Category Archives: Bookstore

Making a POD with Lightning Source: Holy crap…I got me a book!

The process of creating a POD version of Freedom Club continues to progress well.  After uploading my content PDFs for both the book’s interior and cover, I finally received my proof copy by UPS.

And the final result? You can see here:

It’s a perfect bound 5×8 trade paperback, perfectly square with soft cream paper. Just over 400 pages, it feels like a quality product. Lightning Source has done an outstanding job, and it sure does feel like I made the right choice using them for POD distribution.

I must say, seeing the book on real paper does give one a true sense of accomplishment. Now all I have to do is market the book, and get everyone to read the darn thing. That…will probably end of being a life long endeavor.

I am of course indebted to everyone at Hotspur Publishing who helped bring this to fruition. I’m certain my first book would have been a disaster if I’d gone it alone.

Stay tuned for more on my humble attempts at marketing.

Making a POD with Lightning Source: Submitting New Titles

The process of creating a POD version of Freedom Club has progressed very well.  After having my designer create PDFs for both the book’s interior and cover, it was fairly painless to upload the files, and request a proof copy. Cost of the Proof? $30

One thing I’d like to highlight is the Lightning Source customer website. It shows all the titles that have been submitted, and contains an instant link to on-line chat with their customer support team. Below is a screen capture of my chat with them. They were nice about confirming the status of my new submission and the next steps of the process. I must say, it was wonderful having their on-line chat– right there on the spot. All my questions were answered, taking a lot of worry out of the process.

Customer service website with full overview and on-line Chat. Very nice!

Another point worth mentioning is the fact that Lightning Source  is having a campaign, allowing me to set up new titles for free. Normally, it costs $75 to set up each book, but this fee is dropped if I order 50 copies. Since I needed promotional copies anyway, this was great timing!

So far, so good. I’ll keep writing as this process continues.

Making an eBook: Working with Smashwords

To complement my Amazon version of Freedom Club, I’ve created a Smashwords version that is now on sale. The main reason I’ve done this to increase the number of channels my book can be sold through. Namely, I want Freedom Club to be sold not only on Smashwords, but also through Apple’s iBooks and Barns and Noble dot com. There are more channels available, but from my point of view, these three are the big ones I wish to cover at minimum.

Like Amazon, Smashwords makes the “basic” process simple. You make an account, fill out a few fields of metadata, and then upload your book and cover via a Microsoft DOC file. What could be easier? Well, the process is deceptively complex, primarily because Smashwords claims to require “minimal formatting” requirements to make the book available via all participating channels. Now you may ask what that means? It means that the converted file formats (converted by Smashwords themselves) must pass their internal testing engine called EpubCheck. I’m not going to explain what technical magic it takes to pass this test. If you want to know about that, just search the interenet. There, you’ll find boatloads of people pulling the hair out of their heads trying to figure out why errors occur, even when they follow the Smashwords guidelines precisely.

To make a long story short, I simply used Amy Gilbert Design to format my book for me. Amy is (as far as I’m concerned) a goddess of ePub formatting and has figured out not only how to pass the dreaded EpubCheck-a-monster, but makes the books look very good after Smashwords conversion is finished. This is no small feat, I assure you.

Having avoided most formatting issues, the more positive side of Smashwords was available to me. They have a fairly reasonable royalty sharing scheme, the breakdown of which can be seen in the image I included above. There may be those who feel the amount paid is not worth it, but as an aggregator (a company which collects royalties from other channels and pays you one check) I think Smashwords’ royalty scheme is acceptable. In the end, they save me from having to upload my book to various channels, and monitor everything on my own. For this service, I’m happy to pay.

In the end, Smashwords seems like a good choice. However, I will hold back my final recommendation until I gather more experience with them. It’s not like I expect bad things to happen. But I live by the credo: hope for the best, but expect the worst.

Will keep you all posted.

Making a POD: Working with Lightning Source

I’ve begun the process of creating a POD version of Freedom Club. There are several choices on the market: LuLu, CreateSpace, LightningSource, and scores of others. However, based on the information I heard from other authors/indie publishers, it seems the best reviews I received were about Lightning Source. Thus I begin this process with them.

