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.

Bradbury Kindle books: wonderful text and hack covers.

Steven Paul Leiva, a friend and colleague of Bradbury’s, comments here.

More “back of the bus” treatment of e-book backlists, I guess.

Particularly annoying to me was the scrapping of the Charles Addams cover for “From the Dust Returned.” Fortunately, there’s a nice hard copy on my shelf with the full front-to-back illustration.

Here’s the hard copy cover:

Charles Addams cover for print version of

And here’s the Kindle version:

Kindle cover for

Bleh.

As a Kindle user who would love to see many of my old shelf favorites on my Kindle as well, I wish I could say this was rare, but too many publishers (big companies, too) just hack out their backlist, assuming they bother at all. I’m not talking about obscure authors, either.

I wish I had a nickel for every e-book I have that was obviously shoved through a scanner/OCR process and put together quickly, apparently with no final proofreading. OCR typos are quite easy to spot.

This isn’t the worst example I’ve seen of a cheesy “make do” cover, either.

This half-assed approach is annoying–but at least understandable–for two or three dollar e-books created by amateurs (legally) from old authors in the public domain (Kipling and such.) I’m not sure what the excuse is for an author in print whose rights are still held by major companies.

I’ll take what I can get, and I understand that the backlist isn’t a major profit driver, but geeze.

 

“Kill your darlings”

“The advice to ‘kill your darlings’ has been attributed to various authors across the galaxies…and Mister Heist hated them all.

Why teach young writers to edit out whatever it is they feel most passionate about? Better to kill everything in their writing they DON’T love as much.

Until only the darlings remain.”

- Brian K. Vaughan, writer, in Saga #17

Oswald Heist

The late D. Oswald Heist, Author
(Illustration by Fiona Staples)

The 2013 Bulwer-Lytton winners

Listed by category.

As in earlier contests, I think a few of these are actually pretty good, especially if they hadn’t been forced into a single sentence. Might be one reason I’m having trouble selling books…

A few favorites:

Betty had eyes that said come here, lips that said kiss me, arms and torso that said hold me all night long, but the rest of her body said, “Fillet me, cover me in cornmeal, and fry me in peanut oil”; romance wasn’t easy for a mermaid.
- Jordan Kaderli, Dallas, TX

Martha Lessen broke horses – not in the same way she broke her mother’s good china, nor the way she broke the privy door out back of the bunkhouse, not even the way she broke the heart of Gunther Svenson, which, in that case, is quite surprising since one would think breaking a horse and breaking an ass would be quite similar.
- Kevin Fry, Callaway, MD

It was such a beautiful night; the bright moonlight illuminated the sky, the thick clouds floated leisurely by just above the silhouette of tall, majestic trees, and I was viewing it all from the front row seat of the bullet hole in my car trunk.
- Tonya Lavel, Barbados, West Indies

He had a way with women that was at first endearing, then gradually engendered caution and finally outright rejection, like potato salad at a summer picnic.
- Paul Sutcliffe, Pittsburgh, PA

Our tale begins with the encounter of two gentlemen; I’m going to describe the second gentleman first.
- Mark Donnelly, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

For some reason I really got a kick out of that last one.

Rick Riordan on publishing “connections”

“My point: no number of connections will get a bad first novel published.

“The flipside to this may seem radical: A good novel will find an outlet one way or another, whether you know someone or not.”

Read the rest of it here.

“So What’s the Secret Formula?

“There isn’t one. There is no shortcut or path to success that will circumvent years of hard work and uncertainty.”

(Thanks to Jennifer Malone for flagging this.)