Saturday, June 9, 2012

Another success story

I'm sure the bulk of self-publishers are not great and don't go far. But there are just so many amazing stories that I can't ignore them.

Theresa wrote romance novels for 19 years. She wrote every day. She reached the finals of writing contests, and she was represented by two separate agents over this period. But she never made a sale. She resisted self-publishing, because she wanted, as she told me, “to do it the hard way, the right way.”
In 2011, she heard talk of self-publishing on Amazon and figured she had nothing to lose. Her first two books published via Kindle Direct Publishing were medieval time travels, Return of the Rose and A Knight in Central Park. She expected to sell 10 books. Instead, she was selling hundreds within a month, and after a favorable mention in the Pixel of Ink blog, the hundreds turned into thousands.

If you are already successful, I guess a Publisher can make sense. Even though they have basically stopped doing any publicity for books, and expect the author to do all that anyway. But sometimes they still give a nice advance, some of them. Even if they only in the end pay the author around 5% because of their big, obsolete overhead.

But for a new author, I don't see it. Even if you make it through the slush pile, it still takes at the very least a year to get the book out, for no good reason. A good friend of mine had a book accepted by a publisher, and then was strung along and along and along... the editor got sick for a while... and in the end it all became a big nothing, and she had wasted three years.

Jobs: no iPod for Windows users

According to this article, Steve Jobs fought nail and claw against anybody using iPods on their Windows machine. Imagine how much smaller Apple would have been now if wiser heads on the board had not talked sense into him?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kindle update, contrast again

People have long been talking about hacks or fonts for the Kindle which supposedly improve the contrast. I could never see how that would work, it seems to me you would need to change the hardware to make the contrast better.

The newest software update to the Basic Kindle promises again better contrast. With a small skeptical hope I installed it, but I photographed the Kindle first, for easier comparison.
Below the comparison photos. Even with Photoshop's measuring tools, I can't find any difference. (Oh, by the way, the same tools show clearly that the background is middle grey, not light grey as the manufacturers claim.)

Before update: 


I'm sorry to carp on about this issue, but it hurts my heart, because I could really love the Kindle if not for this single problem, that the screen is too dark. (That I seem to be in a small minority about it doesn't make it easier, but at least Mark Twain said it's the better place to be.    :-)

If/when Amazon makes a front-lit Kindle, like the Glow Nook, I'll buy it. It'll be my sixth e-ink Kindle*, all bought in the hope that This Time It Would Really Work For Me.
But I'm not bitter (not a lot). I think Amazon has really forwarded e-reading in a big way, when nobody else seemed to be able to.

By the way, these are the contrast/lightness readings (the tine circle on the left, first for the background and then for the text):

As you can see, the contrast is about one third of the theoretically possible.
I took care to photograph without glare in the screen, for maximum contrast.

*I have Kindle 1, Kindle 2 Int, Kindle 3, Kindle Dx, and Kindle 4 Basic. (And the Kindle Fire, which is good, but doesn't do anything my iPad or Android tablets don't do.)

When Sailing Solo Around the World, Bring an Extra Kindle

When Sailing Solo Around the World, Bring an Extra Kindle, article.

He's sailing solo around the world, and he didn't bring a backup for his Kindle??

OK, admittedly I can be an overly careful person, the type who checks all my pockets twice before going out. But really, I wouldn't go anywhere, much less alone to the middle of the ocean without bringing a backup for what's probably the only entertainment device I have. Especially what with the basic Kindle being smaller than a pulp paperback, and hardly more expensive (okay, the last thing is exaggerated, but $79 for an ereader is durn cheap).     :-)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Making ebook from web stories, example

I'm a big fan of the animated show Daria, and I happened to find some fanfiction related to it. I've never read any kind of fanfiction before, but I decided to give it a shot, and I started reading Falling Into College by Richard Lobinske. He has written so many short stories, continuing each other, that all together it effectively forms about five novels!

Now, I don't think reading long stories in a web browser is great. Just for one reason, you have to keep the same window open for a long time, days or weeks. And it's not saved in a document, or ebook. And you lose your place if the page reloads (which it does on the iPad every time you change tab). So I wanted to save the stories in a file, like an ebook.

[Update: Stephen told me about a tool which makes this process simpler: FLAG. Thanks.] [If you know the email addy Amazon gave your kindle or app, you can even email it directly to it. You need to pre-approve the sender address (found here) on your Kindle admin page on Amazon.]

This was not trivial to save, because it was split up in a page per chapter/story. But fortunately Instapaper is so ingeniously made that it detects that and saves all the pages into one document which you can then read in the Instapaper app on your favorite device.

But Instapaper is made for articles, not ebooks. For example, it has no search function. And with long documents you may lose your place if you shift the iPad from horizontal to vertical position or vice versa, because Instapaper paginates it differently, at least if you come into the app by accident in the position other than the one you left it. But I quite liked Richard's stories, so I wanted to transfer it to a proper ebook document.

I have Send To Kindle for Mac, and it has a browser button in Safari. But sadly this simple does not work on my machine, dunno why.  (I could use Print from any app and select the "Send To Kindle" printer. But this sends it as a PDF file, so you can't change text size or fonts in the Kindle(app)*. Probably the button does the same when it works.)
So what I did was copy the text (Command-A) of the whole book/article (160,000 words!) on (in Text view), and paste it into a word processor document and save it as .RTF (Rich Text Format, a basic and universally useful word processing format). This preserved the formatting.

Then I opened the Send To Kindle app and dragged the document into it, clicked, and boom, two minutes later I had a perfect ebook sitting in the Kindle app on my iPad (and my small Kindle too, just for kicks).

Some of his stories were not connected by "next page" links, so there it was a little more work; I had to open a word processor document and open each story in the browser, then select all the text (Command-A), and then drag it into the document, each one under the former one. Then save that document as .RTF. Then Send to Kindle. (If I had wanted to use a different ebook reader, BlueFire or MegaReader or whatnot, I could just use Dropbox, or connect by USB and drag the document into that app's space in iTunes.)

*If you want to do this, it is worth knowing that you can adjust the text size (a bit crudely) in the resulting PDF file by adjusting the text size in the browser window before "printing"! This is also useful knowledge for when actually printing web pages to paper.

By the way, I think writing fanfiction may be very good practice for a new writer. Sure, it doesn't pay, but most writing doesn't, and at least this way you're prepared for it! And you'll write for an audience who are already interested in the characters, and I guess it's likely to foster more feedback than most writing.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


This sounds like it could be *really* great, both for authors and for world literacy.


(Unfortunately there are some harsh criticisms of Pubslush, I hope there's not a lot to them.)