Monday, June 10, 2019

My Days as a Book Formatter are Numbered!

I received an email recently announcing that Kindle Create will soon be able to format paperbacks as well as Kindle books. The Kindle conversion process is incredibly easy as long as you have the Word document formatted correctly (and that is also very, very easy to accomplish by following some very simple rules). I haven't downloaded the new Kindle Create yet, but I suspect it will also be easy. Anything I do, formatting-wise, can and will be automated. It's only a matter of time.
“You can use Kindle Create to prepare an eBook and paperback with the same manuscript file. If you prepare your paperback with Kindle Create, you can publish it in any trim size. Kindle Create also takes care of complicated paperback formatting tasks for you. When you upload your file to KDP, margins are automatically calculated, and page numbers are added to your paperback's table of contents page and footers. Your first chapter will start on a right-facing page, with subsequent chapters starting on the next available page.”
Read about the new Kindle Create - coming soon!


Monday, June 3, 2019

Authors: You Need an Author Page on Amazon & Goodreads!

I recommend all authors, indie published or traditionally published, have a nice Amazon (and Goodreads) author page.
“Books published by traditional publishing houses always have enhanced Amazon Central book sales pages. The same tools are available for self-published authors, and they are very easy to use. 
It doesn’t take long to make your sales pages far more appealing. The publishing industry and selling books is tough, so every little lever you can pull will help you. 
There is one last bonus to having an Author Central account. 
You will have access to much better sales info data including NPD Bookscan, Sales rank by title and version and your overall Author ranking. 
So, what are you waiting for? Use Author Central and all of its tools to help you reach more readers and sell more books.”
Read the entire article.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Serialize Your Novel

I read Write. Publish. Repeat. over my vacation. The authors said, over and over, write more; sell more. How many times have we heard that? They said they had success serializing some of their novels. They broke them up into chunks. They released the chunks every two weeks at 99 cents each. Each chunk had a teaser at the end that referred to the next installment. Then, at the end, they sold the entire book at a slight discount to the sum of the chunks. All of this was done as ebooks of course. (They are among the indie publishers that say to release as an ebook first and only if there is interest, invest in the extra money to come out in print.)

So, if you have 5 chunks, you release those over 10 weeks at 99 cents each. Total: $4.95. Then, on week 12, you release the entire book for $4.25.

Will it work for you as it did for them? It depends on the book. It depends on whether the chunks have enough of a cliffhanger to inspire people to buy the next installment. It certainly seems worth trying.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Authors: Don't Pay Someone to Publish Your Book!

Here is yet another article imploring authors to never pay someone else to publish your book. Even though they call themselves “hybrid publishers” they are really just vanity publishers in disguise. Note: this isn’t the same as paying someone for a service: editing, formatting, or marketing assistance. If you choose to pay for specific deliverables, that is OK. Hold the service provider accountable! Get what you paid for.
“The first reality is to understand that vanity presses will never help you succeed. 
I hear from so many authors who had wild dreams, were told mistruths and paid an awful lot of money to publish their book. And all for nothing. 
Vanity publishing is definitely not self-publishing. Paying a vanity publishing company to sell books to you is not a recipe for success. Do not fall for the trap.”
Somewhat of a tangent on the vanity publishing angle:
“Combined Indie author ebook sales of imprint, not listed and collective amount to over 37% of the market. A full 12% higher than the Big Five publishers market share!”

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Waterline Writers: May 19, 2019

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Cathy Borders

Liz & Lou Holly

Liz & Lou Holly

Liz & Lou Holly

Elizabeth Russell

Elizabeth Russell

David Berner

David Berner

David Berner

Chad Sullivan

Chad Sullivan

Eileen Kimbrough

Eileen Kimbrough

Eileen Kimbrough

Eileen Kimbrough

Justine Nies

Justine Nies

Justine Nies

Ray Ziemer

Ray Ziemer

Ray Ziemer

Leo Zarko

Leo Zarko

Monday, May 13, 2019

Publishing Odds & Ends: Writers Beware & Kindle Delivery Costs

Scam Alert


Once again, I came across a blog post about scam publishers. I can’t reiterate strongly enough: be careful before you hand over your money! Indie publishing means you have to get help: editing, formatting, perhaps some marketing help. You have to make sure you are going to get the help you need at a reasonable price. Read the fine print!
"There are a lot of ways an author can publish, but if you receive an unsolicited offer from a publishing company or publishing service, you should be very careful. 
It is extremely rare for reputable publishers or a literary agent representing a traditional publishing house to contact an author with a publishing offer unless the author has celebrity status. 
It is too late after parting with thousands of dollars to discover that your publisher has no responsibility under your contract to sell your book."
Read the entire article on the Just Publishing Advice website.

