Tag Archives: Smashwords

New distributors for indie authors: Pronoun and Streetlib

Starting out as an indie author: distributors

I have recently become aware of a couple of new distributors (also referred to as aggregators) on the self-publishing scene, Pronoun and Streetlib. Some time ago in “Starting Out as an Indie Author,” I covered the topic of distributors in general, and Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii in particular:

Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Today I would like to share my experiences with these two new aggregators with you — as a late Christmas present, if you will. 🙂

Pronoun

Pronoun is a relatively new aggregator that claims to not charge any distribution fees, allowing authors to keep 100% of the revenues from their books. I have no idea how they intend to make money off of this business model. While going through their help files, I found something about all their partners and how that allowed them to give their services away for free, but it was rather vague — hardly enough to satisfy this particular curious mind. Personally, I tend to think that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Which is why I am immune to shady get-rich-quick schemes. 🙂

Pronoun publishes your eBook to Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. It will not publish an eBook that is already available through any of those vendors — it always distributes to all five of its retailers and will not carry a book that has duplicate listings. This means that if you want to test the waters, you will have to unpublish one of your books from the retailers covered by Pronoun or upload a completely new book.

In order to test Pronoun, I attempted the former, unpublishing a small short story collection that had next to no sales anyway. Pronoun claims to take both epub and docx files. I tried multiple times uploading an epub file, without success. One time it told me to run it through the validator (it passed), another time it told me the file did not include a cover image (it did). Which leads me to the conclusion that Pronoun doesn’t really want anything other than a docx file formatted according to their guidelines, which can be found here:

http://support.pronoun.com/knowledge_base/categories/manuscript-formatting-guidelines

But since life is too short to spend too much time messing with a service I’m a bit skeptical about anyway, I have not bothered trying to follow their docx guidelines. As a result, I have no real publishing experience with Pronoun to report, only a failed publishing experience.

Royalty structure:
Authors keep 100% of eBook revenues.

Channels distributed to:
Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play.

Pros – Generous royalty structure; slick looking site

Cons – No opting out of any of the retailers they distribute to; do not accept double listings; major difficulties in uploading epub files; long docx formatting guidelines

Streetlib

Streetlib is a new aggregator based in Italy, and the vast majority of the vendors they distribute to are Italian. But they also offer all the major eBook retailer such as Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, B&N, and Google Play — at least hypothetically.

The site is not very intuitive, and I found it confusing to navigate. It’s very obviously still suffering from its own newness: not only was it difficult to figure out how to get around, I kept coming across Italian words and phrases, even though I chose English as my language. Incorrect English crops up here and there as well, and when I tried to get help on various topics, I frequently got an error message. As a former localization tester, it looks to me as if the translation went live without being thoroughly tested.

As with Pronoun, I ran Streetlib through its paces by signing up and uploading the epub of my collection Story Hunger. The uploading itself went more smoothly than with Pronoun, and I was informed that my book had been published. But it apparently takes some time for it to appear in the stores they distribute to — I did the Streetlib testing yesterday, and Story Hunger is still not available anywhere. One of the help files I was able to access says it takes 24 hours for books to go live, but it appears to be more.

For now (Dec. 2016), I would recommend that authors wait on trying to use Streetlib until they get the wrinkles ironed out. It might work better for someone who knows Italian and can use the Italian interface.

Royalty structure:
Authors receive approximately 60% of the eBook cover price. More details here:
https://help.streetlib.com/hc/en-us/articles/200521091-How-much-will-I-earn-by-publishing-my-book-through-StreetLib-

Channels distributed to:
Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, 24symbols, 9am.it, Artcivic.com, bajalibros.com (worldwide), bidi.la, bookmate.com, bookolico.com, bookrepublic.it, casadellibro.com, decalibro.it, dottorebook.com, ebook.it, ebooklife.it, evribook.com, feedbooks.com, Gandhi, harmankitap.com — and many more.

Pros – Ease of publishing; many retailers

Cons – Site difficult to navigate; English translation of pages sometimes poor or incomplete; difficult to find a way to opt out of certain distributors

Update: After a couple of days, Story Hunger finally did show up on Google Play. So for those who cannot publish directly, it would be an option, despite the problems with the site, which will hopefully get ironed out someday.

Conclusion: As of this writing, Draft2Digital wins hands down for me as the best aggregator. I will continue to use Smashwords as well, since I sometimes sell a book there directly, and I like the option of being able to offer coupons. I will eventually give these newer aggregators another shot, but at the moment they are more trouble than it’s worth for me.

