to be responsive to their authors, and when people asked to be able to upload epub directly, they made that possible as of the last day of of 2012.  You can now upload an epub copy and an MS Word copy to Smashwords, and they will use the epub for all the non-Amazon online vendors. The book still has to say “Smashwords Edition” in the front matter, but otherwise it doesn't need to be different from any standard epub file.

Now iBooks has gotten pickier about their book covers. The cover image appears inside the book, as part of the epub file, and it gets uploaded as a separate file for use as on the store's web pages. Apple appears to have changed the rules about what resolution the image can be; too low or too high a resolution, and iBooks won't accept it. Smashwords must have realized this because when I uploaded an epub copy of my seventh book King of Trees, it told me right away that the cover image with the file was too low res. I got that cover artist to supply a different version and the book was delivered soon after and showed up in the iBooks store in a few days.

With  TNG, though, it had passed epub review and gotten into the premium catalog with no trouble, and had shipped to Apple right away, but it never showed up in the iBooks store. I tried emailing Smashwords and they just tried to redeliver it for me.  Still no TNG in iBooks. Eventually, I clicked the link to pull it from Apple, which makes Smashwords send a takedown notice, and once that was sent, I clicked Distribute again, but it would not ship to Apple!  I emailed again, and this time the person investigated and told me the problem was the cover image inside the book was too high a resolution! I got the artist (different artist from KoT) to give me a lower res image and then had that re-inserted into the epub file. Once it was all straight, the book was there in a matter of days.

Victory at last!

Friday, July 12, 2013

How do you say “free” in Italian?

It turns out it's gratuito. I looked it up because Amazon has made The Sixth Discipline free in the Italian Kindle store! I'm not quite sure why the book is free in the US, UK, Canadian, and now Italian Kindle stores, and not the others, but I suspect it's because someone in those countries clicked on the “tell us about a cheaper price” link. Brazil, Japan, Spain, Germany, France, and India, it's your turn. Demand my book to be livre, 自由に, libre, kostenlos, librement, and मुक्त!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Catching up

Is it really July already? How did that happen? I am deep into the revisions stage of Saronna's Gift. When I give a manuscript to my writing group, I always have to weigh their comments against my own sense of what the story is about and what tone I am going for. As you can tell by looking at almost any book's Amazon reviews, people have varied taste. What one person finds edgy, someone else will see as too dark. What one reader admires in a character will sometimes make other readers dislike him intensely. This is why Baskin-Robbins makes 31 flavors!

The group has been in existence for about 20 years, although the membership has varied during that time. One “new” member just rejoined the group because she retired and finally has time to write again. Another is new-new, as he had only attended a few meetings.  The folks who have been in the group for years do have some predictability in their critiques of stories submitted. One guy always wants more physical description of the characters. One woman always loves the character everyone else hates. And one bloodthirsty guy always wants the writer to kill off one or more characters.

When I review the comments my fellow writers have made, I look for two things. First is consensus. Is there something everyone hated or thought didn't work?  Because if so, that is something I need to change. The second thing is harder to pin down. Does a suggestion resonate with me, with what I want the story to be? Because it's my story, and no matter how interesting an idea sounds, of it doesn't make the book into the story I want to tell, then it's a suggestion I won't use.

At least not with this book. But I save everything. A writer is really a kind of idea vampire. He or she feeds off chance observations, friends' life struggles, newspaper items, and anything else that comes his way. It's what we do!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An interesting case

An interesting point about ebooks is that their use is not governed merely by the technology available but by the marketplace. Sony had a very nice e-ink reader before Amazon came out with the first gen Kindle (which looked a little clunky in comparison), but Sony didn't have much of a bookstore, and its Reader never got much traction in the marketplace. Amazon was the first company to successfully deal with the chicken-egg problem: no one would buy an ereader unless there were lots of ebooks to read, and one one would publish in ebook form unless there were lots of folks with ereaders. Their success gave them a solid head start in the ebook race.

