Tagbooks

Decisions, Reviews, and Promotional Copies

I’m sitting here, trying to decide if I want to make Atlantis: TVC Volume #1 exclusive to Amazon for 90 days.

On the plus side, it would be great for getting it out there in the spotlight. I haven’t had much success with any online or paid advertising–only word of mouth seems to be working so far.

This sums it up nicely.

I mean, I’m grateful for whatever sales I get, but I feel like I’m not doing enough for it. Another plus for going exclusive is that Volume #1 will get more eyes on it, and that will get people interested in Volume #2, which is due out at the end of this summer. [Provided I can keep to my timeline.] That’s just past the 90 day period it would be exclusive for.

The negative is that I wouldn’t be able to sell the book on other platforms while it is exclusive. I have actually moved the most books through iTunes, but Amazon is not far behind. I also don’t have any reviews on Amazon, but I do have one on iTunes.

I am really on the fence about this, but I am definitely leaning towards the exclusive period, which means I’d have to remove the book from other retailers during that time frame. The only thing holding me back is the lack of reviews on Amazon–positive OR negative.

The thing about reviews [and this is something corporations and CSRs who depend on surveys hate as well] is that if people hate something, they’ll immediately go post something about it. If they love something, it’s a 50/50 split on whether they’ll rave about it or not. But those people in the middle, the ones who think something is just “okay”, or is “pretty decent”, they don’t typically post what they think. What they don’t know is that on average, people trust those reviews the most when looking for info on a product, so it’s a vicious cycle of… silence.


So, while I’m mulling this over, I’ve decided that until I actually make the book exclusive, you can contact me and  receive a free promotional edition of Atlantis: TVC Volume #1 [in ePub format] as long as you are willing to post a review of it on Amazon after reading it–good OR bad. [Edit: Volume #1 has been made exclusive on Amazon, so this offer is no longer valid.]

However, if you already purchased the book on Amazon, and wouldn’t mind taking the time out of your day to leave a quick review, I would really appreciate it!

Thanks. You guys are the best! heart

Junk Food Literature

I want to talk about something I call “Junk Food Literature”.

Wait, don’t leave; I’m serious, and its a good thing!

Have you ever in your life shunned a book for being “completely awful, and horribly written”, refused to read a book because it was “beneath your level”, or read a book in secret because other people had a negative opinion of it? Congratulations, you’ve experienced Junk Food Literature.

Just like junk food, it’s not always the best thing, but there is something satisfying about it. Delicious potato chips, fizzy bittersweet soda, that luscious chocolate candy bar, the siren song of a greasy burger loaded with ‘secret sauce’ and melty cheese… Sometimes we can’t resist, and it’s OK–life can’t be kale and cauliflower salads all the time!

…I was joking. Why is this a real thing?!

When you boil it down to basics, we tend to sort books into two categories: “enlightening” and “drivel”. It’s the same manner in which we separate “healthy food” and “junk food”. Junk Food Literature usually falls into the “drivel” category by most standards, but what people don’t realize is that it has its place! People’s book interests are as diverse as the difference between the person who eats all Paleo, and the person who eats nothing but fast food. Sometimes the reasons are the same–maybe Paleo Guy has time to sit down and enjoy a dry non-fiction novel, while Fast Food Girl only has time to read something short, and happens to like vampire romance.

But then, Fast Food Girl might go on vacation, eat completely vegetarian local fare, and pick up a memoir to peruse at the beach. Meanwhile Paleo Guy decides he’s really in the mood for sugary lemon bars and a quick murder mystery while hanging out at a coffee shop downtown.

Great–now I want lemon bars AND I’m wondering what happened to those “The Cat Who…” mysteries I used to read in high school…

We judge people based on what they read. [or don’t read] Hell, we judge people based on everything! Things are never as clear cut as we want them to be, and while we’re evolved enough to know we shouldn’t do it, we’re also basic enough to still do it despite that. We’re told to not eat junk because its bad. Fat makes things taste better, and helps you process some vitamins, so butter and oils have their time and place. Conversely, spinach will sometimes sneak into your fruit smoothie; you’ll read something just for the hell of it, but come away with a revelation about life and people you never had before reading that book. I love when that happens. It’s like a little bonus. [Avocado on your burger? Hell yes!]

In all honesty it’s more like guacamole on this burger than just avocado but it’s still freaking good. Of course this is Whataburger; I live in TEXAS!

