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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 6 – Creating the MOBI Ebook and Uploading toAmazon

If it wasn't for Amazon adopting this format for the Kindle, we wouldn't bother creating this file format. It is used on some other minor ereaders that have been used in the past, but when a modified version of it was adopted to use on the Kindle back in 2007, it suddenly became an important ebook format to have in one's list. Not necessarily because the "Kindle Direct Publishing" requires this format to upload a book into their service, but because if you sell directly, people can "side-load" this file onto their Kindle and read it. Between the EPUB and the MOBI formats, you are covering the main two ereaders people use most, and the bulk of non-dedicated ereader devices.

As of this writing, Amazon has recently announced their new line of Kindles, including the Kindle Fire, which is planned to be updated to use HTML5 instead of the MOBI format. It will be able to handle graphics for children's books and the like better than the MOBI format. As that develops and gets implemented, I plan on updating this book to include creating ebooks in that format. However, according to Amazon, the updated ereaders will be backwards compatible. Which means the files you create now will still be readable on the newer devices, and they will still be able to read files loaded on them in the MOBI format. For text-only books, there will be little loss to worry about updating then into the HTML5 format when it comes out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 5 – Creating the EPUB Ebook and Uploading toB&N

The EPUB format has become the widely accepted standard for ebooks. Every non-dedicated e-reading device out there (cell phones and tablets) have apps that can read this format, whether we are talking Stanza for the IPhone or Aldiko for Android. Additionally, Barnes and Noble's Nook uses a modified version of the EPUB format, which is why I suggest using an EPUB file to upload your book to their PubIt service. It can take other formats, but if you're going to create an EPUB, it makes sense to upload using their native format.

To manually create an EPUB file, however, is not an easy task. The EPUB file is actually a zipped file containing several files. There are some control files that "direct traffic" so to speak, artwork files for any graphics used, and the text in an html format divided up by any needed page breaks. But luckily there are some programs that will automate this process, even free ones, that will make quick work of the conversion process.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 4 - Creating the Smashwords Edition

If you've followed the formatting instructions in Step 1 as you created the book file, or you have formatted a file to fit those specifications, and you have followed the formatting for a print book at the beginning of Step 3, you are almost ready to put your book up for sale. The first place we will focus on is Smashwords.

Smashwords has what is called the "meatgrinder." It is a program which takes a Word document, and produces several types of ebooks. Then, they are put on sale at the Smashwords site. But that isn't the main reason I suggest putting your ebook there. The real benefit is the third party channels they deliver your ebook to in the format they need. Currently as of this writing, that includes Amazon (yet to be activated), Barnes and Noble, Apple, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, and Scrollmotion, with new ones signing on all the time. That being the case, I suggest you put up your book at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles yourself because you'll get a higher amount of the profit, and you can format your book more effectively than the meatgrinder might, though they are improving that all the time. And you'll get reports and payments much quicker.

But so far my sales on Smashword's partners amount to almost as much as I make on Amazon. By putting it here, along with putting it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which I'll show you how to do in succeeding chapters, you're ebook will get wide availability with minimal efforts on your part.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review: The Worker Prince by Brian Schmidt

Worker Prince

ISBN-13: 978-0984020904

This review is part of a blog tour for the introduction of Brian Schmidt's debut novel, The Worker Prince.

If Moses had led his people out of bondage in the future rather than the past, it might look something like this story. While at several points the story touches upon elements of the classic Biblical story of Moses leading his people out of Egypt, it doesn't stick to that story, nor is that the only plot line running through this science fiction, space opera style tale. One of the problems when people depict, either literally or by analogy, a Bible story is the predictable ending. That's not a worry here. The second half of the book bares little resemblance to the story of Moses. More like Joshua going to war.

Three elements of this book make it worth reading. One is the world Mr. Schmidt has created. In this world, a group of planets is ruled by a limited king and legislative councils of the main races. Except one race is not represented because they are called "Workers." They mostly live on one planet which appears to be the only planet in the system with agricultural products of any significance, and the rulers treat them as slaves, exporting food to the rest of the system.

Mr. Schmidt doesn't succumb to the tendency to dump a lot of back-story about this world on the reader, but it is worked through the story naturally. The only glitch for me is the rationale for why the Workers existed left me with more questions than answers and was hard to envision its evolution based on how things are now. Some could even take offense, to what could come across as an artificially generated political division, as making a statement beyond the story about our current religious situation. I took it as simply the way history worked out in this world, but did leave me with more questions as to how that could have happened. I'd say more, but I don't want to give away too much.

The second reason I enjoyed this story was the plot itself. The king fears a prophecy that a worker will rise up to release his people from bondage. Like Moses, to avoid the king's decree that all worker's children under a certain age be killed, his parents arrange to ship him off to another world where he ends up being raised by the king's sister as the prince destined to rule the kingdom. The story proper picks up when Prince Davies takes his first assignment away from home, discovers his real birth, and the story unfolds from there.

Like I said, while it touches at points on the story of Moses, it was different enough to keep my interest and avoided being a pure repeat of that story. I enjoyed the way Davies grows and develops into the leader, and his loyalty to the truth. And if a reader likes sci-fi battle action, there is plenty here especially through the second part of the book. Mr. Schmidt does a decent job of describing the action, though there was a time or two I didn't follow him too well.

