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Smashwords kicked off its 8th Annual Read an Ebook Week yesterday. It’s a giant promotion of ebooks published on its platform. Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of ebooks are discounted anywhere from 25 to 100 percent from March 5-11.

It’s a great opportunity to get a great deal on ebooks from new authors. Because Smashwords is an aggregator, meaning they distribute their books to around two dozen ebookstores, you can find an ebook that fits your ebook readers.

I checked the promotion and saw that 10 of my books have been included. I’ve got history, historical fiction, biography, young adult, and horror titles that are part of the promotion. So if you are looking to stock up on some of my titles, here’s your chance.

50% Off Books

Saving Shallmar: Christmas Spirit in a Coal Town ($4.00 promotional price)

9f2a936d3ba79285caad2a928ffd477705b98828-thumbIn fall turned to winter in 1949, the residents of Shallmar, Maryland, were starving. The town’s only business, the Wolf Den Coal Corp. had closed down, unemployment benefits had ended and few coal miners had cars to drive to other jobs. When children started fainting in school, Principal J. Paul Andrick realized the dire situation the town was in and set out to help.

 

 

October Mourning: A Novel of the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic ($3.00 promotional price)

cabd7e2edf73bcd3295d24eba5d467e89829e78c-thumbIn October 1918, Spanish Flu left behind 40 million dead. In Cumberland, Md., Dr. Alan Keener wants to take steps to prevent its spread, but he is met with resistance from old-school doctors who believe that the flu’s deadliness is overblown and easily treated. His work is complicated as a street preacher named Kolas aids the flu’s spread.

 

 

Beyond the Battlefield: Stories from Gettysburg’s Rich History ($4.00 promotional price)

58bc7189378b3328a38ab711142c5868a7e9cef2-thumbBeyond the Battlefield is a collection of 47 true stories and 56 photos that tell the history of Gettysburg and vicinity beyond the famous Civil War battle.

 

 

 

A Byte-Sized Friend (Hackers #1) ($3.50 promotional price)

e0da6fbdc837e571342e9880a63a6abed1279ea2-thumbChris Alten’s world is limited to the wheelchair that an accident has confined him to. He is lucky, though. The same accident killed his father. Chris also has a mysterious new friend whom he meets online and shows him a brand-new world where he can once again walk. This new world comes with its own dangers when it is discovered that Chris’s new friend is an artificial intelligence program.

 

 

25% Off Books

Clay Soldiers: One Marine’s Story of War, Art, & Atomic Energy ($5.99 promotional price)

096b0d8946bc2b824034ba68d473b09b647f2bb2-thumbChuck Caldwell is a WWII vet and Purple Heart winner who has met Civil War soldiers, fought at Guadalcanal and Tarawa, and studied atomic bomb explosions in Nevada. Through it all, he painted and sculpted miniature figures that have become sought after by collectors around the country. Clay Soldiers is the story of a man who became part of the history of America and chronicled it through his art.

 

FREE Books

My Little Angel

e64185333e93433b9b7be9da00c1e7585bd02946-thumbJanet Sinclair is not looking forward to her first Christmas without her daughter. Janet still doesn’t know how she will go on without Danielle. Then Janet receives a beautiful porcelain angel that looks so much like Danielle that she can’t bear to look at it. As Janet tries to deal with Christmas, she finds out that the angel is more than just an ornament.

 

 

When the Babe Came to Town: Stories of George Herman Ruth’s Small-Town Baseball Games

85d5ff6c190421c86439ef06e7dfef0c142737f0-thumb“Babe” Ruth was a baseball legend. You can find out why in “When the Babe Came to Town.” This book shows how the Babe connected with the fans through his many exhibition and barnstorming games.”When the Babe Came to Town” is a collection of some of these stories highlighting games that Babe Ruth played in Emmitsburg, Maryland; York, Pennsylvania; Oakland, California and Cumberland, Maryland.

 

The Race (Canawlers, Book 4)

295dc0e85e623c2c13f705aa78fdc5168b1c4bc3-thumbFollow the lives of the Fitzgerald family on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal as Tony and Thomas Fitzgerald race their canal barge against a train. If you enjoyed “Canawlers” and “Between Rail and River” by James Rada, you’ll want to follow this adventure set a few years after the Civil War during the canal’s heyday. Originally published as a limited-edition chapbook for CanalFest 2003.

