Tag Archives: e-books

Watch where you step

Yesterday, I went browsing through sites like Publishers Weekly and The Passive Voice, looking for inspiration for today’s post. I’m not too proud to admit my brain is still in that post-publication funk, a funk aided by the fact my work computer (a really nice Asus ROG less than 7 months old) had to be sent back to ASUS for warranty work. That’s meant making sure all files were backed up,the laptop reset to factory settings and then setting up the secondary laptop as the current work machine. So, with all that going on, I felt sure I’d read the article wrong when I saw something about Cory Doctorow setting up a “store” to sell e-books traditionally published.

Okay, that sentence was a bit awkward, so let me try again.

Cory Doctorow, long a supporter of Creative Commons, is setting up an online bookstore to see e-books that were traditionally published.

I’ll give you a moment to consider that statement.

From the start, it is clear Doctorow has fallen victim to the Amazon Derangement Syndrome.

Buying an e-book from a website and sideloading it onto your Kindle will never be as easy as buying it from the Kindle store (though if the world’s governments would take the eminently sensible step of legalizing jailbreaking, someone could develop a product that let Kindles easily access third-party stores on the obvious grounds that if you buy a Kindle, you still have the right to decide whose books you’ll read on it, otherwise you don’t really own that Kindle).

Hmm, so he has an issue with Kindles because you can’t buy directly from other stores. Guess he hasn’t tried using e-readers from other stores or had to deal with some of the problems i-Pad owners have had in the past when Apple decided you couldn’t buy from in-app or you had to sideload. Or let’s not forget about the issues Nook owners have faced either. But Amazon is the big evil. And what do you mean “you don’t really own that Kindle”? Just because a tablet might not do what you want it to, it doesn’t follow that you don’t own it. His logic fails him.

As an author, being my own e-book retailer gets me a lot. It gets me money: once I take the normal 30 percent retail share off the top, and the customary 25 percent royalty from my publisher on the back-end, my royalty is effectively doubled. It gives me a simple, fair way to cut all the other parts of the value-chain in on my success: because this is a regular retail sale, my publishers get their regular share, likewise my agents. And, it gets me up-to-the-second data about who’s buying my books and where.

He’s right here but this is also where his reasoning hits me as being “off”. Yes, if he owns his own bookstore, he gets all this. But he also gets the headaches of operating it, the costs of operating it, etc. Now, I hear you saying he’s been doing this for years already. Yes, but that’s been for his indie books. Now he is talking about selling for trad publishers. That means he is giving them money and doing for them what they should be doing for him.

Remember, writers, the money is supposed to flow to you and not the other way around.

Ah, then you read on a bit further and remember the political diatribe he went on at the beginning of the article and realize that’s what is behind it. Politics. He hates Trump. He wants to reach out to markets ignored by Amazon and others.

Whatever.

The Digital Reader has an excellent post about Doctorow’s announcement. “I want to point out Doctorow’s blind spot: the unwarranted assumption that authors need or even should be doing business with publishers. . . But like many pioneers, Doctorow advanced only so far. He never managed to shed his original assumptions and keep up with the times.”

That last statement hit home with me. One of the things I, as well as the rest of us here at MGC, strive to do on an almost daily basis is see what is going on with the industry, both trad and indie. We are constantly looking for new ways to promote our work, newer and easier ways to put our books together and make them more appealing in look and content. Some of us have been doing this long enough to remember hand-coding the html for e-books. At least one of us has had to show traditional publishers how to make text in an e-book look more like what you get in a printed book (effects, etc.). In other words, we haven’t sat back and rested on what we first learned while the indie industry passed us by.

So, what is it Doctorow wants us to do? He wants us to act as shills for traditional publishers. You know, those folks who, before they sign an author to a contract want us to do our own marketing, have a blog, be active on social media and already have a platform and built-on audience. And, before you say anything, unless you are King or Patterson or the “new big thing”, any marketing the publisher is going to do for you is basically nil beyond getting your book into the catalog sent to booksellers. So, you have to do the job of marketing your book, something they used to do.

Now Doctorow wants us to add to that by selling e-books for traditional publishers, accept and handle all payments (and that will include returns and making sure all tax laws are followed and tax reporting done) and then remit money to the publisher.

My only comment is “WTF?!?”

The Passive Voice says it best, “PG delayed posting about Doctorow’s plan because he was waiting for someone to propose a theory about why an intelligent trad-pubbed author would try to sell books directly from some strange organization for side-loading onto a Kindle. What kind of service is that for an author’s readers? Who do those readers call for tech support when the ebook file won’t load?”

Above and beyond the fact that selling e-books on your site for publishers (when they should be the ones selling your books) makes my head hurt, there’s something else Doctorow didn’t take into account. As I write this, my 85-year-old mother sits across the room from me reading on her Kindle Fire. She gets her Kindle. She gets the books downloaded directly there after I buy them either from the Amazon site or through the app on my tablet. If she had to sideload a book, she wouldn’t do it. For one, it is a hassle. For another, she isn’t anywhere near geeky enough to understand the process.

Then there are those who don’t have computers. Yes, yes, there really are folks like that. Some are older, like my mom. Others spent their working lives dealing with computers and never want to see another ever again. They might compromise with a smart phone but that’s about it. So, Mr. Docotorow, how are they supposed to sideload?

Doctorow has clearly fallen victim to Amazon Derangement Syndrome and forgot to look where he stepped.

***

Now for my bit of marketing.

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

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Delusion or Reality?

