Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Pitch?

I've been having a great time reading the threads over on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Community.  There is such a good vibe over there right now.  Understandably, the forum is full of nerves and regrets but it's made me keen to enter next year, just to be a part of it.  The main thing stopping me was how the whole thing is judged, first by a pitch then an excerpt but thinking about it, it's the most realistic and efficient way of doing things.  Some people don't think it's very fair but a good pitch is important.  Still scary - it's hard to put everything you have into a few short words.  Yet, not as scary as a face to face pitch in my opinion.

Alan Rinzler has a timely post entitled Insider Tips for Preparing and Delivering a Winning Pitch.  Good post and even the comments are bound to be interesting.  Learning to deliver a good pitch is important, whether you are trying to sell your book to an indie book store or attract the attention of an agent.  It is something I find difficult.  I'm not good at selling and delivery of a pitch is basically an attempt to sell your story.  Even people who are advertising their books on online forums often use a pitch to entice readers.  An original, interesting one gets my attention.  There are lots of sample excerpts on Amazon at the moment from those still in the competition.  They aren't long, I personally can't tell anything from them but some of the threads in the community have revealed more than a few gems if the pitches are anything to go by.  Personally, I'm certain I'll have a manuscript ready to go next year but a decent pitch?  That might take me a bit longer.  :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Updates at Smashwords

I've been working on paper all day so only read the email from Smashwords a while ago.  First of all they have signed a new distribution agreement.  From the 1st of April, their premium catalog will be sent to Apple for inclusion in the iPad iBookstore.  On the 31st, we'll have to select the option to opt in but no worries there.  They must have a unique ISBN attached.  Prices must end in .99 so if yours don't, they will probably adjust them automatically to the nearest .99.  Get on it, if you want control of your own price.  Royalties are 60% of the list price.  The eBooks have to cost less than the print versions.  Crack-a-lacking as it should be.

Smashwords are providing ISBNs as of now.  Even if you live far, far away.  They are providing free ISBNs - the catch being that Smashwords are listed as the publisher.  This is not a problem for me right now but I know plenty of people have a problem with this.  Fear not, they also offer ISBNs for under a tenner and you can list yourself as the publisher and Smashwords as the distributor.  You can pay for this out of your future earnings, if any.  Freebies can't use this option at the moment.  And if you already have an ISBN (a brand new one that has not been used) you can assign it to your eBook on the site.

I've been over there, the ISBN newness occurs immediately if you choose an option.  Also, note that these particular ISBNs are only intended for the e-pub versions of your manuscripts.  Different formats may require further ISBNs in the future.  For now, these ISBNs will ensure inclusion in the shipments to Sony and Apple.  I am pleasantly surprised by how quickly this has been settled in the end and we're all included in the joy.  And don't forget, an ISBN means your book is included in Books in Print.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Plan, A Plot and Some Structure

I've been reading up on different methods of novel planning, 3 arc, 5 part, snowflake, hero's journey, etc, etc, etc.  I'm far too unorganised for my own good so I thought a little planning and structure might not go amiss.  While bits and pieces of various methods are very useful, sticking to a strict plan is not for me.  Even the thought of it is making me bored and tired and meh.  But I decided to try out some stuff.  I keep seeing the Snowflake Method being talked up everywhere I go this week so I thought someone out there must be trying to tell me something, I'll try this first.  First of all you write a one sentence summary of your book.  This one sentence was the hardest thing I've ever had to write in my life.  Seriously.  (And when the first step is oh crap kind of hard, then the rest is probably not going to be any easier.)  How can I not know what my story is about?  Problem is, it's about too many things at the same time, so it's hard to pigeon hole.

That makes me think that my story is not specific enough.  Recently on Nathan Bransford's blog he talked about querying and he said the one mistake people make is not being specific enough.  This is me.  I cannot put a label on things, I can't condense, I can't summarise, I cannot be specific.  Which leads me onto that other novel planning point - the question.  Your story is meant to ask one big question.  The story ends when you answer this question.  So you better make sure you're answering the right question.  (Example being, in a romance novel, the question might be does the boy get the girl?  Boy gets the girl - end of book, ta-da!)

This is also a problem for me.  One big question is boring.  And limited.  (To me.)  I don't like formulas and I don't like knowing what to expect.  I like lots of relatively important story arcs that build up together into some kind of a resolution and yes maybe I am interpreting the One Big Question badly but the idea of planning everything is not flexible enough for me (and pretty soul destroying).  I had a bit of a freak out at 5am yesterday, worrying about my writing being "different" and conveniently forgetting that I'm not trying to be like anyone else.  I'm writing for me and I'm enjoying it at that.  A very sensible person reminded me of that, just in time.

But I see the value of planning and plotting and organising everything.  And I see that I need to do something more structured than sitting down and typing away without a care in the world.  I've been working on sorting out the chapters in one particular novel.  The time line wasn't working out and there were things I had meant to add all along but I wasn't sure exactly where anymore. I've been writing out chapter summaries and including info on time which has made things ten times easier to organise so go me.  It's also taken the fun out of it but I'll ignore that for now.  Point is, that little bit of a plan really helped organise things properly.  Some people have the sense to get organised before they get into their first draft but I think that would inhibit me completely and stop me from finishing anything.  I'd rather fix what I've already written. 