To establish the Kindle as a viable reading platform, Amazon not only created apps for other devices (iPhones, iPads, PCs, Android), they discounted the price of ebooks so that best sellers were rarely more than $9.99. They could do this because publishers sold ebooks at wholesale rates; they set a price, and Amazon paid them that amount. Amazon then turned around and set its own retail price at whatever it wanted, sometimes less than it had paid for the book.

It was the Kindle's success that made the publishers fear it. In case you haven't been following it, there is a case in federal court right now that relates to the struggle for the ebook market. The Department of Justice is suing Apple about possible price fixing and antitrust aspects of its agreements with five of six of the major publishers; those agreements called for agency pricing where the publisher sets the retail price and the retailers gets a set percentage of it when the book is sold. The five publishers, who made Amazon accept agency pricing, too, have all already settled.

Apple has a lot of (very good) lawyers, so I am wondering how this lawsuit will come out. A judge is hearing it, not a jury, so there won't be any kind of deadlock. But I do wonder if Steve Jobs were still alive if they would call him to the witness stand.

The case is awaiting a decision and speculation is rife on the internet.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Amazon goes to India!

Amazon is now reporting sales from India in a separate sales report, which told me there is now a Kindle store in India.  Here is the sales report list, which illustrates how many Kindle stores there are at the moment:

My books look so much more expensive in rupees! And The Sixth Discipline isn't free there, at least not yet. See what I mean:

In my royalty reports, I have seen some sales of books that should have had a royalty rate of 70% but they were in fact only paid at 35%, which Amazon tells me means they were not sold in the US. I wondered if they were from India (which until very recently was folded into the US Kindle store) and now I'll know.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

BookBub promotion: second wave of numbers

The one drawback to using Smashwords as a portal to other retailers (iBooks store and the Nook store are my biggest non-Kindle markets, but they also cover Sony and Kobo, and a few others) is that it takes a while to get the sales numbers back. Smashwords just recently updated the May numbers both Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook sales reports. When it came to giveaways, Nook was a winner, at least for me. I gave away over 4,000 Nook copies of The Sixth Discipline! That doesn't compare to the 15,000 copies I gave away in May on the Kindle, but it's still a lot more books than I ever gave away before on any other non-Kindle platform. Sales figures for No Safe Haven, the sequel to the free book, were pretty good for the Nook, but about 20% higher for Apple. I wish I had some giveaways stats for iBooks, but it seems like Apple no longer bothers to report “sales” for free books, so I don't have much to go on in comparing, but since the Kindle and Nook giveaway-to-sales ratios are very similar, I think I probably gave away about 5,000 iBooks copies. Since I don't know for sure, I will go with Nook as the giveaway winner.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Kindle Addiction

I can't quite believe it, but I just bought another Kindle!  This one is a Kindle Fire. The irony is, I don't really plan to use it as an ereader. I'm a total e-ink fangirl, and I am keeping the Paperwhite. What I really want is a small tablet for travelling.  When I leave the house to do errands, the Paperwhite will still be in my purse. Anytime I find myself with nothing to do, I can whip it out and start reading.

On the other hand, when I travel to Boston in a couple of weeks, I can pack the Kindle Fire in my purse or my carry-on bag, and have it available for reading or for browsing the web if there's wifi. I hate lugging a laptop just to answer email and do a blog post or two, so I will be set with my new Fire HD! The 7" size is perfect for that!

Plus there's a Father's Day promotion going on and you can get $20 off any Kindle Fire using the promo code DADSFIRE. Some of the accessories are on sale, too.  I feel a little guilty getting a Fire for myself with a Father's Day promo, but my husband has a Kindle Touch and an iPad, so I get the Fire!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Update on my books

So, here is where we are in Buxton World:

King of Trees is now on iBooks as well as Kindle and Nook.

The Nostalgia Gambit is still not on iBooks! I don't know why, since KoT made it onto that platform in days, but TNG is still not there after two months.

The Sixth Discipline had a fantastic month! Thanks to the Bookbub promotion, it has already topped 15,000 (free) copies in May, and that's on Kindle alone. It's also now free in the UK and Canadian Kindle stores.  The sequel No Safe Haven is selling well in consequence.

