Archive for the ‘Self-Publishing’ Category

Christmas in The Duke’s Arms

Sunday, October 19th, 2014
Cover of Christmas in The Duke's Arms

Christmas in The Duke’s Arms

Find out more at my book page

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Book Covers and Branding

Friday, October 10th, 2014

As some of you may know, I’ve been rebranding my book covers with a more consistent look. I’m also using a custom name font. My name is the same on every single new cover. I have given my cover artists very specific instructions about what I’m going for, and one of those instructions is that my name should be big. Bigger than the title, even.

Today, I saw a great illustration of why that’s a good decision. Amazon (as of Oct.10.2014) is now showing pages of top selling books in categories with two sections to the right that look like the below. Take a look. Which authors are in that Hot New Releases category?

Well, the ONLY author name you can read is Eloisa James. If you are a fan of historical romance, and you were thinking, maybe I’ll buy something else, how likely are you to click on a cover where you don’t even know the author?  I think it’s very likely that buyers will say, oh, hey, I’ve heard good things about that author ….

Who's on First? No name shown

What’s in a Name?

And, of course, the image above illustrates the problem with covers in the digital space. The two boxed sets have issues. Yes, the images convey boxed set, but nothing else. The first one is just a blobby mess. The second one is partially saved by a recognizable image. This is the reason I’m not wild about boxed set covers like this… They are a design challenge that is not currently being met.  So. The 3rd book in the top row. What the hell is that background? I can’t see the name OR the title. This cover is a fail. Truce — I can’t even tell what the eff that is. The title is big but you have to stare, and cheat with the title text below. All I really see is T[something]UC.

The Eloisa James cover is a win. Not only can you read her name, you can read the title, too! AND the image is recognizable. I would have asked for a fix at the upper left corner, which is too dark, but over all, that cover works.  That last one? I can read the title, I have no hope of reading the author’s name. But the image is compelling and atmospheric so it I’d give it a marginal pass.

These books are doing well, that’s why they’re in that corner, but this corner real-estate is not doing the authors any favors. I imagine the click-throughs are disappointing because Amazon isn’t showing the author name and so loses a key reason for clicks. (I’ve heard good things about that author….)

There are six books there, and yes, a click will get you a Hot New Release, but there is nothing here to compel the user to click any given title (aside from rank).  The publisher (whoever that might be) needs to provide a cover that will compel clicks on THEIR book over the other five.

I ask you, which book, other than the Eloisa James book, does that?

I expect Amazon to redesign this real-estate. They should remove “Kindle Edition” and show the author’s name so that buyers have more reasons to click. Plus, all these authors, except James, are losing name recognition moments. Free advertising that, in this set of covers, only accrues to  James.

So, the image above was directly to the right of the one below. And you should be able to see why I was looking at this page.

 

Image showing book covers with author names of varying readability

Names. Yeah. Who can you Read?

 

Right. So at least these images have text that includes the author’s names. But that’s going to be the second or third thing people look at. Even if you have no interest in Scandal because you never heard of me, you see my name.

Miriam Minger has a similar success even with a cover that looks cramped. Those horizontal lines are a problem for Bolen’s books, too– whose name is barely legible and has a further problem with a busy background that distracts.

Now, I heartily dislike that P&P cover, but here I will give a pass on author name because the title is so famous. Yes. It’s Jane. Have we learned our lesson about horizontal lines? None of them are well done here.

The other two, well. The leftmost author’s last name is Cook. That’s really all you can read. And, I fear, someone seems to have actually tried to make Mary Campsi’s name invisible. It’s actually possible to look at the cover and think the author’s name is Sophie Seacrest.

The take away? I’m outselling Jane Austen in free books. Read it and weep. And who the hell is giving Jane fewer than 5 stars?

 

 

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Covers and Branding

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

I’ve been working toward getting new covers for my books, with the idea that they would essentially be branded, that is, they’d have a recognizable look and feel.

