Formatting Your eBook for Publication


Formatting Your eBook for Publication

Natalie Bright

I tried.

With open mind, I tried to learn everything about book formatting, because smart business owners should have an understanding about every component of their operation. Because I kept reading about issues with Microsoft Word conversions, I decided it might be best to make sure my book looks perfect in the format each distributor prefers.

The Scrivener online class was great [learnscrivenerfast.com] and I LOVE how organized my writing projects are, but the power of Scrivener is in the compile feature. I don’t like those 15 space paragraph indentions when my book comes up in the Kindle previewer and I cannot make them go away. Uhggg.

Another online class on Adobe InDesign for my picture books, researching conversion software with reviews out the whazoo (use this one vs. never use it, only use this one…), more instructional videos. And yes, I know there is exceptional software for MACs only. Don’t own one.

Appeals to our 20-something office manager who is supposed to be keeping our other stuff going while I do book stuff. Even she couldn’t help me, and she’s brilliant, so moving on. 1 month, 2 months, 3 months. What did I write during that time, you might wonder? A few blogs and the draft for an easy reader, and we did finish parent taught driver’s education which is HUGE and has nothing to do with my writing career.

Here is a rundown on the different formats to take our book “wide”. In a nutshell, set up an account and submit your properly formatted manuscript:

Amazon Kindle: MOBI

Kobo: refer to their conversion guidelines, but everything is converted to EPUB.

Smashwords: prefers DOC, DOCX which goes through a MeatGrinder, which turns it into an EPUB.

CreateSpace: PDF for print; fonts and pics must be embedded.

Ingram/Lightning Source: refer to the 37 page “File Creation Guide” (yikes! This made my stomach hurt.)

Draft2Digital: Their process creates an EPUB. Good news: you can skip the distributors above, as D2D will do the conversions for free and put it everywhere you want for 10% of your sales.

The Question

So, it boils down to this very important question: would you hire me to do your book formatting?

Absolutely NOT. Are you crazy? You are a savvy Indie Author and a smart business owner to boot. I wouldn’t hire me either, so I fired myself. There is this guy I know who is an absolute whiz and saved me another three months of learning software that I have no desire to understand.

Thank you, Phillip! www.GessertBooks.com

The Next Question

Accounts are set-up, submitted books are approved, tiny prayer for no typos, and then I am moving on to the next question. Who are my readers and where can I find them?

 

WORDS WITH POTENTAIL


WORDS WITH POTENTAIL

Natalie Bright

At last week’s critique meeting, we listened to a story that had been written many years ago. Even though this writer has improved greatly, it was solid—very entertaining and horrifying—we loved it! The potential is even greater based on the feedback. Written as a short story, it’s going to be part of an anthology. I think this author is on the right track by compiling several of her strongest short stories together in one publication. ( I can hardly wait to buy that book, Nandy Ekle!)
Whatever your work in progress might be, whatever fire is burning in your gut at this very minute, whatever idea deserves your attention, those words can become something entirely different in the future. Keep your mind open to the opportunities. For heaven’s sake, don’t delete it! Even bad writing has potential. You can’t edit a blank page. (Wish I had all of those stories and poems I wrote in college. I tossed that journal years ago.)
After I found my way back to writing, a story I wrote about a cowboy called Cecil was accepted in an anthology published by TCU Press almost 13 years later. There is no way I could have known that I would meet a ranch hand with the same name! Meeting the real-life, horse-riding cowboy named Cecil just added more depth and color to my short story. It needed work and it needed a critique from WordsmithSix peeps, for sure. The story became better because of my experiences a decade later. With the help of my critique group, that short story became good enough for publication.
You may be at a point in your writing when it seems rejection is a clear message to give up your dreams of becoming a published author. The very first words by David Morrell, creator of Rambo, keeps echoing through my brain after I heard his talk at an Oklahoma conference,

“Don’t question the why.”