Lastly, my science fiction romance (working title is now Saronna's Gift) is back from being critiqued by my writers group, and is now undergoing some revisions.  I'm still aiming for a late summer release.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

King of Trees is available in more stores

I recently uploaded King of Trees to the Barnes & Noble Nook store, using their new Nook Press feature, which replaces Pub-It!, the original iteration of self-publishing on the Nook.  It took about two days, but I'm hapy to report that it's now for sale on the Nook as well as in iBooks.

Oddly, The Nostlgia Gambit is still not in iBooks, even though it made it to the Nook and everywhere else!  The folks at Apple must not like nostlgia!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Sixth Discipline is now free in the UK Kindle store!

It seems like Amazon is on a mission! They have made The Sixth Discipline free in the UK Kindle store. That means it's now free in the US, UK, and Canadian Kindle stores, as well as most other retailers.

Fly free, little ebook! Fly free!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Sixth Discipline just got X-Rayed!

The X-Ray feature on Kindle is really handy for epic books with a large cast of characters or those stories that span years, where a character can disappear for pages and pages and then pop back in again. X-Ray give you a idea how important the character is, and who they are, but it only works if the publisher has gone the extra step and provided Amazon with a file to use to generate the X-Ray.

In addition to the newly-purchased Goodreads, Amazon also owns social reader site Shelfari, and one of the things this means is that on Shelfari, the author or any reader can create lists of characters and places in the book. Those lists are then available to view on the bottom of the product page on Amazon.

It looks like Amazon might be planning to spin this function off into creating X-Ray files for KDP books, because my book just got a whole bunch of characters added by someone known as "X-Ray," who has also added characters to a boatload of books!

It would be cool if it's true!

Update:  I just downloaded this book again and it now has the X-Ray feature!  Yay!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Sixth Discipline is free in Canada!

Good news, eh? The Sixth Discipline has been free in in the US Kindle store since August (due to price matching) but now Amazon has made it free in Canada!

Yay for price matching! I wish I knew what caused this? I've only given away a few copies but it' already moving up in the rankings!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Last day to borrow King of Trees

Today (May 10) is the last day that King of Trees will be in the KDP Select Program, which means it's also the last day it will be in the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). In additon to books published via KDP Select, there are a lot of tradionally published books in the KOLL, too.  Amazon negotiated with some publishers and pays a fee every time somone borrows a book. The Harry Potter books are the most famous example.

If you own a Kindle or a Kindle Fire and you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow one book a month for free from the KOLL.  The trick is, you have to borrow the book from your Kindle or Kindle Fire.  You can't do it fom the web.

But, since King of Trees is no longer going to be in KDP Select, that means I can load it to other vendor platforms, which I plan to do ASAP. I'll be sure to post when it hits the major ebookstores.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writing to make a connection

When people ask me why I write, I say it's because I was born a storyteller. I have a tin ear and two left feet, so music and dance were out as a way to tell stories. I can draw a little, but not enough to do what I would want to do. Telling stories in person is fun, but finding an audience is hard to do. That leaves writing. Putting a story down on (real or virtual) paper gives me the best opportunity to reach people. I want to make a connection; I want to tell a story and make people care about how it ends; I want to create characters and make them come alive in other people's heads.

Self-publishing is a fantastic breakthrough because in the past, unless an editor thought your story was marketable, it went nowhere. Notice I didn't say “good,” I said “marketable.”  Editors are in the business of buying books from authors that they think readers will buy from them. RandomHouse didn't buy Fifty Shades of Gray from E.L. James because they thought it was great literature; they bought it because they knew people would buy it. Thousands of people were already buying it from online sellers because the author had self-published it. An editor might think a book is beautifully written, but if he doesn't think anyone will buy it, he won't buy it either.

Self-publishing has been around a long time, but in the print world, it costs a lot of money to do. In addition, a self-published print book had no good path to get into bookstores.  There were a few authors who started that way, but not many. eBooks were a game changer not only because they were cheaper to produce, but because because their distribution is online, and not controlled by companies that deal only with publishers.

