Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's The Right Price For Dream Horse

I don't have a clue.  But it's been available for almost 2 years at the bargain price of 99 cents so I'm upping it to $1.49.  It's not that I don't get lovely reviews on it and I'm trying to avoid drunk trolls, it's more along the lines of I think it's unrealistic.  I don't know that when I was a child Nancy Drew books cost 99 cents.  They sure don't now.

So if the reader isn't paying for paper and shipping and all that tradpub stuff, they're paying for my tap dance.  That "Intellectual Property" thing that's so nebulous.

We think nothing of going to the movies, paying quite a bit, sitting there and leaving with nothing but the experience.  It may be a grand and stirring experience but still, you take nothing concrete home.  If you want to see it again, you pay again.  Music and movies on DVD are different, you get the disk or download and you can enjoy it many times.  Or not.

Movies are enormously expensive in terms of the life experience required to bring one to completion.  Not only do you have a writer, you have the actors and all the technical people.  How important is perfect lighting, or excellent camera work?  Critical.  These are not skills learned overnight, they require years of experience.  So movies are rather a bargain.

Books are rather a bargain as well for the most part.  Someone lived a life that brought them to the place where they could create a novel.  They put in thousands of hours perfecting their craft, their skills, their artistry.  It's not rocket surgery but it's not something everyone can do so anything rare comes at a price.

It just doesn't seem like that's true when there are several million books available at Amazon today.

I think American Idol made a big mistake not bringing Johnny Keyser back.  I hope he goes on to create a career and entertains millions of people.

RIP Davy Jones.  I enjoyed your work greatly and we shared a love of horses.

This is the beet and carrot salad I had for lunch.  Aren't the colors lovely?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Amazon Can ReReprice Anything

Apparently you need to change your prices elsewhere and let them go through because we don't see what the Zonbot sees.

I got confirmation from KDP that changes will be made within a few days.  Okay, great.  On to a future crisis--some reader complaining "the font looks like a typewriter".

Here's the new cover for Tim Powers' hardcover book that came to me in an Amazon mailing this morning.  I think this is instructive for us so let's talk about it.

This is effective and simple.  I can't tell who the guy is on the right side, I think you could do without it.  What it really breaks down to is the black castle--trust me you can find a castle in public domain that you can turn black easily and a darkened sky.  This is about 5 minutes worth of work in Photoshop.

Background layer is the sky.

Place the black castle on top.  (You will have to mask out its background and turn it into a PNG file.)

Layer title on top.  Choose the lightest color of clouds.  Or go a little lighter.  It's not white.  Notice the title is placed on the lightest part of the image.  It could have been moved down to the bottom where it's the darkest but I think the center is more dramatic.

Layer author's name next.  Not as large a font as the title.  Many people will advise to make the author huge.  I don't necessarily agree and neither did this designer.  The color is an interesting choice.  Mustard yellow or something.  I'm not crazy about it but it doesn't detract from the design so I'm okay with it.  It is in all caps.  I think it's a good idea to have one or the other in caps but not both.  The title and author are both serif fonts--sorry I can't tell with my eyesight if it's the same font, if not, very close.  The title font looks a little distressed but that could be an issue of resolution.

Layer--bats.  Sure you'll find a Photoshop brush of bats.  You may have to hit that a couple times to make them dark enough against the dark sky.

There are some kind of blurbs I can't read, one by Peter Straub.  Well he's famous so who cares what he said, it was good or it wouldn't be there.

Then there's something under Tim Powers probably saying how famous and accomplished he is but I can't read it and you sure can't read it in thumbnail.

A novel.  Do we need that layer?  Don't we know it's a novel?   Does it show up?  Not really.

I'm a minimalist.  I want the least amount that conveys the most.  I don't want less than I need but I sure don't want more.  I don't want to clutter up my design with lots of stuff going on.  I wouldn't do the blurb, I wouldn't do how famous Tim is (he's famous, that's established).  But I'm a photographer.  I'm visual.  I'm not a marketer.  I want the image to do the selling, not a bunch of words.  If the image works, the thing works.  Words don't help and may hurt.  That's my philosophy.  I'm not a graphic designer so I could be very wrong.

So what I will tell you is that these are very simple design elements you can do for yourself and leave off the blurbs unless you're doing this in CreateSpace, too, because you can't read them online.  No I'm not telling you to copy it!  I'm showing you what's possible and yet exceedingly simple.

This looks like about 3 or 4 hours worth of work to me.  Lovely, effective, eye-catching.

This is basically the Blue Raja cover.

I found a castle (from a postcard in PD), tweaked it.  I found a sky, tweaked it.  Added the title and my name.  And stars.  And lights in the castle.  No bats.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Nothing Serious

The cover is done.  I forget where I am on the interior.  Probably done.  I admit I'm distracted by trying to follow too many issues today.

What you can't see is the template I downloaded from CreateSpace is underneath everything, it's just turned off.
I'm trying to think what I can tell you about cover design that I haven't already said.  Each element should have it's own layer.  Barbara Morgenroth front and Barbara Morgenroth spine are separate layers so if I should mess up one, nothing else is effected.

