Category Archives: Self Publishing

Times of the Changes out now on Amazon

Well that took a long time.

I thought I was nearly finished just under a year ago. Seems I was nowhere near. To be fair, I haven’t spent much time on writing related pursuits recently. The garden seems to have taken priority!

Anyway, doing a bit here and a bit there, I’ve finally arrived at the point where I can release book two of the Supremacy trilogy – Times of the Changes. The Kindle and paperback versions are now both available on Amazon.

Before I start on book three, I want to get my short story collection out. Now Times of the Changes is out, I can concentrate on this project now, when I’m not taking advantage of the weather to be out gardening.

I’d like to think the collection will be out this year, but given the length of time that elapsed between me thinking I was in that position with Times of the Changes, and now, I won’t make any predictions.

 

I’m an Author

Last night I published Betrayal, the first book of my Supremacy trilogy, through CreateSpace and this morning I published it through KDP.

BETRAYAL KINDLE

The Kindle version should be available within about 12 hours of me publishing, which will be around 11:30 tonight. CreateSpace said the paperback version should be on Amazon within the next three to five business days. As there’s a weekend coming up, I didn’t expect to see it there before Monday. But when I checked at around 13:30 today, it’s already there. Hopefully the Kindle version will be quick as well, although I gather it can take a while for them to be matched up on Amazon.

It’s a strange feeling seeing something I’ve created up on Amazon, almost like I can’t quite believe it.

I set the paperback price at £8.75 / $10.99 / 10.50 and the Kindle price at £2.99 / $3.99 (prices for other territories will be converted from the US price)

When you look at the price of published science fiction paperbacks I find there is no way I can match the price traditionally published authors can achieve. The overheads of Amazon’s print on demand service makes it impossible to sell for such low prices, in fact they won’t even let you sell as cheaply as them.

I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to work out how to convince the Kindle Online Previewer to open my book at Chapter One. Whatever I did, it had the idea of opening it at some point in the table of contents or on the copyright page.

There was no problem using the Kindle Previewer on my laptop. That was the annoying thing. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t force the start reading location to Chapter One in the online Previewer. I could move it around within the table of contents and even into the copyright page, but not to Chapter One.

I did a lot of research on the web and found a lot of people have the same issue and there doesn’t appear to be a definitive fix to the problem. It all goes wrong once KDP put the separately uploaded cover image onto the book.

I wrote the book in OpenOffice and then converted it to html which I input to SIGIL to convert it to an epub document. This gave me quite a bit of control over the look of the book.

I never expected to have to do html editing to get the book ready for Kindle. Anyway it allowed me to see exactly what commands were going to be used to format the book. It was quite fun to play around with it and see how it works. Seriously, it allowed me to tidy up the messy html generated by OpenOffice.

The whole point of using SIGIL was to allow me to set up an NCX table of contents which would display the chapters in the ‘goto’ guide on a Kindle. This worked ok.

For anyone technical out there, I set the start reading location to Chapter One using a guide entry in the content.opf file, but this was either getting changed or was being overridden by the KDP build process. The html table of contents (defining the contents as seen as part of the book) couldn’t be easily edited in SIGIL without it complaining, so I resorted to unpacking the epub file and using an html editor on it. But all I succeeded in doing was more moving around of the start reading location (but not to the correct point). So I gave up on that approach.

What was obvious, however, was that editing the html that made up the html table of contents file had an effect on the start reading location, which was why I persevered.

Anyway, after a couple of weeks of banging my head against a brick wall I decided if the start reading location doesn’t want to be Chapter One, I’d try making it something else. I set it to the title page and after uploading it to KDP, it didn’t move somewhere else, so I’m going with that.

While I was writing this I noticed the Kindle version had become available on Amazon. At the moment the paperback and the Kindle versions are separate entries but hopefully, soon, Amazon will tie them up into a single entry.