The other day, I sat down and tried to figure out how long I had actively been watching the publishing industry and how it responded to the digital revolution. I was surprised when I did. It’s been ten years, give or take a couple of months. That was long before my first foray into indie/small press publishing. It was when I first started buying e-books from Baen and wondering why I couldn’t buy similar offerings from other publishers, especially at a realistic price point and without DRM added.

Back then, and for some years prior to that, traditional publishing had looked down on Jim Baen for rocking the boat. Traditional publishing didn’t understand that their customer base was changing. It was getting younger, more technologically sophisticated and more on the go. Back then, traditional publishing was the only road open to writers who wanted to be considered “legitimate” authors. Oh, there were vanity presses out there but not much more for those writers who wanted another route besides the traditional — and slow — route available.

Then along came the Kindle, an e-book reader that was affordable, connected to a bookstore for easy purchase and download and traditional publishers started to grudgingly admit there might be a market for e-books. But they wanted to control that market, control prices and got their hands judicially slapped for colluding with one another on pricing. All the while, Amazon — and later other outlets — opened up digital publishing to indie writers. I’m not sure anyone expected e-books to take off the way they did. Certainly, traditional publishing did not. Nor did the lamented Borders, a bookseller chain that is no longer with us, and certainly not Barnes & Noble that is still having issues finding the right online platform to make it easy for its customers to find and order e-books.

So, when I read over at The Passive Voice how Randy Penguin (sorry, Penguin Random House) claims it “read too much into the e-book hype”, I have to laugh. This from a company that didn’t want e-books to begin with. This from a company that consistently overprices, in my opinion, e-books. But I wanted to be sure. So I went to Randy Penguin’s website to see what books they have coming out and what prices they are offering them at.

The first I checked is Janet Evanovich’s Turbo Twenty-Three. It will hit the stores November 15th. The price for hard cover is $16.78 on Amazon. The price for the hard cover on the flap is $28.00) The e-book price, which is set by Penguin Random House, is $14.99.

Debbie Macomber’s Sweet Tomorrows is listed at $26.00 for the hard cover (flap), $14.99 hard cover (Amazon price) and the e-book price (set by the publisher) is $12.99.

It goes on like this. You can check.

Now, I don’t know about the folks at Penguin Random House, but there are very few hard covers I buy any longer. It just isn’t economically feasible for me to buy hard covers like I used to. They have simply become too expensive. Those hard covers I do buy, I buy from Amazon or when the books are on sale in brick and mortar stores. I can’t tell you the last time I paid what the publishers have printed on the inside flap for a hard cover. Every reader I know does the same thing. They shop for the best price for their books just as they do for almost anything else in their lives.

So, when readers see e-books that cost almost as much as a hard cover book, they shake their heads and walk away. Oh, there are exceptions. Each of us have a few authors we will pay more for their books than we will for everyone else. But that seems to be something the traditional publishers have a hard time accepting, just as they have had a hard time accepting the fact that e-books are here to stay.

From the Telegraph:

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Ms Prior [Joanna Prior, the managing director of Penguin’s general books] said: “There was a definite moment when we all went shooting out after the shiny app thing and spent money on that and invested probably unwisely in products that we thought could in some way enhance the book.”

“Enhance the book” instead of simply converting the book into digital format and getting it out into the reading public’s hands. That was the second mistake. The first was dragging their feet when it came to getting behind e-books to start with. Now, I have a couple of those “enhanced” e-books and I found myself getting aggravated at the enhancements. Sure, it’s great to have links to external sources and the link IN NON-FICTION books but not in fiction. It interrupts the flow of the narrative and throws the reader out. But the editors and bean counters didn’t see that. All they saw was the shiny and a way to increase the price of the book.

And what is bringing this change of mind to the bosses at Randy Penguin? The fact e-book sales dropped 2.9% last year. Yes, read that again. A decline in sales of less than 3% has they crowing that they were initially right to doubt the viability of e-books. Funny, they didn’t have that sort of a reaction when print sales declined much more than that. Instead, they doubled-down on doing all they could to keep the print portions of their business alive.

So what does this mean for readers? It means we will continue to see traditional publishers over-pricing e-books. They will continue to load them with DRM and will press for more onerous (for the reader) laws about the licensing of e-books. Remember, traditional publishers don’t believe you “buy” an e-book, only license it.

As readers, it means we will have to continue to choose between buying one traditionally published e-book from publishers like Randy Penguin (at $12.99 or more) or buying two or three — or more — indie or small press published e-books. It means choosing to buy e-books from indies or publishers like Baen, sources that don’t add DRM, or buying fro publishers who aren’t afraid to say they think their customers are thieves and that is why they add the DRM. After all, they don’t trust us not to pirate their books or — gasp — resell them after we’re done with them. As readers, it also means we need to be smart and start backing up our e-books to places not connected with our e-readers, etc. Because, as sure as I’m sitting here typing this this morning, I guaran-damn-tee you there is some bean counter sitting in an ivory tower in the publishing industry who is trying to figure out a way to limit the number of times we can read an e-book before we have to buy a new license or something equally as silly. Don’t believe me? Remember, these are the same publishers that put a limit on how many times an e-book can be checked out at a library before the library has to buy — at an inflated rate — the e-book again.

What really caught my eye and had me shaking my head was this:

Penguin is now focusing on providing app developments for picture books aimed at pre-school children, which Ms Prior believes can make money.

“There is beginning to emerge a financial model for that, I think it is an exciting way of getting very young children into reading,” she said.