I share this because I have spent, actually wasted, too many years questioning the why. And now I’m asking myself, why for different reasons. Why didn’t I finish that book? I’m staring at a stack of sticky notes and marked up articles for blog ideas, so why didn’t I write them? There’s no way that I could have known back in 1999 that I’d need material in 2017 for two blogs and three orgnizational newsletters. I would have never imagined that I’d have a talented critique group who could boost my confidence and my words. The struggle to write never ceases. Now I’m faced with a part-time day job that will probably go back to full-time soon, and I’ll be frustratingly juggling writing time. What crazy life is this? Opps, there I go again—questioning the why.

The story is in us. The story picked us. We can’t possibly know why. I have to keep reminding myself to stop stressing and find joy in the process.

“Every story I’ve written was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me, it is my life.”
RAY BRADBURY

Find Natalie’s blogs and articles here:
Blogging every Monday about writing life at wordsmithsix.com
Blogging every Friday about the Texas Panhandle at “Prairie Purview”. Read her blogs at nataliebright.com or on the Amazon Author page.
Sign up for here for the newsletter: nataliebright.com
Natalie is editor of “The Window”, the official newsletter of one of the oldest writing organizations in the country, Texas High Plains Writers, org. 1920 in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s the link. panhandleprowriters.org.

Do Readers Care about Your Rants?


Do Readers Care about Your Rants?

Natalie Bright

I discovered a new author! To be honest it has been several, but I want to blog about one in particular. I found this author through a $1.99 special eBook promotion. There’s a lot to love about those glorious special promotions on Amazon, BookBub, Kobo, FreeBooksy, even GoodReads. There is no greater joy as a reader than to discover an author, that’s new to me, with an entire blacklist. This particular author writes stories rich with historical detail and senses of the time period, and the characters are deeply developed. And even better, this author has written a how-to book on writing. I’m jumping with joy!

Turning to social media as a reader and new fan, I want to learn more about this writer’s inspiration and process. Of course there is a website, blog and even several podcast interviews. Good stuff. And then there is Twitter. This author’s twitter feed is jammed with political rants and reTweets along with vicious opinions. Personal opinions and observations include numerous comments about how ignorant “ALL of the voters” are who voted for the other candidate. Obviously a person passionate about our political situation, but as a new reader do I really care?

Whether I agree or not, I absolutely respect the right to sound off. However as I new fan, I have to take pause and wonder about posting a book review. I can’t decide if I’ll buy another book from this author. As an Indie author and business owner, I must pass on recommending the how-to book on writing. Th is isn’t mildly stating an opinion. The heated and sometimes vulgar opinions by this particular author permeates their platform. I’m very sad.

On the other hand, will this even reflect back on me? Perhaps I’m over-reacting?

On my personal Facebook, as I’ve blogged about before, I get likes and comments from extreme liberals directly followed by comments from extreme conservatives, and everyone in between. I like that. It makes for an interesting mix of people I call friends. I have over 3,500 followers on Twitter. I’m sure they are not all of like mind.

An indie authors, we have opportunities to reach potential readers on a worldwide scale. If you are active on various platforms or maybe you guest blog on someone’s site, most likely you may connect with readers from all cultural backgrounds, political leanings, and spiritual beliefs.

As a business owner and Indie Author, you want to reach and connect with as many readers as possible, so why would you want to offend them before they’ve even given your work a chance?

These are crazy, crazy times.

Do you stop buying books from authors who expresses views differently from yours?

 

Writing Brains & Scrivener


Writing Brains & Scrivener

Natalie Bright

Scrivener software totally gets my writing brain. The more I work in this software, the more I’m amazed at all it can do.

For example, this morning the opening scene for the second book of my Texas Frontier Series popped in my head. BAM! There it was. I am almost 10,000 words into the first draft and the opening chapter I’ve already written is absolutely wrong. Does this ever happen to you? I kept replaying the new scene in my head, over and over until I could get to the keyboard.

