Random thoughts

I do have a post half-written. I really do. The problem this morning is that my attention is fragmented. I’m waiting for the repairman to get here to figure out what is wrong with the dishwasher that is less than a year old and, fortunately, still under warranty. My brain is busy trying to work out two different novels. That’s usually not enough to bring me to a complete stop but these two novels are very different in both genre, plot and writing. One is finished but needs major edits and the other is one-quarter written. The result of all this is that my head feels like that old cartoon of the human head with the Xs over the eyes and the cuckoo popping in and out of the top.

So let me touch on a couple of things. First of all, I had someone (and I will let you guys guess where they came from) basically accuse me of not having read Scalzi’s post that I referred to in my Saturday blog. The entire basis for this person — as well as the condemnation from the referring blog — seems to be because I didn’t link to the Scalzi post. Instead, I linked to Teleread. Well, let me set the record straight. I did read the original post. I didn’t link to it because I know the readers here on MGC have the ability to google and find the original source if they want to read it. Teleread had excerpted the parts I wanted and I happened to also agree, for the most part, with what Chris Meadows had to say. So, that is what I linked to.

There are basically two reasons why I don’t link to a post. The first is as I stated above. I know our readers here can go find the original if they want to. The second is when I don’t want to send additional traffic their way. This isn’t unique unto me or MGC. It is something many bloggers use. But now it appears that it is a reason for those who don’t agree with what someone says to accuse that person of not having read the piece. I so love that sort of “logic”.

Something else has come up of late in several of the groups I belong to: authors, all too often indie authors, buying ads and comparing their work to either the masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy or to whatever the the current best seller happens to be. I saw one yesterday where an author was trying to give away copies of their books by comparing their work to that of David Weber and the Honor Harrington series. No attribution for the quote saying it was as good as or in the same vein as, which left me to assume that the author was making the comparison. Worse, when following the clickbait link, it went to the author’s website and you had to give your email to get the book. The problems I have with this are multi-fold.

First, if you want readers to take such claims like “this book will remind you of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series” or “this is the next Twilight” or whatever, have the quote be by someone who the reader will recognize. Don’t just say it because you believe it. More often than not, when I see claims like this without attribution being made, it is an indie author doing it. That smacks of being a rank amateur. It can also be seen as misleading the reading public if your book doesn’t live up to the claim.

Second, if you want to give away books and want to do it from your own mailing list, be upfront about it. Don’t use a clickbait ad that you mirror on your Facebook or Twitter feed to direct people to your website and then spring it on them. For one, a lot of people will stop and leave the page the moment the email sign-up requirement becomes clear. The last thing most of us want is more email, especially unsolicited email, coming in. For another, I am always hesitant to download anything from a site I’m not familiar with and there are a lot of folks like me. We have been warned time and again to be careful of viruses and worms coming through email links.

If you want to give copies of your work away,either set it up through your publisher or, if you are an indie author, through the outlets your books are available from. There are ways to do it. If you aren’t sure what they are for any given e-store, either check the FAQs for that site or ask online. Someone will know the answer.

Finally, I saw a thread in one of my online communities today that blew my mind. The posters were commenting on e-books they had gotten that had no covers. What? If you are an indie author and you haven’t yet figured out how to embed your cover into your file, ask. The last thing you want is for your readers to open your e-book on their phone or tablet or ereader and not have a cover there to entice them into continuing on. It could be you simply don’t have it tagged right. It could be you had an issue uploading that you aren’t aware of. Please, please, please download your e-book after it has been uploaded and make sure everything went as you expected. Indies are gaining respectability — despite what some would have you believe — but that will only continue as long as we continue to push for better quality for what we put out.

Okay, the repairman is here. More coffee is still needed and my brain is still scattered. Until later.

31 thoughts on “Random thoughts

  1. Worse than no cover is no table of contents.

    I keep my Kindle in my car and read while I’m waiting in drive-thrus (drives-thru?) or in the parking lot while Mrs. Chronda is shopping or doing whatever it is she actually does when she’s supposed to be shopping (how hard is it to dash in and dash out, really?). Since I keep the wireless off unless I’m downloading something, it’s not synced.

