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Something new(ish) from Amazon & more

I know I promised the next installment of “Know Your Genre” today but I’ll be honest. I’ve been too busy to write the post I want to. It needs a bit more research than I’ve had time to do. So I will be back later this week with the post. In the meantime, there’s been some news out of Amazon this month that should be of interest to all the indies out there. Also, for those who, like me, prefer tech over old-style but who still find it easier to edit with pen and paper, I may have a new option for you.

Last year, Amazon began offering a beta program which allowed indies the option of creating print books through their KDP program instead of going to Createspace or one of the other POD options currently available. The pros for the new beta program were simple: 1) you could upload your pdf files directly to your KDP dashboard instead of going to another site to do so; 2) your digital and print books linked automatically; and 3) you didn’t have to charge as much in order to get a royalty. All of those were great but there were drawbacks. It was a beta program and we didn’t know how long it would be before Amazon decided if it would stick with it or not. It did limit distribution somewhat. There were no print proofs offered and, the big kicker as far as most of us were concerned, authors could not order at a discount.

Well, some of those concerns have now been answered, In an email sent out by Amazon the first week of the month, they’ve listened to our concerns and have responded to at least some of them. We can now order proof copies, just as we could from Createspace. Better yet, we can order author copies at a discount.

Proof Copies:

  1. Available languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch. Japanese will be added later.
  2. Cost: the same as for author copies

As for author copies, this has been a bone of contention with a number of indies and a reason why they wouldn’t give the KDP print option a try. Now Amazon has removed that concern and it is up to us to determined if the price of a KDP author copy plus the difference in pricing and royalties are enough to make us jump from Createspace or other POD options.

Author copies, like print proofs, are available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch. Cost for them is the cost of printing plus shipping, pretty much what it is for other POD suppliers. Here’s what Amazon has to say about it:

So, it appears you will get the same basic shipping “discount” for ordering multiple copies as you get from other POD suppliers. That’s a guess and I will learn soon when I place my first order. I will update you when I find out.

Now, as for quality of the printed product. I’ll admit I had become concerned about quality with my last several Createspace books. So, when I released the special edition of Vengeance from Ashes (and I’m linking to the ebook because there is a problem with the print page which I need to deal with today — grrr), I tried the KDP print option. I was impressed with the quality of the book when I got it in hand and with the fact I could price it several dollars below what I had with Createspace and get the same basic royalty amount. My biggest issue was, to see a “proof”, I had to order the book after it went live and pray it didn’t have any major issues. So, I’ll give it another try with the new options in place and let you know what happens.

And I guess that brings us to the next point I wanted to cover. I love my tech. Always have and always will. Yet, when it comes to the final read-through of a manuscript, the one where I’m looking for those pesky misspellings, etc., I have to do it with pen and paper or I miss things. Really miss things. There is something about holding the pen and making handwritten notes that cues a different part of my brain.

But I seem to have found a way to satisfy the techie in me as well as the need for that tactile editing experience. Last December, I picked up an iPad Pro with the Apple pencil and smart keyboard. I wanted something that would integrate easily with my MacBook Air (my writing computer). I also wanted something that could be tossed into my purse or backpack and be used as my on-the-go writing tech. I’ll admit, I had hoped it would do everything the reviews and videos showed but I didn’t hold my breath. I was wrong. As much as I love my Surface Pro 3 (and I still use it a great deal around the house), the iPad Pro is what I take with me when I’m on the go. The smart keyboard doesn’t rely on batteries, etc. It uses a “smart” magnetic connection to the iPad Pro and runs off the tablet’s battery. The keyboard is responsive and I haven’t noticed any ragtime — very important when I’m writing.

But it is the Apple pencil and the way I can use it to edit not only Word but PDF files that have sold me on the iPad Pro. Until I started using the Apple pencil, I didn’t think there could be a better stylus than the one for the Surface Pro. I was wrong. I’m not an artist but I recognize what the Apple pencil can do when it comes to art (Cedar can tell you more about that). But for editing old-style, it is AWESOME.

If for no other reason that I hate taking a stack of pages with me when I run to the local coffee shop, this is great. I’ve also found as I did the final edits on Light Magic that my brain looked at the iPad Pro and Apple pencil the same as it did printed page and pen. I don’t see the edges of the iPad. The Apple pencil looks, well, like a pencil and that helps fool my brain as well. Add to that little to no lag time using the pencil and it all has a very “natural” feel.