Here’s where Scrivener makes your life easy: Within the file that you designate as chapter, you can add a new text file. The chapters will autromatically renumber when you compile the final document. No renumbering pages or worrying about chapter numbers. No cutting and pasting to shift the work. I have a seperate text file for each scene and these scenes can be moved easily around within the manuscript document. That first scene may not be the opeing by the time I reach 30,000 words. No problem. The ‘scene’ file can be shifted to any order within the project file.

For more explaination, here’s the link to watch a great video from the creator of Scrivener:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdwnHo23Ub8

I also recommend the online class, LearnScrivenerFast.com

Stay tuned for more tidbits about this powerful writing tool. Are you using Scrivener? What has been your experience with Scrivener?

Responses to My Amazon Question


Responses to My Amazon Question

Natalie Bright

In last week’s post, I blogged about concerns I had with the sales report for my new nonfiction picture book series, RESCUE ANIMALS. I have been promoting this book like crazy on a local level and was concerned with the reportedly 10 sales. All four books were enrolled into KDP Select, but the number of free downloads is not available on the reports. Here is what I posted on the Amazon Community Board:

“Specifically regarding ASIN: B01M0K6F6G FLASH, The True Story of a Rescue Horse. I have been promoting this eBook heavily in our local area. With just two events I reached close to 1000 people in the first month of release. At one school of 700, we know of at least 300 kids who had FLASH on their phones before they went home that day. I can count at least 50+ friends and family who ordered it as well. Total sales for that time period according to Amazon: TEN. In the meantime I’ve suspended all promo ads and local events, until I can figure out what is going on with my account. Maybe I missed something on the banking information or the pricing page? Can anyone think of something I might have set-up wrong? Thanks in advance for your time and expertise.”

I have since learned that Amazon had a major crash during the week I released FLASH. That might explain some of the reporting issues. Also below are the responses to the Community Forum question above, which is an open forum where KDP authors post their questions and concerns. Rather than joing the storm of accusations about how Amazon is ripping authors off, my first concern was that it might be a problem on my part. As I noted in the previous blog post, the sales ranking for FLASH made it to #5 under the sub-category Children’s eBooks/nonfiction/Farms and Ranch, but still only 10 total sales.

To date, I’ve had four responses to my question:

Amazon Community Forum Response #1:
The grade range for the book is P-5. I don’t know any kids 10 and under who have credit card privileges to shop at will online without parental approval (or parents thereof who would appreciate their kids coming home from school with purchases urged during a school-sponsored marketing pitch—what were you doing checking their phones?). Perhaps 300 small children downloaded the sample to appease the adults applying pressure. Unless friends and family can produce receipts for their purchases, they may also be being polite for the sake of appeasement.
If your Prior Months’ Royalties reports and Payments table show you’re owed money that you haven’t received, there may be a problem with your banking or tax information.

If they say you’ve gotten only 10 sales… you’ve gotten only 10 sales. The sales rank of nearly 1.3 million is consistent with that level of activity.

Response #2 & #3 from the same person:
Quando vai sair os pagamentos de janeiro e fevereiro ? Which translates to: When you are going out payments in January and February?
Hoje já é 18 de fevereiro – Today is February 18th.

Response #4
On the Reports Tab, what do the ORDERS total for that time period?
It is the blue line.

Response #1 was surprising and way out of left field. I’m not going to spark a debate in the forum, but I do want to address that here, specifically to make the point that I did not check kids phones. The point I was trying to make was that the promotion was concentrated to our local area because the horse is well known. The editor and horses’ owner is a music teacher, and everyone at her school, including the kids, parents and her coworkers, are very excited about this book. Each kid got bookmark. The kids probably showed their phone to their music teacher because they were excited and wanted her to see that they had the story. I’m assuming that some of those families have Amazon Prime memberships and hopefully took advantage of the free download.

My two boys were allowed to purchase things online with their phones by middle school age. It was part of their allowance for chores. They had a set amount each month and could purchase music on iTunes. (They did not want the Kindle App, although I really pushed it.) I thought it was a good way for them to learn money management and how to stick to a budget. If they went over budget, they had to do extra work for that month. Strange to me how a question about book pricing set-up shifted to parenting. Such is the world we live in today.

