Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paperback proof

I received the paperback proof of my book the other day.  It looks good and it feels good to hold a physical copy of my work.  Lighting Source so far has been a great company to work with if you are going to do things on your own.  It took less than a week from when I uploaded the files correctly to having the proof in my hand.  There were a few minor corrections that I need to make to the interior, reorder a proof with changes and it should be ready to launch.  So my guess is this time next week, I should be approving the print and ready to order copies for myself to sell.  Before it shows up elsewhere via Ingram's catalog, that could be much longer.

This brings me to a topic for this blog post.  Selling books vs selling eBooks.  When I started my trilogy I had planned on both eBooks and regular books to be sold.  The idea of traveling around the country or world to shake hands and sign my name for fans seemed about as Hollywood as it could get.  Four months into writing, editing, formatting, researching etc. this is pretty un-realistic financially.  Well...  At least it is for now.  When it comes to numbers, selling a single copy of my book myself produces the greatest return.  If I were to attend a conference or book signing, I would have to sell 1.5 books an hour to make minimum wage.  That doesn't sound too hard.  But if you do the research, selling ANY can be hard.  For every person who had a good book signing of 10+ copies, there are 1000 that didn't sell.  I am still looking forward to setting up some signings in my local area and perhaps outside of that if I can combine the trip with something else like a vacation.

I think however that until the paperback shows up on Amazon and other online stores I will focus on selling the paperback online myself with either an e-bay store or just a simple PayPal account and email me if someone wants a signed copy.  I already have a good list of people who want to buy the paperback because they do not own a e-reader device.  Also by offering to sign any copies through my own store could be a little bonus.

This leads me to a marketing question for everyone reading.  In the end, I do not want to charge anymore for the book than I have to.  I priced the paperback at $14.15 so with Idaho sales tax it comes to an even $15.  This is for my own convenience on making change.  So at $15, what do you see as a more attractive buy?  A discount off the cover price and you pay shipping, or paying full price for the book and "free shipping"?  In the end math regardless of choice it will be $15.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Uncle once again

Friday my younger sister had her first baby.  A little 7lb 21in girl.

Back to the book world.  It appears that the print version is going well.  I have been billed for the setup and proof copy from Lightning Source.  I should see it any day as the invoice says its being shipped UPS NBD.  Writing goals for last week were missed.  Between launching book one, Social Geeks meetings, and a baby, writing time got sacrificed.  This week doesn't appear to be much better.  The week itself is going to be cut short because of the holiday coming up as well as catching up on all of the neglected tasks from last week that did not get done as well.  If I can finish chapter two and three, I will be very happy.  I know I can do it, I just need to sit down and devote the time to it.

Some of the marketing ideas that I have I also need to set aside some time to complete as well.  I have a rough draft of a teaser trailer video for both Requiem and Guardian.  Also the footage I took when we did the photo shop needs to be edited and put on YouTube as well.  These should all generate some visibility for the book.  Other ideas I had were to do character interviews.  This seems like a fun idea to treat the characters in the book like real life people or actors and ask them questions about the book.  I am also looking into Facebook ads and Adwords from Google.  These seem to be fairly cheap options that have the potential to get my book, or at least the book cover art in front of a lot of people.  Granted most internet users block ads, at 50 cents per 1000 exposures, it is something that you could spend $2.50 a day for 5k exposures and let it run for a month.  Direct advertising often does not pay for itself, its more about the "branding" and exposure to people that are not in my direct communication circles.  However $75 a month for 150,000 Facebook ads that you can directly focus to potential customers is kinda hard to pass up on.  Even if only 1% get looked at that's 1,500 people that never knew it existed, and if 1% of those people buy the book, that is 15 sales you would not have had otherwise.  It still wont pay for the cost of the ad, but the exposure potential is there.  Also if you do the ad right 1% look with 2% purchase would pay for the ad, and anything more than that is profit.  However I am going to wait on this until the print book is out to maximize potential.

What are some of the marketing or advertising things you have done?  Were they successful or not?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Win Spin

Macho Man displays how I felt after the wait was over.  Seeing the number of units sold change from 0 to 1 was a great feeling.  Several times I had friends and family members congratulate me and say what an accomplishment writing a book was.  True there was some good feeling when the final word of the first draft was completed, but not much.  When I finally had a product listed on Amazon and B&N that I could point to and show people.  That is when the elation came.  It was twice if not three times as much work to go from a first draft to a product listed on Amazon.  So yes, I did the win spin on Monday and it still feels good today.

Now that I have the first book published, there is a whole new world of distractions that come with it.  From checking every 10 minutes to see how many units have sold, to telling everyone I can that its done.  It has been very hard to focus on writing book two.  My mind is so busy that it is hard to fall asleep at night.  All week it has been 1:00am or later before I lay down and even then its several hours before I finally fall asleep. I am sure it will pass, but once I get the days activities done and its time to write, I am tired and only a page or two gets written.

