Category Archives: ebooks

My Latest Book – Writing Prompts 2014

In the last episode, I talked about how I was writing a months’ worth of blog posts AND an ebook at the same time (using WordPress and Scrivener).

Today I’m coming with an update: the book is ready!

writingprompts2014coverlarge

 

Scrivener Report

I did enjoy putting the book together with Scrivener and I discovered that it has a really powerful ‘compile’ feature that outputs all kinds of ebook formats (including the .mobi format I wanted for Kindle).

However, in the end I was (gasp!) up against a time crunch and wanted to Get It Done! I didn’t have time to play around (more than four or five times) with the Compile function to try to get it all right, and then to figure out how to attach the cover image and…

Since I’ve made Kindle ebooks before by creating a Word document, converting it to “.htm” and uploading that, that’s what I did this time. I used Scrivener’s compile feature to give me a Word file that I then formatted the way I wanted it (minimal formatting, just using styles and page breaks) and then converted to HTML.

I will, I swear, learn to use the very cool Scrivener functionality for that at some point.

The Cover

Kindle covers should be 1563 pixels on the shortest side and 2500 pixels on the longest side. I’ve made a few before and have a kind of template set up, so I opened up Photoshop Elements and made my adjustments, then saved it as a .jpg. Boom!

Kindle eBooks

Did you know it’s free to upload a Kindle eBook to Amazon?

I always assume people know that, but really, why would you? So now you do. It’s free. I set the price and Amazon takes between 30-65% of the list price, depending on the royalty structure I choose and the territory it’s being sold in. Compared to traditional publishing deals this is pretty sweet (except I don’t have a team of professionals to help me out, nor an advance. I also don’t have to wait for anyone’s permission to ‘get published’ though and I have access to a massive, well-oiled selling machine that will handle most of the technical stuff for me, so I call it a deal).

It’s perfect for someone like me, who is using ebooks as an educational resource for my blog readers.


There’s more to tell on this ebook project — including pricing, promotions and results, but I’ll save that for another day.

How I’m Creating A Book As I Blog

I’m gearing up for the StoryADay May challenge for 2014 and writing a new ebook as I go along. How? I’ll show you (cue: John Hammond whisper)

For the past few years, at the urging of challenge participants, I’ve provided writing prompts every day during StoryADay May. Every year I vow to be ahead of the game and write them all out before May starts. Usually I get a couple of weeks in and then spend the latter part of May scrambling to catch up.

Last year I did a thing where — again, prompted by participants — I put out a week’s worth of prompts ahead of time, so people could plan their writing week. That was a bit better than my usual scramble, but I still did a lot of the work during May.

This year I have resolved to not only have the full months’ worth of prompts available before May begins but to release them as an ebook that I can charge money for. (Money is a lovely carrot that I dangle in front of myself to make LazyMe follow through on some of my good intentions. I’m not hugely motivated by money, but since I’m planning on putting in all this work, it’d be nice if I could get a little summin-summin to help pay the for web-hosting costs, the domain registration or my upcoming photo session with Nathan Fillion at Comicon – swoon…)

The Process

Here’s what I’m doing.

Step 1: Mindmap

I have a mind map of all the topics for each week (OK, most of them). Doing this first helps me set themes for each week, see what I’m doing, what I’m missing and what I shouldn’t spend time writing about on Day 1 (because I know I’m going to cover it on Day 4).

zuXCSNU5

Step 2: Write The Post

I have a template in place for prompts, which I’m using as a framework for each post.

Writing Prompt screenshot

 

It goes: preamble (sometimes), The Prompt, Tips, “Go!” along with possibly a reminder to comment or post in the community.

Once I’ve written the meat of the post I’ll take some time to schedule the post for the appropriate day (posting just after midnight) and I’ll add it to the /inspiration/daily-prompt/may-2014 category so that my Mailchimp’s RSS-to-Campaign feature will pick it up and send it out to all the people who have signed up to receive prompts by email. Nifty!

If I’m really smart I’ll remember to add tags (‘writing prompt’ and something context driven) so I can find and link to them again in future when I am writing similar prompts but want to give my audience more options.

