New Ebooks You Should Check Out — Victoria Merriman

Continuing my recent series…

My friend Victoria Merriman is an avid bicyclist. So much so that when her professional and romantic lives simultaneously imploded, a few years ago, she decided to bike across the United States, to get it out of her system -and, as they say, see the U.S.A. She blogged about it, and later decided to transform her blog recollections into a memoir. That memoir is now published, in ebook in the Kindle store, and in print in the Createspace store. It’s called Finding Spoons: A Love Story on Two Wheels.

If you visit her website, you can read a sample chapter, and also about how through September, $5 from every sale is going to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

You can also get a little more back story on the blog of another friend, Erica Charis.

New Ebooks You Should Check Out — Richard Bowker

My friend Richard Bowker was away from publishing for many years, prior to his recent resurgence in ebook. He is a fine writer, whose mystery/thrillers (Replica, Senator, etc.) earned him considerable notice when they were published by houses like Bantam and Morrow. The winds of publishing turned against him for a while, but in the last year, he’s returned with a vengeance, bringing all of his backlist into ebook, and publishing several excellent novels that his old publishers idiotically passed on.

His latest is The Portal, an alternate history of a New England that might have been, if a lot of things had happened differently. War between New England and Canada? Late 18th Century technology in the “present”? Like the Harry Potter books, this one has young protagonists, and can be viewed as either an adult novel or a YA novel. I was privileged to read it in manuscript, and am delighted to see it appear at last as an ebook and, still to come, a print-on-demand p-book.

Kindle | Nook

(Hm, doesn’t seem to be in the Nook store yet. Should be, soon.)

Why not take a ride into an America that might have been?

New Ebooks You Should Check Out — Craig Shaw Gardner

My friend Craig Gardner, well known as a writer of funny fantasy (among other genres), has indie-repubbed the fantasy trilogy that made his reputation: The Ebenezum Series, concerning a wizard who is allergic to magic and his bumbling young apprentice, Wuntvor. The books are great fun, and recommended for young readers of all ages. I especially love how our heroes escape being eaten by a kraken. Here they are:

Kindle | Nook

Kindle | Nook

Kindle | Nook

You can even pre-order his forthcoming new book, Temporary Monsters!

Kindle | Nook

Kick back and have a little fun.

Pen-Ultimate Anthology!

A bunch of my workshop graduates have gotten together to do a very cool thing. They’ve published an anthology of some of their best short stories—and on top of that, all the earnings are going straight to a great cause: the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund.

Here’s how it happened:

The Earth formed, and the rocks cooled. Shortly afterward, Craig Gardner and I got started in our writing careers. Fast forward to a few years ago, when we ran a series of workshops called the Ultimate SF Writing Workshop. A bunch of talented new writers attended, and we all became friends, and many of them are now becoming established as published writers in their own right. We stay in touch through an online group, and get together at local conventions. At last year’s Readercon, one of them—I think it was Lisa (LJ) Cohen—said over dinner with the group, “Why don’t we get together and publish a collection of our best stories?” The crowd rumbled approval, and with that, the project was born.

Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology has just been published, a year later. The workshoppers (my workshoppers!) did all the writing, selecting, editing, cover art, book design, and ebook formatting. Craig and I wrote the intro and outro, but other than that, it’s all the work of these fine new writers.

Check it out!  The stories are great, and it’s only $2.99 in ebook. It’s also available in print for $8.50. Every penny earned is going to a medical fund that helps SF/F writers who have fallen on hard times medically and financially. What could be a better cause than that? 

I feel like a proud father, all over again!


Here’s where you can get it:

Paperback:
Amazon
CreateSpace

Ebook:
Amazon
Smashwords

Coming:
Barnes and Noble
Apple
Kobo

Damned Typos! (And Other Myths of Easy Ebook Corrections)

I was barely home from my trip when I got an email from Amazon Kindle support, telling me that a reader had contacted them about two typos they had found in the (free) ebook edition of Neptune Crossing. Would I please correct them? Hell’s bells, I thought. There goes my day. And I was right.

There’s this widespread misconception that because ebooks are digital, mistakes can be corrected in a jiffy and the revised edition put up before your coffee has time to cool. Sounds good. And oh, how I wish it were true. Let’s see how it plays out in real life.

