Tag Archive | ebook

Adventures in Self-Publishing: The Kindle Edition

On a completely different tangent than my usual posts, I figured I would relate the following mishap I had.


As most of you know, I self-published my book Drasmyr through Smashwords. They distribute ebooks to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobi, and elsewhere. They are currently working out a deal to distribute to Amazon. However, at the moment, my ebook is not available on Amazon. One of the comments on this site (I’ve looked for it, but I couldn’t find it to give proper mention) wondered why I didn’t publish with Kindle Direct. I guess my real answer is that I’ve got the business-sense of a stone. Actually, I thought there might be copyright issues if I published at both Smashwords and Amazon. Smashwords says there isn’t. I’m going to do the research on Amazon to find out if they agree. Then, I’m going to publish on Amazon.


Which brings me to my little incident.


Yesterday, I was set to work on getting my book published on Amazon. First thing to do is to get it in the right format so it uploads properly to the kindle. No problem, or so I thought. I’m looking through the information Amazon has; they’ve got everything condensed in a short book on the topic, “Building Your Ebook for the Kindle” or something like that. And it’s free. Great, I’ll just download that. For some reason or other it doesn’t want to download into my phone. Okay, fine, I’ll do it the roundabout way. I download the Kindle for the PC to my PC—much like its name implies, that is just kindle software that works on your PC. Then I download the ebook to the Kindle for the PC on my PC. So far, so good. Next, I hook up my phone to my PC via USB cable. I was thinking I could just copy it over like I had done with every book I had gotten through Smashwords. No dice. It doesn’t work. Hmmm. Let’s try the Sync function. Big Mistake. The stupid software “erased” my access to every non-Amazon book on my phone. So, basically, my phone went from storing 11 books on it, to storing 7. I lost four books. But not really. I could access them on my phone via my computer, but not via the phone. So, I copied them into the Kindle on PC. For some inexplicable reason, this actually worked. Then, I started the gruesome, and I mean gruesome, process of getting the books from my PC onto my phone.


Four and a half hours and five tech support conversations later, I finally did it. And I learned something in the process: web pages are a big pain in the tuckus to navigate through. There is so much information on every page of a big site like Amazon, it’s enough to drive you mad. At one point, I had like five different Amazon pages open on my computer, each one containing some tiny, but vital clue to the problem. Those web pages are not user-friendly and they are becoming less-so by the minute. First, Amazon and most other big sites hide their contact information because they want you to use their FAQ pages in lieu of human-to-human help—so you don’t waste their time with easily solvable problems. Well, my time is valuable too, you know, and I don’t like wading through page after page of FAQ support, looking for the correct question. They have search algorithms to find the question for you, but it didn’t work very well in my case. I had to contact them. So I did. Several times. The first guy tried a couple things, but they didn’t work. So, he told me to email the files to the special kindle e-mail address. Tried that. Managed to get my books uploaded to my Amazon account, but couldn’t get it from there to my phone. So, at this point, I have the books at every conceivable location except where I want them! Called back. This time, they tried to refer me back to Smashwords and said it was their problem, because that’s where I got the books from. I went to Smashwords sent them an e-mail, but their help desk was backlogged for the next 10 days. Yes, 10 days.  Anyway, eventually, after a couple more calls to Amazon’s tech support, I finally got the books downloaded to my phone. I was elated when it finally happened. Could have kissed the guy through the phone. Well, maybe not.


Anyway, that’s my story. At least they gave me a blog post. J There is one final point to stress, though. According to Amazon, the latest version of kindle does not allow you to copy files from your computer to your kindle app or device. That was the method that Smashwords suggested. Now, it doesn’t work. I e-mailed Smashwords to let them know, but that puts a pretty big snag in the Smashwords business model. At least for now; I assume they’ll figure something out.

Do We Have Too Many Books?

This may seem like an odd view coming from a fantasy author like myself. And I’m not even sure if I emphatically believe it. It is just an odd thought that occurred to me as I was puttering around my house the other day. We have shelves and shelves of books around the place, so many that I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess at a precise number. More than one hundred, less than ten thousand. Books on all sorts of different subjects. We have books on psychiatry, psychology, biology, and physics. We have fantasy books, science fiction books, historical books and more. And that is just this one house. Then, I imagine all the millions of similar households throughout the United States that must, no doubt, be similarly equipped. The number of books out there is staggering. And that doesn’t even include the libraries, colleges, bookstores and everything else. And then there are the ebooks spreading throughout the Internet like a literary plague.


My question is: are all these books necessary? If I’m honest–although as an author, this answer is not to my liking–I think the answer is no. We are suffering from a deluge of information. We have more books than we know what to do with. To be sure, thanks to the advent of the Internet and the rising surge of ebooks, there is a lot of garbage out there. But what about dated books? A physics book from the 1940’s? Or biology? Those two fields have advanced by leaps and bounds. Yet, how many old text books with dated information are circulating throughout the globe? They served a purpose once, but now… do we really need them, when modern textbooks contain better theories and more complete explanations? I’m not a huge environmentalist–I think the environment is a legitimate concern, but I protest the near religious fervor some of its advocates embrace–but every physical textbook cost a tree its life. It is clear to me, that we don’t need a lot of the old scientific books we have… perhaps a few copies in libraries to guarantee that they can be referenced, but that’s about it. Why not recycle the old textbooks to write the new? (Or is somebody already doing that?)