The only problem with, erm, hard work when you have no organisational skills to speak of is that my brain keeps throwing new ideas at me and I end up being completely unable to ignore them.  I don't know how many times I had to stop what I was doing earlier to quickly write down whatever inspiration was smacking me on the head.  My next lesson to learn should probably be focus.  Especially when the fun stuff is over and the hard work begins. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Beta Readers

I realised yesterday that I'm going to need beta readers soon.  I have no idea where I'm going to get them from.  I haven't had the best luck with beta readers in the past.  I seem to be inflicted with people who send me a two line email saying yeah, great story, you should be a writer - cue my head imploding.  I feel like I'm begging to be criticised which probably doesn't do much for my self esteem at some level. 

In case you aren't sure, beta readers are like guinea pigs and free slaves all rolled into one.  You can test your manuscript on them, find out if the plot is believeable, get them to check for continuity, flat characters, scenes that drag.  Some, and these I find amazing, even check for spelling errors and grammar mistakes.  They have their own strengths and weaknesses so you tend to need a couple of a good, even assessment of your work.

I am jealous of people who have a perfect set of beta readers.  You know those writers who have used the same group of people for years and have no worries?  I want that to be me.  But I'm starting to think there was a finite supply of beta readers and now they've all been taken.  It's hard to get anyone willing to invest that kind of time into something.  Aside from reading the story, they have to communicate their concerns about it.  A lot of beta readers are also writers so finding them at a good (non-busy) time is next to impossible.  That's hardly surprising, I'm constantly working on my own things, I would take forever to finish going over someone else's manuscript with a fine tooth comb.  Finding people willing to read is no problem but for some reason, a lot of people seem to have a hard time being critical.  Hard to believe when you read some Amazon reviews...

Expect to see me float around the Internet soon, begging people to tell me what's wrong with me.  *sigh*

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Smashwords ISBNs

I knew it wouldn't bode well for me.  So, there is a survey in the site updates section of Smashwords asking things like do you already have e-ISBNs, what would a fair price be if Smashwords sold you an ISBN and if you would prefer for the fee to be taken out of future sales at Smashwords.  And they said they can't provide ISBNs for people outside of the States.  And you can't use the ISBN that was used for the print version if any.

Ebook ISBNs are going to be required to be part of the Premium Catalog at Smashwords even for free stories.  They mention that they can't ship to Sony without them.  I was interested if there was a way Smashwords themselves could provide them but now that's gone (for people like me) then there isn't a lot Smashwords can do for me.  I hate when things get messy and complicated.  ISBNs are great as long as someone is buying in bulk.  I can't exactly do that.

I see that they have to fall in line and all that but once again, I feel like I'm going to be punished for my location.  I liked that my stories, even the free ones, were in the Premium Catalog and in line to be distributed to other sellers like Barnes & Noble.  Some of my work has already been sent to Kobo (apparently) but if things are changing then will everything that has gone before be removed? 

I'm not sure if I'll keep adding my work to Smashwords.  I've gotten a lot more of a response elsewhere in comparison and nowhere else requires me to have ISBNs - yet.  The main thing holding me there were the coupons, the distribution options and the lack of need for ISBNs.  Now that one is on its way down and another soon to follow, who knows what will come next.  I like change but change that I can be a part of is preferable.  I would rather change to come in the form of quality control.  I suppose Smashwords was just too good to be true, or at least to stay true for long.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's a Girl

First off, this is of no interest to anyone but my own little family but we found out today we are having a little girl so I am on a bit of a natural high right now.  She's perfectly healthy as far as they can tell so I'm having a lot of good news this month!

Last night, I finished a re-write of a novel.  It was supposed to be a draft but it ended up being a near total re-write because I wasn't happy with things.  The re-write wasn't too bad because I'm so familiar with the characters and the main story arc but I'm definitely a lot happier with it this time.  I finished up two weeks earlier than I had planned so I am pleased about that - plus I had made a lickle bet with my OH and he now owes me a printer.  Next job is to start at the beginning and edit, edit, edit.  I have some padding out to do in some scenes and a bit more character development to get through but other than that it is looking good so this draft shouldn't be too hard.  I enjoy adding to it, it's the deleting of crappy scenes that always kills me.  I would ideally like it to be ready before the baby is born but there is a lot of work to go through before that so we shall see.  My kids have a habit of ignoring pesky due dates and showing themselves whenever they feel like it so I might not have as much time as I think.  However, I actually think this blog has kept me on track as strange as that may sound.

Still waiting for further information on the Smashwords ISBN deal - nothing yet but that hasn't stopped me thinking about it. 

Did I mention it's a girl? :D

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why and How?

The whole family have been sick over the weekend so I've been doing more reading and floating about in forums than I have writing or anything useful.  I seem to see the same things over and over again.  People questioning why on earth anyone would want to self publish or people wondering what you have to do to get noticed and to sell some books.  The same questions are posed by so many people but there are no magic answers.  People have different reasons for going down the indie route just like success has come in different ways for so many indie writers.

