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.

Kindle Publishing: First Step

There are dozens of paths that will take your novel from a computer to Kindle, and the route will largely depend on the current file format of the work.  We’re going to start with the most common for indie authors: a Microsoft Word document.

Microsoft Word comes with some serious baggage designed to make your life easier if you just want to write and print a document.  But we want to publish that document, so we need to clean out all the Microsoft Weirdness formatting.

Smashwords has an excellent 85 page manual on how to do this, which includes going nuclear (their expression) but I found with my document that it wasn’t that complicated.

Step One: Activate the show/hide.  That’s the reverse P-thingy as Mark Coker from Smashwords calls it, or the pilcrow.  You’ll see that weird symbol somewhere in your toolbar.  In my version it’s beside the little red toolbox.  Here are some fun images for a pilcrow if you want to know what it looks like.  Just give it a click to show all your formatting.

Now you can see what a mess you’ve made of the document.

Step Two: Go to the Tools menu item and pull down to AutoCorrect.  Deselect each box under AutoCorrect, Auto Format as you type, AutoText and AutoFormat.  You have complete control now.

Step Three:  Look at your document.  Do you have little arrows showing tabs as paragraph indents?  Bad.  You don’t want these in the document.  Fortunately I stumbled across an easy fix.  Select the entire document and then align all the text to center.  Don’t panic.  It’s just temporary.  With the entire document still selected, align all the text to left.  Boom!  All those evil tab indents are gone and now we can properly format the paragraph indents.  The pros among you will have already formatted your paragraphs this way.

Select the whole document again and go to Format in the menu.  Pull down to Paragraph.  Under Indents and Spacing there’s a section on indentation.  Under ‘Special’ select ‘first line.’  It’ll default to .5″ which is a reasonable paragraph indent.  Click OK and we can move on to the easy stuff.

Step Four: Do any of your quotes look like smart quotes?  We need to get rid of those.  They’ll be gobbly-gook in your Kindle or Smashwords book.  Simply do a search and replace.  Because we turned off the smart quotes in step one, it’ll find the smart quotes ” and replace them with straight quotes ” .  I know, they both look like smart quotes here.  They’ll both look like straight quotes in the search and replace, but it’ll still do the job.

Now do the same for the apostrophes.  Again with the ellipses, you know, those three dot things…

Step Five:  This is probably a no brainer, but do make sure you’ve single-spaced your text.  We’re not sending it to an agent here.  We’re publishing!

Step Six: Insert your page breaks.  I do them between chapters.  Simply go to Insert on the menu and pull down to Break and select Page Break.  Oh, I assume you’ve put your cursor at the end of your chapter where you want your page break.

Step Seven: Make sure you don’t have more than three blank lines in a row anywhere in your document.  Multiple blank lines look awful in an e-book.

Step Eight: I really hope you’ve already figured this one out all by yourself, but just in case: if you have headers/footers/page numbers, get rid of them.  Like I said before, we’re publishing!  Forget the agent formatting.

Step Nine: I like to put my web address into hyperlinks right in the e-book.  Now’s the time to insert your hyperlinks.  Can you guess how?  Okay, just in case: highlight the web address and go to Insert on the menu and pull all the way down to Hyperlink.

Now you have a cleanly formatted document ready for the next stage.  Believe it or not it gets easier after this.  You just need your cover and…you do have a cover don’t you?  Okay, that’ll be tomorrow.

The New Slush Pile

Amanda Hocking, the  indie e-pubbed bestseller, credits book bloggers for taking her from a minimum-wage, dead end job to millions of books sold through Amazon and Smashwords and a seven-figure contract with St. Martin’s Press.

This news has started an avalanche of review requests by self-e-pubbed authors into book bloggers in-boxes.  So much so that Big Al, of Big Al’s books and pals, has stopped accepting unsolicited review requests.

The statement under Big Al’s submission guidelines sounds strikingly like something an agent or publisher might put on their website:

Big Al says:  “As of May 17th.  We are currently NOT accepting unsolicited review submissions until we catch up with evaluating those already received.”

I’ve heard many editors, authors and agents express concern about the e-publishing industry, and the biggest worry seems to be about who will be the gatekeepers of modern publishing.  Big Al’s announcement proves that book bloggers will be covering one gate.  How can I tell?  It just slammed closed until further notice.

I’m Selling in the UK

I was checking my sales report on Amazon to see if my efforts at  Bloody Words had produced a bump, but what caught my attention was a new report button for sales in the Kindle UK store (and another for the Kindle DE store in Germany)

Just for fun I gave it a click and discovered that I’ve actually started a trickle of sales in the UK.  Even one of my short stories sold on that side of the pond.

Why is this so exciting?  I don’t know anyone in the UK.  These sales are a tribute to cover art (thanks M. Custode) and good openings to the stories–because that’s the only way people in the UK can judge them.  Amazon allows readers to read the first several pages for free.

My efforts at Bloody Words did cause a little bump in sales for Summer of Bridges, my coming-of-age anthology of short stories that first appeared in Storyteller Magazine.

