Archive for October, 2012


My short adventure novella, The Star Coin Prophecy is now available to buy from Smashwords in all major eBook formats.

Cover art for The Star Coin ProphecyWhen local science reporter Ruth Anders gets invited to a national press conference for the Kepler project, she knows it’s going to be a memorable experience. But nothing could prepare her the extraordinary events that take place. Attacked by aliens from another world and zapped through time and space by a mysterious device, her only hope of getting home, and getting her quiet, safe life back, is explorer and archaeologist Neil Bell.

When the time comes though, will Ruth really want to go back to her old life?

The Star Coin Prophecy is a short adventure in a massive world. From a newly discovered planet light years away to dark jungles and mysterious ruins, it asks the question; what if the Mayans were right about the end of the world? And who’s going to stop it?

Read part one on The Great Escape!

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Part 2 of the story of the ebook’s creation has been a little delayed due to all the activity over on The Great Escape, and the issues I ranted about in part 1.5, but I should have the next installment up later this week, along with Kindle and Kobo store releases.  In the next article, I’ll be explaining about how I turned my story into an epub file using Sigil and also more about why I didn’t then use the created file to sell the book.

On Friday I will be posting a piece about how I converted The Star Coin Prophecy into an ebook, but before that I have a little rant for you. Why? Because during the course of researching the process, I found out I didn’t need to make an ebook at all! Confused? I am.

Too Techie for My Own Good?

Forgive me if I seem naive, but I made an assumption that I needed to create versions of my book in whatever end formats were needed. Maybe it’s because I have enough technical knowledge to know what the formats are and how to at least approach making them, but this seemed the obvious route to me.

So, having downloaded Sigil, I edited my book into epub format, with integrated cover image, table of contents, meta data and so on. I then downloaded Calibre to do a .mobi conversion for Kindle. (More on all this on Friday)

But, when I then went onto Smashwords and Amazon to look at how the next step in the process works, I found both sites want uploads in Word format so their software can then convert it to the format I’ve already created.

Am I wrong, or is this a little bit madness? The Kindle FAQ even states that its converter handles .mobi files very well – it certainly should, since that IS the Kindle format, more or less.

I get the feeling that these sites are expecting indie authors/publishers not to know what they are doing, much less trusting them to do a good job with the technology. Personally I find this kind of insulting, and baffling, and it leads me onto my next thought…

Who is the Publisher and who is the Distributor?

If you were an author taking your manuscript to a printer, you wouldn’t provide them with the content in book format, granted. But, if you were a publisher approaching a distributor, they’d want a pallet of books ready to sell, not a copy of the manuscript.

I was under the impression that by SELF-publishing I was setting myself up as a publisher and approaching these sites as distributors, but they are taking a hand in the publishing process, taking over more at the print stage of the chain than traditional distribution. So are they perhaps more accurately, publishers? And if that is the case, is it really self-publishing? Can we even apply traditional roles to the electronic publishing system?

I have quite strongly negative opinions about the state of self-publishing in general. Maybe it’s just that I see the fact that anyone can upload a word doc and a picture file and call it a book as summing up everything that I distrust about the self-publishing system.

I’d love to know what other people think about this. Am I just over complicating things and making it harder for the tech challenged? Or do we as indie publishers deserve a little more credit?

I am not the world’s biggest supporter of self-publishing, as you may know from my previous articles (self-publishing, traditional publishing), but I do believe it has its place. I am currently gearing up to publish a 160 page anthology of short stories and micro-fiction for The Great Escape, in print, with an ebook version too. It’s not a matter of printing my own, rejected work, it’s about celebrating a collaboration of authors and the start (hopefully) of a long running series of similar books.

But how does one go about making an ebook?

With so many contributors relying on me to do a good job with the anthology, I decided it was important to test the process out on a smaller project first.

How to Publish your own ebook

A few months ago, my partner bought me a present in the form of How to Publish your own eBook from MagBook. This is to be my guide along the way, so this story is also something of a review of the guidebook.

Part one asks the question “why do you want to write a book?” and contrasts the ebook format with other methods of distribution such as plain text files, PDF, websites and print media. To me this begs the question, what defines a book? The guide first challenges the notion of a book as a physical object and emphasises the content as the defining feature, and then goes on to look at other media as if you could publish the same content as a PDF and it wouldn’t be a “book”. This seems somewhat contradictory to me, but hey, I’m going to bear with it.

Part two covers, in 8 pages, the writing part. I shall not even touch that. Given my attitudes to the abuse of self-publishing, I see this as precisely the kind of guidebook which helps encourage people to write an ebook “because they can” and release it into the flooded market to join the rest of the crap drowning what quality independent content there is out there.

But, 80% of the book focuses on the technical aspects of creating an ebook, distributing it and publicising it once it’s released, so I will ignore the fact that it feels the need to cover the process from end to end, and treat it like the tool it should be.

Right, review section over. The guide has one thing straight; it’s important to have your content ready before you even start trying to make it into an ebook. So let’s focus on that first.

The Project – The Star Coin Prophecy

The Star Coin Prophecy is a novella which I’ve written and am releasing as a part work on The Great Escape. At a short but still marketable length of 10,000 words, I decided it made the ideal project for my first attempt at creating an ebook. I can release a commercial version ahead of the release of the final two parts on the website and also offer people the opportunity to pay a small amount to download and read it on the device of their choice, rather than on the website.

Story written, now I needed a cover.

Cover design

I’m not a graphic designer, but I am pretty handy with Photoshop and since this is supposed to be a test project, I wasn’t about to pay a professional for my cover art this time around.

TIP: Research your target market by looking at covers on other books in similar genres. I had in my mind to create a cover design that you might find on an Andy McDermot or Wilbur Smith novel.

Cover art for The Star Coin ProphecyWhat I did fork out for was properly licensed images. My go-to image distribution site is freedigitalphotos.net. It’s not huge, but you can get 400px copies of any of the images there for free with attribution. For most of my web banners and such, 400px is perfect, but for the book cover I needed bigger images (especially since industry standards are changing), and I didn’t want to have to include an attribution. Even so, at only £17 for the pair at high resolution, I’m not severely out of pocket.

TIP: Play around with low res or watermarked images before deciding which to purchase. I tried at least ten different images before settling on the final design. Also, research the image size requirements for your cover BEFORE purchasing you images. I initially bought my images at lower resolution than I actually needed, but luckily the customer support at freedigitalphotos.net is excellent and they refunded me for the low res copies when I bought the high res ones.

The fonts I used both come from dafont.com and are both free to use commercially. I prefer to rely on fonts with a clear licence which permits commercial use, rather than wading into the murky waters of use rights for fonts packed in with software such as MS Office.

The lock logo is my own personal creation. It evolved from an original photo of a real, old-school padlock I bought on eBay which will become the new site header image in version 2.0 of The Great Escape.

Lastly there’s a texture in there (points for anyone who can spot where), from CG textures which license texture images free for commercial use without attribution.

Making an ebook

With all my content ready to go I launched into formatting my epub file, but that’s a story for another day.

I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on the cover design and you can read a full description of the book here. Also, don’t forget, you can read the first half of The Star Coin Prophecy on The Great Escape right now.

Next week I’ll be releasing the ebook and continuing the story of its creation.

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