Kindle’s Direct Publishing’s new paperback option

Up until now, self-publishers who went with Amazon usually used Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to produce Kindle books, and Createspace to produce paperbacks.

I did this with Castle Falcon, and it worked quite well.

Now Amazon is pushing an option to produce a paperback from the KDP interface, bypassing Createspace.

I’m quite happy with my Createspace edition, and too many of the KDP paperback features fall under the “not yet” category. That, and I never, ever, use the “beta” version of anything. I think it’s likely that Amazon will eventually phase out Createspace in favor of an integrated e-book/paperback KDP, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

Sending an updated Kindle edition to previous customers

I created a new edition of my book, Castle Falcon, including a new map. While updating the book was simple enough in both Kindle and Createspace, I was hoping I could convince Amazon to provide free updates of the improved book to previous Kindle purchasers.

Guess not. From their Help section:

“Some examples of corrections that don’t justify sending updates to customers who previously purchased your book are:

•   New Content Added: Chapter(s) or page(s) added, deleted or revised; new images added; bonus chapter added.”

Oh, well.

For the record, there is a list of changes that do justify an update to Kindle customers at Amazon’s help site.  Mostly they involve major mistakes.

Switching to a new edition on my book’s Amazon page

After I officially published the new edition of Castle Falcon (under the new Golden Spider Books imprint), there were two paperback editions for sale at Amazon.

With some excellent guidance from Createspace support, I managed to gently ease the old edition off the book’s page at Amazon.

The first step was going to the Createspace production site, and my dashboard there. I opened the old edition up, and went to Channels (under Distribution). There I just unselected all the channels, and the old book went off sale.

A request to Createspace support then “retired” the old edition. Everything on the page survived the switch, and it was basically effortless.

tableset

The old edition still survives under the surface: if you click on “all 3 formats” on the book’s Amazon page, the Kindle and new paperback edition come up. Opening a dropdown under “paperback” shows the May 2012 edition, still available as a used book from four vendors. That’s okay by me.

For a short time after the switch, when I did a general title search, the Kindle and old paperback popped up, but that got fixed. Only thing I’m waiting for now is for the preview to update. I’ll keep an eye on the Amazon book page to make sure everything stays sorted out.

Self-publishing: creating your own publishing company

After having had my book Castle Falcon on the market for a few years, I decided it might look a bit better if it had a company as the publisher instead of just me.

Of course, this doesn’t make any real difference in how things get done, but I think that a book gets taken just a bit more seriously if there’s an imprint on the copyright page. Okay, maybe not, but I still thought it would look better.

I’d picked the publishing name a while ago. In Castle Falcon, a major character is Aurachne (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose), the Golden Spider. She loves reading. So the company would be Golden Spider Books.

I whipped up an icon, which was a lot of fun:

Spider_Icon_Text

The hard part was finding a 3D spider model online that was stylistic enough to not look creepy. As it is, I still had to delete the mandibles.

Then the work part:

Step One was creating the company. How you do this depends a bit on where you live, but here in California, you have to set up a “DBA” (Doing Business As). There’s a form to fill out for your county, and a small fee to pay to get registered. You also have to pay to get an announcement in the business section of your local paper. That’s pretty much it as far as I know, at least to get started.

Step Two was to go to Bowker, where I’d originally purchased my ISBN numbers for my various editions. I was pleased to find out that I could simply transfer my existing ISBN numbers to Golden Spider Books by request, and not have to buy a whole new set.

Step Three was going through my various editions and updating the copyright page and covers to add the new imprint and logo. Since I didn’t have to republish most of them under new ISBNs, this mostly involved updating the interiors for e-books and Lulu editions, and updating the cover image file (Createspace version below) for the latter.

Cover_Castle_Falcon_12.0_GSB_Createspace_200dpi

The Createspace edition was a bit more difficult. When I originally published at Createspace, I just ran it through using Createspace as the publisher, where they provide their own ISBN number and add their barcode box to the cover image. Most people do it this way, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

To replace this with my own imprint and ISBN number required me to create an actual new edition, a second Createspace publication. I had no problems with this, updating the interior and cover (including logo and new ISBN barcode). I’m currently waiting on a proof copy of the new version. The only visible difference is the logo on the cover and some copyright text. I also added an “about the author” page at the end.

The real trick will be shoehorning the new Createspace edition into my Amazon setup and still retaining all my links, access to my five hard-won reviews, and other information. Particularly since I probably have to take the first edition off the market. More on this later (I hope).

 

 

 

Some of the people I wish had done my book cover instead of me.

Michael Whelan:

Dragonsbane by Michael Whelan

________________________________

Mark Ferrari:

Last Light on Atlantis by Mark Ferrari

________________________________

The people at Platinum:

null

________________________________

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.

Castle Falcon Cover, dust jacket by Tom Alan Brosz

(All illustrations copyright of their respective artists)

Smashwords update

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.

Smashwords: Invisible Goofies and Blue Meanies

(Part One in previous post)

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!

Invisible Goofy and Blue Meanie

And now, Smashwords

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.

“Pitch Madness” again

The latest Pitch Madness contest opened a little while ago, and it’s on until midnight Eastern on the night of the 24th.  Details at Brenda Drake’s blog.

I pitched Zorya again, but just for fun I did a test pitch for Castle Falcon. It’s not eligible for the contest, so I didn’t enter it, but here it is, a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words:

Tom Alan Brosz
CASTLE FALCON
YA Fantasy
Word count: 145,000

Pitch:

Two modern children exploring their ancient and mysterious castle home discover frightening secrets about their father’s history, along with strange creatures and dark forces that could be unleashed onto the world.

Excerpt:

Once upon a time, there was an immense castle crouched near the base of a range of low, heavily-wooded mountains.

This was no elegant fairy-tale castle with flag-topped towers spiking into the sky. It was vast and sprawling, with massive turreted outer walls built of gigantic blocks of roughly-hewn stone, black with the patina of centuries and crusted with moss and lichens. Within those walls the castle’s grounds were covered with mansions, halls, outbuildings and scattered ruins, laid out in a maze with no pattern or architectural consistency. Inside these buildings were hundreds of rooms of all shapes and sizes. There were dark catacombs, airy parlors, hidden chambers, attics, quiet cloisters and expansive courtyards open to the sky. There were corridors and passages beyond counting, soaring stone buttresses, and worn slate roofs with brooding and broken gargoyles perched on their edges.

Two children had lived in this castle all their lives, and they loved their ancient home even more than they loved video games.

Katie Falcon and her brother Zach simply called it “the Castle.” In nearby Monte Vista, an isolated small town in the American Northwest, people called it “Castle Falcon” when they were talking to tourists but sometimes called it “The Wizard’s Place” when they were quietly talking to each other.

It was the first really warm day of spring. Katie, who was almost fourteen and eager to be sixteen, had kicked off her tennis shoes and was curled up in a nest of pillows on the cushioned platform of the big bay window in her room.