To say thank you to my readers, all my available works are free over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s right–free! If you’ve been waiting to pick up volume #2 of the Atlantis: TVC series, or to try one of my other stories, now is the time! Want something to curl up with while you snack on leftovers? This deal is for you!
Have a friend you think may be interested in one of the stories listed above? Feel free to share this promotion! It’s for ALL my readers–current and future.
Thank you all for your support. I am truly thankful for each and every one of you.
[Links to the listed e-books can be found on the Shop page in the header, or by clicking on the image above.]
I know I said I was going to let my shoulder rest, but this is too important to wait on.
I was informed of a website where an unauthorized copy of my latest book, Atlantis: The Visionary Continent, Volume #2: Awakening, is being offered! I couldn’t believe it, so I had to go see for myself. When I confirmed it, I was furious. Livid. Enraged! Other synonyms for insanely pissed! The more I investigated, the angrier I became. It was being offered for free!
I fumed. The book has barely been out for three months! After a half-hour of spitting anger, I started getting over my shock and began to formulate a plan to deal with this. I ran a Google search, but there really isn’t anything regarding stolen e-books, except advice to not offer books as a direct download from your site. [Which I was not doing–they’re exclusive to Amazon at the time of this posting.] I found some advice regarding DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act, yo.] and decided to do a Whois search on the domain, so I could figure out who to send a takedown notice to.
This turned tricky fast, due to the culprit having a ton of domains that point to other domains, which then pointed to subdomains. I was going in circles. I took a closer look at the site to see if I could find any more info. 293 downloads? Anonymous people with no avatar posting very recent and generic comments? Something didn’t smell right. The work of other authors was on the site also, so I checked some of their listings–the number of downloads varied, but the pages were identical–right down to the comments.
I clicked through to the download page. I reached the instructions, and suddenly, the situation became clear. I quickly viewed the source code of the page, and discovered that my story wasn’t being offered illegally. They didn’t have the actual book–it was being used as bait for a phishing scheme!
Now, I know the classic argument is: “If people are looking for free copies, then they weren’t going to buy your book anyway, so you’re not losing sales“. This is a valid argument, except that what is actually happening is harming public opinion of my brand itself. That is much more difficult to recover from than a sales loss!
The setup is a common one, where the site offers a file: a program, MP3, video–or in this case e-book–and leads you to a page where you can download it. EXCEPT there is a catch–before the download link becomes available, you are usually directed offsite to apply for “special offers”. These look like credit card and loan applications, or free trials to subscription services. They ask for vital info, like social security and credit card numbers, home addresses, etc. More often than not, these are elaborate phishing scams where they use a person’s willingness to get something for free to convince them to give up sensitive info. You don’t get anything except a lot of spam email, and the hassle of having to freeze your credit and apply for a new bank account. Then if you can actually download the file, it’s usually not what was advertised–often it’s a Trojan designed to infect your system so these people can get more information from you. Then they either sell the data they collect, or use it for themselves.
Since the file wasn’t actually on the original website, I had no valid DMCA claim. I went to the root of the site to see if I could glean any info, when suddenly I was on… a legitimate cloud storage site? After poking around a bit, I discovered that the root site was set to redirect to a legitimate site–even though the file is clearly not on their servers. Why would that happen…?
The site is mocked up to look like a filesharing site, but it’s owned by the same person who owns the original site I found the listing on! This is an elaborate deception–this person thought this through, and wants to remain hidden. [Probably because the information they scrape and the malware and viruses they distribute are their main source of income.]
They didn’t even host the cover image themselves! It’s hotlinked from Amazon! The download link sends you to the fake filesharing front, which then redirects you to affiliates where you fill out the offers that will supposedly allow you access to my work. Well, as I said before, I viewed the source file and there is no download. Everything forces you to a file “locking” site that has a pretty bad safety rating itself.
File locking sites are commonly used for something called an integrated affiliate advertising redirect*, also known as a forced click. [Read more on them here.] When you click the download link, it forces you to view ads in an non-closable window, makes you apply for a “free” offer, or sometimes you’ll be told to take a “survey” before it lets you have access to the files you want. [Completing these actions supposedly unlocks the real download button or link.]
Every time you click the download link, the scammer running the fake site gets paid–sometimes even if you back out and don’t follow through! Not only that, but a savvy coder could use it to gain a click and steal your info. Several thousand clicks a day, plus sell-able or exploitable data? That adds up, especially the way this person has it set.
You see, at the end of this person’s setup, the user is presented with a blank white window. That’s it. No file. You are no longer useful. Your clicks and data have been taken. Get out.
It’s bullshit because it’s using my hard work to trick my unsuspecting readers into giving away sensitive information, and earning money fraudulently while doing it. Not only my readers–but anyone who might think it’s a legitimate source for free e-books! They scrape Amazon, using the allure of prose authors have slaved over as bait. They poison brands authors have worked hard to build in the mind of the people they trick. Not. Cool.
At first, it seems hopeless. How can I DMCA content these people don’t have? How can I go after them, not knowing who they are, or even knowing what country they are in? The person who set this up knows this. This is the cloak they wrap themselves in.
