My entire Sole Proprietor In Software book on this site!

I just added the entire book to this website! It’s from 2008 to 2010 and details my experiences with starting a contracted software development business (basically a supplier to one company). I hope you enjoy it!

Start reading Sole Proprietor In Software right now.

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Creator Sky Price Drop!

I decided to lower the price of the Creator Sky ebook to $2.99. It looks like the price changed on Amazon, but the other marketplaces will likely take more time to update.

The print price will have to stay as-is due to the high cost of print-on-demand services.

Here are places online that you can find the book:
CreateSpace (Print), Amazon (Print), Barnes & Noble (Print), Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, LuLu.com, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple iTunes

I hope this spurs people to give the book a shot!

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16 chapters of Creator Sky back on the site!

Start with the first chapter here.

I put 16 chapters of Creator Sky on the site. It’s close to the size of the book when I released it as a novelette in 2011. It was a long road, but now that it is a full novel I’ve been trying all that I can to get it out there. I hope you enjoy this preview!

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Spent a bit on Twitter and Amazon Advertisements…

The long story short is that not much happened yet.

First off, I noticed it was “national book lovers day” on Twitter and tried it out on a whim. In retrospect, I think I would have been much better off just making the tweet and not promoting it. I’ll get to that reason in a bit.

As you can see in the above screenshot it had 7637 impressions with 8 link clicks (the other engagement listed is literally burning the money with no benefit). I don’t know if it means only the Amazon link, or that and the attached photo link. The 1717 organic views was pretty decent. I don’t think I have had anything near that with my ~70 followers on Twitter.

As I was saying, I probably would have been much better off just making the tweet and not promoting it. There is a natural stigma to anything labeled as promoted or an advertisement. At times I’d personally avoid clicking on something that I consider an advertisement. The promotion might have hurt a bit because people like to think they are buying what they want (when in reality a lot of what people like is heavily ingrained into them with skillful advertising they don’t realize or care about).

$25 is a small amount of money in the advertising world, so I guess I’ll leave that up to not having the cash to step above the white noise. I was irritated by the fact that before paying for the advertisement, Twitter showed that I would get around 32,000 impressions for that $25. Talk about bait and switch!

Amazon was a little better, but also didn’t result in anything specific.

I’ve been adjusting the CPC bid from 20 cents to 2 dollars throughout the time I’ve had it running.

It was up to 22,500 views with 9 clicks and then I upped my bid to $2 on the 15th. It’s funny how my clicks jumped from 9 to 17 in 2000 hits… Maybe with a higher bid the book gets better placements, or maybe Amazon games their system to make cash. Either way, having a bid around 25 cents to a dollar didn’t do any worse than $2, because neither resulted in a sale so far (might be my product/pricing isn’t appealing, who knows). It’s better than Twitter, but not that great either. Maybe a low bid for a long period of time would work best to just get views.

Amazon overall seemed more reasonable that Twitter, especially since I had well over double the impressions for less money. I might try Amazon again in the future with a low budget long term setup (eg. a dollar budget per day with a low bid).

I’m considering doing advertisements on Facebook and Google Adwords. Maybe another $25 for each of those. With how the other two performed, I’m not exactly rushing to do it. I don’t know if ~28,000 views and 26 clicks was worth the $45…

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Totally missed NookPress Publishing!

I was talking with a friend about self-publishing and the idea of having better print-on-demand coverage came up. CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, so even with their extended distribution feature, it is unlikely that Barnes & Noble would consider stocking it or selling it in their online store. He mentioned Nook Press as an alternative. Years ago I had used it back when they only had functionality for publishing ebooks. Now they have print-on-demand, which is great. Over the last two weeks or so I’ve been setting up a project on there for Creator Sky. I was initially going to use Blurb.com as my second print-on-demand source, but for the moment I’m going to stick with CreateSpace and NookPress.

The main benefits NookPress has over blurb is ease of transitioning my CreateSpace source document to Nook’s formatting as well as it being tied to B&N, which will mean getting a print version on their site and maybe even in their physical stores eventually.

Here is a small photo of the NookPress print alongside the CreateSpace one:

The biggest difference is that the NookPress cover material has a matte finish and CreateSpace is shiny. Besides that, the Nook one is more compact even though the page sizes are around the same.

Interior quality is pretty similar, but I like CreateSpace a bit more. The paper seems slightly thicker with a more uniform look:

The graphic of my face is noticeably darker in the NookPress version (exposure of the two photos isn’t the same but in real life the graphic is darker as well).

Their self publishing process isn’t foolproof. It took me a second try to get things right (around $11 shipped per proof copy for my ~320 page book). I’ll be going over all of my settings to help anyone out with a similar goal. They have a setup screen with suggestions, but the data isn’t perfect in my opinion. Also keep in mind that you have a 10 proof copy limit to have printed and they hide the feature in the last steps before approving the project for distribution. Be careful not to approve the project before having a print made! My first proof print had a few issues and I’m glad I had proofs made to verify everything. The 10 copy limit is for the entire project, so only have one copy printed each time.

The initial settings were Black & White, Paperback, Cream #55 paper, and 5×8 inch format.

Problems start to arise because their suggestions are not ideal. The site uploader step suggests an interior margin of 0.75 inches, which I think is too small after seeing my first proof copy. The odd thing is that in their style and formatting PDF document it suggests 1 inch instead, which I believe is the correct amount to use.

