Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ideas for Preview Language to use when describing your book to others.

If you’ve see Star Wars, Episode 4, you know the story. But, what if you were George Lucas and someone asked you,
“Hey, George! I heard you wrote a book. What’s it about?”
If you were George Lucas, after clearing up that this was part of a series of stories, how would you answer that question?
1.    Classic story of good versus evil set in a galaxy, far, far, away. Lots of aliens and sophisticated equipment. Good prevails at the end.
This really doesn’t tell enough about any part of the story, except that it takes place somewhere far away from Earth. This is NOT enough information and description to convince anyone to read the story.
2.   It’s an outer space story. You meet Luke Skywalker, the hero, as he’s working for his uncle. Someone or some thing, kills off all of Luke’s family, and he decides to get revenge. He finds a pair of robots, and, while cleaning one of them, turns on a holographic message from a princess in distress. Luke goes hunting for an old-timer that can control a power called The Force with his mind and do amazing things with matter and the minds of some lesser beings… The old timer and Luke hire a pilot named Han Solo who works with a giant big foot type character. They go looking for an find the Princess. Eventually, you find out the hero and one of her suitors are twin brother and sister. There’s a big fight with light sabers, hi-tech swords, at the end between Luke, the hero and Darth Vader, the villain. Luke survives.
Of course, this version provides waaaay too much information. And it gives away several of the key plot elements that drive the story. Chances are, you would feel like you really don’t need (or want) to read the story because you know so much about it.
3.   A happy medium is what is needed. Enough to intrigue, but not enough to require spoiler alert status. Try writing your own “best description” of Star Wars Episode 4.
4.   Check to see how you did. Here’s an original logline (a one-sentence summary of your story) for “A New Hope.”
Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy, joins rebel forces to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, and the galaxy from the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star.
How do YOU answer the question, “What’s your book about?” for your book?
Do you skim over the whole plot too quickly and superficially to generate interest?
Hopefully not.
Do you find your questioner looking at his/her watch as you drone on and on?
Again, hopefully not.
Of have you found your sweet spot in describing your book?
I hope so. But, if not, you’ll find more people will want to read your book when they know enough about the story to be intrigued and want to know how it ends
For Traveler’s HOT L, my elevator version (what I usually call the logline) is:
It’s eight stories of time travel where each traveler travels for different reasons and with different results.
My first expansion of the logline adds:
Some choose to make the trip. Others are recruited by the proprietor’s of the Harmonic Overlap of Time Location (HOT L) or the time synchronizers who work with them to travel and fix something from their lives or for the timeline as a whole. Each story is unique, and some of the results of the time travel fail to meet, or exceed, the expectations of the travelers.
If I have more time, I provide a brief description of the plot of each story. I emphasize that the stories are not related to one another in any way except by the HOT L.
Bottom line for this blog: How’s your pitch for your book?
Make it hittable. After all, you’re not trying to strike out with your readers.
Next week: You can’t tell a book by its cover, but the cover can convince you to buy it!
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Final thoughts on Figures… And Kindle Previewer—a wonderful tool.

This is the final blog on my Amazon publication (CreateSpace and KindleDirect) experience.
In the blog Figuratively Speaking… Text Is Better, I gave a list of specifications that will be “best” for you if your book has figures in it. A quick review of two important ones:
  1. Make sure your illustrations are 300 dpi for the print version (CreateSpace) and 200 dpi for KindleDirect. Use Preview or another photo manipulating tool. Choose image size (or some similar option) and set the dpi value there.
  2. And, while we’re talking size 4.7 inches wide by 7 inches tall for the print book (assuming a 6x9 book size). For the ebook, expand the width to 6.5 inches—the height should automatically adjust proportionally.
A new caveat about photos: also using your photo manipulation program, make sure your color settings are rgb, if you want color, and you might as well use color in the ebook. If your photo manipulation program has a “greyscale” setting, that the best for any black/white illustrations. CreateSpace will print color photos in greyscale for text, but if your illustration is greyscale to begin with, it’s often a better final product.
And now….
The grand finale!
Besides the support for KindleDirect (both email and phone are WONDERFUL), your best friend can be Kindle Previewer. This downloadable program allows you to convert your files into a pseudo Kindle format that mimics the real deal. You can change the devices on which you’d like to read your ebook with a simple mouse click.
Always use Kindle Previewer BEFORE submitting your .htm/.html file. It will save you much time, stress, and frustration because you can fix problems without waiting for uploads, etc.
Bottom line of all the blogs in this strand, of course, is this: RIFTSA Science Fiction Thriller is available for purchase in both print and eBook (Kindle) format—and both versions look GREAT! That’s should be your goal. If it is, it IS attainable.
Next week: Ideas for Preview Language to use when describing your book to others.
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tables, while legal aren't easy to set, and other tips to make your Amazon publishing life easier.

This will be the penultimate blog on my Amazon publication (CreateSpace and KindleDirect) experience.
Let’s start with topic in the title.
In an earlier blog, I reported that CreateSpace automatically indents paragraphs to their present indentation, even if you have already done this in your file. This is fine for narrative paragraphs. However, because of the size of the page in your print book, you may not (probably won’t) want paragraphs in tables, which you have massaged to fit in the space you have allotted for them, to be changed in size because of the movement of text in the cells as the paragraphs are indented “for you.”
I gave up trying to work with tables as tables. Here are my workarounds. The first items in Appendix A from RIFTS are tables. In the print version, they come out just fine—the PDF you submit is a bit more forgiving. The examples in the picture have the first column Right Justified—that took care of the first line indent.
This is the table as shown in the print copy.