But me? What can I do?
I know the affiliates won’t care–after all, they make money through the ad clicks. Web searches care, because the site is linking to content that could harm someone’s computer. They’ll pull the data, but it will be restored by the next web crawl. I could report the shady behavior to the domain registrar and get the domain revoked. That could work–for the amount of time it would take the person to figure out the domain is cancelled and buy a new one. So what can you do? What can I do?
For now, this is all I have been advised to say. I have several options, but in the meantime, I am going to focus on educating people. The more people that are informed, the less often these kind of sites will trick people. My hope is that over time, the profitability of these sites will drop, and they will no longer be worth opening. So share this post, [and the post linked above] and help get the word out!
Please remember you can ONLY purchase my books from Amazon.com! Volume #1 is $0.99 cents right now!
Thank you all for your support–stay safe out there!
*= What, you couldn’t cram “synergy“, or “omnichannel marketing” in there too?
P.S: If you are an author and want to check the site to see if your work is being used, please contact me through one of the methods on my contact page, and I will PM you the url.
I am absolutely floored that I got it done on time. I didn’t hit my original end of summer deadline, but I did make my fall one, and it feels good. I hope you all enjoy volume #2!
As for me, I’m taking the rest of the holiday season off to rest and spend extra time with my family, then start on volume #3 in the new year. I’ll still post here, so don’t worry about that!
I’m wondering if there is enough time left this month for me to kind of half-assedly participate in NaNoWriMo. [I keep swearing I’ll do it, but I never have time.] Maybe I can do it for real next year…
*coughs* Anyway, I wanted to say thank you all again for your support and patience. An author is nothing without readers, and I truly appreciate all of you.
I really am kind of freaking out. I’ve had little sleep, my daughter punched me in the eye early this morning after she woke up because her diaper failed–so now I have a lovely black eye–and I have a stomachache. Finding out my pre-order listing was live at a major retailer made it all better! Woo hoo!
Most are free but have paid options with more features, such as designers and technicians on call to assist you any time. These companies will distribute your book to all major retailers on your behalf as long as it passes their quality test.
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.
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 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.
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.
.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!
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 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 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!
If you are coming here from Formatting a Document for Conversion [in OpenOffice], then you most likely have a clean, formatted document for processing. If you did not, then I hope you have a clean, formatted OpenOffice, Pages, or Word document ready for use. Otherwise, click the link above for help formatting your file in OpenOffice, or follow this guide here by Catherine, Caffeinated for formatting your story in Word.
Now that you have a formatted document, let’s begin!
Program Options There are a great many programs for converting a document to an epub, which is the standard for digital books. You could use an online option, like Online Convert, Epub Converter, or Ebook Convertor, but I am kind of old fashioned and like to use a program. After mucking about with several, I found one that I liked, called Calibre. This guide will now assume you are using Calibre for all intents and purposes, but it could apply to many converters.
A smartphone or tablet with the Kindle app and/or Google Play Books on it
A dedicated e-reader device, such as a Nook, Kindle, etc.
Converting Your Document
Obtain your program or load web converter of choice. [We’ll go with Calibre. Install and run the program.]
Load your formatted file in the program, and look for some place to input metadata. Metadata is a group of little info bits attached to your finalized e-book. It tells e-readers things like the author’s name, whether the book is part of a series, and what tags have been attached to it. Fill out as much of this data as possible! It helps people to more easily find your book, and that is never a bad thing!
Once that is done, go over your settings. You should have options like Font Size Key, [which should be something like 7.5, 9.0, 10.0, 12.0, 15.5, 20.0, 22.0, 24.0 if you want reflowable text] Output Profiles, and your general format area. [in this case, epub]
Or you could be brave and leave everything at default values and see what comes out! You can always do it over again, so experimenting does not hurt you!
Once you tell it to convert, you should have the option to save it to your hard drive. Save it.
Proofing Your Epub
Now, take your epub file, and load it up in Adobe Digital Editions. This is the front line for proofreading.
How does it look? If it doesn’t want to make you gouge your eyes out, and the text is uniform–not jumping around the page or overlapping, then congratulations–you’ve passed the first test!
We’re not done yet though! Now it’s time to run that puppy through EPUB Validator. Load up the file, and press submit, then wait for it to finish. Agonizing, no?
If you did everything right, you should get no errors! Yesss! If you are going through a distributor such as Smashwords or Amazon, then your book must pass this test 100%. If not, it will be rejected, and you will be sad.
If you really want to experience your masterpiece as the average reader, take your file and upload it to your smartphone’s reader app of choice, [I like Google Books] or dedicated e-reader. Poke it. Reflow it, skim it, skip chapters, click the hell out of your table of contents! Try to break it. If you can do all those things and it still looks fabulous, and doesn’t error out, then congratulations–you have a completed e-book!
Repeat this process from the top if you need to make it a Mobi file, or anything besides epub. Use your epub file as the input now instead of your doc to minimize errors.
You’re done! Pat yourself on the back and have a cookie!