I uploaded the ones that are final to my Pinterest Board. You can see, I hope, the developing look and feel. I haven’t finished updating everything on my website yet. Soon. Very soon.

Challenges

There were two major challenges. Good artwork and the fact that I write historical and paranormal under the same name. Cost was another. Setting up a custom shoot with professional models is more or less far outside my budget. Otherwise, I’d be taking to John Marron and guys like that.

That cost issue : with sufficient budget, I could get the models I want and the clothing required, and the models would know how sell the poses. ::dreaming:: I’ll circle back to that.

Regarding covers and design, first, I recognize my lack of design talent. I do understand the principles of typography and design, since in my web development days I worked closely with the graphic designers. It was in their interest to educate me since I was more or less in charge of the website. Having been schooled, I am very very aware of my shortcomings. That is why I don’t do my own covers.

Why our Gender Problem Makes The image Challenge Worse

At the moment, we live in a culture that uses women’s bodies to sell products. The female body is sexual (as if a man’s isn’t, too.) The cliche is “Sex Sells” But what they really mean is “Women Imaged as Sexually Available Sell.”

And that is a problem because, contrary to popular notions about Romance, A romance novel cover image (excluding erotica) isn’t about sex. It’s about the promise of love. If you go look at stock images and search for Romantic Couple you see pages and pages and pages of women who look like they’re auditioning for a porno movie. Virtually none of them look like they’re falling in love or about to fall in love.

It’s a disgrace. It’s offensive. Probably those Royalty Free sites have the dregs of a photoshoot where the excellent shots went elsewhere.

The clinch cover is not, as that idiot from Vox implied, all about ::giggle:: she wrote a word that has a naughty meaning so let’s read EVERYTHING as if it has that meaning!!! It’s damn near impossible to find a couple who look like there’s love somewhere in there.

And, 99% of the time, someone’s idea of a “historical” gown comes from a $4.99 Halloween costume.

Fortunately, there are now some additional sites dedicated to Romance Novel cover images that have good to great models. There are fashion experts who will loan their historically accurate clothing to the cause of a photoshoot. So, it’s easier than it used to be. As in, instead of impossible, it’s almost impossible.

The image Challenge

My first covers were severely hampered by two main things: the image problems, my talent problem. For some time I could get away with mediocre to good covers because there were others that were so bad … The bar was low and lots of authors benefited from that, whether they knew it or not. The fact that so many NY Romance covers were also just as terrible or worse also contributed to that low bar. I quickly realized that NY was using the same stock image sites as the rest of us. Some of my early covers were pre-made but with some custom typography work.

So, my goal then was to get my reverted titles on sale with the best cover I could manage given all the handicaps around that, and then to bring out front-list, too.

In early 2013, the cover bar got higher, or I got less tolerant of the shortcomings of my covers. I had good cover artists, but I wasn’t letting them do their job. I did have to learn to get out of the way. Early on, I wasn’t able to also get print covers made …. see lack of talent from me. The person I was working with at the time didn’t do print covers and I was not able to do them myself and be happy with the result and the time spent.

This was a problem for me. I ended up having almost no print presence, and that got to be a worse and worse situation, to the point where I had to find another artist. Ultimately, to get all the covers done, I ended up using two different people.

The 100% Improvement Dilemma

Here is a true fact. For ease of discussion, let’s pretend there’s the following spectrum of ability:

  1. Worst ever in history
  2. Horrible
  3. Never should see the light of day
  4. sucks
  5. Not bad
  6. Almost good, if you squint
  7. Mediocre
  8. Huh
  9. I like it
  10. Nice
  11. Ooh
  12. OMG that’s amazing
  13. Off the charts genius

Suppose you start out at horrible in the “Cover Ability” area. You get Photoshop or Gimp and learn a few things and voila! You have a cover that never should see the light of day. You have improved a lot. You work some more and now your cover merely sucks. You have improved 100% in ability, you can see that because look at the difference between where you started and where you are now! You can use the tools! Eyedropper! Oh, hey, fonts. That I did not buy.