 

 

Welcome to Peaceful Journey

8c8a7ab5d44d5d8a40c59c4f008be84ed971912b-thumbA collection of short stories featuring the most-unusual funeral home you will ever see. Welcome to Peaceful Journey Funeral where the journey from life to death can be anything but peaceful.

 

 

 

Kachina

ae894698c3f44c84c60a38c4864370d5cea5158c-thumbDavid Purcell was on his way to meet his girlfriend when he fell into a cave. Now he can’t remember the five weeks he spent in the cave. With the help of Adam Maho, a Hopi, David discovers that he must remember that lost time if he if he going to stop the ancient Hopi evil, the dark kachinas, from being released into the world again. To do so, David will have to find his way back to Kuskurza.

I noticed that recently Kindle publishing started offering an option to produce a paperback version of your e-book once it is uploaded. That seems only fair. Createspace, another Amazon company, has been offering to produce the Kindle version of paperback books for a while.

I’ve never taken advantage of either option. Why? Because despite the convenience of having to do set-up only once and working with a single publisher dashboard, the finished versions aren’t compatible.

I discovered a long time ago that the best way to ensure that my Createspace-printed book looks just the way I want it to is to upload a .pdf version of the interior. I discovered this after spending a couple hours trying to tweak a Word document that I was uploading. Even though I was using a Createspace template and everything looked fine, when I reviewed the uploaded document before publishing it, something had always changed. For instance, a line would roll to the next page. This caused a domino effect that threw off the pagination throughout the document.

 

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Screenshot of Kindle Direct Publishing offering to publish the paperback version of an e-book.

 

My solution to this problem was to save my Word file as a .pdf before I uploaded it, and the problems I had vanished. I’m not sure what the difference was between me saving the document as a .pdf first and then uploading or Createspace saving the document as a .pdf after I uploaded it, but it made all the difference in the world.

Somehow the uploading process changed my document. Saving it as a .pdf first locked everything into place. The pagination, images, and fonts were all saved and fixed in place.

While this works great for getting my paperback layouts right, it isn’t so nice for e-books. E-book documents need to be able to change fonts, point size, and margins. Sure, Kindle can publish a .pdf, but with everything locked in place, your Kindle or e-reader is going to show each book page as a screen page. I do some of my reading on my phone. Just imagine how a page from a book would look if it was condensed down to a 2×4 inch screen. To make an e-book work best, I upload a Word document.

Since I need to upload two files—one for my paperback version and one for my Kindle version—, I need to publish both separately.

If you don’t have problems with uploading Word files on Createspace, then publishing your e-book should be no problem. However, I’ve run into other writers who have had the same problem I’ve had with Word documents. I told them my secret of saving it as a .pdf, and most of their publishing issues have disappeared.

So while it’s another option to have with Createspace, you may cause yourself more headaches if you aren’t careful about how you use it.

 

swlogoWhen I started putting out my books as ebooks, I was initially overwhelmed. Just consider all of the platforms that sell ebooks: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and Overdrive to name a few. Was I going to have to prepare my manuscript to meet the standards of each one?

Then I discovered Smashwords.com. It’s an aggregator of e-book platforms. I could upload my book once and have it converted to all of the necessary e-publishing platforms and then appear on the different sites. It was a godsend.

The site is pretty easy to use, too. You fill out book information and then upload a cover and the interior of the book. Smashwords converts the book into the appropriate platforms and then sends it out to the different retailers.

The one problem I have found myself having of late is that to qualify for a listing with all of those retailers, you have to format your book to certain specs. It was no problem for my novels. I just followed the tips that Mark Coker, the owner, posts for formatting and the process went smoothly.

The problem I run into is with my non-fiction books, which contain pictures. The pictures apparently cause a lot of problems in the conversion process. I must have tried six times to get my last book uploaded properly, but something kept going wrong. I think I may have it figured out, though, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for the next book I upload. (FYI, I will be setting my pictures at 96 dpi instead of 300 dpi. The latter is the standard for print publication. Since I’m not doing the print version, the web standard for pictures works fine.)

