Agents WILL look you up online.

If you’re trying to get published, remember that anything you put on the internet may be used against you in the court of public opinion. Heck, that’s good advice even if you’re not trying to get published.

A survey of agents, editors, and art directors finds that not only do most of them look up potential clients online, but a large majority of them have rejected someone because of what they found (!). Okay, it’s admittedly a small sample, but very informative.

(Thanks to Debbie Ridpath Ohi for the survey, and Richard Sutton for the tip.)

Nook’s new POD service

Nook Press has come out with a Print-On-Demand (POD) service.

Note that this isn’t like Amazon’s Createspace — Barnes and Noble isn’t going to put your paperback up for sale online or in stores. It’s more like an alternative to Lulu.

I fed Castle Falcon into the system to see what I would get. Like Lulu and Createspace, you upload PDF files for interiors and covers.

The purchase price is lower than for Lulu books. My hardcover dust jacket version would cost me $16.42 at Nook versus $22.55 for the Lulu version. A Nook casewrap version is $14.92 versus $19.55 at Lulu. A Nook Press 9×6 paperback is about $10.00, compared to $6.80 if I order a copy of my Createspace version, so they don’t beat Amazon’s price for author orders. They barely beat Amazon’s $11.69 retail price. There don’t seem to be any quantity discounts.

I don’t know what the binding and printing quality for the Nook version would be. My main complaint so far is that the Nook cover creator is primitive compared to the options available for cover creation at Lulu or Createspace.

Nook lets you upload a front and back cover PDF image. That’s it. For dust jacket covers, front and back flaps are plain white. Nothing else. You get to pick a spine color: black, white, or tan. Spine text is in a font of their choosing (see my Nook Press cover below).

Nook_Cover_Castle Falcon_Casebound_200dpi

Check out that elegant spine art. Not sure where that white rectangle under the barcode came from either.

On the other hand, Lulu and Createspace have several methods for making covers ranging from easy-to-use online template options all the way up to advanced single-image options where I can upload one image, an actual layout that wraps all the way around the book, flaps and all (see my Lulu dust jacket below). The latter is a pain to create in Photoshop, requiring careful attention to size and positions, but at least I control everything and the spine looks like it belongs to the cover.

Cover_Castle_Falcon_11.0_HC

It’s possible the Nook POD system will improve. It’s cheaper than Lulu, but I won’t be using it unless I can bring things like covers and fonts up to my standards.

“Making a living from writing books: what works, what doesn’t”

Good article by Emma Darwin on what it takes to make a living on your writing. “Item 1″ is something I noticed a couple of years ago: that many successful new authors, particularly self-published ones, are immensely prolific. They turn out book after book in a relatively short time, and while they might not all be literary masterpieces they are good enough to keep readers coming back. These books are often parts of a long story arc, or a series built around a familiar set of characters, which builds a large audience for the next book. A number of success stories in recent years involved authors who put up a series of stories online, drawing in repeat readers with cliffhangers and multiple stories about favorite characters. Then they moved into self-publishing, usually e-books, and started to make money at it. Again, they put out a lot of books. In some cases, their sales became robust enough to attract traditional publishing contracts. You’ve seen these authors online–the enthusiastic ones with ten or twenty “works in progress” and two or three ongoing series. In the Romance genre, they’re legion. Unfortunately, while this discovery impressed me enough to post a picture of Scheherazade next to my computer, I also realized I’m not very good at this kind of writing. Ah, well. scheherazade_4x6 (Thanks to Elen Caldecott for flagging this.)

Will O’ the Wisp

I have many shelves of graphic novels, surprisingly few of which came from DC or Marvel (to be fair, I’m not counting Vertigo as “DC.”)

A number of these are unusual, out-of-the-mainstream books I discovered browsing the shelves of my local comic store.

A recent acquisition was “Will O’ the Wisp,” by Tom Hammock and Megan Hutchison. The beautiful hardcover binding first got my attention in the store, with gold trim and an actual metal latch on the book.

The story is about Aurora Grimeon, a suddenly-orphaned girl who ends up with her grandfather in a Louisiana swamp filled with evil and magic. It’s well done, although the action is a bit hard to follow in a couple of places.

But it was the first page that pretty much made the sale for me:

Will O' the Wisp First Page_200dpi

E-book cover issues, continued

I complained in an earlier post how Ray Bradbury’s e-books were, in my opinion, badly treated as far as covers went.

I’m a fan of Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series. His latest book (Skin Game) just came out, so I picked up a new Dresden book in Kindle format for the first time. At the same time, there was an Amazon deal for the first seven Kindle books for $1.99 each, and what the heck, I snapped those up too.

Just for fun, before checking out the new book I started re-reading the series from the beginning, purchasing the remainder of the books as I went (not $1.99 each, unfortunately).

As with Bradbury’s books, most of the Kindle books had no cover at the beginning at all, just the title text and author. This was disappointing, as the Dresden series has some really nice covers on their hardbacks.

Oddly, three of the books did have actual illustrated covers. Blood Rites and Cold Days had the hardcover illustrations. Summer Knight had an illustration (not the standard hardcover one), but it was about the size of a postage stamp on my screen. This is a common Kindle graphic formatting error, but with a cover illustration it’s one you almost have to work at to screw up during the Kindle publishing process.

Come on, publishers! Your e-book designs reflect on your authors as much as the hardcovers in the store windows.