But here’s the really weird thing: Vampire Road, the young adult, violent, vampire novel has seen an even bigger jump in sales over the weekend.  I didn’t push Vampire Road at Bloody Words because this is a convention of mystery readers–many of them with grown children–who would have little interest in a YA novel.  I’d be doing them a disservice to try and sell it to them.  I pushed Summer of Bridges because the Sioux Rock Falls stories are light-hearted Canadiana, and one of them is a mystery.

So what demographic started buying Vampire Road over the weekend?  I guess the obvious answer is younger people who like vampire novels.  It’ll be interesting to see where sales go once I really get marketing.

If you were wondering: no sales in Germany so far.

Side Note: For the authors out there who are waiting for a blog on how to format and put up e-books, it’s in the draft stage.  It’ll be up this week.

 

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.

Amazon Makes Author An Offer He Can’t Refuse

Author Barry Eisler shocked the publishing world when he walked away from a $500,000 deal with St. Martin’s Press so that he could self-e-publish his next John Rain novel.

Now Eisler’s tacked the other way, signing with Amazon’s new mystery/thriller imprint Thomas and Mercer.  Eisler says the advance was comparable to St. Martin’s except that the e-book royalties are significantly better. T&M will publish both print and digital versions.

Publishers are going to have to accept that offering authors a 25% royalty on e-books just isn’t going to cut it when they can get 70% from Amazon–especially when e-books never go out of print, so the contract could last until the novel goes into the public domain.

I’ve heard the argument that publishers simply can’t make enough to cover their overheads on e-publishing, and I sympathize, but times have changed.  Publishers are going to have to find a way to lower their costs, because it’s not just John Locke’s 99 cent novels (or my anthology, or my novel) that will sink them.  They’re going to start losing talent as well.

It’s getting interesting out there.  We have agents like Richard Curtis now filling the roll of e-publisher, and retailers like Amazon launching print and e-pub imprints of genres like romance and mystery.  It’s a strange new world when an author’s agent or his retailer can become his publisher.

What’s next?  That’s the interesting part.  Chaos.  Opportunity.

Vampire Road Launched

Amazon just gets faster everyday.  Vampire Road is already available in the e-book store.

Warning: Don’t expect to find sexy, conflicted vampires in love.  This is a man’s novel.  Okay, women who like to read about women kicking butt will like it too.

Enjoy.

Launch! Sort of, Kinda

Okay, it was supposed to launch on May 15th.  It was supposed to launch yesterday.  But at last, Vampire Road has launched.  Kind of.  After edits, (thanks Fogel) proof reads and figuring out how to make a clickable table of contents, (thanks Susan) Vampire Road has finally launched.

Except Amazon needs a couple of days to digest it.  No worries.  I’ve got the anthology of Sioux Rock Falls stories to put up, and I’ve got about three tons of marketing to do before I fly out to Bloody Words in Victoria–where I have to hand out an award and participate in a panel.

Not to mention Barry Eilser has rocked the publishing world again, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Coming Soon to a Kindle Near You

My post-apocalyptic vampire novel, Vampire Road, will launch Monday, May 30th.  It will only be available for the Kindle platform via Amazon at first, but all other formats will follow.

Warning: if you want to read about sexy vampires in love, stay away.  If you want to read about conflicted vampires who suffer bouts of guilt about their serial killer lifestyle, this is not the book for you.

If you want a fast-paced exciting read, this is your novel.  It’s about brave people fighting to survive against all odds.  Unfortunately, they spend almost as much time fighting each other as they do fighting their real enemy, but that’s what human beings do when stressed to the breaking point.

Stay tuned to find out how you can win a free download.

Priest: Not Like My Vampire Novel

The biggest similarity between my vampire novel and the vampire movie Priest is the concept of a religious order that has trained specifically to fight vampires.

The use of monks to fight enemies of a religion is not new, of course, as anyone who has read The Monks of War could tell you.  In fact, my sister gave me that book after I had first described my novel to her, and its one of the reasons my protagonist is referred to as a crusader.

Other than the religious order, Priest is very different from my novel.  The vampires are another species and would fit into the movie Alien easily, but not so much into Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The whole setting is also very different from our Earth.  It’s meant to be either an alternate history or another planet–take your pick, and the Catholic Church is Big Brother.

In fact, the whole society is an Orwellian dystopia set after environmental degradation and nuclear war, very different from the leafy green of my post-industrial, post-apocalyptic world.

I’d still like to capitalize on the movie’s marketing campaign, but I’m reluctant now to tell people that my novel is just like Priest. Firstly because it’s not accurate, and secondly because now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m not sure that will send people flocking out to buy similar stories.

The movie is more like an expensive TV pilot, with a lot of Matrix-like big freeze shots and the anti-gravity stunts that have become the norm of Hollywood sci-fi action.

I’ve finished going through Fogel’s edit of my novel (it was brutal) and my proof-reader and I are making a last pass.  With luck I’ll launch Monday, over a week late, but Priest isn’t going to make or break this novel.