Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A mountain of books and questions answered.

It was Christmas all over again at my house.  UPS just dropped off my book order from Lightning Source.  I had almost sold out of my personal copies of Requiem so I ordered in another round along with my first order of Guardian.  If anyone wants to buy a signed copy, use the buy now links under the cover pictures to the right.

A few blog posts ago I talked about the new KDP Select program and gave my thoughts.  It has been about 20 days now since the program launched.  Much more information has come out.  Several more discussions and a reader posed the following question: "What would a new company have to do to win you and everyone else over?"

The main sticking point on this question is if you use the KDP Select option from Amazon, you have to grant 90 days exclusivity.  No selling your e-book anywhere else (physical books not effected).  Tens of thousands of books got pulled from all other stores and are now exclusively on Amazon.  So how would an existing company like Apple or Barnes and Noble, or a new online retailer "win me over"?  The simple answer right now is, they can't.  It's a numbers game and always will be.  Amazon has a good 75% of the e-book market.  Think about this.  Amazon has three times what everyone else combined has.

There are things in my opinion, every company needs to improve.  Sad thing for competition, Amazon has the best tools right now and they suck.  Here is a list of improvements every e-book retailer needs if they are going to work directly with content providers.

1. Calender tools.  Simple scheduler so I can make adjustments to product descriptions, prices, pictures in advance.  I should be able to set a time and date to make book one and book two go on sale at the same time when book three launches, as well as change the product description to represent the sale, how long it will last and why.

2. Previewer.  This is important in my opinion.  Right now when you upload a new book somewhere, its just a mess of fill in the blanks, submit and hope it comes out OK after a 2-48 hour wait.  Nothing sucks more than finding out your line breaks and carriage returns did not carry over when you cut and paste the product description in.  Great, now I am locked out for potentially two days before I can edit and fix it, because the book is pending or in some other review state.  God forbid you fat finger a price change of 99c and it comes out $99 and you can't fix it for a day and a half.

3. Social media.  Amazon gets this one better than others.  But you should be able to link up Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs.  There is no reason for these not to be there.  Visibility helps.

So even if a new company came along and had all these things right and offered 99% royalties, I would still have to stay with Amazon because that is where everyone shops for books.  It would be like trying to make a social network and pull users from Facebook.  Amazon would have to self destruct somehow first and I just don't see that happening.

Requiem is free to download on Amazon.  If you haven't downloaded your copy yet, click the cover art on the right and grab it now.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Requiem is free for a week and a chance to win book two, Guardian

Christmas is over and there are millions of new kindles and e-readers on the market.  Empty e-readers that need to be filled.  Starting today, Dec 26 to Dec 30, Requiem is available for free at Amazon.com for Kindles, Kindle devices, and other e-readers or PC's using the Kindle app.

You can head over there now and grab a copy by using the following link, or you can click on the picture of Requiem on the right.  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00572MWYS

The second novel in The Eternal Gateway trilogy, Guardian, was released on Dec 15.  For a chance to win a gift copy of Guardian for your Kindle, all you need to do is send a tweet.  Two things are necessary for your tweet to qualify.  Use the hashtag #sbjones and use this shortened link to Requiem on Amazon's website. http://amzn.to/rQQwW9

The hashtag is where I will be pulling the winning tweets from so don't forget it.  The better the tweet, the more you tweet, the better chance of winning.  You can create your own tweets, or retweet, it doesn't matter.

Good luck.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Requiem giveaway and Guardian contest.

I want to congratulate Steven Black for winning a copy of Guardian.  I also want to congratulate Kathy Jones for winning the Grand Prize.  A signed copy of Requiem and Guardian from the September e-Book a day giveaway.

