Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

SFR Brigade December Showcase and Giveaway!

I write science fiction and fantasy, and I often include a love story or two in my books. I like to set stories in the far future so that I can create societies and technologies that don't exist, but one reason I like to include romance is that love stories are timeless. There are plenty of other writers who do similar stories. In fact, there's a whole Science Fiction Romance Brigade, and the group is hosting a giveaway. December 15 through 19, just in time for the holidays, a bunch of SFRB authors are offering free books and other stuff, and I am participating.

The book I'm giving away is Saronna's Gift. You can win your choice of a free paperback copy or a free Kindle copy.

What Amazon reviewers have said about Saronna's Gift:

"It’s definitely an interesting SciFi/Romantic storyline. The contrasting backgrounds of both individuals make for a very complex relationship. Not only did I like reading about how Saronna handles her struggles, but also how Duncan handles his struggles as he tries to court her. I give it five stars for creativity because I have never read a SciFi romance set in a future world with the oppression solely based on gender. It’s a very feministic but still romantic storyline. I was definitely not disappointed for another one of Buxton’s books."

"I can probably best express my enjoyment of this book by saying that I was surprised when I came back to write a review and saw that it had 475 pages. I whipped through it so fast that it seemed much shorter."

"I found this book in a fit of disgust over giving up on another book with a weak female lead and an "alpha male" love interest (read: demanding, creepy, controlling). I had searched for "feminist romance paranormal" with very little hope and miraculously, not only did I get results but several! This book was on the top, was offered on kindle unlimited, and looked interesting. It actually gives all of those things. " [nb: this book no longer in Kindle Unlimited]

A brief excerpt to pique your interest:

Science Fiction Romance Brigade

If you're interested in mixing romance with your science fiction (or vice versa), head on over to the SFR Brigade page to see who else is participating and check out what they have to offer. Don't wait! December 19th is the last day.

You must enter to win!

If you want a chance to win a copy of Sarnonna's Gift, just leave a comment below and tell me whether you prefer a Kindle copy or a paperback. If your name is drawn, you will need to provide an email address to receive the Kindle copy, and a US mailing address to win the paperback. I will 3 draw names and give away a total of 3 copies!.

Everyone gets a free book!

If you like a sure thing, you can also check out my free ebook The Sixth Discipline. It's more science fiction than romance, but it does have a sort of slow motion love story. And it's free in most online ebook stores.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Google is now making web cards for books!

A recent post on The Digital Reader blog (also on Facebook, if you prefer to follow it that way), describes how Google is creating "knowledge panels" (I always just called them web cards, although I suppose they are a special kind of web card) for books when you search on the book title.

See below for examples from two of my books, the first being one with both print and ebook formats and the second for an ebook-only title.

Naturally enough, the "Preview book" link takes you to Google Books. This is true whether there is a print version or not. There is no mention that I can find of Smashwords, Amzon/Kindle or any vendors other than Google, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, except that the GoodReads site is owned by Amazon and always includes their links.  

The only title I don't have on Google Books is Where Magic Rules, and its web card doesn't get a preview link at all. Maybe I need to load that one onto Google Books, too?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Is POD about to change publishing?

The Digital Reader blog has a post about a new Amazon feature called Amazon Print on Demand (available only on Amazon UK, as far as can be determined. Correction: a later commenter identified four such sites, in the UK, Germany, Japan, and the US). It's very much like CreateSpace, Amazon's service for self-publishing in print, but it's intended for publishers. According to the post, there are some small and one large publishers signed on to use it in the UK.

Here's why I find this potentially exciting. Right now a publisher takes a risk in publishing a book. They have to guess how many copies they should print. Print too many, and the books take up space in a warehouse; don't print enough, and bookstores run out, and (potentially) sales are lost if the reader can't get the book when they want it. Having the book available for sale online via POD means the customer can always get the book but there are not unsold copies lying around. This could mean publishers would be more willing to risk publishing books by new and unknown authors.

Of course, the downside is, it pushes more sales to online, which publishers don't like because they don't want Amazon to control even more of the market. This may considerably slow down the adoption of POD for big publishers. Publishers could always sell direct, of course, but they don't have much of a built-in online customer base compared to Amazon.

