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!