Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reviewing on Amazon

When I read my twitter stream, of necessity, I skip along from tweet to tweet like dashing across a creek bed on unstable rocks.  Sometimes, I'm well past a message before the meaning sinks in, and today that was the case.  Someone said that we needed to put Amazon reviews up for our friends and favorite authors.  When I read that, I mentally nodded and went on, but then later I realized that I was falling behind in the process myself.  I have written a couple of book reviews here on this blog over time, but it's unlikely that my favorable review here would make as significant a difference as a high-star review over on Amazon.  That's where the readers are.  That's the point where they're making their purchasing decisions.

So, this morning, I typed in Book Review: on my blog and located previous reviews and with a simple copy and paste, added them to the Amazon site.  I ought to do that on the other book selling sites as well, like the Apple iBookstore, and B&N, and the bookish friends sites like Goodreads.  I know that some people who have reviewed my books have done that for me and I deeply appreciated it.  It's time I stopped being lazy and did my part.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Publication Day

Whether updating my ISBN log, or entering the metadata for the printer or the e-book vendors, there is a mandatory field to enter; the publication date.  My printer requires it, but it has nothing to do with when the book is available for sale.  It's the same with some of the e-book markets.  However, others do attempt to hold the book in limbo prior to the pub date.

Unfortunately, for me to be able to have books in my hand to sell on the publication date, I have to order them in advance, which means that the printer has to turn on the ordering a week or so earlier than the actual pub date.  For me, it's just a gamble.  I don't really care much about the official day, but as I said, it's a mandatory field everywhere, so I try a little.

This time, Armadillocon was four or five days earlier than the publication date I'd established months ago in my pre-publication PR effort, but I at least made the effort to order the books.  Unfortunately, this time printing went slower than I'd hoped and I had no copies of Follow That Mouse to sell at my table, just one lonely ARC that I propped up on a stand beside the notice that it was due out any second now.

And in fact, it was, sort of.  The Kindle store and Mobipocket's Ebookbase versions had flown through the acceptance process and were in fact, already out.  Kobo and Apple's iBookstore versions were not, but that may have been due to the fact that they actually paid attention to the official pub date information.  I don't know for sure.

So as I post this blog entry one day before the official pub date, real paper books are in a UPS truck heading my direction, you can buy a Kindle version instantly, or you can wait a couple of more days to get the book at Amazon or other e-book vendors.  But, you should really make the effort soon.  It's a good book.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Follow That Mouse ARCs

There comes a time, before the official release of a novel, when the ARCs come in.  These Advance Reader Copies aren't exactly what the finished novel will be, but given the schedule, I try to make them pretty close.  I invite a number of Book Bloggers to take a copy and cross my fingers that a review will show up.  The big publishers have a schedule with a longer time frame, putting out there ARCs several months in advance, but I'm an independent and most of the reviews that I get also come from blogs and on-line magazines with a much shorter time frame than the big names like Publishers Weekly.  I tried to match that long range schedule originally, but since it proved highly unlikely that the big review houses would touch a self-published novel, I changed to a schedule more in line with my realities.

So I started sending out invitations to bloggers, and hoped that the books would arrive by the time the requests started arriving.  I checked the FedEx tracking data and discovered that it was due yesterday, Friday the 13th.  I started checking the driveway, about once an hour, because I know that sometimes, when the driver is in a hurry, he won't wait for me, sometimes I suspect that he doesn't even walk to the door.  Like this delivery.  The box of books was balanced on the rear view mirror.  I was in the house.  No one knocked.  I had to go get Mary Ann and show her before I touched it.  We laughed.  At least he didn't hide the delivery in the pool chemical box like a DHS guy did.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

InDesign CS5 ePub Export

Another novel, another excursion into e-book conversions.  But this time, it's with all new software.  InDesign has bumped up to CS5, and of course Sigil and Calibre have both had numerous updates since I used them the last time.  The process has gone much smoother.

Step 1, make minor formatting changes in InDesign to remove some excess that's standard in printed books, but's not needed in e-books.