I hope everyone is enjoying a great holiday season! And if anyone has more or better experience with Pronoun or Streetlib, do let us know in the comments.

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Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author

In my last post for beginning indie authors, I went into the reasons you might choose to publish your books through an aggregator who distributes them to various sales channels for you. In this post, I will take a look at three such sites in more detail, Smashwords, Draft2Digital and Xinxii.

Smashwords

When I first started experimenting with ebooks, the main options for marketing fiction were Smashwords and Amazon. Since I was a bit intimidated by all the programs needed to create an ePub file, and Smashwords had the added advantage of a very long and detailed manual on how to create a doc file that would pass the checks of their “Meatgrinder” (Smashwords term, not mine), I began my foray into indie publishing there with my previously published novella “Looking Through Lace.”

While as whole epublishing has gotten much easier since 2011, in my experience, the same cannot really be said for Smashwords. Smashwords nominally accepts ePub files, but since they are not eligible for Extended Distribution (everything outside of the Smashwords store itself), if you want to use Smashwords for distribution to multiple retailers, you have to format your manuscript as a DOC or DOCX file according to the Smashwords guidelines.

And those guidelines are over 100 pages long. So you can imagine that it takes a while to get a manuscript prepared for Smashwords, especially if you haven’t done it before.

Once I finally got my first attempt at an ebook approved for Expanded Distriubution through Smashwords (after a couple of tries), I used that file to create a template for future uploads. But even despite the template, I have often had to upload a file more than once. The Meatgrinder appears to be very sensitive.

Some details regarding my experience with Smashwords: The “Smashwords Style Guide” suggests copying and pasting the entire text of your document into Wordpad in order to strip the Word document of unnecessary coding. I find this much too time consuming, because it also takes out all italics (among other things), which then must be manually put back into the document. I have the advantage that I still do a lot of my writing in that old dinosaur Word Perfect, which doesn’t add as much junk formatting code. So in order to get a clean copy of the text without losing the formatting I still want, I convert my Word Perfect document to html and open the html file in a text editor. Using search and replace, I get rid of all the unnecessary formatting commands. Here I also change underlining to italics and replace the scene break I usually use (#) with the one preferred by Smashwords (* * *). Once the html file is cleaned up, I open it in my word processor, copy the text, and paste it into my template.

Royalty structure – From the Smashwords FAQs (http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq): “For most retail distribution partners, Smashwords pays the author/publisher 60% of the suggested list price you set for your book. These rates vary by retailer for sales outside the US. Apple, Barnes & Noble and Diesel are 60% of retail price, though for Apple’s UK, France, Germany and Australian bookstores, Apple deducts a Value Added Tax (VAT) from your sales price, so your actual earnings share = 60% of (Retail price – VAT). Kobo is also 60% for books priced between $.99 and $12.99 for US and Canadian dollar-denominated sales. Sales in other currencies at Kobo are at 38% list. For the Baker & Taylor Axis360 library platform, libraries purchase a single copy at list price, for which the author/publisher earns 45% of list, and then the library is allowed to lend the book multiple times, but only allows one checkout at a time (patrons who want to check out a book that’s already checked out have option to purchase the book).” Books sold directly through Smashwords earn the author about 80% of the list price.

Channels distributed to – Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon (limited distribution), Apple, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor Blio, txtr, Library Direct, Baker-Taylor Axis360, OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, Scribd

Pros – The largest number of sales channels; the potential for sales through the Smashwords store itself; coupons for promotional purposes; easy to opt out of individual sales channels

Cons – Very stubborn Meatgrinder

Draft2Digital

D2D is a newer site for distributing ebooks to multiple retailers, and they don’t support as many channels as Smashwords. In my experience, however, they are much easier to use. In addition to DOC and DOCX files, they also accept EPUB files, which they will distribute directly to their retailers, as long as the file passes their ePub check. You can minimize the chance of your EPUB file being rejected by running it through EpubCheck yourself.

Since I always start with a correctly formatted EPUB for the sales channels I upload to directly, being able to also upload EPUB to D2D is a huge timesaver for me.

Another advantage of D2D is that they also distribute to CreateSpace for POD paperback books. Since formatting paperback is one of the more demanding chores of the indie writer (for me at least), this could be another helpful shortcut. I have only used the service through Draft2Digital once, however, for a collection of stories I wrote with Jay Lake, Almost All the Way Home From the Stars, because I wanted the royalties all in one place for me to make it easier to send Jay (and now his heirs) their share of the profits.

