Category archive: Technology

German E-books Platform Contacts Me

It’s the wild west in e-publishing, and everyone is striving to find a niche.  I know this, yet I was surprised today when an e-mail arrived this morning from XinXii.com asking me to post my e-book with them for sale in Germany.

What the heck?  This is the equivalent of a European indie bookstore tracking me down and asking me to put my self-published novel on their shelf.  That would never happen in traditional publishing.

At first I wondered if this was some weird kind of spam, so I googled them and came across a number of bloggers who’ve checked them out and say they’re legit.  I also contacted my friend and fellow writer, Rebecca M. Senese, and she also said that as far as she could tell they were legit.  I’m guessing that it’s no coincidence that I loaded Vampire Road to Smashwords yesterday and got the e-mail this morning.  I suspect they’ve got some smart program monitoring the new releases and somehow mining e-mail addresses out of author websites.

So I’ve got another platform on the list to add my books to.  Who knows, maybe my novels will take off in Germany.  Due South was successful there, and I worked on Due South.  Okay, that’s a crazy stretch, but my point is that you can never tell where the sales might come from, and the more places I have my novels for sale, the greater the chance that they’ll sell.

So I’m adding it to the list of platforms where I still have to upload Vampire Road and Summer of Bridges.  I like this new e-pub world.  Book retailers come looking for me.

A Moment in the Smashwords Sun

I’ve waded through the Smashwords Style Guide and come out the other side, humbled and wiser.  I’ve learned more about Microsoft Word than I ever wanted to know.  But at last I’ve loaded up Vampire Road to Smashwords, and I’ve got my hour in the sunshine that is the  New Releases page.

Next task is marketing, but for an indie e-pubbed author the fun never ends.  I also want to put it up to Barnes and Noble through Pubit, and by the fall Kobo intends to have a version of self-pubbing as well.

The good news is that now I know how to format my MS document as I write it, so that I don’t have to go through the excruciating cleaning process with my next novel.  This cleaning of Vampire Road’s formatting was required to enable the Smashwords Meatgrinder program to digest my words and spit out multiple e-book formats.

I’m still waiting with fingers crossed to find out if I qualify for their “Premium Catalog,” which is proof of my prowess with Microsoft Word formatting.  It also gets me into the ibook store and the Sony Reader store, which was the whole point of publishing through Smashwords.

For all you indie authors out there, I’m going to finish the guide that will take your manuscript to Kindle.  It’s far easier and the biggest e-book market.  I’ll write up my notes about Smashwords later next week.

Tomorrow: the clickable table of contents.

How to Publish Your E-book

I’m at the Bloody Words Mystery Convention this weekend in lovely Victoria, and I’ve been surprised at how many authors, both newbies and established, have come to me asking about how to format and publish their e-books for Kindle and other platforms.

The established authors have figured out that their back lists are worth more than the 15-25% e-book royalty most publishers are offering, and the newbies just want to get their novels out there for the world to judge.

So starting this week, I’m going to do a series of articles on how to format and upload your novel for Kindle, Smashwords, etc.  It’s pretty simple, except for the clickable table of contents, and even authors who are technophobic don’t need to worry that it’s beyond them.

I’m also open to questions and am willing to help.

I’m off to a panel now, so the first “How to” article will appear tomorrow, and I’ll put up a menu item for anyone who wants to reference it in the future.

The Wall Street Journal Gets It

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about how self-pubbed e-books are totally upending the e-book market.  My favourite quote is from author John Locke, who sold 369,000 downloads of his seven novels on Amazon just in March.  Locke says, “When I saw that highly successful authors were charging $9.99 for an e-book, I thought that if I can make a profit at 99 cents, I no longer have to prove I’m as good as them.  Rather, they have to prove they are ten times better than me.”

With the economy faltering and readers still hungry for books for all those e-readers they got for Christmas, the market for cheap novels is going way up.  Who wants to spend $14 for a quick read when you can get 14 novels for the same price?  If ten of them are unreadable crap, you’re still ahead if you’ve discovered four good novels.  Hey, you’re still ahead with two good novels.

But their are others out there who see this too.  F + W Media has just launched a crime imprint that will sell just e-books, no print versions.  Mystery authors who don’t want to self-pub should be getting their book pitches ready.

