Archive for category Computers & Technical

Four Lessons in E-Publishing by Emma Jordan

Emma Jordan got in touch with me recently after using Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners to publish her first e-book, 119 Style Boosts from the Size15Stylist119 Style Boosts

Emma runs the fashion/shopping blog Size15Stylist and I asked her to share with us the lessons she learnt during her e-publishing experience.

This is what she told me:

Lesson One – Format
Keep it clean; don’t worry about tables and images, unless they are really necessary. There are books to help if you want to incorporate images and tables (Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide; Steve Scott’s Kindle Publishing Package) but when you are converting your Word document to HTML (web page) to upload to Amazon, a lot of your formatting will be lost. To emphasise your points, use different font headings and use spacing well. Amazon Author Natalie Penna uses spaces beautifully in her YA novels, encouraging readers to read on.

Or, put simply:

An e-book screen is smaller than a paperback.

You don’t want to read too many chunks of texts.

It halts your story.

Spaces keep the reader reading.

 
Lesson Two – Front cover
I spent precious writing and editing time searching for a cover (and trying to get my head around rights’ issues) and even tried to create a front cover on Publisher software; silly me. Sally rightly points out that Amazon’s Cover Creator offers thousands of options and I created my front cover, for free, in less than a few minutes.

Lesson Three – Triangul-edit
I detest editing, although I realise this is how you shape your words to reach your readers. I am always more motivated to write during the planning stages; coffee, computer, no deadlines. I learned how to reduce the editing process so that it’s manageable and now triangul-edit:
1 – Content (do I have enough words, and are my words explained?)
2 – Grammar (can I say my words better in another way?)
3 – Typos and Format (has spell check picked up a wrong word? Are there problems with spacing?)

My ebooks so far have been around 10,000 words (a novel is around 80k, depending on author) so when I have accumulated around 30 pages of single space text then I start to edit. I head for the nearest coffee shop with my print out and trusty pencil-case.

Lesson Four – Technically, you’ll be okay
I put off self-publishing for years, because I just didn’t know if I was technical enough. But I bumped into Sally’s book, Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners and after I read the book a few times, I realised the technical details were within my capabilities. On publishing day (pyjamas and no distractions), Sally’s book sat by my laptop, so I could refer to common sense during the uploading process.

When it comes to converting your Word doc to a web (html) doc, as per Amazon’s requirements, you cannot check formatting enough – after 10 saved web documents on my hard drive, I still discovered a wayward additional space in the final Amazon published version. Note: delete each copy of the web document as you amend, and save under a new name if necessary – you don’t want 10 copies of a web doc lurking near the upload button.

The paramount wisdom I unearthed – You are Your words. Do not rush your self-publishing journey in a hurry to see your name listed as an Amazon author. And, pressing the (self)Publish button is only the start of your journey. You are also your own Marketing department.

 
Author Biography
Emma Jordan is a freelance writer and creator of the Size15Stylist blog.Emma Jordan

When she’s not blogging or writing, or entertaining her toddler-daughter, she can be found undertaking research in the shops.

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Proofreading and How to Send Documents to the Kindle

Does anyone else use their Kindle for proofreading?

I find this very helpful if I’m writing something longer than just an ordinary short story. It means I don’t have to sit staring at my computer screen for ages whilst I work my way through the whole manuscript and nor do I use large amounts of paper and ink printing the thing off time and time again (although I do use this method when I think I’m almost there).

Proofreading on the Kindle means I can curl up in an armchair with a mug of coffee and pretend I’m reading a ‘proper’ book. I find it lets me judge my writing in a different way and I’m less likely to skip over words.

The disadvantage is that I can’t edit as I go along and I can’t scribble and cross things out either. But depending on what stage you’re at, this can be a good thing because it forces you to read the whole manuscript from beginning to end without wasting time trying to perfect a single sentence. This makes it easier to see the whole story arc and judge whether or not it works.

But in order to be able to proofread in this way, the manuscript needs to be sent from PC to Kindle. There are a couple of ways this can be done. You can either email the document to the Kindle (yes, every Kindle has its own email address!) or plug the Kindle into the PC and ‘drag and drop’ the file across.

There are detailed instructions on how to use both of these methods over on Molly Greene’s Blog so I won’t repeat it all again here. In her post Molly doesn’t specifically mention that Word documents can be sent in this way but I know from experience that they can and there are comments at the end of the post which confirm this. Molly also gives some instructions for the iPad too (I’m not lucky enough to own one of those).

This method of sending stuff to the Kindle can also be used for PDF documents – but I’ve never worked out how to increase the font size of a PDF when it’s on the Kindle and so end up having to use my reading glasses.

And it’s useful to be able to transfer files in this way if you’re ever asked to beta read someone’s work before publication or if you get sent an early review copy.