This concept was something hard for me to understand before I started working with Photoshop.  I didn't understand layers because I had never seen them.  It seems in life everything is flat.  If you draw something then color it in, it seems like 1 layer because it's a flat piece of paper.  In reality it's 3 layers--the paper, the drawing and the color.  In Photoshop that becomes apparent.  It's good to have everything segregated and safe.  Then at some point you can merge all the layers down.  I don't advise doing that.  Or go ahead and do it, just make sure you keep a working file that's not merged.  Once you merge and save, that's it, you're not unmerging; the layers are glued together forever.  The problem with that is if you want to go back and change anything, you'll probably have to rebuild the image. 

Dream Horse is ready to be printed.  Murder is scheduled to be printed--I'll use that for a giveaway at GoodReads (is there a more difficult site to navigate than that or is it just me?)

Good thing I did this post.  I realized I needed to put LARGE PRINT on the back cover.  It's not necessary for Amazon, but if I ever decide to go with the Extended Distribution, it would be correct to have that prominently displayed because being large print is definitely a selling point.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

CreateSpace Without Angst

Unless you're rich and/or have no computer skills, don't even dream of hiring someone to do this for you.  If you wrote the book in a word processor, you can format it.

I'm sorry.  I have never even touched a Mac so none of this applies to you Apple people.  But isn't Mac so easy that you don't need help?

I'll assume you're using Word.
1) Open your document and rename it like Mygreatbook CS 022512 v1.
Each time you make changes save it, make it a new version.  Yes, this is important. You don't want to make a lot of changes then have something happen where you have to start over.  (You can delete all the versions but the last of them after the process is over.)
2) Go to Page Layout and find Margins. Choose MIRRORED.
3) Go to Page Setup.  Under Paper, type in the size of the book you chose at CreateSpace.  5.25 X 8, 6 X 9.  Whatever.  Apply to whole document.
4) Go to View.  Choose the side by side.  You will now be looking at how the book is laid out.
5) Wait.  There's no Frontmatter.  Put it in.  Pick up a published book like yours and see how it's done.

I followed the template of my previously published books by Atheneum:

Half Title (Title of Book)
Copyright page (dedication can go up at the top, copyright, disclaimer, ISBNs, publisher, what's the BISAC)
Title Page (Title with Author's Name)
Blank page.  (go to insert hit section break on your last front matter page)

Why do you need a blank page?  Because without it the front matter ends on a right side page.  If you add a blank page, your next page is right side.

Joel Friedlander, a book designer, explains it in greater detail here Joel Friedlander on Front Matter.

I think this is from another era, it's trad pub stuff no one cares about anymore, and you can scoot by on the basics.  You're paying for these pages and no one is going to read them anyway.

What if there is a blank page before the Half Title?  Decrease the size of the view until there are 3 pages on your screen.  Delete the blank one.  That should take care of it. You might want to leave this until one of the final steps.  Your choice.

Chapters start on RIGHT SIDE PAGES.  That's why you want to look at the project in 2 page view, so you can easily tell when you get screwed up.

Choose a font.  Stick with something typographers have always used--Garamond is great.
I like using 14 pt for kids books.
Most adult books will be 12 pt.
Large print is 16 pt.
We need to do something about line spacing now.
Under Home go to Paragraph.  Open the Paragraph Dialog Box.  (in Word 2007 it's the little arrow in the lower right corner)
Under line spacing choose EXACTLY and a number 2-4 pts greater than the size of your font.  So if the font is 12, you'll want 14 or 16.
Click apply.

For more detailed and accurate information on all this go to Aaron Shepard Self-Publishing .  He really is the maven.

Number your pages.  Watch this vid if you're unsure how to number and separate the front matter section from the text.  Richard Rost on Numbering in Word .  He makes it simple.

Start each new chapter around 2" down the page.

Comb through the book carefully as many times as it takes until you're happy.  (CreateSpace will point out your errors anyway but we'd like to avoid that as much as possible.)

You can upload the doc to CreateSpace this way.  I didn't have good luck with that and it takes them forever to convert it to a PDF.  It will take you less time so do it yourself.

Name the document something like vfinal1.  I usually call the first test upload prefinal.  Save it.

Go to print document.  One of your choices will be Adobe PDF.  Choose that.  Go to properties.  In Defaults Choose high quality.  In Adobe Page Size, type in the size of your book.  You'll want to unclick Rely on system fonts only otherwise the fonts you used will not be embedded in the document.
Click accept/apply/whatever.  And you're done.

Upload it to CreateSpace and let them find the mistakes for you.  There will be little flags with explanations in the Interior Review Machine.

Keep fixing it until it's right.

You just saved hundreds of dollars and acquired new skills and earned self-esteem.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sacha Baron Cohen Does The Oscars

I needed a laugh today.

CreateSpace Cover Just Murder

No, I mean I only changed the cover for Murder is Exhausting.  So I tweaked it and they said "You do know you have to go through the review process again?"  You have to review it again, it's fine with me.

I couldn't easily (there is a limit how much I'm going to bother with this for me, since I'm one of the few people who will ever see it) find a curly frame to echo the curly outline of the couch, so I went with a curly border.  It's a Photoshop brush, a free download.

Why didn't I drop it down farther?  Barcode goes in the lower right corner of the back cover and you can't design over that.

I thought about which book I'd do next and thought Nothing Serious was probably a good choice.  It had originally been written for the romance market--geez, I'm so not a romance writer--so that never happened.  And I some point I thought I'll self-pub it in large print but digital came along and I gladly gave up paper publishing.  What you don't think about is there is a market for large print books and mainstream publishers ignore it.  The few publishers who do such things are limited.  So it's a vital niche market.  Think about it.

