Tag Archives: technology

To Kobo or not to Kobo?

Just had a very polite reminder from the Kobo people about their Writerslife program. The issue here is getting into the Kobo Library program, which is a very low cost way of accessing the Library system here in BC. Haven’t had time to examine the interface just yet, but perhaps when I’ve finished the final drafts I’ll be shunting a copy of one of my eBook manuscripts onto their distribution system just as an experiment. Just to see how it goes. Specifically as a ‘Kobo’ edition. Or maybe not.

I’m not sure exactly how their process works, and will need to read the fine print to be sure I don’t go snarling myself up in legal shenanigans over rights issues. Perhaps if I clearly mark which serial rights have been ‘sold’ via which organisation, I should be on fairly safe ground. Memo to self; check copyright law in Blacks Writers Guide and its North American twin.

Another two or three days work to go before the first two MSS are ready to begin their journey from raw document to eBook. I was going to use Lulu.com, because I understand how their system works, and because they have distribution links to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and iBookstore. As far as eReader platforms are concerned this covers the Nook, iPad and most Kindles. But on the other hand, in the battle of the formats, Kobo seem to be quite popular as the reading platform of choice in my target market of choice; the more mature Sci-fi reader.

Indexing and formatting for eBook

Getting an eBook right is a massive effort. Over the past two weeks I’ve done little but revise, spellcheck and index two pieces of work for release as eBooks while the muse for writing new works is passing me by. Headings need to be properly organised. Titles in Heading 1, Part section titles in Heading 2, and sub section titles in Heading 3. No stray code fragments to mar the text and all the major spelling and grammatical mistakes are being ironed out. It’s hard work and takes up every single free minute. Angie has been loudly wondering where her husband has gotten to.

Not far now. Another two days concerted effort I think. The Metadata is fixed. Cover artwork is fixed. Title, copyright page and forewords have matching Author names and title headers. Nothing for the automated format programs to reject. Along with a part time job that is more like full time plus overtime, I don’t get time to get out and sniff the air. Not that I’m a big socialiser anyway. I never was.

The trip to England, Ireland and the Hague is just over two weeks away and there’s a lot to pack in. Family, friends etc. I’ll take the slaptop and if I get a chance to write will pick a quiet spot and juggle concepts while the girls are off shopping and whatever else they do.

Formatting and metadata

Getting an eBook ready, especially sorting out the ‘metadata’ isn’t easy if you don’t want to end up tearing your hair out. I’ve just spent all my ‘free’ or writing time for the last two weeks proofing, editing and ensuring the chapter headers and all that shizzle are in apple pie order. Reminder to self; buy more Tylenol. I’ve mercilessly hunted down the last errant apostrophe, ruthlessly swatted the last inadvertent spelling error, jumped up and down on the non-deliberate grammatical errors, and corrected the chapter headings. When you’ve been working on a hundred and fifty six thousand words, it’s easy to make mistakes. Three times this morning I’ve gone back over a hundred and forty heading entries to find stupid dingbatted errors, and I’m allowing myself two days pause before I run the spell checker twice more, and re-read the MSS specifically looking for those dumb ‘a, the’ errors I’m prone to after cut ‘n paste rewording of a passage that feels clumsy and clunky.

Target price is CAD$4.99. Which is pretty cheap, considering all the time and effort that’s gone into it. I think there’s an option for serious discounts for the first two weeks as well, which will be nice for some. Depending on their taste in Sci-fi.

The metadata is fine. The author and title names all match throughout the manuscript, and I’m sticking with some old cover art that I really don’t want to change. Especially as I’ve moved computers twice and lost track of the specific cover art font. There is a follow on already written (155,000 words at last edit), and I just need to get that ready before skipping over to see friends and family back in England, Ireland and the Netherlands. I’ll have my laptop with me, so will be logging onto the nearest free WiFi point every so often to check on the distribution. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore shouldn’t be an issue, and I’ll be confirming availability via the Kobo marketplace. which should be relatively easy now that we have a little Kobo Glo.

End result is a tale in a style of Robert Heinlein meets Tom Clancy (I think). The characters love, hate, laugh and cry, get alienated, reconciled, killed and wounded and all that jazz. What’s truly amazing is the fact that I still actually like the story, even after all the prolonged birthing pains of repeated rewrite, edit and format.

Is Kobo the eBook of the future?

