E-Books and Ultimate E-Book Creator

Thanks to a new tool that I recently discovered, Ultimate E-Book Creator, I was able to create and publish the e-book versions of Blood-Spatter in a far more timely fashion than I originally expected.

I really enjoy this tool as it makes it a one stop shop for file format conversions whether its epub or mobi.

If and when you consider publishing your first or next e-book, consider trying this tool as it made my efforts much more enjoyable than they had been previously.

How to backup your Amazon aStore and why.

storefront1One particular benefit of the Amazon Associates program is the ability to create your own on-line store that contains links to Amazon products of your choice.

Having access to such an on-line store can and does greatly benefit both you and those that you may list through purchases that occur when people who visit your store choose to purchase the products listed therein.

While you won’t earn a percentage of each particular sale from your store directly, you will manage to earn a small percentage of sales in their entirety each month that your store is open and available.

You can spend countless hours, days and even weeks creating a layout that contains links to products categorized and organized as you wish along with how you want them to be presented to those that may visit your website.

wp1WordPress even has methods to incorporate your store into their various themes that allow them to seamlessly integrate into your website.

Once you are done your store can add much content and opportunity to your website.

backup1At this point it may be a good idea to consider making a backup of your links, just in case.

Of what, you may ask?

 

closed1Well, in the event that you happen to run afoul of the terms and conditions of the Amazon Associates program, there is a good chance that your store account will be terminated and you will no longer have access to your store.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your store is gone, it simply may mean that you no longer have access to modify or update it.

Once the dust settles as to why you may have incurred such a closure, you will need to create a new store to replace the old.

Backing up your store as you create or update it will make this process much easier as you can load lists of ASIN numbers quickly and easily to rebuild a category should you need to.

Within the aStore console you simply do the following:

  • select a category
  • select ‘Add products’
  • select ‘Upload a List’
  • select the second tab, ‘View All ASINs’
  • select ‘Highlight ASINs’
  • right click and select copy
  • open a file of your choice – I happen to use text files – paste the list and save the file.

At this point you now have a backup of that particular category. Should the need arise  you can import that list and have it look the same as when it was backed up.

It should also be pointed out that if you were to add or remove items, you should also update the backup file(s) accordingly.

A second method, should you find your aStore closed but still available, would be to go through each link within a category of the old store and paste the links into a file.

Each link will have the ASIN number at the very end where you can trim each line and have the same list that you would have had were you to have gone through the previous backup procedure.

storefront1While many may scoff at the necessity of such efforts, should you find yourself in the situation that I recently did — it will pay dividends as you work to recreate your store.

When Amazon closes an aStore, it is not possible to reopen it and you have to reapply and create a new one.

wordpress-backupHopefully now, should you happen to have an aStore, you will know a couple ways to make a backup and feel more confident that you won’t have to start from scratch if the occasion should arise that you were to lose access to it.

 

 

 

BEFORE you publish, consider acquiring an LCCN.

libofcong1What? You have no idea what an LCCN is?

LCCN = Library of Congress Control Number.

Read more here from the LoC website.

Also Mill City Press has a great description here.

Createspace info can be found here.

What this basically will be is the number assigned through a case that is opened by your publisher to get your book entered into the process of acceptance into the Library of Congress. This control number typically can be displayed on your copyright page if you were inclined to do so.

As I discovered recently with my first book, if you overlook this step as I had, you will need to open a case with the Library of Congress yourself and then send two copies of your work to them for consideration.

By acquiring a LCCN number prior to publication, your publisher – in my case Createspace – applies for you and also submits a copy of your book for consideration.

The difference in price initially on the surface is roughly ten dollars (US).

For a LCCN before publication through Createspace (at the time of this post) it is twenty-five dollars (US) while applying directly through the Library of Congress is thirty-five dollars (US) plus two copies of your book and postage to send them.

The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

While acquiring this number does not guarantee that your work will be accepted into the Library of Congress, it at least gets the work information entered into their database which other libraries will access.

Not all public libraries that you may have offered your book(s) will enter the information in all databases.

Is it worthwhile to consider as part of your publishing process? I would venture to say yes without question.

budget-hiWith every book that you publish there will be a budget of some sort for advertising and such and a LCCN number guarantees that it will be found in a place that makes it worthwhile.

 

Sometimes the best investment is one that although it involves a gamble of sorts does give a return worth the price and effort in the process.

 

So in the end, I will recommend it as something to seriously consider if not already place in that checklist that is used when you publish.

