The joy of anthologies

I’ve been picking up some Kindle anthologies that were recommended to me based on one of my favorite authors being a contributor.

One plus, of course, is that I usually get a new short story by a favorite author. This is particularly nice since my favorite authors can’t seem to turn out the number of books I need to handle my reading requirements.

What do you mean, a new novel every month is unrealistic? I have quite a few favorite authors to pick up the load, so it’s not like they’d have to write one every four days or something!

Another plus is that I get introduced to writers who can become new favorite authors. I’m kind of fussy about my reading tastes, but it’s happened more than once.

There’s nothing like finding a new author in an anthology (or anywhere) and discovering they’ve written a whole pile of books. It’s like fishing for change in a couch and finding a hundred-dollar bill. It’s particularly great if they have one or two completed series, and you can binge-read it like a Netflix show.

Thank God I discovered Tolkien long after all three books of Lord of the Rings had been published. It was almost a year between the last two books. Imagine closing The Two Towers back then on “Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.” The wait probably would have killed me.

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.

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

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.

 

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.

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.

Kindle Matchbook

Okay, maybe the name is just a little off, but the idea is good.

If you have a paper book published through Amazon’s Createspace and a Kindle version as well, you can offer an automatic discount on your Kindle version to someone who buys the paper version.

Details here.

To set it up, go to your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) site.

  1. Select your Kindle book title on your Bookshelf, go to the “Rights and Pricing” section, and check the “Enroll” box for Kindle MatchBook.
  2. Set the discount for your book by choosing a promotional list price from the options given.
  3. Save your Kindle MatchBook preferences.

As far as I can see (I could be wrong) books published by conventional publishers don’t seem to be eligible. But those publishers usually set the Kindle prices anyway.

Kindle Direct Publishing launches beta of cover creation tool

Article at “The Digital Reader.”

One of the hardest parts of self-publishing is generating a good cover, either for paper books or digital ones. Places like Createspace and Lulu, among others, already have “cover wizards.”

You can certainly get a workable cover out of these “wizards,” but in my opinion it’s worth the effort to learn how to generate the artwork yourself, or at least hire it done. For one thing, there may be rights issues involved in reusing a cover created by a particular format’s “wizard” for another format. For another, you’re never going to get as much originality from a “wizard” as you can from real artwork.

Artwork for paper books, using the “one piece cover” art method, is hard to lay out. A one-piece cover is what you get by basically flattening the book out, or in the case of a book with a dust jacket, by removing the dust jacket and flattening it out. It’s easy to see that lining up the spine, end papers, and everything else can be tricky. Even changing the number of pages can affect this kind of cover design as the spine area gets larger or smaller.

Cover artwork for Kindle (or other e-books) is much simpler. It’s just a single JPG picture with art and title text. Last time I checked, preferred sizing for Kindle covers was 1563 pixels on the short side and 2500 pixels on the long side.

If you’re planning to do a lot of this kind of thing, it may be worth it to invest the time and money in learning Photoshop, InDesign, or other professional publication software. Adobe’s “Creative Suite” isn’t cheap, but it could be a good investment.