Tag Archives: author

Hey Amazon! Let’s make something NEW!

The new cover for the new edition - same photo, new subheading.

The new cover for the new edition – same photo, new subheading.

E-publishing will kill REAL books!

Real books will never die!

The arguments have been raging about e-books since they first became a thing, way back in 19-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-look-it-up. So far, I think we can agree, real books have survived, and e-books like “50 shades” and “The Martian” have become real books and vice versa. (Sidebar: Now wondering about the viability of a “Fifty Shades of Red: Survival and sex on Mars” blockbuster series… Studio Heads, you have my phone number – it’s on that restraining order.)

Anyway, it’s become clear to me that e-books are not pushing their best features. Why should they just be regular books but on tablets? Yes, I can take fifty books on holiday in a pocket-sized device (I have big pockets), but that’s only one advantage. E-books can do full colour photos at no extra cost. They can include sound clips, video clips and other multi-media hyperlinks. These are all cool, but they feel like gimmicks.

Last week I looked at one of my early publications: “Troubled Souls“. It was supposed to be a collection of short fiction, but because one of the stories got away from me and mutated into a novella, it ended up as only three stories and the opening chapters of the novella. Neat, but not great value for money, even at the low price I set. I’ve written other stories in the intervening time, and I realised that some fit the Troubled Souls profile. I updated the file and uploaded it, then notified Amazon that I wanted to roll out the changes to people who had already paid for the book. They weren’t too sure about that. Here’s what they said:

“Because customers may lose their highlights, bookmarks, and notes when they download updates, we only send out updated content to correct serious readability issues, like overlapping text or cutoff images.

 If your updates fit the criteria above, please provide details and specific examples (including location numbers) of the content updates. Then, we’ll review the changes to make sure the readability issues have been corrected, and then we’ll take one of these three actions:

 Corrections to distracting errors. If we find only minor corrections, we won’t notify customers by e-mail, but we’ll activate their ability to update the content through the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page on Amazon.com.

 Corrections to destructive or critical errors. If we find major corrections, we’ll alert the customers who already own your book via email. These customers have the option to use the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page on Amazon.com to receive your book updates.

 Corrections to critical errors needed. If we find more major corrections are needed, we will temporarily remove your book from sale. We’ll notify you of the issues we found so you can fix them. Once the improvements are made, just let us know and we’ll email customers just like we do for major corrections.”

But I’m not correcting an error – I’m adding content! I want to give my readers more, at no extra cost. Ok, so this may not look great from the point of view of Amazon’s business model, but think about it. Imagine you saw a collection of short stories for sale, and you knew that buying this one book would allow you to receive MORE stories for FREE as the author wrote them. A collection that grows over time. Amazon already allows subscriptions for e-magazines, like the excellent E-fiction series, so what’s the difference here?

I guess it’s that users have to approve an update to data they’re storing locally, but this is a big issue for me. I want to add content to “My Cosplay Disasters” too, but I don’t want to have to go to the trouble of personally contacting the three people who have bought it and sending them the new file. This should be an automated process.

So come on, Amazon, let’s make a new thing, a book that gets bigger with time, a book that adds new content without further purchases. It’s possible, and it’s unique to e-books. It’s something they can do that no other form of publishing can. Let’s do it.

I dare you.

The updated “Troubled Souls” is available now. The un-updated “My Cosplay Disasters ” is also available now, to be updated later with fresh disasters.

EDIT: Twenty four hours later…

I received an email from Amazon KDP:

Hello,

I’m following up on your feedback on the recent response received from our Kindle Direct Publishing team.

Thanks for your feedback about notifying the existing customers of a book about the updates made to its content file. Though we currently don’t have this option, the customers can always contact our customer service team via the below links and get the updated content file for free.

To contact our customer service department via phone: http://www.amazon.com/clicktocall

To contact our customer service department via chat: http://www.amazon.com/clicktochat

Meanwhile, what I can do for you right now is, I’ll take your concern as feature request and communicate the same to our business team for consideration as we plan future improvements.

I’m unable to promise a timeframe at this time, however, we are still evolving and feedback like yours motivate us to dive deep and unearth ways and means which helps us in making publishing on KDP a happy experience.

Please be sure to check our forums periodically for updates:

https://kdp.amazon.com/community

Thanks for your understanding and support. We look forward to having to providing continued support to you.”

Not bad, Amazon, not bad.

E-book writing software: Sigil

This was the page that showed I had some problems with the first draft of the text...