Personally, I think I don't have the personality for trad publishing.  There are so many traditionally published books that aren't great but they are marketable.  I don't think I could watch someone take my words and change them from something that means a great deal to me to something that means a little to a lot of people.  Some of the things I've written are aimed at a wide enough audience - teenagers, who are amazing by the way, talk about instant gratification and it is the younger generations who are being reared on digital formats.  Look at how many people use ebook applications and Wattpad alone has a massive amount of users, most of whom are in their teens.  They will be the ones supporting writers in years to come.  There is a huge market out there that is pretty much untapped at the moment, all things considered.  In fact, I'm thinking why wouldn't you get an ebook out there right now when we're on the brink of something huge?

But, not everything I write is aimed at such a large number of people and I would like to keep it that way.  The only way I can is by doing everything myself.  I love the control - probably says more about me than anything else.  I love writing for the readers rather than an editor or a publisher or a publicist.  I love that I can get feedback from anyone who has read my work and make changes any time I like based on this.  I love how interactive it all is and how much I've learned from trying every aspect of what is entailed in self publishing ebooks.  Which is more fun than you would expect.  Except for promoting and marketing your work which leads me on to that second question.  What do you have to do to get noticed around here?

Okay, I'm not as serious about it as other people.  I will never make money from this.  I'm like the little old woman in the shoe with all the smallies I have running around so I don't have the time or money to invest in promoting myself properly.  I know that and I'm happy enough with it.  But for a lot of people, they only feel like they are a real writer if they are selling a lot of books.  And how are they doing this?  By making sure that their work is seen, for the most part.  Don't expect to upload your manuscript and that hundreds of people will automatically find you.  How on earth are they supposed to get to your book?  And if they do find, why should they buy it?

There are lots and lots of communities for ebook writers.  The idea is for the writer to involve themselves in the forum and get a chance to read people who might actually be interested in their work.  Let's face it, if someone who has amusing things to say on a regular basis tells you they have written a book then you are going to be a lot more curious about it than if a writer burst in, posts about their book once and is never seen or heard from again.  The internet is a rare opportunity to really reach people and I've seen people take new writers and books under their wings and really promote those writers and books even though they have nothing to gain from it.  Sometimes people invest a real interest in a book and want the writer to succeed.  You can't fake this kind of thing.  It has to occur naturally.  And it can take people years to be really, truly noticed and valued. 

There are lots of other things you can do like join Authonomy or Inkpop or do a big press release or purchase advertising, do blog tours and the whole deal.  But there are lots of smaller things you can do to.  Like blog.  Such a useful thing to do.  But again, with a blog, you need to put the time in and you need to promote that blog.  You need to visit other blogs and establish relationships with people.  Trust me, it works but it takes time and effort and cuts into your writing time.  But it gets your name out there which ultimately is something you want to do.  There are also those places like Feedbooks that enable you to upload free stories.  These places get a huge amount of downloads so you are reaching a larger audience and if your work is good, they are more likely to look for more.  You can upload free stories on Smashwords and Wattpad and probably lots of other places too but Wattpad is for a certain type of story and Smashwords are bringing out ISBNs as a requirement to be eligbile for the Premium Catalog which might change the whole game over there.

The nicest places for authors that I use are Kindle Boards - who freely allow you to advertise within reason - and the Amazon Communities who now have a dedicated Kindle Author Community which is really nice.  There is also MobileRead, Author's Den and probably half a million other places that are brilliant, I just don't have time for them all!  And don't forget about Twitter.  Although it doesn't really feel me with joy, I have clicked on a lot of links to blog posts and short stories and even author interviews over there.  Every little helps.  Also potentially useful are social networking sites like Facebook and I think writing groups are often excellent although I'm not part of one at the moment.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Submitting to Amazon - Part Two

Next step is to Confirm Content Rights.  You tick a box to say that you have a right to upload the material. On a side note, if there is any suspicion on this then Amazon will email you and ask to confirm that that you are indeed the author or you own the rights.  You need to select whether you have worldwide rights for all terrorities or individual ones.  If it is the latter, you can select each country/territory.  Click save when you're ready.

It moves on to the next step which is to upload your book.  The format must be MS Word, HTML, or PRC format.  This should only take a few seconds.  A little message will appear saying the document was successfully converted.  You can now preview it as it would appear on a kindle.  Always do this, it shows exactly how well (or poor) the conversion and formatting has worked out. 

The final step is to set the retail price.  It cannot be lower than .99c - at least for independently published writers.  Publishing houses are able to contact Amazon and set an Ebook as free for marketing purposes.  This can be a bit of a setback for indie writers but there are other sites that allow you to set your price as free, such as Smashwords.  I should point out that anyone who purchases a kindle book outside of the U.S. has to pay an extra $2.50 or so which means even a free book will cost something.  A .99c (a bargain in the U.S.) will be $3.51 for anyone purchasing outside of the U.S.  No longer an impulse buy, this takes a chunk out of the market for Indie writers so bear this in mind when you are pricing your work.  It has a value but building up a readership is vital for a new Indie writer.

Next you save the entries and then press publish.  Amazon will inform you that your work is being processed - I forgot to copy the exact text the last time I used it - but it has to be accepted before it can be published.  This takes a few days.  If it is accepted then it will say Publishing "Your Book".  Your content is being published.  Most titles take 24 to 36 hours to become buyable.  Apparently this is because it takes time to set up a dedicated page and all of the information that goes with it.  Once the book is available to buy, it goes live and you can either edit it or click on the link to see the official Amazon page.  Remember that any updates will take the same amount of time to become available again.