But your covers are still terrible.

If you’re in the business of selling books, your covers need at minimum to be at least Nice. At least there. If you’re not an actual artist, chances are very very slim that the cover you think is Nice actually is.

Typography

It’s a skill. And it’s a separate skill from design. Courtney Milan wrote a post about this. Go read it. FYI, I Googled “Courtney Milan and the Duke’s Cock” to find and link to that post. It was more fun than it should have been. But I’m not even ashamed.

What I did, several several several months ago, was find someone good at typography and commission a custom name font. Anthony Piraino as it happens. It was a chunk of change but a more than acceptable business expense. I wanted a font that would work across genres, so it couldn’t look too historical or too paranormal. It’s not just a font with letters that spell my name. (grin) He made pixel level customizations to the shapes of some letters for me.

The first time I used it on a cover, I could see it looked — as it did. The effectiveness of the name font isn’t apparent until you see it on several covers. Then you can see the branding and how it pulls the books together.

Color and Contrast

What I know from my work on websites and from studying the hell out of my cover situation while I pondered solutions, was that in the digital space, thumbnails matter a lot. You need colors that contrast. There are a lot of things wrong with the current trend in historical covers, not the least of which is how bad they look at thumbnail size.

On a purely personal level, I don’t care for the pastel trend, in historicals particularly. I wanted vivid, vibrant jewel tones over a year ago and I wish I’d been in a position to get all my covers done then. I wasn’t able to make it happen, alas. I would have been WAY ahead of the curve. I’m sure that will change at some point and I’ll be looking for another composition and color effect.

A Key Difference

Here’s the thing. Across all the books I ever published traditionally, my covers were always branded to the publisher and/or imprint. Not to me. I got one cover and that was it. There were no do-overs, or huh. It’s not working, let’s try something else.

What I have done is replace covers that stopped working or were too divergent from the look I was trying to hit. What I’ve done or am in the middle of developing, is a look that says, this is a book by Carolyn Jewel. And that never happened when I was traditionally publishing. I got some fantastic covers. Several of them were distinctive enough to build off of … There was nothing cohesive across my name even at the same publisher.

I am shallow. Very shallow

I have spent a lot of time looking at images of men, women, and couples. Here’s a list of the things I began ruthlessly saying:

  • She’s not pretty enough.
  • He’s not handsome enough.
  • Great body. Meh face.
  • They look like they hate each other.
  • That guy is SUPER DUPER cute but he isn’t ripped enough.
  • Please, dude. You are not that good looking. Just stop it.
  • Lady, could you at least TRY to look happy?
  • Holy shit, he’s hot.
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Oh, Hey About That Thing You Did 5 Times

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

I’m going to whine.

I have put A Notorious Ruin through five rounds of proofreading. Five. Today I finished round five, and I updated my files etc etc etc., and then I uploaded the updated files to the places I have preorders just in case, you know, even though I have another week before bake-in, as it were, and I did Amazon last, and their spell checker, which has never ever before found an actual typo, found a typo that was an actual typo.

O_O

So I went back and fixed that, and then did one last check and I found another one (that Amazon missed. I don’t think “afer” is a word so what the hell, Amazon?) So I fixed that too.

Seriously.
::sigh::

The good news is that I have the final new cover for Stolen Love, and it’s pretty, pretty, pretty, and I’ve uploaded that most places. And, the Print on Demand cover for Scandal is gorgeous. I got that today. So, as soon as I have a final interior, there will at last, be a paper copy for Scandal.

Yay!!

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Cover!! A Notorious Ruin Revealed!!

Monday, August 4th, 2014
Cover of A Notorious Ruin. Purple dress. Blue Background. Hot dude with open shirt.