(For an example of a publisher that seems to have really worked hard on their e-books, check out the Harry Potter series, which you can only buy directly at the Pottermore website.)

 Dresden_Cold_Days

“Get the Scoop on Fair Image Usage”

I found this article very informative.

Check it out if you put a lot of images on your blog, or particularly if you use stock or “found” pictures to construct book covers or illustrations for self-published books.

Check out the rest of the Writers Helping Writers website, too.

Zorya (Writer’s Voice)

Query:

17-year-old Zorya lives on blood, is allergic to daylight, and can lift the front end of a car (well, a small car). But nobody in polite American society uses the “v” word—the PC term is “Nightwalker.”

Zorya’s ancestors called themselves the Oameni back in the old country. Not supernatural creatures, but an ancient race forced out of hiding fifty years ago. After a brief but bitter war, they made an uneasy peace and a place for themselves in the human “Daywalker” world.

Born long after the Wars, Zorya couldn’t care less about history. She’s a popular senior at her high school in the California Enclave, with good grades, the newest smartphone, and the latest clothes.

Now her easy life is about to drastically change. Her fascination with David, the only Daywalker in the school, results in her parents sending her away to her grandfather, an Oameni Elder living in a distant Idaho forest refuge.

There her grandfather teaches Zorya the secrets of her ancient heritage, skills she never needed in high school, and eventually the real reason for her exile.

When her new life at the refuge is threatened by a disturbed Oameni war veteran, Zorya decides her only option is to flee back to California on her own.

On the grueling trip, she deals with anti-Nightwalker terrorists, sunrises, the stalker on her trail, and her grandfather’s secret organization of peacekeepers that wants to recruit her to their cause. And then there’s David, turning up where she least expects him, to help her face a terrorist threat to the Enclave itself.

ZORYA is a YA SF novel, complete at 98,300 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

———————————

250 Words:

My name’s Zorya. Mother says I’m named after Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the Evening Star. That’s sort of cool.

There were fifteen of us in my classroom that fall—the entire high school senior class population of the Northern California Enclave. And then there was David. Named after David, I guess.

He wasn’t one of us. He was one of them.

I propped my arm on my desk and casually leaned my head on my hand, turning my face a bit to the right. That way, I could look at him without…looking like I was looking at him. Up at the front of the room Madame Stefonia was writing something on the whiteboard, so she probably wouldn’t notice right away that I wasn’t paying attention.

The moonlamps were turned up high so David could see well enough to read and write. Their eyes are really bad—I don’t think they can even see colors at night. On the other hand, I could see him just fine. Unlike me, he was watching the teacher and busily taking notes.

He was blonde, which in a room full of black hair made him stick out like a snowball on an asphalt road. He was almost a year older than me, almost a foot taller, and even skinnier. His eyes were dark brown, which was as weird around here as the blonde hair. His voice had a twinge of accent, Texas I think, and my God, the tan. It was only the third week of school and he hadn’t been here long enough to start losing it.

First lines and Fritz Leiber

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Michael Whelan

I saw a writing contest a short time ago where the first line of a book was submitted to see if it “hooked” anyone.

(The first lines of my three books aren’t that exciting, with the possible exception of Roger Mantis, but that’s just a slight alteration of the first line of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.)

Last week I started re-reading Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series (I like reading my old favorites). These books are mostly short stories, and I began noticing how great the first lines were.

Below the break, I’ll list the first lines from some of these short stories (and the second ones for good measure) under their associated collection titles.

* * *

Continue reading

EPUB progress

I had a number of kludge approaches to creating EPUB versions of my books (largely documented on my blog, particularly during 2012. Look under the “Self-Publishing” tag). Mostly, I was converting from Adobe InDesign to mobi with the Kindle InDesign plug-in converter, and from mobi to EPUB with the Calibre e-book management program.

The resulting files were good enough for many applications, but routinely failed the EPUB Validator check on a few issues.

After my Smashwords publishing experience, I began trying to perfect my technique for converting from Word files to EPUB. Unfortunately, outside of Smashwords, this still required an intermediate HTML step to make an EPUB file on Calibre, so I was still getting some bugs.

Now, Calibre has come up with an update that allows direct import of Word .docx files for conversion. When I combined this new tool with the techniques for building easy-to-convert Word documents that I learned from the Smashwords Style Guide, the result was a nice, clean EPUB file that passed validation with flying colors. And about frigging time, too.

This is all probably a big yawn for the HTML wizards out there who already do a great job by grinding through the actual code, but for code idiots like me, it was a godsend.

I’ve updated my buggy Nook file and sent it off to Nook Press.  Now I could probably do a direct upload for iBook too, and finally pass their strict checks, but I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble to chew through the whole Apple Author program and everything when I’ve already got iBook access through Smashwords.

As usual, a lot of the hassle for me was making sure the table of contents worked right, as well as the endnotes. Then there were annoying bugs like a missing blank line under one (and only one!) chapter heading, or two chapters that had no nice gap between the end of one chapter and the start of the next (chapter heading shows up in the middle of a page). This was all particularly bothersome since I had to submit the Word file to Smashwords and their “Meatgrinder” converter, and then make sure all the file types were readable. If all the formats worked except one (usually the mobi), I’d have to tweak the Word file and upload the whole thing again.

It’s much easier when I’m doing all the conversion work locally. I can debug before I send the final product out.