Please do let me know if you’ve got any proofreading tips or experience of sending stuff to the Kindle.

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GeoRiot

GeoRiot is a free tool that may be useful to those of you who are marketing Amazon Kindle e-books.

I’m going to explain it simply because not everyone will be familiar with the basic concepts.

Amazon stores are country specific i.e. those of us living in Britain shop through Amazon.co.uk, those in the US buy through Amazon.com and there are also geographic specific sites for France, India, Germany and many more.

Most e-book marketing is global via the internet, using blog posts, Facebook, newsletters, paid-for adverts etc. Authors using these methods will endeavour to provide readers with a direct link to the Amazon page for the e-book being promoted.

However, unless the author provides the individual link for each geographical Amazon site, there will be users somewhere in the world who don’t reach their ‘home’ Amazon site and, if they want to buy the book, will have to navigate there by themselves. Many of them won’t bother. When the link provided doesn’t take them where they want to go, they’ll click on to something else instead.

But it looks clumsy and messy to list around a dozen Amazon links every time you mention your book on the web.

GeoRiot creates a single web address for an Amazon product. This address will always take the user directly to his ‘home’ Amazon site. If the link is clicked in the UK then it will route the user to Amazon.co.uk, if the link is clicked in the US then it will route the user to Amazon.com and so on.

Here’s an example. When advertising Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners I could list each geographical link:

For buyers in the UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kindle-Direct-Publishing-Absolute-Beginners-ebook/dp/B00IJFG1W4/

For buyers in the US: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Direct-Publishing-Absolute-Beginners-ebook/dp/B00IJFG1W4/

For buyers in Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/Kindle-Direct-Publishing-Absolute-Beginners-ebook/dp/B00IJFG1W4/

etc. etc.

Or I can use just one global link provided by GeoRiot:  http://georiot.co/40oj

I think it looks much more professional to provide a single link.

GeoRiot provide this service for free unless you are an Amazon affiliate and then they take a small percentage of your affiliate earnings. For more details on how this payment system works see the GeoRiot website and Nick Daws’ comprehensive blog post where he goes into this and the mechanics of GeoRiot in much more detail than I have.

That’s it – I hope I haven’t blinded any of you with science!

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E-Publishing with Kobo Writing Life

This week I’ve done something I’ve been meaning to do for months – I’ve finally branched out to another e-book platform. Old Friends - 13 Coffee Break Stories

Old Friends – 13 Coffee Break Stories is now available on Kobo as well as Amazon Kindle.

This collection is my Kindle ‘best seller’ and hasn’t been enrolled in KDP Select for a long time meaning I’m free to publish it elsewhere.

So, how did I find the Kobo publishing process?

The hardest part was creating a Kobo login ID to allow me to start the process.
If the email address entered into Kobo is registered to a Facebook account then Kobo requires you to login with your Facebook credentials. I didn’t want to do this and went round in circles until I discovered that the only way to keep my Kobo and Facebook accounts separate was to login to Kobo initially with my Facebook account and then, within the Kobo ‘My Account’ page, un-link Facebook from my Kobo account.

Complicated or what?!

Kobo accepts manuscripts in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word .doc and .docx, and then converts them to .epub. Initially I uploaded my manuscript as .docx but when I checked the finished product using the Kobo previewer (which isn’t as good as the Kindle one) the line spacing seemed very wide.

So, I downloaded the free conversion software Calibre and converted my .docx file to e.pub. Then I uploaded the .epub file to Kobo and the result looked much better.

This all sounds very complicated and technical – but it’s not! There is a guide available on the Kobo website full of tips about how to format your Word document to ensure the best results. I used the same manuscript that I’d formatted for Kindle according to the instructions in Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide  and, once I’d discovered Calibre, had no further problems.

Having said that, if anyone downloads the Kobo version and finds the formatting isn’t up to scratch – please let me know!

Next, I have to work out how everything works on the Kobo site …

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eBookSoda and the AsparaWriting Festival

This week I’ve got a couple of writing-related things that might interest you.

FirstlyeBookSoda is an e-book promotion newsletter sent daily, and free of charge, to readers’ inboxes.  Until March 26th 2014 it is FREE to advertise your e-book in the newsletter. After this date there will be a $5 cost to have an e-book mentioned in the newsletter.

So why not get your skates on and click here to get a bit of free publicity for your book? The book doesn’t have to be on a discounted or free special offer (although many of them are) – it must just be $4.99 or less and have at least eight reviews with an average star rating of 3.5.

Alternatively, if you simply want to hear about the e-books available (many of which are on special offer) sign up for the eBookSoda free newsletter.

Secondly, crime novelist Judith Cutler has brought the AsparaWriting Festival to my attention. It is specifically designed for aspiring writers. During the event you can learn from the professionals about writing crime, history, comic or straight fiction and poetry. There are events scheduled from 23rd April 2014 to 21st June 2014 in the Evesham area.