So, they want an app aimed at pre-school kids for picture books to help them learn to read. This at a time when studies are saying we need to get kids, especially young kids, away from the screen. This at a time when we are told we need to get our kids outside to play. This at a time when parents should be sitting down and reading with their kids instead of shoving a tablet at the kids as an electronic babysitter. Oh, wait, there are already apps like this out there. But Penguin wants to re-invent the wheel. Color me surprised. Once again, Penguin is behind the times and targeting a single audience instead of looking at what needs to be done system-wide to increase the productivity and profitability of their business.

Frankly, it is time for us, as readers, to understand that the traditional publishers who follow the path of Penguin-Random House and the other Big 5 publishers aren’t our friends. They don’t respect us as readers or as their customers. They sure as hell don’t respect most of their writers. To them, writers are simply interchangeable widgets. It is time for us to hold them responsible for their actions. If we don’t like the price of a book, don’t grit your teeth and buy it. Wait until it goes on sale. Let the author of the book know — yes, I know. The author has no control but they need to see that their publisher is killing them — and let the publisher know. More than that, use social media and let other readers know. Check your favorite authors on Amazon or your favorite online site and see if they have their backlist available. If they have it available through the indie route, buy it. Sure, you may have already read the book but a lot of authors are updating their backlist, returning the book to what they wanted it to be before the editors got to it. Even if you have already read it, you will be supporting that author, showing them that you still enjoy their work. Leave reviews for the books you read. That is some of the best help you can give an author.

Just don’t buy into the hype from publishers when they talk about how expensive e-books are to produce. Don’t let them con you into paying hard cover prices for a mass of electrons. Unless and until the publishers realize that their business plan no longer works, they will continue down this path and, believe me, it is not the Yellow Brick Road.

I guess it’s now time for me to do a bit of promo.

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1) is now available for purchase.

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Witchfire Burning is the start of a new series. However, it takes place in the same town as Slay Bells Ring and some of the same characters are present in both. Both have a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance. Witchfire adds in an urban fantasy note as well. While it wasn’t a book I had planned when I sat down at the beginning of they year to figure out my publication schedule, it’s one that decided it needed to be written and I had a blast doing it. I hope you guys all enjoy reading about Quinn and company as much as I enjoyed writing about them. Also, for those who prefer print versions, it should be available in approximately two weeks. I’ll make an announcement when that version is ready.

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I can only shake my head

With coffee in hand, I sat down to write today’s post. The laptop booted up, the cats settled into their morning routine of annoying one another instead of me and I realized I didn’t have clue one for the blog. I stared at the laptop screen, fingers poised above the keyboard and nothing came. Then I realized what the problem was. My muse, evil muse that she is, woke me in the middle of the night. The only good thing about that was it was one of those “OMG! That’s why the story wasn’t gelling” moments. The downside was, I spent the rest of the night thinking about how to fix the problem. So the brain did not rest overnight even though the body did.

Of course, it didn’t help when I stood at the kitchen sink and looked outside and saw water running across the backyard. Water that shouldn’t be there. Not wanting to really know why there was water flowing and pooling enough for my still sleep-addled brain to register, I stepped outside and discovered it wasn’t the neighbors backwashing their pool but the result of my mother not completely turning off the water yesterday morning when she filled the birdbath.

And I still hadn’t had any coffee.

So, finally I was able to sit down to try to find a topic for today’s post. Yesterday, I blogged about an article in Publisher’s Weekly that put the blame for the decline in e-book sales for traditional publishers on the need for better dedicated e-book readers and something they call “digital fatigue”. There was no discussion about the high price of e-books from traditional publishers like the Big 5. There was no discussion about the application of DRM. Instead, they tried saying we needed better dedicated e-book readers like there are better dedicated MP3 players. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t carried an MP3 player for years. I have a smartphone, one that allows me to use a micro-SD card that I can put all the music I want on it. That means I don’t have to carry two or more devices with me when I leave the house. It is the same with e-books. I can read e-books on my smartphone or one the tablet I usually carry with me. I don’t need or want another device to haul around.

Anyway, I asked some questions in the blog post that I wondered if the survey the PW piece mentioned had bothered to ask:

1) Do you own a dedicated e-book reader?

2) Do you own a smartphone?

3) Do you own a tablet?

4) If you own a dedicated e-book reader as well as another device capable of allowing you to read e-books, what percentage of your e-books do you read on each device?

5) What percentage of your e-books do you purchase from each device?

There should probably have been another couple of questions asked as well:

6) Do you buy print books and, if so, what percertage of your book purchases are digital and what percentage is print?

7) What is the maximum price you are willing to pay for a print book (mmpb, trp or hc) and what is the maximum price you are willing to pay for an e-book? (and why the difference?)

Those are basic business questions that the publishers should be asking of their customers and aren’t.

A couple of other things to think about. If you haven’t changed your password for your Amazon account recently, do so. I’ve been hearing some rumblings that there might have been a security breach. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the rumblings but there has been at least one author claiming her account was hacked. Also, Amazon is cracking down on some of the third party promotion sites that authors have been using. So you might want to hold back on paying for that sort of promotion for a little bit until the dust clears.

One mug of coffee drunk — all hail, Deathwish Coffee! — and still the brain is refusing to work. No, that isn’t quite right. It wants to work but only on fixing the story. So, I shall sign off here and let the Muse have her way. If she releases her talon-hold on me in time, I will come back with a more coherent post later today. Until then, have a great day!

 

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To pirate or not to pirate, that is NOT the question

Over the last few days, social media has been alive — again — with author outrage over e-book piracy. Apparently someone on Facebook started a thread on her wall asking for recommendations for pirate sites where she could download e-books for free. It’s no surprise that the authors were up in arms. After all, no one likes seeing work they have up for sale in one place being offered for free — without permission — somewhere else. But, when the woman who started the thread started blocking those who didn’t agree with her, and when others started attacking those who pointed out what they were advocating was stealing, the internet exploded.