First, I checked the ebook, which exists in multiple formats, to see if there really were typos. Sometimes people mistake colloquialisms, or sounds, or alien words, or made-up words, or unusual usage for typos. Alas, the typos were real. They were mistakes, and they had to be fixed.

The first challenge was that I maintain multiple “master source” documents—Word docs that have all the latest corrections and styles and so forth. Docs from which new ebooks, or print-on-demand paper books, can be created. The reason there are several is that there’s different front and end material, depending on the store. For example, “Buy the next book in the series from the Kindle store,” with a link. Or from the Nook store. Each store allows links only back to itself, or to the author website. So when something needs to be corrected, it has to be corrected in all the master documents.

After the source docs are corrected, it’s time to correct the ebooks. In the case of epub books (Nook, iBooks, everything but Kindle), the easiest way to fix something simple like a misspelled word is to open the ebook in a program called Sigil, which lets you edit the underlying text and code. Do a search, fix it, rerun validation checks, and close it up again. Then test it in a few viewers to make sure you didn’t screw something else up while fixing the little thing. (You might be surprised how often this happens.) For a Kindle file, you can’t use Sigil, so it’s easiest to recreate the ebook from the source file in Calibre, another essential program. Then test, retest, etc.

Done? Time to upload the new versions. Easy, right? Maybe. About half the stores have changed the requirements for cover illustration size since the last upload, so you have to go back to your master cover images and hope you have a big enough one to meet the upgraded requirements. Oops, now you need to run the book through Calibre again to incorporate the larger cover image in the book. Then test again.

Time to upload (again). Kindle first, because more books sell there than anywhere else. Also, they also have the most sophisticated checking system. It now presents you with a list of possible typos. See the above list of things that are often mistaken for typos. Most the flagged words are just that. But you need to look at them anyway, to see. Okay, good, upload done. One store out of the way, now on to the next. Oops, Smashwords accepts epub uploads now, but gives a bizarre error from Firefox. Better try again, using Chrome. That works—but with about six other annoying little glitches that cause the upload to take an hour instead of a minute. The Nook store should go faster, right? Maybe, except they’ve changed catalog description requirements, so you have to fix those bits. Finally, Book View Café, which is a simple FTP upload. Yay!

Oops—wait. If the typos were in Neptune Crossing, then they’re probably also in The Chaos Chronicles Omnibus volume, which contains the first three books. Better check. Yes, blast it, they are. Repeat steps 1-60 above, with the omnibus. Go to upload.

The Kindle spell-checker flags something like 200 words, most of them as noted above. But wouldn’t you know it? It finds a real typo in Strange Attractors (Book 2), and two in The Infinite Sea (Book 3). Augghh! These books have been checked over so many times, how can that be? Nevertheless, there they are.

Go through it all again, fixing the typos in the omnibus, and then again in each edition of the individual novels. Check the results. What’s this? Why is the first line of Chapter 19 of Strange Attractors indented, while all the others are flush left? Wrong style applied to that paragraph. Frakkin’, frakkin’, frak. Go fix it. In all the versions. Be sure and get them all. Oh wait—I need a bigger cover image for this book now, too.

Repeat as needed. Try not to go mad.

Those two typos took an entire day, and I still haven’t finished with The Infinite Sea. When that’s done, there’s a typo a friend pointed out in Dragon Space. Aaaeeiii. 

Tell you what. The next time you find a typo or two in a book, please consider cutting the author (or publisher) a little slack. It’s harder than it looks to get rid of those things! (If you find more than a few, that’s just carelessness. Go ahead and give the publisher hell.)

Is Some Club Reading My Book?

Most days I sell between zero and a few ebooks total in the Barnes and Noble Nook store, a steady drip-drip-drip of sales. (I do better, thankfully, in the Kindle store, and even better for some reason in the Kindle UK store. Still, even there, sales have lagged in the last month or so.) But the other day, there was an abrupt spike in the Nook store: 19 sales for the day, almost all of which were The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3. The next day was less, but still better than usual. What’s up with that? I wondered, marveling happily. (I should note that, for many writers, these numbers would be reason for scowling, not smiling. But I was smiling.)

