A New Formatting Tool for eBooks

The world is always changing, and nowhere is that more prevalent than the publishing world. What was once great last year, no longer works this year, and the tools we use are constantly upgraded and changed to accommodate this rapid evolution.

When I first began publishing eBooks, I formatted them myself in MS Word. But I could not format ePubs. I’ve tried Scrivener to format the file, but I was unhappy with the results. Then I tried Calibre for ePubs, and that worked great for a few years. Last spring during my six-month review, I found formatting issues with eBooks available at a few online retailers. There were no issues with the files I had manually formatted, but the ePubs were a mess.

So I took the leap and rented InDesign. There’s a large learning curve, but once I conquer it, I’ll be able to create eBooks and print books professionally.

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Scattered Stones Cover Release and Proof Order

The novel I conceived in the second half of 2009 is now in the birthing canal.

Yesterday I placed an order for a proof copy of Scattered Stones. After I hit the CONFIRM button, I sat back and thought about the journey to give me a better perspective of what I had done.

In May 2010, I had written the last 60,000 words in a rush to reach the end. Then the manuscript went through multiple edits, being read and sporadically edited by beta readers. I edited and revised when I found time, often between stints of working outside the home. For six months in 2014, I barely had a chance to look at it because I worked six to seven days a week, putting in ten-hour days at a garden centre. This sort of schedule doesn’t leave much time to eat, sleep and say hello to the kids, let alone hours bellied-up to a computer to edit a novel.

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Reclaiming my Disclaimer to reflect my personality and the story

A few months ago, I happened upon a post on The Book Designer blog regarding writing disclaimers. I have never given much thought to disclaimers; they’re as necessary for publishing as ISBNs, and just as boring.

I created the disclaimers for my novels by consulting already-published books to see the wording they used. It’s all pretty standard, and I’ve never read one that stood out. The main point was to tell everyone you didn’t write this book about a real person, so you wouldn’t be sued if someone thought they saw themselves within the story. Basically, you wanted to tell the world, “This is fiction. Nothing real to see here. Move along to the end and buy the next book in the series.”

Original Disclaimer

The disclaimer I created and used in print and eBooks came out to read as…

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Help Me Choose a Cover for my Epic Fantasy Novel

Scattered Stones 03Over the past few months, I’ve been toying with the cover for my next book: Scattered Stones. I’m usually not an indecisive person but with covers, I’m starting to flip flop.

A cover is vital to a book’s success. Almost everyone at some point in their life has judged a book by its cover. It doesn’t matter if the story is awesome or cruddy; the cover alone can sell a book. The goal, however, is to catch the readers’ attention long enough that they give you a second look to see if they want to buy your book.

I’ve learned a lot about how to make covers, but I know there is a large room for improvement. I also don’t have the programs designers use, so I use what I can. And I keep my ears and eyes open for tips.

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Writing a Book Acknowledgement

MOCK 01 Front Cover Scattered StonesThere are many sections to a book. The two important parts that need the most attention are the story and the cover (in that order). For the past several months, I have focussed on these two things; without a doubt, I want them to be as close to perfect as humanly possible.

As launch day approaches for Scattered Stones, book 2 in The Castle Keepers series, I need to start playing with the other parts that go into a printed novel, the little details that occupy the spaces between the front cover and the story, and the back cover and the story. Playing is the exact word I want to use.

This time around, I want to be less formal and allow a slither of my silly side to lighten and brighten these little details. I love fun, funny and silly. And I love putting a twist into things that readers don’t expect. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I have never written an acknowledgement for any of my books, but I’ve seen many books that include them. In essence, it is a few words to thank the people who provided a helping hand to bring the book to life. This might be direct or indirect help.

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How to write a killer book description to attract readers

Lessons in Self-publishingDuring my Sunday morning reading, I came upon a podcast by Libbie Hawker posted by Johnny Walker at Author Alliance. Hawker spoke about writing book descriptions.

I loved the way Hawker broke down the process into five easy questions. I recall a similar discussion on promoting books last year by someone else. It’s so simple anyone can do it.

At the moment, I’m writing, revising, tweaking, second-guessing and editing the book description for my next novel, Scattered Stones. It’s an epic fantasy story, so I have to have an epic description.