This was the page that showed I had some problems with the first draft of the text…

E-books aren’t generally complicated things. You can bash them out in almost any word processing program, then just save them as html files. Then you upload them to your chosen platform, where you may need to jump through a few hoops to conform to their formatting requirements.

Certainly, you CAN make things more interesting by including hyperlinks and styles, then an active table of contents or index to help your reader jump back and forth through the book, but even so, a few clicks in Word can fix those things up for you.

If you’re an intermediate computer user (someone who doesn’t look for the “any” key, can reboot a router and prevent a download adding Macafee to your desktop) then you should be able to sort out those features with some experimentation and consultation with Google search.

Great Canadian cover

But what if your book contains a lot of illustrations? Working in Word can be problematic. For my e-book “The Great Canadian Adventure“, I used Serif PagePlus 6, a  desktop publishing program that claimed to have some special features exclusively for e-book production. While the process worked, it was a steep learning curve with several restarts and not a lot of guidance.

Available NOW at Amazon!

Available NOW at Amazon!

This time around, for “My Cosplay Disasters“, I wanted things to go a little smoother. However, only thirteen pages in, I was running into all kinds of formatting errors that I couldn’t fix.

Then my friends Amy Knepper and Lisa Cohen told me about Sigil, an e-book editing program that allows you to edit text or or html  code direct, and it will build the table of contents for you.

Amy kindly reformatted the pages I had already completed, which gave me a template for the rest of the book. Lisa lent her personal preference for the CSS.

To check that the pages I was producing were formatting properly, I would periodically save the file and export it to another program, a desktop e-reader called “Freda” to check how things looked. This helped me spot when things went wrong, as well as the more mundane issues like typos and spelling mistakes.

When I had completed the book, I tried uploading it to Amazon’s KDP program, but I was told the file contained a broken link. I went back and manually checked all the hyperlinks I had included, as well as the table of contents itself. Having no luck there, I was getting frustrated, but then tried the “preflight” check facility within Sigil itself. That found a whole bunch of “invisible” links, where I had inserted pictures, but the files had fallen out of the book somehow – in the code, there were still links to pictures that weren’t there.

Like any new program, it took some mucking about to understand exactly what I was doing, but by saving a few different versions, I ensured I was never more than one re-load away from a working copy, no matter what changes I made. Putting together “My Cosplay Disasters” didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, and there were considerably fewer re-starts than with PagePlus.

When I’m producing “Murder in the Kingdom”, the second “Eddie and the Kingdom” book, I’ll do it all in Word again, because it’s entirely text and simple enough to throw together. But later this year there’ll be an update to “My Cosplay Disasters” when I add in the saga of constructing my very own Stormtrooper Helmet.

WP_20150702_011

A year of citizenship and a new publication

Just over a year ago, we took our oath and became Canadian citizens.

Just over a year ago, we took our oath and became Canadian citizens.

So, what has changed for us in that year? What does it mean to be a citizen, as opposed to the Permanent Residents we were before?

Well, not much. We have shiny new passports that mean we don’t have to stop at the border and get visas to cross into the US (saving time and $6 each!). We do get to vote now, which is a privilege and a responsibility, and means we have to think about what our politicians are doing, and how we might get them to stop doing it.

However, even a year on, it still feels like more of a statement than a tactical move – we were saying “we’re here to stay”, and since we’re still here, I guess we were right about that.

It’s been a few years since I published my first e-book, and while I’ve had a few sales and things, I’m not rolling in cash and movie rights offers. While discussing online publishing with some friends, I realised I’ve only used the Amazon Kindle programme to publish with. Since I was hoping to run a talk at my library on the nuts and bolts of E-publishing (A “how-to” rather than a “Write an e-book and become a Bazillionaire!” type of talk), I thought I should check out the other options.

The main counterpart to Amazon is Smashwords. After asking around, most people seemed to be of the opinion that Smashwords is harder to use than Amazon, but they place your e-book in a wider variety of places, electronically speaking.

I dug out an old manuscript, then downloaded the Smashwords style guide to format it correctly. It was not easy, or fun. I use Word a lot, but I don’t do much that is creative and exciting, so using the Smashwords Template and altering the style of each paragraph and manually building the hyperlink chapter headings was actual work for a change (Amazon requires less formatting, but this simply means the ultimate look of your typesetting is up to you. Mine is, therefore, dreadful.) The end result was a little quirky, with each first paragraph after the Chapter Heading in a different font to the rest of the text, but I thought that might be how they roll at Smashwords.

