All posts by patrickstoner@btinternet.com

The Cover

All the self-help books on the subject of Create Space and Kindle publishing seem to agree on one thing. DO NOT DESIGN YOUR OWN COVER.

Unfortunately, they fail to mention what you should give up so that you can afford the four hundred pounds a designer will charge. The winter fuel allowance? Christmas presents for the grandchildren? A new tyre for the Beemer?

I looked through Amazon and there were a number of cover designs where the writer had decided that new tyres were a better investment, and it showed. Possibly because they had heard somewhere that using eight fonts is better than two. So what they ended up with looked like the playbill for an 1898 music hall.

I gave this some thought and decided that I would go ahead and do my own, but using the templates offered by Create Space as they took care of such awkward things as sorting out the spine width and getting all the various components in the right place.

First step was a background colour. I wanted white. I’m writing science-fiction and all books within the genre seem to come with a black cover. Maybe it’s supposed to represent space, I don’t know. Whatever, that made me even more sure I wanted white.

There is no Create Space all white template. But there was one where it was possible to change the colour of the body of the cover, and the panel in which you put your images, to white. So effectively, I had a white cover.

Not that everybody necessarily wants a white cover, or even a green one, but with a little playing around it is possible to concoct something like what it is you want. I seem to recall that there were at least a dozen basic designs, all of which had a degree of flexibility, so there will be one you can knock into shape.

Then I could start looking at what to put on the cover. The template I had chosen loaded the title and my name on the spine. It gave me a space to put on the back cover blurb, where our imaginations can run riot on the joys to be found within. Which left the front cover.

The thing about Amazon pages is that they show a thumbnail of the front cover. What might be an excellent image when it’s full book size, may be reduced to just an indecipherable blob when shown on Amazon. So, I applied the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule. What did I need?

The title, of course. My name, for what it’s worth at this stage. And something that covers the contents in a small image.

Well, that was easy enough. There had to be an image that includes a reference to trans-planar travelers coming through a thing called a ‘rabbit-hole’ and lots of references to Alice in Wonderland even though Lewis Carroll never existed in the universe in which my story is set.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t.

I got to drawing up all sorts of overly complicated designs that could not be presented in a professional way. Well, not by me leastwise. I just didn’t have the software, knowledge or talent to do so, and even if I had they disappeared into a blob when reduced.

Playing around with clip art on word I discovered that I could make a reasonable ellipse, which is technically, results from the intersection of a cone by a plane. I call it an oval. Four of them, getting progressively smaller and shaded slightly differently made an acceptable rabbit punch. John Tenniel’s original drawing of the white rabbit – now out of copyright – made a starting point for my Alice character. With a little experimentation I flipped the image to face the other way and removed the background foliage.

This may not be going to win any graphic design awards, but it was a reasonably easy fix, managed on Word rather than any fancy design software and it does a reasonable job.

Unfortunately, I have yet to crack either hyperlinks or adding photographs yet, so the only way to decide for yourself is to go to Amazon and type in Jabberwock Anomaly.  The other stuff I will get the hang of and I have a few thoughts on blogs as well.

 

 

 

 

 

A website

I’m not totally sure how much benefit there is to be gained from having a dedicated website. But I sure won’t find out without one.

I went to one of these companies that give you all the tools for making your own and so far it has been a struggle. It’s a bit like being given all the tools to build a house, but no plans, no idea what a trowel is or what proportions of sand and cement are used to make mortar.

But, I will persevere and this morning sent them an email asking them if they can supply any information that might help me resolve this and then I can pass it on.

Goodreads

I’ve been a member of Goodreads for some time, but now that I am a published writer (there’s posh) I can join their writers’ section.

At this stage I’m not overly sure what, if any, benefits this will generate.  And promoting your own book means that unless you stop writing altogether and just become a marketer there has to be a benefit in everything. Even writing this blog.

I will keep you posted on this topic.

America

It’s that big place just over the rim from Cornwall and it is full of strange beings called Americans. I like them. I have to, my father-in-law came from Brooklyn and I’ve worked with them most of my life.

But. And it’s a big BUT, they are under the illusion that they speak English. They don’t. They speak American.

American is similar to English, but they spell a lot of words differently from us. And they say that as Webster’s Dictionary came out before the OED to promote a standardized spelling, they have the right of it. And there are more of them than there are of us.

The last sentence is the real key. There are a lot of them and they buy a lot of books, but they want them in American. In the same way Americans are baffled by the accents in Corrie or East Enders – instead of being baffled by the plots and why a street in Manchester has more murders than Manhattan – they are also baffled by our spelling.

I’m not sure why an American would have a nose bleed by reading the word ‘standardised’ but they do, whereas when I sneaked in the American spelling two paragraphs back you either didn’t notice or passed by with nothing more than minor irritation.