In order to generate the PDF for CreateSpace, D2D requires a DOC or DOCX file with a linked Table of Contents. I talk more about my experience creating a paperback through Draft2Digital here. Once I approved the PDF generated by D2D, I had to make the wraparound cover for the paperback, like so:

A disadvantage of publishing to CreateSpace through D2D is that you do not get a discount for author copies. You are not the publisher of the book, Draft2Digital is. So if being able to order discounted books directly from CreateSpace is important to you, you will have to create the PDF and upload to CreateSpace yourself.

Royalty structure – 60% of the book’s list price. From the D2D web site: “We only make money when you do. Our fee at most sales channels is approximately 10% of the retail price (it’s technically 15% of the net royalties). Everything else is up to you. You choose the book’s list price, you choose which sales channels you want to distribute through, and we’ll make it happen.”

Channels distributed to – iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Page Foundry, Scribd and CreateSpace. According to the web site, they are currently pursuing distribution agreements with Overdrive, Flipkart, Ingram, Omnilit, Tolino and Google Play.

Pros – Very easy uploads, no extra formatting needed, except for CreateSpace; the option to self-publish in paperback through CreateSpace

Cons – Not as many sales channels

Xinxii

Xinxii is primarily of interest to authors who want to get into European bookstores. Based in Berlin, Xinxii distributes to a number of important ebook retailers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Spain, as well as offering distribution through Amazon and B&N. Since the level of English reading skills in Germany is quite high, there is definitely potential for sales of ebooks in English, as an excerpt from my Xinxii dashboard shows:

xinxii

As the screen shot also shows, however, authors do not make as high a percentage on their works through Xinxii as through other aggregators. On the other hand, they distribute to international markets difficult to reach any other way.

I found publishing to Xinxii quite easy. They accept EPUB format, as well as quite a few others; according to their web site “a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, an Excel spreadsheet, an audiobook or a document created in PDF or ePUB.”

Royalty structure – Approximately 40% of the list price of your book. From the Xinxii site: “Please check the information page in the “My XinXii > Manage Uploads”-section for the specific royalties on sales transacted via XinXii distribution partners. Generally, we pass on up to 85% of the amount, that we receive from them, to the author.” Or, as Patricia clarified in the comments below, “You keep up to 85% of net revenue through our retail partners (= 50% of net price) and 70% of net price for sales through XinXii.” It appears that 50% of the net price is a little over 40% of the list price.

Channels distributed to – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Casa del Libro, iBookstore, Kobo / Fnac, o2, Sony Mobile, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Thalia, buch.de, buecher.de, donauland.at, otto-media.de, derclub.de, Flipkart, e-Sentral

Pros – Distributes to European and other markets hard to get into; accept a wide range of file formats

Cons – Low royalty rate compared to other platforms

Next week in this series I’ll talk a little about the costs of ebook publishing. If anyone wants to contribute something in the comments about their own experience with the kinds of investments they’ve had to make before being able to self-publish, I’d be happy to quote you and link to your site. 🙂

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors

Aggregators and sales channels

In my last blog post for beginning indie writers, I wrote about various ways to format your manuscript for ebook publishing and some of the more important sales channels where you might want to upload your books.

The sales channels I mentioned there, however, are only a few of the very many online bookstores that have started cropping up in the last few years, such as OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, Page Foundry and more. Not to mention the genre specific eBook stores like All Romance.

The thing is, for every channel where you sell your books directly, you have to register, format your book(s) according to the store guidelines, and upload the file, cover, description, and whatever other information the site requires. That can be a lot of work for one measly sale a year. (I personally have never sold anything in most of the stores mentioned above.)

But if you don’t want to miss out on those possible sales, there is an alternative. A new business model that has sprung up since the beginning of the ebook revolution is what is now most often referred to as “aggregators” — an ebook publisher who will distribute your book to multiple ebook vendors, while you, the writer, only have to upload your book once, rather than registering at ten different sites and uploading your book individually to each one.

