Monday, February 28, 2011

Formating Your E-book

As I said a couple weeks ago, different distributors require different formatting for manuscript uploads.  These format requirements range from Apple's "we won't take your book unless it comes from a third party" to Smashword's 40+-page opus on how to getting your book ready.

Frankly, most formatting you can do yourself.  Hell, if you can figure out how to write your epic American novel on MS-Word, you can figure out how to save it as an HTML file and review that file through your web browser.  From there, the distributors can convert your uploaded file to their specific format.

If you want to convert your files to MOBI or ePUB in order to sell from your own website (or just to check to make sure your formatting is correct), there's plenty of conversion programs out there.  Some are free, others not.  Among the ones out there are Aspose for Word and CalibreI DO NOT RECOMMEND ANY PARTICULAR PROGRAM.

If you're a total technophobe, then by all means hire someone to do the formatting and conversion for you.  But BEWARE!!  There's a lot of scam artists looking to part you from your money.  Make sure you get references.  Personally, I think $400 to format and convert your manuscript file is a bit, no, it's effing too much.  Pay the teen whiz next door instead of some guy you don't know.  I'd lay $400 that you'll get better results.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Trailers - Divorced, Desperate & Delicious

Would it help if I said this book trailer won the January 2008 Covey Award for Most Intriguing?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Trailers - Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I normally post some funny videos over the weekend, but I'm going to change up for the next couple of weeks.

In my publishing research, the subject of book trailers has come up repeatedly.  So I'm going to try a little experiment.  I'll post a book video.  In the comments, let me know if you'd buy this book based on the video.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cover Art

Probably the most obvious part of production you'll have to deal with as an independent publisher is the cover art.

As I freely admitted in previous posts, I suck at design.  But it's something I'll have to work at in order to be a successful publisher.  In an impromptu and highly unscientific survery among Kindle users I know, cover art came in second behind price as the reason a reader would try a new book.  Which means even in the gray-toned Kindle world, cover art is important.

As Bob Mayer said in a recent blog post, the cover also has to be "bold and pop of [sic] the page."  The picture has to make sense in a thumbnail.  Therefore the art can't be highly detailed or cluttered, and the contrast needs to be distinctive enough to be easily read on an e-ink screen.  In other words, simplicity is the key.

That being said, if you got the eye and talent for design, not to mention the right software, it's much cheaper to make your own cover for your e-book.  But if you're a no-talent like me, there are some reasonably priced alternatives.  Roughly, the range is $50-$400 depending on the designer's experience and your demands, ur, requests and needs.

If you decide to publish the paper version, it'll be a little more money to have someone else design you cover flat.  Again, if you can do it yourself, more power, and money, to you.

I've found different cover designers have different methods of working.  Some want to read the book and come up with a concept.  Others want a synopsis or character description to work off of.  Still others look at it as collaborative process, and they want the author's input and thoughts.

In my case, I've contacted two different people for cover art.  No, I'm not trying to decide between them.  Each person has a style that best repesents the "feel" for the two series I plan to publish first.  I can't wait to see what these ladies come up with!

And on that note, here's an encore video from last summer:

It's not as easy as it looks.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The winner of P.J. Mellor's Island Nights and a surprise romance package is TESS.  Thanks again to everyone for dropping by.  I'll have more giveaways next month!

Author On Her Own - Melissa Ohnoutka

Another colleague has opted for the independent publishing route.  Melissa Ohnoutka comes across as a sweet, unassuming lady.  All I can say is read this with the lights on.

It's always the quiet ones, isn't it?

Faithul Deceptions is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Money dictates the rules of this game and the victim could be anybody— regardless of sex, age, or race.

When high-end antiques dealer, Hailey Devlin, discovers her business partner's boyfriend has bankrupted their company, she sets out to expose the thief. Unknown to Hailey, her target is involved in a brutal trafficking ring where human lives are sold off to the highest bidder and she fits the next customer's order perfectly. She awakens to a world she can't remember. An alluring man claims to be her husband-a man who seems both to want and reject her. Is this amnesia or something much more sinister?

ICE Agent Patrick Roark jumped at the chance to put his training to the test on an elite human trafficking squad of Homeland Security. Undercover as the bodyguard to the ring leader, and key suspect in a murder case, proves more than he bargained for. Masterminding a clever deception, he's determined to keep the next victim safe—even if the high-stakes operation costs him everything-including his heart. Can they survive a killer's wrath? And if they do, will the lies be too damaging for their love to endure?

