Saturday, February 25, 2012

Too Many Websites

I'm at that point in the self-publishing adventure where I'm looking for opportunities to market my book.  And I'm almost running into too many website choices.

There are plenty of recommended sites out there, but I'm seriously doubting the need for them all.  Currently, my silly fairy tale is available through Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.  I point to these sites with my Facebook account, my Twitter account and this blog.  How many more sites should I dump my details into?  There definitely seems to be a point of diminishing returns.

A website such as wasn't too tough to set up with my author profile and book information.  But why?  Are there users going to that website to look for a book over a much more comprehensive site like Amazon?  There's another website,, that seems to do the same thing, but won't let me edit details about my profile or book very easily.  Somehow the website has me down for my fairy tale twice, but won't let me delete one of the postings.  And, try as I might, I can't get an image for the book cover to upload.  Is this site really going to bring me any sales?  It's difficult to believe that it will.

As a web designer and programmer, I've been in those conversations where someone's got the bit in their teeth about "inventing" a new website that the world is going to flock to.  "It's going to be great!  It's going to be awesome!  It's going to have shooting lasers and holograms and everyone is going to want to go there!"  Yeah, right.  These projects would leave me feeling ill.  Just look at the difficult time Google+ is having trying to get into a market already dominated by Facebook.  And is the Bing search engine taking over for Google?

So, unless these sites can truly be innovative, there doesn't seem to be a point.  And, if they can't get the basics down (such as letting me upload a cover graphic), there REALLY doesn't seem to be a point.

Another website,, gave me a little hope in that you can submit your book and offer it for free to people willing to read it and give an honest review.  Again, the site seems to be a little hit or miss in its functionality and I wonder if anything will come of the time I spent submitting there.

I feel I'm getting more traffic just using the forums for the Kindle and the Nook and others to get my book info out there.

Next on the list: tackling the Goodreads author program.  I'm skeptical.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

I just returned from visiting a 4th grade class that has been reading my book, Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook.
[ amazon | smashwords | barnes and noble ]

It was a fantastic visit, better than I could have expected.  The kids were well-bahaved, polite and (most exciting!) interested!  I have a 4th grade son and I know how they can behave.  One Christmas, my wife and I tended to my son's class during the holiday pageant, watching over the class when it wasn't there turn to be down in the gym, singing their 4th grade hearts out.  Those kids were terrible!  Sure, they were stirred up because of the special event.  But my wife and I quickly went from polite adults handing out suggestions to gruff grown-ups, barking out orders.

On the contrary, this class was wonderful.  They've been reading a bit of my book, out loud, in class each day.  They were near the end today, but unfortunately we didn't have enough time for me to read to them the rest of the book.  I believe they are about 10 pages shy of the ending.

Now, I am the first one to recognize and realize that not every one is going to adore my work and fawn over me and gush about what they love.  I also realize that a lot of what these kids wrote in their letters to me were just because they had to come up with something to write and of course they're going to say things about how it's their favorite book or how I'm the best writer, ever.  No, it was their comments after I was done reading to them that touched me the most.  These kids had imaginings and visualizations deep down in their brains - specific pictures about what was going on in the story.  That showed to me how they were listening and enjoying the story.  And that, more than anything else, is near and dear to me.  I could have ten-times the sales I have right now and it wouldn't mean as much as these kids and their simple enjoyment of my book.

Plus, it was interesting to see how they were excited about the print proof that I had taken in with me.  The book isn't quite ready to be available in a print-on-demand version, but the fact that I had a solid, tangible, actual paper book in my hand was the coolest thing they had ever seen, or so you would think from their reactions.

So, yes, kids over-exaggerate and gush, just to get their own attention.  I get that.  I recognize that.  But they weren't faking the giggles at the silly moments and they weren't faking groans of disappointment when it was time to stop reading.

Or maybe they were.  You know how devious kids can be.

Monday, February 20, 2012


TANSTAAFL, indeed.  Or is there?

Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook is free through the end of February, 2012, off the Smashwords site listing!

Just enter the coupon code "BB58K" at checkout.

Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook is a silly fairy tale, written for 'tween boys and girls, and for those young at heart.