Barnes & Noble has their own POD online service for self-publishing called Nook Press Print. I wonder if this could push Barnes & Noble to either create a publisher version or add more Espresso Book Machines to their brick & mortar stores?  Or both?

We live in interesting times.

Monday, October 31, 2016

World Fantasy Convention Report

This year's WFC was held in Columbus, Ohio, USA.  Guests of Honor were Mercedes Lackey, Larry Dixon, L.E. Modesitt, Jr,  and Randal Spangler with Jane Yolen as toastmistress. 

Turnout was on the low side, partly due to a kerfuffle over the programming and partly over the fact that Columbus isn't a huge draw as a tourist destination. But those who made the pilgrimage to Columbus enjoyed a fun convention with a nice memorial to the late David Hartwell, who passed away suddenly last year. 

The con suite was very conveniently placed on the ground floor, and the con suite staff provided much more substantial food than at man cons, although it was usually gone very quickly, it was still a nice change from just a bowl of M&Ms and a bag of potato chips.

This year I attended WFC as a member of Broad Universe, spending some time staffing the BU table in the dealer's room and also organizing the Rapid Fire Reading.  I had everything set up, from cough drops to water glasses, but I forgot to get someone to take a photo of the reading!

Oh, well!  Here are my other WFC photos. 

The bag o' books! 

View from the 18th floor

Con suite lunch

Reading by Carol Berg

Andy Duncan reading

World fantasy Award judges's panel

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Barnes & Noble Nook Press Print vs Amazon CreateSpace

I have used CreateSpace, Amazon's print-on-demand (POD) service to publish three of my books in paperback. The way CreateSpace works is, you upload files for the interior of the book and for the cover, and Amazon then sells the books online. Unlike traditional publishing, they don't print multiple copies and wait for them to sell; they print single copies using an Espresso Book Machine only once someone has ordered a copy. However, the author/publisher can order bulk copies at a lower price directly from CreateSpace (not from and sell those copies themselves. This also makes it cheaper to get print copies for contest giveaways and to give reviewers.


Recently, Barnes & Noble decided to get into the act and announced that Nook Press would also let you create a POD book that would then be for sale on the Barnes & Noble online store.  I decided to try it. I uploaded virtually the same files for King of Trees that I had used on CreateSpace (I did have change to make the cover file a teensy bit smaller) and was able to publish using Barnes & Noble's Nook Press Print.

CreateSpace copy on left. B&N on right.
I ordered a copy from each vendor, and as you can see, the difference in appearance between the two is minimal. In real life as opposed to this not-that-great photo, the gold lettering on the B&N cover was a little brighter than it was in the CreateSpace cover. The only other concrete difference was in the back cover, which I thought was cleaner-looking on the Amazon copy. Note the bar code area on the back of the book.  CreateSpace does not print the price and Nook Press does.

Amazon left; B & N right

Some differences I observed:

  • On both platforms, the vendor sets a minimum price you can charge for the book, based on size, but interestingly, it was almost $1.50 lower on Barnes & Noble than on Amazon.  Of course, the royalty per book is lower, too, by almost the same amount. And, because of shipping costs, a customer might well pay more on B&N, as Amazon make CreateSpace books eligible for free shipping for Prime members. 
  • Both vendors let you do bulk orders at a lower price, but B&N sets a 125 copy minimum. Possibly, they use a different press for those orders, and not the Espresso. CreateSpace lets you "bulk" order as few copies as you like, but the shipping costs make it cheaper than retail only if you get at least 8 or 10. 
  • CreateSpace will distribute to Amazon in some other countries, and to other vendors, including B&N. Note that you make a teeny-tiny royalty for non-Amazon sales.  Nook Press only goes to B&N online. 
  • CreateSpace lets you order an actual print proof copy before you put the book up for sale on Amazon. If Nook Press does that, I could not find out how to do it. The only preview I could see was online. 
  • Amazon is better at tweaking the PDF files for you if there is a minor problem. Nook Press just states the problem and tells you to fix it.
  • I would give the Create-Space interface the edge over Nook Press, partly because I could not figure out a way to bulk order; there is a tab for Orders in the Nook dashboard, but all that happens when you click it is you get an empty screen that says "No orders yet." Because of that, I cannot compare the bulk order prices. Not that I would actually order 125 copies, but I would have liked to initiate the process to at least find out the per copy price. Update: I found the Order link! It was right near the Edit link. In spite of what the FAQ said (as I understood it), you can in fact oder just one copy; 125 is the maximum number, not the minimum. The bulk order price for KoT on B&N Nook is $6.92, versus $5.00 on Kindle. 
  • On the other hand, Nook Press does let you link the print book to an existing ebook during the publishing process, which CreateSpace doesn't do. Amazon does link the two copies up after a few days, but it's annoying that you have to wait and hope it happens. 
  • Nook Press was very slow to actually put my book on sale; it spent about a week in pending status. On the other hand, replacing the front cover of the Nook ebook (I got a new cover when I decided to do print) was really quick, but Amazon took several days to disseminate the new cover for the Kindle version after I had changed it in KDP.  That's not really a print book issue, but it's only fair to mention it.
  • I did not see any indication that B&N offers anything like Kindle Matchbook, which lets you give away (or sell really cheaply) the Kindle version of the book to anyone who buys the paperback.

