Archive for the ‘e-Books’ Category

Book cover

I have two (very) short stories in a charity anthology: Something To Take On The Trip. This is the third in a trilogy of short story anthologies for charity, and this time includes stories by David Gerrold and a couple of other SF writers you may have heard of. The stories are in multiple genres and intended for a quick read on the bus or train.

Take a look and buy a copy when it comes out in a few days.

1. Sold more than 50 books on Amazon.
2. Sold more than 25 books on Amazon in a single day.
3. Sold more than 50 copies of one book on Amazon.
4. Broke the 10,000 ranking on a single book (8.161 was the highest I saw, but Author Central claims it hit 7,437).

Fade To Grey at 8,161.

5. Broke the 500 ranking for science fiction authors (377 was the highest I saw).

Author Rank

6. Hit three subcategory top 100 lists simultaneously.

#17 in First Contact

7. Probably made more than $100, but I’ll have to wait until the sales numbers come in.

I need to write more :). Now I’m owed more than $100, I also need to get an IRS tax ID sorted out so I can actually have them pay me.

In honour of these breakthroughs, Petrina is free again this weekend.


Diff PDF comparing versions

Just discovered this program today, which is included in the Linux Mint repositories. It’s insanely useful for checking Createspace PDF files, as it shows all the differences between the new version and the old version; if you’re just changing a typo or a few poorly phrased words you can verify that everything else is the same as the previous version without requiring a full proofreading session.

For future reference, when you’ve updated your Libreoffice document so everything uses paragraph and character styles and there should be no direct formatting, and you think, ‘OK, now I’m going to use Clear Direct Formatting to remove any remaining formatting and I’ll fix it up if I missed any’…


Clear Direct Formatting doesn’t just clear formatting, it also removes all your page breaks between chapters. So then you have to go back and put them all in again.

Because that’s just such an obvious side-effect of selecting it.

It also seems to have changed some of the text into a different style, for good measure. What a pain.

Anyone else getting Amazon recommendations for their own books? I received an email this week suggesting I buy Final Contact, which was amusing.

Last I looked, I was ranked around 1,600 for SF authors on Amazon and peaked around 1,250 in the last month. That’s pretty scary given the number of books I sell there and the number of SF authors in the world; I wonder where I’d be if I sold twice as many books?

Author Rank Graph

Author Rank for 2012

Good post on cover design:

The Carbon probably hit a top ten in Germany; I grabbed this screenshot a few hours later so I have no idea where it peaked.

The Carbon


Got some good ones from here:

5 Great Fonts For Book Covers

A comment I originally posted elsewhere about Microsoft’s Downfall:

Windows is a golden goose chained to Microsoft’s ankle. On the one hand, they’re rolling in money because almost everyone has some crusty old Windows software that they have to run so they need Windows to run it. On the other, they’re tied to millions of lines of old code that they have to maintain in order to keep those people coming back to buy the next version.

On a similar note to the e-reader mentioned here, in 2001 I was sitting a short distance from Bill Gates as he held out a tablet and told us that it was the future of computing. Everyone would be using these things so we’d better make sure our software ran on them.

What it was, of course, was a tablet running Windows. None of us could understand what he’d been smoking to think that people would run out to buy these things that required using Windows with a touch-screen, and they sank to a tiny niche where people did find good uses for them.

Steve Jobs was happy to throw out all the old code in order to build a tablet that was designed to be used with a touch screen, and the iPad was born. Microsoft are now rushing to catch up in the tablet market, but they’re still following the old methods; this time, instead of pushing a desktop UI onto a tablet, they’re pushing a tablet UI onto the desktop.

Worse than that, they can’t even use the ‘we’re cheaper than the competition’ ruse to get into the market this time, because Android has already taken that niche.

After my trials and tribulations over formatting Tartarus for Createspace, I thought that I could probably help others who are suffering through the same problems by uploading the template I created. This is a mix of a couple of other Createspace templates I downloaded with various changes of my own, tweaked until I finally managed to get it to work consistently. Createspace offers its own templates in Word .doc format and after importing and editing in LibreOffice… they don’t work.

Createspace Template (5″x8″)

The template includes placeholders for title/copyright, two chapters, some headers and some notes and a bio at the end. You can adjust the paragraph formatting as required (it defaults to Verdana, which isn’t an ideal font for print but I wanted something different for the modern scenes in Tartarus) and then cut and paste your own text into the document. You may also want to increase the font size; I picked one that looked OK, but I’ve yet to see the printed copy to check whether it is easy to read on paper.

