Discovering an Author That Everybody Knew About (a continuing series)

Cover illustration for "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane"

I don’t have a good memory for names, even book authors, which is a terrible trait for a writer who hoped to get into the industry.

It was only a few years ago that I realized that the Father Brown mystery books (admittedly, I had only read one at that point) were written by the famous writer G. K. Chesterton. I only found this out after buying a Kindle edition of Chesterton’s complete works, and finally read the rest of the Father Brown stories and much more besides.

I was a lot older than I should have been when I discovered that Ray Bradbury (an author whose name is very familiar to me) wrote noir detective stories.

Today, I was looking at a post on Facebook from my writers’ group about a rabbit named Edward Tulane. I had never heard of this book before, which gives you some idea of my scholarship in this field. So I looked up the book, and then immediately looked up Kate DiCamillo. I found out that she had written Because of Winn Dixie, Flora and Ulysses, and The Tale of Despereaux, all of which I had heard of, along with The Magician’s Elephant, which I actually have tagged on Netflix to watch soon.

I imagine more professional writers know all this stuff, and have read almost every book in their field. I’ll never be that thorough–writing is my second job and probably always will be. But at least I can have the fun of discovering things even if I’m far from the first. I remember introducing someone to Terry Pratchett who had never read him before. I almost envied him the joy of treading that ground for the first time. And that was fun, too.

“Put that comic down. This isn’t a library.”

I grew up in places where the only comic books were in drugstores. The first comic book store in America wasn’t even founded until I was fourteen years old, and it was 2,000 miles away. I couldn’t afford to buy all the comics at the drugstore that I wanted to read, and the proprietor of the store took a dim view of my standing there and reading them.

“Put that back, son. This isn’t a library.”

Well, years later as an adult I had money for comic books, and even better, great comic stores near where I lived. They’d pull my favorites for me to pick up once a week, and didn’t care if I stood at the racks and read some without buying them. That’s progress.

But where I see real progress is that you can go into a public library today and they often have a set of shelves devoted to…yes, comic books!

Graphic novels, manga, you name it. And yes, you can check them out with your card! I would have given anything to have had this kind of thing years ago.

Yeah, kids, you don’t know how good you’ve got it nowadays. Now get off my lawn.

(Graphic novel collection at Kalamazoo Public Library)


Website sorcery

I use GoDaddy to host all my book websites. It’s not cheap, but it works, and it’s generally worth it when things go wrong.

GoDaddy sent me a notice that they were going to migrate to new servers, with a new DNS number, and that I should not have to do anything to keep things working.

Well, they migrated, and my sites stopped working. I had no idea why, and a crawl through GoDaddy’s controls left me as mystified as they always do. Got hold of text support (eventually), and the usual wizards came on board.

Between two of them, they fixed everything while I sat with folded hands. How? I don’t know. Something to do with alerting my security settings about the new DNS. I think it might have been something like “franniting the wheelstone.”

In any case, whatever else there is about my hosting service, the tech support has been the very best kind, i.e. people who will cheerfully and patiently fix things for you even though you yourself are cosmically ignorant about the tech involved.

“Zorya” available now!

Zorya is now available on Amazon in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover (casebound). I’ll be getting it into more e-book formats soon. See the Zorya website for purchase links.

This book has been marinating for a long time and was sent to many agents and editors. I’m grateful that self-publishing has gotten to be so much easier and inexpensive for authors, although the real hurdles (as always) are in marketing the book after you publish it. Still, I remember when “self-publishing” meant paying a printer, stacking boxes of books in your garage, and trying to figure out how to get them to the readers and stores.

All it’s cost me (so far) was some time, a few skills, and my computer. That may change now that I’m in the advertising zone. I notice, for example, that book giveaways on Goodreads aren’t free anymore.

I used Kindle Direct Publishing for all three Amazon editions. Paperbacks used to be a separate process on Amazon’s Createspace, and they didn’t have a hardcover option at all until recently, but now all three options are integrated into KDP.