I might even find an appropriate Creative-Commons photo on Flickr to illustrate the post AND write an SEO-keyword-laden excerpt. In the interests of getting an ebook out, however, I’m not doing that on this pass. (None of that stuff will go in the ebook and it’s all stuff I can do in the last few days before the challenge when my brain is fried and we’re taking the inevitable roadtrip/having visitors/enjoying Easter/whatever-the-hell-else April/May can throw at me this year.)

What I really want to do is get to the next step.

Step 3 – Scrivener

After having finally watched some videos on how to use Scrivener properly, it seems to me the perfect vehicle for putting together a non-fiction book, even if I can’t make it work for fiction. So I’m using it for that, with the expectation that, at the end of the writing phase I’ll be able to quickly go through each file and make sure I’ve been consistent in format. Then I can add introductions to each week and maybe some introductory/conclusion material, and then use the built-in ‘compile’ feature to turn out a nicely-formatted ebook for quick upload to Amazon, Smashwords and my site.

Method: it’s pretty clunky, but I’m writing each prompt in the WordPress window, adding scheduling and tags and then  cutting and pasting each day’s text from the blog into Scrivener. It’s working for me, for now.

scrivener screenshot

I’m really only posting this here so that, if I try to do this again,  I’ll have some record of how I did it, but if you’re reading this and you’re not Future-Me, then I hope it helps you with your own “Blog To Book” project!

 

Kindle Short Fiction Experiment Begins

Inspired by Angela Booth and Sean Platt (among others), and by the fact that I can’t only submit my work to journals and have it rejected (that way quitting lies) I’ve started to experiment with writing and releasing short fiction on the Kindle platform.

I put out my first story last week because it was a historical anniversary. My plan is to have five stories ready (or nearly ready) to go in a given genre before launching the ‘series’. Then I’ll compile them into an ebook collection and offer them that way too. Then I’ll move on to another series (perhaps in a different genre/voice).

I have a mailing list set up and a plan of action and a bunch of writing done. I have a bunch more writing to do, and a whole lot of editing, but I’m enjoying having a concrete goal and multiple steps and an interesting hypothesis to test.

I love the elasticity of the publishing process these days. If I decide I don’t like some of these early efforts, I can just withdraw them. If some become popular, they can stay up there forever.

Only problem with this project: not enough hours in the day :)

Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch Released

Amazon has announced the first Kindle tablet PC and the first touch-screen Kindle e-Readers.

Highlights

  • Three new e-Ink Kindle models, two of which have a touch-screen
  • Larger screens, smaller bodies (no keyboards)
  • Lower prices – with optional on-screen ads. $79-$189
  • Kindle Fire – a color, touchscreen tablet device for $199
See more details and my comparison table to find out if its time to take the Kindle plunge, or upgrade to one of the new options.
AmazonKindleComparisonTable

Other Kindle Articles

Should I Buy A Kindle 3?

Another generation of Kindle is here, Kindle 3 and now you’re asking yourself,

“Should I buy a Kindle 3?”

With the new, wi-fi only Kindle 3 priced at only $139, how much longer are you going to be able to resist? (The Kindle 3 wireless version, with free 3G connectivity AND wi-fi, is still $189. The new version of the larger Kindle DX is $379)

What’s New With Kindle 3 And Do I Care?

Have you read my Kindle FAQ, yet? If you have basic questions, start here.

High-Contrast Screen

The big thing that caught my attention about the Kindle 3 were the words:

“All-New, High-Contrast E-Ink Screen, 50% better contrast than any other e-reader”

If I’m totally honest, I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed with the contrast on my Kindle 2. The page seemed a little greyer than on my original Kindle and I would have loved just a bit more contrast. It never bothers me when reading in natural light, but under poor light conditions it made a difference.

They’re touting ‘new, improved fonts’ too, which is always nice.

Faster Page Turns

You really do adjust to the flickery, eInk page turns, but making them “20% faster” is no bad thing.

Double The Storage Space

I’ve never had a problem with my Kindle becoming too full because I archive books (send them back to the Amazon server) once I’ve finished with them. Slurping them back into the Kindle is a matter of a minute or so.

Some people might like to have all their books right on the device all the time, however. With the new “wi-fi only” option, too, having your books on the device makes sense, in case you aren’t within wi-fi range when you feel a desperate urge to re-read last summer’s hot thriller.

