Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Amazing stuff

I was reading a post on The Passive Voice about Author Solutions, and the article by David Gaughran is astounding.  My eyes bugged out when I read this:

That’s not a typo, there is one single person to calculate royalties for 180,000 authors and 225,000 titles. One person! And 732 sales reps with aggressive quotas to sell worthless crap like “web optimized” press releases for $1,299, YouTube advertising packages for $4,099, and Hollywood pitching services for $17,999.

I can't believe people are forking out that kind of money to promote their books.  It seems unreal.  Yet, apparently, it's happening.

It makes me sad.

At the same time, though, I'm comforted by the fact that people like Gaughran are out there.  He's our champion, our defender at the wall, our Spartan at the pass.  He's done real yeoman's work on behalf of indie authors, and the world is a better place with him in it.

New cover's up

The new cover for Mr. Wilson is up on Amazon.  Will it make a difference?  Who knows... I feel better about it, though.  I think it's a better cover, and that's justification enough for making the switch.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mr. Wilson is now live, mostly

The cover hasn't updated yet on Amazon, but the story is now available on a few more sites:




I'm also waiting on Tolino to publish it.  For those four retailers, I used Draft2Digital.

I'm going direct with Kobo and Nook.  Neither has published it yet.

Hopefully, the story will be up everywhere within the next few days.

And here's the cover I went with:

I decided to go with yellow type instead of white for the title.  And the white type for the author's name and subtitle simply weren't showing up well in thumbnail size.  And I changed the blurb, too.  Anyway, we'll see if it works.  At least I've got a more "spacey" cover now.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

More retailers for Mr. Wilson

I've just submitted Mr. Wilson to my other retailers.  While on Kindle Unlimited, I had to be exclusive to Amazon.  When the KU term ran out, though, I was free to put it up at other places.  I wanted to wait until I had a new cover and blurb before I did that, but it's done now.  Hopefully the files will look right to any buyers.

For the record, I imported the .odt file into Calibre and converted it into an epub.  Then I used Sigil to edit out the Calibre splash page and fix the table of contents.  I uploaded the finished epub to Nook, Kobo, and Draft2Digital.

I also screwed up.  I accidentally left the Amazon link in the back matter.  I quickly realized it, though, and stripped it out and re-uploaded the files.

I'm not expecting any sales.  Readers generally don't pay for short stories, and Mr. Wilson didn't even get borrowed when it was on KU.  When you can't give your story away, that usually means cover+blurb=sucks.  I've changed both.  We'll see what happens.

But even if it never sells, it's good experience.  This is my first time using Sigil to edit an epub, and it seems to have worked.  I used the validator to check it out, and it said all systems were go.  I'm definitely feeling more confident about the process now.

And now that that's out of the way, maybe I can actually do some writing. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Self-editing with text-to-speech

Having your work read back to you is a great way to catch errors that you have previously missed.  When I was working with the narrator to make an audio version of Buddy, my part in the process was to listen to David's work and make sure everything was cool.  I caught a couple of mistakes while doing that--my mistakes, not his--and immediately updated the manuscript.

Later, I saw some other author (I can't remember who) mention that he played his stuff back using a text-to-speech program in order to help him edit his work.  I already knew the value in hearing your work read back, but hadn't considered using such a program.  After some casual googling, I found this site:

I just copy and paste my stuff into the box and then click the "create audio file" button.  It takes it a few minutes, depending on the length of the passage, but when it's done, you can play it or download it.  And that's it.  No cost, no registration.  Easy-peasy.

Since I'm in the process of making a new cover for Mr. Wilson, as well as a new blurb, I figured I'd go ahead and use this editing technique.  I just finished listening to it a few minutes ago.  I found two errors and corrected them.

So, for indie authors who edit their own stuff, here's the process that I use and suggest:

1.  Eyeball editing.  This is just a careful reading of the whole story on your word processor and correcting any errors you see.

2.  Kindle editing.  This is where I convert the .odt to a .mobi and load it onto my Kindle.  Then I read it carefully from start to finish.  If I encounter something that needs to be changed, then I use the "highlight" function to highlight the part I intend to change.  Then I use the "note" function to record what I need to change it to.  When I reach the end, I sit in front of the computer with the Kindle and incorporate those changes into the .odt.  This is a time-consuming process, but it's totally worth it.  In fact, I'd say it's the most important part of the editing process for me.

3.  Audio editing.  This is the latest technique I've added to my repertoire.  The danger here is that I've never really cared for audiobooks, and it's real easy for me to zone out or doze off.  As already mentioned, though, it has helped me find errors that I previously missed, so it's worth it.

Revision is never fun.  It's the "work" of writing.  But there's no getting around it.  It has to be done, so since you're going to immerse yourself in such misery for a while anyway, you might as well do it as best you can.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Formatting for Kindle Direct Publishing

When I first published Buddy, here's what I did:

I copied and pasted the whole thing from OpenOffice to Microsoft Word.  Then I made whatever adjustments I need to make.  This included things like hyperlinks and page breaks.  When I had it the way I wanted it, I uploaded that .doc to Amazon.