Queen Gobbledeegook has gone missing and it is up to Sir Nathan, the Hero of Mariskatania, to find her. Along the way he meets all sorts of odd folks, including pixies and wizards and a hulking creature named Mitzy that likes to knit. The land of Mariskatania is a colorful one, filled with bright Jubb Jubb Trees and fuzzy, blue Hobnobber Squirrels who spend all their time looking for a snack that's likely to kill them.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Spaces In-Between ... Leave Room For Us To Grow

2 spaces at the end of every typed sentence.  That's what I was taught upon the IBM Selectric typewriters we had for typing class in high-school.  Does such a thing exist anymore?  (I mean the typing class, not the typewriter.)  And, it was actually an semester-long class.  How can you have a class that lasts for an entire half a school year, only teaching typing?  Harkening back, I guess it was about more than typing.  This class was clearly a hold-over from the "Let's teach girls to be secretaries!" days.  There was also a shorthand class and an accounting class.  It was the early 80's, after all.

I remember that the class wasn't just about where to put your fingers and getting your words-per-minute speed up to a respectable number.  (I type in the 80-90 words-per-minute range, he noted smugly.)  It was how to type a letter, how to type an order form, blah, blah, blah.  All sorts of different things that I, to this day, have probably never used other than the typing itself.  And because, as a kid, we had a typewriter at the house, I was already familiar with where the keys were.  I could hammer something out at a respectable pace using the two-fingered pecking mode.  So for me, it mainly taught me how to hold my hands.  And, it taught me to hit the space bar twice, after every sentence.

Why did this suddenly come up?  I'm reading through a printed proof of my fairy tale before hitting the "Okay" button on Create Space and offering it up to the world as a print-on-demand book.  Those double-spaces really show up in print.  The HTML of web pages can and does automatically ignore two spaces in a row, so this blog might not be suffering from such an old-fashioned habit.  I don't know.  I'll have to check once I publish this post.  I'm a graphic designer and web-programmer by trade, so it's interesting to think that all my web work doesn't show the double-space yet all my print work does.

One thing is clear - the double space has to go.  I've got to get myself out of this habit.  But it's going to be hard to unlearn.  In the same way I got in the habit of putting a horizontal line through my 7's and my Z's, to make them easier to read in math class, it's something that happens without any conscious thought on my part.  In a print piece of work, it's really a big no-no.  Here's an interesting article about it on

One bit of exciting news ... I was able to use Find and Replace in OpenOffice to whittle all those double spaces down to single ones.  Kachow!  Now to see if I can get it to get ride of all my tabbed indents so I can using the automatic first-line indent like you're supposed to.

Friday, February 17, 2012

ISBN's and You.

Really puzzled about ISBN's.  International Standard Book Numbers.

My first inquiries into the things had me believing that I was going to have to plunk down some cash to get one.  But then I saw that Smashwords, the website on which I was going to release my first self-published work, would give you a free one.  They listed the variety of ISBN's that you could get and seemed to be saying that if you paid for one, that it was only a sort of vanity sort of affair and not really necessary.


Originally I had intended to first put things out there on Amazon, but Smashwords had a great guide to self-publication and was going to give me this free ISBN.  So I pored through their guide, grabbed the ISBN they gave me and released my work onto the world.  Then it was easy to release the same book on Amazon, with just a little change to the book's front matter, using the ISBN Smashwords had given me.

But now it seems as if that ISBN isn't a magic cure-all for what I needed.  On other websites where I've gone to market my book, entering that ISBN gives you a "book not found" error.  Often, you can go ahead and enter the book anyway, leaving the ISBN blank.  But that leaves me wondering if I needed to get one of the paid-for ISBN's anyway if I wanted people to really be able to find my book.

Working with the Create Space website to make my book available as a print-on-demand version, it turns out that website is going to give me another free ISBN.  The Smashwords guide did tell me that I didn't want to use the same ISBN for my e-book version as I was using for a print version, so that works out.  But am I going to run into the same trouble trying to market the print copy of the book?  Will I run into websites that don't recognize the ISBN?  If so, what's the point of getting the free version?

Wikipedia tells me that issuance (their word, not mine) of ISBN's in the U.S.A. is the responsibility of a private company. R. R. Bowker.  The article mentions prices ranging up to $125 for a single number.  Yep, they weren't kidding.  But I can get 1,000 ISBN's for $1,000!  What a deal!  For $250, you can get 10 ISBN's, so maybe for many first-time, self-publishing authors, that's the way to go.  Get a variety of the numbers for various e-book and print versions of your book.  I'm working on book #2, so am going to have go through this all again soon, so maybe having multiple ISBN's to use would be helpful.  There's just the sticking point of not having $250 to drop, let along $125.  

So, the mystery continues.  We'll see if somewhere down the road, all these free ISBN's end up being worth what I paid for them and I end up having to switch all my books to purchased numbers.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Excerpt! An Excerpt! There's going to be an Excerpt!