The third is the characters are for the most part well drawn. One becomes attached to the main character, Davies, early on. Each character has a unique feel about them. And they are introduced slowly enough that the reader doesn't end up getting too lost on who is who, though that danger gets a little stronger toward the second half of the book. Still, I never struggled with that despite a rather large cast, and the characters came across as believable on the whole.

The only two instances his characterizations stretched it for me was Davies' secondary antagonist felt a bit too much of the stereotypical bully to me and the source of his antagonism to Davies was never clearly defined, though hinted at, but seemed stronger to me than merely family jealousy. And the girl Davies ends up in a relationship with seems to lose her initial antagonism toward him too easily. On rare occasion, the dialog felt unnatural. Despite that, I found the characters interesting and believable.

There are three things that could detract from the story, depending on the reader. One, the writing style, while good, does get a little telly at points. While not bad, there is room for improvement. However, this is much better than many I've read in that regard, and I doubt the lack here will throw too many out of the story.

Two, also related to writing skills, Mr. Schmidt has yet to get a solid grip on executing point of view flawlessly. There is a little head jumping in places. Occasionally he would mix one person's dialog with another person's actions, keeping you on your toes as to who is actually speaking. One scene break in particular, the shift in point of view wasn't established until I read about four or five paragraphs into it, so I had to backtrack to discover if I'd missed something. Most of the time I didn't have too much trouble tracking who talked and what point of view I was in, but occasionally it did become distracting.

Third, if a reader isn't a Christian, they may not realize until halfway into the book that this story contains some Christian themes. A non-Christian, getting to that point, may feel "tricked" if they are not aware of that up front. The Christian elements were natural to the story, and didn't feel forced. That said, it offered more of a complimentary plot line than anything essential to the main plot. Other than the stated reason for their existence, religion could be extracted from the story and the plot would still work. But truth be told, much science fiction is artificial in not portraying religion to be active and valid part of society into the future. While not getting too preachy about it, Mr. Schmidt does a decent job of integrating it into the storyline. That said, a non-Christian could feel tricked into reading a Christian novel if they aren't aware of that before they put down the money to buy the book. This review is written prior to seeing any official blurbs that will introduce the story to potential readers, which may make it clear it is a Christian story. Still, it seems many buyers miss that information, even when clearly stated.

I didn't feel those shortcomings reduced my enjoyment of the story or prevented me from finding Davies and the other characters interesting. Mr. Schmidt provides an engrossing story, believable characters, an interesting world, and decent writing. Because of that, I'm giving this a recommended read, holding onto a four out of five star score.

To continue following this blog tour, the next posting will be: October 12, Mary Pax - Guest Post: Coming Of Age & The Quest To Belong/Book Blurb

Note: R. L. Copple received a electronic copy of The Worker Prince from the author in order to review it for this blog tour.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mind Game Vblog

I decided to experiment a bit. I've shied away from doing the standard book trailer, only because there are so many of them out there that it really has to stand out to get much attention. So I decided to try something a bit more low-tech (since I am limited on tech resources) and though I don't think I'm as entertaining as some other vbloggers on the net, I felt this would be at least more personable and allow me to read a section. Who knows, people might like it.

So, check out my new video about Mind Game and tell me what you think. Should I do more with my other books? I figured this one was safe since I self-published it, so I'm not putting a publisher's name at stake if it stinks.  Watch it if you can and tell me what you think. Appreciate your feedback!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Interview and Chance to Win a Book

Yet another interview is up on Zoe Mack's blog. Want to learn the three things you're not likely to know about me? I divulge that information in this interview! An exclusive!

And not only that, if you leave a comment, you'll get a chance to win a free copy of the book that started it all, Infinite Realities. It is a good sampler of the kinds of stories you'll find in the full novel, Reality's Dawn. So if you've not had a chance to read either book, get yourself over to the blog, read it and laugh at me, and then comment to get your name in the running.

Do it.

How to Make an Ebook: Step 3 - Creating the PDF Ebook

This series will eventually become an ebook I'll make available for sale once we complete the chapters and I can make time to edit them. Visit the chapter list if you want to read the prior steps. If you appreciate my efforts and find them useful, please consider a donation (top, right) to aid the continued work on this book. Thank you.

Now that we have the text of the file properly formatted, and the cover ready to go, we are ready to start creating ebooks. The first one we want to work with is the standard ebook format, the PDF. The acronym stands for "Portable Document Format," and has become the most common way to share documents on the Internet. The cool thing about PDFs is they most closely resemble a printed book. That means they can usually display graphics and other elements that are generally harder for other ebook formats to handle. But that is also their downside as well. Because they are more "static" in format, they are harder to read on smaller devices like cell phones, and even on tablets are not ideal. Computer screens make the easiest reading device for these files.

But of all the formats, it is the one most anyone can open and read as the Adobe Reader software is free to download and the format is universally used across all platforms: Windows, Linux, and MacOS. It is hard to find someone who can't open a PDF file. Because of that, it is a good format to have on hand and sell from your website.

And even if you don't plan on creating a PDF ebook, you'll need to do some of the items in this step to prep your ebook for the rest. I'll let you know when to skip onto the next step.