Your main character is a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon.
Your main character is a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon.
The people at Platinum:
The book cover I did, a Photoshop illustration designed for a hardcover wrap-around dust jacket with end flaps. The artwork was done with an ancient version of Accurender and an even older version of AutoCAD.
(All illustrations copyright of their respective artists)
Castle Falcon was approved by Smashwords for inclusion in their “premium catalog,” and has been shipped to six new markets so far, including Apple and Kobo. I “opted out” of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, where I already had the book set up. Again, not bad results for no fee and not much work.
The Apple version is up on iTunes already.
Allegiant, the latest book in the “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth, has been released this week. It’s the end of a popular trilogy. It’s riding right now at Number One on Amazon, and that’s all books, not just a specific category.
Please know that I have not yet read these books, so I have no opinions at all on this best-selling series. But what I did notice today was this:
Hopefully as more reviews come in that picture will look a bit better, but it’s apparent a lot of fans were disappointed, and many of them in the reviews mention the ending.
When you have a successful series, the pressure is on for each book to “top” the last one, or at least match it. Naturally, this tends to make the last book a lot more important than the early ones. Particularly the ending of the last book, where the author really has to wrap up the whole story and then kick it right through the center of the goalposts (apologies for mixing sports metaphors).
Me, I’m old-fashioned. My personal prejudice is toward happy endings, which may not be award-winning or “artistic” nowadays, but are still a lot more fun to read than certain “realistic” or “sophisticated” endings I could name. I like endings where the loose ends are tied up, and your favorite characters come out on top with happy and interesting times ahead that you’d love to stick around and see. If the author kicks the ending smack between the uprights, the readers will wish there was another book, but still be satisfied with what they have. This isn’t always easy.
In my opinion, the epilogue to the Harry Potter series got the kick right up the center from sixty yards out. A writer can do a lot worse than winding up a long and amazing story with “all was well.”
Okay, so there I was. Smashwords had simultaneously translated my book to multiple e-book formats and put it up on Smashwords for sale, and I discovered that all of the text in the book was bright blue. Not just text that’s okay in blue, like the links in the table of contents–everything.
Now when you publish at Smashwords, you get put up in the “new book” section on their main page, held up in front of all the rest–for about a minute or two. Forget “fifteen minutes of fame,” I had maybe ten, and my e-book was printed in blue ink.
If I fixed it, I could upload a new version immediately. But what was wrong? None of the styles I was using in the document said “blue color” on the font. It was the usual “automatic” for color, which for years has basically meant “black.”
I changed the font colors for all the main text styles I was using from “automatic” to “black,” trying to force it, and uploaded the file again. When the Meatgrinder translation came back, the text was still blue.
A frantic search through the Smashwords FAQ got me this question: “My entire book is in red font (or some other unintended color) in HTML, EPUB and MOBI. Why?” Their answer involved digging deep into the Style menus, to where the “all styles” list hangs out. I discovered there was a whole bunch of weird styles stuck in my document, many of which I wasn’t using at all.
One of these unused styles was “Body Text,” and the color was blue! I deleted it. I also deleted a red one just to be safe. This time when I uploaded the Word file and downloaded the e-book translations, the text was the proper black color. Whew.
Just another example of the infamous “Invisible Goofy,” my name for a setting or formatting glitch that never shows up in an original document, but causes havoc when you convert the file to another form or transmit it somewhere.
Minus ten points to Smashwords for making me fix this mess while my book was already ”live.” Although I understand why they do it that way, it’s like standing up on a billboard fixing a big typo while everyone’s down below looking up at you and taking pictures.
But, plus fifty points to Smashwords for some really robust customer support documentation. I found out all sorts of things about formatting Word for EPUB that I never knew before, and they seem to have answers for even the most obscure issues.
Castle Falcon is awaiting review for wider distribution to other markets, but I’ve already sold one copy off the Smashwords page. Since I didn’t have to pay a nickel to do all this, I’m already money ahead!
At the suggestion of a fellow writer, I decided to look into Smashwords to distribute Castle Falcon to some venues I don’t have yet (like iBook and Kobo).
The Smashwords site was simple enough. They have an e-book conversion engine they call ”Meatgrinder.” It translates a Word file (.doc, not .docx) into multiple versions, including EPUB, Mobi, LRF, PDP, and others.
The annoying catch is that you have to sign up with them to publish before they let you use it. I’d gotten used to being able to tweak my conversions at places like Amazon before actually tossing the book out there for publishing, so having the “conversion” and “publish” step be simultaneous was a little sporty for me. I’m guessing this is because Smashwords doesn’t like the idea of their fancy conversion engine being used to create all these nice e-book files and then have people download and run off with them.
The first step was creating a Word file that was formatted properly as input for Meatgrinder. This was new for me, because I’d used Adobe Indesign and special plug-ins to generate all my previous printed and e-book files. I won’t go into the details, but the free Smashwords Style Guide was immensely useful for someone who’d never created a Word e-book file before.
I spent an evening on the Word file, tested the hyperlinks for Table of Contents and Endnotes, grabbed a .JPG of my cover (a requirement), and then filled out the online form to sign up for Smashwords.
I uploaded the Word file and cover file, and watched as Meatgrinder did the translations in front of me. It was kind of cool to watch each file version in the list turn green and say “completed.” I was done, and published. All in one go.
There were a few more things to clean up. I priced the book the same as my Kindle and Nook versions. I added some information to my Author Page, like a bio, my website links, and a couple of other things. I went to the Channel Manager link on my Dashboard, and opted out of distribution to Amazon and Nook. I added an ISBN number, which is required for distribution to Apple and Sony (I still have a supply of my own, but Smashwords will supply one with them as publisher for free).
When things settled down, I downloaded samples of the various files from my new book page to put in my reader software and make sure everything worked. The formatting on EPUB and Mobi was just fine, except for one thing:
All the text through the whole damn book was blue.
Next time: Invisible Goofies and Blue Meanies.
I’ve done enough research into the history of best-sellers myself to confirm how much being in the right place, at the right time, with the right amount of luck, has to do with publishing success.
But before you sit back, get comfortable, and say “okay, so it’s not in my lap, it’s in somebody else’s,” remember this: it doesn’t mean you can get away with making your “Secret Ingredient Soup” out of crap.
You still need to write a good book.
Waiting for lightning to strike (pardon the metaphor jump) works better if you’re on the top of the hill to start with.