My publisher, Hotspur Publishing, is also looking into other sources for POD. CreateSpace is for sure a strong runner up. However, the quality of the books printed by Lightning Source are really something to behold. If it comes down to just printing quality, their output is perfectly square, printed on the finest bond paper, and are thinner than their competitors. I’m told the ability to create fairly thin books is due the superior quality of their POD press. At least, that’s what I heard from other Indie publishers in Australia.

The only comment I can make so far based on experience is the difficulty I’ve had setting up an account with Lightning Source. It started with an online submission, followed by an email that required I reply to it (same questions asked as on-line version), followed by another round of on-line questions, followed by PDF contacts and W-9 forms, followed by me signing it all and faxing them back. All done: yay!

The cumbersome process for initiating my account was annoying . However, in retrospect I’m thinking its how they avoid the flood of I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing self publishers out there. Another negative is the up-front set up fees required by Lightning Source. However, these amounts are not huge. Freedom Club will cost a little over $100 in total to set up (including the ISBN I had to buy), so it’s not an amount I would complain about.

With the account setup and ISBN in place, now all I have to do is get my content in order. For that I’m once again relying on Amy Gilbert Design. She worked wonders on my eBook versions, and I looking forward to the final design and layout she provides for my POD.

So far, so good. I’ll keep writing as this process continues.

2.7 Million Indie Books Published in 2010 – Holy Bejeezes!

During a recent twitter chat, someone pointed me towards an interesting fact. According to an article published by the Association of Independent Authors,  over 2.7 million, yes that really is millions, new independent book titles were published in 2010.

What the…that many? Holy bejeezes Batman!

If you’re like me, you may find this number alarmingly high. But after you settle down and realize it’s just the way things are at the moment,contemplation sets in. You then wonder, what on earth is driving all this?

Clearly, there’s a lot to discount. One should assume that a good portion of these millions are spammers (public domain works dumped on Amazon to nab buyers who think, what the heck, it’s only 99 cents) plus a deluge of quite horrible slush pile fire starter.

However, there’s probably a good portion worth reading too. And that number, which I can only speculate, is growing at a huge rate. I like to think there are some good reasons for this phenomenon.

The analogy I’m trying to make is like torrential rain and flood water, and it goes like this. Traditional publishers have been rejecting so much work over the decades, by either system inefficiencies or anticompetitive activity, that a flood of books now inundate the market. The dam is broken, and the waters come down. There are many new and established authors who have simply given up the “rejection marry-go-round”. And established authors have even a greater reason to self/indie publish if they have a large backlog of edited  work ready-to-go.

Important for anyone stepping into these murky water will be to figure out how to survive over time. I believe that even though many barriers-to-entry have been removed, rising above the dark waters of schlock and mud will prove difficult. The solution? Patience, and the unending tenacity to demonstrate quality. This is key.

The other question I have is, how long will this flood last? I don’t believe every new author will keep pumping out books. Many will have pipe dreams, and give up when they realize there is no pot of gold for them. Also, backlogs from established authors will eventually run dry. What then?

Like many people say, we live during very interesting times in the publishing industry. I’m enjoying myself. Getting my feet wet, and splashing around in the water. So far it’s been loads of fun. I just hope I don’t lose my bathing suit, get washed away…or drown!

Selling My Book on Kindle – Becoming an Amazon Drone

I had an interesting experience getting people to buy my book on the Amazon Kindle. What I thought would be a fairly easy task, turned out to be an effort. Most were able to get the book on some device, but the entire process took (on average) 20 minutes. Why you ask? Because Kindle readers are not yet the norm, at least here in Australia. If they were, it would be a 1 minute job.

Without a real Kindle, I needed to step my readers through a more complex process because Amazon won’t sell Kindle books without a registered reader… somewhere.