Therefore, if you are intending selling books through Amazon.com then you will need to change to the American spelling. It’s easy enough, the spell-checker can be switched to English (US) after a little fiddling.

But it’s never that simple, is it. There are a few words that need totally revamped. For example, they and we both have the word ‘curb’. But they don’t have ‘kerb’. There are others and I’ve been  looking for a American-English dictionary without any success, so it will mean a careful read through to see if you can spot any words that could go wrong.

One last point. Do not use the word ‘aluminium’ under any circumstances. Many years ago I was visiting my then girlfriend in LA and talking to her father, an engineer, I used the word aluminium. He knew what I meant. Mom, on the other hand, had not heard this before and thought she’d give it a go. It turned out that she could not, physically, say the word. This, she decided, proved that I really was the Devil incarnate and speaking in tongues and therefore I was not fit for her daughter.

As things turned out, maybe using ‘aluminium’ is a good idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindle: The work of the Devil?

Despite the fact that I read my kindle virtually to the exclusion of what I am reliably informed are ‘proper book’ it was a great feeling when my first copy of The Jabberwock Anomaly thudded onto the door mat. Actually, it didn’t, it wouldn’t fit through the letter box so the postman handed it to me.

However, while the heart may want what the heart wants the head knows that if you want to make any money from hours of labouring over a slightly warm keyboard, the head knows you gotta go kindle.

My book is over £12.00 in paperback which is a lot of money for anyone but the very best of friends to lay out. The kindle version is £2.99 which is reasonable for 512 pages and 154,000 words. And the difference in commission is very small. In fact, I make more from the kindle version than I do the paperback.  Well, I will.

And the reality is that Amazon sell the majority of their books via kindle. Whether you like it or not, this is the way it is going for the paperback book industry.

What I find amusing is that it wasn’t that long ago that the paperback was being regarded as the Devil’s work. “Not like a proper book,” they used to harrumph. And like all good things its time is almost up and somewhere in a lab in northern California the replacement for the e-reader is being designed, so that in due course the kindle too will be replaced. And I’ll harrumph “Not like a proper e-reader.”

Anyway, I digress. If you have gone the Create Space route you will find a button that says that, should you care to press, your book will be transformed into a kindle version and within days you will have sold a million copies and be on first name terms with J K Rowling.

They are… now how can I put this delicately?… I can’t. They are lying through their teeth.  It doesn’t work.

Not the bit about selling a million and mix with J K and the other high-rollers, that bit you should have guessed, it’s the bit about your being transformed into kindle. Transformed, yes. The other bit, not.

A proper book and a kindle version are a bit different. No, they are a lot different. And the only way to create a kindle version is through Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. But before you submit your work you need to do a bit of groundwork.

Make a new copy of your work and identify it by adding KDP to the name. First, take out any page numbering and headers and footers. Then take out any blank pages you have in there to divide sections or get the right bits on the right side of the book. There is no left and right side on kindle and it will only confuse the issue.

Now you need to start at page one with that little symbol like an ornate ‘P’ on so you can see all your spacing and paragraph marks and, most importantly, page breaks.

Go through the whole thing. Word by word is best. Ideally you should remove the double spacing after full stops. They were a necessity back in the days of typewriters and quill pens, but they can cause problems on kindle. If it’s a long book and has lots of short sentences you might want to experiment with the replace function. As far as I can tell, some versions of Word will allow this and others won’t.

Then make sure that you have page breaks before every new chapter. It doesn’t matter if the previous chapter ends on the last space of the last line, put in a page break and if you get an extra blank page let it stay. Better that than having a new chapter start at the bottom of the page.

After that you need to change your font colour to ‘automatic’. That’s black on the page, but on some kindles the night version shows white letters on a black page. If your writing is not in automatic then your book will appear as black letters on a black page, and that’s difficult to read.

One last thing, be careful of any hyper links you may have cut and pasted in. You may have altered them to standard print on your copy, but they will still show up in kindle. Rewrite them. If you don’t you might as well put up a sign saying, ‘I copied this bit from Wikipedia’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create Space

In the beginning were the publishers. And they said, “Only we can determine if a book is good enough to be published.” And we all believed them, even though they published books that inspired a lot of us to think, “I can do better than that.”

Those of us who got fed up trying to break into the publishing houses sometimes resorted to ‘vanity press’ where we spent good money and acquired a room full of books we hadn’t got the ability to sell.

Then came kindle and Amazon had the clever idea of letting anyone publish on their platform, causing the publishers to laugh and point their fingers and say, “Look at the dross that gets published when we aren’t in control.”

Fortunately, the reading public soon found out how to sort the brass from the muck, although I do wish they had done so before Dan Brown was published. I know, I’m not a nice person.

Gradually the ‘vanity press’ idea became legitimised as ‘self-publishing’ and even the companies selling would-be writers the opportunity to see their work in print cleaned up their act. And things were nicely balanced until Amazon threw a spanner in the works in the shape of Create Space.