From the help screens, it looks like if a Nook Press Print book sells enough copies, you can ask B&N to carry it in stores, but it doesn't say how many copies that is.

If you want to check King of Trees out online, here's the link for B&N, and for Amazon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Capclave 2016

This past weekend I attended Capclave, the DC-area science fiction convention, held this year in Gaithersburg, MD.  The photo above was taken from the window of the con hotel. The cat seemed to be watching me as much as I was watching him, and I liked the composition the photo had, with diagonal lines and the gray cat on gray concrete; only the orange fire lane line provides strong color. 

The con went off pretty well, with no observable hitches. The con organizers even dealt well with the unexpected passing of Doug Fratz, a local fan and critic/reviewer of long standing. They covered his scheduled events and held a memorial for him.  

I was on three panels and also held a reading. I also arranged with the proprietor of Novel Books, an independent bookstore in Clarksburg, MD, to stock my print books. And of course, I had fun going to readings and catching up with old friends, including Scott Edelman, who was on the Well Worn Classics panel with me, our first panel together. 

And in about 10 days, I'll be heading out to my last convention of the year, the World Fantasy Convention, in Columbus, OH. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Win a free paperback copy of King of Trees!

All free copies have been claimed! 

To celebrate the launch of King of Trees in print. I'm hosting an Amazon giveaway of 3 copies of the paperback. Go here to try your chances!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

East met West a long time ago, and in King of Trees, too

lengthy article by blogger and historical novelist Ben Thomas about some ancient Chinese skeletons (or do I means skeletons of ancient Chinese people?) found at a site dating back to Roman Britain is interesting, because no one knew the Chinese had gotten that far west. It's especially interesting to me, as my newest book to launch in print, King of Trees, is set in an alternate universe and includes an alternate Britain, where Boudicca won and drove the Romans out of Britain. The story includes the arrival of an invasion fleet from an alternate Chinese empire.

The point of the article is that Asia in general and China in particular were, in many ways, more advanced than Rome. Thomas lists some of the empires that covered parts of the Middle East, India, and China, and articulates something I have observed myself. The ancient Chinese concept that heaven ordains who will be emperor was actually very pragmatic. When the divine emperor was overthrown, it didn't mean there were no gods. It simply meant heaven had willed the change. Life could go on and everyone could shift their allegiance to the new emperor with no problems.

My Chinese empire not only invented gunpowder, they made guns; this article doesn't mention weapons much, but the ancient Chinese in our world also invented gunpowder but didn't use it for much except fireworks and primitive rockets and grenades.

But meanwhile, King of Trees is now available as a paperback on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble with its brand new cover!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

King of Trees is coming to print!

I have been working with book cover designer Alexander von Ness to get a new cover made for King of Trees, which will also launch as a print book.  This is what the print version will look like, with just one minor tweak.

I'm very excited about this cover! I think it does a much better job of conveying the themes of the story than the first one, which was thrown together in a hurry.  I can't wait for this change to happen! 

Stranded in an alternate time line, a small group of time travelers alter the course of history in a version of Britain that never had an Industrial Revolution. The settlers help dethrone the Druid-backed monarchy, but generations later, Bardolph Patrickson, loyal son, hardworking blacksmith, and King of Albion, must work with their descendants to keep the island nation free of new invaders.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Where Magic Rules has launched in print!

