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’.