But, as with anything from Apple, the iPad Pro and peripherals have a price tag that can make you choke. I’ll admit to buying a refurbed version of the iPad. The Apple Smart keyboard is expensive. There is no two ways around it but it is worth it. As my mother taught me when I was younger, you get what you pay for. Sure, there are exceptions but, in this instance, you do. It is the same with the Apple pencil. No, I’m not saying everyone should run out and buy the set up I did — especially not at full price. But I am saying if you, like me, don’t mind searching for deals and you want something that you can take with you, that is multi-function when it comes to our profession and can overcome that one area where you have remained old-school, consider this set up.

I’ve rambled long enough. I’ll be back later this week with the next genre post. In the meantime, check back later today for a guest post from author Nitay Arbel on how to make your ebooks x-ray ready.

 

37 Comments
  1. Good news about the Amazon POD stuff. Heard the rumbles about proofs and editor pricing.
    As to editing, it’s something I am trying to get a grip on myself. My tools for working away from my computer is an old android tablet that’s useless for high end stuff, but good for writing. Paired with a bluetooth keyboard that takes two AA batteries and I am good for travelling and writing. The whole Apple ecosystem is far too rich for my blood currently. One day maybe….

    February 13, 2018
    • I love the Macbook Air for writing, mainly because I can use Vellum after the fact for conversion and formatting for both print and digital. But you’re right, anything with the apple logo on it is too pricey. That’s why I tend to go for used and/or refurbished. By shopping around, you can find good buys and Apple does build quality. At least when it comes to the laptops and tablets. Plus, because I do use them exclusively for “work”, they are deductions.

      February 13, 2018
      • Laptops yeah (I don’t know about the tablets) but as to their desktop build quality… don’t get me started…

        Why Vellum remains restricted to Mac, tho, when it’s really just a fancy XML macro engine… that makes no sense.

        February 13, 2018
        • Probably for the same reason I keep getting old if I want to compose, do digital music, art, or anything creative on a computer it HAS to be a Mac because PCs aren’t capable of that, and creative people ONLY use Macs.

          February 13, 2018
          • I know Mac’s used to have the edge there, not sure they still do.

            February 13, 2018
            • Not really. As of about 8-10 years ago (I was doing low level tech work at the time, I saw the guts of a lot of computers, mostly older ones on the Macs because of their Warantee restrictions. ) They were using mostly the same parts as the PCs (can’t speak to motherboards, but a lot of PCs use proprietary motherboard configurations, too) as early as the old Apple Power PC all in ones. You can get most of the same software for PC as for Mac (Adobe goes on both. All the big name 3D software has both Mac and Windows versions. I can get Finale music side, though I prefer Sibelius.) Most of the barrier I’ve seen is base sticker price for the pro-level stuff not workstation operating system. It’s been this way since at LEAST late ’08 because that’s when I started pricing this out. I went with the ‘nice but Ameteur’ set up, mostly because I didn’t want to blow EVERYTHING I had saved while I was in Iraq. Worked the hardware side ’09-early ’11. So there’s the salt and the timeframe of my info.

              February 13, 2018
              • Draven #

                Apple’s motherboards are made by Foxconn, just like HP’s workstation and business PC motherboards.

                February 13, 2018
                • Thanks for the info. I was a low-level tech, and the CPUs and motherboards were the big parts I didn’t change out. I knew the chips were generally Intel, the rest of the physical mother board? No clue until now.

                  February 13, 2018
                  • Draven #

                    Foxconn also makes iPads, and iirc iPhones.

                    February 13, 2018
              • Draven #

                Oh, and 3D Studio Max, which is the primary 3D software for game development even now… doesn’t have a Mac version.

                February 13, 2018
                • Thanks for the information. I thought I remembered Mac versions for Max and Maya both, but it may just have been Maya. They’re both WAY out of my price range. On the other hand, it does make a strong point for bludgeoning the lingering ‘creative work is done in Mac’ crowd that I keep running into.

                  February 13, 2018
                  • I do remember back in the dark ages (20 years ago I think), Mac and Apple had their own processors which were a different architecture than Intel or IBM clones. Their processing architecture were better for working on media related items like movies, pictures, and so forth. Once Intel chips became faster and better then what Apple could make or design that’s when they switched. The only difference between an Apple and Window’s machine now is the OS, perhaps some of their software performs better then the Window’s version. Can’t really say though.