My fantasy novella Where Magic Rules is now available as a paperback as well as an ebook. The paperback is $5.99 but if you buy it, the Kindle version is free. If you buy the Kindle version alone, it's 99¢.

Note that the paperback is also available on Barnes & Noble for the same price, but that does store not offer the ebook version for free.

Here's a quote from my celebrity review of WMR by singer/songwriter Janis Ian:

"The story hooked me pretty quickly, which is no great feat in an experienced writer. However, it kept me hooked, which IS difficult when you have an omnivorous reader looking at your work with a jaundiced eye. I've downloaded so many books lately that start off well, but disintegrate a little ways in - it's a real joy to discover a new author who holds her ground throughout."

Friday, July 22, 2016

Where Magic Rules is re-launching!

So, now that I have mastered InDesign, I am working on putting out my books in print, via CreateSpace. This is going to be a fair amount of work, so I started with the shortest, the fantasy novella Where Magic Rules, which is only 25,000 words long. I made it free a while ago, and have left it that way until now.

[For those who care, the way to make a book free in the Kindle store is to load it to a platform like Smashwords, which will let you make it free forever, and also sends it to the B&N Nook store, the Apple iBooks store, Kobo, and others, as a free book. Once AMazon knows it's free on those platforms, they will price match.]

Now, however, as the paperback is coming out, I am going to price the ebook version at its original price of 99¢ but I will offer it free to anyone who buys the paperback. The Amazon program for this is called "matchbook."

So, if anyone wants a free fantasy novella on Kindle, get it now! In a day or two, it will cost 99¢ (or $5.99 for the paperback).

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Telling True Stories

I never had any ambition to write nonfiction. I'm too much of a control freak. In addition, I love the freedom of science fiction and fantasy to write my own rules, and create my own cultures.

Nevertheless, I admire good story telling, and when the story is 100% true, it's wonderful to see someone tell it well. I recently watched the Ken Burns PBS documentary series on the Roosevelts (Teddy, Franklin, and Elinor). The full title is The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, and it is about their personal, intimate lives. This series is fabulous for so many reasons! And it's good story telling.

The series opens with Teddy, as he came first chronologically. I really hope this series gets shown in classroom across America. For one thing, Teddy illustrates how new our country is. He was a 20th century president, yet he was born during our Civil War, and watched Lincoln's funeral cortege as a small boy, from a window of his grandfather's house.

He was also an amazing person. He was born into wealth, but also into terrible health. He had asthma back when there were not good treatments for asthma. He was considered very sickly. He also suffered from time to time from depression. But he made himself into a strong, active person by the strength of his will and from determination (and, of course, he wasn't hampered in this by working for a living).

Franklin was a sixth cousin. Also well-to-do, he was the only child of his mother, who was much younger than his father. He had an older half-brother by his father's first wife, but does not seem to have seen him much.
A young FDR

One thing I never knew is that FDR chose his eyeglasses to match the kind worn by his cousin Teddy. I had always assumed that they were just a common thing back then, but he admired his cousin a lot.

Also, while Teddy was a Republican, he was a progressive Republican (what a concept, these days!) , and his cousins all supported him even though Franklin's family were Democrats.

Elinor was actually named Anna Elinor. Her father Elliott was Teddy's brother. He was a doting parent, but also an alcoholic with mental health issues. Both her parents died when she was a child, first her mother and two years later her father. Her mother was a beautiful woman, but Elinor herself was always considered plain. She had rather a lonely childhood, and in many ways, an unhappy marriage. She and Franklin had six children, all of whom survived to adulthood, and outlived their mother.

Over her long life, she became known as a tireless worker for good causes. She supported her husband's career even through he wasn't faithful to her, and she never spoke publicly about her pain.

Elinor as First
 Lady of NY State

The series makes clear that what ties all three of these people together is not just their name, but a sense of duty. They lived and breathed duty. They lived well documented lives, writing tons of letters and giving speeches that make their beliefs plain. Teddy may have loved the limelight, but he was always motivated by what he saw as his country's good. Franklin was a better president than husband (doubtless true of many, many presidents), and Elinor herself might have been more comfortable as a First Lady than as Franklin's wife, but both of them knew they could do more good together than apart.