A Notorious Ruin

I’ll probably shortly write up a post about the process I used to arrive at this cover. I did several rounds of A/B testing… So this cover represents my belief that how a cover looks in thumbnail is crucial and the sometimes surprising, to me, results of A/B testing using pickfu.

I’m diving into final revisions now, so, assuming it’s not way worse than I think, I should have the book on sale in 4-6 weeks.

September.

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The Writing Space and Women’s Voices

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of discussion about the way women are silenced. It occurs to me that there is a writing space where women’s voices are heard. Not by men, however, and that’s part of the point of this post. To talk about that.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been following what’s been happening with Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) where, when women have objected to content and discussion that is openly denigrating to women, the very vocal response from certain men has been, more or less, “You have no sense of humor. You’re ugly, probably a lesbian, you talk too much, and what about my right to stare at your boobs and dismiss everything you write? Also, what was she wearing when she attended that con where she was assaulted?

That’s a conversational misdirection women see all the time in lots and lots of spheres. We say, Dude, uncool, what you said or did, and the conversation is diverted to all the ways in which that can’t possibly be true, please shut up, ladies.

Within Romance, we rarely get that, because the voices in Romance– writers, readers, reviewers– are overwhelmingly female. It’s a space where we sometimes find we need to be more careful of male voices. It’s a delicious irony. But I notice, as more men enter this space, there are occasions when some of those men enter the conversation completely tone deaf.

Men Enter the Romance Space Confident Their Words Are Better

We have all watched men enter the Romance space confident that their words are better because they are spoken in a male voice. And we have watched some of them go head to head with women and come away stunned. We see their brains shut off when that woman making more money and selling more books happens to be attractive. It’s wonderful, amazing, fantastic to watch these men babble on and then realize that they have been out-everythinged by a woman they could not see or hear because she’s female and attractive. I will say that at least one man had the grace to admit that.

Some of these men mansplain, they are unable to hear what the women with more knowledge and expertise have to say. They make demonstrably incorrect statements and have difficulty tolerating correction. To them, it’s a personal affront instead of another person saying, but consider this or, even, you are wrong, and there is the data that proves you are wrong. Once someone is defending themselves because a woman disagreed, dialogue ceases with that person.

Women Know Who the Experts Are Here, And it’s Not The Men

What’s interesting, though, is that here in Romance all the women know exactly who the experts here are– and it’s not the men. There is not, to my knowledge, one single male Romance author killing it in Romance the way women are. There is not one single male Romance author with anything like the technical knowledge of the women who are proven experts. In this space, those mansplaining men are, often, ignored. Because here, in our space, they just don’t have the chops and we know it.

Every single one of the men routinely trotted out as the poster-child of success was preceded by a woman and is, in every case, outmatched, currently, by a woman.

Where is the Innovation in eBook Publishing Coming From?

Consider this: Where is all the innovation in eBook publishing coming from? Where’s the real and effective data analysis? If you read the mainstream media, you’d think it was all men all the time. And it’s not. The innovations in publishing are coming from Romance. I was going to say that Romance authors are quietly going about learning exactly what works and doesn’t work and experimenting and sharing and meeting up — yes, there are “unconferences” in our space. The first one was back in February and it was quite a success. There are more being organized right now. There was not one single man involved in the conception, design and execution of the unconference concept. It was first mentioned in November 2013 I think, and the first unconference happened in February 2014.

At the first unconference, women got together and shared what we knew, what we were doing, how we were doing it and why. We talked about how those things worked. Entirely female voices. Think about that. All the conversation that is silenced when men are present — (Men think women are dominating a conversation when women speak just 30% of time) happened here.

It’s not Quiet Here

Outside the Romance space, what we are doing does seem quiet. Because the men aren’t listening. And when they do happen to hear, they hear through a set of filters that are designed, whether they know it or not, to dismiss and silence the female voice. They go on to write articles that don’t even come close to representing what’s happening here because that same filter is in place. Their first and overriding belief is that women are not authentic experts.