NS is a short book and wouldn't be hugely long with a 16 pt font so I suspect that's my next project.

Update--Quite excited.  Got Nothing Serious through the CreateSpace meatgrinder on the 2nd try.  1st try was a problem with the PDF.  Open Office does it quicker/easier than Word.  But I did the whole document in Word, plus Drop Caps this time.  I guess I spend the afternoon doing the cover.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

CreateSpace Maven

That's probably going too far but I managed to finish Murder Is Exhausting today without 25 versions.
There was a problem in Word when I numbered the document.  I had 2 page 5s (Chapter 1).  But only in Word.  In Open Office, it was fine.  I made it as correct as I could in Word then opened it in OO and put the final touches on it there.

CreateSpace still wasn't happy when I considered it perfect as a .doc.  I converted the exact same document to a PDF and then CS became Happy Happy Happy.  My pal says there may be some kind of control character that's sticking in CS's craw that we can't see but is nullified in the conversion process.

It wound up being priced higher than I wanted because they didn't give me much choice in the matter.  I supposed longer books cost more but that much more?  I didn't know what physical size to choose so I just stuck with the 5.25 x 8.

I used Garamond at 12 pt for the font because at 14 that made the book almost 150 pages longer.  Yeah I could have found a curly frame to put on the backcover but oy, I'm so tired.

5,000 Kindle Titles Shut Down By Amazon In Pricing Dispute

Oh dearie me.  So not just me. Amazon super loves writers, really.

Amazon Price Dispute

Amazon is accused of a pressure campaign to extract more favorable terms from publishers and distributors.
The Independent Publishers Group says Amazon has decided not to renew an agreement to resell electronic titles offered by the book distributor's client publishers in an apparent dispute over wholesale discounts on books.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dream Horse and Its CreateSpace Junket

Luckily I had a nice bottle of Angry Orchard Hard Apple Cider Ginger Flavor to get me through this one without running screaming outside and throwing myself into the pond.

I'm going to guess and say between me and my computer genius pal, we created about 12 versions of the file both in Word and Open Office, none of which made it through the CreateSpace meatgrinder and yet oddly enough looked perfect on our monitors.  Did I ever get a version that passed in doc?  No.

Here's what I did.  I took the most perfect version, looked at it again, made sure all the chapters started on a right side page, made sure all the numbering was correct, made sure that I could live with whatever little bits might be slightly skewed and I turned it into a PDF.  I uploaded that and CreateSpace became Happy Happy Happy.

Then I swore a lot.  And then uploaded the cover.

You are absolutely correct, I didn't put anything about the book on the back cover, just some reviews from BN.
It's not like this is destined to be sold in stores, it'll be at Amazon.  Read about it in the description.

When I did Impossible Charlie through Lightning Source, yes, I did the back cover all perfect, just like a real book.   This was already a big enough hassle, I didn't want to take on more.

Yes, it's a simple cover.  For this purpose, it doesn't need to be more designed than that.  It's about 5000% better than the original cover that Atheneum stuck me with, a grim and dark green and gray thing with terrible artwork.
Here there's beautiful Sparkle who will live on forever--you can't get better subject matter than him. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dream Horse Cover For CreateSpace

I have the background color faded so you can see the template which will be removed at the last step.
The apple is also faded so you can see thru it.  I'm not sure I'll leave that as an element because I favor using some of the great reviews off of BN for the book.

I see that CS is offering some generic covers for people to use.   All I can do is beg you not to default to that.  At least try to do your own cover. 

I might use this on the back.  It's the image of an apple put in a heart shape.  Simple clipping mask 

 Yes, when the cover is done, I'll post it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Using A CreateSpace Template

I think you're better off using your own created in Word.  I did do the paperback of Charlie (Dream Horse) in Open Office in 2009 and used the CreateSpace template for Summer Horse but Word is easier.  If you don't have Word and do have OO or Libre Office (why name it that??  Why not Sunshine Office?  Because it's free?  Then Free Office.)

Anyway, just choose the mirror layout, type in your size specifications and you're ready to start pasting in your text.  You will need to be mindful that chapters start on odd pages.  You'll have to add page breaks or blanks at the end of some chapters to make that happen but that's not hard.  You can force what is an odd or even page, so look for that box if that need arises.

What will be a pain is figuring out how to get the numbering right.  I admit I was going nuts until I found this tut.  It will solve everything if you follow it.  It's not complicated but--what do you expect, it's a Microscoff product, it's not intuitive or streamlined.

You need to split the front matter from the text to get the numbering to work properly.  Also not a big deal.  Microscoff will give you no hints where to do this or how find it, but this guy explains it perfectly and slowly.

So go turn your digital books into paper books.

Don't whine that I didn't show you how to build the cover.  In a post I went step by step last year with Summer Horse, do a search you'll find it.  It's easy.

You will want to use their cover template and if you want to do it from scratch, it's darn hard to find the page anymore.  Here it is.  Tell them how many pages and their computer will do all the math for you.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What I Could Do

I could label all my photos with the name of the tv chef and drive people nuts.   They come here thinking--at last, success, she's nude!--and they find a piece of wood from a barn with paint peeling.  Oh the disappointment!   I think the interest in her is bizarre.  Is that celebrity?  I've already written--geez, nearly every book for the last ten years has something to do with celebrity.