If you haven't seen this series, then you might want to check it out. Ken Burns is a master at story telling. And telling you about his work gives me a chance to use one of my favorite little jokes. Elinor was clearly a feminist. After all, she kept her name after she got married. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Check out my book on the Kindle Scout site!

Kindle Scout is the program Amazon started when they killed the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) contest. The deal with Kindle scout is, an author posts a never-before-published book-- cover and manuscript-- of at least 50,000 word. Amazon displays the cover and the first 5,000 words of the book for 30 days. People (Amazon customers, the author's fans, anyone a US Amazon account) can nominate the book to be published as an ebook by Kindle Press. In fact, they can nominate 3 books per month.  As a nice bonus, if a book wins, everyone who nominated it gets a free copy a week before it's released, with some encouragement to write a review.

The process isn't purely a popularity contest. The Kindle Press editors review each book that gets enough nominations to merit it, and they decide what gets published, not the number of votes. But it needs some nominations in order to be looked at.

My book is called Alien Bonds. It's a science fiction romance set on a world in my ThreeCon universe. Here's the blurb from Kindle Scout:

  • Imagine Pride & Prejudice if Lizzie Bennett had gone to the dance, met Mr. Darcy, been overcome with desire, and gone home with him that night. Now imagine Mr. Darcy as an alien, and the party happening in the far future on another world. In Alien Bonds, two lives are changed in an instant. Dina Bellaire and Kuaron Du both know they can’t go back to the way they were before they met. They just have to convince the rest of the universe that what happened to them is real.

Okay, that's the romance. The science fiction part comes from my creation of an alien world where a person's looks don't matter. No one chooses a mate; biochemistry does the selection based on pheromones. It doesn't matter if you're short or tall or thin or fat. No one is gay or straight. People can still be beautiful, but no one is considered sexy. Pairing off is entirely a matter of being near the right person. Once the pheromone lightning hits, those two people are bonded for life. What impact would that have on their culture? Or actually, their cultures, since no world would ever have just one.

Anyway, Alien Bonds has 30 days to live on Kindle Scout. Please visit it, and click the "Show full excerpt" button. If you like it, consider nominating it (hit the Nominate button!). Remember, you can nominate up to three books if you see something else you like! If you have any questions about my book or the Kindle Scout program, leave me a comment, and I'll answer.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Balticon 50

The Liars' Panel raises money for charity
Every weekend of the year there's a science fiction convention somewhere in the US. Memorial Day weekend is Balticon and this year was its 50th anniversary, so it was a big event. The guest of honor was George RR Martin, and they also invited back lots of previous GoH's so the crowd was huge.

Even though it's only an hour and half or so to drive (less if the traffic is good), we went to stay at the con hotel because that's a lot more fun. I went to a bunch of panels, participated in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, and met a lot of friends. It was a lovely weekend! Here are some more photos of guests and panels:

Larry Niven

Jody Lynn Nye at the Broad Universe reading

Hikdy Silverman moderates Tales from the Slush Pile

John Picacio setting up for his Artist GoH presentation

Connie Willis explains where her story ideas come from

Brick Barrientos runs the science fiction trivia contest

And of course, we saw a lot of great hall costumes! I didn't get to take near enough photos because it was too crowded to be able to stop and block the aisle by taking photos. 

Me in front of the TARDIS

Friday, May 20, 2016


I occasionally blog about book promotion, especially in reference to free books, but also about how hard it is to get a book in front of folks who might want to read it.  One service I've mentioned often is BookBub, the gold standard of email promotion for ebooks, They have a website, but their marketing power comes form their massive email subscriber list. None of the other services compare in scope, and for this reason, BookBub is now extremely popular with traditional publishers who are running sales of ebooks. It's difficult for self published authors to get a slot in the BookBub list.

Now, the mighty BookBub might be getting some real competition. Today I got an email from GoodReads, the popular reader-centric site, which was bought by Amazon a few years ago. It looks like GoodReads will be offering a daily email of books for sale.

Once I logged on to try it, I was able to choose specific authors as well as genres, and also specify my preferred ebook platforms (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, etc), so they are not just offering Kindle deals.