The book description is:

Book One of the Supremacy Trilogy
After thousands of years the Earth-based Supremacy controls a vast galactic empire where the only permitted life-form is human.
For fighter pilot Brad Johnson, injured after crash-landing on an alien world teeming with seemingly dangerous plant and animal life, it is the start of a transformational journey.
Nursed back to health by the enemy, he is forced to question the ethics and motives of those he serves.
And when rescue comes, it is from an unexpected direction.

Not sure if this gives enough information away, but I don’t want to include any spoilers in it.

Anyway, it’s up there on Amazon now for anyone to have a look, and maybe buy a copy. I need to have a think about how to publicise it a bit now, beyond the blog and facebook and twitter.

Just as I was about to publish this post, it’s been pointed out to me that on Amazon.com where I specified a price of $3.99, it’s actually there for $4.66. Not sure what’s happening there. I’ll have to investigate.

What I’ve been up to

There’s been quite a delay in the publishing process. When the new cover design appeared on the CreateSpace project page for the book, the title was too high. It was right on the edge. It needed to be shifted down a bit. I’ve now received the updated cover art and have uploaded it, along with the final(?) version of the text. I’ve sent that off to be reviewed so hopefully I will be ordering another proof copy by the end of tomorrow.

In the meantime I’ve been doing some work on Book 2 and editing a short story. I’m hoping to put a collection of short stories out by the end of the year. It’s been nice to get the brain back into coming up with new stuff instead of re-arranging something that’s been written for over a year now. It was strange, it took a long time to get back into the swing of it after so long spent proof reading and correcting.

I’ve also been doing some reading. Last year when I was shifting lots of stuff in my mum and dad’s loft I came across a box containing some of my old paperbacks. I was pleased to find that most of my collection of Edmund Cooper books was amongst them, though I seem to have lost a few of them somewhere. They now occupy the shelf above my desk, just above my laptop, along with some Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Fred Hoyle and AE Van Vogt, amongst others.

I’ve started re-reading them and am enjoying them again, although they all seem a bit dated now (both in terms of their technology and attitudes). For anyone interested in Edmund Cooper there is very good web site (www.edmundcooper.dsl.pipex.com) detailing his bibliography. I have most of his novels and short stories. At the moment I’m reading his novel Transit (published in 1964), and his collection of short stories, Voices in the Dark (published in 1956). I have my dad to thank for getting me into Edmund Cooper. Several of the books on my shelf are his old copies (Voices in the Dark, I hasten to add is one of them, being published the year before I was born). I’ve had to buy Kindle versions of some of the older ones because they’re beginning to fall apart.

Recently I was looking through a stack of old sci-fi books at my mum and dad’s deciding on which to rescue. Unfortunately some of the older books have been ruined by wood-worm. I was flicking through one book thinking it looked as if someone had been throwing darts as it, but on closer inspection the holes went through three books, and there was no mistake about it when the things decided to move up and down and across the page, taking out lots of words at a time. What a shame. I binned them. Tomorrow I’m going to check out some more to see if they’re worth hanging on to.

Final checking

I’ve read through the CreateSpace proof copy many times now, and infuriatingly, I keep finding things that need changing. I guess I could go on doing this for the next year, until I’m really happy with the result. But I won’t. I need to be getting stuck in to the follow-up book, which has been placed on one side while I do all this editing.

I’ve also read the version on my Kindle as well and found things. I think the medium you read it on helps determine how much you will find, possibly due to line breaks being in different places. I discovered that on occasion, I didn’t read all the way to the end of a line or the very start of the next line, even when reading it out loud to myself. I keep reading what I meant to write. The trick I found with reading aloud was not to read it as you think it would sound as an audio book, but to try and do it slowly, a word at a time, in almost monotone. And when I’m reading silently, to myself, I force myself to slow down occasionally by imagining my words being spoken by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800! At least it makes me read every word (most of the time).

Anyway, the CS proof copy is covered in hi-lighter markings now, but I think I’ve finished the editing now. I’m still trying to sort out a few glitches with using Sigil, to create the file to upload to KDP (rather than just uploading an html file). It’s just about there now. I’ll write about it in another post, detailing the issues it created and how I got round them (had to do some html editing).