Enjoyment is what makes Junk Food Literature good–just as viable as standard literature–and why we need it so desperately. It often sweeps people up, becoming its own phenomenon and drawing people together through a shared experience. Even when a book is reviled, it still brings people together. Isn’t uniting people through words the cornerstone of all forms of storytelling? In a world where literacy rates aren’t at their best, should we really knock people for what they read?  We should celebrate people reading for pleasure, even if it is a Paranormal Victorian Dinosaur Romance novella and your personal opinion is that it should be set on fire.

Art by Adam Mazur
It’s the damn salad all over again!

Junk Food Literature is a fun romp, sometimes inexplicably popular–and yes, often not written as well as it could be. Reading it won’t make you stupid, just like slogging through one of the literary classics won’t make you smart, or occasionally having some chips or a slice of cake won’t immediately make you unhealthy. Reading should be a pleasure–not a chore or a form of stress.

All the signs of an enjoyable book!

Lemon bars, anyone?

Spring Sale

Sorry if you saw the front page of the site doing weird things last night… I was updating and a table broke. It’s all fixed now!

This image is irrelevant. I just like it.

Anyway, I fully intended to do this over Easter weekend, but it didn’t update until today, so… uh…

Easter Weekend Spring Special!

The first volume of Atlantis: The Visionary Continent is only $0.99 cents right now! This deal is available at Amazon until 11:59 CST on 4/12/2015.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Uh, About That…

So I went to submit the final edition of Atlantis: TVC #1 a few days ago, and uh, submitted an old test draft on accident.

Lilo is just one of my spirit animals…

I didn’t realize it until Sunday night when I went to check things over before today’s launch, and opened up the preview. I hurriedly re-submitted the final version on the spot, but I don’t know if every retailer updated or not.

Please keep this in mind if you end up getting the screwed up version. I swear I know the difference between my it’s and its. *dies*

[You should be able to update it if you get the messed up version by re-downloading it from whichever retailer you purchased the book from.]

E-books, Images, and You

Very self-help-y, right?

If you are planning on adding images to your e-book, then this is the place to be. All of my books are illustrated, and it was a pain trying to figure out how to format images. I did all my images one way, because one site said so, but it turned out to be outdated. Now images should be TWICE the size that I created them at. Arg!

While the images inside your book can be whatever size you would like, the cover has very strict regulations–especially if you are going to distribute through Amazon or Apple.

Cover Images

According to the Smashwords Style Guide, cover images should be 1600 pixels wide by 2500 pixels tall to adjust for future size minimums. The current minimum is 1400 pixels wide. All distributors require your cover be rectangular, and not tilted in any way. [Like making them look 3D or something] Some retailers are very picky, and will reject a book if its cover is subpar. Things like plain old bad design and pixelation will get your book rejected. It’s best to start extra large and shrink it to the 1600 x 2500 size, which will result in a very nice cover with no pixelation.

A Note on Covers

Your cover is the face of your book. If you’re not really artistic it’s probably best to find someone to create a cover for you. There are no shortage of artists and graphic designers looking for work–check your local CraigsList or commission tons of talented artists in all price ranges at DeviantArt! If an author you like has an amazing cover, do some research on who does their covers, or send a polite email asking for that information. Most authors are happy to give contact info! Remember, your cover is the first impression people have of your book, so you want it to look brilliant!

Interior Images

Interior images are different. They can really be whatever size you want, but for your images to look nice on most devices, you’ll want them to be at least 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall.

Formats

If you have a vector image [meaning it was created in Flash, Illustrator, etc.] that is scalable without losing quality, you can insert it into your manuscript as a .svg file.

If you have an image in any other format, it’s recommended to save it as a .jpg or .png before inserting it.

File Size

.jpg is the gold standard when it comes to compression and small file sizes, but it sometimes compromises quality to use it. On the other hand, .png is a lossless format, but can result in some hefty files. If you don’t lose anything for doing it, make your images greyscale. It cuts down on file size immensely!

Inserting Images

If you are inserting an image into your manuscript, you’ll want to do it one of two ways:

Full Page Images

These are images [such as your cover] that you want to be on their own page. You insert them as a picture from the Insert then Picture, then From File option in your menu bar. Once you select your image, right click it and select Anchor, then As Character. You must do this, otherwise your images will all be displayed at the front of your book, and not where you placed them originally. Insert a page break after this type of image, and you are done.

Inline Images

Inline images are done similarly, but you’ll need to place it between paragraphs. So it will look like this:

This is the stuff you type before your image. It might be relevant to your image, or the image may be non-sequitur. It doesn’t matter. This is just an example.