Those people at F + W are savvy.  I’m guessing they’ll be pricing the mysteries higher than 99 cents, but way less than $14.  I also bet they’ll offer authors better than 25% for e-book royalties.  This is the future.

E-books Get More Like Paper Books

The crowd that clings to paper books has a standard set of excuses as to why they prefer dead, pulped trees over electrons as their delivery system for words.

Excuse # 1: I can’t lend an e-book to a friend like I can with a paperback.

That argument fell apart when Amazon introduced their share function, which allows readers to share e-books the same way you would with paper: you electronically lend it to a friend for three weeks, during which you can’t access the book (just like with paper books) and at the end it reverts to you, and your friend no longer has access to the book.  Hey!  That’s even better than a paper book because I don’t have to go chasing down my friends to get my books back.

Excuse # 2: I can’t borrow e-books from the library.

Actually libraries have been loaning e-pub format books (think Sony E-reader) for ages, although the lending systems have been plagued with the challenges you’d expect from a new technology.  But this morning everything changed again: Amazon is going to partner with Overdrive to bring Kindle format e-books to 11,000 US libraries.  This is going to dramatically improve the current delivery system, and it’s  going to put more pressure on publisher’s like Macmillan and Simon and Schuster, who have yet to allow lending of e-versions of their books, and HarperCollins and the others who have placed many restrictions on e-book lending, much to the consternation of librarians.

Excuse #3: I can’t take an e-reader into the bathtub.

Put an e-reader into a large ziplock bag and it’s actually better in the bathtub than a paper book.  Turning pages is a simple press of a button rather than fumbling with wet fingers on dry pages.  Better yet, if you drop your ziplock-bagged e-reader in the tub it’ll stay dry and unharmed, unlike a paper book, which will require a long drying period that may still fail to prevent mold.  This assumes, of course, that you don’t fall asleep, roll over onto your e-book, shove it to the bottom of the tub and sit on it for an hour.  I can’t help you there.

Excuse # 4: But I like the smell and feel of paper books.

That smell is printing chemicals, binding glue, and if it’s an old book, mold and mildew.  Most people like the look and feel of candlelight too, but how many people stuck with candles as their primary light source after  electric light bulbs were invented?  I’m sure there were hold outs who didn’t trust the new-fangled electricity, and I’ll bet they had a long list of excuses as to why they didn’t want anything to do with that new technology.

The reason e-books will become the standard is that rather than being as good as paper books, they’re actually better.  The publishers who accept this first will be the most successful during the next ten years.

Railroaded with a New Cover

Railroaded tied for second in the 2005 Great Canadian story contest.  How three judges tied for their second place vote I’m not really sure, but hey, I’ll take it.

Why yellow for the titles?  Well red doesn’t reduce well to an Amazon thumbnail, so reading even the big title was a challenge.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I bet you’ll find that titles and author names in future books are going to get bigger and fatter as designers are ordered to create titles that look good both as full size and as thumbnails.

The title in red will be available for the Sony soon as e-pub, thanks to the open source software called Calibre.  On my Sony the red looks just fine, but hey, it’s being displayed full screen and gray scale.  I wonder what it looks like on a color Nook?

I promise to get that how-to menu item up there next week.  But for now: enjoy Railroaded.

Burning Moose

I’ve gone nuclear on my Microsoft Word document; I’ve loaded Mobipocket creator to the PC side of my MAC, since Mobi doesn’t make a MAC version.  Finally, I photoshopped  the spiffy new cover you see on the left.

Yup, I’m finally ready to re-launch my Sioux Rock Falls Short Story, Burning Moose.  This was the first of a series of stories that appeared in Storyteller Magazine between 2002 and 2006.

Yes, re-launch.  It’s been up there on Kindle for months, but friends and fellow authors who purchased it warned me that despite my best efforts, the formatting was corrupted.  There were no paragraph indents at all, which is really challenging when reading fiction.

This week I’m going to put up a detailed how-to menu item for those who want to e-publish well-formatted shorts or novels.  This may sound dull, but in the very crowded indie e-publishing industry, authors will need to stand out from the junk.  Just like with submissions to agents and publishers, the first thing that can get you tossed in the trash is a sloppily formatted story.

I certainly don’t want to lose sales because a reader checked out a sample on Kindle and then didn’t purchase my story because the formatting looked amateurish.