One nice benefit of technology is that online sites like Goodreads and online retailers like Amazon allow readers to post their thoughts on the books they have read. Admittedly, not all reviews are positive, but still, enough are that I can get a good buzz of connectivity, and know that I suceeeded.  I'll take that deal!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Still riding the wave . . .

In my last post I mentioned that The Sixth Discipline had been featured in a BookBub promotion. Well, the heady rush of giving away a thousand books in a little over an hour has calmed down, but the book is still doing well. At its peak, it got up to #15 in free Kindle books, and #1 in free science fiction books.  It has dropped to #37 in free Kindle books, but it's holding on to #3 in free science fiction.

Which goes to show you the size of the digital market! And also the value of promotion. Thanks to giving away the first book free, No Safe Haven, the sequel, is now selling better than it ever has!

Another benefit to BookBub is that it covers all the major ebook platforms, not just the Kindle store. BookBub patrons can select which ebookstores they want to receive notices for. Thus, whether an author has a book free in multiple bookstores, or only in one, he can still reach the right customers with BookBub.

I'm sure happy I signed on.  I just wish Smashwords could get retailer data online faster, so I could see the impact of the promotion in other bookstores besides Kindle.

Friday, May 3, 2013

BookBub: a great resource for readers of digital books!

BookBub is a new service that lists both free and reduced price ebooks, available on Kindle and other platforms. They charge authors a (very reasonable) fee for the promotion, but readers can get the info for free. BookBub posts to the web, and also to FaceBook, and they even offer free daily email, which you can filter so you only see books in the genres that interest you.

It's a great service! Did I mention that The Sixth Discipline is listed there today?  here's the blurb they wrote for it:
“Ran-Del, a skilled forest warrior, finds his life turned upside down when a mysterious kidnapper takes him to a terrifying city, foiling his every attempt to escape — a gripping, futuristic novel simmering with suspense.”
And it's going like hotcakes, too! #42 in Free Kindle Books and #4 in free science fiction!

As of 7:30 pm, it was up to #19 in free Kindle books, and #1 in free science fiction!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Writing in a series: why I created my own universe

I got a wonderful email the other day, from a reader who was requesting the free story I offer via this blog. It was the kind of email authors dream about because she said she had read The Sixth Discipline (which she got free in iBooks, but it's also free almost everywhere) and loved it enough to buy the sequel No Safe Haven, and loved it enough to buy all my other books in the iBooks store. On top of that, when I checked, she had left a review on iBooks! Talk about your ideal readers!

When I sent her the story, I suggested she read Tribes first, because it's most like the Haven books in overall tone, and I warned her that Shades of Empire is noticeably darker and more explicit than my other books. But when I was writing the email, it occurred to me that in some ways, the fact that she loved the Haven books so much could make it difficult for her to enjoy the other books.

Readers love books in a series. Once they find a character they like, they want to stick with him or her. When a local book club read my fantasy novella Where Magic Rules, one of the questions the readers asked me was did I have any books in a series.

Authors, on the other hand, often find it difficult keep finding new things to say about a character. The Haven “series” is only two books long, and I didn't know it would be two when I started it. As it turned out, I had too much story in my head for it to fit into one book. Fortunately, there was an eight-year gap in the story, which made a logical place to end the first book; I just had to be sure there was enough resolution of all but the one significant plot point that continues in the second book.

But in a sense, most of my books are in a series. All of my far future science fiction stories take place in a universe in which people from earth colonized other worlds in a way that left them cut off from our earth. The societies and cultures they created varied, depending on why they left their own world. I call them "sleeper worlds," partly because the colonists traveled in suspended animation. In the Haven books, there were three distinct groups on the colony world of Haven: one looking for new resources, one wanting isolation to experience harmony with nature, and one hoping for a total lack of government. In Tribes, the world was a prison colony, and its culture and government evolved from prison gangs. The colony world in The Nostalgia Gambit is an exception in that it's not a sleeper world.

I named my universe the ThreeCon universe, for the Third Confederation of Planets, the organization I created to oversee commerce and other interaction between the worlds. Although there are no characters shared between stories (except for the Haven books), the universe has a consistent, shared history. There are events mentioned in one that carry over into other stories, too.