Kindle Delivery Costs


Go easy on images in Kindle ebooks. If you have lots of images in your ebook, your royalty will be diminished, sometimes considerably. Apparently, the same goes for covers, according to this article. The larger the cover file (in megabytes), the larger the delivery cost. I’ve written about the delivery cost issue before in a previous post, complete with an example.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

In Trump’s World, Rules Are For Chumps

As most of you probably know, the horse that appeared to win the Kentucky Derby was disqualified for breaking the rules – running out of its lane and bumping into other horses. The ruling was appealed and upon further investigation, was upheld.

I saw Trump’s tweet about the Kentucky Derby.


Trump said the ruling was wrong, and that it was due to “political correctness.” To Trump, and many of his supporters, playing by the rules means you are being merely “politically correct.” Since being politically correct is bad in their world, I think we can all see where playing by the rules ends up. Trump is definitely an “ends justify the means” kind of guy. Winning is all that matters; how you win is not at all important.
  
What makes America exceptional? Some think it’s because we attempt, and strive, to be a nation of laws. That separates us from dictatorships and banana republics. It means that even the rich and powerful can be held accountable. We’re not always good at it, but it is an ideal I think most of us would like to see realized.
“We are a nation of laws and not of men.” – John Adams, second President of the United States
From a Heritage Foundation article entitled “Why is AmericaExceptional?
“Working from the principle of equality, the American Founders asserted that men could govern themselves according to common beliefs and the rule of law. Throughout history, political power was—and still is—often held by the strongest. But if all are equal and have the same rights, then no one is fit by nature to rule or to be ruled.” 
I don’t think this administration feels that way. I think Trump and his hangers-on feel they are entitled to be treated differently. They feel that those pesky laws and regulations should not apply to them. They feel they shouldn’t pay much in taxes because they are “job creators” and therefore have done enough.
“We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” – Leona Helmsley
I fear that if we continue down this road we will be reduced to banana republic status. The rich will be able to do whatever they please and the rest of us will be hassled by petty laws that change on a whim. Our environment will continue to degrade. Our economy, once the beneficial effects of the tax cuts wear off, will become more volatile and fragile. It won’t be pretty. We must vote this gang out in 2020 before more damage is done to our country.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Indie Publishing: Your Book's Keywords

After reading the following blog posts, I realized I haven’t spent enough time focusing on keywords, and I have been using ineffective keywords. I have single or 2-word keywords for my book, Book Formatting Demystified, and see that perhaps that isn’t the way to go. So, I followed the advice in these articles and changed my keywords for my book – using longer phrases instead of single words.

I write these blog posts way ahead of time. Today is March 20th and this post is scheduled to appear on May 6th. In this case, that may be enough time to see if it made any difference! I have put on my calendar to check my sales reports on May 2nd to see if there was any impact at all. The way sales have been going, any sales greater than 0 might be indication enough! Look for a PS at the bottom of this post for that information, but do not skip the articles I’ve linked – I think there is some valuable information here. Just because it might not work for me doesn't mean it won't work for you.
"When you publish a new book, finding the best seven Amazon KDP keywords can often prove a difficult task, especially for new authors. Even some seasoned self-publishing authors find this an onerous task. 
Long tail keywords consist of more than one word, so in fact, they are short phrases. Many authors misunderstand this point when selecting Amazon KDP keywords, believing that a keyword should be only one word. This is not the case at all. Each one of your seven Amazon keywords should be more than one word. 
Google is a great tool to start looking for longtail keywords, because the suggestions given are real keyword terms that people have already used to search, and it’s such a simple process to find them. 
… the effort it takes to research keywords will be worthwhile in the long term, as you will find perhaps four or five very strong, discoverable longtail keywords that will continue to attract potential book buyers to your book for years to come."
Read the entire article on the Just Publishing Advice website.
"Just remember that a one word keyword will be highly competitive, so avoid them. It is much better to choose longtail keywords for your seven KDP keywords."
Read another article on this topic on the Just Publishing Advice website.

Here is information right from the KDP help files.
______________________
PS - it's May 2nd. I have had some sales on my book, but I cannot claim that the change to the keywords and description made a dramatic difference. That's not to say that it won't make a difference in your case, of course.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Book Review: Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you are a writer you might like this book. Quite a bit of it is mundane; it is pretty repetitive. But, there is some insight into the mind of a great writer.

