I happened across ‘Kindlegraph’ in some Tweets, so I decided to find out more about it. It’s a way of ‘signing’ a Kindle book for a reader. The website is here.

You log in via your Twitter account and then have to supply the ASIN (the Amazon supplied ISBN) for your book and fill in the inscription you’d like to put. I opted to try the system out with Oh Auntie!  and typed in the dedication: ‘Enjoy the story, best wishes, Stephanie Dagg’. Up came the cover of Oh Auntie! with those words in rather neat handwriting.

So far, so good.

However, the next step took you to another site, docusign, where you had to sign an agreement. You could choose from a list of about a dozen handwriting type scripts. There was one remarkably like my writing. I selected that. Then I read the small print which was along the lines that this signature would become legally binding on documents it was used on, or words roughly to that effect, which freaked me out so I ended the process there.

Am I being a chicken? Plenty of authors are Kindlegraphing. However, I just didn’t like the idea that my electronic signature, floating around in cyberspace, might be used fraudulently without my consent and cause me a lot of trouble.

I guess I’ll think about it a little longer. I don’t imagine there’ll be a massive rush for my Kindlegraph in the imminent future … unfortunately!

UPDATE on 19th August: Kindlegragh creator Jacob Evans contacted me with the comment below. I’ve now found the newer signing system which involves drawing your signature if you wish to. That seems a much less scary way of doing it! Thanks to Jacob and wishing him good luck with this innovative service.

Well, my second book is now up on Amazon in Kindle format. It’s Beat the Hackers, a work of juvenile fiction about hackers and computers with a strong female protagonist. Daughter Caiti designed me a brilliant cover:

And here is a sample from it to whet your appetites. It’s from near the end of the book. Heather and her father Ray are on the run from Domination, a mysterious company that created a universally popular, free anti-hacker software. However, it’s not quite what it seems, and Ray, with Heather’s help, is the only person who can prove it. They have just one possibly ally – Lucien Montgomery, head of Teuthras Communciations. They are meant to meet with him at midday:

Heather wandered over to the coffee bar. She chose four of the stickiest looking muffins they had and ordered two tall, double cappuccinos. She took the heavy tray to a corner table and waited for her father to join her.

They idly watched the passers-by as they ate and drank. Then gradually Heather became aware that they were being watched. She felt a prickling at the back of her neck. She casually glanced around. A few tables away, two people were sitting, apparently minding their own business. But they weren’t ordinary people. The man was tall and blonde and had deep blue eyes. He was immaculately turned out in some sort of designer suit. The woman with him was stunning. She had a beautiful figure and wore a fantastic tailored trouser suit. The perfect couple, thought Heather. Suddenly she stiffened. Perfect. That was it! She thought back to the photos of the perfect people her father had collected when he was researching Domination. Her blood ran cold. These people were too perfect. They were Domination perfect! And they were watching her and her dad.

She glanced away. This time her eye was caught by a tall, good looking man, pretending to window shop a short distance away. Beyond him was another perfect guy, trying to look inconspicuous in an Armani suit and browsing at postcards outside a newsagent’s.

Yes. Domination had definitely found them.

“Don’t look now, Dad,” said Heather quietly, trying to swallow her fear, “but there are some Domination people around. At the table behind us, and two more in the mall.”

Ray almost dropped his cup in alarm.

“What?” he hissed. He glanced around nonchalantly, checking out Heather’s claims. “That’s them, all right. We’re trapped!”

“Stay cool, Dad. Goodness knows how they tracked us down here. But never mind that now. We can run for it, I reckon.” Heather was beginning to make plans.

“We can try,” he said, but without much hope. “Look, I’ll slide you a set of USBs under the table. If we get separated, take these to show Montgomery on your own, OK? If you can’t, never mind. There’s still Marcus to back us up.”

“OK, Dad,” nodded Heather.

Ray discreetly fumbled in his bag and then pushed something under the table towards Heather with his foot. She carelessly leant down, on the pretext of adjusting her sock, picked up the USBs in their bag and slipped them into her jacket pocket.

“Fancy a refill?” she said loudly.

Ray looked at her puzzled for a moment. He was about to say he’d had enough caffeine for now, but Heather winked at him. “Get ready to run,” she hissed. “I’ll slow Mr and Mrs Perfect here down.”