For more information about Melissa, check out her website and her blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Copyrights Regurgitated

On my original post about copyrights, Tess mentioned in comments that eCO (the Copyright Office's online form) could take up to five documents and that she had filed three of them for the single $35 fee.  However, I take Circular 1, Copyright Basics, Registration Procedures on page 7-8 in particular, to read that mutliple items can be registered together if they are part of one publication.

If anyone has questions about this, I seriously suggest they contact a qualified intellectual property attorney.

I discussed the matter with another friend R__, who's also pursuing the indie-publication route.  Her view of copyright registration is why bother wasting the time and money.  The people you have to worry about violating copyrights are the hackers who feed the Torrent sites, and the headaches of catching and stopping them aren't worth the $35 for registration.

OPINION: I probably will register my novels with the Copyright Office, more for the thrill of knowing my books are filed with the Library of Congress.  Everybody has a different measure of validation, and I freely admit this is mine.

Anybody else want to offer an opinion as to copyrights or pirates?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

3 Questions and a Contest - P.J. Mellor

And the WINNER of Island Nights and a surprise romance package is TESS!  Thanks to everyone for participating!

My dear readers, I know you have been patiently waiting for the return of THREE QUESTIONS AND A CONTEST. And it’s BACK!

I’m super-excited to present my first guest for 2011. She is one of the first people I met when I joined the Northwest Houston Chapter of RWA, and the first person I dared to show my work. The epitome of a gracious southern belle, she didn’t laugh too loud at my horrendous efforts. Her latest is the just released Island Nights. Please welcome author, P.J. Mellor!

When we first met, you hadn’t gotten the “Call” yet, then bam! Less than a year later, you’re selected to launch Kensington’s Aphrodisia line. What went through your mind when you heard Pleasure Beach would be the first book?

Actually, technically, PLEASURE BEACH was not the “first book” of the line. You are considered a launch author is your book is released in the first three months of the beginning of the line. PLEASURE BEACH was released in Aphrodisia’s second month, February 2006. When I first heard I’d sold to Kensington, I thought it was for their Brava line. Then it was explained my book would be in their new erotic romance line, as yet unnamed. I think shocked would best describe my thought when I heard I’d sold PLEASURE BEACH. It was just so much fun to write, I never imagined it would actually sell—it was just something I did “in case”. And the press it received was fabulous—can’t buy the kind of publicity it received!  (Editor's Note:  PLEASURE BEACH was featured on Geraldo At Large during a segment on erotic books.)

And, speaking of publicity, ISLAND NIGHTS is going to be excerpted in the May issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine—yet another priceless bit of publicity.

You have the amazing talent to combine humorous and erotic elements. How have you kept that balance going for throughout six full-length novels and five (soon to be six) anthologies?

Thanks! I’ve been told I have a wicked sense of humor, so it was a natural progression for it to find its way into erotic romance. Besides, sex is fun!

And for the wacky portion of our interview, what’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you since you were first published?

Wow. I’ve had many things…I think the one that stands out the most is the 102 year old retired English teacher who loved PLEASURE BEACH so much she took a cab to one of my signings to tell me how impressed she was that it was grammatically correct. In fact, several of the residents of her senior citizen complex came to that signing, making a line of gray haired people. Ah, yes, I’m obviously the geriatric erotica writer!


P.J.’s books are available today through most book retailers. For more info on P.J. and her books, check out her website.

Today, we are giving away a copy of Island Nights to one lucky blog reader.  Plus I'll throw a little surprise romance package for the winner.

To enter the drawing, please leave a comment stating your fantasy guy or girl. Keep it clean, folks! And please, PLEASE, if you comment anonymously, leave a contact e-mail!

Per usual, comments will be closed on Thursday, February 24, at 11AM CDT, and GK will draw a name from his Capt. Rex helmet. The winner will be posted at noon.

Legal $#!@:

The contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada due to U.S. postal regulations. To the FTC, P.J. has pointed out my numerous problems with POV, which officially makes ours a quid pro quo relationship.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Author On Her Own - Cheri Jetton

The wonderful Cheri Jetton is one writer who's taking the do-it-yourself track.  Cheri published three books with Avalon.  They rejected her fourth on the grounds it was too intense for their readers.  Cheri then pitched her book to other editors who wanted more sex, which, speaking frankly as someone who read Cheri's original proposal, did not work for the story.

Cheri, who's also a hell of a photographer, had someone photoshop one of her pictures and design a title.  Then she released Crimson Snow into the wilds of Amazon and Barnes and Noble for everyone to enjoy.

Go read it!