My next book, most likely titled Saronna's Gift will be a romance, but it's also set in the ThreeCon universe, and the sleeper world the story takes place on was founded as religious colony by a charismatic but despotic leader who believed in an Old Testament-style patriarchy. After a few centuries of isolation, the world is a pretty awful place, in a lot of ways. The story starts when a young woman's father takes her to a city to sell her. I'm hoping the book will appeal to both romance readers and science fiction readers.

Really, my kind of series is the kind authors like: low overhead for the writer in creating the overall history, and a new set of characters each time. I don't know how much benefit that is to readers. If you have an opinion, let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Still no iBooks for The Nostalgia Gambit

My next-to-latest novel The Nostalgia Gambit was successively loaded into the Smashwords platform, passed their review for their premium catalog and was “shipped” to Apple on March 27.  That books is still not available in iBooks!

I'm really hoping posting this notice will cause the book to pop into iBooks, just like giving up and starting to walk home always makes the bus you were waiting for appear.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Sixth Discipline is on a roll!

The Sixth Discipline, which has been free in the US Kindle store since last summer, has been holding steady at about the 5,000 rank in the "freebie" part of that Kindle store. Today, for some reason I can't understand, it jumped to 1,077, and it's #30 in science fiction freebies.

Wish I knew why! I did a Google search but couldn't find anything. But I'm not complaining. Just hope it lasts for a while.

Update: As of 4/18/13, The Sixth Discipline is up to #13 in free science fiction and #652 in overall free Kindle books.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Doing digital the right way: Open Road

Open Road Integrated Media is a digital-only publisher and because digital is the main event, not merely a sideline, they do it right! A lot of their books are (sometimes quite old) back-list titles, which for other publishers often means they would be scanned from paper and slapped up as ebooks with hardly a second look. Sometimes publishers don't bother getting a cover for the ebook. Again, not Open Road!

I recently bought some Lord Peter books for my Kindle. Dorothy L. Sayers was a British mystery writer who created a wonderful amateur detective named Lord Peter Wimsey. Sayers died in 1957, so none of these books is even close to new, but Open Road not only did a great job in putting them into the proper format, they commissioned a wonderful, imaginative set of new covers! I've included a few here so you can see what I mean.

Lord Peter was a wealthy, well dressed aristocrat, so each cover shows a man's torso in an outfit suited (pardon the pun) to the story. And of course, Lord Peter's signature monocle appears above the title.

When I read on my Kindle, I highlight any formatting problems that I notice. When I finished my first Lord Peter Kindle book from OR, I checked and there was no highlighting—not a single formatting error!

In addition, OR has figured out that one of the strengths of ebooks is you can change the price as often as you like. The Lord Peter books generally sell for $7.00 to $9.99 in the Kindle store, but OR put three of them on sale for $2.99 or less. Now, I have actually read all these books. I used to own them in paperback, but I gave them away to a good home. But at that price, I bought those three books so I can read them again whenever I feel like it without having them take any space in my downsized bookshelves.

There you go! Quality books, quality formatting, quality covers, and flexible pricing. That is the way to do ebooks right!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Free eBook and I'm Guest Blogging at Digital Book Today!

In addition to having King of Trees free in the Kindle store today, I have a guest blog post on Digital Book Today,a site devoted to hooking readers up with authors and ebooks.

My post is on "Putting Non-Amazon Books on your Kindle," one of my Kindle Tips posts. Other features on the DBT site include author interviews, book reviews, and digital-publishing related posts.

Check it out! And don't forget to get King of Trees free today or tomorrow!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Update on my books — the Apple hasn't dropped yet!

It looks like Apple is the slowest of the major ebook vendors when it comes to adding books. The Nostalgia Gambit is now on Sony and Nook as well as Smashwords, but it is not yet in iBooks.  It shipped to them well over  a week ago and still no sign of it.  Maybe tomorrow. 