This is a cat

This is your next paragraph. It’s, uh, relevant to this cat picture. Yeah, that’s it. But it shows how you have to slip images in.

You see, e-books are innately reflowable. That means people are able to change the text size–and sometimes style–which shifts everything around to accommodate that.  If you try to put a picture truly inline, you will break your formatting, and muck up everything else. It’s just bad. Don’t do it. [But don’t forget to Anchor As Character, otherwise it will jump out off of its page in your book and move to the front, because images are divas like that.]

 

It you are careful and follow the guidelines, you can add images to dress up a technical manual, or even create a short comic–it’s entirely up to you!

The Magic of Ink and Paper*

* Or a LCD and pixels if you’re into e-books. I won’t judge–except to say that e-books don’t smell nearly as nice as a dead tree copy does.

I remember my first fantasy series. I was in middle school when my best friend handed me a large hardcover novel and said, “You have to read this. It’s really good!” [Or something along those lines; it was eighteen years ago after all.]

That book was Guardians of the West, by David [and Leigh!] Eddings.

It was the beginning of summer vacation, and I already had a very bad habit of consuming books. Until then, I had read fantasy-themed books, but never a series. It was a thick book, [honestly looking back I think it was only 300 pages, ha ha!] but I cracked it open and didn’t come up for air until it ended.

But… there’s more?” I thought, looking at the dust jacket. ‘Book one of the Mallorean’ was finely printed under the title. I was thrilled in a completely new way–I needed to get my hands on those books!

Since then, I have read most of the Eddings’ work. Through those books I discovered that I love a long series. For starters, the character development has room to breathe. I get to see characters grow and change over time, and figure out their motivations. In stand alone novels, you often get a few paragraphs that beat you over the head with the personality and the purpose of the character. Then you read the story. As I get further into writing, I have discovered that the latter example is a ‘tell’ kind of style, which tends to bog down a narrative. I thought it was just the way books were written–I had a great epiphany with my first Eddings book! [I also just now realized that this is probably the reason I’m not too fond of movies. It’s difficult for a movie to tell a satisfying story in such a short length of time unless it’s based on something people are already familiar with.]

Secondly, I get to spend more time with these well-developed characters, which makes them kind of like friends. I was with them through thick and thin! I cared about their well-being; I was emotionally invested! As an aspiring author, this is something I can only hope to achieve.

I’m talking about you, you rat-faced Drasnian… *teenage self swoons*

Books have always been my drug, in a very literal sense–when I received that book from my friend, I was four years removed from a bad situation where I had to read to escape my dismal everyday life. I had read because I didn’t want to be where I was. I had read because it dulled the pain. I had read because–in a strange act of rebellion–the person who made my childhood into a confusing hell did not want me to. I read at an advanced level. At the beginning of the new school year I would steal my cousins’ middle/high school science, history, and English textbooks [never math; it’s always been my weak point] and read them for fun with a flashlight under the covers in my room.

I would sneak into that person’s room and smuggle her Reader’s Digest Condensed Books out to read… books like Finder’s Keepers [Barbara Nickolae] and Circle of Pearls [Rosalind Laker] were my first ‘grown-up’ [serious] books. When I had a reprieve to go visit my grandmother on weekends I’d read her romance novels, and she’d warn me: “Careful! Those are sexy books!”. I still have no idea if that was an admonishment to skip the ‘sexy’ parts, or if she was warning me about it in case it wasn’t my taste. [I was a preteen; ‘sexy books’ were most certainly my taste!]

I’m quite sentimental about things; as an adult I combed the local library’s used bookstore every time I went, specifically looking amongst the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books anthologies for a specific teal spined volume that contained reprints of both the books I mentioned above. After six years of diligence, it finally showed up! It’s packed away in a box currently, but it’s a treasured possession that reminds me of the immense power books can have. They protected me like a shield when I needed them most.

Nowadays I visit them for a brief vacation, or to relax, because I have that luxury. [Especially when I get a chance to leave the two year-old with Daddy and hide in the bathtub. Books+Bath=Love!] I still enjoy reading immensely, and I still go for the large series; Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series are some of my current favorite reads, along with the occasional translated Light Novel. [I’m currently on volume four of Log Horizon! Loving it!]

Right now I can only hope to follow in the footsteps of  those who came before me–authors whose books I’ve loved. I dream of someday writing something good enough that people will say, “I want to go to that place. I want to go there and see my friends.”

Someday…