In truth, it’s not quiet at all. Here in the Romance space, we are a noisy lot, talking about what we’ve done, how it worked or didn’t work. This space is, by and large, safe from the male voices and actions that silence, threaten, and harm us everywhere else. At the unconference, we quickly devised a method that gave a speaker the floor. She was not to be interrupted or spoken over while she had the floor. And she wasn’t.

As long as this set of conditions persists, women authors will continue our successes and innovations. It’s an amazing, living, example of what can happen when women are free of words and actions that silence us.

Imagine what might happen if more men learned to listen?

Should you be Worried?

Personally, I think men should be worried about that female silence, because look what happens when we’re not silenced: A woman becomes the largest independent publisher in the United States. (Bella Andre, in case you were wondering.)

If you didn’t know that, you would be wise to ask yourself why.

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Dueling Data Where, Again, the Point is Missed

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

[Edited to add: Please carefully read the comments to this post. There are remarks from people with expertise in data analysis. I would also urge everyone to read this post at Dear Author. Note as well that my expertise is in building databases. On a daily basis, I see how bad data architecture renders data untrustable. This is related, but not the same as, expertise in conducting a study and analyzing the results.

Basically, we have three flawed "studies" and my argument here is that publishers and authors alike may be missing the point.

Here's another post to take a look at: from Courtney Milan - who also has the data analysis expertise.]

So, Digital Book World did this study of authors and income from writing.

Then Beverly Kendall did a study …

Then Hugh Howey sponsored a study.

I would like to observe that Beverly Kendall’s study was closer in type to the DBW study but a girl did it so nobody cares about the results — except the mostly women who understand the point very well, thank you.

The DBW study polled authors. Anywhere from 30-60% of whom were unpublished.

Beverly Kendall’s study polled self-published authors (some of whom still traditionally publish) 100% of whom had at least one book on sale.

The Howey study grabbed 24 hours of Amazon sales ranking data, so it’s not really the same as either of the other two studies. With the Howey data, there are several weaknesses: 24 hours of data is not a basis for extrapolating future performance. You’d have to gather the data over a period of time before you could say much about trends, for example. From what I could see, the data analysis did not account for the fact that a price could, theoretically, change during the 24 hours polled. (A book could go on sale at 10 AM PST such that from 00:00 to 10:00 PST the book sold at price x and from 10:01 PST to 23:59 PST the book sold at price y.)

What’s clear from the Howey data is that Indie books are a significant presence in the top 7000 books.

KERFLUFFLE!!!

And now the DBW and Howey camps are all arguing and missing the point, which I will make for everyone in just a bit. For once, a DBW data analysis post was reasoned — because it was written by the data guy. His points about the flaws in his own data and the flaws in the Howey data are well taken. NOTE: I am NOT a statistician.

THROW DOWN!!!

DBW insists: authors as a whole just don’t make very much money. (DON’T LOOK AT BELLA ANDRE!!!)

This is true.

DBW suggests that the authors who are making money are the elite. The authors of the Howey 7000 (titles) are the elite, trad pubbed or self-pubbed. (Nice. Let’s just define authors who make money out of the analysis. Because that leaves you with the ones who are aren’t.)

The DBW/Trad pubbed camp continually harps on the fact that most authors (where you define “author” to include “anyone who wants to write even if they have no books on sale”) don’t make very much money.

The not-so-subtle subtext behind an observation framed in this way is this: why self-publish when you can trad-publish and have all the hard work of covers, editing, and marketing done for you! LOOK AT NORA!!! — And STILL make not very much money, but whatever.

Allow me to make the point

The point is NOT that as an aggregate, authors don’t make much money.

The point is that if you define author as “someone who has at least one book on sale” AND it is true that the author writes well enough that a traditional publisher would pay them to write for their house, the data from the Howey 7000 AND the Kendall 100% points to a very different conclusion.

The conclusion is that such an author has compelling reasons to choose self-publishing over traditional publishing.