In the meantime, my cover has been redesigned. My son’s girlfriend has come up with a much nicer design. Just a couple of issues with it at the moment, the main one being the placement of the title and author too close to the edge. Think they might get trimmed! When that has been completed, I’ll be ready to order another proof copy, which I will read (again). It will be nice to read one without all the coloured markings.

When I finally finish with Sigil, which should be soon now, I’ll read it on the Kindle as well to see if I can detect any more changes.

So it’s nearly there. I keep saying that, but I feel it is a lot closer now than it was, and I’m glad I’ve picked out most of the errors (well I hope I have!) rather than some reviewer on Amazon doing it.

Hopefully, I’ll get a picture of the cover up shortly for a comparison between the current one and the new one.

Problems with Kindle formatting

Since my first attempt at uploading a file, I have had numerous other attempts at sorting out niggling little problems (over ten attempts so far – and it’s still not quite right).

As I said in my first post on the subject, for some reason the book looked different on different devices. Some had paragraph spacing, some didn’t. Some had first paragraph indents, some didn’t, and some had a double indent on the first paragraph. I also mentioned a few other little problems. I’ll cover them all below.

Paragraph spacing:

My openoffice document had no space between paragraphs so I was pretty annoyed to find that Kindle devices put a gap between them. I downloaded the mobi file and loaded it on to my Kindle and on to an iPad and iPhone for comparison. The iPad and iPhone had no gap, the Kindle did.

The problem appears to be that I specified a gap of 0cm before and after the paragraphs.

The solution is to make it 0.01cm in both cases. It’s a bit of a bodge really. By specifying a zero value, the devices appear to use their default value for the paragraph spacing, which for a Kindle seems to be a single line. By specifying a very small amount, it fools the device into using the specified amount instead of its default. The value of 0.01cm is too small for the human eye to detect on a Kindle or an iPad.

Paragraph no indent:

I specified that the first paragraph in a chapter would have no indent, but subsequent chapters would be indented by 0.5cm.

The problem is that on some devices it works ok but on others there is either an indent the same as subsequent paragraphs, and even worse on others, the indent is twice the size of subsequent paragraphs.

The solution is to revert to the bodge again. I had specified an indent value of 0cm for the first line of the first paragraph, so it again seemed that the various devices took that to mean use their defaults. By specifying an indent of 0.01cm for the first line, it appears on all devices as if there is no indent on the first paragraph of each chapter.

This problem also affected the indents of the table of contents. I indent the chapter numbers under part numbers. Part numbers used a style that specified indent of 0cm, causing the iPad and iPhone to indent it more than the chapter numbers. Fixed by setting indent to 0.01cm. Another way round this problem would be to centre the table of contents instead.

Table of Contents spacing:

I thought the table of contents spread over too many screens, so I thought to close the gap up. I changed the style for the table of contents to have 0.01 before and after each item.

The problem here was it closed up the gaps between them, and yes it looked good and didn’t take up many screens (particularly on the smaller devices), but it wasn’t practical. I have quite small fingers and I struggled to hit the right line when I wanted to go direct to a specific chapter.

The solution was that a gap is necessary. I set it to 0.1cm below and above, which is just enough to separate the lines to make it easier to hit the right one (for me at least). I may revisit this.

Blank lines:

The existence of blank lines in my title page, copyright page and end matter caused issues across different devices. Mostly related to the styles having specified no gap between paragraphs. Where the default device gap was used I ended up with massive gaps between the paragraphs.

I changed all the styles used, and created some new ones, so that I have just about eliminated most blank lines. I still have one on the copyright page where I have also included contact info. I separated them with a blank line, but because the style no longer has 0cm specified above or below, it doesn’t look too bad.

Other stuff:

I converted email address and blog address to be hyperlinks (which I tested on the devices I copied the mobi file to, and they worked)

The bookmark problem with the Table of Contents caused it to be greyed out when you used the Kindle ‘go to’ function. I had specified the bookmark in uppercase. I redefined it as toc and it works ok.