You should seriously consider creating an Amazon Author page to link up with your books.  It makes it easier for people to see information on the author.  You can add photos, a bio and even a blog feed or you can blog on the author page itself.  It's another handy marketing tool, take advantage of it, it's free.

Friday, March 19, 2010

One Night With The Fae

I'm still waiting for it to go up on Amazon but my newest group of faery tales is already up on Smashwords.  It's suitable for teens.

One Night With The Fae is a group of short stories focusing on one night at a faery festival.  A human girl is lured to the celebrations and to survive she must avoid attracting the attention of two warring Queens.  But the real danger lies in the underhanded attempts to break a fragile peace treaty. 
If that sounds like your thing then get a free copy throughout March by quoting this code before you check out - VA62C

Submitting to Amazon - Part One

I wrote about the Smashwords submissions so I suppose I should add what happens on Amazon too. It looks more professional than Smashwords but the time it takes to be approved even for additional updates is quite annoying. This makes it hard to have a simultaneous release on both sites. Smashwords is easier to use and from what I've heard about the emails people have gotten from Amazon when their book has been refused, it's harder to tell why it hasn't been accepted. Personally, I felt that the process at Smashwords was easier but I'm sure lots of people prefer Amazon.

Submitting an Ebook to Amazon's Kindle is relatively simple using Amazon's Digital Text Platform (DTP). You create an account (or use your existing Amazon account) and go to your dashboard. It's actually called My Shelf and any books or drafts you have remain here to be updated or removed whenever you like. Once you have fully uploaded a book, it takes a couple of days to be accepted and then another day or two to go live. Every time you edit a book here, it takes the same amount of time to go back on sale again which is a little irritating.

There are no real guidelines on DTP so you have to be aware of what looks professional and what doesn't. Assuming your book is ready to be published, you need to fill out the Product Description first of all. You need a title, a description and the name/s of the author/s. It's great that you can add author's names to this very easy - handy if it was a collaboration. The actual description isn't obligatory but it fills in for a blurb so use it and make it work for you.

Next up, you fill in the name of the publisher, the ISBN, the publishing date and the language. It is not necessary to fill in a publisher's name or an ISBN which is handy for those of us who have neither. Keywords and categories are the next requirements. Be sensible, be relevant and don't go overboard. You can now add an Edition Number, a Series Title and a Series Volume but again, you don't have to.

Finally you choose your DRM options and upload an image. You either enable or disable Digital Rights Management. I didn't choose to enable it. The image is your book cover - obviously. Use a decent cover and try to resize it like a Smashwords cover, as in book size. There is very little in the way of guidance on Amazon which I feel is silly because they should help those who aren't in the know create the best product they can.

Once you are happy with all of the above, you click save entries and it automatically takes you to the next step.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Faerie Tale On The Way

I had another post planned for today (maybe later) but I had to dedicate a wee waffle to something I'm excited about. As well as re-writing a novel, I've been working on something a little new. What started off as a bit of flash fiction scribbled down in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep has developed into something a little bigger. It's basically a collection of short stories involving one specific night, each story telling a different character's involvement and point of view. It should be ready either this weekend or the next unless I decide to expand it further but keep an eye out either way.

I should mention that my new shiny is pure fantasy - an evening at a festival of sorts hosted by the Irish fey. A human girl finds herself in the midst of another world, trying to avoid the attention of two warring Queens whilst attempts are made to break a fragile peace treaty. Okay, I have to work on the blurb quite a bit! But I really enjoyed writing this so I'm hoping someone out there will enjoy reading it :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Tale of Two Youtube Videos

Before I start on the clips, just wanted to add a link to a poem that a woman composed to her daughter about her autistic grandson as a mother's day gift. I'm not into poetry but I loved this.

Also, has anyone taken a look at the site updates on Smashwords? Apparently, somebody was caught passing off a story as their own that they didn't write. I don't get plagiarism at all - they must have had balls of steel to do that, sooooo not worth it. Makes you wonder how often this kind of thing happens though!

On to the videos! One is fascinatingly amazing and the other is wee inducingly funny.

First a video from Orbit Books - How to Design a Cover in 1:55 Seconds. Six hours of work condensed into one tiny little video. I am in awe.

Second - chuckling already - is a video of boxer Wayne McCullough performing Beyonce's Single Ladies. The lesson of the day is, never make a bet with a kid. That looked like the longest three minutes of his life. And check out the perfectly fitting high heels. I'll never be able to think about the Pocket Rocket again without remembering this video!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Butterfly Killer

Flash Fiction - Unfinished.

She gazed upwards in delight at the quivering wings of a million butterflies. Sparkling, shimmering, vibrant colours. All on the most delicate of wings. Her smile grew wider as she used her fingers to nudge them into position. A thousand pictures created from swiftly moving wings, all for her enjoyment. A nod from her and they swirled all around her, encasing her in their faint caress.