Beverly Kendall’s data shows quite clearly the set of conditions that lead to making money as a writer, but that’s the girl talking and as usual, the boys can’t hear her.

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Happy New Year from Carolyn!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
Pink Tulips

Happy New Year

Photo by: Yours Truly. 2013’s tulips were lovely. There are something like 300 bulbs in the fridge so 2014 promises to be another banner tulip year. They’ll go in the ground soon and come early Spring I will have pictures! And vases of tulips in the house, too.

Happy New Year!

2012 turned out to be a year of ups and downs, more than usual, I think. My son graduated from High School and then went off to college. O_o

My day job turned out to be stressful in ways that aren’t good. It’s sapped time and energy from my writing.

I turned down a contract offer from NY.

I published my first independently written novel; My Darkest Passion, Book 5 in the My Immortals series. It was . . . something to write exactly what I wanted to write. I’d catch myself thinking, can’t do that! And then I’d realize I could. So I did. My editor edited for my story. Not for the market.

I took a serious look at some short, super dirty stories, some of which were written years ago. And I realized they could be out there making money for me, written exactly the way I wanted. One of the reasons I’ve not looked more seriously at the commercial erotica market is the language — words I feel writers are being asked to use. Words that make a lot of erotica/erotic romance feel cookie cutter and forced. As if vocabulary matters more than what sex means to the characters. I spent a fairly brief amount of time polishing etc and got them out there with words that were right for what I wanted to do. That’s the stories in Whispers, Collection No. 1.

Yes, there will be a Collection No. 2. Including continuations of the characters in Inigo The Magician and the world in My Goblin Boyfriend. And new stories. Some of the other stories hanging around needed more work than the 5 I put out.

The sequel to Lord Ruin continues to go much more slowly than I want it to. (See: Day Job, supra) It’s really at critical mass right now–enough words that really, the story is done, and I just need to make it work. It will work. It will be done. But I won’t put it out there until it’s ready.

Books You Should see From Me in 2014

Kind of in order.

My Dangerous Pleasure, My Immortals Book 4 (Reverted, re-issued with few, if any changes.) I know hardly anyone read this book, but I like it a lot because I got away with a lot. Because, I suspect, my publisher had already given up on the series. (When your editor sends you an ENTIRE CASE of Arcs they found weeks after release you know nobody gave a damn about the book.)

Lord Ruin Sequel

A novella in the My Immortals world

Whispers, Collection No. 2

A novella for Hester and Camber from Not Proper Enough

My Immortals, Book 6.

Resolved!

Not much.

Write more.

Possibly eat less chocolate. Or less of something else so I can keep chocolate levels optimum.

Write balls to the wall. Everything on the page.

What about you?

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Irony Chickens? Smashwords, Scribd, and Piracy

Friday, December 27th, 2013

So there’s Scribd. Trying to reinvent itself. It’s a site that was trying to be Wattpad before there was a Wattpad and it’s not still clear from either site whether there’s a business model there. I suppose there’s something– ad revenue? I don’t know. Anyway, both sites allow anyone to upload documents. Any documents. And there have been legitimate uses of that. Court filings, for example. Other documents in the public domain or uploaded by the actual author. But not always, and now there’s a clear case of Irony Chickens coming home to roost as Smashwords, Scribd and piracy collide.

And then, as just about anyone could foresee, there is lots and lots of pirated material.  Books. Lots of novels. Lots. The DMCA says Scribd and other such sites are not responsible for that contact, the user who uploads it is. All Scribd has to do is take down the content when sent a DMCA notice. That’s the state of the law. It is, on the one hand, fair. Because it IS the user who is engaging in the pirating. Scribd merely provides file space.