Start point. I have a bookmark called start pointing at the title page in the openoffice document. But some devices go to chapter 1, some to the title page. It’s not consistent. I set the start to be the title page because when I specified it to be chapter 1, for some reason it went to a point somewhere before the start point, in the middle of the table of contents, or towards the end of the book, and the ‘go to’ guide was all over the place. So specifying the title page is again a bit of a bodge, but it seems to make it work after a fashion.

Still outstanding:

The paragraph indent on some devices is very small. It is noticeable but is about half the size of the indent on my Kindle. Not sure how to get round this one. I might leave this one as it’s not a bad problem.

The major issue I have now is that books I have downloaded to my Kindle tend to have the chapters in the ‘go to’ guide. There doesn’t seem to be a way of doing this from a word processor. So on the one hand KDP are saying they prefer the book uploaded in doc (Word) format, but at the same time suggesting it’s a good idea to have the chapters in the guide, which can’t be done as long as you stick with a word processor. That’s how I understand it anyway.

After a lot of time spent trying to find a way of achieving this impossible task, I have decided to download Sigil. So instead of uploading the html document from openoffice to KDP, I have loaded it into Sigil which is supposed to be able to create the table of contents in the right way to allow it to appear in the guide.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I basically have a Kindle version that works, except for getting the chapter numbers into the ‘go to’ guide. I could go live with it as is, but I feel it would be better to utilise the guide for navigating around the book (if readers want to do that). I’ve downloaded and installed Sigil and had a play with it. It seems to be the answer to the problem. I’ll document this in another post.

And I thought all you had to do was upload your source text. There’s a lot of work involved in getting a Kindle book looking good.

My plan now however is to read the CreateSpace proof copy which arrived on Monday to check for any last minute changes, and to check the formatting etc., and then order another proof copy (because of the changes I’ve already made to the source file). So release date is likely to be another three weeks or so, which is just as well because I haven’t finished doing all the setup for either the paperback or the ebook.

Something I can hold

The proof copy turned up yesterday, a day earlier than scheduled. I’m beginning to feel like a real author now I’ve got something physical in my hands. I think I chose the right size for it (5x8inches). And I think going for cream coloured paper was also the right decision. It somehow looks more professional.

As I have already identified a number of changes that are necessary while reading through the Kindle version, and having applied the updates to the CreateSpace source file, I have started marking the changes in the paperback. When I complete that I will sit down and read the paperback version carefully to see if I can find any more changes that are needed, and to check the formatting.

FullSizeRender

First Attempt at Upload to KDP

While I wait for the proof copy of the paperback to arrive I’ve started playing around with KDP. I signed on and created a new title.

I was presented with a lot of information about Kindle Select and did I want to enrol the book on it. Cue long deviation while I googled what it was and what people thought of it. In the end I decided to go with it. I think it will open up my book to more people, ie those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited (who may never actually buy a book) and those who download from the Kindle Owners Lending Library through Amazon Prime (who again may never buy a book). In terms of royalties, if such people downloaded my book I would be eligible for a cut of the Kindle Select Global Fund, probably a negligible amount, but at least it’s better than nothing and it would help get my name out there. They are also allowed to write reviews.

Kindle Select also gives the opportunity to have free promotional days and promotional discounts. Not sure if I’m interested in this just yet.

The downside of it all is that it is a 90-day rolling program so I need to enrol every 90 days, which fortunately is automatic (if I understand it right). The other downside is that I can’t have any other digital versions of the book anywhere, ie it has to be exclusive to Amazon, which means I can’t put excerpts up on my blog while it is registered for Kindle Select. But I can live with that.

Anyway I filled out all the fields on the first tab, title, author etc, uploaded the cover and uploaded the html document I had created from OpenOffice.

I then went into the online previewer which displays what the book will look like on the following devices:

  • Fire HDX
  • Fire HDX 8.9
  • Fire Phone
  • Kindle Voyage
  • Kindle DX
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Android Phone
  • Android Tablet

I think I need to go through each one to make sure they look ok. I was hoping I would be able to download a version to my Kindle Paperwhite and preview it there but I can’t see how that can be done.