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Readers, help us solve a few mysteries about your reading habits.

Recently, I confessed to not reading prologues. I’m not sure when I stopped reading them, but I believe it was in my late teens. Why? From what I can remember, I thought they were boring and unnecessary to the story. In my mind, they kept me from getting to the story, stalled my progress, and that was something I was unwilling to do, particular if I really wanted to read the book.

It’s been so long since I read a prologue, that I truly can’t remember if those books in the 70s and 80s had boring prologues. In some cases, they were merely information dumps, something the author couldn’t creatively inject into the story.

Or perhaps it was the books I was reading, not the period. Maybe the books were written in the 60s or 50s or before then. I can’t say.

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Marketing: Results from Paid Promotion of 99 cent-eBook

Lessons in Self-publishingFor one week, my epic fantasy eBook Shadows in the Stone was reduced from $3.99 to $0.99. To help promote it, I added the book to Betty Book Freak’s mailing list. I didn’t put it on any other site because I wanted to gauge the results of the paid ad.

Readers of this blog will remember I’m working on my marketing skills, running experiments and testing promotional ideas. The two posts I previously wrote about on this subject are:

Marketing Results

Like all marketing campaigns, many things influence results—day of the week, day of the year, number of subscribers to mailing lists, full moons, a horrible book, a terrible blurb, Trump stealing the spotlight, ghastly book covers, vacations, hens laying…you get the picture—so what did or didn’t work one time might be completely opposite the next time.

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Marketing: Results from Paid Promotion of FREE eBook

Lessons in Self-publishingOn Friday, my adult Christmas romance eBook Twistmas – The Season for Love was reduced to FREE for two days. To promote it on the first day, I added the book to Betty Book Freak’s mailing list. You can read about that here.

I took readings at each hour (Well, not each hour. I did sleep during the 24-hour span). I recorded the free downloads and the rankings on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com to get a feel on how the book sale performed.

Betty Book Freak’s email arrived in my inbox at 10:00 am Atlantic Standard Time (Nova Scotia time). By that time, seven books were already downloaded. My rankings for Free in Kindle Store were 21,332 (Amazon.com) and 18,810 (Amazon.ca).
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FREE eBook and The Year of Marketing (Help for Self-published Authors)

Lessons in Self-publishingI’ve reached many milestones in the past twenty years in my writing career, but there are still things I want to accomplish and things I need to learn.

One of the things I’m working to improve is my marketing abilities. I’ve done minor things to promote my books, but that’s not enough. In 2015, I attended farmers’ and craft markets to increase my exposure and, well, sell a few books. Obviously one-on-one sales increased; that was a no-brainer.

However, I saw an increase in online sales too. I can only assume it was due to meeting people, giving them my business card and introducing them to my books.

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Simple Tips to Make Your Book Description Standout on Amazon

Lessons in Self-publishingConfession: When I uploaded my first book to Kindle many moons ago, dozens of things ran through my mind…

  • Is anyone going to read it?
  • Is anyone going to like it?
  • Will the interior formatting pass Kindle’s inspection?
  • Will the cover be the right size and quality?
  • Did I miss something that will make it not appear on the website?
  • Is the ISBN correct?
  • Am I spelling my name right? (Yes, I worried about this too)
  • Am I choosing the right key words?
  • Is my description good enough?
  • Are there spelling mistakes in the description?
  • Will the power go out before I complete the publishing? (Okay, that’s my worry today because of the blizzard outside.)

Publishing for the first time can be overwhelming. The goal is get the book uploaded and to not get bogged down by unimportant details. Worrying about all these things I listed gave me no mindset to focus on individual aspects of the eBook publishing process.

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Kindle Spell Check and Preview Your Book While in the Publishing Stage

Lessons in Self-publishingLast week—while discussing Amazon’s warning about spelling mistakes and bad formatting for eBooks published on their site—I realised not everyone is completing all the steps necessary to upload and publish a book.

Book title, author’s name, tags, description and the other items on the Kindle publishing page are important, but the two check points before you hit “Publish” are equally important.

These check points are Kindle Spell Check and Preview Your Book.