I haven’t made as much use of Smashwords as I can, which is something I’m trying to remedy. The site offers some useful tools for indie authors. You can easily change the book pricing. Unlike Amazon KDP, Smashwords allows you to make your books free of charge for an indefinite period. You can also alter how much someone can read of your book for free.

You can also use a set of marketing tools. Create coupons. Post an author interview. Link books in a series together.

These are just a few things that I’ve discovered so far.

Despite the advantages of using Smashwords, I also use Amazon KDP for the Kindle versions of my books. It does require some extra work to prepare the manuscript again, but most Kindle users buy their Kindle e-books from Amazon. I found that when I started publishing directly with Amazon KDP, my Kindle sales jumped considerably.

Still, uploading two versions of my books is a far cry from having to upload six versions. Now I just need to find the best ways to use the marketing tools at my disposal.

For a writer, this is an interesting story to follow and see what develops. It could change the way writers write or totally flop. 

A company has started data mining the information that is collected from e-book use. The company, called Jellybooks, gives readers free e-books. The readers then click on the link in the book so that all kinds of reading data gets sent to the company.

Some of the questions that the New York Times suggests can be answered by studying the data include “Do most people devour it in a single sitting, or do half of readers give up after Chapter 2? Are women over 50 more likely to finish the book than young men? Which passages do they highlight, and which do they skip?”

There seems to be so many ways it could be sliced and diced that it could lead to having so much information that you become paralyzed in your writing. You want to write to please all your potential readers, but you realize that something is always going to turn off one group or another.

In the past, I’ve had books rejected by publishers who make decisions by committee. One person wants this change made. Another person wants another change made. You make the changes to try and please them, but then there’s someone who nixes the whole thing, although everyone else was fine with it.

That’s what I envision happening with books if author’s rely too much on data like this.

Books written by committee will lack a single vision and a sense of cohesion. Instead of a race horse, you wind up with a camel.

Another problem that I see with this is that it studies reading habits of e-book readers. This may be anecdotal, but my encounters with readers tell me that many physical book readers have a different reading style than e-book readers. One example I can think of is that an e-book reader may read on their smartphones using an e-reader app while waiting in line. Physical book readers may read for longer times because they aren’t disturbed by the backlighting on many e-readers.

So far, the technology is still new. The company has studied 200 books for seven publishers. Each book gathers data from 200 to 600 readers.

Here is some of what was found:

  • Less than half of the books tested are finished by a majority of readers.
  • Most readers give up early on. Women seem to give a book 50 to 100 pages before deciding whether to give up or not. Men will only read 30 to 50 pages before making the decision.
  • Only 5 percent of the tested books were completed by 75 percent of the readers.
  • 60 percent of books were finished by 25 to 50 percent of readers.
  • Business books have a low completion rate.

In the end, I think what will still turn out to be the best course of action is to write the best book that you can. Make it a story that you believe in and love. Then go find the readers with whom it resonates.

Publication1

Here is the short fiction that I’ve published electronically. Two are novellas and two are short collections. Two also have previews of novels with the same characters in them.

I waver back and forth as to whether I like e-books or physical books better. Both have their advantages, but one of e-books biggest advantages is that it has brought back the viability of short fiction.

I remember when I was writing a lot of short fiction back in the 1990s that a professional rate was considered 3 cents a word or more. That means you needed to get paid at least $75 on a 2,500 word short story. At the time, I was making at least 10 times that amount for a non-fiction article. Plus, the market for non-fiction is much larger.

While some novellas could be published as chapbooks, it could be costly, both for the publisher and the reader. I independently published a 65-page novella that I needed to retail at $5.99. That was really too much for a novella that size, but between the printing costs and the retailer cut, that’s what was needed to make it financially viable.

The one area that did work for short fiction was a collection or participating in an anthology. For me, anthologies were always iffy because I usually bought one because a favorite author of mine was part of it, but usually there were other stories in it that I really didn’t like. With short story collections, my impression is that they never seemed to be as big a seller as a novel by the same author.

Then along came e-books.

You can publish a novella and price it at a $1.99. You can publish a short-story collection, just a couple short stories, or even a single story and price them appropriately. Electronic publishing opened up a lot of new avenues for short fiction. These new avenues can pay royalties indefinitely, eventually making the author a lot more money than he or she would earn from publishing a single story in a magazine.