Some reasons for using an aggregator

Such a service naturally comes at a price, in this case, a percentage of what your book earns at the stores the aggregator distributes to. While Amazon, B&N and Kobo typically give the author 70% of the sales for books priced at $2.99 or higher, at the aggregators the return for the author is usually 60% or less. (By comparison, books under $2.99 on Amazon only earn the author 35%, and some aggregators make no distinction according to price, making the question of whether to use their services even more complicated …)

So assuming your book is priced at 2.99 or more, why would anyone want to allow a simple distributor to take a percentage off their profits?

1) Uploading directly is too much work for too little gain

As I implied in the first section of this post, where I described the service that aggregators provide, sometimes it just isn’t worth it in terms of time and effort to upload your books directly to every single store out there.

As an example: say you have a novel selling for 3.99. At 70% from a sale of the book (standard for Amazon at that price), your take is 2.79. At 60% from Smashwords, for example, it comes out to 2.39. If you sell one book a year each to Page Foundry and Oyster, you have handed over a total cut to the aggregator of 0.80 — and you have saved *at least* an hour’s worth of work, and probably much more — registering for and uploading to all those channels directly (since you had no idea where you might possibly make a sale). Of course, if you’re seeing hundreds of sales to these channels, it would be worth it to register and upload individually. But it is very easy to opt out of distribution on both Smashwords and Draft2Digital, if your sales on one of those channels start taking off.

2) You can’t get into the market otherwise (frex: iBooks)

As I mentioned in my last post about preparing your manuscript for various channels, some stores have high or even insurmountable hurdles for uploading your books there directly. The iBooks store only accepts files uploaded through iTunes Producer, which means you need a Mac running OS X 10.8 or higher (as of July 2014). As I do not use a Mac, I have to rely on an aggregator to get into the iTunes store. For authors with a greater sales volume, it might be worth it to buy a Mac in order to submit to the store directly. But when you calculate that you are handing over 0.40 to the aggregator for every sale of a book priced at 3.99, you would need to sell over 1000 copies of your ebooks on iTunes before breaking even on the purchase of a MacBook.

Another example of not being able to get into the market is Barnes&Noble. For a long time, only writers with a US address and bank account could publish directly to B&N. They have since expanded to the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Nonetheless, that still leaves many writers who have to rely on an aggregator in order to reach readers with a Nook.

3) You can’t be bothered

I do not mean this in a snarky way. Some writers would much rather be writing the next book instead of keeping track of a dozen sales channels. They have no problem giving up 10% of their profits to an aggregator, as long as they don’t have to worry about uploading new versions of their ebooks to every single ebook retailer, and would much rather stick with only Amazon and one or two aggregators. This is a completely valid choice and something to consider when you start publishing.

4) You want to make a book or story permafree for promotional purposes

Most ebook retailers will not allow you to set your price to free if you upload it directly. For some mysterious reason, though, this is possible when using aggregators. Thus, if you have a first book in a series or a short story in a fictional world that you want to make free, you will have to use an aggregator. (I have discussed some reasons why you might consider giving a book away for free elsewhere.)

In my next post, I will include more detailed info about the three aggregators I have worked with until now, Smashwords, Draft2Digital and Xinii.

Yseult available used for only $999.11!

That’s right, you understood correctly: you can currently get my novel Yseult on Amazon used for under $1000!!! Since who knows how long this incredible deal will be available, I took a screen shot:

Yseult for under $1000!

I have no idea how this amazing inflation happened, but I’m assuming it has to do with someone’s price bots going stir crazy. At least it gave me quite a laugh last night. And as of today, the price is still there. So go ahead, see for yourself if you don’t believe me.*

Given those kinds of prices, the Smashwords “Read an E-Book Week” is even more of a deal!

Smashwords

On Smashwords this week, you can get 25% off the list price of Yseult with the coupon “REW25”. And you can get the same deal on Looking Through Lace. You can even get my short story collection Never Ever After FREE with the coupon “RW100”!

/End mini marketing blitz. 🙂

*Of course, as soon as I posted this, the price plummeted. *pout* Now you can get my novel for only $41.02. 😦

On losing work (and other frustrations)

I spent several hours on Monday doing revisions of Island of Glass: addressing critique comments, filling holes, researching some things I’d left out. It felt really good to have a nice block of time for serious writing again, after all the writing business I’ve been doing lately, what with the formatting for the hard copy version of Yseult and the short story collection I’m putting together of my stories with Jay.

Then yesterday I opened the file — and none of the revisions I did on Monday were there.

I’m not sure what happened, if it was some kind of a software glitch or something, or if I was just so befuddled that I copied the old version onto the new rather than the other way around (I was working on my little netbook, which tends to keep me from wasting too much time on the Internet).

