Benj hard at work

I’m in the process of rereleasing most of my children’s books on Kindle. These are the old Mentor Press books. Since some of them go back more than ten years, I no longer have the files for them on computer. The back-ups are on an obsolete device of some sort, so I’d started retyping them out. Now, I’m a pretty fast typist but this didn’t seem to be the best use of my time, not with new fiction to write, a farm and fishing business to run and some freelance editing to do. So Chris set Benj up with the scanner and he’s taken over getting the print books into electronic format for me. He’s going great guns. The only drawback is that he has to disassemble the books in order to get a good quality scan. But I’ve got plenty of copies of them going spare.

Illustrator Roger Fereday will be doing some new covers for me, mainly for the Oh! series and the younger children’s books I wrote. Caitlin is designing covers too, for my older children’s books. So I should have another batch of books up on Kindle before very long. It’s really exciting!

I’d been wondering what the recent explosion in self-publishing was going to mean for traditional publishers and, in particular, for literary agents. It’s been all too obvious lately with what it’s doing to bookshops. Several big chains have unfortunately gone under due to the rise in ebooks – Borders in the US and Angus and Robertson in Australia are two examples.

To a large extent, literary agents have always been the hangers-on in the publishing world. They’re not contributing original material, like the authors are. They’re not producing the finished goods, like the publishers are. They’re somewhere in the middle taking a cut of the author’s earnings.

So it looks like some agents are becoming ‘self-publishing enablers’, offering ‘assisted self-publishing’. They will undertake to do tasks such as reformatting the author’s manuscript into ebook friendly formats, organising cover design, uploading files to Amazon, Smashwords etc  and drawing up marketing plans. These are all things the author could do on his or her own, with a very little bit of effort. First time is always the hardest preparing a manuscript for the digital market, as I know from experience, but once you’ve got the hang of what to do, it’s quick and straightforward. Most indie authors are up for doing as much as they can for themselves generally, so it remains to be seen how well this new agency role will catch on.

I was about to launch into  a longer discussion of this, but then came across David Gaughran’s excellent discussion of the topic here. He has far more clout and involvement in the world of digital publishing and can discuss the area much more knowledgeably than I can. It’s interesting to see I’m not the only one who’s questioning the new route agents will take.

 

 

 

I signed up with Xinxii today. OK , so what’s Xinxii? Xinxii is a digital self-publishing platform which launched in Germany in 2008, and began operating in English last year. It allows you to sell your documents in up to 15 different formats.

Xinxii evolved from CEO Dr Andrea Shober’s publishing company, which focussed on guides for expats and business people working abroad. She decided to launch a platform where authors could upload and sell their works in this area, and it took off from there. Authors keep full control of editing and copyright, and sell their works through their own Xinxii e-store. Constantly developing, Xinxii will be able to support ereaders and mobile platforms in the very near future.

Xinxii runs in four language versions – English, French, German and Spanish. But customers can come from anywhere – they can pay in dollars, euros or sterling. It’s free to upload your books to the site. You, the author, sets the price (minimum 99 US cents) and get paid for every purchase. You keep 40% of the net sales for documents priced between between 99 cents and 2.48 dollars, and 70% for books priced 2.40 and above.

I’ve got Oh Auntie! up on Xinxii and will be very interested to see how it goes. The site offers lots of advice on publicity using social media and so on, which I shall take plenty of time to study.

Check Xinxii out at www.xinxii.com. You’ll find Oh Auntie here.

Oh Auntie on Kindle Previewer

So – I’m a Kindle author. I said I’d do it by August, and I did. I’m very pleased with myself.

Oh Auntie is up there now! Take a look, and if you feel like hitting the like button, well, that would be great.Or better still, treat yourself to a copy. I priced it at 99 US cents, so it’s a bargain!

Amazon.com customers go here.

Amazon.co.uk customers go here.

Amazon.de customers go here.

It was a steep learning curve to prepare the book for Kindle. I did a good bit of research but the book that was the most helpul was Jason Matthew’s How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks, All for Free. (Check out his website here.) So step by step I worked my way through the conversion process.

