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.

Freedom Club Showcased on AISFP

Shaun Farrell, who runs the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast, interviewed my editor David Bischoff last week.  The whole thing went very well, and David did an excellent job talking about his long career both as a writer and editor of SF, and his recent foray into indie publishing. As you may know, David started Hotspur Publishing, an independent company to publish his backlog that has accumulated over the years, along with new titles like Freedom Club, written by me.

I’m especially pleased that my book was mentioned as well during the podcast. It was really nice of Shaun to help promote the book, and I would urge everyone to listen to episode 154 of Adventures in SciFi Publishing and even comment on the the podcast web page if you can.

AISFP Rocks!

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…

Conflux7 – Small convention with a big heart

Some of you may not have heard about Conflux, a speculative fiction

convention that just took place in Canberra, Australia. Unlike last year’s Worldcon (aka Aussicon4), Conflux is small. Only a few hundred people attended. But what Conflux lacks in size, it more than makes up for in passion

and soul. The sense of community is everywhere, from the shared joy of a book launch to the palpable loss of fantasy author Sara Douglass, who died shortly before the conference began. Overall, Conflux was a cozy get-together, where likeminded fans and writers mingle and enjoy their love of SF and Fantasy.

Of course, lots of stuff happened over the 4 day event. I’m not going to post
everything here at this time, but a full report will appear soon on the Adventures in SciFi Publishing website. Keep your eye out for it.

In the meantime, special congratulations go out to Patty Jansen, a major figure in the Australian writer’s scene.  She was kind enough to spend time talking with me during the entire event. Having won the second quarter of the Writers of the Future contest, the fruits of all her hard work have now gained her global attention. It’s well deserved in my opinion.

Freedom Club – Launched!

Freedom Club - KindleWell, my first Kindle novel Freedom Club has finally been launched as of early October. Many thanks to the entire staff of Hotspur Publishing. Everyone worked very hard to get this first release ready.

Also, notice the final cover design. Isn’t it great? I am thankful to everyone who voted on the two versions that were posted last month. Clearly, the one named simply, transistor man, was a clear favorite by a margin of 3 to 1.

In any event, I’m looking forward to feedback from all my readers. All comments are welcome. Well…at least the nice ones 🙂