I was so frustrated, I didn’t bother going back to it yesterday, and only today have I started trying to recreate the edits I lost. Sigh.

It’s been that kind of week. I got the PDF of Yseult made and uploaded to Createspace, and it told me I needed larger inner margins, since the book is over 600 pages. More formatting, new PDF, another upload. The next time, it objected to the map. And so it goes …

At least I got Yseult up to Draft2Digital today. When I recently had an ad on Bookbub, it took Smashwords about a week to update my sales to the Apple store; D2D gives me that info the next day. So once the D2D version of Yseult is up, I’m canceling the Apple distribution on Smashwords. I will slowly be doing that with the rest of my books too.

Well, if the weather plays along, tomorrow there will be grilling in the garden, and maybe a little bubbly too. 🙂

Marketing demands muscle out the writing — yet again. Oh, and Iceland too.

I have two group promos coming up again very soon (I will make the official announcements when the time comes). While I really need another push for my sales, which have been in free fall this month, the organization is taking a huge chunk out of my writing time. I only managed to complete another 1000 words on the Murano novella, which I am now intending to call Island of Glass. I liked “Prison of Glass” a lot, but “Island of Glass” goes better with the pre-made cover I bought.

Besides group promo organization, I also decided to make my little fairy tale collection, Never Ever After, permanently free. To that end, I both made it free on Smashwords and uploaded it to a new aggregating site, Draft2Digital, that promised to be able to get free ebooks available on the iTunes store. And they did! Draft2Digital is still in beta, so if you’re interested in their services, you need to write them to get a beta code, but they are very fast, and very helpful, and I can only recommend them. Check it out: Never Ever After is now available for free for the iPad! If anyone has one of those overpriced toys, please do me the favor any download my mini-collection. The point of perma-free is too get some attention, and that won’t happen without downloads. It’s not free on Amazon yet, btw. First Ama has to notice that it’s free elsewhere and price match. I will probably be asking for some help with that at some point, but not tonight.

One other business-slash-writing project was distracting me from new words this week — I compiled the stories for the upcoming collection Story Hunger and sent them to my editor.

Then there was the personal stuff that consumed a lot of time: my father is turning 80 this year, and he wants to get the family together in the summer for a late b-day celebration. Flight prices between Europe and the US have become outrageous at high season, but the cheapest are through Iceland Air. So Chris and I decided to make that into a vacation: we’ll be spending a little under a week in Iceland before we continue on to Seattle. Then of course, once I booked the flight, I immediately started checking into hotels and rental cars, and got lost on Tripadvisor and Expedia …

Wishing everyone a great week!

Finally branching out: Kobo and Pubit

This week, I finally got a big item off my to-do list: I set up accounts for myself on Kobo’s Writing Life and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit platforms and uploaded my first two books on each site. But while B&N had my books available in less than a day, much like Amazon, my books on Kobo are still “publishing.” Oh well.

The good news is, it was easy enough to sign up, redo the books without the Amazon links, and upload, but as with all things, it just takes time. These are systems I haven’t used before, after all, and I have to get used to the navigation, etc. For both sites, I also had to redo the covers of my books because of different size limitations. But at least for B&N, I can now announce two “new” books:

Never Ever After on B&N

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur on B&N

Another project on my to-do list that I finally got around to doing this week was to set up a mailing list. Right now, the only sign-up page I have is on Facebook (it’s tied in to my author page there). Getting that squared away probably took nearly as long as signing up as an author in two new online stores and uploading two books each! That’s why I haven’t gotten the mailing list set up for my blog here yet. I really needed a break, and a chance to get some writing done again.

A couple of readers have asked me whether I plan to get some more books up on Smashwords again. I’d like to, but it’s a bit of a problem. Now that I’ve moved all my final drafts over to Scrivener, uploading to Smashwords would be a lot of extra work. First I would have to export from Scrivener to RTF, then I would have to import the RTF into the Smashwords DOC template I made when I first started experimenting with ebook publishing and go through and assign all the correct styles. That’s an awful lot of work for a couple of sales a month. The beginning of this year, Mark Coker (the head of Smashwords) said they would have epub implementation by the end of the year, which is only a couple more weeks away. I hope it happens. I doubt if I will get around to uploading more books on Smashwords soon otherwise.