Speaking of tomorrow, I will have an announcement of a guest blog slot (me blogging on someone else's slot) and also a book promotion. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: The Cloud Roads

The Cloud Roads
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is not the usual sort of review that summarizes (aka, gives away) the plot. Rather, I want to talk about why this book made such a good impression on me, and the one thing that bothered me. The Cloud Roads is that curious beast, a book that defies genre labels. Mind you, I'm not saying it transcends its genre. I hate that phrase, because it implies that genre is a bad thing, and I have no problem with genre.

The Cloud Roads is impressive because it mixes genres in an interesting way. The book is set on a world called the Three Kingdoms that doesn't appear to be our own earth. The many and varied humanoid and non-humanoid species on it are clearly alien— not elves or fairies or dwarves or any other mythical creatures from assorted folklores. No, they are true aliens, and not Star Trek putty-on-their-noses aliens, but beings in a world where a single “ species” can have many forms.

The protagonist is named Moon. When the story begins, he doesn't even know what kind of creature he is, because he has never met any others like himself since he was quite young. The Three Kingdoms are inhabited by groundlings (creatures who walk), skylings (fly), and sea creatures (swim/live in the water). Moon has two forms, groundling and skyling, and can shift between them. There is no science in this shifting, as there is in Joe Haldeman's Camouflage. The change is clearly accomplished with magic, like the augery and a few other features of this world. For one thing, in one form Moon wears clothes and in the other not, and Wells accounts for this by mentioning that he had to learn to do that magic as well as the magic of changing his body.

Eventually, Moon meets several Raksura, other creature with two forms who can shape-shift at will. But the Raksura's alien-ness is not limited to shape shifting and the oddness (wings, scales, tails) of their bodies. No, their species has two main classes of beings, one of which is winged when shifted and the other not. In addition, not all Raksura are fertile. They live in communal “courts” where they are dominated by a reigning queen, a specific variant of Raksura, who is fertile. Queens mate with consorts, and while both are large, fierce fighters with a full compliment of wings, scales, and claws, queens are pretty damn scary fighters.

Queens fight over consorts, and mark their mates with a scent, so that other queens will leave them alone. But not all females are queens. It's not that they don't have gender roles, it's that they have multiple roles for each gender. The Raksura may be humanoid, but they are not human. Thus, Raksura relationships do not always occur in tidy pairs, and the concept of family is pretty much indistinguishable from community.

The bad guys are called the Fell, and they also shape shift and fall into multiple categories of beings, with the smarter ”rulers” controlling the dumber varieties. They are impressively evil in that they exist only to prey on other species, which they do quite literally by eating their victims.

If I have any complaints with the book, they are mostly about how creatures are named. Raksura is a perfectly fine term, but the two categories of Raksura are Arbora, who are teachers and mentors and whose alternate form is wingless, and Aeriat, who do have wings in their shifted (or non-groundling) form. Why, after building such a wonderfully rich and totally alien setting Wells chose two names that sound and look like English words for tree-related and air-related I will never know. They grated on me, pulling me back from her magical otherworld into the everyday, and I resented that because she did such a good job on everything else. Even calling the bad guys “the Fell” struck me as misguided. No other species had a particularly apt English adjective as a name.

I wanted more consistency and logic than I got in naming; even the three main categories of Fell annoyed me: rulers (smart ones), major kethel (the big but dumb ones), and minor dakti (small but still dumb). Rulers were always called just rulers, but sometimes the others were called simply dakti and kethel and sometimes they were major kethel and minor dakti. I kept waiting for a major dakti and a minor kethel to appear but they never did. If they only came in one variety each, then why did they need the major/minor distinction? It made no sense!

Of course, I am legendary in my critique group for complaining about characters' names, so it's not surprising this was the one thing that bothered me. I was even bothered by a language being called Altanic because I read it as Atlantic for the first six times I came to it.

But, nit picks aside, the story itself is wonderfully told. Moon is a great protagonist; damaged, prickly, but still soft-hearted, Moon hopes for good from the world but so often encounters bad. Wells does a good job of sketching secondary and tertiary characters in just a few sentences, so that the other “people” all feel real. The story has a good mix of action, dialog, and Moon's thought processes. The story is told from Moon's point of view, in third person so close and consistent you could change all the pronouns to make it first person with almost no re-writing. The flying scenes are particularly well done.

