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Archive for February, 2011

Touching the future of reading – ebooks on Kindle, Nook, iPad

February 28, 2011 17 comments

This past weekend, I promised myself I’d sit down, shut out all distractions, and put together a rough outline for Book 2 of the Evan Gabriel trilogy (yes, it’s nearly official – Gabriel’s Redemption will be the first book in a science fiction/space opera trilogy…no better way to get noticed and have validity as a new author than to have more than one novel for sale, or at least in the pipeline). I packed up the trusty MacBook Air, iPhone, notepad, and gift cards, and headed to my local Barnes & Noble.

Ran into a problem…after ordering my latte (non-fat milk, no whipped cream, of course…I’m still feeling my hibernation weight) and sitting down, I found myself sitting in front of this sign for the new Color Nook…and I got distracted. I looked around the cafe area, and saw a few people holding e-readers. I decided to take a quick walk around the store, just out of curiosity’s sake. Know what I found? Something you never would have seen a couple of years, or even one year, ago. I counted…approximately one-third of the people reading in the cafe or wandering around the store shopping were carrying an e-reader. Some were reading, some were scoping out books to buy, instantly on their ereader. You know what? The ebook revolution is here…and if you’re a self-published author, or struggling-to-get-published one, you need to jump on this bandwagon right now.

Here are some amazing, and possibly sobering (although I find them exciting) statistics:

  • Barnes & Noble’s online store (bn.com) sold more ebooks in 2010 than paper.
  • Amazon.com ebook sales passed paper earlier in the year.
  • The Kindle 3 (latest) is the best-selling item in Amazon’s history, surpassing the 7th Harry Potter book.
  • Barnes & Noble sold 1 million ebooks on Christmas Day alone.
  • Sales of ereaders (Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo, et al) are expected to grow from 15 million in 2010 to 60 million in 2015
  • Ebook sales in the US are expected to grow from $1 billion in 2010 to $2.8 billion in 2015

None of these statistics are truly factoring in the explosive growth of the tablet computer segment (iPad, Galaxy, Xoom, PlayBook), which are not dedicated ereaders, but more of a hybrid between smartphone and laptop. However as that market continues to rapidly expand, more and more consumers will use them as ereaders, even further increasing the statistics above. Oh, and of course, how many millions use their iPhone/Android phones as books? I know I do.

Speaking of tablets, in two days Apple will announce the iPad 2, which is expected to be thinner and lighter, making it even more practical as an ereader. Apple isn’t stopping there – even though there is some controversy with their iBooks store, never count them out of attempting to dominate a market segment.

I always thought when I was young that to be successful, I needed to see my novel in print, on a bookshelf, in a real bookstore. Otherwise, no one would take me seriously, and no one would end up buying my book, and no one would read the stories I had to tell. I don’t feel that way any longer. It’s never been a better time to be a writer! I can’t emphasize that statement enough.

Oh, and that thing about seeing my book in the bookstore? Done.

P.S. That is NOT Photoshopped – the Nook demo person suggested I download an ebook to try out the reader and its features, on the store’s dime, so what did I decide to download? You guessed it…and I left it there for other shoppers to see…

Journey to self-published, Part 6 – The End?

February 23, 2011 7 comments

No, not the end…just the beginning apparently. It’s official, I’m published, and anyone, anywhere can purchase the novel I worked so hard on. But now…how do I let everyone know it’s there?

I’m afraid I don’t have any easy answers for this one, nor is this a complete story. The journey is ongoing, and will be for years to come. I know what I’ve accomplished is small, but it’s significant to me, and I know I’m in this for the long-haul. I’ve developed some incredible online friends with Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and so on, and they’ve all given me so much help. It’s now time for me to jump into self-promotion with both feet.

It’s busier than I ever imagined, trying to get my name, and the book’s name, out there. I’ve already gotten a couple dozen sales, which looking back on where I was a month ago seems amazing. The bottom line is, I love what I’m doing, and I want to be able to do it for the rest of my life!

If you are, or were in, or will be in, in the same boat as I am, won’t you join me? Follow along as my journey continues – subscribe to my blog, follow me online. I hope I won’t bore you to tears.

-Steve Umstead…Author.

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My self-publishing journey, Part 5 – I’m published!

February 22, 2011 7 comments

Still there? My diatribe hasn’t bored you to tears? The journey’s almost to an end. Well, not really – but I’ll get to that in a bit.

So I clicked upload, and my baby was sent to Amazon for review. Wow, I thought. That was quite painless. What happened to writing dozens of query letters, being rejected, trying again, waiting for months? It’s an electronic world, even print-on-demand isn’t fast enough for millions of people.