Short fiction e-publishing also makes a great marketing tool. First, these e-books are usually priced very affordably so that a reader would be willing to try out a new author. Second, these e-books can be offered as perma-free without the author feeling he or she is giving up a large royalty. Third, short e-books can be used to promote upcoming novels.

I have seen the latter happening more and more. The author has a new novel coming out in the fall. In the spring a short story is released for 99 cents. Besides the short story, there is usually a preview of the new novel attached at the back of the story. As an added benefit, publishing short fiction along with your novels helps keep your name out in front of readers.

As a reader as well as a writer, I’m happy to see the resurgence of short fiction. I’ve got quite a few on my e-reader that I read and enjoy.

new-amazon-kindleI came across this article in the UK Guardian a couple weeks ago. Writer Paul Mason contends, “Yet with the coming of ebooks, the world of the physical book, read so many times that your imagination can ‘inhabit’ individual pages, is dying.” He cites a couple examples of how in just about any edition of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow or Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, he can easily find certain key scenes that stick in his mind.

I became curious about this because if it’s true, it might change the way that writers write ebooks eventually. I know I’ve run into certain issues as a reader and a writer with ebooks that make me think that they are not suited for every book. For instance, table top style books I’ve written (No North, No South… and The Last Fall) have formats that don’t translate well to ebook styles. Their two-column formats aren’t linear and sidebars don’t seem to work well on smaller ereaders.

Mason’s article talks about the short attention span people have developed and because of the Internet and their tendency to skim read web pages. He feels that both of these factors play into reading ebooks, particularly when it’s on a device that many times can also play movies and games. I agree with this. It’s one of the reasons I’ve resisted to urge to get a Kindle Fire. My Kindle Keyboard is just an ereader so I know when I pick it up, I’m going to read.

In response to a readers having a short attention span, Mason writes, “Every major publisher has experimented with short stories, serialised fiction, anthologies and mid-range ‘e-only’ books. By contrast, experiments with fictional forms that only work for ebooks and hypertext have failed to make the big time.”

The context of the article made me think that Mason’s doesn’t think this is the best approach. While I’m still a big reader of novels, I love the shorter novellas that some authors put out. For one thing, it’s very inexpensive and allows me to decide whether I like the writer’s style. I also think that it has led to a resurgence of short fiction in a manner that actually is profitable for the author.

Mason then suggests that the ereader is beginning to change reading habits. “It’s probably too soon to generalise but my guess is, if you scooped up every book – digital and analogue – being read on a typical Mediterranean beach, and cut out the absolute crap, you’d be left with three kinds of writing: first, ‘literary’ novels with clearer plots and than their 20th century predecessors, less complex prose, fewer experiments with fragmented perception; second, popular novels with a high degree of writerly craft (making the edges of the first two categories hard to define); third, literary writing about reality – the confessional autobiography, the diary of a journalist, highly embroidered reportage about a legendary event.”

So do you think ereaders have changed your reading habits? I don’t think mine have changed too much. However, I am much more willing to try out new authors and I have found some that I enjoy and have left their books on my Kindle along with my favorite authors that I used to read in a physical editions.

Here’s the link to Mason’s article if you want to read it yourself.

I read Allen Taylor’s E-book Publishing: Create Your Own Brand of Digital Books as an Advance Reading Copy. I have published a number of e-books and thought I pretty much had the process down pat, but I still found information and tips in here that I will use on my next e-book project.

If you haven’t published an e-book yet, then this book is a great primer to get your first book up and for sale. It has plenty of step by step information to walk you through the publishing procedures for various platforms. Hopefully, Taylor will keep the book updated as changes are made with the different publishing platforms so that the book’s information stays current.

That was a concern I had about some of the data about e-publishing I read early in the book. The most recent seemed to be 2013. If the 2013 trends continued, I wouldn’t be so concerned, but I saw stories last year showing that e-publishing might be leveling off. So the rosy picture, Taylor paints, may not be so rosy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a great market to get into and this book does a great job of doing it.