I still wonder what was behind it, but my best guess is that some reading club has decided to try my Chaos books, and they all ordered from the Nook store and not the Kindle store or Book View Cafe (and I wouldn’t know about the Apple/Sony/Kobo stores, because reporting is slow there). Is this true? Does somebody know? Or is it just one of those unexplainable synchronicity things?

Everyone* in my vast organization wants to know. And we hope that all the rest of you will follow suit, or encourage someone else to.

*My wife, and me.

Good Time to Buy an Ereader/Tablet?

In case you haven’t seen the ads, Barnes and Noble is running a Father’s Day sale on their Nook HD (for high-definition screen) and the larger Nook HD+, marking both down significantly. The best discount is on the HD+, which is almost half off (from $269 down to $149). I’m going to get one myself, even though I already have a tablet, because it will be useful to have as a test platform for ebook formatting.

If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, this might be a good time.

Hugh Howey on Self Publishing

By now, most people interested in books and publishing have heard of Hugh Howey, a self-published SF writer whose eighth (I think) book Wool hit gold and became a runaway bestseller in ebook. It made a millionaire of the author, and led in the course of time to an extraordinary print contract with a major New York publisher, in which the publisher offered a large six-figure advance for print rights only, allowing the author to continue to mine his own ebook rights to the tune of six figures monthly.

Wool cover
[Deep breath, and expel the envy. All together, now…]

Anyway, Hugh Howey writes on Salon.com about his views of traditional versus self-publishing. It’s pretty interesting, although I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. (For one thing, he doesn’t mention the role that traditional publishers play in helping writers, especially new writers, improve their craft and produce better books. Some say that that role is diminishing these days, but I think it really depends on the publisher and the editor.) Still, it’s hard to argue with Howey’s success.

I write this as I’m taking a break from working on my taxes, wherein I discover that I sort of seriously underestimated the effect my own improved ebook sales would have on my tax bottom line. Ow. I’m not remotely in the same universe as Howey, sales-wise. Nevertheless, last year was one of the best years I’ve  had in my modest career in terms of book income, and it was all from my backlist. The paradigms, they are a-shiftin’.

Off to Arisia

I’m heading off shortly to Boston’s Westin Hotel on the waterfront to spend some time at Arisia, currently New England’s largest regional SF/F convention. I’ll be on a bunch of panels related to writing and ebook publishing. Tonight at 10, the subject is “Self-editing your SF/F Novel” —self-editing being the first step in rewriting a manuscript, to be combined (preferably) with critique from trusted readers, followed by more revision as needed. I happen to have a self-edit checklist just for the purpose! (If you don’t catch the panel, you can always read my checklist at writesf.com—click the link for Rewriting.)

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about “Punching Up the Action,” “Self-publishing” (particularly, from my point of view, as it relates to self-publishing one’s backlist), and “Plot and Structure.” If you’re in the area, come on down!

I’m also eagerly looking forward to seeing the art show. The artist Guest of Honor is Roger Dean, creator of all those wonderful Yes album covers (which were in fact one inspiration for my novel Panglor)!

For Some Very Good Free Ebooks…

Show us your Nook! Or your pretend-Nook, if you don’t have a Nook. From now through Dec. 31, a bunch of authors, including the one attached to my fingers, are giving away a free ebook from Book View Café. All you have to do is visit Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Live Journal page at http://alfreda89.livejournal.com/. She has the instructions there. The idea is you post a picture of yourself with your Nook to Cat’s Livejournal or Facebook page, and in return you get some coupon codes for free books. Just go to Book View Café to collect. Nothing to register—just use the coupon codes to download epub editions of the books.

I’m giving away Eternity’s End, a Nebula finalist. You’ll also get Cat’s Fires of Nuala, Vonda N. McIntyre’s Starfarers, and Jennifer Stevenson’s King of Hearts, all in DRM-free epub editions. (Which means, among other things, that if you have a Kindle pretending to be a Nook, you can easily convert the epub to mobi-Kindle format with Calibre, a free program.) See Cat’s page for a list of other participating authors.

Here’s where you can go to collect your epub copy of Eternity’s End once you have your coupon code: http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/bvc-author/jeffrey-a-carver/.

Hurry! Before we run out of ebooks!


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