Teacher Sara Hansen witnesses a shooting and leaves Detroit to stay in her brother’s empty home on snowy Sugar Island, certain she’ll be safe in the remote location. Former homicide detective Daniel Leeds hears a shot and races from his cabin to the property next door, where he finds Sara bleeding in the snow. Though local police believe it’s a hunting accident, he’s not convinced. He allows Sara to recuperate in his cabin where he can protect her, but the arrangement soon begins to feel personal. Though they are drawn to each other, they know their lives are too different. His past has made him a virtual recluse, while Sara is compelled to help inner city youth.

When they’re apart, Daniel realizes the cops have made a critical mistake. He’s willing to lay down his life for her. But is it too late to save the woman he loves from a relentless killer?

For more information on Cheri Jetton and her books, check out her website.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Did You Know the Church Is a Pyramid Scheme?

This video had me rolling on the couch. I've had discussions with people like Brown Bear.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Do You Know This Guy?

I wish I didn't. Which is why I wasn't sure to laugh or cry the first time I saw this video.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The New Paradigm?

If I hear a particular new concept or opinion three times in short order from three different sources, it's usually a little signal to pay attention.

This week I read someone's blog (I'd have the link here if I could find the blasted thing, but as you can see my middle-aged, drug-and-flu addled brain has forgotten which blog) about authors banding resources in order to form their own publishing company.  DH later questioned if I could join forces with friends looking into publishing our own books "sort of like the actors who formed United Artists."  Then I got an e-mail from an RWA cohort wondering if groups of independent authors would end up forming their own publishing consortiums to keep a majority of their profits.

Is the hive mind already formulating the next step in the publishing chaos?

The idea has its good points.  Consolidation of resources would definitely cut down on individual overhead.  Such a partnership would provide a platform for writers with out-of-the-box stories, a la Tina Engler and Ellora's Cave.  And it would give authors a home where art is as important as profit.

And therein lies the problem.  I've met very few writers whose business sense is as sharp as their storytelling ability.

Some simply don't try, thinking they are beyond such mundane concerns.  Or they want someone to take care of them.  Or sometimes, both.

Some simply don't have the talent.  Acknowledging your shortcomings is not necessarily a bad thing.  For example, I could create my own covers, but I suck at design, and I'm very aware of the fact.

And some people have issues of control.  Or more accurately, letting go of control.  Let's face it.  Writing is a solitary business compared to dance, music or acting.  We writers have a lot of trouble sending out submissions, much less accepting advice from crit partners, agents, or editors.  To paraphrase Lucy Van Pelt, "Ahhgg!  Someone criticized my work!  Get me some hot water!  Get me some soap!"

But could a writers' joint business venture work?  With the right people, yes, I think it could.  As long as I'm in charge.

Seriously though, dear readers, is this something you try?  Why or why not?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Incredible, Edible Copyright

Ah, copyrights.  Something that a legitimate publisher would normally file for their author.

And the subject that has the most BS on the internet in terms of enticing naive writers to part with their limited funds.

WARNING:  The following is my opinion and DOES NOT IN ANYWAY CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  If you need a copyright attorney, I recommend Elaine English or contact Authors Guild.

FALLACY #1:  You have to register with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to claim a copyright.

ANSWER:  No, you don't.  You hold the copyright to a work from the moment the work is in a recorded, readable form.  HOWEVER, to avail yourself of certain legal protections, it's a good idea.  For example, if someone copies J.K. Rowling's first book, but calls it Henry Porter and the Magick Pebble, Rowling's copyright registration stands as prima facie proof that she created the work.*

FALLACY #2:  You can mail your manuscript to yourself to prove the date of its creation.

ANSWER:  Absolutely false!  There's nothing in U.S. Copyright law that states this method protects the creator of the work.  Seriously, folks, save your money.

FALLACY #3:  It's really expensive to file for a copyright.

ANSWER:  It's expensive only if you go through a third party who charges you for filing paperwork you can freakin' file yourself.

U. S. Copyright Office now allows you to file your registration electronically for only $35.  If you do file electronically, check the list of acceptable formats.  If you have only an e-edition of your book, in addition to the electronic copy you file with your application, you will need to send a CD-ROM copy to the Library of Congress.  Otherwise, send the paper copy.  Also the Copyright Office says to send the CD-ROM via box, instead of an envelope, to protect the CD from damage.

Seriously, folks, why pay some bozo  couple of hundred dollars when you can do it yourself for the registration fee, a box, and some postage?

* Prima facie is Latin for 'on the face of.'  It means the truth is assumed unless the opposite party can prove the facts otherwise.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders Bankruptcy

Well, gals and guys, it's official, but will Chapter 11 pull Borders out of its tailspin?

I Need a Freakin' Time Machine

Sorry, guys and gals!