I think the Kardashians are good with this, but do relatively normal people want others to objectify them into body parts?  Don't people want to be known, respected and loved for who they are, not the size of their breasts which, after all, can be bought.  Who you are can't be bought or sold or counterfeited.  Anything anyone can have has no real value except that day's price.

I could get a Lego set with the humanoids and put the girl one in poses, a whole study, a series of photos of the Lego chef.

In Unspeakably Desirable, Bel made a watermill gingerbread building for Christmas and she considered making a marzipan figure representing Asher's ex-girlfriend, Chappie, and tying her to the paddles so she would be dunked everytime the wheel went around.  The almond Chappie would be wearing tight black leather pants and Payless tennis shoes instead of Louboutin spikes. 

I could make the tv chef out of marzipan.  I could make it into a book that Amazon could claim I didn't write!
Self-publishing for fun and insanity.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Who Is This?

I have absolutely no idea. It came up in a search for Basil Rathbone but I don't believe it.

It's a great portrait with everything going for it, especially this gorgeous young man.

Freebie Mania

I don't think Amazon is in a plot to devalue books. Right at this moment I don't care about them.  They have their business plan, it's not particularly helping me. 

We can see that people love free books.

What I don't know is the correlation between downloading free books and sales.  Are free books the BEST way to promo a new-to-the-public author?  I don't know.

This 5 free days thing out of 90 is all that Amazon offers.  I think it's pitiful.  Amazon could have a page that changed every day where indie authors were featured, picked at random by computer.  Or they could allow advertising.  I'm sure they can figure out a lot of ways.  They're just not doing it.  That's fine.  It is what it is.  It's a venue we didn't have 4 years ago.  Is it perfect?  It's perfect for some.  I'm trying to address the potential pitfalls.

If you have the freebie and the sales after, good for you.  It's not worth it for me.

Here's this month's freebie.  Before the freebie began a week ago, I had 1 sale.  And you can see 1 return.  There was 1 review from a verified purchaser.

Let me restate.  There have been no sales since the free offering.  1 sale is the total.  I made no money on this book.  (The book that Amazon accused me of not writing and all the agitation that created.)

My best selling book is not on Kindle Select nor will it ever be.  Does Kindle Select bump me into greater recognition and sales?  No, it doesn't. There is no detectable increase in sales of anything on Kindle Select or that there's been a spill-over effect to books not in the program.

This is my experience of it.  YMMV.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's All IMO

Who cares about the humble part, right?

I'm not crazy about Kindle Select.  It looks like it gives authors a small chance to rise out of what's a throng now.  If you want to try it--go ahead.  I don't advise putting on anything you really care about.  Read the Gimme Cap post.  It works for other people but it hasn't worked for me.

What I don't like about it is the free part.  If Amazon really wanted to help indie authors they would come up with a way to feature authors/books that doesn't devalue the work for both the author and the reader.  An atmosphere of entitlement is being created. 

Everything I'm thinking is vulgar.  And I don't like doing that.

So I'll tell you about a horrid landlord I once had.  He had no people skills at all but he was apparently a great great businessman.  He had lived in another country and worked for a famous company and kited $29,000,000 from them.  What's kiting?  It's when someone uses the money from a company they work for for their own purposes/investments and replaces the money after they've turned a profit.  He did this.  The company found out.  And the fired him.  And he sued them for unlawful dismissal and won $3,000,000 which he used to come to America and buy an estate.  Everything he touched turned to gold.  He made money at everything.

What was his philosophy?  "I will not be undersold."  He knew that he was selling the same/duplicate gumballs (it wasn't gumballs) as his competition, but if he priced them higher, there would be the illusion of greater value to his customers.  He wasn't making gumballs, he was buying them from a wholesaler and having his label put on them.  There was no quality control, or that he had input at the gum manufacturing plant.  He was just buying gumballs and  pricing them so that the people who wanted the finest gumballs bought his.

The lesson to be learned is that you can market to the freebie crowd or you can price your book for readers.  The freebie crowd will treat you like dirt because you already said your book has no value.  You're desperate.
Desperation is a terrible thing.

If it works for you, if it doesn't make you feel demoralized, then you don't know what I'm talking about.  Good.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kindle Direct Publishing Specifics

This is the place to find detailed information so no one can come back to you and say "You're doing it wrong".

Kindle Support How To Do Everything

Well actually they can and I'm not at all convinced that any of these devices works 100% 100% of the time.  I was checking the Flashes and there were a couple pages missing.   Blanks.  The next time I looked, the pages were there.  So self-publishers can get blamed for screwy formatting or fonts when it might not be us at all.

What doesn't sit right with me is how willing and quick some readers are to not just blame but slam, decry and demean authors.  They're getting books for a bargain price.  I suspect there are very few serious indie publishers who price their books at the astronomical levels of tradpub, and yet it's still not enough.  So $2.99, $1.99, 99 cents, even free, some drunk troll has to leave their burrow and take their shot.

If readers are entitled to perfect books, I'm entitled to perfect readers of those books.

New Nikon > D7K?