The doctor looked on in disapproval. His patient wasn’t showing any sign of progress. Current medication does not appear to affect the patient’s mental state, he noted. Unresponsive. Time for ECT? He watched her a little longer, as a captivated smile curled up her lips, a soft cooing came from her throat, as her fingers twitched and swayed in response to nothing. Lithium next, he decided instead.

Lights and colours, colours and lights. Lights all around her, dashes of colour. Every sound its own special tint, every movement a new shade that glowed until it disappeared. The butterflies led the way, directing her to every new source of colour and light there was. It was magical. She traced colours with her fingertips, touched the pulsating vibrations of sound, all the while following her friends, the butterflies. They kept her safe and warm and happy. They fluttered their every changing wings across her skin to contain her within their love.

He could barely hide his frustration. Nothing got through to this woman. He only had one option left. Electroshock therapy. He was keen to see the results. Nobody had found success with her, they had all given up on her; if he could manage it… He was already mentally composing the papers he would publish about it afterwards as he signed the consent form happily, convinced he was going to save this woman’s life. He would review the situation after twelve sessions. He would know then if she was a lost cause or if he could still hope.

Dying. Dead and dying butterflies falling to the ground. Grey and lifeless. Aching. She felt each sting, each dark light of death catching more of them, striking them down. She wanted to scream but she didn’t have the energy, not without the butterflies. Empty now. The lights were gone. The colours had faded. No light, no sound, no colour, no joy. She was alone. Except for the butterfly killer.

The triumph of success flooded through him when she turned her head wearily and looked him straight in the eye. No more twitching, chanting, swaying or smiling at absolutely nothing. Treatment successful thus far, he scribbled in his notes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Read an Ebook week is all over now, no more freebies. I think it would be considered a successful week, some people have gotten a crazy increase of downloads. I think quite a few writers have considered issuing free coupons for the rest of the month to keep the momento going so keep an eye out. My e-reader is charging at the moment and then I'm going to get started on the embarrassing amount of books that I downloaded this week.

I rediscovered Duotrope yesterday. It's a directory of short story markets. I probably shouldn't be surprised by how many ezines and the like have gone out of business. Some of the rest were really disappointing, or at least, their websites were. I was also a little surprised by the lack of engaging content in some cases. It's like everyone has suddenly stopped making an effort.

Have to mention this. If you write young adult stories then Wattpad is for you. At least to get some idea of what your audience is into. It's a mobile ebook site and most of the members seem to be pretty young. Bless their little cotton socks, they even have a whole genre category dedicated to vampires. I love places that encourage young people to write (and read) and there seems to be a lot of activity on this one. Once you get passed titles like I Woke Up Next To A Vampire!!!! And I Liked It!!!! you'll see how supportive and vocal this crowd are. There are some little gems packed away in there too. It could be a useful tool for the right person.

Oh, and Happy Mother's Day :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oh, The Randomness!

Time for some random items. First off, if you like cakes then become a fan of this facebook page, Anyone for Cake? This girl has some talent. She's based in Galway and all I am doing is thinking about things I could be doing that might require a cupcake or 40. If I ever come into a lot of money this lady is going to be very busy.

Next up are two pieces of writing that I have read and particularly enjoyed this week. One is Scratch by Jeremy C. Shipp. The other one is The Cutting Goodbye by Lark Neville. Not sure how I came across either of them but I thoroughly enjoyed them for completely different reasons.

Also, it's the last day of Read an Ebook Week. It's Saturday afternoon here so I can not be arsed figuring out time differences but I'm pretty sure it's over in the morning for me so still plenty of time for some more downloads if you haven't gotten stuck in already. I now have a huge reading list because of Smashwords. First on my list is Xenolith by A. Sparrow. I find the blurb intriguing and the writer has constantly worked on improving the story if their posts around various boards are anything to go by. Oh and if you haven't already, take a quick looky at a free short story I have up there, The Old Kind. Please and thank you.

Revision Woes

I wrote a book a number of years ago. Before vampires were cool. Before young adult books were outrageously successful. There are no vampires in this story but it is a supernatural y/a sort of deal. I let quite a few young adults read it and quite a few young adults seemed to love it. But I left it alone because it wasn't working. I loved that story, it was my baby, but I felt like I had to shelve it because I didn't know what was wrong with it and I definitely didn't know how to fix it.

I got my hands on my original (sort of) manuscript recently and read it like I didn't write it. I devoured the thing fully aware that it was shite but still eager to know what happened next. I did genuinely forget what happened throughout the story so it was fun seeing what younger me had come up with. It was poorer than I originally thought and I still couldn't see a way to fix it so I decided to rewrite the whole thing completely because I loved the characters so much I felt like they deserved to be heard.

This was hard and scary. Harder than I expected. Although I had developed the characters so much beforehand that figuring out their reactions to situations was so much easier. But still, it felt as though I was repeating myself sometimes. And then I remembered that I would have to revise the thing at least a handful of times and that terrified me because I don't do well with boredom and if I have to read and reread and rewrite the same manuscript seven hundred times I'm probably going to give up on it again.