I am currently half way through chapter 2.  I got a couple of pages done yesterday and it is shaping up fairly well.  It is fun to have characters continue to grow from one book to another and also challenging that you are simply not writing the same thing over and over.  I get to explore the more mental and emotional character growth vs learning to survive that dominated book one.

Book 1's cover came back to haunt me this week as well.  The cover submission to Lightning Source, I forgot to add the 3mm bleed so the project was halted until it was corrected on Wednesday.  In the grand scheme of things its not a big deal but all of the frustrations that book 1 has caused me, nothing comes close to the book cover.

How do you manage all your time and not get distracted?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Today I published my first book

Fathers day weekend was fun.  Spent a lot of time with my parents at their place on the river.  I helped my dad put together one of the Jet Ski's.  They are becoming more trouble than they are worth.  Each year you have to put in a new battery and $40 yes FORTY dollar a gallon oil plus gas, registration etc makes them an easy $200 to get running every year.  Friday it was nice, but Sunday when we got the second one in the water finally, the wind had created 2-3 foot wave swells.  Test running the jet ski was a jarring ride that my back has yet to forgive me for.  I am not even going to get into how the boat engine was disassembled by the company who winterized it and said it was water ready.

Today in the world of being a writer, author, publisher marks a special day.  I uploaded my manuscript to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lightning Source.  Two locations for eReaders and the printing company.  Everything appears to have gone smoothly so now I am in a "hurry up and wait" phase.  Amazon says 24 hours, Barnes and Noble says 48ish, and Lightning Source says it will be a while.  10 days for them to create and send me my proof copy.  Once that is approved, then I can order print runs of it and it will be listed through Ingram Book's catalog.  When it shows up on Amazon or Barnes and Noble to buy as a paperback, I have no idea.  Research points to as little as a week after the proof is green lit to as many as 10 weeks.

The eBook versions have been priced at $2.99.  The paperback has a retail price of $14.15.  I chose that price for my own convenience.  When you add the 6% sales tax for Idaho, it makes it an even $15.  So if I sell any copies out of my truck, I do not have to worry about too much change.  I also have set up an account with Square.  This is a company that lets you take Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and AMX cards through your phone.  They take a 2.75% cut from every swipe, but its worth it.  If you have any experience in dealing with a card services company that has contracts, fees etc.  You should be delighted with Square.

Book two of The Eternal Gateway series is currently at chapter 2.  I have set myself an aggressive goal for it.  I would like to see the first 5 chapters completed by the end of the week.  Unless something goes horribly wrong with Requiem now that it is released, all my time can go to Guardian.  I still plan to use Mondays and Thursdays as the days I blog to help market and promote my work.  It took 5 weeks to complete the first draft of Requiem.  With the added work of promoting etc, my goal is 7 weeks to have the rough draft of Guardian complete and a stretch goal of the final book, Sentinel, finished for the holidays.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Final review before it is go time!

I wanted to get peoples opinion on my revised front cover art as well as the back cover before I upload Requiem.  Let me know what you think, good or bad.

Barring any unforeseen catastrophe, book one of The Eternal Gateway series, Requiem, should be uploaded to Amazon's and Barnes and Noble's web site this coming Monday the 20th.  Print versions of the book will take a little longer before they are available.

I finally got my account approved with Lightning Source.  This was an interesting process.  Unlike Amazon or any other web site, Lightning Source's process was extensive.  I started on Monday, so it took 4 days to get my approval emails this morning.

Lightning Source required more than a simple username and password.  I had to have all of my business information, tax exempt numbers, proof of ISBN numbers etc.  The start of the process was fairly simple fill in the blanks, then the process ended.  A day later I received an email with a questionnaire to fill out with an new account rep.  Once that process was approved I had to go back to the online app and fill out several pages of information and I had to talk to the account rep in person at one point.  In the end I had to print out 4 forms, fill them out, and fax them back.

Aside from the better part of a week to get through, it really wasn't all that complicated as long as you had the information they requested and I did.  I can see why so many people go through a middle man service like SmashWords or CreateSpace.  In the end, if this takes off, I predict I will be better off.  By working with the printer directly it cuts out one more middle man leeching off of my hard work and research and I still get the benefit of Ingram's distribution channels.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Cover design

At long last the photo shoot for the cover of my upcoming book is finished.  It took a couple of hours with the model and the photographer to get everything done.  Around 170 photos were taken and of those about a dozen came out excellent that we can use for front cover art, back cover, teaser trailers, and other general marketing material.

It was a very interesting project for us all.  I manned the video camera for most of the shoot.  I captured about 90minutes of footage that I plan to edit down to a 5-8 min video.  I have no idea when that will be available, but I will let everyone know once it is on YouTube.