But with all those projects (which I really had to get done before Christmas), the progress on Ygerna has slowed down quite a bit. It’s presently coming in at 60 pages, of a target of 200. I’m shooting for a short novel for this prequel, something that won’t hurt as much to eventually give away for free as an incentive for people to start reading The Pendragon Chronicles books. Yseult is such a Big Fat Fantasy (~190,000 words) the idea of permanently giving it away for free does not appeal to me at all. 🙂

And now a question: I’ve been referring to the WIP by the name of the main character, Ygerna, a Celtic version of the name Igraine. But I’m pretty sure I will have to give the book a different title because of the similarity to the name “Yseult.” I don’t think I have to rename the character, since Yseult isn’t even born until after the events of the WIP are over. But having two books in a series named Ygerna and Yseult is probably not a good idea. What do you guys think?

I hope everyone has a great week!

Ebook Madness: Preparing “Yseult” for Kindle

Yseult has now passed review and is available on Amazon as an ebook. It took me a lot longer than expected, but in the next few weeks I want to try and get a couple of collections of my previously published stories up, so perhaps with practice it will no longer seem quite as complicated.

I know there are lots of resources on creating ebooks out there, but everyone’s process is different, and perhaps my experience can help some folks who tend to work more like me. Here are the steps I took in creating the ebook version of Yseult:

1) Prepare DOC file

Since Smashwords requires books submitted to their site be in Word format, and they have a very good instruction manual for preparing documents, that’s where I started — even though I ended up opting for KDP Select. (In three months I can offer the book elsewhere, and I already have the file for Smashwords.) After “Looking Through Lace” finally turned out looking ok as an ebook (after the second try), I used it to create a template. But according to Those Who Know, Smashwords will soon be accepting other formats, and then, hopefully, we will have a little more control on how our ebooks turn out.

The “Smashwords Style Guide” suggests opening the text in Wordpad and cutting and pasting from there in order to strip the word document of unnecessary coding. I find this much too time consuming, because it also takes out all italics, which then must be manually put back into the document. I have the advantage that I still do a lot of my writing in that old dinosaur Word Perfect, which doesn’t add as much junk formatting code. So in order to get a clean copy of the text without losing the formatting I still want, I convert my Word Perfect document to html and open the html file in a text editor. Using search and replace I get rid of all the unnecessary formatting commands. Here I also change underlining to italics and replace the scene break I usually use (#) with the one preferred by Smashwords (* * * *).

Once the html file is cleaned up, I open it in my word processor, copy the text, and paste it into my template. This might work for Word as well, but as I recall trying to do something like this with Word long ago, there’s a lot more junk to clean up than with Word Perfect. For Word, an option might be to mark the italics etc. with placeholders (e.g. xxx & yyy), use a text editor to strip the html code, and replace xxx & yyy with html code for italics.

NOTE: em-dashes have caused me a lot of grief in the ebooks I’ve uploaded. One time they even disappeared entirely, which makes it very difficult to fix. Here’s an article on what to watch out for and how to make it work, at least for Smashwords.

There’s still a lot of cleaning up to do, however — while I have my styles for chapters and quotes and etc. defined in my template, I still have to go through the text and assign the styles. Depending on the text, this can involve a bit more work. While I was formatting Yseult, I realized that I had a lot of narrative written in letters. I didn’t want to mark every letter as a new scene, so I defined a new style for correspondence that would add extra space before a letter.

2) Add marketing blurbs, title page and cover

On the first page, I put a smaller version of the cover, since I myself think it’s nice to open the ebook and see the cover first.

On the page after the cover, I have what I call my blurbs. If you have quotes from reviews of previously published work or any other bragging rights, this is where they could go. Alternately, if you’ve solicited blurbs from more well known writers and don’t want to litter the cover with them, those could go here.

After the blurbs, I have the title and copyright page. For a Smashwords ebook, the Smashwords disclaimer goes here. In addition to my own copyright, I also include the copyright for the cover design.

3) Metadata

Before you upload, you should probably give some thought as to how you are going to describe your ebook in as marketable a way as possible. For Yseult, I put this in a text file so I would have it handy when I upload the book to different places. Common metadata includes:

Contributors
Description
ISBN
Language
Publication Date
Publisher
Title

The most important for marketing purposes is the description, but be aware that different sites have different length limitations. Amazon allows 2000 characters, so in addition to the description, I also include quotes and a bio. Smashwords requires both a short and a long description, short 400 characters, long 4000. If you know anyone with experience in marketing, you might consider asking for their help when when creating the short description. This is what I came up with for Yseult:

For the price of a truce, Yseult is sent to a world where magic is dying – to marry the father of the man she loves.