Every little bit helps 8)

A good place to think about your current work in progress

hunter_taking_aim_at_a_buck_clipart_imageRecently I was able to get away for a few days and enjoy my annual trek to Northern Minnesota in search of the ever elusive deer that are rumored to live around my parent’s cabin. There is nothing more peaceful than sitting on a deer stand, trying to avoid boredom, than to consider where your current work in progress is at and how it should move forward.

Does that mean I had all kind of notebooks or even a laptop out in the woods? Absolutely not.

squirrel1Instead I literally had a pluthera of squirrels to bounce ideas off of as they ran around me or toss up thoughts thrown out for the various birds that happened to swoop by. Now for those of the more organized variety this may have brought much angst as to keeping track of what you may have come up with – but on the same token it allows you to sit back and actually think about your story without having to make those cursed notes or pesky reminders.

If forces you to just sit there and think about things and sometimes your books and the story lines that they contain.

More often than not, I have learned to sorta, kinda, know how a particular book is going to end, but often find myself muddling in the middle as I try to go from how things started out to how I’m going to actually get there. By playing, replaying and replaying yet again the threads that are going to have to be there, once I got back I feel that I have a much better grip on how the current work in progress will progress once I get back to it.

Although I did manage to see four deer and actually get a shot off at two of them, regretfully we left the herd more or less intact for next season (my Dad got a doe) while still managing to work out some kinks that will eventually bubble up to much clearer and more concise ideas to work with in time.

Sometimes just letting it sit on a back burner is often the best tonic to any writer who’s every growing imagination needs much food for thought even while on vacation 8)

sleeping-hunter-with-deer

Don’t forget your local public library

public-library-clip-artOne particular place that can get your book out to the general public along with giving them a chance to read it — which for many artists such as myself is what, in the end, drives us to write in the first place — is none other than your local public library.

Budgets being as they often are, consider donating a copy of your work(s) to your local library(s) as a method of assuring that they will have them on their shelves.

Many distributors, including Createspace.com will offer channels that already include many systems that public libraries use to order their selections, however it is entirely possible that your book(s) may not be among those that they opt to order for reasons that are entirely beyond your control.

Another option is to have friends visit their local library and ask about your book(s) which could result in an order being placed for it — or have them donate a copy themselves.

hammondavelibrary1I personally have memories of having wandered the many aisles of our local Hammond Avenue library in Superior Wisconsin years ago as I wondered how cool it would have been to have seen my name on the shelves along with the many that were already there.

bl-kassonpublibrary2Fortunately, now I can say that it is very cool thanks to our local Kasson MN public library. I’ve also donated a copy to the library in Rochester MN and within the week I plan to donate a copy to the public library in my hometown of Superior WI.

Although the Hammond Avenue Library is no longer a public library, I will feel proud to have completed the circle of someone who once wondered what it would be like, to someone who does and can appreciate the work involved to have been found on that shelf amongst so many others.

To many it may not be as big a deal as it may have appeared to me, but in the end it should be as the local library is perhaps one of the first places that many young readers start their journeys as they delve into what is out there to read and enjoy.

Kids often do pay attention to what their parents may have read 8)

Just a thought to consider when you next ponder where you would like your books to be found as kindness to local libraries is guaranteed to get you Karma points.

And everyone needs those 8)

Kindle Formats – Fixed vs Free Flow

When you opt to create a Kindle version of your book there are two forms of your end product that you must consider.

Unfortunately for me, after reading several how-to’s and being a newbie to most things kindle, outside of owning a few e-books and having read them on my phone and Amazon Fire HD 8 — I opted to follow the advice of using the Kindle Textbook Creator Tool which creates an e-book almost identical to the printed version of my book with a table of contents which allowed the reader to accurately move within the text via the Kindle application itself.

Seemed to make the most sense at the time.

Unfortunately this  tool does exactly what you ask it to and you get an e-book which on the surface looks like it will work on most any Kindle device that you might opt to load it on.

After purchasing the e-book and downloading it, all things looked good.

Which proved not entirely to be the case.
Although the e-book loaded fine on my Amazon fire and Android phone, it would not show as available for my Wife’s Kindle Paperwhite which in turn led me to discover through an
e-mail response from KDP support that my e-book was in a fixed format while the Paperwhite and many devices like it are free-flow only.

This in turn led to some research and the discovery of yet another Kindle tool: KindleGen

Once I took my original manuscript that I had formatted for e-book reading and ran it through the Reanimus Nuclear Assistant tool, I was able to rebuild the file with proper page breaks and a table of contents which also allowed for it to become a template for publication on Smashwords as well with the proper ISBN so that both e-book products have the same look and feel.

In the end, I now understand what both tools are and how they work along with what output they will give you should you opt to use them.