What I don't know is, how does GoodReads know about these deals? Are they getting paid by someone to list the books, or do they just scour the web looking? Certainly they will money on every Kindle books sold, but what about non-Kindle deals?  Or maybe they figure if they can cut into BookBub's business, they won't have to pay associate fees to sell the books. 

One feature GoodReads has always offered is a "want to read" list. You can tag a book as "want to read," and now GoodReads will tell you when it's on sale.  Likewise, they can tell you if an author you follow has a promotion running. 

I wonder if GoodReads will expand this service to cover print books. While ordering a print book online night not have the immediacy of getting an ebook download, if you rely on online ordering for your print book needs, knowing about special offers, and price reductions could still be a great thing for you. But then Amazon probably already does that directly, based on your buying history. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Conquering InDesign

Considering that my husband calls me a “Kindle evangelist,” I have spent a lot of time lately working on printing books. I just finished a semester-long class at my local community college. The course title was Desktop Publishing but really it was How to Use InDesign.

InDesign is an Adobe product that will handle page layout, and also allow you to export an ePub (ebook) file,. As I found out from the course, it will also export simple Adobe Flash files, for say, a series of click-through screens. And, it can export interactive PDF, if I ever need to do that. It's a very powerful but complex product, and I had had no luck in learning it on my own, which is my usual method with new software. InDesign has an incredible number of functions and as a result, the menus often have long list of unrelated options. Also, it use “tools.” That is, you change the function of what the mouse cursor does by picking a tool from a list.

The basic function is selecting things, but the software doesn't stop you from using menus if you have a tool other than the Select tool in use. This can get you in trouble! For example, I discovered that if you're using the Type tool when you place (paste in) a graphic file, InDesign creates that image as an anchored graphic that won't budge, no matter how much text you add in front of it,  Who knew? I'm sure it's that way to provide a shortcut for people who know what they are doing with InDesign. Until recently, that was not me.

As you can see by the above image of a full print cover, I started small, with my only novella, Where Magic Rules. Because it's so short, I didn't even try to put text on the spine, but I'll do that with the next book.  Once I have WMR ready to go, it will join Saronna's Gift as a paperback for sale on Amazon.

And of course, InDesign does the page layout beautifully. You can quickly and easily impose proper book format, with the first page of a chapter having its own unique layout. I love it!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The self-publishing process: Should I do print?

If you've made the decision to self-publish, the next think you need to decide is whether to publish print books or ebooks or both.


To self-publish in print, almost the only viable option, unless you are rich enough to invest the money needed to print several thousand copies of your book, is to use a POD service. POD stands for print on demand, a process that takes advantage of new technology that melds a high speed printer/copier machine with a book binder. So far as I know, the only commercially available one is called the Espresso Book Machine. Some bookstores have invested in these machines, but they are expensive, so they are not generally affordable for a small business. But several online companies are out there, including Lulu and CreateSpace (from Amazon) and Barnes and Noble, that provide a way to print and sell your book using their POD machines and their websites.

However, even the POD process requires that you format the manuscript properly, and create a PDF of the book interior that looks like a typeset book, with all the correct information on the title page (front and back) and with proper headers and footers, including page numbers. That is much harder than it sounds! Some people use MS Word templates from companies like Joel Friedlander's Book Design Templates. Other use desktop publishing software, like Adobe InDesign (which can also produce an epub file for the ebook version). But InDesign is complex and not free, so that's a real investment of time and money.  There are commercial services that will format print books, just as there are for ebooks, but all of them have the same limitation: correction workflow. If you give a commercial services a word processing file, and they give you the a PDF to publish from, how do you correct that if you find an error later? Generally, unless you can edit PDFs, you have to ask them to make the correction for you.

Obviously, everything should be proofed carefully before you hand over the m.s., but it's difficult to be sure you got every single tiny typo.  Correction workflow should be factored into your decision on how to produce the PDF.


You will need a full-color PDF of the entire cover (front, back, and spine), not just a front cover image, like you do for an ebook. The cover is even more important for print than for ebooks, so you will need to be sure it looks good. There are tons of graphic artists who will work for reasonable rates, but be sure you are dealing with a reputable one before you give them your money.  Most of my covers were done by relatives with graphic design experience, but I have also used Nessgrahica. They are based in Croatia, so you would need to send the payment via Western Union, which you can do online.