I’m on the record as being against piracy. I’m also realistic enough to know there is little we can do about most pirate sites. Those who are often the worst offenders aren’t located in the U.S. They have little concern for the law or for takedown notices. The time and money that it often takes to get that site in the Ukraine or elsewhere can be better spent writing my next book.

What does get me, however, is the attitude of people like the OP and her supporters who have this sense of entitlement to our work. Like so many in society today, they feel they have the right to take our work without compensation, because they want it. In this case, the OP claimed, from what I’ve read, that she was “poor”. Yet she either had internet or the means to get somewhere there was internet. She had access to a computer, tablet or smartphone to post her request. That request also meant she had access to something that allowed her to read e-books. Oh, and from what those who have purportedly seen her post and Facebook page have said, she is a photographer. Hmmm, I wonder if she gives her work away for free.

One of the commenters said that he had no problem pirating e-books because writers make enough money as it is. Yes, I laughed. He suffers from the Castle Syndrome — thank you very much, ABC. For every Stephen King or Nora Roberts, there are thousands of authors working one or two jobs to make ends meet.

From personal history, one of the sites that did — and possibly once again does — have my books listed, they also listed the number of times a title had been downloaded. I lost several thousand dollars from just that site alone. I was lucky, however, because they did take down my books when I contacted them. But I have to spend time every few months going back and seeing if my work has once again found its way onto their menu. That money could have been put to good use doing things like, oh, paying bills.

Much as I hate pirate sites, I know they also serve a purpose, limited yes, but a purpose. The problem is that they also cause issues with retail sites like Amazon and B&N, etc. If those sites learn that our work is being “sold” for less somewhere else, they will send notice, telling us we need to either price match or risk having our work removed from the legitimate site. Fortunately, the few times that has happened with me, either the pirate sites have taken my work down when I’ve sent them a DMCA notice or Amazon, etc., have accepted my explanation that the offending site is a pirate site and has failed to respond to the DMCA notice.

But, when someone tells me they have the right to pirate my work because they like to read and can’t afford my work, well, that does get my dander up. First is the sheer audacity of it all. What is it about our society, both here in the U.S. and elsewhere, that has bred this mentality in some people? I have been known to ask people like that if they are willing to give away their own hard work to someone just because that person wants it.

The argument spotted in the Facebook thread from one person saying they like to read, so they should be able to pirate any book they want, almost had me beating my head against the desk. There are libraries, and most libraries now allow you to borrow e-books, if you want to read something for free. There’s Project Guttenberg. Amazon and other e-tailers offer hundreds to thousands of free titles. That’s more than enough for someone who wants free books to read.

Jim Baen proved the validity of the “give the first taste for free” with the Baen Free Library. Unfortunately for writers, there are some out there who believe every taste should be free. Fortunately, they are in the vast minority.

Here’s the thing. Writing is a business. It is our profession. The reason the vast majority of writers hold down a “real” job — or two — is because writing doesn’t pay a lot. Not when you consider the number of hours an author spends writing and preparing a book for publication. If that author then publishes that book traditionally, his income is cut even further per unit sold. Most of us don’t live in fancy apartments in New York, play poker with famous Hollyweird folks and go out solving crimes with NYC detectives. Most of us are lucky if we can replace our laptops before they wear out.

Here is something else to consider. Most of us are also very thankful to our fans and are more than willing to send a free e-book to a fan in need. I would much rather do that — and have done that.

Now, I know there are going to be some of you out there who will note the high prices of e-books coming from certain publishers. Those books, if I have to read them, I borrow from the library. Sure, it means I won’t get to read it as soon as I might like but I am still sending money to the author that way. The only time I will even consider pirating a book is when it is something so obscure that it hasn’t been published here and isn’t available through any legitimate means — and I have to have a pressing need for it. Funny, I haven’t found anything like that, yet. I have always managed to find an alternative. However, I know there are some reference materials that aren’t available through anything here in the U. S. except pirate sites. Fortunately for my conscience, I haven’t had to use those materials yet.

So here’s the thing, folks. Just because there are pirate sites out there, that doesn’t mean you need to use them. If the download links go anywhere but to Amazon or another legitimate e-tailer, you are taking money out of the hands of the author. If you legitimately can’t afford an e-book, contact the author. I have a feeling if you do, and if you explain your circumstances, they won’t hesitate to send you a copy. That’s especially true if you offer to leave a review for the book when you finish reading it.

Most of all, don’t be a butthead about it. If you are going to pirate, that’s between you and your conscience. Don’t go to Facebook or Twitter, etc., and ask in a post authors can see that you want recommendations for pirate sites. It tends to get our backs up, especially if you then start blocking those who point out that what you are doing is wrong. And, authors, take a page out of Jim Baen’s book. Offer your work for free from time to time to hook new readers. Your bottom dollar will come to appreciate it.

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Here a format, there a format

A week or so ago, I mentioned that I was busy formatting and, in some cases, reformatting, my books for print release. If there is anything I’m slow to do as an author, it is to sit my butt down in the chair and prep my books for print. There’s no excuse for it. I have generic templates built that I can use. It is just a mater then of dropping my book into the template, tweaking it as needed and then shoving it out the door. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In this day and age, before we worry about the print version, we need to worry about formatting our e-books. That’s where I’m going to start. I’ll do the print version next week.

So, how do you format your book for digital release?