Odder than that was the fact that I hit “Publish” and a few hours later got a congratulatory message saying it was done. Then I got a message saying there were errors with the text and the cover image. I changed the cover image size to the required dimensions. Nothing. I changed it to greater than the required dimensions, and that was ok. I fixed the text and got the congratulations message again.

Seven people downloaded the free first 20% of the book. I’m fairly sure two of them were me. None of us noticed that I had left a chunk of placeholder text at the end of the book, because that wasn’t part of the free download. None of us bought the whole book as a result of the free sample.

I noticed a button that would let me enter my book into the “Premium Catalog”, so naturally I pressed it. This generated a new message telling me about errors that didn’t matter before, but were critical now I was playing in the big leagues. All these errors, by the way, were simply that my formatting did not match up to the requirements of Smashwords – they had nothing to do with the quality of the prose itself. Smashwords cannot detect one dimensional characters, hackneyed plots, on the nose or trite dialogue, or clichèd situations. I can state this with utter certainty.

Having reformatted the whole book once more (and removed the placeholder text at last) I achieved the dizzy heights of the Premium Catalog. Twenty four hours later, I’m still poor as a church mouse, but my book is theoretically available through Barnes & Noble online, iBooks, Kobo (which powers the bookstores of multiple other retailers such as FNAC in France and WH Smith in the U.K.), OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, txtr, Baker & Taylor (Blio.com and the Axis360 library platform), and others.

If only it was a good book.

You’ll notice there’s no link to my newly published book. This is because I am not kidding about the quality of it, and I was publishing it simply to try out the process. My conclusion is this: If you’re a wannabe writer and you have some basic skills, go with Amazon. It’s easy and most people will find you if they go looking. If you are serious and you know your way around a Word Processor, it’s worth using Smashwords because of the range of places they can put your book. With some active marketing on your part, you could reach a lot of people.

If you’re really smart and have some time on your hands, write two different series of books, and place one series on each platform.

Spotlight on: Brooke Johnson, Author

TheBrassGiant

I’ve blogged before about Brooke Johnson and her books, but she’s recently reworked the book I reviewed for real-world publication as “The Brass Giant” and so I thought I’d ask her some impertinent questions.

1: When did you start writing? 

I started writing seriously (with the goal to be published) when I was about fourteen. I started a fantasy novel that was a horrible conglomeration of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings, that thankfully died after its eighth or ninth iteration when I decided to write something else five years later.

2: What was your path to publication? 
In a word: weird.
When I sat down to write the book that would eventually become The Brass Giant, I made the decision to self-publish  because 1) I really didn’t want to go the query route and face the months of rejection on that path; 2) I felt that steampunk was “in” and I didn’t want to waste time with traditional publishing when it would be at least a couple of years before the book saw print; and 3) I just really felt like it was the right decision at the time. So that’s what I did.

A year later, Harper Voyager put out an open call for submissions. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to enter, I submitted the book and promptly forgot about it. Fast-forward another year and a half, I got an email from a Harper Voyager editor saying they wanted to publish my book. After much flabbergasted squeeing, I decided that I’d done what I could with self-publishing and signed a contract with the publisher. In the months since, I have been prone to varying degrees of stress and madness, and will soon have a traditionally published book to show for it.

3: Who was your biggest influence when you were starting out?

It was always a mixture of things when I first started writing, elements from my favorite books, movies, and video games, all cobbled together into one story. Stylistically, probably J.K. Rowling. I still primarily write third-person point of view and I will always write dialogue tags with “said” before the name of the person speaking.

4: What is your favourite piece of writing advice? 

I’ve gotten a lot of bad writing advice over the years, and very little good advice, so this is a tough one… probably “Write the story you want to read.” It’s the one dictum I’ve actually been able to stick to throughout the years.

5: If you could send one Tweet back in time to your past self, what would it say? And would you listen? 

Oh gosh… Um… “Stop wasting time on the internet and get to work. You won’t have the luxury of spare time in a few years.” Would I listen? Probably not.

6: What’s the logline for your latest book? 

When Petra Wade meets Guild engineer Emmerich Goss, she finally has a chance to prove her worth as an engineer building a top-secret, Guild-sanctioned automaton, but as their project nears completion, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy within the Guild … and their automaton is only the beginning.

7: Do you take part in a writing circle, either online or in real life?