Step 2, Export to EPUB.  It went very smoothly.  I experimented with the options and I had the best luck with the ones shown in these images.  Much of the cleanup I had to do before with Sigil and Calibre weren't necessary.  The table of contents was perfect, and I didn't need to use Sigil to carve up the chapters like I had before.

Step 3, clean up the errors.  I did say "Much of the cleanup".  InDesign converts the formatting styles into CSS styles as part of the EPUB conversion, and it made a curious  decision to convert all my italics into UPPERCASE.  Using Sigil, it was easy to remove a couple of offending lines in the CSS and everything was like it was supposed to be.  I had also used the InDesign function to convert URL's in the text into functional hyperlinks, and it had mangled the job in a couple of places.  When I used epubcheck, those bad links were flagged, but Sigil's editor made it easy to fix.

InDesign's conversion has always had problems in positioning images, often moving them several pages from where they originally appeared, but again Sigil's editor makes it easy to move them back.

Finally, after previewing the book on my iPad, I used Calibre to convert the ePub version into a Mobi version, which I then previewed by dragging into Kindle for the Mac.

These versions are essentially the e-book versions of the ARC for Follow That Mouse.  When publication time rolls around, I may have to do it all over again if correctable errors are discovered in the ARC.  But really, it was a much smoother process than the last book.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Progress Report on Follow That Mouse

Work is almost done for the Follow That Mouse ARC.  I'll have it at the printer tomorrow, so if you're a book reviewer, let me know via the Reviewer Request Form over in the right-hand column, and I'll put you up on the list.

The cover this time is by the well-known artist, Brad Foster.  We talked cover art at a convention in Dallas a while back and this is our first attempt at working together.  I'm pleased it has a nice touch of the quirky that this story needs.  You can see more of his work at http://www.JabberwockyGraphix.com .

As usual, the last thing holding me up is the back cover blurb.  One would think I would be getting better at this over time, but if writer's block is going to hit, this is the most likely time.
Once I get the ARCs available for the advance readers, I'll get the final cover ready for the production version.  There are a few differences.  The ARC doesn't have a bar code.  The physical dimensions of the book spine differ between the two printers.  Little things, but it means I have to build up two different covers.  Most readers wouldn't notice.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Independent Publishing: This and That

I hate to burden readers who monitor this blog for my travel adventures with day to day publishing details.  Unfortunately, that's where I am right now, so I'll just list what's going on, and if you need more info, add a comment.

  1. I raised the price on my Kindle books by $.04.  It's a legal thing.  Both the Amazon and Apple iBookstore contracts want price parity or better, but the Apple system has fixed price 'Tiers' so I have to change the Kindle books list price to match.
  2. After much consideration, I changed my Kindle royalty rates on most books to the new contract.  My little short story collection is too cheap, so it has to stay on the old rate.  I'm not about to increase the price on a $.99 book to $2.99 just to get a better rate.
  3. I notified Amazon, yet again, that they were infringing on my ebooks by making a Kindle version from the Mobipocket ebookbase versions (and and thus selling two versions of the same book).  I had warned them before, but they did it again.  I have to watch these guys.  For more details, read this post.
  4. The Apple iBookstore now has a presence in US, UK, Canada, France, and Germany.  I had to go set up the prices and okay my books for sale in each market.  I'll probably have to do this on a regular basis as new markets come on-line.
  5. While looking through the FAQ on the Apple iBookstore, I discovered that anyone with an iTunes account can leave a rating or a review on a book, even if they haven't bought it through the iBookstore.  I need to find a way to urge my readers with the iBook app to go search for Henry Melton books and rate and review.  And ask for that favor humbly and modestly.
  6. Deadlines for getting Follow That Mouse ready for publication are fast approaching, just at the same time that my ATT laptop connect account went south.  After being an unlimited service for a couple of years, they decided it was a 5gb/month service and shut me down.  I just cancelled today.  With no cable, ISDN, DSL, I'm using my RV's satellite to limp along.  
Now aren't you glad I didn't burden you with blogs about each and every thing that comes along.  Hopefully, I'll have something more entertaining to talk about next time.