Smaller Body, Same Screen Size

Anything than makes the Kindle easier to slip in to a pocket or handbag is a good thing.

Less body also means a lighter Kindle, although I already thing it’s a great weight.

I just hope the new, smaller body still leaves somewhere to grip onto without covering the screen in smudgy fingerprints.

Quieter Turn Buttons

This is a wonderful thing for those of us who like to read in bed while someone else is falling asleep next to us. I’ve been accused of something close to Chinese Water Torture while clicking my way through a book some evenings….

Enhanced PDF Reader

Kindle 2 had PDF support added as an after-thought. This one has an enhanced reader with dictionary look up and the ability to make notes and highlights.

PDFs are always going to be at war with progress, however, as they were created to fix a page-design to a certain format and new technological interfaces are all about reshaping content and delivering it how the reader (not the author) wants it presented.

However, if you do read PDFs on your Kindle, it’s certainly be nice to make notes and highlights.

New Web Browser

If you don’t have a smart-phone and you don’t have an iPad or another way to easily access the web while away from your desk, this might excite you. It certainly excited me when I got my Kindle…but then I got a smart-phone and never used this function on the Kindle again. Still, nice to see they’re working to improve it.

There are two versions of this new, dark-grey Kindle available:

The all-singing, all-dancing download-books-anywhere version for $189 and

The slightly less flamboyant Wi-Fi-only

Does “Wi-Fi Only” Mean And Will I Hate It?

So I’ve been talking about this “wi-fi only” feature on the cheapest Kindle.  What does that mean?

Well, on the other Kindles, you use the cell-phone network to download books directly to your Kindle. You don’t need a plan or anything: Amazon has a deal worked out with Sprint and they pick up the cost (or the publishers do…but that’s getting too far behind the scenes. All you need to know is is you get free access to the Amazon store wherever you are, as long as you are in range of a cell tower).

“Wi-fi only” is going to be more restrictive. Like the early iPads, these Kindles will only connect to the store if your home has a wireless network (can you browse the web from your laptop on the sofa? Then you probably do) or if are in a wi-fi hotspot (like a McDonalds or a Starbucks or one of the zillion other places that offer Wi-Fi to entice people to come and hang out there).

So, you won’t be able to download books as you stroll down the street.

You will have to find and  access an open wireless network

BUT

  • If you are doing most of your reading at home, or have easy access to lots of wi-fi hotspot
  • If you don’t care about downloading books wherever you are and can probably wait until you get home to do it
  • If you want to save $50 on the device and buy yourself five books instead…

This is a great deal. Buy it now!

Kindle screenshot

How To Become A Best-Selling Novelist on Kindle

As a reader I’m a big Kindle fan. As a writer I’m…also a big fan.

While the big publishing houses seem to be missing the point with Kindle, authors are not.

A whole host of authors – from traditionally published to newbies – are self-publishing their books on Kindle, climbing the best-seller charts and writing about how they’re doing it.

I’m researching the topic for a series of how-to articles. Before I get to the technical side of things I wanted to share some resources on the just-as-important side of sales, marketing and ‘what you can actually get from publishing on Kindle’.

So here’s some further reading for you, if you’re a novelist wondering if Kindle (and ebooks in general) are worth your time and attention.

(Hint: the answer is ‘yes’)

AUTHORS ON KINDLE

Yes, People Are Buying Kindle Books

JAKonrath on selling 16,000 copies of his ebook (this one sparked controversy in the traditional-publishing world when Publishers Weekly dismissed his success in a snooty — and inaccurate fashion — and Konrath jumped into the debate. Fun!).

How novelist Elisa Lorello’s first novel reached number 6 on the Kindle bestseller list (her second is up there now).

Aaron Ross Powell on selling a draft novel on Kindle (and landing a publishing deal).

What If I’m Not A Well-Known or Published Author?

JAKonrath again on authors whose books are selling better than his, even though he is a mid-list published author and they (as far as he can tell) are not.

Promoting  Your Kindle eBook

How to promote a Kindle ebook, featuring an interview with Boyd Morrison who landed a traditional publishing deal based in part on his Kindle sales numbers.

Pricing Your Kindle eBook

One more from JAKonrath, on the importance of pricing.


What questions do you have about publishing your work as an eBook? What do you need to know before you make the decision? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to find you some concrete answers.


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