I had a Word copy of the book originally, which I put into a .doc document (not .docx). I then saved that as html (webpage) and was going to work with that, but then discovered that I could use Mobipocket Creator. I’m not that hi-tech so that looked like a good option for me. I have my two resident computer experts at home – Chris and Caiti – but I didn’t want to impose. I downloaded Mobipocket for free, followed the instructions given on the Kindle direct publishing site, and soon I had a version on Oh Auntie in .prc. To check how things looked, I then downloaded Kindle Previewer and uploaded my file to that. Everything was good, so I went back to Kindle Direct Publishing and uploaded the file, my cover and filled in all the essential info that you have to put up. It took me the afternoon but I know what I’m doing now.

And Oh Auntie was up there this morning. Impressively quick.

So, now I must start some serious marketing, although this book is just my Kindle guinea pig. I have some heavier weight books coming soon which I really want to push. But, this is a super little book, and worth trying to sell.

As I pick up tips and advice, I’ll pass them on.

I have a cover for Oh Auntie, the first book I’ll be self-publishing on Kindle. Here it is.

It’s important to check how this will look in black and white, since this is how it will appear on the Kindle itself. Obviously it’s in colour on Amazon’s sales page. The text on this particular version didn’t work very well monochrome. So daughter Caiti had a rethink and came up with this one which is much better in black and white.

There’s a lot of advice on making covers for ebooks out there on the Net. For every person who says one thing, someone says the exact opposite! You have to use your own judgement and common sense to a large degree. The way I see it, you need the following:

1. An attractive, eye-catching design that gives an idea of what the book is about.

2. It needs to work in both colour and black and white.

3. The author’s name and the title in large, clear type.

4. Children’s books need artwork of some sort, an illustration for younger children certainly, and maybe a photo for older kids.

5. Simple and not too fussy. Possibly my picture is a little too detailed, but I love it, so I’ll see how it goes as it is. My artist, Roger Fereday, hasn’t worked on ebooks before either, so we’re both learning as we go along.

 

 

Amongst my Tweets today was one from 40 K saying they are looking for submissions of novelettes and novellas in the following areas:

  • Sci-fi
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Horror
  • Noir
  • “Smart” romance
  • Paranormal romance
  • “Smart” chick-lit.

A couple of definitions to help you here:

Novelette (a term first used by Robert Schumann for a piece of music) – 7,500 to 17,500 words of prose fiction.

Novella – longer than a novelette at 17,500 to 40,000 words of prose. Some defintions give up to 70,000 words. Doesn’t have to be divided into chapters. Usually fewer but more complicated conflicts than a novel. Stephen King describes the novella as “an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic”!

And just for interst, a novel is prose fiction of 40,000 words of more, although usually word count is higher than this. The count depends on the genre to a large extent. Thrillers are often around 100,000 words, while a mystery or lit-chick might be 60,000 to 80,000.

There’s a detailed guide on how to submit a top-notch query to them here.

I also happened across an excellent blog here which has a breakdown of best-selling genres. Derek Canyon looked at genres of books selling 1000+ copies a month, and these are respectively romance 16%, paranormal 15%, thriller 12%, mystery 12%, fantasy 8%, science fiction 7%, young adult 5%, comedy 4%. Horror, crime, non-fiction and historical have 3% of this market each, while urban fantasy, occult, contemporary, dating, commercial and biography have 1% each. This is certainly something to take on board. He also found that authors with 3 books or more are the most likely to be making the big sales of each book. So get those books out there!

 

I’m steadily working my way through Jason Matthew’s excellent ebook How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks. It’s aimed at people like me who aren’t the most informed about all the Internet tools out there that we can use to produce and sell our books. It’s a positive goldmine of information. There’s a Facebook group that Jason has set up too. I’ve joined that and am cyber-meeting some very enthusiastic and talented writers.

I’m very positive and excited about producing my ebooks. I’m mugging up on SEO at the moment. Up to now my eyes had glazed over every time I’d seen it mentioned and thought there was no way I could ever get the hang of it. However, I’m starting to see how it all fits together, thanks to this book, and I shall try harder to be less of a Luddite!

I’ll review this book properly when I’ve finished it, but so far I’m really impressed and am finding it invaluable.

And it’s Sunday, so here’s this week’s#sundaysample. The first chapter of Oh Auntie! (for 7-11 year olds).

Chapter 1: Auntie Arrives

 

Cover artwork for Oh Auntie!