My intended post for today isn't finished.  The flu nailed everyone at the Day Job, so I've been pulling extra shifts the last week and a half since I'm the last healthy one standing during our second busiest time of the year.  Ironic considering I'm the one who's immuno-compromised.  *grin*

Today, I've GOT to get caught up on homeschool stuff and editing the stories I want to e-publish.

So in the meantime, if you missed Sunday's Grammy awards, here's Lady Gaga's performance of her new single:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Apple v. Amazon App War

It looks like a rumble in the e-book jungle is on the horizon.  Check out Tobias Buckell's breakdown in the potential Amazon v. Apple smack-down.  He says it much better than I ever could.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Clarification of Needing an ISBN

Angie Benedetti brought up a good question on Friday's comments that definitely needed some clarification.

My original statement:  Also, different e-book formats are supposed to have their own individual ISBNs.

Angie asked:  What do you mean by format here? My first thought is PDF vs. ePUB vs. MOBI vs. whatever else, but I know that's not how the publishers do it. Help? :)

My answer in the comments, plus some additional clarifications:

You are NOT supposed to use the same ISBN for MOBI as you do for ePUB, or PDF, et. al.

Do some publishers do it? Yes. Are they supposed to? No. Since many e-publishers only sell digital version from their own websites, not through third-party retailers, it's pretty much a non-issue.

Using George W. Bush's Decision Points as an example, check out and Amazon does use the same ISBN for the Kindle version as the hardcover version, but they also make a point of stating the ISBN is from source pages (i.e. the hardback) and attach an ASIN (which stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number). The ASIN is an internal number used only by Amazon because they're assuming their MOBI e-books won't be read on anything but a Kindle. They also assume the MOBI version won't be available for sale anywhere else, even though Smashwords does sell MOBI versions of e-books.  For the record, Decision Points by George W. Bush is not sold on Smashwords.

Again, the lack of ISBN goes back to Amazon and Smashwords not requiring ISBNs to sell directly from their websites.

However, Barnes and Noble shows a separate ISBN for the ePUB version than either the hardback, the paperback, or the audio book versions of Decision Points. But again, Barnes and Noble only sells the ePUB version, as does Apple iBooks. There's an assumption that they will both be selling the ePUB version as retailers, which is why they both require ISBNs.

All of this hinges on whether or not you're going to sell the same digital format of your ebook through multiple retailers.  The ISBN is a retail record-keeping device, just like a UPC (universal product code).

Also, instead of buying your own ISBNs directly from Bowker, you can buy them from certain retailer/distributors like Smashwords and Lulu.  Yes, buying from a third party is cheaper because they buy ISBNs in larger bulk quantites.  But the way ISBNs are coded, if you use the third-party route to buy your ISBN, it looks like the third-party is the publisher of record.

Since I'm acting as my own publisher, I'd prefer to play it safe--buy my own ISBN blocks and have different ISBNs for different digital versions since I'm going through different retail outlets. For example, I plan to sell my e-books' MOBI version through both Amazon and Smashwords ans well as the ePUB version through Barnes and Noble by myself and iBooks by way of Smashwords, therefore I will have different ISBNs for the MOBI and ePUB versions.  I'm also looking at the possibility of more e-retailers opening down the road as e-books gain more traction in the market.  Individual ISBNs will make it easier to track which e-version sales are doing better.

I admit it's a combination of control issues and old attorney habits rearing their heads--an ounce of prevention, yada, yada, yada. . .

If I was only selling my ebooks through my website, I wouldn't bother with the ISBNs.  I'd save my money for other things, like venti peppermint mochas from Starbucks.  *grin*

Does anyone else have questions? If I don't know the answer, I'll try to find out for you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bad Romance

For the guys in Kuwait who love the Moulin Rouge edition of 'Lady Marmalade,' I have a feeling you'll like this video too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

More Country Novelty Songs

This one's for the Eastern European folks who've watched Mississippi Squirrel revival. . .over and over again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Power of the ISBN

[Editor's Note:  While this information was correct at the time of the original post, things have changed yet again in publishing.  Please see the post for May 11, 2011, for updated information on the ISBN requirements for various e-book distributors.  The links for Bowker and the Canadian government are still valid.]

Currently reading - Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Out of the distribution channels, I narrowed my choices down to Amazon and Barnes & Noble for their respective customer reach and Smashwords so I can do coupons for my loyal blog readers.  (To know what you're getting in to, go read the the first chapter of Zombie Love.)