I only got poked with the swords twice.  Both times were when I was manning the air blowing machine for some of the shots.  We had her walk a path and do an action sequence to try and get some neat shots.  The starting point was off camera by the blower and twice she hit me bringing the swords into position.  They came already sharpened by the eBay store.

Here is an example of the cover.  It still needs some work like adding the author name, and I do not have the final dimensions yet for a print version.  This week my goals for the book are many and aggressive.  If everything goes to plan, the book will be uploaded to Amazon and B&N this coming Monday the 20th and ready for sale once the wait period passes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book cover photo shoot

Tonight finally we are going to get a photo shoot done.  The book cover has been aggravating to get done.  The first model was super excited and 2 weeks into the planning she up and disappeared.  An extra week and a half was lost trying to find out if she was still interested before I gave up and moved on.

The next model was ok with everything except her schedule was bad.  The earliest she was available would be July.  That was a deal breaker.

Next girl that said yes simply never replied to emails or answered her phone or returned voice messages.  Sigh... 4+ weeks into it now.

Another model was contacted and showed interest yet like the previous, just would not respond.

By now I was giving up on this cover idea and I have about six alternate covers sketched up that do not involve people.  I can only assume being a model is so unaffected by the current economy that offers can just be ignored.

Finally I have a model who said yes to the project and showed up yesterday to get fitted for costumes and props for tonight's shoot.  I am hoping it will be a lot of fun and the final product looks good.

If not, then I'm going to just bite the bullet and hire an artist.  My friend knows an artist in Texas who is familiar with the Steam Punk genera and has offered her services for a reasonable price.  J R Fleming.  Her 'friend' prices are almost cheap enough that I would just drop this current cover project and hand it off to her,  but between time and current costs involved, I need to see it through for now.

I think I will take some video and pictures of the shoot tonight and throw together a little something for YouTube.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

eBook Conversion Guide basic.

I have updated this guide as of Dec 7, 2011.  The updated guide can be found here.

This is a basic guide to convert your manuscript into .prc for the Kindle and .epub for the Nook.  I am not going to go over anything super fancy like embedding links or creating a table of contents.  Your mileage with this guide may vary with the versions of the programs you are using as well as this document ages, links may change and program versions get updated.  READ THE WHOLE GUIDE.  There are some formating issues you need to be aware of that I go over in detail at the end.

I used Microsoft Office Word 2007 to write my manuscript.  I also saved it as a .doc file.  This is an older compatibility mode and not the default .docx
Next is Mobipocket Creator version 4.2 build 41.  I downloaded this from the link provided by Amazon here.
And the last conversion app I used is called Calibre that can be found here.

Next I downloaded the pc reader versions of the Kindle and Nook to test my conversion and formating.  These apps can be found here.  KindlePreviewer  NookPCApp.

Now, of all the guide and information I found.  Amazon's own guide to create an eBook was the best by far.  All the other guides I found were teasers.  Just tiny bits of useful information that served no purpose other than trying to get you to buy a book or service to have it done.

Amazons guide says to convert to html and then run it through the Mobipocket app.  This is an unnecessary step now as the app will work right from a .doc file.  Simply click the option for ms word document.

Browse to your saved .doc file and press import.  If it hangs at 25% look behind the window and make sure you don't have a dialog box requesting permission to continue.  This can happen if you already have your manuscript open in Word.  It doesn't like that the file is already open in another program.

Now you should have a menu in Mobi that shows your manuscript listed as an .html file.  The next step is to add your cover.  Click the link that says Cover Image and press the 'Add a cover image' button.  Browse to where your cover art is and click open then click the update button.  I don't have my cover finished yet, so I am using a simple image that I created in MSPaint for this guide.

Next is Metadata.  This is important because the metadata is where a lot of information is stored about your eBook that can be used for searches, sorting, and all kinds of other information.  Think of this as where the title, singer, album etc that you see from MP3 files.  Also car radios that display the song and title for you get this info from the metadata.  If you do not know what to put in one of the fields, then leave it blank.  You should also see your book cover near the bottom as well.  Like before, when you have it filled out to your satisfaction, click the update button on the bottom.

Now click the build icon at the top of the window in Mobipocket Creator.

Here you get to set you compression levels and encryption options.  If you encrypt with DRM, the viewer wont display your eBook so for now use no encryption.  You can always go back and add it later.  Once you are satisfied, click build.  Open your Kindle Previewer app and drop in the prc file to view.  I recommend you go over every page to make sure it is the way you want it.  If you find any errors, correct them in your .doc file and repeat the process.  The only bit that takes any time to do is the 2 minutes to fill out the metadata.

Now, let me go over some of the problems I ran into.  Hopefully you read this part before you started.  On Amazons web page there is a line of text that doesn't stand out much, but it is extremely important.