I did when I was in college, but I never liked it–I’m not much of a group person. I also had a critique partner once, but it fizzled out when life happened. These days, I write all by myself and rarely read other writers’ work before publication, though I do often share scenes or snippets with a few close friends to get initial feedback.

8: Finally, what word do you always type incorrectly? 

Jeopardize. Receive. Mischievous. Judgement. Privilege.

So, what about the book?

The Brass Giant: A Chroniker City Story

Sometimes, even the most unlikely person can change the world

Seventeen-year-old Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, wants nothing more than to become a certified member of the Guild, an impossible dream for a lowly shop girl. Still, she refuses to give up, tinkering with any machine she can get her hands on, in between working and babysitting her foster siblings.

When Emmerich Goss—handsome, privileged, and newly recruited into the Guild—needs help designing a new clockwork system for a top-secret automaton, it seems Petra has finally found the opportunity she’s been waiting for. But if her involvement on the project is discovered, Emmerich will be marked for treason, and a far more dire fate would await Petra.

Working together in secret, they build the clockwork giant, but as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy from within the Guild council … and their automaton is just the beginning.

Releases May 5, 2015

Preorder now ($1.99)

Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B00M719Z06

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00M719Z06

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brass-giant-brooke-johnson/1121123553?ean=9780062387165

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-brass-giant

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-brass-giant/id904017054?mt=11

HarperCollins: http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062387165/the-brass-giant

About Brooke:

Brooke Johnson is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving writer. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes to one day live somewhere more mountainous.

Website:

 http://brooke-johnson.com

 Social Media:

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/brookenomicon

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+BrookeJohnson

Tumblr: http://brookenomicon.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brookejohnson.writer

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5320239.Brooke_Johnson

Doing everything right and STILL not rich…?

Why do you want to be a writer

Some of the best advice I’ve heard about writing comes through my friends on Google +. I know, I know, you’ve heard it’s a ghost town and everyone’s on Ello this week, but seriously, no. They’re there, they’re active, and they have created a busy and self-supporting community.

Amongst the many writers I follow, there are some who work as developmental editors as well as writers. One of these, until recently, was R.J.Blain. In her latest blog post, she explains exactly what happened when she decided to go full-time as a writer, and what the financial implications have been.

If you are thinking of becoming a writer, read this post. If you are currently writing and dreaming of riches, read this post. If you have ever been jealous of someone who is a writer, read this post.

http://rjblain.com/2015/02/transitioning-from-part-time-to-full-time-writing/

You don’t have to be depressed or downcast as a result, but I hope it will help people understand that the E.L.James’ of this world are few and far between. You CAN make your book look professional with a good cover. You can ensure the content has been finely edited and thoroughly proofread. You can work every contact you have in social media and whatever is your equivalent of real life, but you still cannot guarantee success.

I want to stress again, R.J. Blain is not posting this to say “Hey, look, what a car crash!” She’s putting all her effort into producing some damn good books, and I believe things will turn around for her soon. But the effort she has put in so far is way, way beyond what 90% of writers would be willing to do, and she has continued beyond the point where many many others would have thrown in the towel. So as well as professional standards, native talent and a passion for writing, add grit and determination to your writer’s armoury, or admit you’re just a hobbyist.

Guest interview – Lucy V Hay of Bang2Write

For this post I’m asking some questions of Lucy V Hay – a novelist, script editor,  screenwriter and blogger who helps writers. A trained teacher, script reader and script editor with ten years’ experience, Lucy is also one of the organisers of London Screenwriters’ Festival where she is the Head Reader & Educational Director for its many contests and initiatives.

Her book, “Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays” is available for pre-order now, here. German speakers can order her debut YA novel, “BAUCH-ENTSHEIDUNG” (Gut Decision) published by Rowohlt, Berlin from Amazon, here.

Her script editing credits include Brit Thrillers Deviation and Act of Grace, as well as The Fingerspellers and Hands Solo.

Lucy, you have written for the screen, produced, and worked extensively as a script consultant, not to mention presenting and organising for film events and writing your own novel. Does “Writer” still fit you as a label, or are you unwilling to be placed in one pigeonhole?

Just a writer? No way, I am a GODDESS. No really: I am a writer, at heart. And writing novels is what I truly luuuuuurve. All the other stuff is great; I love to be involved in the industry and help writers and make movies and all that. I’m so lucky to enjoy my work. But novels is where it’s at for me.

You have some favourite mistakes that blow a script in the first ten pages: what’s the most overused one?