Taylor has a relaxed writing style so you don’t feel like you are reading an instruction manual as he walks you through the process. You just do what he says and before you know it, you have a book electronically published. I’ve read some manuals where the steps get so technical that I felt overwhelmed, but Taylor makes you feel like he’s a friend talking you through the process.

What novice and veteran e-publisher alike will find useful are the chapters on marketing, pricing, and running a digital press. Publishing your e-book is really just the first step in a very long process of getting it into the hands of readers. Taylor covers a lot of strategies to accomplish this. Try them out and see what works for you.

He shows you how to publish your e-book in a variety of formats and also with a variety of publishers. My biggest concern is that the book has separate chapters on publishing your book in different electronic formats and also with different e-book distributors. Reading the book you get the feeling that you have to format your books a half a dozen different ways and then upload it a number of different web sites.

One thing I have discovered is that pretty much all I need to do is publish my book with Kindle and then Smashwords. I used to only do Smashwords because it formats your books to a variety of platforms including the ones that Taylor lists as separate chapters. Although Smashwords publishes a Kindle format (.mobi), I’ve found that nearly all Kindle users buy their e-books from Amazon.

So I format my book two ways and upload it to two sites, but then it is distributed to probably more than a dozen sites.

All in all, it’s a very handy reference book to have. I highlighted a number of different web sites and passages to study in more detail.

Pawn_of_Prophecy_coverI like David Eddings’ early fantasy series, but until last year you couldn’t find them on Kindle. So I was very excited when they became available for download. They were even reasonably priced at $4.99. I downloaded Pawn of Prophecy, the first book in The Belgariad last September and put the rest on my wish list to read later.

I went to download the next book in the series, Queen of Sorcery, the other day and it’s not available. Nor are any of his other books in his most-popular series.

What a disappointment!

So does anyone know what happened? I’m hoping that they will be listed again soon, but seeing as how it took so long to get them listed in the first place I wonder. Why are his other novels listed and not his most-popular ones?

So now I have a lonely Eddings’ novel on my Kindle and I’m wondering when and if, I’ll ever be able to get the rest of the series.

With the New Year nearly here, I’ve been laying out plans for 2014.

I’ve got a pretty aggressive publishing plan for the year between regular books and e-books. I want to publish three books and three e-books. In the past, my publishing has been a little haphazard. For 2014, I’ve laid out when I want the books to come out so that they are spaced out. I also worked back from the publishing dates to see when I needed to have other things completed like covers, promos and sending a draft to the editor. By knowing when the book release dates are, I can spread out those other deadlines so I’m not pulling my hair out some months and then having nothing to do the next month.

It’s also aggressive because I’m spreading into some new genres. I have typically written history and historical fiction in the past, but I’m going to release young-adult and other non-fiction titles next year. Having a plan allows me to figure out what I need to do to break into the new genres.

The benefit of laying out this plan is that when I did see times when my workload would be lighter, I could plan for other promotions for existing books. I can also plan on using those lighter work times to research new books and write drafts.

Another benefit is that since I’m not a natural marketer and an introvert by nature, this plan will help keep me on track and focused on the job at hand.

The result, if things work out according to the plan, is that I’ll have a steady presence of my books and promotions.

So now, I’ll take a deep breath and ready myself for a busy 2014. I hope you all will come along for the journey.

I saw that Amazon Publishing now has a digital short story imprint called StoryFront. I have always thought that e-publishing is great for short pieces. Witness the success of Kindle Singles.

Here are some of the reasons I like to e-publish short fiction:

  • An author can write a novella or short story and package it with a sneak peek at an upcoming novel. It serves as a great marketing tool.
  • An author who wants to enter a particular genre can test the waters with a short novella and see what kind of response he or she gets.
  • Since the short fiction magazine market tends to pay poorly, writers can get the rights to their stories and format them for e-books and hopefully, earn more than they did as magazine articles.
  • Each short e-book gives an author additional exposure, putting their name out just as often as a novel would.
  • Short e-books allow potential readers the opportunity to see if they like an author’s writing style without having to pay $5-$8 for a novel.
  • Short e-books make great books to use as promotional giveaways in an author’s marketing program.

As for the new Amazon imprint, I will look into it more and maybe even submit something to see how the response compares to what I get with my existing short e-books.

Here’s a link to a story about Amazon’s StoryFront launch.

 

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