Yseult of Eriu stands on the brink between two ages. The daughter of the Queen of the Tuatha De Danaan, she is an Erainn princess with the power of the old race, but when her family is taken hostage, she is married off to the British King of Dumnonia, Marcus Cunomorus.

Marcus’s son Drystan would have saved her from a loveless marriage, but Yseult cannot endanger her relatives and must go through with the marriage. The tragic love story of Yseult and Drystan plays out against the backdrop of a violent world threatening to descend into the Dark Ages – only Arthur’s battles to push back the Saxon hordes can save what is left of civilization. With her background, Yseult could act as a bridge between the old age and the new – but will the price be too high?

If anyone has any suggestions, I can still change it! That’s one of the joys of ebooks and being your own publisher.

4) Create Ebook

According to Amazon, ebooks can be uploaded as Word, epub, plain text, mobipocket, HTML (zipped), PDF, or RTF. For my first attempt with “Looking Through Lace” I uploaded an edited DOC file based on the one I had uploaded to Smashwords. And it looked horrible.

I don’t remember anymore exactly what experiments I tried before I got it semi-right, but I do know that the method that finally worked for me was to make an epub file myself and upload that. I’m still experimenting with the best way to make the actual epub file, so all I will offer here are some of the options. The best method depends on the file you want to convert and how much formatting you still need to do.

a) Scrivener – You can make a great looking ebook with Scrivener, but the problem is that with the Windows version, it creates an automatic table of contents, and I don’t want a table of contents including every single chapter. The Mac version supposedly has the options I would need. You can find out more here:

Youtube Tutorial

Step by Step Scrivener to Kindle Tutorial

If you’re working with a completely formatted DOC file, you need to divide the file up into sections at each chapter (Ctrl+K) and make sure the compile options in the meta-data pane are all checked (Include in Compile, Page Break Before, Include As-Is).

b) Mobi Pocket Creator – Couldn’t figure this out myself, but others swear by it.

c) Online converters – Haven’t tried many of these, so can’t say which is best for which type of file. Would love some info on which work best!

d) Atlantis – Atlantis is a word processing program that will also compile documents as ebooks. Worked pretty well for me, but I did lose some formatting. It also has the disadvantage that it is yet another word processing program, of which I have too many already.

e) Jutoh – This one requires Open Office (see comments on Atlantis above). I haven’t tried it, but check out this discussion for a lot of rave reviews.

f) Sigil – I couldn’t figure out how to do the actual conversion to ebook correctly with Sigil, BUT it did solve my problem with the unwanted table of contents created by Scrivener. All I had to do was open the epub file I compiled in Scrivener, move the table of contents to where I wanted it, delete the Scrivener TOC and replace it.

In all of this, I still lost some formatting, mostly in the epigraphs before each chapter, so obviously I don’t have the perfect solution yet. But once I do figure it out, I can replace the file I have up on Amazon now. (BTW, the preview on Amazon looks pretty messy. The actual ebook looks much better, so if you want to see how it came out, download the sample for your Kindle.)

Here are some other articles that might also be helpful to others struggling with creating ebooks:

Kindle guidelines

eBook Formatting Series

Ebook formatting

Smashwords checklist

Step by Step Kindle Ebook

Smashwords and Nanowrimo

I’ve mentioned any number of times goals of “getting this or that up on Smashwords.” I haven’t followed through on very many of those goals, but today I got my first Paypal payment from Smashwords! It wasn’t much, barely enough for a dinner out, but perhaps it will motivate me to follow through on a few more of those ebook goals.

The other motivator at the moment is Nanowrimo, that collective writing insanity that goes on during November. I wasn’t intending to do Nano this year, but then, so many people I know decided to, and you know, the company is good, and it’s fun to be hanging out with a bunch of crazy writers. So on the weekend I got all the notes and plot ideas and characters sketches for my latest novel set up in the Nanowrimo edition of Scrivener. And If you don’t know Scrivener yet, give it a trial run. It’s brilliant. I already bought it for the Mac a couple years back, even bought a used Mac for the sole purpose of writing with Scrivener, but now I’m giving the new Windows version a shot, and even after two days, I already know that I’m going to have to buy Scrivener again. (The Mac and PC versions are separate products, unfortunately.)