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Amazon Warning Readers About Mistakes in Your Books

New FlashA few days ago, I read a post by a writer who was deeply concerned by a message she received from Amazon. It caused her to immediately jump into action to solve the problem before one of her books was stamped with a big yellow warning sticker informing readers the book had issues.

A worst case scenario would be this sticker.

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Treat eBooks like Websites and Update them Regularly

eBook UpdatesEach January, I take a few weeks and update my eBooks – all of them.

This doesn’t mean I edit the stories. It means I update the file with new information and refresh what might have gone stale in the past twelve months. I also add details on things to come, such as the release of a book.

How long will it take?

Updating eBooks take less than an hour per book across all venues. It will take longer if you have not gathered the necessary pieces of information or you are unfamiliar with formatting.

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US Dollar Kicks Teeth

MoneyIf you live in Canada, you know what that means. The US dollar is kicking us in the teeth. I ordered a proof for Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove from CreateSpace—located in the United States—so I checked the exchange rate and almost choked on my tea.

For me to buy one US dollar, I have to pay $1.41 Canadian. Thankfully, I don’t have to order books in bulk at this time because I’m not attending markets. I have a few copies of each if I sell one online or in person.

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Self-Publishing Vaguely Defined

Self vs IndieI read an article recently that seemed dated. In other words, my first impression was that it was written eight, maybe ten years ago. However, on further reading, I found it was published on December 7, 2015.

My first impression came from two things:

1) The lack of specifics pertaining to self-publishing.

2) The snobbery aimed at those who self-publish.

In the early days of self-publishing, authors used a collection of names to call themselves: self-published authors, freelancers, independent authors, independent publishers, non-traditional authors and indies (shorted from the independent adjective). Some simply called themselves authors and left it at that.

All these tags are still used, but many authors have settled on one and used it to brand their work. Authors can use whichever they want to describe the method they use to get their stories into the hands of readers. They all mean the same thing.

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How to Make a Cover Using CreateSpace Template

I make all my covers using PowerPoint, so I’ve never tried to use the downloadable template provided by CreateSpace. I have played with the online templates, and they did not impress me. There were too many limitations, making a CreateSpace cover stand out from the book rack as a cover created with CreateSpace online cover creator.

The downloadable template appears more flexible, but I’m not sure since I haven’t played with it. I know, however, others might want to give it a try. This morning, I came across this post:

When you’re ready to have your book printed with CreateSpace and you’re planning on tackling the cover on your own it can seem rather daunting. It certainly terrified me to begin with and I only very recently updated my covers from the originals I made using the CreateSpace online cover creator. There’s nothing wrong with using that though. It depends on you entirely. Today I’ll show you how to make a PDF cover using their downloadable template.

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Reducing Mailing Costs

QCP Emblem 02When you’re a published author operating your own writing business or a small publishing company, you’re always looking for ways to save money and cut costs.

One of the expenses I have with Quarter Castle Publishing is postage rates. I mail books across Canada, the United States and sometimes to the United Kingdom. If I can save a dollar here and a dollar there, it adds up over the year.

Not only do I save, I can pass these savings onto my readers when they buy books.

One way to save money immediately, whether you’re a company or an individual mailing a parcel, is to go to the post office; the real post office, not one of those outlets inside a grocery store or drug store. Real post offices charge the actual price for mailing a parcel. The outlets charge the actual price plus a wee bit more to cover their costs.

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Twistmas Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads GiveawayIt’s been over two years since I ran my last giveaway on Goodreads. I usually host one when I publish a new book, but I didn’t last time. Not because I didn’t want to. I was just too busy with working six days a week outside the home.

With the recent release of Twistmas – The Season for Love, I wanted to get the news about the book out to as many people as I could in the shortest amount of time. As you might suspect, it’s a love story that takes place at Christmas time. Although some readers don’t mind reading seasonal stories on the beach in July, most read them in December.

So time is of the essence.

I had intended to have the giveaway on December 1st, but I quickly learned I couldn’t. Things had changed since my last giveaway, and I could not create a giveaway one day to see it up and running the next day.

I had waited until the last minute to create the giveaway because I wanted copies of the book in my hand to ensure I had them to giveaway.

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