Now, I can distribute an e-book through Amazon and Smashwords without an ISBN, but not through Barnes & Noble or anyone else I've discovered so far.  And Barnes & Noble is one of my prime choices, so I need an ISBN.  (I've been seriously studying CreateSpace, Amazon's paper independent publishing arm.  It looks to be much cheaper than Lulu, but CreateSpace also requires an ISBN.)

"What's an ISBN?" you ask.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, a unique identifier for every book, paper or digital, that goes through normal retail and library chains.  If you go through a regular publisher like Ellora's Cave or St. Martin's Press, the folks at the publishing company handle the ISBN for you.  If you indie publish and you want to distribute through certain channels, you'll need to buy your own.

In the U.S., an ISBN can only be purchased through Bowker.  However, Canadians can get them free from the Canadian government.  (You lucky dogs!)

A single ISBN costs $125, but a block of 10 starts at $250 up to $1000 for a block of 1000.  If you're going to publish more than one book, or multiple versions of one book, it's much cheaper to buy blocks.  Also, different e-book formats are supposed to have their own individual ISBNs.

As I said, certain channels will accept your e-book without an ISBN, but if you're looking long-term distribution into most retail outlets and libraries, an ISBN assigned to your book will be in your best interest.

Once you've bought a block and assigned the number to your book, you'll need to register the ISBN with Books-In-Print.  Morris Rosenthal has an excellent blog on self-publishing, and I suggest you read his post on dealing with Bowker.

It sounds complicated, but it's not hard.  Isn't administrative stuff fun?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Who to Choose? Part 5

Currently reading - Percy Jackson and the Olympians:  The Sea of Monsters

JUST A REMINDER: Over the next few posts, I'll be reviewing some of the players in non-traditional book distribution. I DO NOT advocate any particular company. What you'll be reading is my thought process as I work through my decision-making. I can, and probably will, make a ton of mistakes. Your mileage may vary.

My last three potential retailers will be covered in one post.

Kobo's criteria for an author to e-publish directly with them is a little bizarre.  While Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Smashwords have their Terms & Conditions posted on their website, Kobo requires the author to e-mail them before they will send her the T&C.  Also, if the author cannot provide them with an ePUB version of her book, they charge for the conversion.  Why do this when other retailers will convert your file for free?  Does anybody else have experience with this company they are willing to share?

Apparently, Apple will not allow an author to publish directly through them.  Do anyone know anything to the contrary?  From what I understand, authors must go through a secondary distributor such as Kobo, Lulu or Smashwords.  And from what I've heard Apple is pretty picky about what they'll accept for retail sale.  Does anybody else have publsihing/retail experience with Apple they're willing to share?

There's a lot of pluses selling your books on your own website, the chief of which is total control.  You can set your own prices and discounts.  You receive 100% of the price of the book.  (Yea!)  But the biggest problem is exposure.  Unless you're a name, you've got to find a way to drive traffic to your website.  Something that's very difficult if you're an unknown (like me).  This is something to look at down the road.  Unless you're Stephen King.

Tomorrow we'll start looking at all the little publishing things you'll have take care of on your own.  In the meantime, I'd love to hear from the WWW readers.  What's your experiences with the companies I've been talking about?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who to Choose? Part 4

Currently reading - Percy Jackson and the Olympians:  The Sea of Monsters

JUST A REMINDER: Over the next few posts, I'll be reviewing some of the players in non-traditional book distribution. I DO NOT advocate any particular company. What you'll be reading is my thought process as I work through my decision-making. I can, and probably will, make a ton of mistakes. Your mileage may vary.

When DH brought up the question of publishing my own works, he suggested Lulu.  After all, that's who Wil Wheaton uses for his books.  (Hey, DH was trying to help.)

Which is all well and good, but I'm not Wil Wheaton.  And Wil's reasons for publishing independently may or may not differ from mine.

Lulu was one of the first POD publishers.  Founded in 2002, they started with print books, but have expanded into other media: digital books, CDs, DVDs, calendars, etc.  They also have plenty of add-on services such as editing, cover art, book design, marketing, etc.  However, I question the costs of the add-ons since most of these you can do yourself or contract with a third party for less cost.

In addition to selling your e-book on their website, Lulu also claims it distributes to other e-book retailers.  However, the only one mentioned is Apple's iBookstore.  Another problem is that if you cannot provide an EPUB file, they charge you for the conversion (between $99 and $299 depending on the size of the book).

Lulu's terms are interesting, not so much for the content, but the way they couch the language.  If the e-book is sold from their website, a base fee is tacked before the author/Lulu split is calculated.  Roughly, it works out to about the same as Amazon's 70% royalty, unless you're givng away your content for free.  For sales through the iBookstore, the terms are "80% of the profit."  (Their words, not mine.)  What this really comes down to is Apple get 30% of the retail price, Lulu gets 14%, and the author gets 56%.  Why not say it that way?