The Amazon Giant we Love

There is a book published on Amazon every five minutes. That’s great news for readers. Obviously, there will be glitches on a world wide scale. It is amazing that we can publish our work with ease and find the books we need, with delivery in a few days.

And then there was this food for thought about Amazon ranking:

According to John Skalzi: “a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.” Authors love validation and those rankings in subdivision categories is basically a “participation ribbon” as Mr. Skalzi explains. whatever.scalzi.com

“Every second you take to worry about your author ranking is every moment you’re not spending writing a book or promoting a book.” Jim Kukrel, sellmorebooksshow.com

In conclusion: I really believe the future is eBooks and as this evovles over the word wide stage there will be a great need for new and original content. As for FLASH, the numbers are the numbers and they’re not changing…just keep writing.

flash-true-story-cover_low

The Giant that is AMAZON


The Giant that is AMAZON

Natalie Bright

Amazon for Readers

I love Amazon. In fact, while drinking coffee I just ordered two eBooks this morning (added to the hundreds more on my Kindle). At the first of the school year, we found a book on the bubonic plague, rush delivery, for a report my teenager had to write. He turned in his paper on time. My college student found two of his textbooks this semester, at greatly reduced prices, because he didn’t want to wait several weeks for the university bookstore to restock. Don’t get me started on my one of a kind, first edition books that I found through Amazon. Absolute treasures. If you ever come by my office, I will gladly show you. Amazon has changed my world for the better.

Amazon for Indie Authors

From a writers prespective, Amazon can be an entirely differrent exprience. More specifically, ASIN: B01M0K6F6G FLASH, The True Story of a Rescue Horse.

I have been promoting this eBook heavily because this horse is somewhat of a celebrity in our local area. My business plan was to fund print copies from eBook sales. With just two events I reached close to 1000 people in the first month of release. At one school of 700, we know of at least 300 kids who had FLASH on their phones before they went home that day. I can count at least 50+ friends and family who told me they ordered it as well. Total sales for that time period according to Amazon: 10.
Ten. That’s the number I reported to the professional photographer, making her split $3.08. We have spent a year working on stories about FLASH. There are four on Amazon, with six more titles in production for my new Rescue Animal Series which launched in September 2016. FLASH was enrolled in Kindle Select making it free for subscribers, which did gain me a few five star reviews and it did reach #5 on a bestseller list under Nonfiction Children-Lifestyles-Farm and Ranch. That’s exciting, but Amazon does not provide numbers of free downloads so I have no idea which of my promotional efforts were effective during that time period. Facebook ads? The school event? The email blasts? The Twitter or Instagram posts? I have no idea the final amount I’ve spent in promotion, because thinking about adding up those numbers makes me nauseated.

Where do KDP authors go to find the aswers they seek? There is no service phone number. Maybe I have my banking information or the pricing page set up wrong? There is no address where I can send a letter to request an audit. The instructions are to post my concerns on a public forum where other Amazon KDP authors can weigh in on my issues (a unique service offered by no other business owner ever). Amazon makes for a horrible business partner. After I finish this blog post, I’m going to post my concerns on the forum. In the meantime, I’ve suspended all advertising promos and cancelled all future events. I had big plans for FLASH in 2017, but I’m not spending any more energy (or $$$) for someone else to gain the benefit of sales from this book. That’s just bad business. My book sales have flat-lined. This relationship Indie Authors have with Amazon is an unbreakable bond. They are our savior and our frustration. My Amazon Author Page looks alright with a few book covers. I’m writing and getting my work out there, and yet if no one is buying or reading my books, then I’ve failed in finding potential readers. How can I make this relationship better for my business and for my creative soul? There are a million new books published every year. This is a long, long marathon to reach and find potential readers. There really is no finish line.