What’s next? Did two more compiles in Scrivener, one for ePub, and one for Word doc, and uploaded to Barnes & Noble’s Nook program, and Smashwords program. And then came the coolest thing. Smashwords gave me a countdown-type of page, showing where my novel was in the queue. Started at #312, left the laptop open while watching television that night with my wife. By the time the DVR was halfway into our second show, it was down to #3, and “Completed” started showing up one by one next to the version types (I didn’t mention before, but Smashwords, if you’re not familiar, publishes multiple formats – ePub, .mobi, .doc, .pdf, even Sony reader; not to mention pays the best royalty).

There it was, available for sale to anyone with an ereader, anywhere in the world. Out came a couple of glasses of wine, and we toasted to the fact that my novel, the one I had been wanting to write for over twenty years, just got published. I have to say, that was a very significant feeling.

The next day, after hitting refresh several dozen times on Amazon’s Kindle Publishing page, there it was – my novel, available for sale with the world’s largest e-bookseller. The day after that, available on barnesandnoble.com. Very surreal experience.

But now what? Now comes the hardest part of all, the part that will never end. Promoting the book. I don’t have an agent, or a publisher, or a PR firm. It was time for another hat.

To be continued…

Review of Asylum Lake by R. A. Evans

February 21, 2011 2 comments

Just wrapped up Asylum Lake by R.A. Evans last night, and I have to say I really quite enjoyed it, even though I’m definitely not a typical horror reader by any stretch.

It was very well written, the descriptions were vivid enough to show the scene in one’s imagination, yet not overly wordy. The characters, I thought, were well-developed, and the POV didn’t jump around so much as to lose sight of who was speaking/thinking/feeling.

A few chapters in the story and pace really took off, and the chapter where Ellis ‘takes over’ during the car ride (I won’t throw in any spoilers) was excellent. I can always tell when I’m enjoying a scene when I tear through it so quickly I have to make a mental note to slow down.

I also felt that the flashbacks, the scene changing from past to present, worked very well for describing the characters and their backgrounds, and it was easy to keep track of where/when the scene was. I’ve read others that simply mix them all up, and the reader gets lost. Evans did a masterful job of keeping the scenes straight and easy to follow.

I was a little surprised how…calm might be the word?…the ending was. It was really building up to a crescendo, then the final scene wrapped it all up quietly. That being said it all made perfect sense and tied everything together neatly; Evans made it flow well into a sequel or follow up.

Overall an excellent story, well told – recommended for a good read, just not too late at night!

For more about R.A. Evans and his writing, visit his blog at http://raevanswrites.wordpress.com/

Categories: Book Reviews

My journey to self-published, Part 4 – Cover Art

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

So what is the next step in publishing my own ebook? Oh, right, one of the most important facets of a new author’s ebook. The cover. Cover you say? Who cares about the cover – since when do people judge a book by its cover? Get rid of that thinking right away. In the online world, in a potentially-crowded field of authors, you need to catch a buyer’s attention. Go to Amazon.com, under Kindle books, and pick your favorite genre. What are the results? “Showing 15 of 57,212” maybe? What’s the first thing you see on that page? Is it the quality writing? The famous author name? A unique plot twist? Some big “Buy Me” image? No, it’s the cover art. If you don’t put together a quality cover, unique design with bold fonts and an eye catching color scheme, no one will click the link to see if it’s worthwhile to buy. It’s that simple.

I designed a piece of cover art for fun during NaNoWriMo; I ‘borrowed’ a cool image I found from an X-Box 360 game, blurred out some background, whited out the game name text, and used a graphics program to put my title and name on it, in some awesome bright yellow Impact font. Man, this rocks! I thought. Can’t wait to post this on my NaNoWriMo author page, my buddies will be so jealous! But after completion, and realizing that I may just be putting this sucker out for sale, I knew I couldn’t stick with ripped-off game artwork.

I did some research, ran across some designers that charge $200-$400 per book, and the work looked great. However for my debut, starting with a $22.50 budget (which was already used up) and spending more and more on red wine, I thought I’d do it myself, the right way, for less.

I found many public domain photos and artwork online, along with royalty-free work (where you pay a one-time price and the art is yours to do with as you please). I ended up using a free desktop wallpaper background that specifically said it was free to use for personal or commercial purposes. I already own some nice graphics editing software (highly recommend Adobe Fireworks), but there are several free options out there – get one. I cropped out an attractive and relevant portion of it, put in the title and author name (in a much more refined font, after looking through my local Borders – which will soon be gone, by the way), and voila. A cover.

I checked with Amazon and Barnes & Noble about dimensions and file size for ebook covers, made it fit. and added it to Scrivener (did I mention Scrivener is freakin’ awesome?) I recompiled the file with cover art (which, by the way, takes less than ten seconds in Scrivener – product plug again), and bam. There are my files, ready to go. And I sat there. And stared at the laptop. Bit my nails. Had another glass of red wine. And chickened out, put it aside, and went to bed. Didn’t sleep a wink.