Page 115 – 116: “Not that it is necessary to be remembered but there is one purpose in writing that I can see, beyond simply doing it interestingly. It is the duty of the writer to lift up, to extend, to encourage. If the written word has contributed anything at all to our developing species and our half developed culture, it is this” Great writing has been a staff to lean on, a mother to consult, a wisdom to pick up stumbling folly, a strength in weakness and a courage to support sick cowardice.”

Page 124: “…novel has been falling before the onslaught of non-fiction.” This is on July 9, 1951. Even then the novel was thought to be dead. Look at it now.

Also, the man was seriously into his pencils! It's no different today. We are picky about our computers and software. He mentions on July 2, 1951 that he went through three dozen pencils since June 11th. That's about 2 pencils per working day! That's a lot of writing!

One other observation: unlike so many of today's writers, especially but not confined to self-published writers, there's no mention of cover design, book blurbs, marketing strategy, book giveaways to garner reviews... his sole focus during the 10 months of writing was on the story.



Monday, April 29, 2019

Publishing Odds & Ends: Book Pirates and Copyright

Piracy


Quite a while ago, one of my clients received an email from Amazon telling him that he was in breach of his agreement with KDP Select. Amazon said his book was available in PDF form on another site. Of course, we did not put it there! The site was based overseas and our emails went unanswered. An email to Amazon got his book back on KDP Select, but his book probably remains on that overseas site.

It’s easy to pirate a book. I could buy your Kindle book and convert the file to another format. Some pirates will scan your printed version and offer it online, so it’s not even solely a digital book issue.

It’s maddening. As indie publishers, we don’t have the resources to fight these pirates. Worse, in my opinion, is the attitude of the people who download our works from these sites.

* * *
“Abena, who is 18, recently read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and thought it was wonderful. She does feel a bit bad about downloading it illegally, she says, but her mother is a single parent who can’t afford to feed her voracious love of books. She has also enjoyed the entire Percy Jackson series without paying its author, Rick Riordan, a penny. She’s not a thief, though, she says: ‘I wouldn’t take food or clothes without paying the people who made them, because they’re physical things. I believe real life and the internet differ.’ 
The UK government’s Intellectual Property Office estimates that 17% of ebooks are consumed illegally. Generally, pirates tend to be from better-off socioeconomic groups, and aged between 30 and 60. 
Doctors, accountants and professionals described themselves as well-off, but said they pirated books to ‘pre-read’ them, because they often felt dissatisfied with a book after purchase. ‘I have paid for some truly terrible books and regretted it – thanks to piracy, I can read first.’”
Read the entire article on The Guardian.

* * *
“He said he currently operates the Canadian website of the Idaho-based Kopimist Church and that according to his Kopimist beliefs, ‘all information should be shared.’ The website calls copying information a holy act.”
Read the entire article on TheStar.com.

* * *
"Everyone’s doing it. It can’t be stopped! Oh yes, it can. If every reader called out copyright theft whenever they saw it, if every reader avoided these sites, then by next year they wouldn’t exist. That’s on you. Call it out. Report it."


Copyright


A followup to my 2/15/2019 post on copyright:

“The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that copyright owners must wait for registration before pursuing infringement claims in court.” 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Book Review: Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World by Naomi S. Baron

Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital WorldWords Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World by Naomi S. Baron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a nicely balanced book about the advantages and disadvantages of reading works in print and on ebooks. And, I agree with her take on the future of reading.

I like the distinction the author makes between intensive, deep reading and extensive, broad reading. My reading tends to weigh heavily on the latter. I usually read for fun, and I rarely choose “challenging” books. I’ve tried, but most bore me. Non-fiction tends to be a little heavier. I think about 95% of the books I read are in print, but that’s because I’m a heavy user of our local library. I haven’t packed books in a suitcase for travel (unless it’s a car trip) in quite a while.

I’m a big fan of my Kindle, especially when I travel. Unlike some of the folks quoted in this book, I have no problem immersing myself in a novel on a Kindle. I change it to airplane mode to make it less likely that I’ll flip to email or the internet, and if it’s a good book, I’ll be fine.

I do agree that the main problem with ebooks is the issue of distraction – with my Kindle Fire, if I’m not in airplane mode, it’s just too easy to go to email or the internet. And if I read on my phone, it’s even worse.