My initial playing around with the preview highlighted several areas that need some attention (whether I can do anything about them or not, I don’t know yet).

Paragraph indents. Some devices show the first paragraph of a chapter as having no indent, followed by subsequent paragraphs having an indent. I have no problem with this. It is how I formatted the document. However, some devices have the first paragraph with an indent, and some show an indent twice the size of subsequent paragraphs. It seems inconsistent.

Spacing between paragraphs. I specified none, but some devices show a distinct gap. I have no objection to it as it appears to be on the larger devices anyway, but it’s a bit annoying when it comes to the table of contents which ends up being spread across three screens.

I need to review the location of my table of contents (particularly with regard to the devices that spread it over too many screens).

I might close up some of the gaps on the copyright page to try and make it fit on one screen of all devices (if possible)

I need to convert internet addresses (for my blog and email) to hyperlinks

I seem to have lost the bookmark for the table of contents

Otherwise it doesn’t look too bad. I’m going to research some of the above and decide if there is anything I can do about them, so it might take a while. Also I need to go through each device carefully to see if there’s anything else that needs attention. By the time I’ve done all this, the proof copy will have arrived from CreateSpace and will be sat gathering dust until I’m ready to look at it.

CreateSpace Review Results

I had the review email back from CreateSpace.

The text file for Betrayal was accepted, which is a relief. It’s nice to know I got the formatting right.

They had a couple of ‘non-blocking’ issues regarding the cover. The first was that it was below 200dpi which could mean the picture looks a bit grainy when printed. I think the problem probably arose during the conversion process from OpenOffice odg format to pdf. I read on the internet about people converting documents containing pictures from Word to pdf having a similar problem. Apparently Word converts the pictures to 199dpi. I wonder if something similar has happened here. As the cover design is fairly abstract, I don’t think the resolution will be too much of an issue.

The second issue they raised was that they picked up on the fact I had used transparency in the design. They ‘flatten’ this with a result that there may be a slight colour shift.

On CreateSpace when I click on my project for ‘Betrayal’ it comes up with the status of the process so I can see what I still need to do, and a thumbnail of the cover. It doesn’t look too bad at that size. It may have lost a bit of the darkness it had, running from very dark in the top left to light in the opposite corner. The thumbnail makes it seem more grey.

As neither issue is a real show-stopper I decided to go ahead and order a proof copy. I’ll make a decision regarding the cover when I’m able to hold it in my hands and examine it more closely. If it really is naff then I’ll revisit the design, but I’ll wait and see for now before making that judgement.

Ordering a proof copy means waiting for it to arrive from the US. They have three shipping rates. The standard rate of $4.88 (£3.19) has an estimated delivery date of July 10th. I can’t wait that long. A month and a half? Forget that. My thumbs will be well and truly twiddled by then.

The next rate is Expedited which comes in at $7.99 (£5.22) with an estimated delivery of June 9th. Better. Just under two weeks.

The fastest delivery option is Priority for $14.38 (£9.39). This should arrive by June 1st. This seems a bit steep.

I opted for the Expedited in the hope that the dates were worst case scenarios. It will be interesting to see how it compares. If it does come on June 9th then it will arrive just after I start my stint of Jury Service at the local courts. Hope my mind won’t be elsewhere while I’m there!

In the meantime, while I wait for it to arrive, I’ll complete the set up on CreateSpace and get the Kindle version ready and uploaded to KDP. I found out that if I’d uploaded the file in Word format, CreateSpace would do the conversion for me. I wonder how long it will be before they extend the courtesy to other filetypes.

Next on the agenda is the thorny issue of pricing. Where do I pitch the price? As I’m a newbie I doubt I can command the same prices as well-established authors. If I set it too high would I drive potential readers away? But I don’t want to set it too low. I would like to see a bit of a return on the investment of my time. Although I enjoy the creative aspect of writing, as I said in my ‘About Me’ page, hopefully writing will one day help to supplement my pension when I’m older. At least I’m making a start in that direction. We’ll have to wait and see where things go in the future.