Speaking not at all about piracy, but only about the DMCA and the ecosystem of pirated content, the problem with DMCA take-down notices is this:

If you’re an author concerned about pirated content, the more popular you are, the more your content is out there. There are authors who have THOUSANDS of pirated copies of their books on Scribd (as an example) and the DMCA says the author must send a URL to each and every allegedly infringing instance. Obviously, this becomes impossible to comply with. No one author has the time to do this. And Scribd, like every other similar site, is not required to self-police or in anyway assist with what becomes an impossible task for an author.

Scene set. Ready?

So now Scribd wants to become a subscription reading service. A publisher or author agrees to have their books posted on the site and readers (subscribers) will pay a modest sum per month to read all they want. From what I hear, the plan is to pay authors for full and even partial reads, if the readers progresses beyond a certain point. Sounds kind of interesting if that’s the way it works.

What I find more interesting is that if you visit the Scribd site, it’s easy to find out what subscribers will get in return for their money.

If you’re an author, however, there’s only a contact form. “We’d love to hear from you!” And you fill out a form where you tell them the number of books you have available, the genre and the format. That’s it. Classic gatekeeper.

In our quest to ensure Scribd subscribers never run out of great books to read, we’re constantly looking to expand our digital library. Please contact us if you’d like to make your ebooks available via our subscription offering. Our content acquisition team would love to talk to you.

There’s NOTHING at the site that tells me, an author, why I would want my content in their subscription service.

I find this language alarming. I think it’s an indication that Scribd sees the author as a resource to be consumed by them, not a business partner. Otherwise, wouldn’t there be something there that says, Hey, Author! Here’s what’s in it for you! That contact page, which you can only find if you clicked on the subscription FAQ and scrolled down a lot, makes it pretty darn clear that Scribd isn’t thinking of authors as potential partners.

If I go to any eBook vendor, I can find out what’s in it for me if I make my books available through them. I know how and when I get paid.

Other than the rumors flying around, where is Scribd telling me how and why I would benefit? If the answer is “Readers!” that’s not good enough. That’s more of the baloney along the lines of “We can’t afford to pay authors, but you’ll get exposure” and someone gets free professionally written content for their website. Or free graphics. Or what have you. If you think you have a service where my books will make you money, then you should tell me how that happens and why and how it makes money for me, too.

I’m getting to the chickens.

Smashwords, a company that allows authors to self-publish books and then sell from the site as well as distribute to other vendors, recently sent a letter informing Smashwords authors that they had a deal with Scribd and that beginning January 1, content would automatically be enrolled in Scribd’s subscription offering. What became apparent when authors went to look was that books were ALREADY opted in and being made available. (That was true of my books.)

It’s my belief that no book distributor should opt-in automatically to some other vendor. This should NEVER happen without the author’s explicit consent and review. First, the distributor does not have rights in the content. The author does. The author elects where that content is distributed. There are cases where authors do not have ALL rights. There are cases where an automatic opt-in could put an author in violation of the terms of a contract.

Further, it’s not cool to automatically opt-in content under terms that may be less favorable than if the author, if she wanted to be there at all, went directly to the vendor. Because, really?

This automatic opt-in by Smashwords is a major misstep.

Pirate Chickens.

Authors are well aware that Scribd hosts a massive amount of pirated content. And there are authors who feel strongly that pirated content should be taken down wherever it exists. (It happens that I am not one of those authors, but that has nothing to do with the authors who do feel that way.)

So. Smashwords just opted those authors into a service they know nothing about at a site that hosts THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of pirated copies of their books and gave them no opportunity to think and consider.

Some authors objected to that. They wanted nothing to do with what they consider a pirate site. And they appear to have been told–quite bluntly and directly, “opt-in to this service and Scribd will take care of the piracy problem for your books.” Otherwise, too bad.

That is fucking ballsy.

What the hell did Scribd think would happen? They have a piracy problem. Lots of authors are upset about piracy (again saying nothing here about whether there’s actual harm). Scribd wants to sell subscriptions to books while at the same time continuing to permit users to upload documents where hundreds of thousands of those documents are pirated books.