So good luck and happy writing to all who are plunging into Nano-month!

Determining my Target Audience (John Locke and the Rest of Us, Part 2)

You can read my initial thoughts on John Locke’s e-marketing ideas here. In this post, I’m going to attempt to define a target audience in the way Locke suggests in his book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in in 5 Months!

I don’t write in any one, single genre, even though most of my work falls under the general genre umbrella of “sff” — science fiction and fantasy. But among my published works there’s space opera, near future, magic realism, epic fantasy, dragons, witches, and Mars. So it would be pretty hard to define a target audience for my fiction as a whole — it would probably end up so general as to be useless.

Instead, I’m going to try to figure out the target audience for Yseult and maybe eventually I can do something with that.

Ysuelt is a Big Fat Fantasy of almost 200,000 words. The German translation came in at about 700 pages. While Yseult is a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde legend, it is not as medieval in feel as a lot of Arthurian novels. By that I mean that it isn’t set in an era of jousting and tournaments and chivalry. Yseult is set in fifth century Ireland and Britain, a brutal, transitional age. I did a lot of research on Sub-Roman and Post-Roman Britain, as well as early Christian Ireland, trying to create a gritty, historical atmosphere, despite the fantasy elements. At the same time, I read lots of medieval Arthurian works, in particular Welsh. I liked the old Welsh names best, and used quite a few rather than the more familiar French versions, e.g. Bedwyr instead of Bedivere, Cai instead of Kay, Myrddin instead of Merlin. For the same reason, I didn’t include Lancelot (an invention of medieval French writers). While the main plot line is the tragic love story of Yseult and Drystan, I didn’t skimp on the larger political picture, the war of the British kingdoms against the encroaching Saxons, and there are a number of detailed battle scenes.

Next step: what kind of readers would like to read a book like that?

First off, my ideal readers like both fantasy and historical detail. They get a kick out of learning something new, even when they’re reading fiction. At the same time, they want to be entertained; they like grand passion and epic conflicts. They probably have a weakness for tragedy, as long as the ending is satisfying. A familiarity with Arthurian legends is a plus, combined with an openness to seeing old stories told in new ways. They like a good battle scene as much as a good sex scene. They don’t mind their heroes getting dirty, and they don’t like it when magic solves too many problems. They’re fans of High Mud Fantasy.

Ok, that wasn’t quite as hard as I expected. But even if I have a better image now of my ideal readers, the next step according to John Locke is writing blog posts aimed at precisely those readers, posts that will draw them to my page and make them click on the links to where they can buy my books (see the images to the right *g*). Those targeted blog entries are the real challenge. How am I supposed to come up with posts that will attract thousands of readers of High Mud Fantasy and inspire them to buy my stuff?

Locke emphasizes how long he needs to compose those critical posts, but at the same time, he makes it sound so easy. You figure out what your ideal readers will be attracted to, and *whamo* they’re there and buying your books! You do, however, have to use Twitter to promote your blog until your posts go viral. Repeatedly:

When I’ve posted a new blog, I write a couple of tweets to my 20,000 followers and hope some will vist my blog and re-tweet the link. I also send group tweets to Twitter pals, maybe four to six pals per message, and maybe six to ten tweets altogether …. I tweet to different friends each time so I’m not hassling the same people every month. When they re-tweet my news, I let a few hours go by, or maybe a day, and then re-tweet their “re-tweets,” spreading the message out so I’m hitting different times of the day and night. This keeps the buzz going.

From John Locke, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in in 5 Months!

Well, aside from the fact that he leaves out the instructions on how to get 20,000 followers in the first place, if I can ever come up with a post that will bring my ideal writers flocking to my blog, I’ll be sure to write it. But promote it regularly on Twitter? Don’t people get irritated with tweets like that?

There are a lot of good observations in this book, however, probably first and foremost being that too many writers blog about writing. Which means the only readers they are attracting are other writers, not the folks who might eventually buy their books. Definitely something to think about there. I don’t have to worry about all this marketing too much yet, though. The first thing is to make a cover for Yseult and get the novel up on Amazon and Smashwords. Then I can start testing sales strategies.

Otherwise, I’m still doing pretty well on my goals. I added 700 words to a story that was requested for a rewrite, and progress on the medieval level of Fragments of Legend is steady. Since I set many of my goals up as weekly goals, I’ll post a summary at the end of the week.