“Thank you, more coffee would be lovely,” trumpeted Ray.

Heather walked up to the counter, passing close to the Domination people. She didn’t look at them, but she could feel their blue eyes on her.

“Two large black coffees, please.”

The counter assistant handed them over. Heather paid and began to walk back with a mug in each hand. She saw her father poised for taking off. She came to Domination’s table. She paused by it. The man and woman looked up at her, intently.

“Here. The coffee’s on me!” cried Heather, and she flung the scalding coffee into their laps.

Pandemonium broke out. The pair leapt up, shouting in pain and shock. Heather had the presence of mind to tip the table over on them too, knocking them down, before she took to her heels with her father. The counter staff began yelling. Out of the corner of her eye, Heather saw the two lurking Domination members in the mall start to run after them.

But she and Ray had a good few metres’ start. If they could just get themselves out of the shopping centre, they’d be able to lose themselves in the crowd outside. The exit wasn’t far. But then disaster struck. Ray’s shoelace had unravelled and sent him flying. Heather could hardly believe he’d fallen over for the second time that day. She stopped and turned back to help him, but he roared at her to leave him.

For a fraction of a second Heather hesitated, uncertain what to do. She didn’t like to desert her father, but the Domination guys were onto them. He was right – she had to go. So with a last despairing look at her father, she turned and fled.

She didn’t stop running for at least five minutes. She barged her way through the shoppers, who grumbled complaints at her. She wove in and out of the crowd until at last she had to pause for breath. She chose a busy corner, close to a flower stall, to stop and take stock.

 

Increasingly frustrated at the elevated prices on Amazon.com for Kindle books due to the sales tax they add for whatever reason to books going abroad, I’ve now started buying more from Smashwords. I’ve downloaded the Kindle app for PC onto my computer so I can read books in Kindle format on it. It’s not as good a reading experience as on the Kindle, but since I can get 99 cent books for 99 cents, and not 3.74 dollars which is what Amazon charges for them, then that’s a saving worth making. I’m not cheating the author out of royalties, as they receive their payment based on the official 99 cent price.

It’s puzzling. Some books advertised as 99 c are available to me here in France at that price, but the vast majority aren’t. Also, some books advertised as free also aren’t available. I had to buy my Kindle from Amazon.com, as all French customers still have to, so it was a blow to then discover that there were strings attached in the form of this onerous tax, for which this apparently no justification whatsoever apart from greed. It doesn’t cost any more to send the whispernet to France than to anywhere else. It’s ridiculous and is the one bad thing about Kindle from my point of view.

But I’ve found a way around the problem (which is what living in France trains you to do with all problems!) so I can read well-priced books without being financially penalised simply because of where I live. Amazon will be losing out from me from now on, and if the trend is repeated by enough other Kindle owners affected by the tax, then maybe they’ll start taking notice and revise this unfair system.

Good for Smashwords.

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’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!

Three things that caught my eye this weekend. The first two are good morale boosters for all authors like me thinking of self-publishing on Kindle.

A recent Pollack book

1. Neil Pollack in a New York Times interview says: “My self-published product may not be the easiest proposition for mainstream publishers. It will be short, it’s about Jews and basketball and bumbling fascists, doesn’t involve teenage vampire sex or the Knights Templars, and wouldn’t be likely to sustain a $9.99 download price, which is the low end of what publishers are charging now for new e-books. Here are the economics: I’m going to charge five bucks, or $4.99 a download. For every book sold, my online vendor will send me 70 percent of the revenue. In raw dollar amounts, that’s more than three times what I’d get from a mainstream publisher for each paperback sale. If I manage to score a thousand downloads, which I almost certainly will at that price point (I have a large family), I’ll make 3,500 bucks, and if I get 5,000 downloads, I’m looking at $17,500. Quickly, I’ll have earned the equivalent of a pleasant advance for this book.”

2. From: Kindle Self-Publishing. John Locke, author of Saving Rachel says: “The first time I saw the business model for selling eBooks on Kindle, my eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas,” says John, “because Kindle doesn’t just level the playing field for self-published authors, it actually slants it in our favour. For the first time in history there’s an advantage to being an independent author!”