So, it was funny that I came across One Aimless Writer which directed me to the blog of Stephen Parrish who wrote about the huge amount of times he re-wrote his novel. This scared the beJAYsus out of me. His story has a happy ending and goes to show his determination paid off after a huge amount of work. But, how many of us have that kind of resolve? I don't think I do but next time I feel like giving up or shelving something completely, I'll be reading that post again just to prove a point to myself. And hopefully I'll know when it's done :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Storms in the Summer

This year feels like it's building up to be something huge for eBooks. New devices, new royalty rates, it all sounds so exciting. But is it? Or rather, who will benefit this year? The whole Amazon Kindle deal is picking up speed. They will be hiking up the royalty rates to 70% but with a few catches including the one that demands books be listed between $2.99 and $9.99. It will be interesting to see how this is dealt with by writers and publishers alike. Amazon are forcing encouraging writers to set prices a certain way, something about this makes me go *dislike*.

I know a lot of low pricers are already gearing up to change to the $2.99 option but I wonder how readers will react. And for those who don't live in the U.S., Amazon add on a couple of dollars to the price anyway. Will $2.99 still feel low enough to count as an impulse buy? The major publishers who set prices at higher than $9.99 don't seem incredibly impressed by the up in royalties if it means they have to lower their set prices but imo they are extremely short sighted to have eBooks priced so high in the first place. They are blind to the bigger picture.

I've been pondering this lately and wondering how Amazon's competitors will deal with these changes. I would like to think that more people will turn to places like Smashwords in order to find cheap Ebooks and perhaps some more well known authors will also dip their toes in Smashwords' waters. I don't mean to be a fan girl but I like the forward thinking of places like Smashwords, how keen they are to progress and adapt and most of all how easy the process is for writers. As opposed to Amazon which can be painful to say the least.

I know the exposure at Amazon is far greater but they don't ever seem to live up to the hype. Their tactics this summer could, in all fairness, work extremely well. They could end up truly monopolizing the market or (and I really prefer this idea) they could be blown out of the water by their competitors. Either way it will be interesting to watch. There is a lot brewing this year and I'm curious as to who will end up with the power.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Story

I added a new short story to A Little Girl In My Room & Other Stories on Smashwords. I'm not sure if it shows up in the sample but the code for a free copy during March is EF96D if you would like to read it.

I'm procrastinating...I'm pretty sure I'm only writing short stories this week to avoid working on my novel. I hate editing something I've written.


Info Dumps

Yesterday was pretty interesting. It was a bit of a blah, I don't wanna do a thing sort of day but I discovered some new things rather serendipitously. That's always nice. And all I'm going to say on the indie vs. trad argument today is, some writers write for the readers. Make of that what you will. We all have a different agenda and endgame and one size does not fit all. Hush, puppy.

Moving on. Contrary to popular belief, not everything I write is dark and black and screwed up. Maybe a little screwed up... But I actually write a lot of super soft nice things, some of which are even suitable for children. Pinky swear. In fact, I mostly write Y/A novels. And just about everything full length is dipped in fantasy.

I know short stories aren't that popular. (By the way, I read a fantastic one yesterday and am now jealous I hadn't thought of it - must find it again and link). I don't even write short stories that often because I can't force myself to. I can make myself write a novel, funnily enough. But short stories are just out of my reach. Every now and then I get an idea and go with it but who knows how long it will take for the next idea to come.

Yesterday, I got stuck into a wee sci-fi tale but I'm still not sure if the first couple of paragraphs amount to info dumps or not. I should really post it here to force myself to look at it again but it's hiding away in one of my folders, pretending it isn't there. I have a love/hate relationship with the short ones (and I'm massively in awe of good flash fiction writers) - they are harder to construct, harder to balance, harder to end in a satisfying way, more of a challenge. I like to be vague, I like things to be open to interpretation but of course, most people aren't like me. I like to be bothered by the ending for days afterwards, it's an affliction really. Needing to dwell on things.

So here I am. Dwelling. On info dumps vs. necessary back story. I know this post has turned into a bit of an info dump but I've come to the conclusion that I am blind when it comes to my own words.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Submitting to Smashwords - Part Three

I'm going to assume that you are happy with your book. (As happy as a writer can be about their own work). That it's been edited a million times, spellchecked and meets the standard you want to put your name to. You've formatted it according to the Style Guide and now that it's practically perfect, you want to upload it to Smashwords.

Log in to Smashwords, click the Publish tab and a form will appear. The first section includes the Title, Synopsis, Language and Adult Content option. Pick a relevant yet catchy title. Clunky titles with no thought don't appeal. All of this information can be updated so don't panic if you think of a better name later. Select the correct language and tick the relevant option on adult content.

The Synopsis is a huge deal. Aside from the cover image and the title, the synopsis is the one that will entice readers. A well-written synopsis could encourage readers to download a sample of your book or better yet, buy a copy. The synopsis is also the part that can repulse a reader so work hard on this one. It should be relatively concise and intriguing - don't give too much information away but lead the reader to the best points in your story. Make them want to read more. This is the bit that fails the most when I am looking for a new book to read. There are quite a few poor efforts on Smashwords (like I can talk) that are doing a disservice to good writers who just don't have a clue what a synopsis should be. It has to be well written and engaging because it's technically a quick sample of your writing. If it's boring, readers will assume that the same goes for your whole book - be aware and be careful!