After all the people desperate for Nadia G photos, someone got here by searching "how sharp is the D7k".  Wrong question.  Right question--how sharp is your lens.  Buy expensive glass.  Don't invest in the new Nikon D800 unless you can afford really great glass.  The 55-200 VR will always look like crap no matter what the reviews say.  You need to pay hundreds of dollars for a real lens, not a a plastic toy.  Don't pay for speed you don't need, research for sharpness.

My 85mm, comes in 2 versions of the same lens.  One is an f 1.4 that costs $1900 at Amazon right now.  Mine is an  f 1.8 that costs $500.  Same lens,  but more speed for $1400.  You can't bump the ISO up?  You can't find a flash that costs under $1200?  You don't need that f stop.  Where are you shooting?  In a cave?  This is a good portrait lens and fine all purpose lens.  Zoom with your feet.

I know it's a weird length --some people love the 35mm for $200 or the 50mm but the good one is $700 and I've never been that much of a fan of a 50m--but I continue to love the 40 mm bigtime.  It's the right length for me and it's super sharp.  You can hit it with post processing sharpening and not really detect an improvement.

Here's a real quickie proof.  I started a new cookbook yesterday (it'll have 1 recipe, I want to see the complaints and refunds demanded on that!).  I took a picture of my kitchen scale with the 40 at the end of the day, totally overcast, lousy light.  This is at 100%.

No Sharpening

A little sharpening
What's the difference?  In photo 2, there is a little more clarity, organization of the pixels.  You really have to look for it.  (If I could get the quality of #1 with the 55-200 after processing, I would be thrilled.)  I suspect that's the nature of digital.  I've never used a super expensive digital Nikon with a $3000 lens so maybe they don't need the 40 sec it takes to open the file and hit it with some sharpening.  But if what you get is the same thing to a naked eye, unless you're shooting billboards, you don't need it.

I will try to think of something positive to say about writing later today.  Don't count on it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

No Disaproned Chef Photos Here

Some months ago I mentioned the TV chef (fill in the blank).  Now people come here looking for nude pictures of her.  My first reaction was "Are you nuts?  Why would she appear nude?"  Then I realized even Miley Cyrus posed with barely anything on.  What's that magazine FHM?  The cover is like  Anatomy 101 for med students.  It's a mark of distinction to be featured.

I'm glad women's lib worked out so great.  Women used to wear dresses down to their knees and men held the door for them.  Now women have the freedom to dress and act like streetwalkers and that's how men treat them.  Props to the commies, Gloria and Betty, for working so hard to improve things for women.

Sweets For Your Sweet was free for 4 days and about 800 copies were downloaded which I guess is good for a little Gimme Cap cookbook. 

A portrait photographer took an absolutely stunning photo I'd love to use on the Kate book and he's trying to get a model release on it.  You go around and see great images, don't be reluctant to ask if you can use them.  You might get lucky.  If not, you're only disappointed.  Disappointment doesn't kill, it only maims.

Gratitude and Congratulations to L.H. at Barnes & Noble for what had to be the sheer strength of her will to get the malicious reviews removed from Dream Horse and Just Kate.  Now, let's hope for a promotion and greater authority for her!

Yes, I tweaked it.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

If you look at the vintage Valentine's cards, it just seems that people were happier.  So try to be happy today.

Amazon Approved Kindle Friendly Font

We now have the definitive answer from KDP Support on what is the best font to use.  For further illumination I wrote back and asked what the approved font to use in the situation of a document containing images.  I asked if saving in html filtered, then zipping was the correct procedure.

Hello Barbara,

I understand that you have been using TNR, 12 point, as a font and received a negative customer review with regards to this, therefore you would like our advice as to which font to use.

If you're uploading your content in DOC format, we recommend that you use "Times New Roman" font face and a font size of 12. The Kindle conversion software will then convert it to the Kindle compatible style and size. If you specify a size greater than 12, the conversion may not work well.
From experience and from reader recommendations, we suggest that you stick with the "Times New Roman".

Monday, February 13, 2012

Table of Contents

What I forgot to mention is that ALL (I know it runs contrary to logic) the chapters will be designated as Heading 1.  You think Chapter 1 is 1.  Chapter 2 is 2.  Chapter 3 is 3.  No.  It doesn't work like that for this purpose.

The instructions are pretty good in Word (surprisingly) so start there.  Search for Table of Contents in the Help File.  Then you will  mark each by highlighting the chapter/whatever with the heading style.  Click Heading 1.  I had a hard time finding that.  It's to the extreme right on the ribbon under the Home tab.

Once that's done you will go back and click create table of contents and it should happen.


Got a nice little review on Smashwords today for Map of a Heart

Review by: Lindsey J Carden on Feb. 13, 2012 : star star star star star
Lovely poetry with soulful pictures. One to load up and read again and again.
Well done.

Some people are happy and other people feel it's their duty to correct everyone.

This is one of my favorite movies scenes of all times.  Not for it's artistic quality but for targeting a certain mindset.  Mr.  Mom

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Life Is Just a Tea Cup of Truffles

Well you think this will be easy to create a clickable Table of Contents but it's not.  And I'm not sure why they're needed in a novel (are there tables of contents in tradpub novels--not the ones on my bookshelf) or a short booklette but as I said yesterday I got a complaint.  So I took 8 hours out of my day and 2 hours out of my pal's day, to try to satisfy this Amazon crisis.