Moving forward means I’ll probably be uploading more books to Amazon this year; the children’s book creator is a genius tool. For Indie Publishers, Amazon does offer the best option because so many people love them as much as I do. I’ll be buying more books from Amazon for certain. They make it so easy. But as a business owner, I do not want to give up on this picture book series. There is still work to be done.

I’ll let you know if I find out anything from the forum. In the meantime…we’ll just keep writing.

Point of View: Omniscient


Point of View: Omniscient

Natalie Bright

“The coffee-room had no other occupant, that forenoon, than the gentleman in brown. His breakfast-table was drawn before the fire, and as he sat, with its light shining on him, waiting for the meal, he sat so still, that he might have been sitting for his portrait.

… He wore an odd little sleek crisp flaxen wig, setting very close to his head: which wig, it is to be presumed, was made of hair, but which looked far more as though it were spun from filaments of silk or glass. His linen, though not of a fineness in accordance with his stockings, was as white as the tops of the waves that broke upon the neighboring beach, or the specks of sail that glinted in the sunlight far at sea.”
The exert above, from A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1946) is an example of storytelling in an omniscient viewpoint.

I’m working on a story with alternating 3rd person and first person, but wondered if I should consider rewrites in omniscient. I need to review point of view to decide, so I’m sharing the information with you as I refresh my memory. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome.

Omniscient Defined

There is no identifiable character observing the scene above and relaying the information. Instead a narrator, who is not identified, tells the tale.

This is not to be confused with head-hopping, where the reader gets into the head of one character, to another, and then back to another. Normally, when the writer changes the viewpoint, or gets into another character’s head, there is a paragraph break or double-double space into a new scene. We’ll take a closer look at head-hopping in a future blog.

With omniscient viewpoint, the narrator conveys the scene without allowing characters to know what they shouldn’t. The narrator in the above example does not let us know the gentleman’s internal thoughts or feelings. We have no idea what he is thinking, however we might have a clue based on his actions.

Here’s another example from Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities:

“”Good Day!” said Monsieur Defarge, looking down at the white head that bent low over the shoemaking. It was raised for a moment, and a very faint voice responded to the salutation, as if it were at a distance:

“Good day!”

“You are still hard at work, I see?”

After a long silence, the head was lifted for another moment, and the voice replied, “Yes—I am working.” This time, a pair of haggard eyes had looked at the questioner, before the face had dropped again.

The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful…”
As a reader, we are never told what the shoemaker is thinking, but obviously from his actions, he is weary and maybe a little aggravated at the interruption.

Have you writing in Omniscient view point? What difficulties have you encountered?

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age


Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age

Natalie Bright

 

I wandered into a used bookstore one evening. The atmosphere, sights, and smells were everything you’d expect—glorious. The owner obviously loved his books and had an impressive inventory. He mentioned that he had over 1,000 more books in the back waiting to be shelved. I shook his hand and handed him a few of my bookmarks. While digging in my purse to find a business card, I had meant to say, “My picture book series about rescue animals are eBooks now, but I will have print books sometime this year. Do you host events for authors?”

I never got past the word “eBooks” because he interrupted me with an emotional rant. “I can’t do anything with an eBook. How do I put an eBook in my store? Don’t you love books? I love books. My customers love books. They want something they can hold them in their hands…” and on it went.

My reply was less than professional because I didn’t really think it through. I said, “I want my bookmarks back,” and then I grabbed them and he held tighter and we had a little tug-o-war with a few people staring, wide eyed and aghast. He said, “They’re mine. I’m not giving them back.” It all ended with a few laughs, hugs because this is Texas after all, and then he showed me the Texana section.

Honestly, I am a professional book hoarder. We added a wall of shelves when we moved specifically to hold my dad’s Time Life Series collection. My uncle tells me that he’s leaving me his book collection someday, and I will gladly make space. My heart flutters with joy when I see a pile of used books; stained pages and tattered covers just waiting to be rediscovered. I will never stop buying print books.

