Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Deception of the Magician, Waldgrave Part 2

As I have promised, I am planning to have Waldgrave Part 2, Deception of the Magician, out by November. To facilitate this, my big project today has been looking over the final draft before sending it off to Barnes & Noble and Amazon.  My plan is to send it off tonight; after that, my next big hurdles are formatting Arrival for iBooks, and then doing the paperback and iBooks editions for Deception.

I'm using Smashwords as my route to iBooks, because the application process through Apple was looking a little harder to manage than it needs to be.  Smashwords is an "Apple-authorized global aggregator."  iBooks is different than Nook and Kindle self publication because Apple requires an ISBN to publish, whereas Nook and Kindle assign there own unique identifier and allow the option of an ISBN.

Sometimes online self-publishing services will allow you access to an ISBN, like the free one I got from Createspace for my paperback.  When an ISBN isn't offered through a service, an author would need to apply for and be assigned one or more ISBNs for use on the various editions of their book; there is an application fee to do this on your own, and it doesn't grant you any more or less validity or ownership of your work with regard to copyright.  What the ISBN does is allow publishers, libraries, bookstores, and other book handlers to easily find and distinguish a book from other books, and between various editions of the same book (i.e., the print vs. the paperback).  So thus far I have foregone buying an ISBN--I got a free one for my paperback, and the Nook and Kindle are on company specific identifiers right now.

However, to get on iBooks, my iBooks edition will need an ISBN.  Smashwords offers both free ISBNs (which will show Smashwords as the publisher of that edition), or paid ISBNs (which show you as the publisher).  I am a big fan of free, so that's what I'm going with.  Yesterday I started to format Arrival to Smashwords' specifications; it's tricky.  They only accept strictly formatted Word .docs into their premium catalog, which is a far cry from the universal .epub format I am used to working with.  However, I am going to work through it, and when I'm done, I'll detail any tricks I learn for anyone who might want to know.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Awaiting the Amazon Release

I checked again today, and it looks like the Amazon page for Arrival of the Traveler is up, but not entirely put together yet.  You can check it out here: Arrival of the Traveler (Paperback).

I've been checking in every so often to see what's going on over at Amazon, because I released the paperback on the 20th.  This morning, the page only had basic information, but not price, and the book was not yet available.  Now, it appears to have the price, and be available for purchase, but the cover image hasn't been added yet.  Amazon will link the paperback and the Kindle edition together onto one browsing page automatically; otherwise, the help pages have told me to send them an email.

Exciting news!  I have to admit I was a little disappointed when the book didn't appear instantly in Amazon's listing, but seeing it now is very gratifying.  Learning about the publishing process has been an unexpected bonus of getting these books out there.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Self-Publishing an Ebook, Part 2: Sigil in More Detail

I will make the information on Sigil as good as I can for the version of Sigil that I am running now (version 0.3.4).  Because Sigil is an open source project, new features and interfaces are likely to come out.  If the information provided here does not seem to match up with the version of Sigil you are using, you may want to check the official Sigil site for help.

And now on to Sigil.  This description assumes that you have already downloaded and installed the program; if you have not done this yet, please visit Self-Publishing an Ebook, Part 1: An Overview of the Programs for information on where to download this free program.  Remember from the overview that Sigil is the program I use to edit and create .epub projects (or ebooks, as the finished products are called).

This is the starting screen when you first open the program (you can click the picture to view it larger):

Some of the basic elements you see on the screen are the buttons at the top.  Here is an overview of some of the buttons on the top row of the screen, and what they do.  There are some pretty basic buttons which duplicate the functions on the drop down menus at the top (i.e., going File -> Save vs. clicking the Save button) and are commonly found in many programs.  If you are a writer, some of the buttons probably already look familiar to you, such as the Bold, Underline, Italicize, and Text Justification Buttons--these work exactly the same in Sigil as they do in your regular text editing program.  When in Sigil, you can hover your mouse over a button  if you're not sure what it does, and it will pop up some guiding text to tell you.