An excerpt from Part IV of Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook, available on Smashwords and Amazon.  Coming soon to Barnes and Noble's site for the Nook.


The sun shone out of a dazzling, blue sky and warmed the forest floor. The weather was changing, getting cooler in preparation for winter. The leaves of the Hootentoot Trees were shifting colors with the change in seasons, going from green to white with pink polka-dots. Nothing looked more stunning than an entire forest of Hootentoot Trees in the fall.
Every puff of wind caused more and more of the changed leaves to drop gently from the trees, where they would swirl and waft and scream all the way to the ground, for nothing has a greater fear of falling than the leaves of a Hootentoot Tree. If you were going to go for a walk through a Hootentoot Forest during the fall on a particularly windy day, you'd be smart to bring some ear plugs.
The forest floor was covered in a colorful carpet of leaves. Chattering Hobnobber Squirrels hopped and scurried about. The dry, autumn leaves crackled and crunched underfoot and the noise caused by the busy squirrels was almost as loud as all the screams of the terrified, falling foliage.
The Hobnobber Squirrels were busy looking for Huckle Nuts from the few Huckle Nut Trees scattered amongst the Hootentoots to store for the long winter months ahead. Fortunately for them, they weren't finding very many, for nothing is more poisonous to a Hobnobber Squirrel than a few tastes of Huckle Nut. In the dazzling sunshine, the fuzzy, blue squirrels stood out brightly against the background of the forest floor covered in pink polka-dot leaves. There were even a few late-season Grumble Bees buzzing here and there, muttering about how cold it was already getting at night even though summer had just ended.
It was a wonderful, crisp autumn day to be out in the woods. It was a day where the chill in the air was countered by the toasty warmth of the sunshine. And the Hobnobber Squirrels chattered happily as they searched for nuts, all of them just as delighted with the day as they could be.
Except for one.
This one particular squirrel just sat on a stump. If you listened closely, and you could find a quiet moment amongst all of the wailing leaves, you just might have been able to hear an occasional naughty word or two come from the squirrel's tiny mouth.
Even when other Hobnobber Squirrels came over and chattered excitedly to him in a friendly way, this squirrel just scowled and hid behind his bushy, blue tail.
Another polka-dotted leaf fell screaming past the grumpy Hobnobber Squirrel to land on a growing pile of leaves right next to the stump on which he sat.
“You know, you're not helping things,” said the squirrel to the mound of leaves.
A muffled voice came from the center of the pile. “I don't care. I'm not going.”
It was evident this discussion had been ongoing for quite some time and was probably what had the squirrel in such a foul mood. That and the fact he was a squirrel instead of a horse.
“You know, it's not like you really have a choice. This is your job! You swore an oath, and everything! If you don't do this, who will?”
A vague grunt from the bottom of the leaf pile was the Squirrel's only answer.
It had already been a very difficult morning and it seemed as if things weren't going to change any time soon. Tupolev was not pleased. He had been caught up in some hasty actions back at the Warlock's castle and he was extremely grumpy. Whether or not he had been turned into a Hobnobber Squirrel, he wasn't about to take any more of this nonsense.
To anyone that didn't know what was going on, it would have appeared completely normal and innocent. They would have thought there was nothing unusual about a fluffy, blue Hobnobber Squirrel sitting on a stump in the middle of a Hootentoot Forest. Sure, they might have noticed all the other Hobnobber Squirrels were hopping this way and that, chasing each other through the trees and digging through the accumulating piles of leaves, while this particular squirrel just sat on the stump with a very angry look on his face. They might have also noticed it seemed as if the squirrel were paying an awful lot of attention to a particularly large mound of leaves beside the stump. And if they were very observant, they might have also thought they could hear the squirrel talking in a high-pitched squeak. Not only did the squirrel appear to be talking, but it appeared to be talking to the pile of leaves.
Now, for anyone who knows a thing or two about Hobnobber Squirrels, they might not have thought this very odd. It might have actually seemed to be the first normal thing they had ever observed a Hobnobber Squirrel doing, since the fuzzy creatures usually spent most of their time looking for a snack guaranteed to kill them. No, it would only have seemed unusual when they saw the squirrel hop down from the stump and burrow its way into the pile of leaves, brandishing its sharp teeth. That's when they would have observed the mound of polka-dot foliage explode in an eruption of pink and white. The sound of that explosion was, “Yeeeeeaaaaarrrrrrgghhh!”
When the echoes of the explosion died away and the flurry of Hootentoot leaves once again wafted to the forest floor, Sir Nathan was left standing next to the stump, reaching under his armor to rub at a delicate place that only recently had been bitten by a horse turned into a squirrel.
“Why did you go and do a thing like that?!” demanded Sir Nathan. He was convinced he was most likely bleeding to death from the tiny nip Tupolev had given him.
Tupolev, who very recently had been a massive horse, emerged from under a few scattered leaves rubbing an ear that had gotten pinched in Sir Nathan's chain mail.
“What else was I supposed to do?” asked the squirrel. “Nothing else was working and we need to get moving.”
The Hero's only answer was a scowl. He knew he had been pouting quite a bit for the past several hours. He knew that everything the squirrel had told him about honor and duty were true. He knew it was up to him to find the missing Queen Gobbledeegook. He just felt very overwhelmed.
They had been searching for the missing Queen for a long, long time. The Hero had travelled further beyond the borders of Mariskatania than anyone ever had before and he felt no closer to finding the Queen than he was when he had started. It was starting to feel like it was all too much. For a Hero who had never before felt so much as a teaspoon of doubt or an inch of fear, this whole journey was really starting to depress him. Normally he would have just crashed through his duties like he always did … waving his Sword of Power and yelling about honor and duty. In the past, that had always seemed to sort things out fast enough so he could make it back to the Palace before they were done bolting on the Whining And Dining Room for the evening meal.
But this mission was making him seriously consider quitting his job as Hero of Mariskatania and becoming a gardner or a baker or a kite maker. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Paranoid About PubIt