February 2nd rolled around that next morning, coffee calling to me. Oh, did you catch the timeline? Finished final book editing on January 31st, and was ready to publish two days later. I went back to the laptop, looked at the Scrivener files, and said, What the hell?

I went into my Amazon account (I buy there frequently), went to the Kindle Desktop Publishing section, agreed to the terms, uploaded the file and description, named my price, and clicked OK. What happened next might have been the coolest thing of all…

Categories: Thoughts

My journey from dreamer to author, Part 3

February 19, 2011 1 comment

You’ve read my motivation, my journey to finishing a novel. The next step was a huge decision point. Do I (a) sit down and start writing query letters, or (b) look into self-publishing and print-on-demand, or (c) investigate this ebook rage/fad/phenomenon, or (d) go back to my regular life and call it a day?

After poring through Konrath’s blog, and looking at the statistics, and realizing that this market, this entire industry, is about to undergo a massive sea change unlike anything it’s seen since the moveable type printing press, I took the obvious road of (c). And you know what? I loved it.

The Big Six publishers had had a stranglehold on the industry for decades, and I’ll guarantee they’re quaking in their boots, watching newspapers closing up, magazines consolidating, the iPad creating an entire read-what-you-want/when-you-want-it mindset, and ebooks passing paper in sales. Seriously, why take a piece of work, one created with your own blood, sweat, and tears, send it to an agent and editor who may change your core concepts, then to a publisher who demands you change the cover to be more marketable, takes a significant portion of your royalties (perhaps in exchange for an advance, which is nice…one time), and then says the book should hit the market in 8-10 months? Oh, and after that, by the way, in two months after that, it’ll be pulled from the shelfs and be sent to wholesalers and discounters. And did we mention we own your ebook rights?

Forget it. As a business owner, my greatest freedom is to be able to do what I think is in the best interest of my company, when I want it, how I want it. If I’ve created this personal work of art (probably too strong of a term for my debut novel, I’ll admit), do I really want someone else taking it over, just for the promise of an advance, and the possibility of seeing my book on a shelf somewhere? Where, in a Borders store? Maybe you haven’t heard…bookstores are soon to be as rare as local pharmacies, or toys made in the USA. I wanted to be in control. So I did it.

I had downloaded the Scrivener software at the end of October. The company, literatureandlatte.com, offered a demo specifically made to use during the NaNoWriMo, with built-in templates, word counts based on the 50k goal, and a 50% discount on buying it if you hit the 50k mark. Best $45 (or in my case, $22.50) a writer can ever spend. Not only can this incredible tool facilitate writing and nothing but writing (full screen mode to block out distractions, note taking capability, corkboard for outlining, character sketches, and my favorite, the ability to write in scenes and move them around), but Scrivener also compiles and outputs to all the major ebook formats. Publish to Kindle? Output to .mobi. Sending to Barnes & Noble? Compile for ePub. Starting with Smashwords? Output a perfect Word document. Print on demand with CreateSpace? Puts together a print-ready PDF. Independent companies charge hundreds of dollars for these services. A 320 page book at $0.25 per page to convert is $80 – and some charge some per format! Listen, if you’ve read this far, you’re a serious writer looking to self-publish. Skip one venti latte a month and buy this program.

So now I have this ePub, or .mobi, or .doc file. Now what?

To be continued…


Categories: Uncategorized

Scrivener’s hidden magic

February 19, 2011 5 comments

For those of you who have been following my journey, or those of you who have met me online over the past couple of months, you’ve probably heard my constant, possibly annoying praise, of a little piece of software called Scrivener. It’s what I used to write my NaNoWriMo novel this past November. Microsoft Word? Pshaw…

Tremendous features, such as full-screen to avoid distractions, the ability to paste in web links for research, character cards with photos to refer to, spelling and grammar checks, and so much more I can’t even list. The one feature I’ve been trying to preach more and more to fellow self-publishers is Scrivener’s incredible ability to compile and export your work into multiple e-book formats. Publishing on Kindle? Click a button. Barnes & Noble? Click a button. PDF for print? Click a button. It took me more time, far more time as a matter of fact, to write the ‘back cover blurb’ for my novel than it took to compile it and export it into four different formats.

The creator, Literature and Latte (great company name), just posted a YouTube video showing how easy it is to export. Highly recommend viewing this, then I highly recommend skipping a venti latte or two over the next few months and buying this program. You won’t regret it…

And if you want to support a struggling writer like me, use the Scrivener link in the right hand column on my blog, a little farther down the page. That way I can buy a latte for myself.

Here’s the video:

Categories: Uncategorized