This is how it works. Once you’ve finished your masterpiece you open an account in Create Space and start to follow their menu system. Unlike the usual self-publishing firm, this doesn’t cost you anything. And you can take your time, you don’t have to get it all in place in one go. It took me three weeks between opening the account and entering the title to getting my first few books.

But, and it’s a big’un,  You have to do all the work yourself. And that means editing, and editing and editing until the pips squeak and you start to hate your own book. I read my book, and it’s 153,000 words, at least seven times and I found errors every time. I’m still finding them.

You have to add your own page numbering and make sure it starts with the number ‘1’ about four pages in. You have to figure out how to put in different headers with your name on one side and the book title on the other. You have to work on the page size you will be using and the font you like so that you can make sure it all works out and the first page is on the right, except on your PC screen it will be the one on the left. You need to work with margins and figure out where the gulley goes. And then you need to edit the thing again.

If you are hoping to sell outside the UK then the big market is the USA. Funny thing this. We can watch US TV shows and understand what they are saying, they need subtitles to watch Corrie. And we can read American spelling, but they can’t.

I know because one of my beta readers is an American and she can read English English and not freak out when I mention stones as a weight, or even kilos. But her mother cannot say ‘aluminium’. So. you need to translate the book.

Just as you are ready for a nervous breakdown, you have to design your cover. There are several options, but none provided what I wanted. (A white ground with black lettering and a black and white image.) But, one of their covers has a panel for an image and a brown cover. What became clear was that I could alter the background colour and the panel colour to white and Hallelujah I had an all white cover. So it is possible to play around and get what you want.

Eventually the day arrived when I was ready for my proof copy and this was the first time I had to put my hand in my pocket. I wanted the physical copy and as the books are priced according to size mine was about $13.00. Also, proof copies come from the States, so can take a couple of weeks. I couldn’t wait that long and spent another $14.00 on express shipping and got it in three days.

For anyone who has never done it, the first time you actually get to hold your own book is something quite special.

Of course, as soon as I opened it I saw that spelling mistake on page one that I had read twenty times before. And as I went through the book the errors kept a comin’.  After an hour or so I was wondering what sort of illiterate had written this book. I mean, I expect to find spelling and punctuation mistakes in this. It’s a blog, it’s just me talking to myself, so who cares if a few commas are in the wrong place or my two-fingered typing has caused the ‘b’ to be replaced by a ‘v’. Not I and not you.

But in my book? The one I had read and re-read and read again. The one my wife had read five times, and she’s an editor.

I despaired. But never mind, upwards and onwards and all that nonsense.

I set to work and corrected everything. I checked and double-checked. It was perfect. Never had there been such a perfect manuscript. It would find its way onto the desk of a major publisher who would exclaim, “This is the most perfect manuscript I have ever read, find this man and hand him this million pound contract immediately.”

I put in my first order for my tome and waited. Not long, I’m an Amazon prime member and a few days later six volumes dropped on the mat. Well, crashed more like, it’s a big book.

I opened up the first one. It was perfect. Apart from using ‘of’ instead of ‘off’ on page 5. Getting the dates wrong on the first three chapters and putting one chapter in the wrong place. You know, little things that nobody is ever going to notice.  I watched as the publisher used my contract to light a Havana cigar.

But, the way I look at it, those first few copies might become worth a lot of money one day. Collectors will scour the Earth looking for copies of those books with the spelling mistakes and wrong dates and a chapter in the wrong place. It’s not quite as exciting as my publisher fantasy, but it’s still a fantasy and without them we wouldn’t be writers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Jabberwock Anomaly

One of the causes for this blog is that I recently published my first book, The Jabberwock Anomaly using CreateSpace.

As one of a slightly older generation, I’m 68 in a few days, this was something of an experience. The word trauma comes to mind. And I thought I could share some of my experiences with writing here in the 21st century.  Especially in the sense of how things have changed.

And for the most part I think things have changed for the better. It justs takes a little while to understand how all these things work. And how the people who explain it to you are all experts and then leave out a few vital steps because, ‘everybody knows that.’

Well, no they don’t. So as this stuff happens I’m going to keep a note and then maybe somebody else will find that this stuff isn’t so daunting and can start passing back their tips.

Hello world!

My very first blog, and it has only taken me about two hours to set this thing up.

I suppose that everyone in the business of creating things like websites is about 12 years old (It’s a perspective thing) and thinks that everybody else in the world is the same age.  I’m not.  I used to be, and remember that back then I thought the same way.

Anyway this is my blog and I suppose the subtitle should be

Patrick J Stoner writes, rights, rites and wordwrights. The thing is it’s going to be about writing, but you may have caught that from the title.

I suppose I’m trying to corner the insomniac market. Anyway, let’s see how it goes.