On Monday Dec 26 through Friday Dec 30, Requiem will be free to download on Amazon.  You can find Requiem by either clicking the cover image on the right or by going to the following link http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00572MWYS

During this 5 day promotion, I am also going to be giving away a free copy of Guardian in e-Book each day of the event.  To qualify for a chance to win, simply tweet, or retweet about the event and use the #sbjones hashtag and use this shortened link to Amazon. http://amzn.to/rQQwW9

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Eternal Gateway: Guardian

Guardian is now available in both paperback and e-book format.  The e-book is only available through Amazon, and the paperback is available through any online store, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I updated the blog layout to include cover images to both Requiem and Guardian.  Clicking on them will take you to Amazon's web site.  Also I added "buy now" buttons from PayPal if anyone wants to buy a copy of the books directly from me for $15.  I will sign and date them and provide free shipping inside the US.  If you live outside the US, we might be able to work something out on shipping, but right now I do not have access to an affordable option for international orders.

Guardian is the second novel in my trilogy that I have published.  It has been very exciting and rewarding to produce this project.  I start on the final novel "Sentinel" at the start of the year with an early May target date for release.

I updated the e-book for Requiem today as well.  I added a table of contents after I found out how easy they were to do as per the instructions in my guide.  Also I added the first nine chapters of Guardian at the end.  If you have already purchased Requiem, you should be able to refresh/redownload the book from Amazon for free to get the updated version.  (update is still pending at amazon atm).

For any of the readers out there, if you have not purchased a copy of Requiem yet, I will be having a special sale from Dec 26 to Dec 30 on Amazon for the e-book. *cough* free *cough*  So set yourself a reminder on your calenders and tell your friends.  My gift to all the people opening up a shiny new Kindle for Christmas.

Right now I feel like I could do anything.  Even ride a buffalo.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

KDP Select, Amazon Lending Library and my thoughts.

Last week, Amazon announced a new program for authors and publishers called KDP select.  You can read all about it from other places, but basically, if an author or publisher opts in for this program, in exchanged for allowing Amazon Prime subscribers who own Kindles the ability to "rent" your book for free. (limit one rental per month).  In exchange, the content provider is compensated for these rentals with a $500,000 a month pool divided equally among number of rentals.  100,000 rentals equals $5 per rental.  A million books get rented then each rental is worth 50c.  Also the content provider is allowed to set their book price as free for a maximum of 5 days.  This all revolves around a 90 day cycle.  Oh, and the part that has the internet's pants on fire is that content for KDP Select has to be Amazon exclusive.  No selling the eBook (paper books are exempt) anywhere else, even your own blog.

I don't want to write a rant or debate about Amazon's business moves to become Skynet or Umbrella Corporation.  But after a week of observing, reading, and thinking about KDP Select, here are my thoughts.

First off, no one is going to be effected by this in the same way, so sweeping generalities about the sky is falling from other companies CEO's to scorched earth tactics is meaningless.

I don't see any eBook group reducing the 70% royalty rate they offer.  They all offer it, and the first place to change it will get torn to pieces by the largest group of people who actually know how to write.  Think Netflix when they raised their prices.  These companies are not vested in us in any way.  They don't pay for the cover, editing, advances, print runs, etc.  They provide a download link and take a 30% rake for it.  They even charge the author per download so even that cost is covered.  (10c a book for Requiem).  It's a lot like taxes.  30% just goes to these people and they don't have to do anything.  But 50 million people visit Amazon on a day.  About 35 visit here a day.  Ill give them 30% for that.

I hope to see other companies like Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and others provide better tools and platforms for us to use.  WE make them money, a LOT of money.  We could make them TONS of money if they helped us.  Blogger has better tools than any of these companies.

Tools.  Right now, none of these companies allows someone to upload their book, make sure it's good to go, and then schedule a launch date.  The only day you can let your book go live is the day you upload it.  Try having a launch party for a new book when it takes anywhere from 2 hours to 72 hours from the time you upload your book before it actually goes live.

Price matching across the market is a joke.  Want to put your first book on sale because the next one is coming out.  Easy.  Sale is over and you want it to return to the original price.  Hope you don't mind weeks even months of frustration because Diesel or Kobo is run by dormant vampires and because they still list the sale price, everyone else price matches.