The first thing I’m going to suggest may raise some eyebrows, but bear with me. Instead of writing your draft in standard manuscript format (1-inch margins, double spaced, Times New Roman or Courier font), write your draft in the same basic format that you are going to upload later. It isn’t much different and it will take a step out of your conversion process on down the road.

The down and dirty version is simple. Leave your margins at 1-inch. You can have your headers and footers for page numbers, title, etc. They will disappear when your book is converted into an e-book. Leave your paper size at the standard 8 1/2 X 11. From there, the decisions begin.

Font:

Keep it simple. In my experience, both as a reader and as a writer, the best fonts to use are Times New Roman, Georgia, Garamond and similar fonts. I like the way Georgia looks, so that’s the one I use.

Line spacing:

I generally use 1.5 for e-books. Double-spaced can look odd (too much white space) in an e-book and single space can be too little. I would recommend no less than 1.15 for your line spacing. Play with it, not in your working file but in a converted file, to see what you like best and go with it.

Paragraph indents:

This is where a lot of authors really muck it up.

  • The first rule of paragraph indents is do NOT use the tab. It won’t translate over to your converted e-book.
  • Instead of hitting “Tab” at the beginning of each paragraph, use the “first line indent” function in your paragraph formatting dialog box.
  • Set your first line indent to 0.3 to 0.33. (This is my preference. The old standard of half an inch is simply too much of an indent for an e-book. Again, this is one of those personal preference things that you have to play with. And, as with your line spacing, I recommend looking at it in a converted format to see if the indents are deep enough or too deep for your liking.)
  • Do not have a 0 first line indent. That gets distracting and can wind up with one great big wall of text for the entire page, scene or chapter.

Other paragraph formatting tips for the body of your text:

  • Alignment should be set to left. Do not justify your text.
  • Spacing before and after a paragraph should be set to 0
  • Widow and orphan control should be unclicked.

When you look at print books, you will see fancy drop caps for the first letter of the first line of a next chapter. That line, or a portion of it, may be all small caps and possibly intalicized or bolded or both. It looks great in print but that doesn’t mean it will in digital format. The problem is that not all e-book reader apps are created equal and neither are all tablets or e-readers. So this is where the KISS rule comes into play. Don’t do fancy drop caps or the like for that first letter. For one, it probably won’t survive conversion. Even if it does, it might not appear the way you want it to and then you run the risk of your readers getting a sub-par reading experience.

So what about other ways to fancy up that first line? Small caps don’t translate well during the conversion process. They tend to turn into standard capital letters. So, if you want to set that first line or first phrase off — and I recommend only a few words or short phrase — bold or italicize it. If your chapter heading is in bold, offset that with italics on your first line. One word of warning here. Because e-books give readers the ability to change font size, etc., I would not recommend doing the entire first line in special formatting. Choose a set number of words – 3 or 4 –for special treatment.

Chapter Headings

These are easily done and can be used to build your active table of contents. Type your chapter title, whether is it Chapter One or “And so it starts”, highlight it and click on Heading 1 (or 2 if you are nesting your headers. More on that in a minute.). The default in Word, at least, when you do that is Calibre Light, blue font color in font size 16. It is also left justified. So, if you want to change that — again, I am working in Word, so the process to modify may be slightly different in other programs — is to right click on the Heading 1 button and then click on modify. That will open a dialog box that will allow you to change the font, color, size and alignment. If you want to tweak it a bit more, look at the bottom left hand corner of the dialog box and you will see a format button. Click that and various options will open.

For me, I use the same font as my body text but increase the size to 16, center the text, change the color to automatic and both bold and italicize it all. (Yes, this does vary from genre to genre.) Again, it is a matter of preference and also a matter of what is common in the genre you are writing in. So look at e-books from not only indies but traditional publishers and see what you like and then do your best to replicate it. Just be consistent throughout your work or do modify your Heading settings and use them.

I know I don’t need to say this but I will. The way you set your heading is to type the text you want as the heading, highlight it and then click Heading 1, etc.

Nesting Headings:

If you have a book that is split into sections and each section has chapters, then I recommend you nest your headings. The way you do that is you use Heading 1 for your section title, which will be on a separate page from the next chapter. When I do that, I follow the same process I laid out above but change the font to 18. I bold the text and use all caps for the section title.

I then use Heading 2 for chapter headings and modify the default for Heading 2 in the same manner as I did above.

What this does is it will show the section headings in your table of contents with the chapter headings under them.

Right now, there is a lot of talk about tables of contents and where to put them, etc. Until Amazon gives more information on it, don’t sweat creating a table of contents and placing it as a separate page in your e-book. If you use the section headings as I’ve described, you will create what is called an active table of contents. It will save you some time and headaches by not having to put in the hyperlinks and bookmarks to create the ToC. Doing so prevents two potential problems. The first is that the ToC, if placed in the front of your book, becomes part of the preview and could mean the reader would get little, if any, of your actual prose to preview. That can cost potential sales. The second is that it avoids the problem of putting it in the back of your book and possibly having the wrath of Amazon come down on you by circumventing the “pages read” algorithm of the Kindle Unlimited program. Use of headings creates those nifty ToCs that appear from the menu of your e-reader or app. Besides, how many print novels have a table of contents anymore?

Page breaks:

This is the one headache that can come back to bite you in the butt when you are converting to print. But we will deal with that in the next post.

When you reach the end of a chapter, you are going to want to put a page break in. You can do this by holding CTRL and hitting ENTER or by clicking on the layout tab. There will be an “breaks” command that will open up to show different sorts of breaks you can insert. Choose page.

