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.

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).

 

 

 

Nook’s new POD service

Nook Press has come out with a Print-On-Demand (POD) service.

Note that this isn’t like Amazon’s Createspace — Barnes and Noble isn’t going to put your paperback up for sale online or in stores. It’s more like an alternative to Lulu.

I fed Castle Falcon into the system to see what I would get. Like Lulu and Createspace, you upload PDF files for interiors and covers.

The purchase price is lower than for Lulu books. My hardcover dust jacket version would cost me $16.42 at Nook versus $22.55 for the Lulu version. A Nook casewrap version is $14.92 versus $19.55 at Lulu. A Nook Press 9×6 paperback is about $10.00, compared to $6.80 if I order a copy of my Createspace version, so they don’t beat Amazon’s price for author orders. They barely beat Amazon’s $11.69 retail price. There don’t seem to be any quantity discounts.

I don’t know what the binding and printing quality for the Nook version would be. My main complaint so far is that the Nook cover creator is primitive compared to the options available for cover creation at Lulu or Createspace.

Nook lets you upload a front and back cover PDF image. That’s it. For dust jacket covers, front and back flaps are plain white. Nothing else. You get to pick a spine color: black, white, or tan. Spine text is in a font of their choosing (see my Nook Press cover below).

Nook_Cover_Castle Falcon_Casebound_200dpi

Check out that elegant spine art. Not sure where that white rectangle under the barcode came from either.

On the other hand, Lulu and Createspace have several methods for making covers ranging from easy-to-use online template options all the way up to advanced single-image options where I can upload one image, an actual layout that wraps all the way around the book, flaps and all (see my Lulu dust jacket below). The latter is a pain to create in Photoshop, requiring careful attention to size and positions, but at least I control everything and the spine looks like it belongs to the cover.

Cover_Castle_Falcon_11.0_HC

It’s possible the Nook POD system will improve. It’s cheaper than Lulu, but I won’t be using it unless I can bring things like covers and fonts up to my standards.

“Making a living from writing books: what works, what doesn’t”

Good article by Emma Darwin on what it takes to make a living on your writing. “Item 1” is something I noticed a couple of years ago: that many successful new authors, particularly self-published ones, are immensely prolific. They turn out book after book in a relatively short time, and while they might not all be literary masterpieces they are good enough to keep readers coming back. These books are often parts of a long story arc, or a series built around a familiar set of characters, which builds a large audience for the next book. A number of success stories in recent years involved authors who put up a series of stories online, drawing in repeat readers with cliffhangers and multiple stories about favorite characters. Then they moved into self-publishing, usually e-books, and started to make money at it. Again, they put out a lot of books. In some cases, their sales became robust enough to attract traditional publishing contracts. You’ve seen these authors online–the enthusiastic ones with ten or twenty “works in progress” and two or three ongoing series. In the Romance genre, they’re legion. Unfortunately, while this discovery impressed me enough to post a picture of Scheherazade next to my computer, I also realized I’m not very good at this kind of writing. Ah, well. scheherazade_4x6 (Thanks to Elen Caldecott for flagging this.)

“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.

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.

Author Nick Spalding’s top 10 self-publishing tips

BBC article here.

All of those ten things are excellent observations. I have some comments on a few of them:

2. Be yourself. It’s hard sometimes to watch other writers riding the current Big Wave while you’re paddling around on your board somewhere behind it. It’s easy to think that if you were only writing the kind of thing they’re writing, you’d be hanging ten right up there with them. The problem with that is, as Spalding says, if you’re not writing what you’re comfortable writing, it’s not going to be very good. In addition, the nature of publishing is that by the time you hack your version of the Current Big Wave out, that particular wave will most likely have already flattened out on the beach and soaked into the sand.

Write what works for you. You’ll know it, and so will readers. Who knows? Maybe the next Big Wave will be the one you start.

3. Find a muse. My wife reads all my stuff, sometimes dozens of times. She catches mistakes I miss, gives me advice, and most importantly, keeps me going when I would probably give up. She’s a much better Muse than the cheesy mythological one the other gods assigned me, and if I’m ever a successful writer, she’ll be a major reason for it.

4. Read On Writing by Stephen King. I heartily agree. It’s on my Kindle, and I have a hard copy somewhere too.

6. Remember that books aren’t burgers. Spalding is right, of course. Nobody should be burying their readers in crap. But that being said, almost all of the most successful self-published writers I’ve seen have a prodigious output. The key, of course, is the ability to produce good writing very fast. There are writers who can. I’m afraid I’m not one of them. A book a year would be prodigious output for me.

10. Read comic books. Well, yeah.

(Thanks to Neil Ansell for the link)

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.