Category Archives: Musings

Two by Two: Happy Valentine’s Day!

It is interesting that St. Valentine’s Day, celebrated in the second month of the year, is the festival of romantic love in Western culture. Interesting for a couple of reasons — the first being that poor Valentine wasn’t really much of a lover himself, as nearly as we can tell (though he was martyred for marrying Christian couples). Of course, his symbol has become the stylized “heart” shape, and the heart has long been identified, both East and West, as the seat of love. And so where earlier Europeans identified May Day and Midsummer Night as the festivals most connected with passion, the Christian world focussed on the day of the saint of the pierced heart.

The other interesting thing about February 14th being the lovers’ holiday, it seems to me, has less to do with Valentine, and everything to do with when it occurs: smack dab in the middle of the second month. Continue reading Two by Two: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Inside the Box: The Anatomy of an Ebook

Over the next few posts, I’ll be showing you how ebooks are coded and formatted. We’ll look at the anatomy of an ebook, and what makes it tick.

You’ve heard me call an ebook a website in a box. This time we’re going to talk about what’s inside the box.

First thing’s first: let me share an ebook with you. It’s the ePub file for a short story of mine called White Robes.

You’re welcome to read it, obviously, but for the purposes of this post (and the next two), we’re going to be opening up the box and dissecting the ebook.

This is the actual production file that I’ve uploaded to Amazon, by the way — it includes all of the coding and formatting that I typically include in creating an ebook. It will be the model that I’ll be using over the next few posts in discussing an ebook’s innards.

Continue reading Inside the Box: The Anatomy of an Ebook

Following Bliss: Joseph Campbell and Jackie

A current movie reminded me of a publishing story that I’d love to share with you.

For once, this isn’t about independent publishing: it’s about a big publisher struggling to find the right cover design.

Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell copyright © 2011 Joseph Campbell Foundation (JCF.org)

In 1988, Joseph Campbell had just died, but the series of television interviews that he did with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, became an enormous hit—the highest rated program PBS has ever aired, to this day. It was this series that introduced most of the non-academic world to Campbell and made a household phrase from his dictum, “Follow your bliss.” Continue reading Following Bliss: Joseph Campbell and Jackie

The Convertible Cloud: Ebook Conversion Online

This is the next in my on-going series of post on ebook creation; it focusses, obviously, on ebook conversion online. It was originally posted over at Joel Friedlander’s wonderful site for indie publishers, TheBookDesigner.com

The Convertible Cloud: Ebook Conversion Online

Previously, I’ve compared some of the computer apps that you can use to convert your manuscript into an ebook.

This month I’ll talk about online conversion tools — all of the ones I’m going to discuss are attached to the retailers and distributors that you are going to be interested in.

 

Eye of the Hurricane: Top Ebook Retailers

 

Let’s start with the most popular retailers and their conversion tools (or lack thereof).

 

Once again, I’m assuming that you’re in the US — which isn’t a given, I know. (Most of this information is true for non-US publishers as well.) Also, I’m defining “manuscript” as synonymous with “Microsoft Word document” (either .doc or .docx), since that’s the most common file format for authors to work with, and that’s the format I used in comparing the desktop conversion tools.

 

As before, these are the major retailers you will probably be looking at:

Continue reading The Convertible Cloud: Ebook Conversion Online

Avast! Piracy and the Self-Publisher

I just had a conversation with a friend about the issue of piracy. I thought I’d share this post on the subject I wrote for Joel Friendlander’s TheBookDesigner.com:

I hear from a lot of authors — traditionally and self-published — who are panicked to find their work being stolen. “I just did a Google search,” they’ll moan, “and found a site that’s giving my book away!

I take a deep breath, pour myself some (metaphoric) rum, and prepare to repel pirates — but mostly imagined ones.

Napster

It’s true: as long as there has been a commercial internet, there have been sites and apps that operated to “share” intellectual property illegally, to indulge in what is colorfully known as piracy.

Everyone remembers Napster: it was a peer-to-peer (P2P) app dedicated to sharing MP3 files across the internet back at the height of the so-called dot-com boom at the turn of the twenty-first century. The music industry did its best to shut Napster down by attacking its servers, its founder, and its users, and it did eventually force it out of business in 2001. But this didn’t stop P2P sharing; it simply moved the sharing on to other vectors — Limewire, BItTorrent, and many more.