Nitty gritty here. You can insert your page break immediately after that last period of the chapter or you can hit enter, drop down one line and then insert your page break. I don’t recommend dropping down more than one line. If you do, you risk having a blank screen showing up for your reader. Then there is the reality that not all e-book distributors follow the same formatting rules. The last time I worked with Smashwords, they had a rule against more than 5 (?) returns. If you had that many returns, they read it as a break in your manuscript. So type that last line, hit return and then insert your page break.

That’s the basic nitty gritty of formatting for e-books. I’ll continue this tomorrow on my blog with what you need in your e-book besides just the novel and then how to convert it. If there is anything else you want me to talk about then, put your suggestions in the comments here. If you have any questions about what I did today, let me know.

In the meantime, you can check out my books here.

 

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Wot ab’at the werkers?

‘Wuk, wuk, wuk. F’what? F’them’

Ok that is dredged from long-ago memory and I can’t find my copy right now.

But it is appropriate to what I wanted to talk about.

I’m a working writer. This is my job from which at the moment and for many years now, I have earned my and my family’s livelihood. Barbs is working again now, but in the interests of our kids she didn’t for some years. I know all about trying to make a living from my writing. Yeah, that’s why my beard is so white these days! It’s not just my sanity clause (jingle bells, jingle bells).

As a result, I am unashamedly partisan toward writers who do the same. That doesn’t mean I hate and want to destroy dilettantes with rich families or partners, or a day-job that provides, who can write to make a statement about their pet issue or to get in touch with their inner self. Occasionally they may well produce something brilliant – and they have the means, ability and freedom to do so. But I think the world would be an immeasurably poorer place if that was IT. If the only people producing books were those who had no need to respond to readers, and thus no interest in providing that real joy: a great read.

That makes me on the side of the ordinary working writer, the bloke who does popular fiction, because, yes, that’s what readers want and pay for.  I’m pretty solidly behind the folk who do this, or want to do this, as a profession. I have no objection to the others existing – hell, I believe in ‘make a bigger pie, and I’ve said that over and over. If you look back through posts on MGC you’ll find that’s pretty consistently what I, and my compatriots here, do. There are discussions on agents, on contracts, on editors, as well as on the process and pitfalls of Independent Publishing, as well as on the process of writing. I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve said ‘this may not work for you’ – there is no one route to success, and what suits one writer, won’t work for another. Trust me on this: Indy is hard, and as I’ve said some authors won’t make it there, despite being good writers. That’s a loss for all of us, and one of the reasons I keep hoping and pressing for serious reform in Traditional Publishing.

And yes, my affection and respect goes to the battlers. The guys who take on hell with a fire-bucket, get themselves knocked down, and get up and do it again, and again — not the well-heeled and connected, who had the path eased for them at every step. That’s Australian. That’s me. Live with it or piss off and read something else.

Writers are ‘my people’. We work for them. Their foes, and those trying to do them down, and those quislings supporting that, are my foes. We work against them.

MGC doesn’t make us any money or do any good for us directly. There are better avenues for that. But it’s paying forward and taking a long view. If sf withers and dies on the vine, I won’t have anything to read, let alone find it easy to sell my own work.

We occasionally get this sort of comment made about us:

It came from File 770, you so clever edition!

“Mark on February 14, 2016 at 1:24 pm said:

Leaving aside the special pleading about how Baen isn’t really “proper” trad pub, among the core puppies Hoyt has been published by Ace and DAW, Paulk also by DAW, and Freer by Pyr. Then there’s all the non-puppy authors enthusiastically embracing hybrid and self-pub, like puppy unfavourite Chuck Wendig. The split they point at simply isn’t there.

If MGC confined their cheerleading for self-pub to just talking about its pros and cons (which they often do well), rather than needing to take digs at other authors for pursuing their own success in different ways to them, they’d come over a lot better.”

Let’s give ‘Mark’ as much benefit of the doubt as is possible – He could be jumping to these interesting conclusions because of Mike Glyer’s artful selective abusive quoting, and the fact that he never bothers to read the actual MGC posts. I do get a whiff of GRRM of ‘separate awards’ (and maybe even water fountains) about it. I couldn’t give a toss how I ‘come over’ to File 770 and its occupants, (there is no point in trying to please a miniscule market at the expense of my existing readers) but it’s a useful jumping off point:

I think what is confusing to ‘Mark’ and the denizens of Flie 770 is that they conflate ‘Traditional Publisher’ with ‘Author’ – and assume that they if not the same, they are close allies and natural commensal parts of each other, who have near identical interests and positions. Many people do (and publishers foster this). After all, authors like Hines and Scalzi and GRRM never ever say a word that differs from those uttered by their publishers. (They’re not like that fellow Freer or his friend Flint who had public spats with their publishers. We know they’re bad people.)

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

Publishers, their grace-and-favor clients, and the darlings of the industry have a strong and vested interest in keeping up this illusion. The rest of us – writers and readers alike, no matter where you sit on the political or socio-economic ladder – not much. It hurts us, it hurts the long term future, and serves no-one but the few who milk the system for their own short term gain. Inevitably they’ll claim to be doing it for a noble cause… Women, Diversity, whatever the cause de jour is — which adds up to them and their friends, not women or diversity that they don’t know and don’t like and who might see the world differently.

Bear with me while I try to explain and present a few figures before any more stupid conclusions get jumped to. The relationship between publishers and authors evolved over many years, as increasingly publishing – which started as a 50:50 sharing, where the author provided the book, and the publisher saw to the rest of the process  — shifted to where only fairly major publishers were able to get your book into lots of retail space, and that meant they (and the retailers) were effectively the ONLY path to getting your book to the reader. These were the ‘good old days’ for publishers and they yearn for them and want them back– rather like the people who were in power (or benefiting from it) in the GDR yearn for communism.