Cliched openers. Nothing makes me lose interest faster than a script that opens with a cliche. ‘Cos your script can be ANYTHING — so why do something we’ve seen before?

You mentioned a few times that writing your novel was hard work – was it harder than you expected? Or was it harder in different ways to the challenges of screen writing and script reporting?

Writing a novel was hard for me for two reasons. The first was the sheer size: you end up writing three, four times as much as a feature script. The second was the raw emotion because novels are driven by the psychological. That’s not to say screenwriting can’t be emotional ‘cos it totally can, but for me getting right in a novel character’s head really affected me and not always in a good way. One chapter really upset me to write; I wasn’t right for about 4 weeks.

How has writing for a different medium affected you as a writer? Should all writers try different media to shake things up?

I think it depends. I’m a better script editor I think because I no longer tend to write screenplays. I like the partition between my editing brain and my writing brain. But others like to mix it up – and why not? I believe you should say yes to everything, as long as you have a strategy and make it work for you.

Women in film is a big subject at the moment – Felicia Day included a piece on her blog that started as a review of the latest Star Trek but became a …well, rant, about the lack of visible female characters in the movie and then in the movies in general. You’ve made your views about female action heroes clear in the past – what’s the ideal for women in film? How do you have a female lead who’s engaging to the male audience and still a woman?

Let’s be frank. A good female character should be a good character who just so happens to be a woman. That’s it. There is no big secret. Yet we see female characters in so few roles, our perceptions have become skewed as to what female characterisation even means – so whenever we see a female character who’s not what we expect, people analyse it to death. We need to let this go. We need to move forwards and forget about “strong women” or archetypes or whatever and just write GREAT characters – who happen to be female – who are not defined by their bodies; the men in their lives or their kids. Women are people, not representations of “issues”. Boom. Done.

Finally, if they make a movie of your book, how involved would you want to be?

6) I’ll do whatever these mythical people making my novel into a film want, including staying the f*ck away Haha! 😉 Seriously. I like to think people like working with me because contrary to popular belief, I am not difficult to work with – as long as you don’t piss me off. And c’mon, who isn’t the same?

You can hear more from Lucy by bookmarking her blog (http://www.bang2write.com/) where you’ll get the latest news about the London Screenwriters’ Festival and tons of useful tips on writing for the screen. You can also find Lucy’s rates for getting her script reading services, which I can personally recommend.

The Devil Colony Party

If it's a costume party, I'm in!

Woody Allen once said “I don’t advertise. I don’t pander. Because it’s illegal, and immoral to advertise a product that you don’t actually use.” Yeah, but this isn’t advertising, folks, this is a PARTY! Let me explain….

Tiniest Weasel joins the party

Tuesday the 21st June sees the release of ‘The Devil Colony” by James Rollins. Up until very recently I wasn’t familiar with his books, but then I took the excellent online course on boosting your author profile by Kristen Lamb. She’s Jim’s Number One Fan and between them they came up with a revolutionary concept. Instead of those stuffy publishing parties that only the very very elite get invited to when a book launches, why not have a worldwide ONLINE party for EVERYBODY?

 

Yes, it sounds like one of those wacky and insane ideas that won’t catch on, like three-quarter length trousers, and pre-teen singing stars, but stay with it. Kristen posted on her blog , inviting one and all to attend the party (in dress up or not) through the media of FaceBook and Twitter. No one is excluded!

Even my nephew wants to party!

So, here it is: Your chance to be part of a book launch party for an internationally published and successful author. Upload your party pictures with a #devilcolony tag or head over to Jim’s Facebook fan page . The best pictures will be selected for a wall of fame. There’s even a rumour of *gulp* A MYSTERY PRIZE!

If you’re wondering why you should do this, then shame on you! This is what social media is for – word of mouth recommendations for things you would otherwise have missed completely. Unlike a lot of the characters in the Sigma Force books, you don’t have a gun to your head, but you do have an open invitation to chat with people from all around the world, including James Rollins himself. When did you last have that opportunity?

Check out his books, either through Amazon or your local library, then rush out and reserve a copy of “The Devil Colony”, available TUESDAY 21st June.

If this isn’t very clear, check out Kristen’s original post… Or the excellent one by Educlation… or Jenny Hansen’s take on it….or the awesome Ironic Mom… And if  you haven’t got the idea yet, why not go to http://www.tlc-creative and download my book on writing a play for community theatre, because you’re obviously going to be at a loose end on Tuesday while EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD WILL BE AT THIS PARTY…………….