    But I’ll also read on my phone if I’m unexpectedly (or expectedly, for that matter) somewhere boring. If I’m expectedly somewhere boring, I’ll look at my Kindle to see where I am and, once in a while, even manage to successfully remember the four-digit location number. But I can usually remember which chapter I’m in.

    So it’s annoying when I transition from my unsynced Kindle to my phone only to find that the book has no table of contents.

    1. Agreed, especially since it is so very simple to include an active table of contents — and is part of the “requirements” of Amazon and most of the other e-tailers. Still, a lot of older e-books don’t have the active ToC simply because the publisher hasn’t gone back and updated the files. But there is no excuse for an indie not to have one when all you have to do is use the “styles” part of your word processing program to set “header 1”, etc., and those tags will be picked up in conversion as part of the ToC requirements.

    2. Worse than no cover is no table of contents.

      ‘Course there are a few books with no chapters; just three-asterisk breaks. Draw One in the Dark is a (fairly) recent example of that.

      And not all e-readers handle multi-level TOCs. The TOC of a multi-volume omnibus is not very helpful when it can only take you to the start of each volume.

  2. Hmmm. I wonder if the PC app is part of this?

    Just took a look at my Kindle PC – and over half do NOT have covers. That includes a bunch of Baen.

    Andre Norton, Eric Flint – no covers at all. Ringo – nothing on “A Hymn Before Battle.” Kratman – “A Desert Called Peace.” Etc., etc. (Even Sarah’s “Draw One In The Dark.”)

      1. Kobo seems to have some cover weirdness all its own. I have some books where the cover will not display when the book is the first on the page, but displays fine when it is in subsequent positions. But only one book in a couple of dozen has this problem. Most display fine regardless of position.

        1. Kobo has always had one sort of weirdness or another. I quit using them when they started refusing to sell books based on the covers, and would hang the files in limbo so you wouldn’t change the cover image either.

          1. I’ve owned the Kobo reader for a couple of years. I’ve never bought a book from them. Everything I have is side-loaded via Calibre, which allows me to change the cover without recompiling the epub. For example, all my ERB books from Project Gutenberg now have the J. Allen St. John covers that graced the first editions.

    1. Not just the PC app. I have seen it with the android — both native to the Kindle Fire and on non-Amazon tablets/phones. I think what happens is the cover isn’t tagged as “image-cover” (or something like that. I’m too lazy to look up the actual tag). Without that, and without embedding the cover in the document file for conversion, it may not show up without a bit of fiddling on the end-user’s part.

      1. I only do this once a year so far, but I’d swear that Amazon requires separate uploading of the cover, not embedding it in with the text.

        1. It does, but if you embed it as well, it is there in the main file (with appropriate tagging if you’ve done it right) on those occasions when the other image goes AWOL.

  3. I have seen a number of classic novels rereleased on Kindle without covers, or with covers that look like somebody made them in MSPaint in five minutes. I’ve also seen quite a number with no table of contents, formatting errors, and some egregious OCR errors. I pick up a lot of 60s and 70s SF on e-book when I can get it and in my opinion the major publishers backlists, as a class, tend to be far lower quality than most self-published works.

    1. OCR errors are always fun. I recently read A Concise History of Poland, which had humorous OCR errors involving numbers. I kept running across passages in which someone invaded Poland with an army of 0 men, frightening off the Poles.

    2. Agreed. A lot of the errors are, as you pointed out, the result of OCR errors. A lot are simply the result of not taking the time to do a check of the file to make sure the conversion was done properly. As for the covers, yep, there are some pretty awful ones out there.