Here is a link that explains it the clearest of any for those of you using Word.

Don't get your hopes up, it's not close to automatic.

It's rare to have a problem with BN formatting, and that is now holding true at Smashwords--good on you, Mark.
I don't think I ever upload anything to Kindle that I don't have to immediately before I click publish, start trying to figure out why it doesn't look on screen the way it does in Word or Expression Web.  Unfortunately I'm a writer not a computer geek, hidden buried codes, why things aren't perfectly aligned after you strip the formatting and reformat to center--I just don't have an answer for that.

And for free?  This is what I mean.  They're getting something for free and they want it full length, perfect, exactly what they expect, the characters to behave exactly how they want them to behave, the spelling and word choices to suit their own personal experience and if you don't do that for them, you're stupid and lazy and taking advantage of them.

It'll be interesting to see where this leads.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Okey Dokey

Sweets For Your Sweet has been free for 5 hours.  I got my first complaint about formatting and maybe kitchen techniques but I'm not sure.   I know who this person is, too.  Unbelievable.  Dismaying. 

I don't know what to say about the formatting.  It looks fine in the emulator, it looks perfect in the kindle for PC, it looks fine as an epub in my Nook Color.  No I didn't do a table of contents.  There are 6 recipes.  You can't scroll a little?

Map of a Heart is available for free on Smashwords in all the formats they offer so that's my Valentine's gift to you.

Time to get serious about the new book as I've been putting that off with all these Gimme Cap things and we can see how well that's worked!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Free Falling

I love this song.  I stayed for a while in Reseda.  It's just all houses, there's no discernible town center.  It's off of Ventura Blvd.

I'm not falling at the moment.  Bad Apple is having a free day and doing quite nicely.

I hope this time readers will connect with it and go on to the other 2 books.

I didn't work on my new YA today instead I took my own Gimme Cap advice and created a booklette called Map of a Heart.  This is exactly what should be free.  A small...oh, perfect phrase for it!  Oh geez, it's French, I better not use it around any drunk trolls or they'll turn me in to the Kindle Spelling Police.

A freebie is an amuse bouche.  It's like a starter, a tidbit to whet your appetite.  You don't serve them the meal, you offer them a tidbit, an amuse bouche.  That's what this booklette is.  I had some vintage postcards and found some more in public domain and used Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese "How do I love thee, let me count the ways...".  I used one line per page, 1 image per page.  It came to about 14 pages.

It'll be free the day after Amazon gets around to publishing it.  I hope they don't wonder if I wrote this one.

How does this have anything to do with anything else I've written?, I have a list of my "romance" novels at the end.  It's publicity.  It's about getting your name out there.  It's about getting noticed.

Now I have something of a conundrum.  I had Schtupid Cupid scheduled for a free day on the 14th.  I wrote Sweets For Your Sweet for Valentine's Day.  It's overkill.

Update:  I don't have to worry about it.  Amazon has this new book in review just like Sweets For Your Sweet and that took almost a week to get out of KDP jail, so I just threw away about 6 hours of work trying to finish something for Valentine's Day for Kindle Select.

And Joe Konrath keeps telling us how much Amazon loves authors.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Questions With No Answers

Someone bought a copy of Sweets then immediately got a refund?  Was it not worth 99 cents?

Since the cover change on Bad Apple 1, 3 copies sold.  Does that mean guns sell better than apples?
That's a serious question regarding cover design.  I usually look for an image that suggests the story.  Schtupid Cupid--looks like an old Jewish woman to me.  Nothing Serious--summer colors, summer hat, the breeze is blowing, beautiful girl with a flowing dress, nothing serious there.  Sweets--a plate of candy.  Blue Raja--"out of the north an evil shall break forth" there you have Khryza Zentral, on the water, Northern Lights, foreboding castle.  NLM--lawsuit against Viva.

These are all central to the story.  Gun?  Yes, there are guns in the Bad Apple books.

Have you seen that movie with Jennifer Lopez?  I haven't.   I think it's called Enough.  She's abused and then learns how to fight back.  That's worthy of a gun.  Neal doesn't spend 200 pages learning to fight back.  She's trying to get away from Joe and the violence.  Is the book about violence?  Yes.  Was violence done to Neal?  It sure was.  Was there a murder?  You betcha.

I guess here's the bottom line for me.  I'm sorry if a gun on the cover is what it takes to get people to find this series.

Now I'm going to spend the rest of the morning making the gun bigger.



At least font wise, the newer one is better because the name shows up better.  This was a problem with this image.  Half was light, half was dark.  It meant neither dark nor light would work across the image.  I did what I tell you not to do--use an outline (stroke in layer styles)  I used a barely darker color at 50 % opacity to make it as unobtrusive as possible while still defining the text against the background.  Totally my fault when I took the photo and I probably should have just gone out to reshoot.  But I was losing my light so I didn't and made the best of it.  It's still a good image.  A really good image.  It's just got that issue if I insist on having my name on the cover.

Update:  Amazon worked faster with this change.  Good for them.  The larger gun cover is the one on the page and it sold a copy.  So I'm not going to look at the numbers (they're numbers, come on people) for Jan. but there were 2 free days so there is no way I can do the math.  Let's just say it was freebie downloaded 500 times and sold 1 copy.  In Feb. with the old cover it sold 1 copy.  Since the gun cover, it's sold 4.