Pass through the gate and you could make a reasonable living (once). Without it: forget it. Absolutely, utterly forget it.

Power corrupts. Absolute power – such as this, corrupted even those with the best intentions and highest ideals.

I hate to make this trite situation comparable to slavery, because there was always an alternative for the writer, they could take another career path. I’m referring to it purely to explain how it was different in the writing world– you had luck and ended up as working for a kindly master, or you ended up somewhere down the river, subject to any casual abuse your master handed out, or worse, took pleasure in. The smaller the number of publishers – and the more entwined they became, the less chance you had of finding a ‘good’ master who would feed you, not work you to death, and not take all that your labor earned for himself.

They were, however, all ‘masters’. In society, they’d put on appropriate masks. Some of them may well have believed they were benevolent, and found rationalizations for some of the abuses. Others – well there are people, particularly those who are weak otherwise, who enjoyed power. Their tastes, their desires, ruled.

Power corrupted. Publishers did well out of being in power. Authors, less so. The old 50:50 situation gradually crept to the author getting 8% paperbacks, 10% for hardcovers. The accounting became more and more opaque and the contracts secret, and increasingly byzantine. They were increasingly greedy and restrictive. It was always more work for less pay.

No one complained, because nobody dared. If you were a commercial success – your agent (who actually really works for your publisher) might get you a better deal, but it was very much a field tilted hard to favor the publisher. Unfortunately, sales were getting worse, and worse – and the people who suffered most were, surprise, surprise, NOT the Masters. Judith Tarr provides a very good illustration here of what was happening. Look at the figures. For another measure, here is Kameron Hurley. As I said last week, the Hugo means something to literary sf. And it is one of the smallest selling sub-genres. Work out what getting to sometimes royalties –and sometimes not getting to earning out, says of the sales numbers of one of the most celebrated, pushed, supported and central darlings of that sub-genre, in terms of book sales. A popular bestseller adding to the cachet of the award could do her the world of good.

And then came Amazon and e-books. Both of which, not surprisingly, publishers hate like poison and have tried their best to destroy or cripple. No, Amazon is no ‘white knight’. But it is a counterweight, and it does mean that it’s no longer the traditional publisher or no career.

It has changed the world, for writers. It SHOULD change the world even for writers who are ill-suited to Indy – because to survive, let alone thrive, traditional publishing has to change.

Why should it, you ask? Because authors are going to desert their sheltering publisher? Ha ha. That’s only the likes of you, Freer, because you’re a loser etc. (see File 770 if you’re running out of abuse to pile on my furry monkey head. They will help you. Watch me worry.)

No. There are several factors at play here for the traditional houses.

Firstly, there is the fact that most humans are actually pretty conservative. The unknown and possibly dangerous is really unattractive to most of us if we’re not in dire need, especially when that’s rent and food. We really have to believe the grass is greener before we go. Which is why the grace-and-favor clients of traditional publishing, and their Quislings, put a lot of effort into belittling and painting it as inferior. They’re also very careful not to mention 70% of gross Indy pays for e-books compared to the 25% of net, that most of the traditional publishers have reluctantly dragged themselves to.

Secondly there is a huge level of Stockholm syndrome among authors. ‘He beats me but he’s my publisher and I love him. I’d be nothing without him.’ Is sadly widespread. In some cases it may even be true – they would be nothing, or much less than now — without him. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth fighting for a better deal for everyone, even those people.

Thirdly, as I’ve said often enough, traditional publishing is in a better position to provide value-adding services to a book, editing, proofing, blurbs, covers, marketing. These add value. You can get them done for you at a fee. That’s roughly what they’re worth, and once again we’ve covered this and options at length on this site. In one place, at a reasonable price, traditional publishing is attractive.

But there are two overwhelming factors against them.

Firstly: READERS no longer have to buy from them, or accept what they choose to sell, or do without, or pay the prices they set.

The second, of course, is even after paying for professional services like proofing or covers, the author (especially one with a following) is left with more money out of an e-book from 70% of the gross, than, (if he’s very lucky) 17.5% of the gross he’d get from Trad. Pub.

And that, slowly but surely, offers Traditional publishing a choice: Adapt to offering a good deal to authors and readers, or die. So far their best effort has been ‘La LA LAAA!’

Now, at the moment, I have a hybrid career. And, as I have often said (but only those who want to hear, listen) the carrot is better than the stick. I’m usually quite nice to Baen (yes, I have given them stick sometimes) because they’ve moved from being benevolent master to a company that is trying to learn to adapt, sometimes well, sometimes badly, from the habits of generations. In an era when the rest of the traditional publishers have had to have any concession dragged out of them, Baen have led the way, still paying better e-book rates than the rest (20% of gross), and getting there at least a year before the rest. In a time when every other publisher has resorted to lawfare and inserted basket accounting, and restraint of trade clauses and ever more Byzantine and longer and longer lawyereze contracts, the Baen ones are less one sided, without these treacherous clauses, and much the same length and language as they’ve always been (which is less dense by half than my Pyr contract, and a lot shorter than any other I’ve seen).

This is good stuff. Any author should encourage it. Any reader who wants authors to be able to write should encourage it. Of course, these are baby steps, but we need to reward them, to get more. To get others to follow. And we need to punish the opposite.