So enjoy the story!  Coming next: Railroaded, Beer Truck, Jumpin Jack, Fire Retardant and White Metal–the whole Sioux Rock Falls series.  I’m already working on a fake Sioux Rock Falls website, complete with ads for the True North Cafe, the Spin Cycle launderette and Elite Bar and Grill.

This is going to be fun!

Who Would Walk Away From 500 Thousand Dollars?

Apparently Barry Eisler just did.  Why did he walk away from this lucrative book deal with St. Martin’s Press?  Because he believes he will make more self-publishing in the long run, particularly on e-book rights.

Eisler is joining a growing number of authors who are walking away from legacy publishers.  The problem is that the standard industry contract only gives the author  a 25% royalty on e-books, which comes off after Amazon or Smashwords has taken their cut.  Then the agent takes 15% off that 25% and it works out that the author is really only getting 17% of the e-book price.

Why accept that little crumb when an author can sell their novel through Kindle and get a 70% royalty?  No agent or publisher required.  In fact, how can publishers defend such a huge cut when they don’t need a printing press, trucks or a delivery network for e-books?

Up until now they’ve claimed that branding can save their publishing model–that readers will flock to a legacy publisher’s books because there are too many lousy self-published books to sort through.  But the truth is that the internet has its own filters, like the book bloggers who have made Amanda Hocking the new internet writing star.

Publishers are not obsolete, but they need to embrace the future and recognize that things have changed for the better.  E-readers have more people buying books than they have in a decade, and this should be a good thing.  Desperate attempts by legacy publishers to keep e-book prices high in order to stall the e-revolution will fail.  Refusing to give authors a fair cut will cost them content and market share.

Eilser wisely draws a parallel to railroads in the 1950s just as the interstates were under construction.  The railroads thought they were in the railroad business, but actually they were in the transportation business.  Once large trucks became a viable option, many railroads folded.  The smart railroads adapted, combining trucking and rail, adjusting prices and expectations and finding the niches they could still fill.

Because of my film industry background, I’m reminded of Kodak and Fuji film back in the 90s.  Even a camera assistant like me knew that high definition digital video was coming, but Kodak thought they were in the film stock business and tried to fight the change by producing better and better film stocks.  They achieved some amazing things with their 800 ASA film stock, but it couldn’t stop the slide to cheap digital.

Fuji knew they were in the image capture business and went aggressively after the digital video business.  Their CEO got an award a couple of years ago for keeping Fiji successful through this upheaval.

I was in Kodak’s home town–Rochester, NY–in 2006.  It’s the only time that I’ve seen an empty ten-story office building.  I’m talking about a modern glass and steel office building.  Kodak did follow Fuji’s lead into digital and has survived, but it was gut-wrenchingly painful to watch, and a lot of hard working people lost their jobs in the process.

Publishers should be in the business of selling books, not pulped dead trees.  Some publishers will recognize this and adapt to e-books and thrive.  Others will go down.  It doesn’t have to be this painful.

Don’t Buy My Short Story — Yet

So I’ve been crushed by an old version of Microsoft Word.  I knew I had paragraph formatting issues with my short story, Burning Moose, when I first uploaded it for sale as an Amazon e-book, but I thought I’d solved the problem with the short story Railroaded by saving it as an .rtf and going back to a .doc before uploading.

It turns out that did nothing.  Railroaded was MS from 2004, the others–well, I think I wrote Burning Moose on a MAC SE that I bought used from CPused, a great store that has since gone under.  You get the idea.  Very old technology.

Luckily Smashwords has a 73 page manual on how to format your MS word document so that it will upload nicely as an e-book.   So here I go again.  I’ve uploaded a new version of Fire Retardant but it’ll take 24 hours to publish.  I’ll check it out when it’s up to make sure it’s good and then I’ll relaunch.

I’m pretty sure this is going to get easier to do as new programs are written to solve these little formatting issues.  In the meantime: at least I learned a lot about MS word today.

Kindle vs Sony: Pricing Divergence

I note this morning that Amanda Hocking’s Switched (see post below) is for sale on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents, but on the Sony Reader Store’s front page it’s $3.99.  While that’s not a horrible price, it’s four times out of line.

I like my Sony e-reader, but I’m getting the Kindle app for my i-phone, and the e-reader will idle for yet another novel.