The next step was to unpublish my initial e-book and republish as a new version using the
mobi formatted file and it has a much better look and feel as a free-flow book on both my devices and my Wife’s Paperwhite which also accepts it now.

Once Amazon re-links the printed book with the new e-book and the data from the old, things will be much better.

So there you have it, yet another thing to consider if you choose to publish your book and an example of how I’ve learned what and what not to do.

The Fine Art of Peer Reviews

peertopeer1As you develop your writing skills and step out into the world on the road to becoming published, joining groups of like minded people can be a boon to your efforts as you exchange ideas, have your works reviewed and find places where you can improve or impart what you’ve learned.

But that is also where things can go awry.

Different authors have different methods of how they go about doing things. Some, follow well established and documented methodologies that have brought them success and consistency while others may be just starting out and getting their feet wet as they try to learn the ropes and find their own way into what they hope will be a marketplace that will welcome them with open arms.

Giving advice can be a tenuous adventure in and of itself and will undoubtedly bring with peer-editing1it much angst and probable derision where others either disagree completely or try to pick apart what you may have been trying to say.

While there may be good intentions all around, there needs to be a clarity of sorts that advice and opinions are just that – opinions.

Each of us has a background of sorts in reading the products that got us interested in writing. We find nuances to what we read and without even thinking file them away in the back of our minds for future use or reference.

At some point you begin to revisit and apply these nuggets as you script your own works and when you find an opportunity you will try to share what little it is that you know.tutoring

In a one on one situation this can go fairly well, where you craft your suggestion politely while you gauge the recipient who in turn will more than likely be just as polite as they either take the advice and tuck it away or shuck it off into the ditch.

The bigger problem can come as you move into an open group where the same transaction can be openly questioned as others find that they disagree or find little use for the advise.

What happens then, is often a mixed bag of conversation and argument that causes the original message to become lost and any hope that what may have once been helpful will now have become lost.

The important thing to learn when this happens is that it may be best to have some sort of defense of your opinion ready just to show that you didn’t pick your opinion out of thin air. You just need to be cautious as you will find others simply will want to dismiss your opinion no matter what.

There are people out there that just have to be right and can’t let things go until they are shown to be. It’s been my experience that the best way to deal with them is to simply say: “Respectfully, we will have to agree to disagree as we each seem to have a well founded idea of what it is that we are trying to say and neither of us appears to be wrong.”

This simply makes it very clear that there are no right or wrong opinions — just varying levels of understanding and respect.

And it will probably drive them completely nuts, but you are now off the hook and can smile and walk away.

In the end, my advice is if you feel that your opinion is worth giving and you’ve worked to be as polite as you can be and forthcoming as to how you came to have that opinion, simply let the naysayers know that your not willing to back down and that you are more than ready to agree to disagree with their method of derailing what otherwise may have been a helpful moment.

Kindness goes a long way and when your polite your less likely to become muddled in an argument that there may be little to learn from in and of itself.

Well that or simply send your advice to the author in question privately when you know there are others who will not agree with it within earshot.paperairplane1

Sometimes that can unfortunately work the best for those with peers who steadfastly refuse to see opinions for that which they are.

Simply opinions, neither right nor wrong, but something well worth a consideration.

 

The art of critique and yes there is such a thing

So you pick up a magazine, book or other form of entertainment and as you make your way through it, you form an opinion of what you are reading or watching.

Good, bad or indifferent everyone has an opinion, but not everyone shares it or actually knows howcritic to give their opinion as a constructive tool instead of a destructive weapon.

In this particular discussion I am going to focus on critiques as they are in regards to the written word.

Every author goes through a process of some sort from simple write it and publish it – to others who meticulously search out resources that they enlist to make sure every t is crossed and ever i dotted.

Professional authors more-so than amateur authors tend to have representatives through their publishers that take on this chore while even they can make mistakes along the way.

Amateurs often hire out services to accomplish much the same thing.

While I do not recall the name of the author (I’m not hiding his name on purpose), not all that long ago he made a game of sorts for his readers to report errors in his books through a bounty system of sorts which actually brought results.

a-critic

Elsewhere you can find folks who make a point of calling out various errors in books just to claim some sort of justification for a refund and/or a bit of public notoriety.

When you consider that most professionally published books are under ten dollars (US), this can be both annoying and amazing at their detailed tenacity.

This unfortunately carries over or trickles down – depending how one looks at it – to the amateurs who strive to become much like the professional peers.

peerreview1Telling a story, whether it’s a one off short or novel or part of a series is a journey that melds the writer and what he or she wants to deliver to an audience. One distinct problem a new author has is that the audience that they may be targeting is often not made up of those who they may rely upon for reviewing their work.