And then I used the "preview" function to check it out.  To my surprise and dismay, the last paragraph was in a different font from the rest of the story.  So I went into Word again, highlighted the problem section, selected the proper font, saved, and re-uploaded the file.

Same problem.

I eventually got it fixed, but it took a few tries.  It drove me nuts.  I basically had to backspace the whole last part of the story and then re-type it. 

The problem, as I later discovered, is that Microsoft Word likes to insert a lot of "junk html" into the file, and that stuff doesn't play well with Amazon's file converter.  So, for Mr. Wilson, I decided on a different tactic.

OpenOffice allows you to save your file as a .doc if you want, so I figured I'd do that.  That way, I wouldn't have to open Microsoft Word at all.

And it worked.  Flawless conversion.

So, for novice users of KDP, my recommendation  is to write in OpenOffice.  The program is a free download, so there's no reason not to at least have it on your computer.  Then, when your file is ready for uploading, save it as a .doc file.  Then upload that .doc.  DO NOT use Microsoft Word to make any changes to the file.

This will save you some headaches.  Trust me.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Twists and cliffhangers

Reading this thread at kboards reminded me of a pet peeve that I have and which many other readers share.  It's the frustration with books that end on cliffhangers.

I hate them.  If a review says that a book ends on a cliffhanger, then I won't download that book.  I don't want to read half a story.  I expect the whole thing--introduction, rising action, climax, falling action.  I expect the main conflict to be resolved.  I don't think this is too much to ask.

Twists, of course, are another matter entirely.  I'll read a story that ends on a twist.  I'll write one, too.  (Buddy ends with a twist.)  That's because a twist doesn't prevent the main conflict from being resolved.  It's a little something extra, not a major something missing.

And that's the important difference.  With a cliffhanger, an essential part of the story is missing.  With a twist, all of the essential parts are there, and then you have this extra piece of misdirection on top of it.  It's a bonus, assuming it's pulled off correctly.

Hugh Howey's Wool is an example of a great story that ends on a twist.  It's not a cliffhanger, though, because the main conflict is resolved: Holston leaves the silo and learns the truth.  A cliffhanger would have been if the story had ended right before the airlock's outer door opened.  Whatever lay outside the silo would have remained a mystery.  If Howey had done that, the story would have failed.

My advice to authors would be to avoid cliffhangers unless you make it clear that you're writing a serial.  Even then, I'd avoid them.  They're just not worth it.  Foreshadow the sequel if you must, but give the story a satisfying conclusion.  Your readers will appreciate it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


First, a disclaimer: I'm no expert when it comes to writing blurbs.  So take my advice with a grain of salt.

Having said that, I've picked up a few things, so I figured I'd share.  If you're having a hard time with your book's blurb, then maybe this will help.

I like to write a three-part blurb, usually one paragraph per part.  The first part introduces the main character and the "ordinary world" the character inhabits.  The second part introduces the conflict and the "call to adventure."  The final part states what the main character must do and what's at stake if he fails.

I also like to put a note at the end listing word count and parental guidance stuff, but that's an author's note, and not really part of the blurb.  The blurb proper is an advertisement.  It is meant to get the potential reader to click the "buy" button.  Because it's an advertisement, the rules of marketing apply, not the rules of fiction writing.  That means that cliches are acceptable in the blurb.  It means that it's not only okay if your blurb is formulaic, but encouraged, because advertising formulas work.  This is sort of a paradigm shift for fiction writers, and probably why so many of them get so frustrated with writing blurbs.

So let's write a sample blurb.  We'll use Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Here's the description of one version of the book on Amazon:

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. The novel touches on themes such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexual conventions, immigration, colonialism, and post-colonialism. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

This description is written this way because it assumes that everyone is familiar with Dracula.  But let's assume that's not the case.  Let's assume that Dracula is a completely new story that no one has ever heard of, and then write our blurb accordingly.

First part: introduce the character and the ordinary world.

Jonathan Harker is a young solicitor from Victorian England.  He is engaged to Mina, a school mistress, and is eager to begin his life with her.

So far, so good, right?  Moving on...

Second part: the conflict and the call to adventure.

His plans are interrupted when he is summoned to the Carpathian Mountains.  He is asked to lend his services in support of a real estate transaction for Count Dracula.  But things are not as they seem, and he quickly realizes he has been taken prisoner in Dracula's ancient castle.  He manages to escape and return home, but the Count follows. 

And now for the last part: what the hero must do, and what's at stake if he fails.

England is in peril, and Harker knows only he can expose the Count for who and what he truly is.  With the aid of Professor Van Helsing and some friends, he pursues his elusive enemy.  But he must hurry, because Dracula has plans of his own.  If Harker fails to stop him, then all England will be enslaved to the Count's bloodthirsty will.

 And there you have it.  Not the best blurb in the world, perhaps, but sufficient, I think.

 I hope that helps.  If you decide to follow this formula, let me know how it works out for you.