Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Do you listen or talk to your characters?

I recently completed a Book Goodies author self interview.  It won't be published on their website until early November, but it had a question I really liked - the one in the title of this post.  Here is my take on it.

I rarely read a book where I do not form a mental picture of the characters.  (As evidence, I still wonder how Hollywood thought to cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.  I see someone closer to Dwayne Johnson in my mind’s eye, but they did not ask me.)  I also believe that this mental picture is even more vivid for characters you create.  I have spent months with mine.  I know what they think, how they feel, what they would say.  Additionally, I know what it is like to write something inconsistent with their personalities.  It happens.  When it does, I feel the tension and soon, the words are gone.  In a sense, I listen to the persona I created.  I also imagine conversations among my characters – when Sam stumbles over compliments or Nicole gives him a hard time.  These imaginary conversations are often complete, with specific phrases and precise reactions, which later become text.  However, to date, I have not personally joined the discourse.  I think they would listen, but like your children, you have to let them live their own lives.

Watch for the rest of the interview sometime in early November.

Happy writing,

Mind in the Clouds - Update

I just received the cover art and drafted a synopsis for Mind in the Clouds, the next book in the Mind Sleuth Series.  Find them both on the Books tab.

Happy writing,

Friday, October 23, 2015

Say What...

About 2 weeks ago, I mentioned that I was starting to look at options for marketing book 2, thinking I might try something less absurd than just dropping a manuscript on the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo websites unannounced.  So, over these 2 weeks, I have been exploring the possibilities, sticking to the lower end of the free to take-out-a-second-mortgage price scale.  There really are quite a few choices, even for us penny-pinchers.

To know which of these possibilities I might want to repeat, I watched the results.  Sales on the days of a promotion would be great, of course, but even a change in blog traffic suggests that a listing generated some interest.  Over a few promos of Half A Mind, I have seen a little of both, but not a lot of either…until yesterday.

Yesterday marked the first of a two-day promo that involved an announcement in an email newsletter, a posting on a website, and various other social media listings.  And similar to most of the other books advertised, Half A Mind generated a few likes on Facebook, a few tweets, and a few +1s on Google+.  The response was fine, but nothing too exciting. 

Then, I checked the blog traffic.  I had 3 times as many page visits as I have ever had on a day without a new posting.  Usually, if I am not putting up something new, I only get the occasional friend who is catching up or a random passerby.  But yesterday was different.  Not only was there much more traffic than usual, its source was also different.  I had never had a visit from Russia.  Yesterday, over 80% of the views came from there. 

While all this was strange enough, I was more surprised when I checked the entry URL.  All the visits from Russia came via an app in the Google play store named Vesna – Весна.  It is evidently a social media application designed to ‘find interesting people nearby’, according to the translation.  (OK, I understand that ‘interesting’ applies, but ‘nearby’?)  I also wonder if something more was lost in the translation, as the maturity rating was 17+.

So, anyone looking to tap the adult Russian dating market with their eBook, I’ve got just the promotion for you.

Happy writing,

Monday, October 19, 2015

Coordinating Kindle, Nook, and Kobo eBook Publishing – Take 2

To date, the post with the most views on my blog has been one from August 29 entitled Coordinating Nook and Kindle eBook Publishing.  Just to reiterate the objective of that post, it was to find a single MS Word format for the source manuscript that would require the fewest, most straightforward conversion steps to produce Nook and Kindle eBooks that maintained the original formatting, table of contents, etc.  Later, I found the same process largely worked for Kobo and posted that result.

In addition to views, I have received a few questions on this post about specific types of content (e.g., does the process work for URLs?  It does.)  And a few comments offering alternatives.  Thank you.  Anything to reduce the pain and speed up the process is goodness in my view.

Since August, I have continued to experiment with the process and have adopted one modification that I thought I would pass along.  Specifically, I am avoiding putting the ePub version of the manuscript into either the Nook or the Kobo editors.  Doing so seemed to be producing some types of problems with inserted spaces or forced line breaks. 

The implication of this change is that the MS Word version needs to have all the upfront materials (Title Page, Copyright, etc.) defined, thus making any work in the Kindle editor unnecessary as well.  Just a nice by-product of the change.

Here what the steps look like currently:

For Kindle

1.      Follow the Kindle instructions for formatting a Word manuscript.  Most of those guidelines can be boiled down to a) keep it simple; and b) use the built in Word controls for things like line spacing, indenting, etc. rather than carriage returns, spaces, or tabs.  Check those guidelines for specifics.