To give you an idea of what occurred, let me me give you some bullet points of the questions I asked, followed by the response and follow up actions. This kind of stuff took place as I sold “each and every” copy of my book. Keep in mind, it’s a worst case scenario:

  • Will you please buy my book? – Sure.
  • Do you have a Kindle? – No. Let’s download a reader then.
  • Shall we get Kindle reader on your PC? -Sure. Download that small 25 meg file. Wait…wait…wait. Networks slow! It finally downloaded. Yay!
  •  Let’s install the PC Kindle reader. -Whoops, we can’t install the PC reader because: security protocol gets in the way, other technical problem.
  • Sigh! Well do you have an iPhone and or iPad? – Sure. Great, let’s try that.
  •  Use the App Store to get the Kindle app? – Sure. Oh, you don’t remember your password on the iTunes App Store. Fumble, call boyfriend/girlfriend/parent/husband/wife/child to get password. No one is picking up! Darn! Oh wait, they’re calling back now. Get password. Yay!
  • Let’s download that Kindle reader. -Sure. Oh, the connection is very slow. Wait….wait…wait. It downloaded! Thank goodness, that’s done. Yay!
  • Let’s register the Kindle app. -Whoops, you don’t remember your Amazon login? Request email to get password. Oh no, email is not working for some reason. What do we do now?
  •  Shall we make a new Amazon account? -Sure! Okay, let’s get that done. Click all over, insert name, address, credit card details. What? They don’t like that debit card? Fumble, get another card. Okay this one works: Great! That’s all done. Yay!
  • Let’s go back and download the Kindle reader on your iPhone then? -Sure. Whoops, connection on phone is not working. Wait…wait…wait. Finally, Kindle reader is download.  Yay!
  • Let’s register the Kindle reader. -Sure. What? My name and password are not valid? We just made a new account fer God’s sake! Try again. Try again. Try again. It worked! Yay.
  • Let’s buy my book now. -Sure. Whoops, can’t buy the book directly on the darn iPhone Kindle app. Let’s go back to the Amazon account on the PC and buy that book! Hit ONE touch to buy button. Click! Oh, log in again. Hmmm. Confirm card. Hmmm. Confirm address. Okay, that ONE touch click which turned into one login and 3 clicks is over. Yay!
  • Let’s see it on the Kindle reader. -Sure. Hit synch button. Wait…wait…wait. There it is!
  • Finally, a happy customer.
Okay, maybe this worst case scenario. But I think Amazon is quite lucky. If all indie authors are going around and doing this amount of work just to get their books out there, Amazon has done a great job turning authors into Amazon marketing agents.
I’m not saying I’m really a drone. I’m just saying…

Minotaur in Melbourne

The perfect Science Fiction bookstores!

Minotaur Bookshop in Melbourne

I had a wonderful experience visiting this bookshop in downtown Melbourne. Of course, I didn’t expect much so that added to the shock appeal. But Minotaur is by far the best SF bookshop I’ve ever seen. No joke! Just upon entering, one is inundated with books, toys, Manga,  and DVD’s galore. It was hard to even focus my eyes; there was literally so much stuff, I didn’t know where to start.

          

As you can see from the two pictures above, they have everything under the sun. But I was mainly interested in books. A subject which is painful because like all booksellers in Australia,  the prices are usually 2x the cover price . This is not necessarily their fault. But I don’t want to focus on prices in this article, and will bring that up in a later past.

Instead, let me comment on the following;

All Hugo winners from 1951 in order!

Yes, here we see every Hugo winner in order displayed nicely. I nearly fell down hyperventilating because no other bookstore has ever bothered to use their precious space in this fashion. Cleary, the owners care more about customer experience than economics. But I applaud them for this. And the cards you see attached are also spread out along the entire extended stack, where one can pick out notable Authors as you browse them in alphabetical order.

What can I say, the shopping experience was truly unique. However, what scares me about all this is the future. With the coming of e-books and Amazon’s kindle, prices for books are bound to fall. What this means for typical booksellers is scary. Probably the same as the US; Many will close their doors. I don’t want to see that happen to Minotaur. They deserve better. So, if you’re in the Melbourne area, check them out. It’s an experience you will probably tell you’re grandkids about.
 
When they say to you; grandpa, did really read all this paper years ago?
 
Sigh!