So now I need to do some research on Amazon to get some idea what a reasonable amount to charge would be. That’ll keep me busy for a while!

Betrayal uploaded to CreateSpace

I’ve uploaded the text and the cover for my first novel into CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print on Demand service). It’s currently under review and I hope all will be well tomorrow when I get the response from them.

I wrote the novel using OpenOffice, so I when I had finished I exported the final version as a PDF file ready to upload.

Signing onto CreateSpace to submit my work was an exciting moment. Filling in the fields identifying the book really gave me the impression that the 18 months spent writing it were actually coming to fruition. The book title is Betrayal and it is the first volume (of three) in a series called The Supremacy.

I followed the CreateSpace ‘guided setup’ which I thought a prudent choice for my first attempt at uploading.

I allowed CreateSpace to assign me an ISBN (I could have supplied one – if I was prepared to pay for one, and if I knew how!). It feels like I’m getting close to publishing now!

I went back to the novel and included the ISBN on the copyright page and exported the file to PDF again.

During the interior setup, I selected the smallest size available (5x8inches). This is bigger than what I considered as a standard paperback size when I was growing up. I measured one of the books on the shelf above my desk – about 4 and 5 sixteenths x 7 inches. CreateSpace actually recommend 6×9 inches. Isn’t that getting a bit big to read in bed?

I’ve chosen to go with cream paper. I’m not sure if this will be a mistake yet or not. Is white more suitable for science fiction/space opera? I don’t know. It did occur to me that it might be a more valid choice for something like an historical novel. I’ll have to wait and see the proof copy to make up my mind. If I decide to change it, I’ll have to amend the cover because the spine won’t be quite as thick with white paper.

Then the moment I had been waiting for. I uploaded the file. It went through their automated print check routine ok. I started the interior reviewer and quickly spotted a problem with the paragraph formatting at the start of chapter 5 so it was back to the editing. I also spotted a problem with the page numbering. Really weird. When the new chapter started on a right-hand page it retained the same page number as the previous page. The next page and subsequent pages were correct. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on. Anyway I resolved it and re-uploaded the file.

I created my cover in the OpenOffice Draw program. Because it included transparency I wasn’t able to export to PDF (think I need to upgrade). I used a web based conversion tool. zamzar.com converted the finished image from odg format to pdf. If I sell enough copies I might revisit the cover and pay for a professional design.

I uploaded the cover pdf and submitted the uploaded files for review. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll hear if they are ok, or not.

Not long now!

Setting up for Kindle Publishing

With the CreateSpace document almost ready to go I’ve started the process of getting a Kindle version ready as well.

I set up an account with Amazon Kindle Direct (I was able to sign on with my normal Amazon sign-on) and updated the information they require, like bank details etc. It was very similar to the process for CreateSpace and included the ‘Tax Interview’.

At least this time I had an idea of how to respond to the questions, so I sailed through it and produced the form W-8BEN-E for Tax withholding, to ensure I don’t pay taxes both sides of the Atlantic. As a recap for anyone new following, I live in the UK and to take advantage of the tax treaty between the US and the UK whereby I can pay tax over here instead, I need to complete form W-8BEN-E for the IRS. Luckily Amazon take care of its production through the ‘Tax Interview’ process. As I already have an EIN and I used it for the CreateSpace registration, I used it here as well (although it’s now possible to use a UK NI number instead). I just had to remember to declare myself as an organization to be able to input the EIN. Their system doesn’t have a category for self-employed sole-trader. Although technically I’m not that yet as when I phoned HMRC they said to register as such after I had put something up to Amazon. So that’s something not to forget.

I downloaded a document from the KDP site called ‘Building Your Book for Kindle’. Its Word specific but it’s useful anyway. I use OpenOffice, but I suspect I’ll have to convert the final document to Word when I’m done because that’s what KDP prefer. So, using the downloaded document I’ve made a start on formatting a Kindle version of my novel.