                    February 13, 2018
                    • Draven #

                      They *claimed* their processors were better for doing that work. Under actual benchmarks, using actual software? No, they weren’t. In the early OSX-on-Intel days, the Intel CPU would perform slightly (like 5%) faster under OSX then Windows, but the gap has become marginal, and well… they don’t sell dual CPU socket Macs anymore, or ones in the fastest CPU configurations, or ones with more than two GPUs, or ones that can take two of the fastest GPUs… so yeah you can build workstation-class PCs that can soundly trounce the trashcan. (Look at the current Mac Pro and tell me it doesn’t look like a trash can.)

                      February 13, 2018
                    • Tprice #

                      Not sure if this is going to nest correctly with as deep as we have gotten. In reply to paladin3001
                      “I do remember back in the dark ages (20 years ago I think), Mac and Apple had their own processors which were a different architecture than Intel or IBM clones.”

                      That was the PowerPC Chip designed by Apple, IBM and Motorola working as a group (both Motorola and IBM made chips for it in the 90’s they have since been spun off). You could buy PowerPC CPU computers from IBM running Windows NT (the enterprise version of Windows in the 90’s that was MUCH better than 95/98/ME and formed the basis for XP when they realized the other code base was junk) for a good while in the 90’s

                      The PowerPC cpu line is still powering things like the XBox360, Wii U, and Playstation3 gaming systems, the Mars Rover Curiosity, and new Amiga computers.

                      February 16, 2018
                    • Draven #

                      new Amigas… *gigglesnort*

                      February 16, 2018
                  • Draven #

                    I would suggest seeing if you can afford the monthly subscription price for Modo.

                    February 13, 2018
                    • I’m looking into it. A new power supply and steady home internet are currently a higher priority.

                      February 13, 2018
                    • Draven #

                      bleah!

                      February 13, 2018
                    • Yeah, Though at least I’m making forward progress in getting this thing back up and running.

                      February 14, 2018
                    • Draven #

                      even tho i have reviewed modern PC workstations, I’m actually running an off-lease Z400 and Z600 purchased off ebay and then upgraded a bit.

                      February 14, 2018
          • Draven #

            Except for the entire VFX industry, which is largely based off of Windows and Linux PCs.Only one animation studio is Mac-based.

            February 13, 2018
            • I thought that was so. I still keep getting told that all art (including VFX and 3D) MUST be done on Macs. Doesn’t make them right.

              February 13, 2018
              • Draven #

                Unless it has changed, the only animation studio primarily using Macs as their desktop machines is Pixar, and that is largely because Steve Jobs threw a fit when they bought their then-new Itanium based renderfarm over a decade ago and forced the issue. Some boutiques use them, and the Rebel Unit at ILM used to use them…

                February 13, 2018
        • I don’t know why they haven’t made a PC version. However, I’d rather they stick with a Mac version than wind up like the PC version of Scrivner. The original of it lacked so much the Mac version had and wasn’t that much less expensive.

          February 13, 2018
      • As someone who uses multiple OS-es and different computers – use what works for you. Even the Housemate will not recommend Debian Linux to someone if it will ‘get in the way’ of what the customer needs.

        And we simply got lucky – during one of his visits to Adelaide the Housemate saw this guy setting out a year-old Mac onto the sidewalk. After chatting with the owner, he found out that the thing was in perfect working order – the guy just wanted the latest Mac. Housemate asked if he could have the power cable too, which the guy fetched, and that became my art pc for a while. My main workstation is something the Housemate threw together out of spare parts off his bedroom floor with the intention of seeing if it would blow up – it had a butterknife replacing one of the power rails in the power supply unit – and the thing booted up…then ran Starcraft 2 in full detail to his shock while I laughed myself into hysterics because he sounded so disgusted that he failed at failing.

        We eventually replaced the parts and yes he put in a better power supply, but still… from spare parts and customer dumps (Changed mind, don’t bother repairing my box build me a new one instead) he’ll eventually get so much older stuff that he’s sometimes slapped together a workable ‘student homework pc’ and sold them for the price of ‘get it out of my room.’

        February 13, 2018
      • Robin Munn #

        Now that Apple hardware runs on the same Intel processors as PC hardware, there are no technical reasons why they couldn’t sell OS X for the PC market. But to do that would undercut their whole hardware monopoly, so Apple wrote a clause into the OS X license that says that OS X may only be used on Apple-branded computers, and they put technical measures into OS X to try to block people from running it on a PC. There’s actually a term for a PC that has had OS X installed: Google the word “hackintosh” for more details. Just be aware that running OS X on a PC is probably a violation of one of the unconstitutional* parts of the DMCA, so it might not be legal to do so in America.

        * The clause that forbids you from bypassing security measures that control access to a copyrighted work, specifically. Which is completely unconstitutional, for reasons that are a page-long rant so I won’t get into them right now**, but nobody has yet challenged it in court.