I dismiss all that blather about the physicality of books. I too can get a case of nostalgia when I smell a new book. It brings me back to childhood and the start of school. Good thoughts, but not enough for me to declare that print books are superior. I find all that talk quite silly. The younger the kids, the less this will be the case as many will have grown up with digital books and not know what I’m talking about.

The bottom line: it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There’s room for both print and ebooks, and it’s quite likely both will be around for a long time.


View all my reviews


Monday, April 22, 2019

Patreon for Indie Publishers

I really like the idea that writers should be compensated for all their effort. It’s hard work writing a book and many writers I know could use the money. Patreon caught my eye a while ago as a potential source of income for writers. It’s a website where you try and attract patrons, people who will support you in your efforts. They might contribute just to support your work, or maybe to get perks that you provide exclusively to your patrons.

I have not set up an account, so I haven’t tried it. But, from the articles I’ve linked below it appears it can be a lot of work. The first article I linked complains that the vast majority of the Patreon money goes to a small slice of Patreon users. Well, duh. I don’t see that as a flaw in the Patreon system, it’s just how the world works. If you put in the work and effort on Patreon, I suspect you can get some contributors. The other articles indicate a modest amount per month, but still better than nothing. It might be worth checking out!

* * *
"Patreon now has 79,420 creators, according to Tom Boruta, a developer who tracks Patreon statistics under the name Graphtreon … Of those creators, only 1,393 — 2 percent — make the equivalent of federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $1,160 a month, in October 2017. Worse, if we change it to $15 per hour, a minimum wage slowly being adopted by states, that’s only .8 percent of all creators. In this small network designed to save struggling creatives, the money has still concentrated at the top."
Read the entire article on TheOutline.com.

* * *
"We currently have pledges of just over $200 per issue and we have been receiving payments. It may not sound like a lot (in particular compared to some of the YouTube-based projects earning thousands per episode), but it does boost our bottom line and every bit helps."
Read the entire article on Neil-Clarke.com.

* * *

Neil followed up after a year with Patreon:
"After a year, I am still very pleased with Patreon and continue to recommend it to people."
Read Neil's follow up.

* * *
"I’ve had several people ask me how Patreon’s been working out for me, so I decided I’d just write out a post for general consumption. I started my account back in July 2014, and as of this writing I have 35 Patrons and a total of $531 in monthly pledges, which is pretty damned good, all told … this means that every week my Patrons get an eclectic mix of work in progress shots, final projects, sneak peeks of blog posts that haven’t gone live, and whatever other fun things I decide to post … It’s a fairly steady amount of money each month … It’s a LOT of work." 
Read the entire article at TheGreenWolf.com.

* * *
"With Patreon, I hear the same snide remarks that I’ve heard about Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Attempts at insulting writers for attempting to get paid through new inventive means. I don’t understand the hate. Maybe it mostly comes from the ultra-conservative crowd. People who just start vomiting into their own rectums at the idea of someone receiving monetary support without having to mine coal or dig ditches or whatever the hell us spoiled Millennials are supposed to do to prove our worth to society. Anything that disrupts the norm will always attract ignorance and hate. Never forget that. Most of the people who trash-talk Patreon don’t actually view writing as work. The concept of writing as labor doesn’t seem to exist for them. Writing is viewed as this hobby that doesn’t deserve compensation. You’ll hear the same argument from those who support for-the-love markets (publications that do not pay their writers): you should write just because you love it and expect nothing in return. Using art to help pay your bills will only destroy your creative input … You shouldn’t start a Patreon if you’re trying to get rich quick. It’s not going to happen. Patreons are slow burns that you develop over time. You will not be an overnight success story … Even $20 a month will help fill up your gas tank or support a severe breakfast taco addiction."
Read the entire article on LitReactor.com.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

My Take on the Mueller Report

I encourage everyone to read at least the two executive summaries of the report for yourself. That is what I have read and have based my opinions on. You can get it here.

My take summarized: Trump is wrong when he says “No collusion. No Obstruction.”

Volume I, page 2: “In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of ‘collusion’” The report clearly states that they have no opinion as to whether collusion took place. Therefore, that is left up to us to judge ourselves.

My dictionary defines collusion as: “secret agreement or cooperation for an illegal or deceitful purpose.”

Volume I, page 4: “The [Russian IRA] campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the US electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton.”

Volume I, page 5: “Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in tis election interference activities.”

The report lists many contacts between the Russians and the Trump Campaign during the election campaign and after the election during the transition period. The report clearly established that the Trump Campaign knew about the Russian activities and did nothing to prevent them, and obviously benefited from them. They told no one and, as Volume II shows, actively attempted to keep the truth from investigators and the public.