The per copy costs involved in producing a print book mean that you can't price it as competitively as you can an ebook. Amazon will let you set the price on a Kindle book as low as 99¢, but because they have to pay for paper and ink, they will not let you price a CreateSpace POD book at a loss; generally, a POD book will cost about the same as a commercially-published trade paperback. This is a significant drawback if you're starting out. One reason self-published ebooks sell as well as they do is that they are so much cheaper than ebooks from traditional publishers, who price them high to protect hardcover sales.


Another limitation is that POD books are not generally found in bookstores,. Even the B&N POD books are only at  few B&N stores that have Espresso machines. This means online sales are your only retail outlet, unless you want to go around to bookstores and persuade the owners to carry your books on a consignment basis. Some people do this successfully, others not. Some authors carry extra copies of their books to conventions and sell them to people they meet. You need to decide what you're willing to do to sell your books.

The Payoff

Quite frankly, most self-published titles don't sell well in print unless they are by an author who was already well established before the self-published titles came out. However, even if you don't sell that many copies, having a print version of your book is an advantage. You can give away free copies as promotions and (hopefully) get reviews, and if you make contacts at conventions or readings, you have something available for those folks who just don't want ebooks. And you can hold book signings!

n.b. Updated 9/23/16

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Is Google serious about its ebook platform?

Almost a year ago, I blogged about starting to load my books onto Google Play/Google Books.  I just got Saronna's Gift loaded yesterday. I've had very few sales on Google Books, but I figured it couldn't hurt to expand. For a while there was a major hold-up in loading new books because Google Books had no filter to stop people from pirating other people's work. I'm not sure when that was resolved, because they're not good at communicating. When the new book would not load all the way, I didn't get any message as to why; it turned out there was an epub problem, but I had never gotten a notice about it.

I have to say, Google has not made a lot of (or maybe even any!) improvements in the "Books Partner Center" in the last year. The interface is still clunky, and seems to be designed by geeks, for geeks. I guess you could call it the UNIX of book platforms; but unlike UNIX, there's no graphical interface available to make it easier.  One of the things that takes up a lot of room on the report screen is the pie chart it draws to show you the percentage of books that are live and for sale.

That's a lot of screen real estate for something that will usually be 100%. 

Features that are still clunky or problematic:

  • You have to download a new CSV file every time you want to see your sales figures. There is no way to generate a report on screen.  This is my single biggest complaint. What a pain! Even Barnes & Noble is better than this.
  • Reporting is erratic. I checked every day after I ran my last promotion, and it took a full week for the books I had given away to show up in the sales transaction report. On the other hand, I often see sales and giveaways the next day.
  • If you want to run a Google Books promotion, you have create a CSV file and upload it. For every book, you need to provide the following info:  Identifier, Title, Currency, Amount, and Countries. Except that their program doesn't actually use the title column, so you can leave it blank. And you can say WORLD for country if you want it everywhere. 
The message you see on loading a book is the reason it's still worth it.

This book is live in the Google Play store in the following regions: AR, AS, AT, AU, BE, BG, BO, BR, BY, CA, CH, CL, CO, CR, CZ, DE, DK, DO, EC, EE, ES, FI, FR, GB, GR, GT, GU, HK, HN, HR, HU, ID, IE, IL, IN, IT, JP, KG, KR, KZ, LT, LU, LV, MH, MP, MX, MY, NI, NL, NO, NZ, PA, PE, PH, PL, PR, PT, PW, PY, RO, RU, SE, SG, SI, SK, SV, TH, TR, TT, TW, UA, US, UY, UZ, VE, VI, VN, ZA. It is also listed on Google Books.

Of course, if you need all those country codes explained, you'll need to look it up elsewhere. Google is a huge company. I expected better from them, so this makes me wonder if they really care about Google Books or not. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Promotion Smackdown: The Fussy Librarian vs eReader News Today

I ran two more promotions recently, to advertise The Sixth Discipline being free. That book is always free, but the Amazon numbers for it were dropping; I wanted to get more copies out there, because it drives sales of No Safe Haven (the direct sequel, which is not free, but is reasonably priced at $2.99). I blogged about my earlier promotion efforts back in October.