    3. I don’t mind the sort of covers put on the classics. They remind me of the covers the books had in hardcover when I read them as a kid–solid color canvas sort of stuff, text in gold, and that was it. They get the nostalgia grab. (20,000 Leagues, 5 Little Peppers, Little Women, all those were dressed like that. Don’t know where the folks got them, but they were stylistically the same. To the point that I think hardcovers ought to look that way.)
      I kind of assumed it was some sort of auto-cover Amazon was doing for those too cheap or incompetent to cover, since I mostly see them on the books out of copyright and free.

    4. If you want to see a real OCR proof-reading horror, look at The Worm Ouroboros. The author intentionally used archaic spellings — and not always the same archaic spelling! Place names? Figure out which spelling occurs most often and declare that the correct one.

  4. As a reader, when I see a description like “this book will remind you of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series” I don’t assume it means it will be as good, just that it will be in the same style / have a similar feel. And assuming that it is accurate, this is a really valuable description; much more precise than ‘military sci-fi’ and gives me a really good idea of what the book is like in a couple of words. The key is to make sure it is accurate and not just put in the bestselling book of the moment.

    1. I agree. I don’t mind descriptions like ‘for fans of X’, or ‘in the tradition of X’, *as long as the book actually has some resemblance to X*. If it doesn’t, it probably just ends up hurting the book and the author.

      There’s nothing new about this sort of thing, ‘if you like X check out Y’ is a long-established promotional technique. I always loved the variant that you’d often see on material for low-budget movies: ‘from the producer of X’. Sure, Y has a different director, writer, cast, and budget from X, but they share a producer. They must be equally good, right? Has anybody tried this for books: ‘from the editor of X’?

      1. Isn’t that what brands like Ace, Tor, even Baen are all about? Admittedly, it’s a step higher than “from the editor of X” but it’s the same notion?

        1. Well, to an extent, yes, in that brand loyalty plays a part, but I always thought that ‘‘from the producer of X’ is trying to promise a bit more.

  5. I want to repeat something that Amanda said…because it can’t be said often enough. When I first started Indie publishing, I had many novels in the drawer which I had posted on my website and my fans had long requested hard copy (and later ebooks). Then I had a stroke and lost interest in the world for a year. When I was somewhat recovered, ebooks were all the rage but I was cautious and did CreateSpace paperbacks at first, where I actually had a Table of Contents. And, as a favor to the people who wanted it in .mobi format, I used the Amazon conversion program to generate the file. Thus, my first books have of contents, not links and the books in the .mobi format didn’t have page numbers. Another thing I learned to my horror was that while the paperback was formatted properly, the .mobi files were–whimsical–in their formatting.
    Now, ten books later, I’m going to go back and do new editions of the first eight that don’t have TOCs and remove the bad formatting. You do need a TOC and you MUST check the actual .mobi file before you approve it for publishing.

  6. There is something about cover icons that’s weird with the Kindle. It has to do with auto-generation from the full cover. In the normal course of events, it is generated by Amazon on the download. I have this problem with side-loads all the time. There is a work-around, but I don’t recall it (I found it via google). It’s an extra – non-obvious – step in Calibre to generate it yourself.

  7. Two stray thoughts. First off, over in the surgery and airplane pilots and so forth fields, they have found checklists to be very helpful in reducing errors. Perhaps we need an “Indie Author Publications Checklist”? Have you included a Table of Contents? Have you included a cover? …

    Second, along a similar vein, do we need an independent quality assurance lab for indie products? This has seal of the Indie Quality Labs, it must be readable? I’m not sure how you would finance a deal like that, though?

  8. I must just be odd but I could care less about the cover on e-books. I do not look at them. I look at a synopsis of the book and the reviews to see if it seems to be something I like or is it by an author that I know or like. I see you guys constantly harp on this and wonder if maybe you overemphasize the actual importance to the consumer.

    1. Possibly. However, for every person who tells me they don’t pay that much attention to the cover, I have another person who says that if the cover looks amateurish, they won’t buy the book. I can’t speak for the others here, but I would rather err on the side of caution — in this case, having a good looking cover that will draw the eye — than not.

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