There’s also a short story competition with a £100 first prize and a trophy. The story should be no more than 6,000 words (3,000 for junior entries), written in English, set in the Vale of Evesham or the Cotswolds, should fit into the crime genre and include asparagus. But you’ll have to start writing now – the closing date is March 29th 2014.

Happy Writing!

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Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners

As most of you will be aware by now, I am very interested in e-publishing and have been building my own Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginnerse-publishing empire(!) for the last twelve months. I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge along the way and have also had many people say to me that they wished they were ‘technical’ enough to do the same.

A couple of months ago Helen Yendall asked if I would talk about e-books and e-publishing to the writing class that she tutors at Moreton-in-Marsh. Whilst sorting out what I might say, quaking in my boots and being glad that I made the effort to join Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ Club, I realised that I had enough material to write a short e-book for beginners who want to publish their first e-book via Amazon KDP.

And so Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners was born.

It starts with the definition of an e-book and moves on through topics such as choosing what to write (if you don’t have a manuscript ‘ready to go’), how to get your book cover, basic marketing and much much more.

Once I’d finished, I followed my own advice and found a beta reader who matched my target audience i.e. a writer who is contemplating e-publishing for the first time. Peter Hinchliffe is an ex-journalist and news editor who has also completed a novel. He gave my manuscript a big thumbs up and said in his review, “This book shares the skills needed in a detailed, easy-to-follow way. It could be the most rewarding book you ever buy.”

The launch of Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners took place yesterday, following my talk to the lovely writers of Moreton-in-Marsh. There was Bucks Fizz, chocolate cake, coffee and one of the writers celebrated her new grandchild by providing cream cakes for the class – so no one went home hungry! It was really nice to be able to involve other people in the launch instead of doing everything virtually.

So, if you’ve ever fancied seeing your work for sale on Amazon, go and take a look at Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners – it might help you on your way!

KDP for Absolute Beginners Book Launch

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A First Birthday

One year ago this week I published my first short story collection, One Day For Me, on Amazon Kindle.One Day For Me

The book has amassed some great reviews on Amazon and Lee Ashford of Readers’ Favorite said, “Sally Jenkins knows how to build a story. She takes the mundane, and makes it intriguing. She hooks the reader, and reels him in. She proves her talent in each of these eight short stories, making this collection one you will be glad you read.”

Since publication lots of things have happened in my life including a health scare (early stage breast cancer – make sure you go for those mammograms, ladies!) and a complete upheaval in my day job (I was transferred from one company to another under TUPE legislation – don’t ask, it’s complicated!).

I’ve also learned a few things during the past twelve months, such as a book of short stories, all written by the same person is a collection. But a book of short stories, all written by different people is an anthology.
Am I the only person who didn’t know that?

I’ve discovered that I’m not much good at book cover design and also that writing stories is much easier than marketing them! But over the last few months Amazon KDP have introduced a couple of features that make both of these difficult tasks a little bit easier:

  • Amazon Cover Creator, which I’ve talked about previously here, makes it very easy for anyone to create an eye-catching cover for a Kindle book
  • Kindle Countdown Deals which allow authors to discount the price of books for a limited period

So, to celebrate the first birthday of One Day For Me, it will be half-price (99p) from now until Saturday 25th January.

And those of you in the US can buy One Day For Me for only 99c until 12pm (PST) on Wednesday 22nd January and then at $1.99 until Saturday 25th January.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Kindle Countdown Deals 2 & ‘A Place to Call Home’

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I promoted my non-fiction e-book A Writer on Writing – Advice to Make You a Success using the new KDP Select sales tool – Kindle Countdown Deals. A Writer On WritingIt was reduced from £1.99 to 99p for 7 days.

I thought I’d let you know how I got on.

During the promotion period I sold 20 copies in the UK but 1 was later refunded (Kindle books can be refunded if the request is made within 7 days of the original purchase – Amazon then automatically remove the book from your device). I sold 3 copies in the US where the discount was also running and 1 copy in Australia at full price (Kindle Countdown Deals only apply to the US and the UK).

In the week after the promotion period I sold 2 copies in the UK at full price and received 1 new review. I sold none anywhere else.

So I won’t be booking that Caribbean cruise just yet but I might manage to treat myself to a Salted Caramel Latte in Costa (I’m rather partial to them when they appear on the Christmas menu!).

But, all things considered, I’m fairly happy with the result because I didn’t spend much time promoting the Deal apart from here and on a couple of forums and a lot of the people I reached in this way would probably already have the book from earlier, free, promotions. Also, thanks to those people that gave me a shout-out!

It’s definitely a tool I’d consider using again sometime in the future. Psychologically, it feels better than giving books away for free but I think the free promo still has it’s place for cheaper books and as a method of giving a new book an initial ‘lift’.