Oddly, that’s not what SFWA are doing. It’s not what you’ll hear the various influential authors like GRRM or David ‘Asterisk’ Gerrold, who could actually bring pressure to bear, doing. It’s not what you hear in places like file 770. No, they’re doing ‘important’ things like campaigning to destroy the sad puppies, or arguing about safe spaces for trannies. Go on: next time one of these lovely people are supporting traditional publishing and the status quo, do ask what they’ve done to improve the transparency of authors’ income accounting, or preventing restraint of trade clauses, or ‘basket accounting’ or breaking down the wall of contract secrecy that allows authors to be exploited. Or about getting a better share of the income from books to go to creator. What they’ve done to make sure authors can earn a living, and readers can get the books they want? What they’ve organized, what they’ve said?

The answer is: nothing.

But they’re loud to support Irene Gallo. Or Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Or any of the ‘masters’ and their quislings, but only those who do their best to maintain the status quo. Change is anathema, change in favor of ordinary working authors… worse.

Judge them by what they actually do.

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Publishers, you need to hear this

It continues to amaze me that now, years after e-books became a viable alternative to printed books, we are still having discussions about e-book pricing. When you look at what the Big 5 are saying about e-book sales vs what you see in the Author Earnings reports, you have to ask if they are operating in different worlds, maybe even universes. One tells us that e-book sales are slowing to the point of almost being flat. The other tells us the opposite. You look at the best seller lists on Amazon and you see more and more mid and small press books — as well as indie — finding their way onto the lists. So who is right?

If you want to be honest, both are. I have no doubt sales for Big 5 e-books are slowing. All you have to do is look at the pricing of their e-books to see why. The hard cover for Seveneves by Neal Stephenson sells for $20.83 on Amazon and BN.com. The e-book version is currently available for $17.99. The paperback version, currently listed at $12.22 won’t be available until May 17th.

Shadows of Self by Sanderson currently sells at $16.65 for hardcover and $14.99 for the e-book. What is particularly interesting is that the paperback version is apparently already available and sells for $11.44. If my math is correct — always doubtful this early in the morning — that is $3.55 less than the e-book version. If the product page is correct and the paperback version is available already, then it puts to lie the promises made by the Big 5 publishers long ago that they would drop the price of their e-books when the paperback versions came out.  (I will note the paperback versions being listed apparently come from overseas but I still have to ask why the publisher continues to sell the e-book at such a high price.)

Devoted in Death, the latest in JD Robb’s In Death Series, is available as an e-book for $7.99. The mass market paperback, which comes out today, sells for $6.79. Hmm, the e-book still sells for more than I would have to pay for the print book.

So, is there a trend — or possibly a clue — here as to why e-book sales for the Big 5 are leveling off?

Some folks were having this discussion yesterday in a private FB group I belong to. The consensus among those taking part in the discussion was that the price point publishers were charging, especially for newly released titles, was more than they were willing to pay. Not just for e-books but for hard covers as well. Those who aren’t big fans of  e-books lamented the fact they were turning to used bookstores to buy those hard cover titles they wanted. Not because they were paying less for the book but because they knew authors don’t receive royalties for those sales.

Note, they weren’t worried about the publishers.

And that is something the Big 5 needs to realize. The reading public is starting to look at the prices they pay for their books — whether they are print or digital — and wonder why the prices are so high. They are following their favorite authors, many of whom write for publishers that aren’t the Big 5 or who are indies, and they are paying attention to what the authors are saying. They understand that the life of the writer is closer to struggling author working in a coffee shop than it is to Castle. They are beginning to realize that the majority of the money they pay for that book, the vast majority of it, goes not to the person who created it but to the corporation what distributed it.

But more than that, the reading public can look at an e-book and realize that it doesn’t cost anywhere close to produce it as it does to produce a print book. So the reading public is asking why it should pay close to hard cover prices for a bunch of electrons, especially when the publisher tells them they don’t own the e-book.

The Big 5 continues to come back with the double talk about costs and then says that the real fan will pay the extra money to read the e-book as soon as the title becomes available. Sure, some will pay it for certain authors. But they aren’t paying it in the numbers the Big 5 believes they should so, duh, as far as the Big 5 is concerned, e-books are a craze that is slowly leveling out.

And so they believe their own press and continue to ignore what is happening around them. They aren’t looking at the number of commuters who read on their phones and tablets on the way to work. They don’t pay attention to their family and friends who are doing the same thing. They aren’t looking at the number of indie authors who are able to live off of their earnings — and do so by charging well below the $9.99 price that seems to be the cut off for most e-book buyers. In fact, I would say most e-books that sell well do so at $5.99 or less.

Yet the Big 5 continues to operate under a business plan that doesn’t adapt to the market and consumer demands. Instead, they issue statements about how the “trend” is a slowing of digital sales. Those blinders they have been wearing for so long must have been joined by a posture collar that prevents them from looking anywhere but straight down at their own P&L statements.

Here’s the thing. When readers understand they are being treated badly by publishers, they tend to look elsewhere for their reading material. As an indie author, I’m thrilled because it means more sales for me. How long will it be before the Big 5, and those who follow their lead, start looking beyond their own propaganda and realize what the full sales picture looks like? I doubt it will happen before the Big 5 becomes the Big 4 or maybe even the Big 3.

The problem is the only ones who will lose then are the authors contracted to those houses and the readers. And the suits in their corporate towers will continue to say e-books and whatever comes after them are only flashes in the pan and soon everyone will return to printed books, even as the price of print media continues to increase.

The wake up call has been issued. It was issued long ago. The problem is that the Big 5 and their hangers on hit the snooze button. Readers are sounding the alarm again and I can see the corporate hand reaching out to hit the snooze button once again. Will it deviate from its path or not? My money is on not. How about yours?

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