“Auntie’s here!” yelled Robyn as a sleek, silver Porsche pulled into the farmyard.

She had been watching out of the kitchen window with her younger brother Paul.

“At last,” cried Dad. He and Mum were already late setting off. They were heading away to a big conference about organic farming, up in the city. And so Auntie had come to babysit for the weekend.

Auntie was Mum’s big sister. Her name was actually Jane but she’d never liked that, so she kept changing it. Over the years she had been Jade, Joy, Janet, Jemima, Jasmine, Judy and Jennifer. It was very confusing so that was why everyone, even Mum and Dad, just called her Auntie.

Auntie was very rich. She had an important job in the city. She drove fast cars and had a huge wardrobe of designer label clothes. She was tall, elegant and beautiful. But she wasn’t much fun. Robyn and Paul were reckoning on having a very boring weekend with her.

Auntie picked her way carefully across the muddy farmyard in her crazily high stiletto shoes. She was wearing a Ralph Lauren lilac trouser suit and a matching Deva pashmina with glittering crystals on the tassels. She shimmered into the kitchen. Mum gave her a hug. Auntie winced.

“Don’t crumple my suit, there’s a dear,” she said, smoothing imaginary crinkles out of the fabric. “George, run and get my suitcases. And don’t scratch the car.”

Dad went outside grumbling. He didn’t like Auntie much. She was very bossy. It took three trips to bring all Auntie’s matching Burberry suitcases and bags into the guest room.

“Goodness, whatever’s all that for? You’re only here for a couple of days!” laughed Mum as Dad staggered by with the last of the luggage.

Auntie glared at her. “I assure you, it’s all essential.”

Mum shrugged and winked at the children. “Right, we need to go. Be good for Auntie please.”

“And do keep an eye on Barbie,” said Dad. “She shouldn’t calve just yet, but if she does, tell Billy at once. OK?”

Robyn and Paul nodded wearily. Dad had told them what to do at least fifty times already that day. But Barbie – named by Robyn when she was a little girl – was his favourite cow and Dad was a bit of a worrier. Billy was the farmhand and he lived just down the road.

“Time we went!” said Mum.

And after lots of kisses and hugs and more sets of instructions from Dad they did.

I’m just about ready to self-publish my first book on Kindle.

The book is Oh Auntie! that I wrote in 2005 and which was published by Mentor Press in Ireland. I’ve updated it slightly and am rereleasing it since the copyright has reverted to me when Mentor pulled out of the children’s publishing market. It’s a nice story for 7-11 year olds – no issues, no nasties, just plain entertaining, which is how I feel kids’ books should be.

I’ve prepared the text for formatting for the Kindle, I have my ISBN number and I have my fantastic new cover artwork. What do you think of this?

It’s by the wonderful Roger Fereday.

So – time to start the publicity machine rolling while I work through the final stages. And then, well, I just hope the world’s ready!

I’m in the process of preparing some of my children’s books for publishing on Kindle. The copyright reverted to me a few years ago after Mentor Press sadly decided to stop its children’s publishing. So I will rerelease my books in electronic format. I’m doing a little bit of updating as I format them so they’re spot on for today’s kids. My Beat the Hackers needs to accommodate WiFi and Facebook, and the a few of the chickens named after popstars in Oh Auntie! need to be assume new identities. Britney will become Beyoncé, for example!

They’ll need new covers and ISBNs and a good bit of promotion. That will start very soon. But I have to say, I was impressed as I worked through and rather proud of myself for writing them! They’re fun, lively books that kids will enjoy.

Ruadhri with my Kindle!

Children are taking to ebooks very readily. St Martin’s Press reports that in 2010 young-adult e-books made up 6% of its digital sales, but in 2011, the number is already up to 20%. HarperCollins has seen a similar rise. And that trend will increase now that Ms Rowling is getting in on the act with her Pottermore plans.

Today’s kids have grown up with electronic gizmos – mobiles, organisers, MP3s – so it’s a natural for them to take to ebook readers. And they’re not that expensive now. Parents are wising up to the fact that there are plenty of free downloadable books out there, and that you can get samples of books so they won’t spend good money on a book that the children will never read. They can try it out first.

It looks like a good time to be producing ebooks for tweens and teens.