        ** The short version is that every time I play a legally-purchased DVD on my legally-purchased computer running a legally-downloaded version of Linux, I’m breaking the law. Which is asinine. But I promised I wouldn’t get into that right now, so I’ll refrain.

        February 14, 2018
        • Tprice #

          And Apple’s hardware is overpriced in general, and usually a couple generations behind when it comes to graphics. And don’t get me started on their habit of gluing and soldering in all the components so you can’t fix or upgrade them…

          I built my wife a new animation workstation (she is a freelance digital artist and animator who HATES macs and has been windows only for well over a decade) last spring and looked at the equivalent Mac options and laughed. I just verified no real difference now. The BEST graphics they have are a full generation behind current models (aka 2+ years) and only mid range for that generation. For the more reasonably priced models my 6 year old graphics card is better!

          February 16, 2018
  2. Thanks for the review! I was strongly considering this route. Incidentally, the comment counter appears askew. It can see three of the two above comments.

    February 13, 2018
    • One is a link back.

      Before investing, do check out some of the youtube videos. They do help — at least they did me. There are some really good apps for annotating pdfs etc., out there as well.

      February 13, 2018
  3. Draven #

    I have a Surface Pro 2 that i use for drawing as well as writing on the go and it is a bit more compact than the 3. The Atom-powered Surfaces are even more compact.

    February 13, 2018
    • My main issue with the Surface Pro 3 is the size. It is also one of the reasons I bought it — yes, I know that makes no sense. The size is great if I’m home but it gets heavy in my purse or bag after a bit. The battery also doesn’t last quite as long as the iPad Pro. However, I do wish the iPad had the hinged stand the Surface Pro has.

      February 13, 2018
      • Draven #

        The Surface Pro 2 and Surface 3 are smaller. My main reason for getting the pro 2 is it still used the Wacom stylus, however.

        February 13, 2018
  4. There are two major problems with Amazon POD:

    The first is that you have to pay sales tax. You can’t submit your resale tax number like you can with createspace. Which means you end up paying taxes twice on the same item if you resell them.

    The second is that their shipping sucks. Twice now I’ve ordered books to test their service, and twice now I suddenly got a message going ‘oops! It’s gonna be two weeks longer than we told you!’ Createspace never did that. (So a MONTH later and I still have no idea how good their service is. I’m STILL waiting for what I ordered to show up).

    Amazon has said that they are never going to fix the first one. So that means they’ll always be a bit more expensive. No idea when they’ll fix the second.

    February 14, 2018
    • I need to look into the sales tax issue and how it impacts overall cost. However, on the second, I’ve had no issue with them delaying books from the KDP side of POD. Createspace has always been very slow for me, often rescheduling. Unless, of course, I was willing to pay the big bucks for rushed delivery. Funny how then they always managed to meet the estimated shipping date.

      February 14, 2018
  5. I have not idea how good the KDP PB service is, but I just ordered four copies of MinuteGirls, 2nd edition, at the author’s tate, and paid $33.40 including shipping and tax. This price is not bad. I do not try to sell them myself. There is a copy each for two SF club libraries, a copy for my artist, and a copy for me.

    February 14, 2018
  6. I do the publishing for my wife’s romance books, and I’ll say I was mostly pleased with KDP’s POD service. First and foremost, I was able to use a single word document for both the ebook and print versions. It turns out Amazon’s conversion process handles this well; the conversion to an ebook ignores headers and footers, treats odd-page section breaks as next-page breaks, and ignores page sizing, and disregards margin settings. The KDP plugin for Word also handles drop-caps well.

    Of course, the KDP plugin for Word has a few downsides and bugs. It tends to use next-page section breaks instead of odd-page section breaks. I had to eliminate all page breaks using search and replace, then manually place appropriate page breaks — mostly odd-page breaks, but a few next-page breaks for the front and back matter. The default headers/footers are reasonable, but I’d suggest a few tweaks: making the font a little smaller, making the font italic, and eliminating headers/footers on the first page of a chapter. I also haven’t figured out how to include horizontal space before the chapter title in the ebook. The conversion process seems to eat blank lines and ‘space before’ applied at the style level. Finally, the KDP process doesn’t help authors with other publishing platforms.

    Upshot: if you’re planning on going Amazon-only and leveraging KDP select, using the KDP plugin for Word and uploading your Word document to Amazon is a great way to start. You won’t differentiate the interior style, but you’re much less likely to mess things up.

    February 19, 2018

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