A calender and scheduling tool isn't that much to ask.  If I could properly manage my content, schedule sales, deals, and cross market with Facebook, AdWords, book signings etc.  It would be awesome.  Instead its a huge cluster f**k because 3 weeks after the sale, Kobo finally updates the price, two days later B&N price matches and a week later so does Amazon.  You have lost total control over the pricing of the book.

Amazon, Amazon, Amazon...  You have 6 domains now that have my book, yet my Author Central page is only on one.  I have to manually do this 6 times?  A verified purchase review on the UK site isn't visible in the US?  What if Facebook announced that they had Facebook.de.  Cool, but you now have to maintain and update a separate Facebook page.  Re-upload those "I like to party" pictures etc.  COME ON!  Help me make you money, not create six times the work for me.

Barnes and Noble...  Try finding my book without using my isbn number.  SEO (Search Engine Optimization), hire a 5th grader for a weekend and get with the times.  Its easier to use Google to search your site.  Seriously? look at this picture, where is my first book Requiem?  How did you even get a listing for Guardian?  I haven't even released it yet.  4 results in books.  Amazon has over 200 for the same search in books including Requiem.

Apple.  Sigh.  Every step forward this company seems to sabotage itself back to the dark ages.  You must own a Apple computer to upload a book.  *blink* *blink*.  I guess they are proud to be part of the 1%.  Only 1% of the population uses their computers.  Over 200 million iOS devices out there and everyone uses the Kindle or Nook app.  What is wrong with this picture.

Smashwords....  If your CEO goes on a rant instead of innovating against competition, well...  I wish your company the best of luck.

In conclusion.  KDP Select has shaken things up a bit, but at the root of the issue, fundamental problems remain.  The first company that decides to build a platform of tools for us to use, build relationships with authors, is going to dominate the market.  The first company that takes the time to promote authors is going to win.  I chose to go with Amazon's new program.  It has actually simplified a lot of things.  I don't have to spend hours tweaking my book for each required format or burn extra ISBN numbers.  I don't have to try and herd price matching cats.  I actually, get a schedule-able promotion tool,  My reporting has gone from from 5 reports to two.

Instead of having a fire hose as my only tool.  I traded it for a hammer that came with a carry case.  I wonder what I can do with a hammer...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to create your e-book by SB Jones.

The original guide I wrote in June can be found HERE.  It is still a great guide, but as I have said before, it's time to update it.  The same disclaimer as before, your mileage may vary with this guide and as time moves forward, new devices, programs, and features of e-readers may render this obsolete quickly.

The main change with this guide is the addition of how to create a Table of Contents for your e-book that allows your readers to jump to a desired chapter.  Even if you don't care about a TOC, you should have one.  Every little bit of polish makes your e-book look and feel that more professional.

This guide is for converting a Microsoft Word Document.  If you are working in another word processor, I am sure you can achieve similar results.

First, you need to get the programs that let you do all the work.
Mobi Pocket Creator, and Calibre.  You will also want to have a Nook or Kindle handy to side-load your novel, or use the Kindle for PC or Nook for PC apps to review your book.

First, make sure you are saving your your word doc as a .doc file and not a .docx file.  This is easily done by using the "Save As" feature in Word.  The reason for this is to avoid a lot of the meta data that gets added to the newer .docx files.

Now comes the grunt work.  Cleaning up that Word doc.  First you need to understand that the Kindle will auto indent your paragraphs.  So if your document has a tab indent, you will need to remove these.  You can do them manually or use the paragraph and page setup in word.

Next, we are going to look at some typesetting options.  I prefer to use single spacing with an extra half space after carriage returns.  When converted, the extra half space in my opinion gives it a nice look and makes it easy to read and looks nice and clean.  Remember, some people may read your book on their phone so you want it as readable as possible.  Having a massive wall of text is annoying.

Take your time with this step.  You may find yourself converting your book several times as you make adjustments to get it to look and feel the way you want.  You spend months or years writing the book, you can spend the hours needed converting it for upload.