The way it works is this:

  • The initial front matter uses a Front Matter page style which doesn’t display header or footer.
  • The end of the front matter is typically a right-hand page, so select the No Header-Footer style for a completely blank page on the left.
  • At the start of each chapter, add another page break and set the style to First Page Of Chapter. This removes the header and then switches to Successive Pages Of Chapter for the following pages, which do have header and footer. On the break at the start of the first chapter, reset the page numbering to 1 so your story will start on page 1.
  • Use the Heading 1 style for chapter titles. That leaves a large gap before the heading and a small one after.
  • Set the header and footer as appropriate for your design. I have author and title on alternate pages as a header and the page number as a footer.
  • Each time you need a blank page because the chapter ends on a right-hand page, insert a manual break to the No Header-Footer style. Then start the chapter with a page break to First Page Of Chapter.
  • For any text at the end of the novel, such as the included author notes and bio, insert a page break to the No Header-Footer style.

This will give you a basic format for the book which should get through the review process with no problems, and you can then adjust it to your heart’s content. Note that if you change the page size or margins you’ll need to change all of the styles you’re using to match as LibreOffice page styles are independent.

When you’re satisfied with the formatting, export the novel as PDF. You can upload to Createspace in .doc format, but it will not interpret the headers and footers correctly so that’s a waste of time.

Tartarus Formatted

These are the PDF output options I use, the other settings are left at defaults:

PDF export options

Then just upload that file and check it in the Createspace interior preview tool. I’ll explain how to make a cover shortly.

Well, amazingly enough Tartarus has passed the Createspace review process. There’s a slight issue with the page headers, so I have to decide whether to live with that or upload a new version and wait for the review process to go through a second time.

Since I still have three weeks to order my free copies I guess I’ll probably do that. I’ll just check whether there are any other obvious problems first.

OK, I’ve tweaked the headings to match throughout the book and sent off a second version. Then I’ll call that done.

So Tartarus is finally off to Createspace to be reviewed. What a pain that was.

Eventually I had to give up on uploading Word files and just export it to a PDF, which Createspace actually imported with all the relevant formatting.

For the cover, I used Gimp.

  1. Download the .PNG template from Createspace
  2. Create a transparent version of the template (create an a layer mask from the greyscale version of the image and then adjust levels).
  3. Put the transparent template as a layer above the background colour, then build the rest of the cover on top. That way you ensure that you won’t be putting anything where it shouldn’t go.
  4. Temporarily disable the template layer and export the image as a TIFF file.
  5. Use ‘tiff2pdf’ to convert the TIFF file to a 300DPI PDF file using zip compression. Then upload it.

Createspace cover. Remember to remove the template layer before uploading!

In a few days I should find out whether that actually works!

I have a couple of thousand free e-books that I’ve ‘bought’ from Amazon over the last year and after my Kindle for PC installation committed suicide I’ve had to wipe the original install and download them again.

As I do so I’ve been trying to categorise them, and one thing I’ve noticed is how hard that is based on the covers and titles. Is it a thriller, SF, both?

I’m going to have to think more in future about my own e-books to ensure they don’t suffer from the same problem.

But this also relates to another problem with the Kindle. On Amazon all books are categorised, yet that information is thrown away when they’re downloaded. Why don’t the same categories automatically appear as a means of finding the books you want to read?

I honestly don’t know, but it’s about three hundred times too many. I don’t know what the problem is, but just about anything that remotely taxes the CPU seems able to lock it up, such as trying to download too many e-books at once, or connecting it to my laptop with the USB cable to copy files over.

It’s a good device when it works, but it’s very unreliable. So much so that I’ve had to create a new page listing things that suck about it.

I was just looking through my Amazon wishlist, and I see that most of the books on there are now available in Kindle versions as well as paper. But while I looked through it with every intention of buying one or more of them, in the end, I didn’t.


1. Several of them are more expensive on Kindle than paper. I can have a paper book printed, shipped to a warehouse and shipped to me for less than the cost of buying a few bits that take a fraction of a second to reach me over the Internet. That is insane, for obvious reasons.

2. DRM. Every one of those books has DRM which restricts them to my Kindle. So unlike a paper book, I can’t sell them, I can’t lend them to people who don’t have a Kindle, and I can’t read them on any computer which doesn’t have Kindle for PC installed (and, let’s face it, the Kindle software really sucks).

So the books are expensive and crippled. Cheap and crippled I could live with, but expensive too? No thanks. Hence I’ll be sticking to buying indie books for the forseeable future since they’re generally reasonably priced and DRM-free; I’ll borrow the others from the library.

So I finally bought myself a Kindle; I have to say, it’s much easier to read on than a laptop screen and it also turns pages much faster than the other e-reader I’ve used (I forget whether it was a Nook or a Kobo, but it was an old generation model either way).

Two things I’ve found so far are that it doesn’t like being told to download hundreds of books in one go, and when you have a thousand books on the Kindle search takes forever and locks up the device with no way to abort it. Twice I rebooted it (hold the power switch over for thirty seconds) because I didn’t think it was going to come back, the third time I left it and eventually it did.

I do wish it had number keys, because entering a 63-character random Wi-Fi key was painful when I had to keep figuring out which key was which number. But at least that’s something that you only do rarely. Overall I’m pretty happy with it and it should help with book reviews as I can’t read more than a few dozen pages at a time on my laptop.