In short, I loved it!

Caveat for Kindle owners: The Kindle version I have had some bad formatting; I sent an email to the publisher about the errors in the book (mostly missing word spaces and some funky paragraph indenting). They suggested I should buy the trade paperback because it is formatted much better and has attractive graphics. I don't have good feelings about their ability to keep making money in the future.  This was some time ago, so possibly this has changed. Please comment if you had a different experience.

Addendum: Sadly, it seems I was correct about the publisher. They are attempting to sell their assets to avoid bankruptcy.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Thursday, March 28, 2013

King of Trees got a nice review!

The book blog An Eclectic Bookshelf gave King of Trees a very nice review. Blogger/reviewer David King questioned some plot points, but overall had some nice things to say:
“This was another enjoyable story from Buxton that explores an alternate Britain that never got to embrace the industrial revolution. The plot itself had a good blend of excitement and action interspersed with politics, diplomacy and discussion. In addition, the writing was competent and flowed well which is something I have grown to expect from Buxton. . . 
Overall, I found this to be a entertaining and fun story that introduces some interesting characters who on the whole are likeable even if at times they can make some rather frustrating choices.”
David is truly an eclectic reader, and his blog has reviews for a wide variety of books. He likes to do book challenges, which involve things like reading books in many different genres or following one series (e.g., Star Trek books) in depth.  Check out his blog if you're looking for something interesting to read!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: The DaVinci Code

The DaVinci Code
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This wasn't as bad as I had led to believe it would be. The prose is uninspired, and Brown makes things up to fit the story, but isn't that what fiction is? Novelists are allowed to make things up. However, the nature of a thriller is to make the tension credible, and the lack of plausibility of some aspects of the story was noticeable. I had trouble believing an elderly man dying of a gunshot wound to the gut would work out and flawlessly execute the elaborate scenario described in the beginning of the story. The victim's granddaughter learning the details of his death and instantly understanding that she needed to save the chief suspect from false accusation was equally unlikely. I also had trouble believing the protagonist's (he's a Harvard professor of "symbology)" assertion that pretty much every fable or fairy tale ever told is actually about Mary Magdalene.

What bothered me more than that was the plot's dependence on the professor's repeatedly coming up with flashes of insight just as some crisis occurred. It was is if he were a magician whose hat had an inexhaustible supply of rabbits.

Still, the story was entertaining, at a certain level. It dared to aim for a grand story line, and if it didn't hit the target for everyone, obviously a lot of folks enjoyed it. This book will never win Dan Brown a Pulitzer, but on the other hand, it made him a boatload of money and guaranteed his next book would sell well. I would not sneer at that.

Kindle users's note: This book had a fair amount of French phrases. Some but not all were translated by the narration, so the translation feature on the Kindle came in very handy! I just had to highlight the words, and then select Translate from the More option on the Highlight menu. Also, the Kindle formatting was excellent. 

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Update on my books

Smashwords status for The Nostalgia Gambit:
My sixth book The Nostalgia Gambit is still for sale in the Kindle store, but it's no longer in the KDP Select program. I have therefore uploaded it to Smashwords, where it is now for sale. Smashwords is an ebook-only retailer that's a great venue for self-published authors, not so much because people buy books there (although some do), but because Smashwords allows authors to selectively sell their books through the iBooks, Nook, Sony, Deisel, and Blio ebookstores, too, just by clicking a few buttons. Smashwords handles the delivery, paperwork, and collection of royalties (they get a very small percentage).

Of course, the ebook has to be well-formatted for this to happen; Smashwords will not send an ebook to a retailer/partner site if it has crappy formatting. They review each book, and TNG is now in the review stage. Smashwords has gotten much faster about that; it used to take a week or two, but now it's usually a few days. The ebook also has to have an ISBN to be sold in other stores, but Smashwords will provide one if the author doesn't have one.