As far as receiving your payments, Lulu gives users the option of quarterly paper checks or monthly PayPal deposits.

While I considered POD printing, the terms for a mass market size print book of my novel are cost prohibitive.  I calculated out approximately $19.14 per book, assuming I get $0.48 in royalties per book (that's making 6% of $7.99, the standard royalty for a new mid-list author and the current retail price for a mass market paperback).  Yeek!

I have to admit the reason I looked at Lulu was the option of having a printed version of my book on my office shelf.  There's something about the tangible weight in your hand and the smell of freshly printed paper.  Overall, I probably won't pursue Lulu unless enough readers request paper copies of my books.  Even then, before I commit to a print option, I'll look into other POD companies.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who to Choose? Part 3

Currently reading - Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters

JUST A REMINDER: Over the next few posts, I'll be reviewing the some of the players in non-traditional book distribution. I DO NOT advocate any particular company. What you'll be reading is my thought process as I work through my decision-making. I can, and probably will, make a ton of mistakes. Your mileage may vary.

Next up in my analysis of e-book retailer/distributors is Smashwords.  The little upstart that could was founded in 2008 by Mark Coker.  In addition to presenting an outlet for indie publishers, Smashwords also acts as a distributor to the major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple.

Like Amazon and B&N, Smashwords provides a comprehensive formating guide.  For me, one of the major pluses is the ability to upload my books while still in MS Word, instead of reformatting them into HTML.  Smashwords than reformats to MOBI (i.e. the format for the Kindle) or ePUB (i.e. the format used by both the Nook and the iPad).

Smashwords pays 85% on books sold on their website.  For books distributed to and sold through other retailers, the rate drops to 60%.  Unfortunately, Smashwords only pays royalties on a quarterly basis.  Though for me, one major plus is the ability to generate coupons for your customers to use on Smashwords.

Also, there were issues with Kobo discounting books distributed to it by Smashwords.  Under Amazon's terms for price matching/no book under $0.99, the discounting war left many folks with unintentionally free books on Amazon.  In a November 1, 2010, press release, Coker announced a new agency agreement with Kobo to prevent such problems in the future.

As of this writing, Smashwords has a relatively tiny share of the e-books market, but the company has the potential to grow with its flexibility.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Who to Choose? Part 2

Currently reading - Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

A QUICK SHOUT-OUT to the members of the Northwest Houston Chapter and the West Houston Chapter of RWA:  Thanks, guys!  Your encouragement and good wishes on this journey mean so much to me!

JUST A REMINDER: Over the next few posts, I'll be reviewing the some of the players in non-traditional book distribution. I DO NOT advocate any particular company. What you'll be reading is my thought process as I work through my decision-making. I can, and probably will, make a ton of mistakes. Your mileage may vary.

Barnes & Noble ("B&N") jumped on the e-reader train after Amazon, but I give them credit for bringing out the Nook.  Obviously, Amazon is a little worried about the competition, or they wouldn't have dropped the price on the Kindle so fast.  The nice thing about the Nook is availibility of a color edition for those who create picture books and graphic novels.

Unlike Borders, B&N took the coming e-book revolution seriously.  They've started Pubit, their own indie-publishing branch.  Once again, I strongly suggest you read B&N's terms THOROUGHLY!!

B&N will pay only 65% for e-books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, compared to Amazon's 70%.  The plus with working with B&N is reaching another segment of your potential market.  And it's still a hell of a lot better than 25% of net offered by the Big 6.

(Something I've noticed is the intense loyalty felt  by the users of the various e-readers.  Even if you'll only let go of your Sony if they pry it from your cold, dead fingers, don't discount the rest of the e-reader users in the world.)

B&N pays monthly, but they start paying sixty days after month's closing.  For example, if you posted your e-book on February 1 and you sell 100 e-books in February, you''ll be paid for those 100 books on or about April 30.

B&N has a detailed and fairly clear formatting guide.  And like Amazon, they will price match if you have your e-book for sale at lower price through another vender.

But there are some issues of concern.  B&N won't make the monthly payment if less than $10 is due to the publisher.  They insist on having your credit card on file.  Say you sold 10 books in February, no books in March, but one of your books is returned in March.  The 60% royalty  from the return will be charged to your credit charge.

Other than those concerns, B&N is still the second biggest game in town with more pros than cons.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Commercials #2

Okay, maybe an occasional lamb in addition to the horses. . .