Fortunately, if you know the target audience that you’ve written your story for, you can often find other examples of popular stories within your genre that give a hint or three as to how to approach your methods.

But that won’t help when others attempt to poke holes, whether well intended or not, in either your story itself or in the way that you are telling it.

At this point you can knuckle under and follow their advice or spend time verifying your approach.

The one and only suggestion that I can offer at this juncture is to be consistent in any facet of what you do.

Tense is an often telling examplereserach-paper3 that can make people cringe, point-of-view (POV) is yet another.

I’m fortunate to have a large collection of books that I’ve collected over the years along with favorite authors that I can rely upon to pick out exactly why I happen to like what they’ve done with their stories.

This unfortunately will not help when someone takes issue with what or how you’ve presented your tale.

When you are on the receiving end of a particularly critical review, take a moment or three and read the critique as if it wasn’t about you or your work. This may take the possible sting of a personal affront out of it as you then look at what was said in comparison to how it applies to your work.

At some point you will have to decide if you can ignore what was offered or apply a fix to correct the impression that you may begrudgingly admit was more right than wrong.

Not all critiques are as accurate as their author may wish them to be. They are often formed from opinion and practice that could and can be in direct conflict with your methods or ideals.

familybbq1When I took up the hobby of BBQ smoking (not to be confused with grilling … please 8)) I’ve learned that getting details of why someone likes or dislikes your product can lead to a much better understanding of the entire process.

Rubs, injections, how you broke your stall and with what liquids, length of cook, type of wood – there are so many ways that you can improve or break your process and greatly affect what you deliver as an end product.

Knowing this, even when I come across a bad product – be it BBQ or the written word – I approach my critique in a positive frame of delivery in the hope that by taking out any conflict of reception, what I suggest is taken at face value for what it is.

Simply put, nothing more than my opinion, worth roughly .023443 cents (US) in today’s market.

Human nature is to take compliments far more quickly without issue than critical commentary. Getting your message across is often a difficult adventure in and of itself and can be almost as difficult as crafting a story.

I have heard of relationships between authors and their reviewers become heated – along with reviewers critiquing each other that can cause further rifts – to the point that the forum posts involved have been locked or even removed and the initial message lost forever.

This is not how a critique or review should be done as all the riffraff and fallout completely destroy the original message.

So if you’ve read this far and wonder, what exactly am I trying to say with this post?

Two things that will appear as almost two different sides of a coin.

As an author, realize that while you may not like what you hear – at least listen and consider what is being said.

As a critic, perhaps approach your suggestions or advice with kindness and present them politely rather than brusquely and with pointed directness.

Not everyone will be happy with the result but perhaps the message will not be lost in the static and you will get even better reviews or deliver them with far more success.star_review

 

DIY or use a Professional – wait, what was the question?

When you start out with a hobby, usually it’s just you and whatever tools that you may have had on hand to accomplishproservice your goals – whether it’s writing or BBQ smoking or most any other kind of hobby.

Once you get to a certain point you begin to get the idea that moving to a more public venue may accomplish yet more with your hobby.

With BBQ smoking, I chose to compete in contests to learn how to really cook and have a much better understanding of the process.

With writing it’s no different, but there are several options available to help that are free and easy to use.

For example I opted to move to Wattpad where I found a well organized method to expose my writing to others and begin to get feedback, participate in contests and better organize my work. There really are not a whole lot of rules that you have to follow as to how you write, what you write (within reason of course) or how you present it (again within reason of their membership agreement).

There are always rules as to what limits there are and they clearly lay them out in their agreement acceptance or FAQ pages.

Moving to a platform such as Wattpad can accomplish many things, such as giving you the courage to move yet further and begin to approach the idea of actually publishing your stories to a much broader audience, such as those who may peruse Amazon or other outlets looking for reading material.

This is where things begin to change a bit drastically as far as what rules and other norms that you now have to consider, in particular copyrights and other such legal terms for an example.

Now, if you are like me, you begin to research how others have done things as you begin to prepare your book – cover, presentation, content, webpages, blogs (much like this one for example 8)) and other bits and pieces.

Most everything involved in this process can and often does involve quite a bit of work that can be far and beyond the normal experience levels of someone who may be new to web design, art design or even project management.

Whats the best solution? Many may suggest professional services for particular parts of the process, such as your cover or editing.

itguy

An important issue with the option of involving a professional is the cost that will undoubtedly be involved. Another is finding someone who is reputable and will get you the result that you want within your budget.

Let me be clear, this is not a bad idea at all and something to seriously consider for most any part of the process.

However, should you be in a situation much like myself with a limited budget, perhaps looking into doing things yourself (DIY) can also be an option to pursue.