The first service I used this time is called The Fussy Librarian. A friend had recommended them, and the fee for my options (science fiction for the genre, and free for the price) was only $25, so I went with it. The Fussy Librarian (TFL) sends email to their subscribers (free to readers, of course), and also maintains a searchable database of free books, which contains all the books that have been included in emails for the last 30 days. I'll be interested to see if The Sixth Discipline gets any lift from this. It's an added benefit for the same price.

Of course, it might be hard to separate, because I did do back-to-back promotions again. I had a second promo on eReader News Today (ERNT) the day after the one on TFL. Interestingly, promoting a free science fiction book was also $25 with ERNT.

Well, it as been a few days now, and ERNT won hands down. TFL did okay; I gave away 189 Kindle copies, 20 Nook (B&N), and 11 iBooks. The ERNT promo was the very next day, and that one was huge! Not BookBub huge, but almost as good as my earlier FreeBooksy promot, which cost more than twice as much. I gave away 755 Kindle copies, 23 Nook copies, and 11 on iBooks! Now, a dozen or two could well be hold overs from the TFL site/email, but I can't believe it would be more than that when the intial number topped out at 189. The virtue of those kinds of number is they jump your book up in the Amazon sales rankings.

Amazon has links for the 100 most popular free Kindle books, and also the most popular 100 by genre, e.g., 100 top free science fiction and fantasy. These appear at the bottom of the product page, where the book's ranking is, but you only see the genre links if the book ranks in the top 1,000 of a genre or subgenre. Before these promotions, The Sixth Discipline was hovering around the 25,000 mark for overall free Kindle books.

This was the ranking for T6thD on the day of the Fussy Librarian promo:

4:00 pm

10:00 pm
This was during the ERNT promo:

7:00 pm

11:00 pm
So, what that means is the giveaway numbers stay higher for several days after the promo. In the three days after my book ran on ERNT, its Kindle "sales" per day were 116, 36, and 39.

I think I will try another promotion for a book that's not free, to compare. My Freebooksey promo did much better than when I used Bargain Booksy. That might be purely because there are more people looking for free books than bargain books, which would mean no promo for a sale book is going to do anywhere near as well, not even BookBub.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Act now to win a Kindle copy of Saronna's Gift

Amazon lets anyone host a giveaway of any print book sold by Amazon. If you look on the product page of a book, you'll see the icon right below the "Create a review" button.

Interestingly, you don't have to be the author or publisher to set up a giveaway. The link appears for everyone. Once you click it, you have to commit to paying for the books you're going to give away, select the number of copies, the odds of winning (e.g. one in 100), and provide the wording for win and lose messages. You can also specify a single requirement, such as making people follow you on Twitter or watch a short video or follow the author on Amazon. You can even control whether the link can be shared or not, which controls who can see it.

If you wanted to find a way to gain more Twitter followers, for example, you could pick a popular book and host a giveaway of it.  This is more feasible now, because Amazon now allows folks to host a giveaway of a Kindle book. This is much less expensive (cheaper price and no shipping costs), so it's easier to give away more copies.

I did some print giveaways a while ago, and now I've started one for the Kindle version of Saronna's Gift. Click here to enter!

nb:  The link above will only work until the giveaway runs it course and all five copies are claimed, or March 16, 2016, whichever comes first.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Story-telling versus writing

I consider myself primarily a storyteller. I've chosen the written word as a way to tell my stories. Or perhaps I mean the written word chose me, as I never envisioned another method.

But there are plenty of other ways of telling a story.

Some people use songs. I have a tin ear myself, so that was never an option. Some people use dance. Hawaiian hula dances always tells a story, as do classic ballets like Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. Musical theater combines songs, dances, and spoken words, as in the traditional The Music Man and more recently in the edgy new Broadway hit Hamilton.

Interestingly, the modern era has produced some excellent story telling in television commercials. One of my all time favorites is this Tullamore Dew whiskey commercial; it packs a huge amount of story telling into a small amount of time, and pulls off a surprise ending, too.  In spite of my tin ear, I love the song in it.

A Toronto artist found a unique, visual way to tell a story. He makes dioramas out of vintage ring boxes, in an effort to make the viewer feel transported to another world. Each of his creations is a complete scene, and each viewer can interpret it in his or her own way.

Dance, music, songs, movies, TV. commercials, visual art, books, they're all good. What works for you?