What follows is the “table” as it appears in the e-book.

The content is identical in both, but the format is dramatically different. While I prefer the above because of the premise upon which my book is based, the e-book workaround does very little to diminish that premise.
Ultimately, if you have only narrative text in your manuscript, this isn’t an issue. If you have tables, and you can’t get them “right” on CreatSpace of KindleDirect after one or two tries, I would screen shot the table(s) and insert them as figures where you want them in your book.
Next week: I’m finishing my series of “Things I learned about the process when I published through Amazon.com (and how you can streamline your experience!). Last blog on that topic: Final thoughts on Figures… And Kindle Previewer—What a wonderful tool.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Where do you get your ideas?

If you have a book that’s been published, or if all you’ve done is mention that you’re writing a book, it’s very likely that you’ve been asked the question, "Where do you get your ideas?"
Most people in the world are content to hear stories. They like to listen or read and be drawn into a different time, place, or dimension. Once inside the world you, as a writer, create, the reader follows the paths you establish. They might think they know what’s going to happen and be surprised when it doesn’t. They might even talk or write to you after reading your story wanting more information on some point they consider underdeveloped. But, they were in YOUR world for a time.
Let’s get a couple of things clear. First, it’s your story—you control the characters, the action, and the setting. While you will learn valuable lessons about what people want from listening to this type of “feedback,” don’t assume you need to change your story to fit every comment. Try that, and you’ll never write a second, or next, book.
Second, you probably left certain details out of your book on purpose. Whether for length, continuity, or personal preference, your story is how you wanted it when you had it published. If that’s not the case every time after the first book, which, in fairness might not have been the perfect novel, why wasn’t it what you wanted to publish?
Sorry. In education, where I spent over 40 years, the two preceding paragraphs are what are know as “bird walking”—straying from the topic at hand and meandering down a path that, while it might lead somewhere, isn’t where you were supposed to be going.
I get my ideas from at least four sources.
1.    Family. My favorite example of this is when my oldest son, now in his late 30’s, was about ten years old. We had one of the first video games. It was a big plastic box. Aliens came in waves shooting at your laser cannon. Steve used to literally flop back and forth on the floor, dodging the imaginary enemy fire. That became the basis for a short story that is the 8th story in Traveler’s HOT L.
2.   Stuff you see/read. Television. Newspapers. Internet sources. Books. You can’t copyright an idea, but, be very careful not to plagiarize another’s work. For example, discussing DNA manipulation is fine, but stealing the methods used by Michael Crichton Jurassic Park is illegal.
3.   Life. I just had laparoscopic robotic hernia surgery. I guarantee some AI robot or android will go rouge and end up using surgery in an unapproved way in a future story.
4.   Weird brain connections. If you’ve never woken up in the middle of the night with an idea for a story or a plot twist, you probably haven’t been writing long. One day, in a meeting, the topic was reflective thinking by teachers. Somehow, during sleep, that morphed into a new dimension where everything is reversed—reflection.
You probably have stories, too. Feel free to pass on your best ideas.
Next week: We’re back in the series of “Things I learned about the process when I published through Amazon.com (and how you can streamline your experience!). Third blog on that topic: Tables, while legal aren't easy to set—and other tips to make your Amazon publishing life easier.
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

PDF does not equal .doc—which to publish first: ebook or paperback

Remember: Amazon is the largest FREE publisher of books of any kind. 
 Interestingly enough, I found out that, at least for Kindle, an ebook is not just a PDF file of the print book. I thought, since I had RIFTS-A Science Fiction Thriller already in print-ready layout, that it would be “one more mouse click” to get the book into both formats.
I found out that I was mistaken.
I put my PDF file up in CreateSpace. It loaded nicely. I was able to see what the book would look like in simulation on several devices. One of the last options you can choose is something about “a Kindle file.”
So, I chose that.
What I received is a pdf file, which, when loaded into the Kindle Direct generator, produces a much less than acceptable ebook—at least in my opinion. For that reason, I strongly recommend the following pathway to publishing in print and ebook on Amazon.

As I stated in my last blog, do your ebook first—because the layout is simpler. Select US Letter as your paper size setting (File/Page Setup/Paper Size). Then from the same dropdown tree (File/Page Settings) select Page Attributes/Microsoft Word/Margins. Format 1” margins all around. Set your paragraphs for 0.5” first line indent from Format/Paragraph. I chose a line spacing of 1.15, which you can do manually further down that dropdown menu Line Spacing/Exactly/ and type in 1.15. Of course you can choose one of the presets as well. You will submit this .doc or .docx file for the ebook.
Print book files: Set your document paper size to 6 x 9 and margins to TOP: 0.76, BOTTOM: 0.76, LEFT: 1.0, RIGHT: 0.82, which is the best I can do to get what I want in the final document. HOWEVER, BEFORE YOU SAVE YOUR FILE AS A PDF, BE SURE YOU HAVE A PRINTER (NOT “Any Printer”) SELECTED in “Page Setup.” I make sure to reset that in my version of Word (v.10.0 for MAC) every time because it doesn’t save that setting all the time. If you try to mirror your margins, you will have little success saving the file as a PDF as the converter Word uses doesn’t recognize mirrors and cuts off words on even numbered pages. I have Adobe Acrobat, and had the same problem when using it to convert. Conversion from .doc to .pdf is essential for submitting your book’s print version to Amazon.
Next week: A break from the series of “Things I learned about the process when I published through Amazon.com (and how you can streamline your experience!). Instead I’ll answer a question I get asked a lot: Where do you get your ideas?
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

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