Some of the more unique buttons are explained below:

The three buttons on the left control the view.  Because Sigil is a WYSIWYG editor, you have an option to view the text as you would in a regular word processor (the book button), as html code (the brackets), or in a split view mode that shows you both the finished text and the underlying code in side-by-side windows (the book with the brackets).

This is the Chapter Break button.  You use this button to break up your book into chapters.  If you are new to ebooks or ereaders, you may be wondering why one would bother to insert "breaks" into a digital document in this manner.  The reason we break it up instead of having it as on long slew of text is for navigation reasons; as humans, we like to be able to "flip" to an agreed upon point of text in a document, like "Chapter 6".  In a physical book, there is often a table of contents with Chapters and page numbers near the front of the book.  In digital form, ereaders have built in navigation that creates menus out of the table of contents included with the book, so that a user can tell the ereader to go to "Chapter 6", and the device will then be able to reference the .epub to know where in the text that point is.  When you click the Chapter Break Button, Sigil will open up a new tab within the .epub--in Sigil, each chapter displays as a new tab for easy management and navigation.  Later on when I do a demo ebook in Sigil, I will further detail the TOC (table of contents) editor that is available in Sigil, and how to get it to perform well with your desired chapter breaks.

This is the Insert Image Button.  While I'm betting most people know how inserting an image works, I thought I would mention the button for those who have used the "copy and paste" maneuver in Word as a way to get an image into a document.  In Sigil, your best bet is to insert an image using this button.

This is the donation button.  If you use Sigil, and like it, please consider contributing to the further development of the project with a donation.

Onward to other features.  On the left side of the main screen, you'll notice that there are various folders with names like "Text", "Styles", "Images", etc.  Mostly, you probably won't touch these.  They are doing what you would guess--the "Text" folder is storing all of the text chapters in your book, the "Images" folder is where the pictures are stored, the "Styles" folder has all of the fancy CSS markup that makes your book look formatted and stylish, etc.

It gets organized this way for the computer.   Think of it this way: machines (and ereaders) like for things to come in boxes with a set of instructions on how to put it together.  So, Sigil takes all of the stuff you are putting into your book and breaks it up into the boxes for you.  It also creates the instructions for assembly (the CSS code) and includes it so that the ereader, computer, or other device knows how to put your book together correctly when someone wants to look at it.

The only folder you will likely use a lot in Sigil is the "Text" folder, because this is where you will double click to open up different chapters and sections of your book to edit.  When you are adding an image or changing a style, you don't need to worry about the folder--just click the "Insert Image" button or format your text, and Sigil will update the folders for you.

There may come a time when a formatting issue gets particularly difficult.  For example, let's say you put in a space between every paragraph in your book, but you really just wanted an indent at the start of each paragraph.  In this case, you may need to change the view to look at the code (don't panic!) and open up your Style Sheet to make some changes.  I am planning to cover the basics of tweaking CSS and HTML in a later post.  Using CSS and HTML is worth it--if you end up making a formatting change that spans your entire book, and then you hate it, you probably won't want to go back through each of 300+ pages changing it back.  Save your time for writing, not for click, delete, click, delete, click, delete, click... CSS can make document wide changes by changing it in one place.

That's all for now.  Please feel free to contact me with questions/comments.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Arrival of the Traveler: Now Available in Paperback!

Today, I set up my CreateSpace Store (yay!) and approved my paperback for sale (double yay!).  The CreateSpace eStore is here:

I realize it's not a catchy web address, but what can I say?  I chose to go with print on demand, and that's the address CreateSpace assigned me.  I've put a link to the store on the sidebar of my blog.  You can get to my eStore from the link here if is too much to remember.  :)

I am still waiting for the book to become available on Amazon, but I'm hoping that won't take too long.  I will send out an update when the request goes through.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Arrival of the Proof

The proof for Arrival of the Traveler arrived yesterday, but since I didn't get to the mail in time, I received and opened it today.