I'm terribly tickled that Smashwords was the first website that I chose to dig into for this crazy, self-publishing mission I'm on.  Though there was a lot to consider, the site has a very helpful publishing guide as well as a follow-up marketing guide.

After that, tackling Amazon's system was a bit easier.  I had already gone through the process and, despite a considerable lack of reassurance from the site, I felt confident plunking my work into the interwebs ether.

Next I tried my hand in the whole Create Space world.  It was a different tangle of snakes, in that it was dealing with a printed copy of the book.  I'm still untangling that coil of serpents.

And now, PubIt.  Or is it "PubIt!"  Gotta include that exclamation mark!  This site reminds me of YouTube ... just feels like anyone could throw anything up there without any consideration.  Didn't come across any style-guides, didn't see any introductory videos, no little pop-up message patting me on the back for a job well done.  In all honesty, I didn't go looking for them, but when you're dealing with something as important to one's self as publishing a manuscript that you've poured blood, sweat and caffeine into, you'd like the website to be a little upfront with making sure you've done what you're supposed to do.

I think the only pat about PubIt that's preventing the world from throwing up every bit of typed prose to ever land on a computer monitor is that you have to link your account to a bank account.  You know, for all that money flowing in!  (Side note: this author has made less than $20 after having a book available for two weeks.  The money does NOT quickly flow in.  Be prepared for that.)

I guess that I would expect, when dealing with a service where my work is going to be available on a website with "Barnes and Noble" in big letters at the top, that they'd be a bit more upfront with the how-to's and the why-for's.  Or perhaps it is their intention to use the vagueness of the system to screen out the pansies and those faint-of-heart.  Or, a third idea, maybe this is all part of the internet revolution and the doors are flung wide for any and all to see and be seen!



As a web-designer and programmer by trade, it's more likely they just didn't put together as good a site as they could have.

The struggle continues.

*follow-up - this addition to the post was entered four hours after the original post.

My bad!  PubIt DOES give you a style guide ... AFTER you've uploaded a file.

(*sarcasm follows)
No reason I could think of to want some sort of layout guide BEFORE I created, converted and uploaded a file.  Nope.

First, the PubIt uploader wouldn't accept that I had uploaded a file.  It just didn't want to accept my .doc file.  Now, to be fair, the .doc file was created in OpenOffice ... could that be why?

Anyhow, I just converted the file into an EPUB file using an online conversion tool and uploaded that instead.  Of course, every time I tried to upload a new file type, the PubIt uploader page would forget my book description, key words and author bio, so I had to input those each time.  It remembered all the other info I input, including my cover image, so not sure why this particular data was kicked out.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Confusion Will Be My Epitaph

I have to say that using Create Space (or is it more accurately known as "CreateSpace" or something clever?) has been the most difficult part of the whole self-publishing process so far.  Second most difficult has been self-publishing the e-book on Amazon.  This all makes sense because, wouldn't you know it, Create Space is an Amazon company.