His advice: Write the types of books you like to read and are good at writing. In John’s case that’s light entertainment. “I offer my readers a fun, breezy read,” says John. “If I can give them some chuckles and hold their interest for a few hours, I feel I’ve earned my 99 cents.”

3. And here’s a cool free e-book of poetry by Christopher L Jones. I can honestly say this is the best poetry I’ve read in a long time.

 

My Kindle and carrying bag

In a nutshell – yes! They would be bound to pick up scratches or worse if you don’t put them into some kind of case or bag for carrying around. I use a small Peruvian shoulder-purse as my Kindle cover. It could have been made for it, it’s such a perfect fit!

How else could you cover your Kindle. Well, if you’re good at arts and crafts, you could have a go at one of fifty different covers at this website.

And if you prefer pre-prepared, there are plenty of covers to choose from any of the Amazon sites.

To help you narrow the field down, try this site, at cnet.com, which lists its preferred 15 covers and other accessories. Some covers are said to have caused problems, making the Kindle freeze (really annoying when that happens), but Amazon has promised to replace them.

There are so many to choose from, you’d be best to make a list of what you’re looking for in a cover when you start your search, such as: hard or soft, sensible and subdued or funky, low cost or top of the range, with or without a stand, with or without a light …

I’m glad my bag proved to be so perfect or I know I’d be agonising for days over what to cover my wonderful Kindle in!

I’ve finally found my first totally free Kindle book. I’ve been rather miffed to find that all the free books I’d seen advertised and tried to get hold of up until now were either unavailable to my Kindle in France, or had to be paid for (not much admittedly, a few dollars, but they weren’t free). However, idly looking up ‘Oakley’ (my maiden name) on my Kindle last night, I came across a book called The Princess and Joe Potter by James Otis and illustrated by Violette Oakley. And it was definitely free. I had to get it! But I can’t read it. It’s too nineteenth century with the lower class characters speaking in sentences like “He was willin’, so long’s I ‘greed to be careful about fire, an’ well … there’s nothin’ to keep you from comin’ down to-night and seein’ it” and “I s’pose we’ll have a high old time between now and mornin’, ‘cause that kid, sweet as she’s lookin’ jest now, ain’t goin’ to be quiet.” Way too annoying! And no illustrations by my possible distant relative in sight. I’m beginning to see why it was free now!

So I’ll carry on reading A Song for Europe by Simon Lipson on my Kindle instead, so I can do a timely review of it to coincide with The Eurovision Song Contest, compulsive viewing in our household. It’s a very funny, delightfully readable story that I’m enjoying no end.

Do check out the reviews on this site. I’ve just added one on Martin Calder’s A Summer in Gascony which is a really excellent book.

And now, time to get on with writing my own books for the Kindle…

I may have to sacrifice a bit of knitting time too ...

This August is going to be a big month for us. On the 9th, Chris and I celebrate our silver wedding anniversary, and on the 13th, it will be five years since we arrived here. We’re having a big party on the 7th to jointly mark these occasions. Actually, I mean huge! And I’ve set myself the challenge of having self-published a book on the Kindle by then too. And why not? It’s something I want to do and it’s achievable with a bit of hard work between now and then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No wonder he's smiling! Photo from peoplefamous.why.com

I really do want to get my head down and start producing adult fiction. In particular, I want to get my life in France book out. It’s not just that I’m loving writing it, and that I think it will be fun to read too, but I have been spurred on by Peter Mayle’s success. I recently read that he is about to sell up his current home – for nearly 6 million pounds! And I imagine he’ll be going for somewhere bigger. He’s had a phenomenally successful writing career which came on the back of his moving to France. He’s deserved it. His books are very well written and extremely entertaining. For Christmas, my sister gave me the DVD of the TV series based on A Year in Provence. I was horrified to see that it bears next to no resemblance whatsoever to the book. I can’t see why the producers felt the need to make such changes. The book is wonderful.

 

I could handle moving into a mansion in the not-too-distant future with the proceeds of a writing career like his, no problem. So I’d better stop blogging and get another 1000 words written …

P.S. Keep an eye on the ‘My books’ page. I’m steadily adding a few more titles every day so you can see what I’ve been up to in the past.