Yesterday Angie and I finally bit the bullet and purchased an eReader. Specifically a Kobo Glo. Since then it’s been information overload. My learning curve is tightening like a hairpin bend. Libraries. Distributors. A whole world we knew nothing about. The scope and size of the opportunities it has brought up are simply enormous.

Up until yesterday I thought I was, in my own small way fairly well informed about eBooks, Digital Rights Management and the various electronic formats, but I’d like to say this; my mind has officially been blown. Megaton range. All via a Kobo Glo. No other eReader has quite opened the door like this. Not to just a whole new world, but a whole new continuum. I actually feel a little overwhelmed. I think I’ve just caught a glimpse of an almost unlimited publishing future, and it has the Kobo label firmly stamped in one corner.

What with that and learning how to produce my own hams from pork shoulders, plus our wedding anniversary, this is going to make for a full weekend.

Reasons not to like Apple

Last weekend I agreed that yes, we should have some extra entertainment in the house. I won’t pay for cable TV, as so much television is simply not worth the subscription. So we went to Future shop and bought an Apple TV. We asked about not installing the dreaded iTunes on our business PC’s and were informed that no, we wouldn’t have to do that, we could set up the Apple TV over the phone. Fine said I, and stumped up the cash.

Minor issues with the Apple TV box not liking the first HDMI cable it was plugged in with, but once I’d swapped it for a non-ethernet HDMI cable, no problem. We switched on the TV, reading the instructions, following the steps and the Apple box fired up nicely. The screensaver looked very nice, and we were looking forward to buying and viewing premium content from the iTunes store. All well and good.

Today Angie asked me to get her an account set up to buy some movies. Apple ID created, great. The Apple TV box itself working, wonderful. Went to buy some content and……..ah. Despite having a verified Apple ID, credit card registered with Apple and everything else, we were unable to purchase a movie or TV series. After two and a half frustrating hours I gave up and called Apple support. After ten minutes the operator told me that I had to have iTunes loaded on my PC to register and connect via the iTunes store. There were no workarounds, no buy by phone, it was iTunes or nothing.

I’ll confess a prejudice here; I don’t like having Apple software on Windows machines, and won’t have it anywhere near a business machine for one simple reason, it’s bloatware. I’ve had Apple software like Safari and iTunes on PC’s before, without registering for the iTunes store. These have been the source of many system slowdowns and even the occasional crash. I’ve also spent too much time rootling around in registries getting rid of all the little surprise packages left behind by iTunes to trip up the unwary. Ergo, that application is forbidden on any system I administer. To me it is a timewaster. An unnecessary complication. If you can’t do it via web browser SSL, there’s something amiss. Amazon and eBay manage nicely, so why not Apple?

So today I have wasted over three working hours on a product that won’t let me use it. Tomorrow I will waste an hour and a half getting the guy at the store to help me verify my Apple store ID, but there is no way on Gods green Earth that I am allowing iTunes on a business PC. It may be just me, but thinking about it there’s also something rather posey about Apple Macs and sometimes their owners that just put me off. Something to do with the implied exclusivity of Apple products I don’t much care for. It’s a computer, not a religion for goodness sake. Full blown Apple Macs are great for DTP, animation and a whole bunch of other things, but overall I feel they’re rather over priced for what they are.

Funny thing; I was actually contemplating buying a Mac until this morning. Now I won’t. Not ever. Because of over four working hours lost unnecessarily. Four hours wasted, all because I couldn’t verify an iTunes store ID without clogging up my system with iTunes.

Ten steps to a more businesslike approach to writing #WritersBlock

Have been thinking about this a lot recently, and have come up with a simple ten step businesslike approach to writing;

1. Plan the narrative, set and use timelines
2. Write to the plan unless there’s a bloody sound reason
3. Set a schedule, hours, dates, times, which are given solely to producing ‘product’
4. Set hours, dates, times for getting the message ‘out there’
5. Set up a web linking strategy. Follow it.
6. Create useful resources for readers
7. Create interesting forums with anti-troll and spam defences. Be ruthless.
8. Stick with what you’re writing, don’t get distracted.
9. Don’t listen to too much advice
10. Proof read, spell check daily.

This is more for myself than for anyone else, as I tend to let myself get distracted and do anything but get on with it because I get stuck. I intend to set myself a target of 10,000 words per week minimum, with a set maximum of 3,000 words per day. If I’m going to try and make a success of something, the least I can do is do it in a disciplined, focused manner.