WordPress, for example, gives a great option for hosting your webpage and blog that can later be moved if you choose to self-host. Writers groups in your local area or on-line can also be helpful. Community Centers in most areas may even offer classes.

By far the most important thing to consider when designing a cover is due-diligence with what will be on the cover. A key word to consider is Royalty Free. What this means that you will not have to pay to use a particular image or even a font for your project.

artclassIf you find a photo or piece of artwork and can’t identify the owner, you will need to play a bit of detective using tools such as TinEye Reverse Image Search to locate the artist(s) who may have created it.

At all cost and to avoid interacting with lawyers it is best not to use something without permission. There are plenty of examples where it is cheaper to pay a high fine than fight something in court. Either way there will be significant costs to any part of such disagreements.

I once almost made the mistake of using an image of a bear for one cover that I eventually learned would have cost as much as two-hundred and fifty dollars (US) to use rather than the image I eventually purchased for roughly fifteen dollars (US).

Places such as Shutterstock.com offer images with proper licensing for fairly minimal cost that allow you to use them as you may need without legal worry. Their default license allows you to use an image up until 500,000 copies are made or sold of your product which does include e-books. At that point they offer another license that is reasonable and affordable.

Building the cover can still be a chore that brings with it much and many pratfalls along the way.

What font do you use? Is it free? Large enough? Size of title versus author name?

I happen to have a large library of books that I can look through to see how those who are professionally published have done things. Next, I went out on Amazon and looked through what is offered by others.

There will be plenty of websites, blogs, videos and such that talk about designing covers that will show you plenty of ways to approach the process.

And there are plenty on how to tell you how not to do it with examples.

toolboxPaint.net is a great tool for editing, combining or otherwise building a cover. Createspace.com also has cover building tools available.

In the end, either way that you choose to do it, the cover should be what you as the author want it to be. If you have to, stick to your guns but always leave the door open to possible suggestions that can allow you to keep what you want yet perhaps show it differently and possibly in a better fashion.

My first book, “Blood-Lines” is an example. There are key elements that I wanted in the cover and after many attempts while getting much feedback (mostly bad reviews), with the help of a friend and her simple suggestions I was able to get the cover to what it is now and retain everything that I wanted to have in it.

Does that mean those that didn’t like it before like it any better now? Maybe. Several have commented that the current version is much improved.

Editing is another area entirely. editor

It’s one thing to be an avid reader, entirely another to edit what you write.

Going rates for editorial services can lead one to do it themselves. I chose to do it myself due in part, once again, to my budget.

For a manuscript that runs 86,000+ words, professional editorial rates can be anywhere from two-thousand to five-thousand or more dollars (US).

The only advice that I will give is to be consistent in how you write your story. Watch your tense and keep things equal as best that you can in the presentation.

There are also beta reading services or other writers who will exchange such services.

What you can do is to research what to avoid happening through commentary of others that have reviewed books. While I usually skip one star reviews, they can often explain the faults found in a book that teach you what to avoid.

In the end, it is you that has to be happy with what you produce, happy with how it’s released and happy with how it’s designed.

It’s your dream and your efforts that have produced the end result.

But make your skin thick and prepare for bad reviews as there will be some without doubt.

Art is art, but everyone has an opinion on what art should be.

Do what you can with what you have available and are willing to try and you will hopefully get a result that at least you like and in the end that is what is important.

Using a professional or doing it yourself are both acceptable methods of approaching your publishing efforts.

I’m happy with mine and I hope you will be with yours.

So Why Multiple Covers?

bloodspatter_cover_for_kindle  cover_bloodspatter9a


Simply put, covers are a lot like fishing lures.

Beyond the title of a book or series of books, the covers themselves are what can draw a reader to choose to purchase or sample a particular book. I’ve actually stumbled into the middle of a series and gone back to read from the start simply by having seen the cover of the middle book.

In this case, I had one cover that I liked as it drew your attention, while others (my Wife included) did not seem comfortable with my choice. So after communicating with CreateSpace support, I opted to change plans and will release the same book with two different covers.

As an effort not to mislead those who may think they are different books, I marked them on the back to show their separate cover options. Hopefully this will cut down on some of the confusion while with others they may want to get both covers, who knows.

At any rate, both books will have separate ISBNs and will be listed separately both in print and as e-books.

So far while planning this I have discovered that simply having a different cover can make for a price difference which I can only attribute to the larger image. Accordingly though, both books will have the same cover price while one will have a lesser profit margin than the other.

How it will play out in sales will be interesting to see and will be the focus of a future post to report what I find once I release both this winter.