I find this sort of disheartening.  Design-wise the apple cover is as strong a design as the gun.  And there's more of it in focus.  With the 40 mm lens, what is not directly precisely in focus falls off when you're that close.  There's no depth of field.  The barrel could be a pipe for all you can really tell.  Luckily I actually had a gun because I didn't have a pipe.  People are buying this because it's a gun on the cover.

I took a photo for my pal Chris and I was so close to the thing, it was actually under the lens hood.  I LOVE that 40 mm lens.  Way to go, Nikon!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sweets Out of KDP Jail

Yes, Sweets For Your Sweet was finally released AND without an ankle bracelet.

I asked on my serious blog, the BAM blog, if the image on the new Bad Apple cover was recognizable and Angela kindly wrote that it was a gun but she liked the apple better.  I love being agreed with.

However.  Within hours of the change, a copy sold.  One might argue that 1 copy sold before the change.  I think that was Feb. 1.  But that 1 copy sold so soon after makes you feel that it was because of the cover.  Or was it because I've talked about it here for days?  No idea.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Flash of Light

You thought I had a new cover for it.  No, I like the 3-D cover and probably won't change that for a long time.
I did get a 5 star review on it over at BN and although you are anon, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to say such nice things about my work.

Posted February 3, 2012

Loved it.

Love the way the book was written. I love this series and also the bad apple series!
  Report this review

Years ago when I was in college I had a creative writing teacher.  It was in the days of Woodstock and everyone being stoned pretty much all the time--not me, I have a tenuous enough grip on reality, I don't need to take a bazooka to it--and he thought Tom H*&^#(*$@ was the best writer in the class.  I remember a story of Tom's that was an analysis of pushing spaghetti down the drain in the shower with his toes.  Yeah.  Creative writing (stay away from it).  But the teacher observed or cursed me saying that I was neither a commercial writer nor a literary writer, I was somewhere on the cusp.  Since I was about 19, I had no idea what that meant.  DA was wrong about so much but he was right about that. 

I don't possess the mannerisms of literary writing but have more content or substance than commercial.  My work is deceptive, it reads fast, and if you read it fast you miss all the subtext.  (That's when the drunk trolls get mad at me.  It looks like what they're familiar with but they don't understand it.)  So whenever anyone reads my work and gets it, I'm thrilled. 

I've been waiting my entire life for what turned out to be the digital revolution.  I will never be an Amanda Hocking, but maybe my niche audience can find me.

They can find you, too.

Hey, I have another book in mind Kindle Desktop Publishing can doubt I wrote!  Yay!  
Yes, my little 6 recipe cookbook is still in KDP Jail. I mean "review" so that they "can improve the experience for readers."  Got it.  That makes mistreatment of authors A-OK.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bad Apple 1 New Cover


You thought I meant Microscoff Windows.  No.

For the 2nd time this week, I changed a cover on kindle, they congratulated me for achieving publishing success and yet the cover hadn't changed.

I was alerted to a site called All Romance Ebooks and actually they also sell nonfiction, so it's not set in stone.  It's an interesting idea and well done.  Of course you can go to Amazon and search for romances and find them.  What these people are doing is drilling the categories down to a remarkable level as well as providing heat levels.  Although I will say I'm a little dubious about a male/male erotica thing being in "inspiration" just because one of the guys is the son of a preacher man.  But there are glitches in every system.

They provide books in whatever format the author/publisher wants to upload so goodbye issues with having to buy from Kobo or iBookstore or Kindle or BN.

If I was really into reading romance, I would go to this site because it's easier, it's concentrating on exactly what I want.  So I'm thinking that in the future, why wouldn't there be sites just like this for other genres.  They cater to their niche market, they can have contests, give away books, have activities, forums, be a community of like minded readers.

Amazon is MegaMart.  It's cold, impersonal, and it helps if you know what you're looking for.  If the book isn't in the top 100 or whatever, it's hard to be found.  If you can be more specific about what you're looking for, you might actually find it.

We're going to see lots of experimentation in the digital world and it will be very exciting.  OTOH, expect to see no experimentation in legacy publishing just a lot of press releases proclaiming their success, stability and the uselessness of digital.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Long View

We like instant gratification.  If results aren't immediate, we freak.  Take the long view of this process.  I guess I'm tempted to include a story by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah from the Talmud here.

Once a child got the better of me. I was traveling and I met with a child at a crossroads. I asked him, “Which way to the city?” and he replied: “This way is short and long, and that way is long and short.”
I took the “short and long” way. I  reached the city but found my approach obstructed by brambles and rocks. So I retraced my steps and said to the child: “My son, did you not tell me that this is the short way?” Answered the child: “Did I not tell you that it is also long?”

I don't know a lot about digital publishing.  Other people have had different experiences, but this is all in flux.  It changes with each new decision Amazon makes, with each new reader, with each new country that comes online.  It's all changing.

What's not changing is that there are no shortcuts.  You have to do your work.  Your work.  Tell your stories.  Follow your path.  Experiment.  Try things.  Find joy in it.

Finding joy is the important part.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sweets For Your Sweet

First off, the marshmallows are better the 2nd day.  Still not something I would make again but yeah, I can see why if stored in a large jar and aged somewhat they'd be attractive to some people.  A little firmer.  Not crunchy, but concentrated.  Not so fluffy.  Dryer.  They'd be more interesting with rose flavoring or something more pronounced than vanilla.