Fair being fair, I have to say I've been very pleased with the ability to self-publish onto  There's something terribly exciting about going to a website I've used for years with satisfaction and being able to see my own e-book posted there.  Makes me feel all important and cool.  Potential buyers can easily read some of the book there and most folks have purchased from the site before.  As my son says, "Easy-peasy, rice and cheesy."  

But getting the e-book onto Amazon was a bit of a more difficult and daunting task than it was getting it up onto  The Amazon introductory video makes it seem easy and straightforward, but there's a whole lot less hand-holding along the way.  You end up clicking the "submit" button while biting your lip with a cringe.  Did I do it right?  Did I just accidentally push my book out there for $99 instead of $.99?  

So of course the Create Space process had to be even more convoluted.  Get ready to be a typesetter and a graphic artist, in addition to being an author.  The great beauty of Create Space is that people can purchase a paperback form of your book without you having to get discovered by a publishing company and without you having to fork out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of your own money for a big press run.  I think.  

You see, Create Space doesn't do a great job of informing you up front what exactly they do and how exactly they work.  Since I was out, trying to self-publish, I jumped in to learn the way I learn best ... by just plowing ahead to see what happens.  So far, I've uploaded my manuscript along with a cover graphic and soon I'll be received a paper and ink proof of my book in the mail.  Wow!  My book, in physical form, in my hands to hold and look at and turn the pages of!  I think.  The website just doesn't really clue you in to what's going on.  

Fortunately, I'm a graphic designer and layout person by trade, so I was able to handle these aspects.  But still it was a big headache.  You can't just upload your manuscript.  If you're printing a 5" x 8" book, your manuscript needs by in a 5" x 8" layout.  And, since word processing programs are a tool of the devil, there's no easy way you're going to just bring up some menu and change the entire layout size of your manuscript with a click or two of the mouse.  Oh, no, it's never that easy.  Hey, there goes all your margins!  Hey, all of your tabbed indents aren't working correctly now!  Hey, isn't it amazing that several blank pages are suddenly showing up, scattered through your work?  Fun stuff!  

Then, make a high-quality graphic, which includes the art for the spine of the book being in the exact right position and upload it as a PDF.  What's that?  You don't have all the software for this?  Well, feel free to shell out hundreds of dollars and the Create Space staff will do it for you.  So much for the "self" in "self publishing".  

Please don't get me wrong.  I'm in love with the online tools available to me.  I never would have been able to pull this off 10 years ago.  And though I've been writing for my own amusement ever since I was in the 6th grade, this is the first time I've ever tried to put something out there for the world to see.  Do I have the gumption to knock on the doors of a thousand publishers in the hopes of getting my work recognized?  Probably not, especially since some publishers state that they don't accept unsolicited manuscripts.  

We'll see how this all turns out.  I'm certainly not burning up the charts with my book sales.  Yet.

One Step Closer To Insanity

My somewhat silly fairy tale is already available as a digital download on both Smashwords and Amazon.

But now I inch closer to having a solid paper and ink book that could actually be held in one's hand.  But, oh, the hoops through which we jump!

Details are forthcoming.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where Are My Trained Monkeys?

I might have thought that actually writing a book was the difficult part of writing a book.  I would have thought that sitting my hind-quarters down and smashing the keys to form words and sentences for a long-enough period of time to actually create something one could point to and say, "Book!" would be the difficult part.

But it's not.

The difficult part isn't even the time when, after you've finished writing your book, you go back and re-read it for typos and errors and general semantic ugliness.  And then you do that again.  And then you do that some more.  And some more and some more and some more.

Just when you're about ready to pluck out your own eyes lest you're tempted to keep up flailing efforts to become an author, that's when the difficult part hits you.  Marketing.

Surprisingly enough, self-publishing a book online does not cause the world to immediately download a million copies.  Who knew?  While I didn't expect to become the next J. K. Rowling overnight, I expected a slight interest.  A minor interest.  A fleeting interest.  I don't think pity-purchases from your friends count.

I guess, if I were to go out and bury a million dollars in cash in my backyard, I'm not going to end up with a thousand people armed with pickaxes and shovels tearing up my lawn.  Not without letting them know there's money to be found.  So, maybe my book isn't worthy of a million dollars.  But it's worthy, I feel confident about that.  So it's on to the difficult work.  It's on to letting the masses know that there's treasure to be found and just where they can find it.

Can't I just sit back and be the creative genius, while my trained monkeys do all the marketing work?  No? They haven't invented trained marketing monkeys yet?  Hmmm ... I might be more successful creating teams of story-selling simians than I would be at being an author.  Will have to look into that.