The next section is pricing and sampling. You have three options in pricing. Either make the book free, allow your readers to determine a price or set it at a price you are comfortable with. You have to set a price to be considered for the Premium Catalog, as far as I know. But you can generate coupons with 25%, 50% or even 100% off. These coupons have time limits and you can see which coupons, if any, each sale used.

Sampling is a difficult one. You don't have to enable it but I personally think it is worthwhile. I wouldn't risk spending money on an unknown writer if I hadn't read a sample of their work first. You can set it to a certain percentage and this is where a lot of writers differ in opinion. You have to give the reader a good taster of your work but when is it too much? If you have a novel, could a long sample give too much away? Or, could it be that the reader is so close to the end that they make a purchase because they are desperate to know what happens next? That's up to you to decide.

The next two sections are categories and tags. You can choose up to two different categories, including the sub-sections. If your book teeters on the edge of genres then you can include both. Handy. The tags are there to help people search for relevant material. Think about what you would search for if you were looking for a book like yours. The tags are very useful and probably undervalued by some people. There are a lot of books on Smashwords, give yours the best chance possible at being discovered.

The next section gives you the option of selecting various different formats to convert your book into. The more you choose, the more options your reader has. Choice is always a good thing. The more versions there are available of your book, the wider the potential audience could be.

The final sections are the cover image, the book file and the publishing agreement. The cover image is optional but you want to catch the eye of people searching for books. Manuscripts can be uploaded by word document or rich text file. If you update your manuscript at a later date, people who have already downloaded it will still have access to the old version. By clicking publish you are automatically agreeing to Smashword's publishing agreement. Clicking publish takes a few moments because of the time it takes for the file to convert. Providing you followed the style guide, there will be no need for further adjustments.

That's it. Your book is now online at Smashwords and available for sale.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Submitting to Smashwords - Part Two

One of the most important parts of formatting your book to prepare it for Smashwords seems to be the copyright page. It's mentioned in the guides a number of times. Books won't be accepted into the Premium Catalog without one. It's important to claim your work as your own and also make clear what your policy is regarding sharing and/or distribution of your work.

You can place your copyright information on your title page or you can dedicate a page for this alone. I personally prefer to flick through as few pages as possible before reaching the beginning of the story itself so I like when this all fits on the one page together. I also dislike images in Ebooks so avoid these also. If you are going to create an Ebook then I would advise you to read a couple - it won't take long before you see what kinds of things could be irritating to a reader.

The copyright section - which looks better if centred - should contain something like "Published by (author name/publisher name) at Smashwords" or alternatively, "Smashwords Edition." You can say something like also published on Kindle (or wherever) but you should always name that particular copy as published on Smashwords. You are allowed to mention if it is published in print.

Some people like to link to some other books they have published on Smashwords, to their author page, their website or their blog. A lot of people seem to put this on their copyright page. Others show this information at the end of the book. If people enjoy your story then they may be keen to read more of your work so it is a good idea to give them some kind of contact information. Obviously, Smashwords aren't keen on people linking to their competitors.

If you aren't sure how to hyperlink to other web pages in your document, this is how I did it. I copied the website address, typed the title of it into the document (for example, my blog) then highlighted this title, right clicked and selected hyperlink then pasted the web address into the space provided. It looks much nicer and more professional than using a full web address.

Now you need to add a license statement to your copyright page. Smashwords books are DRM free so they have no copy protection or encryption. DRM can be a pain for purchasers but without it, you'll have to trust people not to pirate your work. Adding a license statement is a bit of hint to prevent accidental piracy. There are two statement examples in the style guide, one for authors who don't want people to share their work and another for those who are open to people sharing the book with their friends. You can use either of these statements or adjust one of them to make it personal.

Follow the style guide as much as possible, there is so much information (as well as examples) that formatting your book for submission won't be as complicated as it may sound.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Code for Free Ebook

Smashwords are having some technical difficulties with the 100% off promotion code for Read an Ebook Week. While they are working on it, I've generated an additional code that can be used to purchase A Little Girl in my Room & Other Stories for free.

Type EF96D into the space provided before checking out and this Ebook will be free.

If there are any other books you would like to download for free but are having trouble with, just give it a few hours or try again tomorrow. I'm sure the issue will be sorted asap.

Smashwords Premium Catalog

Today, I noticed that my book, A Little Girl in my Room & Other Stories was accepted into Smashwords Premium Catalog. I was surprised by how quickly that happened, I had been expecting to wait for weeks and I didn't think I would be accepted without making some changes. I had planned to list that particular book as free on Smashwords but I was under the impression it had to have a list price in order to be accepted to the Premium Catalog but I'll have to double check that now. Take a quick look at how Smashwords distributes Ebooks for a little more information.

The Premium Catalog is basically a list of Ebooks that are sent to some major online retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Sony and Kobo. The requirements seem to be based on formatting and including a correct copyright page but I'm not sure if the books are reviewed manually or not before they are accepted onto this catalog. Now, what happens to the books after they reach these retailers is another thing, it could take months to actually be listed on their site and I'm not even sure if this is guaranteed but I don't think it hurts to be part of this especially if the buzz around Ebooks continues to grow.

If you update your book, you may have to be reviewed again to remain a part of the Premium Catalog. Likewise, if the formatting requirements are altered in any way, then books that don't update to include these changes could be taken off this list. It's worth keeping an eye on.