This was the first cover.

This was the second.

They both have their strengths and weaknesses.  And I am 51% for the 2nd.

I won't name names but I've seen covers obviously designed by the writer (far more famous than I) that I didn't think were all that strong graphically and they still sell.  So I say this to encourage you to give creating your own cover a whirl.  Don't set the bar so high you pre-fail.  You can buy a perfectly good image for a ridiculously small amount of money and use the basic design I've used with this cover.  Split the cover in 3rds.  Image in the middle.  Name on top, title on bottom.  Title on top, name on bottom.  Use a common font.  Don't be too creative.  Don't do drop shadows or outline.  Keep it simple.  You might be more successful than you imagine.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Harshing My Hearts

Okay Suzanne.   I wound up being pretty specific in your instructions although not grimly serious.

Here's the recipe I tinkered together.  Double it if you want more of these Michelin Man things.  I'm leaving them for the mailman.

1.5 tablespoons gelatin (pack and a half)
1/6 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup (preferrably not the kind with crap vanilla in it already but if that's what you can find, no one will be able to tell the difference)
1/4 cup water
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon salt
vanilla to taste

In a small bowl add the gelatin and pour the 1/6 cup water over it.  Give it about 15 min for gelatin to do what it does.
Meanwhile in a heavy saucepan, add the 1/4 cup water, corn syrup and sugar.  Heat until melted.  Raise the heat.  Don't burn it.  Using your required for this process candy thermometer, let the mixture reach 250 degrees.  Careful.  This stuff is hot.

Pour the gelatin and water into your stand mixer.  Turn it on.  Slowly down the side of the bowl, pour the flaming hot sugar.  Beat Beat Beat.  You can walk away.
And you have to.
Beat an egg white until stiff.  I used a whisk.  Add the salt.
When the sugar mixture is glossy and about doubled, add the egg white.
Combine well. 
Add the vanilla.  At this point add food coloring.  I used red.  It looked plenty pink.  But by the time it was coated again and again with sugar, it lost its impact.  So probably use a bit more than you think.
This stuff is sticky beyond belief.
You've put aluminum foil on a sheet pan and covered that with cornstarch or potato starch.
Quickly pour the goop onto the sheet pan.
With a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray, or possibly dipped  in hot water, spread the glop out fast.  It's going to start setting up.
It's like the Blob.  It's got a life of its own.  It moves to where you don't want it to go.
That's it.  Let it sit out on the counter for 4 hours or overnight.
Tip it out onto a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper covered with cornstarch or confectioner's sugar.  This stuff wants to stick to everything.
Take you heart cookie cutter.  Dip it in hot water.
Cut out heart shaped marshmallows.
Dredge in confectioner's sugar.
You will wash your hands about 75 times during this whole ordeal.  But go ahead, make your day! ;-)

Don't Harsh My Mallow

I made marshmallows today for the cookbook.  Don't bother.  People say they're so great, fresh and delicious.  Apparently they sell them in France from tall jars.  These tasted like Campfire Marshmallows to me.  Fresh Campfire Marshmallows.  So they won't be in the book.  It was a lot of work for nothing very spectacular.  I didn't want to write all the directions.

Is this booklette going on Kindle Select or not?  I don't know.  I thought it was.  Now I'm not feeling it.

I wish BN would come up with some kind of program similar to Kindle Select, then I would do half and half.  I wish they would do something to make it more attractive to stay there.

What else is new.  Big surprise.  First sale of the month was Pizza Princess.  Why?  It's been for sale for about 2 years and sold like 3 copies during that timeframe.  What can we glean from this?  Better cover?  Better/snappier description?

I know there's some jumping around.  There are a lot of moving pieces in this story.  Because it was a script and I didn't ditch all the scenes that maybe I should have.  Then there wouldn't have been information available the audience needs.  So yeah, it could be called flawed in that regard.  It costs 99 cents.  It's cute.  It's still well-written.  Everything I said about the cheese is correct.  Just read it without malice aforethought.  People watch the dreckiest television shows and manage not to hurl tomatoes at the set, relax with the ebooks already.

Malicious Reviews

I finally got back to Ms H at BN who helped me with removing ridiculous reviews last time.
I'm giving up with it.  BN is not organized to address these issues.  Amazon is.  It's better than tradpub's slings and arrows, so just something to accept.

I rarely get ridiculous reviews at Amazon.  I get mean ones, sure.  I rarely get mean reviews at BN, but  get a lot of kids who can't download the book/the sample/don't know how to type.

I don't feel like this is my job.  Site maintenance and patrol is the province of the company who is selling my work.  If you flag the review, someone should be there to find out why and determine if company policy thinks it should be removed.  Flagging it and having no response is a waste of a click.

You're caught because there are readers who will say "I never buy a book with under 4 stars, I've been burned too many times".  Then you have a couple drunk trolls drag you down to 3 stars and we know you are now out of the prime Amazon algorithm.  This is not a joke, this is about sales.  Bad/malicious reviews can impact the future of your book.  This is reality, not me overreacting.

But screw it.  I can't do anything about it.

Making marshmallows this morning.  I was going to make shortbread too but I'll bet I won't.  The book is essentially done.  I want it to be done.  Booklette.