As a fantasy writer my primary concern is not science, but entertainment. We have the literary classics like Shakespeare and Hemingway, but there are a plethora of others who don’t quite measure up to such high standards. During my high school years I probably read one hundred fantasy books all by myself. I have no inclination to go back and read them again, but that doesn’t mean my nieces or nephews might not enjoy them. They were, after all, enjoyable stories. But with few exceptions (like the Lord of the Rings), my nieces and nephews probably won’t be reading the same stories I read. Every new generation produces its own wave of tales for the generation following. But at this point in history, do we really need to produce more stories? Can’t we use the ones that have already been written? Do the old stories become “bad” or “unworthy” because someone has written something similar more recently? I’m an author and I like telling stories and I like adding new twists and ideas in the stories I tell. But I know that a lot has come before me… so much, perhaps, I am no longer needed. That does not bode well for me. I want to write and make a living at it. But, seriously, how many fantasy stories do we need? It is already impossible to keep full tabs on what is already out there. I mean, vampires are not just mythical creatures of horror these days, they have become their own genre. Like other fields we can specialize. We can write werewolf stories, ghost stories, fairy stories, etc… I have no doubt that we can produce as many stories as we want, it’s just, when does it become too much?


To sum up. We have absurd numbers of books in this country, many of which have outlived their usefulness. Perhaps some effort should be made to recycle them (I’m not aware of any recycling programs for books, but if there are no such programs, perhaps there should be). Add to that the ebooks you can find on the Internet and it becomes clear that we have more stories than we actually need. Like I said, as an author, I’m not sure I emphatically believe any of this, but it was a train of thought I felt like sharing. Perhaps it is totally bogus.


What do you think?

Ebooks: Boon or Doom

I got a droid razor this past Christmas. It came with a kindle app. I read my first ebook on it this past January. Overall, I found the experience quite positive. The small screen made the text manageable so you weren’t constantly twisting your head to read across a giant computer monitor–which is the biggest difficulty with reading anything on-line. There is less back light too, so there is less strain on the eyes. It’s easy to look up the definition of words you don’t know by just tapping the screen. Flipping through pages is easy too, just flick your finger–there’s no wrestling to separate two thin sheets that cling together, or anything like that; although, the first few times I used it, I sometimes flicked when I wanted to tap, or vice versa. I also had difficulty downloading an ebook from a site I encountered on my desktop. But after a few false starts, I figured that out too. Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I was expecting a host of problems which never materialized, from eyestrain to who knows what. Obviously, ebooks are here to stay.


Still, I have several issues and concerns. I am an author who has recently published a vampire book, so realize I am coming at the issue from that angle. I have a vested financial interest in how things play out.


There is a preponderance of free ebooks available on the Internet, now, and I’m not sure that is good thing. Granted, it can be used as a marketing technique to get exposure for your writing, but it takes around a year (give or take) to write a single book. All that effort is then encapsulated in a document that, when in digital form, can be downloaded and copied in an instant. In the beginning, there was an attempt to keep copying books to a minimum with a special license that granted only a single copy per consumer. But apparently that too, is changing. Think about debunked myths 3 and 4 (on the linked to page). These two issues feedback on each other. If your book is free and you are releasing it only to get exposure, those two factors (ebooks can now be shared, and they can be checked out of a library) are great. Opportunities for exposure are increased many times. However, if you are expecting to make a monetary reward, or, god-forbid, support yourself with your writing, you may only be doing long-term damage to yourself (and to other authors). You don’t want your book to be copied for free and distributed easily by a library when you are supposed to be making money off of sales. The two stages of the author (beginner and established) are in direct opposition here. The beginners are flooding the market with free ebooks which have a vested interest in being self-replicating. The established authors are simply trying to survive by making sales, so they have a vested interest in maximizing cost for every copy. Who will win? I don’t like it, but I suspect the beginning authors are going to drive the established authors out of business (with, perhaps, a few exceptions). To further support my point, consider the following: the bulk of book consumers can read well, but do not constitute literary professionals. They can’t tell the difference between mass market literature and classic literature (or at least, not to the degree a literary professional can). As a result, there is a large group of readers who will have very little reason to “purchase” anything but a free ebook ever again. And who can blame them? If by reading, at no cost, the “Adventures of the Newbie Writer,” they get 90% of the enjoyment they would get from reading Mark Twain or his modern equivalent for $6… why buy Mark Twain?


Time will tell, if the ebook is a boon or curse to authors, but, historically, technology has a tendency to “obsoletize” certain professions, so I am anxious for the future of authors everywhere.


Now, having written all that, I’m debating if I want to be a complete hypocrite and set up a coupon to give my ebook away for free… In the meantime, the Grim Reaper is lurking over my shoulder (or is it the Scythe-Bearer?).

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