I think some people might be wary of Smashwords overall. But, personally, I've found it slightly more author friendly than say Amazon. The rules are clearer and the royalty rates contrast drastically in Smashwords' favour. Of course, Smashwords doesn't have the huge client base that Amazon boasts but I imagine that a lot of the people who self publish ebooks on Smashwords support their peers here. People who are specifically looking for cheap or free Ebooks are more likely to have success on Smashwords than Amazon.

On that note, Amazon's policies and rules are very unclear. My book was approved for Amazon too but I updated it to contain the changes I made specifically for Smashwords. I thank Smashwords for that learning curve because a lot of their common sense formatting rules were things that I hadn't even thought of. My book looks much better than before because they had a set list of requirements. As opposed to Amazon - I'm not even sure why my book was accepted in the first place or why the price was increased dramatically. Still, the whole process has been an interesting one and it will (hopefully) make things easier for me when it is time for a full length novel of mine to appear.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Read an Ebook Week

Today is the first day of Read an Ebook Week. To celebrate, a promotion is now running on Smashwords. Lots of books are at a discount or completely free (like mine) so make the most of it and get downloading. Check out the 100% free books on Smashwords and see what you think.

A Little Girl in My Room & Other Stories is just one of many books that are free this week. Take advantage of the special offers and stock up on some ebooks this week. And if you find a new great read then please share!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Submitting to Smashwords - Part One

I decided that the best way to learn about the process of self publishing an ebook was to take part. I threw together a small collection of short stories to use as my first "experiment" and decided to upload it to both the Amazon Digital Text Platform and Smashwords. As the Amazon one takes a few days to be accepted or rejected, I'll focus on Smashwords today. This post is pretty general but I'll be going more in-depth in certain areas with later posts.

First things first, I made an account at Smashwords then clicked on Publish in the tab list. (I also checked out their terms and conditions and various other bits of information but more on that some other time). You can fill in all of the information straight away and upload but you are advised to check out the Smashwords Style Guide. This is very useful and although the information seemed daunting at first - purely because there is so much of it - it is very readable and clear. It is designed to avoid poorly formatted books on the Smashwords site.

The book advises you to try and format your document yourself but if you're unable to, they provide lists of people who will do it for cheap as well as a more expensive option. I don't think you should pay for this at all - it is so easy to do once you take it a step at a time. It might be a little time consuming the first time but you might as well learn what is involved for future reference.

Moving on to the actual formatting. The Smashwords Style Guide lists the six most common formatting mistakes. They include improper indenting, too many paragraph spaces, overly large fonts, multiple paragraph styles and a complete lack of paragraph spacing. Personally, I didn't have a problem with any of these but I know that other people like to have their writing laid out in certain ways. This doesn't always work for a document that is about to be converted into numerous different files. It has to remain readable for each mode so plain and simple is the way to go here.

Some of the common mistakes that cause a book to be rejected from the Premium Catalog involve the Index/Contents page and the Copyright page. Basically, you can't show page numbers on the Index because page numbers completely change when the document you upload is converted. You also can't include page numbers or headers and footers in your document. The copyright page has to include certain information but they give you samples to use - it isn't hard and it takes minutes to make these adjustments. It's worth taking the time to do it right.

There is a lot of good information in the Style Guide. It devotes some pages to the limitations of their conversion methods. For example, charts and tables are unreliable and may not appear as intended. Moving on to the book cover reveals that it cannot be square shaped but it is recommended to upload one. They offer to send you a list of people who will create a cover for a low amount but they also recommend a free picture editing program to try out. I used this - it was very easy to change the royalty free image I used, to add text and to change the size to the Smashwords requirements.

Next time I'll concentrate on the copyright page and linking to your blog/other work/Smashwords author profile within your book.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Free Book Promotion at Smashwords

From the 7th of March for one week only, my collection of short stories will be available for free at Smashwords! At the checkout stage, simply type in the promotion code RFREE and get the whole book for free.

The collection is a group of grim, grisly and supernatural tales. Download a free sample now or wait until the 7th to download A Little Girl In My Room & Other Stories for free.

Short Stories

In the hopes of learning something new and earning something postworthy to blog about - I decided to self-publish a small collection of short stories. I plan on posting at length about the process and what's involved.

Visit here to download a free sample.

Starting Point

Things are changing. Traditional forms of communication, publishing and even promoting authors have been updated in multiple ways. It's harder for hard working authors to persuade publishers and even agents to read their work - publishers seem to be more wary of new talent and the end story is that writers and readers are suffering. Do readers want stories that are commercially successful? Not exactly. They want frequent strong stories by great authors. They don't care if a book makes money, not really.

The growing popularity of E-readers and Kindle - not to mention the cheapest e-books imaginable becoming the most popular - proves this. People want entertainment they can afford. Convenience. And most of all they want a choice. I want to explore the opportunities out there while at the same time improving my own writing skills. I want to find the newest stories that never got a chance in the paper world but are blowing away the online world. Writers have started to cut out publishers and are doing it for themselves. Yes, there are badly written books but readers don't take this lightly - their critical reviews make sure that the best books are seen. Feedback is a beautiful thing and we're all going to benefit from it.

The future of literature has already started. Be a part of it.