Now lets create your Table of Contents.  This step is actually quite easy.  I didn't do it for my first novel because all of the information I found was convoluted and unnecessarily complicated.  Some even wanted you to manually code and write the TOC in HTML.

First, just navigate to your word doc and place the cursor at the start of a chapter.  Click the Insert tab, then the Bookmark button and give the bookmark a name.  I used Ch1, Ch2, etc for each of the chapters.

Once this is finished for each chapter, highlight where it says Chapter 1 (or whatever chapter titles you are using) and click the Insert Tab then Hyperlink.  In the popup box, click where it says "Place in This Document" and you should see all of the bookmarks you created.  Pick the correct bookmark and hit ok.  It's as simple as that.

You are going to want to test all of your links and verify that they jump to the correct chapter.  Also if you want, you can make each chapter title, jump back to the Table of Contents as well.  I don't do this because the e-readers have a "back" button already.  Less code means less opportunities for error.

Lets move onto the conversion process now.  Close out of your word document, Mobi Pocket Creator doesn't like it if you have the document you are going to convert already open.

Launch Mobi Pocket Creator and click where it says Import from Existing File: MS Word document.

Browse to your document and click import.

You should see your file listed there now as an HTML file.  Click where it says Cover Image then the button that says Add a Cover Image.  Browse to your cover and press the Update button at the bottom.

This will take you back to the HTML file,  Now click where it says Metadata, and fill out the information.  Metadata is important so take a few minutes and fill out as much of it as you can.  If you don't know what to put, then just leave it blank.  Most of the information you have to give directly to Amazon or Barnes and Noble anyway.  When you are finished, make sure you hit the Update button to save the information. (ignore most of this if you are building test files to view your formatting and typesetting to save time)

Now, Click the build button.  If you wish to add any compression or encryption, this is where you can add it.  Once you have made your options.  Click the build button.

Once it's done building, I open the folder, and open the new PRC file with the Kindle for PC app for review.

Take your time and scroll through the book.  Verify all the links work for the TOC, the cover is embedded properly and note down any mistakes you find.  If you find anything you don't like or isn't working.  Go back to your word document and correct them and reconvert the book.

Once your book for Kindle meets your standards.  It's time to convert for Barnes and Noble.

Open up the Calibre program, and click on the Add book icon.

Navigate to where your newly created PRC file is and hit open.

Once you see your novel, select it and hit the convert icon.

You can browse through some of the menus if you want and change a lot of the meta data, add to it etc.  The inportant thing is to make sure in the top right corner under Output Format, EPub is selected.  Once you are satisfied, click the OK button and let it do its thing.  There will be a progress wheel in the bottom corner. When it stops, the conversion is complete.

Navigate to where the Epub file is and open it with the Nook for PC app, or side-load it to your nook for testing.  You may have to search for the file, but Calibre by default saves the file in its library folder.

Drop it into your Nook for PC and like before, verify that everything works, check the links again, and scan every page for errors.

If everything looks good, take it over to Amazon and Barnes and Noble and upload them and start selling books!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Guardian has been sent to the printers.

I just finished uploading Guardian to Lightning Source today.  I spent all of Monday tweaking the pages, headers, styles to fit the proper format.  Even adjusting the lines per page.  Today, I sat back down and went over it all again to make sure I hadn't missed anything.  I have learned a lot about typesetting after launching Requiem.

When I went through the same process with Requiem, I had missed a few things and it cost me around $100 and delayed things by an additional week.  Lesson has been learned so hopefully when I get the proof copy of Guardian next week, it will be ready for approval and distribution.

On a side note, I would like to thank everyone who went to my Facebook page and hit the like button.  I was able to secure a unique Facebook URL.  www.facebook.com/sbjonespublishing

I can use this new URL on promotional items and the like, and it makes it easier to remember and post.

I am going to keep today's blog short.  If anyone has any questions about Lightning Source or the process of uploading your title to them. Ask in the comments section.  Also I have a bunch of new screen captures of the conversion process to make your word doc kindle and nook ready.  I think I will post that guide in a few days, or next week so look forward to that.