Archive for the ‘e-Books’ Category

Generally speaking, in order for a subscription model to make sense, someone has to be screwed. The subscriber has to get less value than they would by purchasing, the producer has to get less value than they would from sales, or the subscription service has to get less money than they would from sales.

There’s a small argument that people who subscribe to a service would watch or read things that they wouldn’t have bought, but that’s just redistributing income from high-value producers to low-value. Since I got a Netflix subscription I rarely buy movies any more, so the companies have lost all those $10-20 sales in favour of the few cents Netflix give them.

And it’s ten times worse with an uncurated service like KU, because it literally becomes a license for scammers to print money. KU is now basically the Hunger Games, where writers are thrown into a pit of money to fight to see who comes out alive.

KU eliminates the pricing mechanism that makes economics work, and gives scammers a license to print money. A bot costs $9.99 a month, and earns $0.004 every time it ‘reads’ a page. So it can trivially generate far more income than it costs.

Giving scammers the ability to print money is not something that can be fixed. KU is broken by design, as anyone could have told Amazon before they created it.

You can’t do the same by having bots buy your books, because Amazon takes a 30% cut. It’s only the subscription model that makes scamming profitable.

Of course, Amazon claim to be able to count page reads, but they really can’t, and it’s a fundamentally complex problem to solve. Unless, maybe, they restrict KU books to tamper-proof Kindles and put a face-tracking camera on the front to check you’re actually reading the words.

Hence scammers exploit that to make more $$$$$.

Amazon used to be good at showing me things I might want to buy, based on what I’d bought and what other people who’d bought what I bought had also bought.

Now they’re more concerned with showing me things that advertisers want me to buy, so they can make a few more bucks selling ads.

Yesterday I didn’t see any also boughts at all on the book pages I looked at.

And it’s not just books. When I do a search for anything now, I have to invest time and mental energy in filtering out the damn ‘sponsored’ results.

Just another reason why I buy less and less there.

Jumped. The. Shark.

I think you just need to make it your day job. A month is about 160 hours of work time. I can write about 1500 words an hour, so I could write a 60,000 word novel in a quarter of that time. That would leave three times as many hours to do everything else once the first draft is complete… farm out some of the editing, the formatting, and the cover design, and there’s plenty of time in a month to write and release a book if you don’t need lots of research or world building (as per Richard’s comment about writing in a series).

Lionel Fanthorpe used to write a (mostly bad) novel every weekend, based on a cover and title the publisher sent him, and did that for a few years. Michael Moorcock wrote some of his most famous books in a week.

Until last year, my sales always used to pick up in November and peak in January. Even books with rankings of 1,000,000 or more would sell a few copies in that time, and the better-ranked ones could sell hundreds.

I was surprised by the marked lack of sales last Christmas. I’m guessing it was KU-related, with Amazon giving a few free months on all those new Kindles.

KU was the first time I saw Amazon do something blatantly dumb, that helps push writers to competitors who had no idea how to steal those writers from Amazon.

The problem with companies in general is that, no matter how well they start out, over time people see the bad and dumb things they do and eventually, after enough of them, decide they’ve jumped the shark and become just another big corporation. I reached that point with Google a few years ago. I reached that point with Amazon in the last few weeks… not just KU, but the lousy ‘mobile-friendly’ web site changes that have made the site painful to use on my laptop, farming out many products to third-party sellers that I don’t want to have to deal with, and various other annoyances that have accumulated over time.

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!