For anyone who missed the vote, the grey background won.  I moved the text from the body of the cat to above and below the cover illustration because the dimensions of the paperback are different than those of an ereader screen.  Incidentally, yes, that is my cat attempting to sneak into the photo behind the book.

The proofreading is going well, and while there are a few things I should probably tweak (i.e. the ISBN should probably be on it somewhere, the spine could be better oriented, I want the series number on the spine, etc.), it looks good.  I will probably incorporate a few minor stylistic changes to the cover and such over time, but it is looking good for release so far.

My next big debacle has been deciding the list price for the ebook.  Right now, the ebook is selling on both Nook and Kindle for $0.99; the manufacturing and seller costs for a paperback make it more expensive.  I figured out a while back that I could make about the same royalty off of the paperback by selling it exclusively online through CreateSpace for $11-12.  Or, I can sell it through Amazon for $14-15 (Amazon takes their share for listing it).  Now, what I am wondering is if the book will be sold *on* Amazon, or *by* Amazon--this makes a difference, because if Amazon is selling the item, then one might be able to get free shipping, and the higher price becomes worth it.  I am going to try to figure this out, but in the mean time, does anyone have a strong preference for having the title on Amazon or not?


*Update--On the CreateSpace website, it does clarify that "Customers ordering from can take advantage of FREE Super Saver Shipping, One-Day Shipping, 1-Click® ordering, and Amazon Prime® on eligible orders."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Self-Publishing an Ebook, Part 1: An Overview of the Programs

This is the first installment of the posts I am planning to do on self-publishing an ebook.  In this section, I will provide a short description and introduction to the programs I have used thus far to create my ebooks.

I have mostly used three programs during my indie publishing efforts.  These three programs are Sigil, Calibre, and GIMP.  All three programs are available for free online, and are open source projects.  For all of the author types out there who are not familiar with the term "open source", it means that these programs were created by independent programmers for use by anyone, and along the way, other programmers have volunteered their time and talent to improve the program for free.  You can read a more in-depth definition of open source by clicking here; let's all be grateful for the bored, philanthropic programmers of the world, shall we?

(Note:  Some programmers are starving artists, just like many writers I know.  If you happen to not be starving, please consider supporting the cause of open source projects that you use by giving a small donation if one is requested.)


Sigil is the program I use to make and edit .epub files.  "EPUB" is short for "electronic publication", and is frequently written as ".epub" (with the dot at the start) because files will have the extension written that way, the very same as .doc, .docx, .jpg, .wav, etc.  The file extension defines for the computer what programs can open and edit the file; for example, Word can create and edit a file with a .doc or .docx extension, the same way that Sigil can create and edit a file with an .epub extension.  Read more about .epub by clicking here.

Sigil is a WYSIWYG editor.  "WYSIWYG" is short for "what you see is what you get".  WYSIWYG editors have earned this name because they present an interface with a screen that shows you what your final text will look like, instead of showing you all of the convoluted markup and computer language formatting that goes on to make your text look that way.  You want your text to be bold?  Just highlight it and click the "Bold" button--there's no need for you to isolate the text in all of the code and put bold code tags around it.  Of course, if you feel the need to add some specialized coding, this is no issue--you can switch over from the WYSIWYG screen to the code screen, and make changes there, too.

You can go to the Sigil website and read about Sigil by clicking here.

You can download Sigil by clicking here.  You will need to select the download next to the operating system your computer uses.  For example, if you computer uses Windows, then select the Windows download.  If you accidentally pick the wrong download, don't worry--your computer should tell you that it can't run the program, and you'll just need to pick the correct download and try again.  : )


Calibre is the program I use to convert some file formats to other file formats.  As the explanation above details, only certain programs can open and edit certain file extensions.  Because of this, there is a need to convert some files to other extensions so that other programs can use the file.  I most frequently use Calibre to convert my .epub files (created in Sigil) to .mobi files (which I can upload to Kindle Direct Publishing).