Smashwords used to accept only an MS Word file, formatted to their specific guidelines; their upload program (commonly known as “the meat grinder”) would take the Word file and convert it to Mobi/Kindle format, epub (used by almost all ereaders except Kindle), PDF, and even RTF. The meat grinder produced clean, readable ebooks, but every Smashwords ebook had the same (rather boring) style. On the very last day of 2012, Smashwords began accepting epub; if you upload an epub file that meets their standards, they will use that copy to send to all the vendor partners you select. Of course, if you also want folks to be able to get a Kindle, RTF, or PDF version of the book from Smashwords, you still need to upload a Word file with the proper formatting.

I had a delay of several days in getting my epub file uploaded to Smashwords, because in addition to proper epub coding they wanted specific text (“Smashwords edition”) on the copyright page. That's all taken care of now, and I'm hoping the review process goes smoothly and swiftly! Note added:  TNG made it to the premium catalog in only 3 days! It should be "shipped" to the B&N, iBooks, Sony and other ebookstores very soon.

Status for King of Trees"
I need to keep King of Trees (ebook #7) in KDP select until about the first week in May. After that, I plan to also load it to Smashwords, and push it out to Nook, iBooks, Sony, and all the available vendors. Until then, it is for sale on in the Kindle store, but if you have a Kindle, or a Kindle Fire, and you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow it for free!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Already in withdrawal

I have been a daily user of Google Reader for the past few years. It's been great! I have a whole list of 20 or so blogs I follow, and I can easily skim over their new posts and read the ones I want to read. But now Google has announced that they will kill Reader on July 1, and I can feel myself shaking with dread.

The general consensus is that Google couldn't find a way to make money from Reader, and so they're killing it to free up those developers to move on to something more profitable (more than zero is not hard to beat).  I'm looking for silver linings, and hoping this will mean opportunity for a smaller company to step up and fill the huge void in so many lives. A friend recommended Feedly, and I have been checking it out, but I'm not sure yet.

Feedly does let you import all our Reader subscriptions, which is nice, and they sent me an email with some useful info on using their product, so I have hopes.

But I'm still a little afraid.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Go ahead, make my day!

Have I mentioned how much I loved reading my own reviews? Naturally, I prefer the positive ones, but  even a bad review has some payback, in that the reader cared enough about the book to post an opinion. Lately my first (and still free) book The Sixth Discipline got some very positive,  brief, but sincere-sounding reviews, mostly on Amazon, which is where most of my sales are. Here are excerpts from the most recent:

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic ScifiMarch 15, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Sixth Discipline (Haven) (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book, a thriller with kidnapping, murder and greed ...  I started the next book in the series the day I finished this as I had not had enough.

 I enjoyed this book from the first page to the last.March 2, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Sixth Discipline (Haven) (Kindle Edition)
The story is captivating and the writing suburb.... It was hard to put down. I hope Carmen has more for us avid readers.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A keeper!January 28, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Sixth Discipline (Haven) (Kindle Edition)
First off, I have read many books, and this book is one of my favorites . . .  The main character, Ran-del, was awesome! The second book is just as wonderful, and I would like to read another.

Beyond the Kindle!
I get fewer sales (and thus fewer reviews) on other platforms, but I did recently get an excellent (and longer) review for  The Sixth Discipline on Smashwords. Here's an excerpt:

Review by: Dave Higgins on March 15, 2013 : star star star star 
Unlike some stories that culture clash as a motif, this novel both features action by characters from each culture in both cultures and portrays neither culture as ultimately lesser to the other.

The book tells the story of Ran-Del Jahanpur, a warrior from a forest tribe that focus on mental discipline and aim to live in tune with nature. ... With a plot that moves back and forth between the forest and the city, the novel skilfully balances the benefits and disadvantages of psychic and technological solutions and the cultures that have grown up around them.

I found Ran-Del to be a well-developed character. His social and moral choices are sometimes better and sometimes worse than others, making him neither the noble savage or the uncultured rural. ...

Now that you know. . . 
Now that you know how much authors love reviews, doesn't it make you want to write one? You could make my day!