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl Commercials #1

This is still one of my favorite Super Bowl Commercials.  Budweiser really needs to stick with the Clydesdales.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Who to Choose? Part 1

Currently reading - Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

JUST A REMINDER:  Over the next few posts, I'll be reviewing the some of the players in non-traditional book distribution.  I DO NOT advocate any particular company.  What you'll be reading is my thought process as I work through my decision-making.  I can, and probably will, make a ton of mistakes.  Your mileage may vary.

With the book market is a wild state of flux, it's every woman for herself.  There's a ton of smooth talking charmers who want to part you from your money.  (PublishAmerica, Author Solutions, or Harlequin Horizons, anyone?)

But there's a big difference between vanity publishing and indie publishing, the primary one being the flow of money.  To paraphrase the great SF author Harlan Ellison, money should flow to the writer.  Anything else is bullshit.

(Editorial Note:  Angie Benedetti pointed out Ellison was actually quoting James D. McDonald, who coined Yog's Law.  I know James D. McDonald better as the mastermind behind Atlanta Nights, a deliberately bad novel written by McDonald in collaboration with several fellow members of SFWA to prove PublishAmerica was a vanity press, not a legitimate publisher.  McDonald and his cohorts went on to publish Atlanta Nights through with all proceeds going to the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund.)

You, the author, should be getting the money minus your overhead.  And you're going to have a certain amount of reasonable overhead costs with ANY business.  Your job as the business owner is to keep your overhead low and maximize profits.  Sounds simple, but it means doing your homework.

Let's start with Amazon.  Their timing for introducing the Kindle dedicated e-reader was nothing short of excellent.  The e-book market has been steadily growing for the last ten years.  Their Kindle uses E-ink, which is much easier on the eyes for those people who have issues looking at a backlit screen for extended periods.  Their market share in the book industry has been criticized as a monopoly, but this also means they're able reach a large number of potential customers.  Amazon was also the first major book retailer to welcome the Jo Blo indie publishers.

I strongly suggest you thoroughly read Amazon's terms.  Amazon's subsidiary CreateSpace allows an indie publisher to stock paper books, in addition produce works on other media.  Amazon's big draw though is the percentage split on Kindle e-books.  Under Amazon's terms, the author/indie publisher receives 70% of the gross income, not 25% of net income, which is the current standard term with the Big 6 house.

Let's do the math.  I'll use $10 for the book's retail price for simplicity's sake.  If you publish a e-book with Amazon, your income would be $7.  If you publish an e-book through a Big 6 house, they sell to a retailer for roughly 50% of the retail price, meaning they only get $5.  They get to deduct their overhead cost, so let's assume overhead is $4.  $5 minus $4 equal $1.  You, the author, receive 25% of $1, or $0.25.  Who doesn't want $7 in the hand rather than a quarter?

(For a much better analysis of the money, go read Dean Wesley Smith's breakdown on cash flow.)

The second big advantage of course is Amazon's reach through the internet.  You don't have to worry about whether you can ship books to the only bookstore in Cicely, Alaska.  And if you still have your world rights, you can sell to your fans in France or Germany through Amazon as well.

The last big advantage is that Amazon pay authors/indie publishers on a monthly basis compared the Big 6 only paying bi-annually.

Disadvantages can include Amazon's sometimes arbitary changing of terms, but so far I haven't heard of them doing that to the indies.  If someone has a story, please feel free to share.

As I've said before, I like to do pro/con lists, and right now there's a lot of pluses on my Amazon list.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Distrubution Dilemma

Currently reading - Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Part of the reason self-publishing was discouraged (and discouraging) for lo these many years was the lack of distribution.  Even if you did the smart things on your own like hiring an excellent editor and an incredible cover artist, you still had to pay for the printing yourself.  Then you faced the problem of how to distribute your books to readers.

Bookstores didn't want to take a chance on some Jo Blo off the streets, preferring to stick with trusted wholesale distributors like Ingram.  The wholesale distributors relied on the publishing houses and often refused to even talk with the Jo Blos.  Maybe Jo could get her foot in the door at Independent Book Store down the street from her house, but her reach was limited to her neighborhood.  Once Jo had sold books to Grandma, her two aunts, her three neighbors, and five random strangers that stopped in Independent Book Store, who else could she sell her book to?

The law of diminished returns started to apply to Jo and her efforts.  She would have to go to other independent book stores, in other neighborhoods, other towns, possibly other states, on her own dime.  The travel costs soon outweighed the number of books sold in these excursions.  Ask John Grisham about the fate of his first edition of A Time to Kill.  While the book was published by the now-defunct tiny comany Wynwood Press, John literally couldn't give it away out of the back of his station wagon.  Copies stored in his garage had to be hauled to the dump after a flood.  Imagine your own money landing in that garbage heap.  Kind of defeats the purpose of pursuing a writing career, doesn't it?