However, a funny thing happened, also in 2001, that made music sharing less of an issue to the musicians and music companies: the launching of Apple’s iTunes (along with the iPod) made it easy actually to buy music through legitimate channels. Some folks still shared music online — but far more bought the music and downloaded it legitimately. iTunes became to music what Amazon has become for books: a way for even the smallest label to reach an audience and make some money. In some cases a lot of money.

Self-Published eBooks

Continue reading Avast! Piracy and the Self-Publisher

The Ebook Retail Universe

This is the sixth installment in my series of posts about ebook creation. Like the others, it was originally posted on Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for indie publishers,TheBookDesigner.com

The Ebook Retail Universe

I realized after my last post (looking at ebook conversion tools) that in my excitement in finally getting to the nuts and bolts of ebook creation that I’d skipped over online conversion tools. Most of those tools either are directly attached to ebook retailer websites or are attached indirectly through distributors/aggregators. So I’m going to have to backtrack.

 

This month I’ll talk about the retailers and distributors that you are going to be interested in, and next month I’m going to talk about the conversion tools that they offer.

 

Continue reading The Ebook Retail Universe

Free for all: giving your ebook away on Amazon

“Selling” for free

I had a client ask me recently why you can’t price an ebook as free on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform. The author wanted to promote her first book by giving it away — she’d been told that was the best way to make a splash.

I told her that you CAN “sell” your ebook for free on Kindle Direct Publishing — they just don’t make it easy. And it often isn’t a good idea.

Why don’t Amazon make it simple to set the price of a KDP ebook to $0.00? Continue reading Free for all: giving your ebook away on Amazon

Jump in the Convertible: Ebook Conversion Tools

This is the fifth installment in my series of posts about ebook creation. Like the others, it was originally posted on Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for indie publishers,TheBookDesigner.com

Over the last few months I’ve discussed preparing your manuscript and your images for conversion into ebook form. This month, I’m going to look more closely at a subject that I’ve touched on: choosing an ebook conversion tool. Just to review, I suggested that there were four basic ways to convert your manuscript into ebook format:

  1. From scratch
  2. Saving from a word-processing or page-layout application into ePub format
  3. Using a conversion app or online service
  4. Hiring a designer

We’re going to ignore option #1 — if you’re the kind of person who wants to dig that deep into the guts of ebook creation, I don’t think that you’re going to be patient with this process. I’m not going to dwell on option #4 (or the second half of option #3), since the emphasis of this series is how to create your own ebooks. Using a conversion service or ebook designer is always an option, and I’ll discuss later how to choose one. But for now, we’re going to look at choosing the software that you can use to create a book yourself. Here’s the list of software that I will look through with you: .[1] Continue reading Jump in the Convertible: Ebook Conversion Tools

In the Picture: Prepping Images for Your Ebook

Last month I discussed how to clean up your manuscript to prepare it for ebook conversion. This time I’m going to be looking at how to do the same thing with images.[1]

There’s one big difference, however: where the advice that I gave you about getting your text squeaky clean was equally valid for preparing to convert your words to either print or ebook format, these suggestions are ebook-only.

What’s the difference?

Well, in either case, you’re going to start by finding the perfect picture to go with your words. You’re going to crop the picture (cutting out any extraneous bits) and enhance it (or get someone who knows how to do so) so that it looks beautiful.

However, there are two enormous differences between the image files you want to use in an ebook and ones you’re going to get printed on paper:

  1. In a print book, color is expensive, while in an ebook beautiful color costs (essentially) the same as black and white.
  2. On the other hand, in print, you want the image file that goes off to the printer to be as high quality (that is to say, large) as possible, while in an ebook, every kilobyte costs you (I’ll explain how below).

 

Continue reading In the Picture: Prepping Images for Your Ebook

MS to Ebook: A Cleaning Guide

This is the third installment in my series of posts about ebook creation. Like the others, it was originally posted on Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for indie publishers, TheBookDesigner.com

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been talking about just what an ebook is, and four basic methods for creating them.

This month, I’m going to get a bit more into the nitty-gritty — how best to prepare your manuscript for conversion.

Whichever of the methods you use to create your ebook, it’s essential to have the original file be as clean as possible.[*]

What do I mean by that?

Basically, it comes down to one thing: Continue reading MS to Ebook: A Cleaning Guide