On another subject, I’ve just finished reading my advance copy of Carole Matthews new book – ‘A Place to Call Home’. The story brings together 4 injured souls who are all hurting in different ways. Over the course of a summer they bond together and help each other to heal. It’s an easy to read, ‘feel good’ novel – just the thing if you’re fed up of these long dark days of winter. It will be published on Jan 9th 2014 but is available for Amazon pre-order now in hardback and e-book format.

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Amazon’s Kindle Cover Creator

In preparation for my next e-book release, I’ve been playing with Amazon’s Cover Creator.

This can be found within the Kindle Direct Publishing process, at the point where you would normally upload a cover that you’ve created elsewhere.

Designing with Cover Creator is far, far easier than trying to do it with GIMP or any other such design software (unless you happen to be an expert – which I am definitely not!).

There are only three steps:

  1. Choose Design – select an image from those available within Cover Creator or upload an image of your own.
    There is a reasonable selection of images available and they are split into sections such as Animals, People, Architecture, Food and Drink etc. I found a picture which I felt was a reasonable likeness to the heroine in my tale.
  2. Style and Edit – select the layout, colour scheme and font.
    There are a limited number of each of these. The layout dictates whereabouts on the cover the title, subtitle and author name will appear. Colour scheme and font are self-explanatory.
  3. Preview – see how your design will look in the Amazon store.
    This is the only part of the process that caused me problems. When I tried to Preview I kept getting the message, ‘Cover Creator has encountered an error. We recommend you refresh your browser.’ So I contacted Amazon. They suggested that I use Firefox as my browser instead of Internet Explorer. This worked but first I had to delete everything I’d already done in Internet Explorer and start again.

At any point in  the Cover Creator design process you can save the cover and come back to finish it later. And you can design in Cover Creator before your book is ready to be uploaded.

Inevitably there are some disadvantages to Cover Creator, the principle two being:

  • The limited number of variables available (i.e. images, layouts, colour schemes etc.) However, I would guess that Cover Creator would become much more difficult to use were there to be an infinite choice. Just be prepared for someone to have a similar cover to yours!
  • Covers created within Cover Creator cannot be used outside of Amazon. So if you intend selling on other platforms, source your cover elsewhere. Initially, my next book will be exclusive to Amazon so I’m not going to worry about this at the moment.

Here is a sneak preview of my proposed cover design. Any comments gratefully received!

Maxine's Story

To put my design in context – this book is intended to be the first in a series of stories (each around 8,000 words long), all of which will be set in The Museum of Fractured Lives. Each e-book will feature a different donor to the museum and tell the story of the object they are donating. Maxine is the heroine of the first book.

It was loosely inspired by The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb which I told you about here. However, I should emphasise that everything in the book is totally fictional. I have never visited the museum.

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Getting to Grips with E-Publishing 3

After all the wonderful advice I got on my previous post about cover design, I thought I’d got thingsA Writer On Writing under control in that department. But my attempt at a cover for my third book was so abysmal that I daren’t even show it to you here. Compared with similar books already on Amazon it looked very basic and most definitely amateurish.

I think this is because the book is non-fiction and therefore requires a very business-like cover to get anywhere near competing with the hundreds of other books on the same subject.

So I decided to call in the professionals. I used the website Fiverr. This site features hundreds (or maybe thousands even) of sellers offering their services for just $5. The range of services is vast from personalised greetings cards, translations and bespoke bedtime stories. But there are also lots of e-book cover designers on there too.

I picked one of the top-rated designers (like on EBay, buyers have to leave feedback on the service they received) and told her the title of the book, what it was about and a brief suggestion about the type of image that might be suitable (it is also possible to send the designer a specific photo if you have one that you want to include on the cover).

Two days later my cover design was delivered and you can see it on this post. It’s much better than I could produce. I’ve borrowed the title from a ‘column’ on the Open Writing  website which runs an extract from this blog each week (the site includes lots of other writing from around the world, too).

A Writer on Writing is a compilation of 14 of my articles that have appeared in the UK writing press, such as Writing Magazine & Writers News, The New Writer, Writers’ Forum and Freelance Market News. They cover subjects as diverse as generating ideas, writing articles with an anniversary ‘hook’ and flash fiction.

As I did with my other books, I have set an introductory price of 77p – with a view to increasing it when I see how sales go. Setting the perfect price point to encourage buyers without devaluing the work involved in producing a book is very difficult. 77p is the lowest price point available to independent authors.

Click here to see the book on Amazon UK and here to see the book on Amazon COM. It’s also available on all other Amazon sites by searching for ASIN: B00C0GBRS6 or by title and author.

I’ll keep you posted on how my e-publishing empire is growing (or not as the case may be!).

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