Unfortunately, not all the world is as devoted as the bookstore owner and I. The revelation struck me about five years ago. My part-time office help was complaining about her mother who kept insisting she read a Nicholas Spark book. This straight A student confronted mountains of text books and she didn’t want anything else added to her reading list. So her mother said, “Take my eReader. You’ll really love this story.”

My office helper did in fact love the story, and got an eReader of her own. She became a voracious reader, consuming three to four literary novels a week. We had wonderful talks about authors and their stories. There was me lugging my precious book club hardbacks around, stacking them on the floor around my house and office. There was her on the other hand, with her snazzy eReader in a decorative cover, slipping it in a backpack and taking hundreds of books with her wherever she went.

My teenagers have learned to love books because they’re surrounded at home, but their friends tell me they “don’t like books”. Those same kids are ‘reading’ and sharing tons of memes, blogs, poems, clever bits of prose. As writers, we understand words are words, and that someone wrote those words no matter the form. Perhaps a new generation is discovering the joys of reading but on their own terms.

The Future is Now

Way back in 2010, as an Indi Author, I lugged cases of books to events, visited bookstores, and mailed flyers to school librarians trying to get my name out there. In 2016 I launched a new photo-illustrated picture book series about rescue animals, only to have a lot of mom’s tell me, “We want a print version, too.” With limited funds, I’m learning a new software program so that I can duplicate the stories in a format that will be acceptable. Then there’s the money I’ll need to print a high-quality colored book, which I will worry about later. For now, I just want to learn the software.

Apparently, people still love holding picture books, but families are more mobile, too. They live in efficiency apartments or neat homes where they don’t want the clutter of books. The business of books and publishing is topsy-turvy, frustrating, ulcer inducing, and the worst migraine headache you can imagine. The good news about being a writer today is that there is a world out there needing original, quality content.

A World Full of Readers

I truly believe that more people are ‘reading’ now than ever before. Their focus is on a screen.

My eReader is bursting and yet I’ll probably buy two more .99 cent special promotion books before the day is done. I will do everything I can to support brick and mortar stores, too. I will tirelessly volunteer and attend events at libraries because there is no better place to introduce kids to the joys of reading. I will promote other authors and their books. But, I’m not giving up my electronic reader. There is no going back.

The only way is forward.

 

Congratulations, Joe and Hello, James!


Congratulations, Joe and Hello, James!

Natalie Bright

It’s an extra special celebration to kick off the New Year because we are adding a new member, James Barrington. James will introduce himself and tell you more about his work in a later blog. This week I wanted to share some wonderful news about one of our members, Joe Nichols.

Joe and I are neighbors. We live about eight miles from town past the pavement down a bumpy, caliche road. A mutual friend noticed we had similar addresses, and I was thrilled to find out he was interested in writing. He joined our group many years ago to write a book; an idea that he’d been thinking about most of his adult life. He came to that first meeting knowing nothing about plotting or sentence structure, but I remember how determined he was to learn. The story he wanted to write wouldn’t leave him alone. As a former rodeo bronc rider, his story-telling is raw and authentic. He has also been developing ideas for freelance articles. We are so excited that Western Horseman magazine has published BRUTUS’ NEW JOB. It’s about a bucking bronc who decided he didin’t want to buck anymore and gets a second chance at life in the rodeo arena and on the ranch. You can read Joe’s article in the February 2017 edition of Western Horsemen Magazine. Congratulations, Joe!

WordsmithSix writers critique group has been meeting together since 2009. We’ve said goodbye to a few members and gained a few. We have cranked out words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters which have been discussed, cussed, submitted, published and rejected. Writing is some of the hardest work you’ll ever decide to tackle in your life. Seeing your words in print is one of the most rewarding things ever. When one of my critique mates has good news to share, I’m just as excited as if it were my own work. Every little success just propels the rest of us to work harder.

Thanks for following WordsmithSix as we navigate the world of writing and publishing. Have you set your goals for 2017?

Writing onward…