That meets my definition of collusion.

Volume II, page 8: “… if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

It sounds to me like they are saying he got off on a technicality – a technicality that the Justice Department created that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. Clearly, he is not truly exonerated.
 
I still wonder why the Russians perceived they would benefit from a Trump presidency. Clearly Russia has enjoyed more freedom of action and influence in world affairs since Trump was elected, so perhaps the Russian's assessment was correct.

I’m not a lawyer. I’m just applying what I believe is a common sense reading of the executive summaries. I also acknowledge that no one gives a crap what I think about the Mueller report, but I wanted to put this online anyway and get on the record.

Read it. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

I Write Short Stories! What About Me?

Books, books, books. That’s all we ever talk about on this blog! What about the short form writers? The ones who struggle to craft short blog posts, essays, flash fiction and other short story formats – what about them? 

I thought the confluence of two things would create a renaissance for short form writers: the declining attention span of today’s readers and ebooks. I want to believe. But, I cannot find any recent data to support my belief. 

It’s a tough world for short form writers. How do you get compensated? Blog posts get your work out into the world, but getting a readership is really difficult and takes quite a bit of time. Plus, how do you monetize it? If you want to write short form work for a living – well that’s a tough road. Especially if you write fiction. I thumbed through the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market in the library the other day. Some magazines that take short fiction pay, but not much money: $10 - $50. Most short fiction markets pay in copies. It also appears (and this is not an exhaustive, scientific survey of the marketplace) that most of these short fiction magazines focus on literary fiction, so if you are a writer of genre fiction your chances of publication (and receiving copies of the magazine that I’m sure you can take to your local supermarket and use to purchase lettuce) are even slimmer. 

I still want to believe. Perhaps we just haven’t tried hard enough. The Kindle marketplace does have a category for short fiction. All three of my fiction ebooks are part of that category, called Kindle Shorts. They divide up the works into buckets representing the estimated amount of time to read: 15 minutes, 30, 45, 60, and 90. I assume which category your work falls in is based on the number of pages, or possibly words. My book, Deliveryman, is in the 30 minute category at 16 pages. Guns, Bourbon and Kitten Videos, at 27 pages, was put in the 45 minute bucket. Lite Reads, my monster epic at 36 pages, was placed into the 60 minute slot. I didn’t do this. I can’t load my book into KDP and put it in the Kindle Shorts category. KDP does that. 

The prices of Kindle Shorts are all over the map. In the categories where my books reside the vast majority are between $0.99 and $2.99. All three of mine are $1. I aspire to become the Dollar Store of short fiction! 

My bottom line: Why let your short work sit in a drawer? If you’ve written some good stories, or essays, and they don’t fit some MFA’s requirements for some literary journal (think I have an opinion here?), then format it as an ebook and get it out into the world! It’s not hard to format an ebook. You can design a simple cover yourself or use KDP’s cover creator. Keep your expenses low and maybe, just maybe, you’ll break even. What do you have to lose? 

I’ve linked some articles I came across in my research. They are years old; I can’t find anything recent talking about short work on Kindle. And, a couple of them may discourage you from trying! (Repeating: what do you have to lose?)

* * * 
“Yes, book page lengths have dropped by some 5% since the first introduction of KU [Kindle Unlimited - KM] last year. However, the trend started way before that. Average book page lengths in the top seller lists are still clearly above 250 pages for most high-selling genres.” 

* * * 



* * * 
"Longer books sell better on Amazon, but short reads sell too, and earn more per page. So you could focus on writing short books, write them much faster than long books, and still make money."

* * * 
“'The thing about short fiction is that it doesn’t really pay,' Swanwick says in Episode 222 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. 'For the amount of time that I’ve put in on these stories, I probably have not earned back—even with the collection—minimum wage.' 
'It’s really a bad idea to write something new at novel length, because you don’t know whether you can do it or not,” Swanwick says. “But you can risk a short story, and if it works in a short story, you know that you can take it to novel length.'” 

* * * 
"In a novel, you're stuck with whatever narrative structure you've selected for that particular novel. So I think you can learn how to write a lot faster, the basic core capabilities you need if you're writing short fiction than in a novel. 
And the other benefit is, as you finish the story, you send it out to market. And you start to get feedback. And if it's rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, you probably need to keep writing. You haven't developed your craft enough, although we can talk more about, you know, what's a reasonable number of rejections later on."