2.      Define each chapter and the major upfront sections (title page, copyright, dedication) as Header 1 text, so that they appear in the table of contents that Word generates.  Tag these sections as Header 1, and then change their actual format to whatever you want (e.g., the title page does not have to use the Header 1 format; just change it after it is tagged and do not redefine the Header 1 style.)  When the TOC is generated, spaces between sections (e.g., after the upfront material or between major sections) can be added to improve readability.  The generated TOC should look exactly like what you want in the final product.

3.      Save the Word document as a filtered webpage and upload it to the Kindle publishing site. 

4.      Preview.  Correct all errors in the MS Word document, and then repeat Steps 3 and 4, if needed.  The intent is to produce a manuscript that needs no editing here, so it will likewise, need no editing on the Nook or Kobo sites.

5.      Publish.

For Nook and Kobo

1.      Upload the MS document created for Kindle to the software application Calibre, using the Add Books menu option (along the top).  Calibre is a free software application and can be found by searching the Internet.

2.      Use the Edit Metadata menu option to check for any modifications needed.  If the properties on the MS Word document are set correctly, you may not need to do anything.

3.      Use the Convert Books menu command to create an ePub version of the manuscript.

4.      Save the ePub version from Calibre to your hard drive.  The command is 'Save to disk'.

5.      Verify the ePub book at  (Probably unnecessary, but I am a better-safe-than-sorry type of guy and this step only takes a couple of minutes.)

6.      Upload the ePub version to Nook and Kobo publishing and preview them without any editing.  All of the page breaks and chapter titles should be there, as well as the upfront materials (TOC, dedication page, etc.).  If there are any errors, make the changes in the Word manuscript, rather than using the Nook or Kobo editors. 

7.      As a final precaution, when I publish the Nook version,  I click “Publish” on the Manuscript page and select “The original .epub file I uploaded”. 

Happy writing,

Friday, October 16, 2015

Funny the Little Things You Learn

Have you ever noticed a book review that says something like, “This book was received in exchange for an honest review”.

OK, neither had I…until recently.  Now, it seems like I see them everywhere.

As I mentioned in my last post, I thought I learn a bit more about marketing a book – you know, part of the overall experience.  So, as I am pursuing some of the marketing sites mentioned on ( I found one that asked, “Need a Reviewer?” 

I am thinking, ah, someone to read, check spelling, give plot suggestions, and the like.  I actually checked into a service like that, before I twisted the arms of a couple of friends for proofing.  Something about the $1500+ price tag scared me off.

So, anyway, I clicked the Need-a-Reviewer link.  And it’s not for someone to read your book for typos – I should have known better.  It was a listing of people (pages and pages of them by genre) who would read your book and write a review for you.  And it’s not their living, because at least for the few I checked, there is no charge.  Rather, it seems to feed their habit.  They like reading, so to keep an endless supply of books without going broke, they trade a book for a review.  Amazing.  Where do people come up with these ideas?

Happy Writing,

Saturday, October 10, 2015

To Market We Will Go...

In one of my early posts, I mentioned that one of the reasons that I gave eBook publishing a try was that I had a couple of neighbors who had published.  You know, the if-they-can-do-it-so-can-I logic.  I even went online and bought one of these books.  At the time, its Amazon ranking was “#1,546,950 Paid in Kindle Store”. 

I’m not sure about you, but I rarely search 1,546,949 eBooks, reading each synopsis and at least a few of the helpful reviews before a fork over, in this case, $2.99.  Hey, my time is not worth much, but it is worth more than that.
So, I cannot claim ignorance.  I knew that if you just write a book and put it at various retail sites, it’ll sit there unfound forever.  Well, OK, it will be found by the handful of friends and relatives you can strong-arm into buying a copy.  And then it will sit there unfound for the rest of forever.
So yes, I knew if you want anyone to find your book, you have to market it.  And since I wanted the whole struggling author experience (sans any real struggles), I have been learning about marketing eBooks.  What have I learned so far?
First, you are supposed to have a marketing plan before the book, not the other way around.  Who knew?  I thought I’d make it up as I go along – and now, that’s exactly what I am doing.
And second, these aspiring authors are DRIVEN.  I read one blog where the author talked about taking her laptop to a public library and walking up to complete strangers with a sales pitch.  I admire the guts that would take, but I don’t need my experience to be that realistic. 
But I did find a lot of helpful information online.  Perhaps one of the best is: , with the understated title of “The Most Super-Duper, Exhaustive, Comprehensive, and Current Listing of Free and Paid Book Advertising Websites and Ideas”.

She does throw in the occasional suggestion that you buy her book, but who could blame her; the post is about marketing.  But the number and variety of options she cites for publicizing your work is incredible.  If you have a book, give it a read.  Or even better.  Don’t follow my example and read it before you publish.
Happy writing,