The Kindle version was composed on Microsoft Word, and crunched into Epub3 by Calibre. I used the simple “iPod” cover I had generated in Photoshop for my old Lulu editions. The paper editions were composed in Adobe InDesign CS6 and uploaded as PDF files.

Now, we’ll see.

Book Goggles

I’m a voracious reader, the type who will read cereal boxes if nothing else is available. For me, the Kindle has been a godsend. Books are available at the touch of a button, and the bookstore is nearly infinite. Yeah, there’s something to holding and reading a real book. It feels and smells good, and it’s a work of art on its own.

But with a Kindle I can carry over a thousand books anywhere I go (it’s actually more if you consider the “Complete Works of…” collections I have that are listed as a single book).

I don’t have to hold the pages of a Kindle open with a weight while I’m eating, and if I’m eating ribs or something I can turn pages with my wrist. Also, the Kindle wipes off better if food gets on it. The new Paperwhites are waterproof now, have 32 GB of memory, and an illuminated screen for reading in bed.

The downside is that it’s so very easy to get a new book online. Imagine a regular bookstore where you can buy a book just by tapping it on the shelf. I’d have to bring a wheelbarrow.

And what do you do when your favorite authors aren’t turning out work fast enough? (Or are mostly dead, which is another issue). Then you have to give some new authors a try. With the Kindle online store, they will cheerfully shove large numbers of new works in front of you at every opportunity, with algorithms designed around your previous purchases and clicks. The free sample option makes things even easier. But how do you make the final selections?

In my younger days, there was a somewhat crude term called “Beer Goggles.” It’s when you go to a bar, looking for company, and the night wears on. After enough beers, and enough time, those sketchy-looking people you didn’t really want to approach when you walked in start looking a lot better.*

Same for online book buying. When you are really hard up for something new to read, and recent books from your favorite authors aren’t available, some of the lower tiers start looking a lot more interesting. You know … “Book Goggles.”

Hmmm…maybe this one about a leprechaun private detective would be okay. Or a garage that repairs flying saucers. Dragon romance? Sample looks acceptable. 99 cents? Okay, I’m there, man.

You can strike paydirt this way. The book turns out to be pretty good, and if you’re lucky, the first of an already-existing eight-book series. Or something pops up out of the blue. “What? Ray Bradbury wrote noir detective stories?”

And however your Book Goggle shopping turns out, it sure beats a cereal box.

* I didn’t go to bars when I was young, or drink beer, but I got the concept.

Zorya ready for publishing

After some years, and a lot of time trying to find a publisher for Zorya (my third book) I’m going to be publishing it myself under my Golden Spider Books imprint.

I’ve done the work on the files to put the book up on Amazon in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover version. I’ve got ISBNs from Golden Spider Books. Kindle Direct Publishing makes it easy to build files for all three options, and I have some experience from doing book files for another small publisher.

At this point, I’m waiting for proof copies from Amazon on the paper versions, and my wife is doing another readthrough on the Kindle version. After that, it’s just about pulling the trigger.

The Zorya website is still under construction, and I hope to have buying links up soon along with more content.

Amazon hardcover edition looking good

I got the first test version of my Amazon hardcover edition of Castle Falcon (discussed in the previous post) and I’m quite happy with it.

Lulu casebound on left, Amazon hardcover on right

It’s thicker than the earlier casebound Lulu version, and about a quarter pound heavier. I used cream paper, which looks better. I can sell it a bit cheaper than the Lulu version, too.

Kindle Direct Publishing adds a hardcover option (and it’s about time)

This week, Kindle Direct Publishing has started offering a hardcover (casebound style) option for their KDP paper publishing.

Up until now, KDP (and before that, Createspace) did not have any kind of hardcover option. I have been making gift and review copies of Castle Falcon using Lulu, which has good results but has been much too expensive for creating books for the regular children’s book market.