Also your manuscript will automatically be left and right justified, so you don't need to do this in word.  So if your Word doc has tab indentation for each paragraph. You need to get rid of them or the Kindle will double tab and your paragraphs will start in the middle of the page.  Here is a clip from the word document and how the Kindle app uses its own formating.

What you need to do is remove the tabs manually, or change the paragraph layout to remove them in word.  Also you will need to get rid of any page numbers, headers and footers.  These will not line up at all when you convert to an eBook.  Also remember people can change the font size in the reader as well so page numbers in your manuscript will never line up with pages in an eReader.  So you should have something now that looks like this as a final product.

Take your time to make sure the Kindle version of your eBook is the way you want it.  Because this .prc file is what we are going to use to make your Nook version.  Also you need to do this process twice, because the ISBN number for the Nook version will be different than the Kindle version.  Make sure you go back and edit your copyright page and metadata to reflect this.

Now it is time to create the ePub file for Barnes and Noble's Nook.  I found that if you try to follow any guides about creating a PDF and then meat grinding it into an ePub file its going to suck.  I spent a good 5 hours trying to get it to work correctly and never got a final product that I would show the world.  PubIt's site sucked for information compared to Amazons and I spent more time trying to get a good epub book than everything else combined.  I almost gave up in frustration until I figured it out.  It was so simple, like 6 clicks and 30 seconds it was done.

So first open up Calibre

Then click the Add book button at the top.

Browse to your .prc file you just created for the Kindle with your updated isbn and copyright page and it should be added to the list of books.

You can click that blue "i" button next to the add book to review your metadata and edit it here but not the copyright page.  There are a few extra options you can fill out if you want.  Like if your book is part of a series.  When you are ready, make sure your book is selected and hit the convert button.

At the top left you should see input type as PRC and on the top right the output should be EPUB.  If it is not, then use the drop down to change it to EPUB and hit the ok button

Let it grind away.  You will see a buffering wheel next to jobs while it grinds out your epub book.  You can click on jobs and see the details if you like.  Once this process is complete, you will need to find your epub book.  When you added the .prc file, Calibre put it in its library folder under the author name.  Navigate to it, or do a search for *.epub and you should find it listed by the book title.  Drop the epub file into the Nook Reader.

Verify each that each page looks good and then congratulate yourself for creating your first Kindle and Nook eBook.  Hopefully if this is the first time you have created these file types, this guide helped and it did not take you more than an hour or two and feel proud for not spending a thousand dollars and waiting three months for someone else to do it.  If you have special formating in your book, like pictures, tables, bullet points and the like, hopefully they made it through the process ok.  If they did not, you may need to play with it, or hit up some of the Kindle forums.  There is a lot of helpful people there.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Upcoming eBook conversion guide

I intended to blog on Thursday the 2nd but I fell ill.  Then the weekend hit and I was very busy with helping my business on Western Days, and then lending the rest of my weekend for the MegaLan that was held at the local community Collage.  (

It was a fun weekend.  We ended up going overboard a little bit with the number of available seats, but it is better to over prepare, than get swamped.  I spent most of my time acting as security and registration for the event.  Then I organized and ran the StarCraft II tournament.  This is the second time that I have run this tournament for SocialGeeks.  They are getting bigger, better, and faster so I am quite proud of that.  And everyone had a good time with it.

Back on topic of the publishing world and the status of my first book.  Requiem.  I still do not have a cover for the book yet, and that is all that remains before it will be available for the eReader world.  Paperback version may take a while longer to format.

On this journey to self publish a book, I spent many hours researching how things are done.  A lot of it makes sense, and a lot doesn't and even more just tends to piss me off.  Like the whole $25-$50 for someone to have their ISBN converted into a bar code.  This brings me to a future blog that I am going to do that seems to have little information available for.  I am going to write a guide on how to convert your manuscript into the formats you need for the Amazon Kindle and the B&N Nook.

If you are using a service already like CreateSpace or SmashWords who will do this for you and are happy with the results, then continue to do so.  If you are a first time author or looking for a guide in general, then this will be for you.  Having worked for Dell inc. for 8 years, I am more familiar with the computer world than the average bear.  So when I found a websites that offered conversion services for $100-$1000 depending on the size of your book and anywhere from 15-90 days for the process to complete, I figured I would learn how to do it myself.  I don't have 3 months to wait and an extra thousand dollars laying around, and it smelled of the same bad deal like charging for a bar code.

I spent about 6 hours of research, but when it came down to actually doing the conversion.  It took about 2 hours to download the apps, modify my manuscript format and convert.  Knowing what I do now, it shouldn't take more than 30 minutes to create both your Nook and Kindle ebooks.  So look forward to this in an upcoming blog.