Did they really not anticipate that authors might say, well, eff you? Because that’s what’s happening.

It’s what you call chickens coming home to roost. I’m sorry, but this was completely foreseeable.

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Why eBook Formatting Will Drive you Crazy

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Here’s a new problem I encountered today. I’ve been uploading Whispers to various vendors and I ran across a new issue. First, here’s my process–it includes a short cut that hasn’t been an issue until today.

My shortcut is that I upload an ePub to Amazon and let Amazon convert it. That saves me some trouble, but I have long recognized the risk inherent in that. What I should do is upload a mobi. But I haven’t been because it’s an extra two or three steps. Until now, that process has been error free and, even, produced a better result than a lot of mobi uploads I’ve seen.

[Clarifiction: When I say Kindle Previewer, I mean the app you can download from Amazon. I am not talking (much) about the emulator portion of the tool. You can never fully trust an emulator. I am talking about the FILE produced. The downloaded Kindle Previewer app produces a Mobi and prc file that you can upload. It is NOT just a file previewer. It is also a file converter. I am NOT saying that when I looked at a Kindle Previewer display I saw these differences. I'm saying the physical file that resulted from a local Kindle Previewer conversion displayed differently from the file Amazon converted on line when viewed on the same physical devices. And that the file converted by Amazon via the dashboard was WORSE.]

I have an iPad 3 and I do almost all my reading on my iPad, usually with the Kindle app. When I am proofing final files, I use Kindle previewer to preview my ePub across devices. This also creates a file that contains a mobi and a prc, and you can upload that file to Amazon which will then deliver either the mobi or the prc to the user, depending on their device. I also email that previewer generated file to my Kindle account so I can preview it on my iPad.

Today, I uploaded the final epub to Amazon and when it was live, I bought the Kindle version so I could see what the actual delivered file looked like.

So. First, here’s a screen shot of what the Kindle-previewer mobi that I emailed to my kindle account looked like when I was proofing stuff yesterday:

My mobi converted epub. Italics

Note these things:

1. My slug line (the city and date) is in italics.
2. In the first paragraph I have a bold initial letter and then normal text.
3. In the 3rd line of the 2nd paragraph, the word “Da-veede” is in italics.

My personal compromise has always been No. 2. I use a set of style that, as you will see when you compare it to the next image, degrades very nicely (in my opinion) in an ePub converted by Amazon and viewed on the Kindle App on my iPad 3 (and elsewhere).

Until today, there has never been a difference between the Amazon ePub conversion and the converted file I mail to my account. Now there is.

This is a screen shot of the ePub Amazon converted today, viewed in the Kindle App on my iPad 3:

Amazon Converted epub

1. The italics from my slug line is gone.
2.  My first paragraph styles are rendered. I have an initial large, bold cap AND my small caps for the first line.
3. The italics for “Da-veede” do not display.

For reference, here’s a screenshot of the same page viewed in iBooks (via the BookProofer tool, since I can’t do the Apple upload until they’re re-opened to submissions):
ibooks Version

As you can see, I have italics AND my first line/first para styles

In the Kindle previewer tool, by the way, the tool previews my file across the various devices with ALL italics text appearing as italics and the expected ability to render my first paragraph/line styles or to degrade acceptably.

Here, for another comparison, is the converted mobi viewed on the Kindle App on my iMac:

KindleDesktopApp mobi

As you can see, I get italics and my first para/line styles rendered.

I am reasonably certain that if I instead upload the mobi instead of an ePub, this will resolve the issue. So I will try this and let you know. Otherwise, I’ll have to introduce another hack to the hack that already deals with device incompatibilities with respect to the display of italics. Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t have been taking any shortcuts and yeah, I know, this is what you get when you take them. But come, on! The display of italics should be a no-brainer–the core set of html that should NEVER break. It’s already beyond stupid that some devices don’t render the italics tags correctly and require a hack.

Grumble.

 

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