You can go to the Calibre website and read about Calibre by clicking here.

You can download Calibre by clicking here.  Again, you will need to select the download associated with the operating system running on your computer.  And again, if you accidentally select the wrong one, no worries--it just won't work on your machine, and you'll need to try again by selecting the right download for your computer.


GIMP is the program I use to make cover art and images.  GIMP is great for image editing because it saves files as layers, instead of as one flat image as a program like Paint does.  This concept can be difficult for individuals who have never used a program like this to understand.  Try to imagine it this way: when you edit a picture in Paint, it's like actually painting on that image in real life.  When your paint dries, there is no removing the paint from the picture--it's all fixed and unmovable.  But when you edit an image in GIMP, it's more like you're scrap-booking: you can come back later and move all the little bits and bobs on your picture, the frame that the picture is in, the look and feel of your overall composure, etc.--none of it is fixed and dry like paint, so you can wipe the changes away from you image one by one if you want to change something later without clearing all of your other changes.

GIMP is sort of like the free, open source version of programs like Adobe InDesign or Photoshop.  GIMP does not have all of the same features, and the user interface is generally not as user friendly as paid programs, but for the price of FREE I have found that it's easy enough to get used to the good (not great) interface and the powerful features offered.

If you're curious, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Project.  GNU is a recursive acronym that stands for "GNU's Not Unix"--programmers and techie types like to do quirky naming things like this.  Don't ask why; they're just cool that way.  To read more about GNU, click here.

You can go to the GIMP website and read about GIMP by clicking here.

You can download GIMP by clicking here.

This concludes the introduction to the programs I have used to make my ebooks thus far.  Check back soon for a detailed introduction to each program!


Continue on to Part 2 here!

How to Self-Publish an Ebook

I have received several inquiries lately about the programs and methods I use to create my ebooks.  Some individuals I have talked to have complained about how difficult the coding is for making an ebook, and asked me if I was finding it difficult.

Frankly, for me, making the ebook was the easy part.  I had a marginally more difficult time creating the format and cover for the paperback version.  This was mostly due to the math involved in figuring the dimensions of the book based on the thickness of the number of pages, and the creation of images of a high enough resolution that they would not print blurry or pixelated.

Having studied in both computational linguistics and library science, I am a(n increasingly less) rare hybrid of an individual who understands both the form and function of technologies used for storing, sharing, retrieving, and presenting.  I love answering questions and learning new technology.

Because I already had a good grasp of XML and CSS going in, making an ebook was a relatively easy task for me.  Of course, I did have (and still have) a fair amount of problems to troubleshoot, but these tend to go easily when patience is high and energy drinks are plentiful.  When these things are in short supply, it's better to walk away for a while.

Because I seem to find myself explaining exactly how I do things a lot lately, I am planning to start doing some posts on this blog directed at other indie authors who may or may not be struggling with how to self-publish their books on the digital frontier.  These posts may or may not be useful to everyone, but I'm hoping that they are at least useful to someone.  I will write what I know, hopefully in a form that is easily followed in a step-by-step manner, and if anyone has a way to improve upon my methodology, I hope he or she will be compelled to share his or her knowledge as well.

I am a fan of all things free and open source, so every program I talk about will be available free for download online.  I don't have the money for fancy or expensive publishing or graphics programs, but I have found that a willingness to learn what is out there for free does just as well.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Voting Results

After counting up all the votes via email, comments, poll, etc., the winning cover was the grey.

I have submitted the files for review, and should have the proof delivered soon.  At that point, I'll review the book, and with any luck the physical edition of Arrival should be available by the end of the month!

Uber thanks to everyone who voted!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vote on the cover

Please vote above on which cover you like better for the paperback version of Arrival.  Or, leave a comment on how the cover could be improved.