The game has changed.  Now you've got retail players like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu not only acting as wholesale distributors but willing to work with the Jo Blos of the world.  You now have access to millions, that's right, MILLIONS of people, not just in the U.S., but around the world.  You can sell your story in just about any format you can imagine!

Here's the CAVEAT!!  READ THE FINE PRINT before accepting terms from anyone, including the folks mentioned above.  If you don't understand the Terms of Agreement, GET SOMEONE WHO SPECIALIZES IN PUBLISHING TO EXPLAIN IT TO YOU.  Seriously, folks, as a former attorney, I can say a little preventative legal medicine goes a long way in keeping you out of trouble.

READ what others say about their experiences with a particular company.  Bob Mayer, Dean Wesley Smith, Kris Rusch, and Joe Konrath are brutally honest in their opinions and experiences doing their own thing.

First and foremost, do your research.  You won't regret it.

(Photo by Liam Quin, 2003)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Giant Hath Fallen

Currently reading: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

I was going to post about this subject later, but so much has hit the proverbially fan in the last two days, it needs to be addressed.

DISCLOSURE:  I worked for Borders Group, Inc., ("BGI") in one of their Waldenbooks stores as a part-time bookseller 2002-2004.

Even though Waldenbboks was a chain, the owners operated the stores like indie stores with knowledgable, full-time staff as one of their biggest advantages. All that changed when Kmart bought the company, then spun Waldenbooks along with Borders into its own company in 1994.  Back in 2002, it was no secret BGI planned to close their smaller stores like the one I worked in and focus their efforts on their big box stores.

And even back then, BGI executives were axing the full-time employees in favor of cheaper part-time staff.  Computer systems were antiquated by the standards of the day, making it almost impossible to find the books customers wanted.  We never had whatever tome Oprah was spotlighting on the same day the show aired, which pissed off a lot of customers.  Despite everything, our little store avoided closure because we were so damn profitable.  (Much to our district manager's eternal annoyance!)

Still, seeing all these little things, I knew my favorite book store wouldn't last forever.

And now the end is nigh.  Over the course of 2010, BGI fell behind in paying vendors, particularly the publishing companies.  They then tried to get the Big 6 to cover their refinancing with GE Money Bank.  Can you say throwing good money after good books?  On Monday, Publishers Weekly announced BGI was not paying their stores' landlords.  In response, BGI's stock dove under $ 0.75 (the stock price had been hovering around dollar for the last year).  Yesterday, Bloomber leaked the report that BGI is preparing to file for bankruptcy as early as next Monday.

I honestly can't see BGI surviving a Chapter 11.  (FYI:  Chapter 11 allows a company to reorganize and continue business.)  Its debts are too steep, one of the many reasons the BGI board has not been able to find a buyer the last couple of years.  Its chain of command is too inflexible.  Its board of directors can't see the big picture; their parachutes are in the way.

Please note, the change in business between e-books and print cannot be used as a scapegoat for BGI.  The company was in trouble long before the e-publishing tipping point.

Any company needs to a structure that allows it to respond to market changes.  Barnes & Noble is trying with the introduction of the Nook, the addition of toys, and the expansion of their webstore.  BGI was already behind when the recession slapped the U.S. across the face.  Rarely can a company pull their collective can out of the fire in that kind of economic enviornment.

So what does any of this have to do with my announcement yesterday?  A lot.  Many writers don't understand the supply lines of their product, i.e. their books.  If one avenue of delivery to your consumers (i.e. readers) fails, how do you get your product into their hands?

If you can't answer that question, I'm sorry to say you're in the wrong business.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Beginnings

Currently reading - Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Sorry about yesterday's fluff post.  I had to line up a few proverbial ducks before I made my announcement.

I'm going to indie-publish.

Whew.  There.  I said it.  The world didn't explode.  A black hole didn't devour all life.  Hell didn't freeze over, though southeastern Texas will tonight.

A lot of thought went into this decision.  Trust me, it was definitely not made on a whim.  Soul-searching and numbers-crunching has occupied many hours over the last month.  I understand writing isn't just about art.  Fiction publishing is a branch of the entertainment business, with an emphasis on the business part.

What was the final turning point in my decision process?  I've got completed, heavily edited manuscripts and nothing to lose at this point.

So what's next?  Well, you'll find out as I go through the steps.  Hopefully, by documenting my process, I learn a thing or two, and you'll learn what not to do.

As the late, great Bette Davis said, "Fasten your seatbelts.  It's going to be a bumpy night."