A reply to popping the Kobo question #SelfPublishing #BookMarketing

While I was Hors de combat recently, those nice people at Kobo sent me an answer to my query regarding Kobo eReaders as a distribution platform for the Cerberus eBook series. The best word for their response has to be ‘comprehensive’. I’m still working my way through the ramifications.

Essentially, since I own all the rights to the work, I can create special editions so long as they are marked with a separate ISBN via Kobo, or whoever’s existing publication platform. This seems to indicate I’ll have to go through Kobo’s own self publishing programme, as I can’t afford the prices they’re asking for commercial ePub conversion and Metadata services. Not sure about Amazon and the Kindle, although this may prove to be a similar situation. Last time I checked, I was led to the conclusion that the Kindle agreement required exclusivity to a given title, although at the moment I’m not sure.

This merits further investigation, and since my brain is only slowly returning to full function, I will be taking my time about it.

On the plus side, I’ve found a local proof reader for a reasonable price.

Hashtags and social media for promotion #SelfPublishing

While looking around at cross-platforming my latest eBook and getting it listed by as many distribution outlets as possible, I came across a number of articles on Twitter Hashtags. This morning one dropped into my inbox from my LinkedIn membership; “100 Hashtags every writer should know”, and a quick browse brought up “Why use Hashtags?”. Also worth a peruse is “Why Hashtags fail”.

In isolation no article tells the whole story, but put together they’ve filled in important gaps in my knowledge. I’ve previously said that I suck at social media, but maybe by following the guidelines, there is a chance of becoming less sucky than before.

Publishing, formatting and metadata headaches

Head of the Beast, the Manuscript of the first of the Paul Calvin novels, is almost about as ready as I can make it. Nothing from Harper Vector since acknowledgement of receipt 2nd October 2012, so I’m assuming they don’t want to know. Had they been interested I’d have expected them to be in touch long before now. Quite frankly that nails the lid on mainstream publishers as far as I’m concerned. They’re too rude or ignorant to send out a polite or timely emailed notice of (dis)interest, so I’m no longer interested in them. I will submit no more work to mainstream publishers and agents. Three months per submission? I don’t think so. Are they expecting prospective authors to die of old age before they even look at their work? Not playing that game. I’ve played it for too long with very little to show. No more slush pile. No more hanging around, wasting my hope and effort. Back to the self publishing grindstone. At least I only have myself to blame if my business model falls flat or royalties don’t arrive on time.

There are two remaining major manuscript headaches, formatting and metadata. The formatting, because when an error occurs, I can’t strip out all the unwanted codes, which in turn screw up the formatting; I can’t seem to reformat the page to the correct paper size for publishing, and I’ve read the goddamned Openoffice help file and manual back to front, searching for an answer. Chapter headings won’t stay put. OpenOffice 3.3 is just as bad as Microsoft Word in all its appalling iterations. I may have to cut and paste the raw text into a fresh template and go through the tedious business of inserting new headings, italics, paragraph formats. It’s all so Byzantine and unnecessary. A 70,500 word document is a lot of work to reformat. All over one unassailable code error.

I used to be a confirmed WordPerfect fan for one reason; Reveal Codes. That Alt-F3 hotkey was an absolute lifesaver on long, complicated technical documents when one specific piece of code buried in the text was mucking up the format of a manual or report. Especially when other people had been making their own untracked revisions. These untouchable codes can completely screw up your day and important, time sensitive documentation. Specifically when you’re racing deadlines and need stuff ready for meetings. WordPerfect used to make my working life so simple. Search and replace used to be so easy. When formatting is critical, particularly in OpenOffice 3.3 and Microsoft Word (All versions) one hidden code can ruin a weeks work of crucical revisions. As for Macs, I’ve heard the same things about them, too. That and I’m like most relatively unknown writers – broke. So no money for new software. I’d love a copy, but I don’t have the three hundred dollars after my day job pays the bills.

Have finally cracked the metadata issue, so there is going to be a proper eBook release via Barnes and Noble, iTunes etc. with decent heading and document structure to make navigation an absolute snip for the reader. Also I won’t end up tearing my remaining hair out over multiple distribution rejections. So long as I follow the instructions properly. There’s even a handy dandy little video explaining Metadata.

Update: Have had to reformat a whole new document. All twenty five chapter headings are now firmly ensconced in the headers and footers. Just the italicisation to do tomorrow. Late shift on day job tonight, so I’m going to pack in now, grab a snack and see what tomorrow brings.