Here are two screenshots from the NookPress website. I had to make a fake new project to see that page again now that I have Creator Sky published:

As mentioned above, it shows the interior margin that I didn’t agree with. It also shows some dimensions you will need to use when designing the cover art (full wrap that includes the spine). Do not care about the cover values until you upload the interior PDF document. Those values will change after their system processes the document!

Here are my Libre Office page settings:

Width: 5 inches
Height: 8 inches
Page layout: Mirrored
Inner margin: 1 inches
Outer margin: 0.5 inches
Top margin: 0.5 inches
Bottom margin: 0.4 inches (I took this down because I wanted the footer a bit shorter as it seemed like a waste of space)

Keep in mind that I used a copy of my CreateSpace document, which saved a lot of time, but still required a decent amount of adjustments. You have to open up the Styles toolbox and clean it up (Menu item Styles >> Styles & Formatting F11). My original document had probably 5 times as many page styles listed than what you see above, but I went through them and deleted ones that were not used or could be discarded with a bit of work.

Here are the settings for the header and footer. They should be consistent between all of the page types:

Header spacing: 0.32 inches
Height: 0.04 inches
Footer spacing: 0.42 inches
Footer height: 0.04 inches
AutoFit height on both.
I had adjusted the footer to taste, because I thought it was taking up a bit too much space.

The document itself needed to be adjusted to conform to NookPress’s printing preference of PDF files. I had initially converted my document to PDF for the first proof copy without understanding how it would work exactly. It turns out that when doing the conversion in Libre Office, it didn’t include a blank page it should have. The CreateSpace template and Libre office formatted version implement a blank page to make sure that page 1 of the actual text will be on the right side to conform to a standard practice in print books.

As shown above in a previous screenshot, the back cover needs to be designed with care in something like Photoshop to get it right. My first attempt was off, but my second turned out alright. Below is a photo of the first and second attempt with NookPress on the cover:

Here is a screenshot of my Photoshop cover document. I followed the width, height, and spine values on the NookPress website (after I uploaded my interior document to get the correct values):

In this case I pulled up a calculator and started adding guides to help me position things (in the view menu of Photoshop CS5). I aligned my spine text and graphic based on the absolute center of the document. I also added in margins as specified by the site and the PDF style/formatting guide. Don’t go by the graphics on the NookPress site. Their margin/spine ratios are off and the area that it shows the barcode is completely wrong. You really just need to look at the numbers (eg. a spine of 0.72 with 2mm margins, etc).
5×8 inches = 5.13 x 8.25 per side with 0.25 margins on the borders of the graphic is the generic formula excluding the spine size, but keep in mind the NookPress site might give you additional margin values you should consider.

Formatting document references (as long as the links stay the same):
https://print.nookpress.com/publishing-help/formatting-guide
https://print.nookpress.com/publishing-help/paperback-quick-guide

That’s pretty much it! It’s not a short process by any means, but not too difficult with a bit of time to make sure you have margins setup properly in the interior and the exterior graphic.

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Started donating books to Little Free Libraries

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was thinking of distributing a decent number of Creator Sky copies through the local Little Free Library system. I had ordered 50 copies that I still have around half left. They have two errors in the interior, but are solid quality copies otherwise. Obviously, my main motivation is promotion, but that’s not the entire story. The book is self-published and pretty much in a black hole right now. Visibility is what I’m grasping for at the moment. Marketplaces that sell the books have the system gamed to support the interests of people already successful (backed by publishers), or ones willing to spend money on advertising (I might a bit in the future). I’d also simply like to get the book out there for people to enjoy. The Little Free Library is a great concept worth supporting.

I decided to augment the books a bit before taking to the little libraries:

In the author page, I put a sticker asking anyone who enjoyed the book to consider writing an online review. That’s really the most important thing in regard to promotion that I can think of. Books online with a large number of legitimate quality reviews get better ranking in online stores. Maybe the only other better case would be general review on a blog or other website with a lot of user reach. Besides that I put another sticker indicating it was from a Little Free Library. It’s partly meant to dissuade people from taking it and keeping it, but also to indicate it was mean to be placed in one.

I still have a good deal of copies of that first printing, so I’m thinking of taking a few road trips to get it out to larger metropolitan areas like the Chicago suburbs.

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My novel setup with Blurb BookWright.

I’m writing down this process in the eventual case where I forget one or more steps to the process. As I mentioned in a previous post, this program is better than other options, but itself has a lot of drawbacks. In this case there is a lot of manual adjustment needed, which is time consuming and prone to human error.

In this process I’m basically copying text from a finished book document into the Blurb program.

Format: 5×8

File >> Book Information
Fill in the book title and author name.

Paper/Trim >> Paper Types
Standard BW Paper (hopefully cream, not sure yet…)

Add a bunch of pages in the right panel that displays the side by side pages. There are a few ways to do that.

First page:
Title page with book title and author name
Second page:
Copyright information
Third page: Acknowledgements
Fourth page: You need a blank page or something else in this case because the text should start on the right with page number 1 (a convention I’ll mention later).

I position a graphic photo container above those three pages (it should lock into position when you drag the edges around.). Inside that graphic I put a small 100% white PNG file of pretty much any size and make sure it is Forward to cover that area. We will get back to that in a moment. There might be other ways to deal with the issue I will describe, but I haven’t found it yet.

The above graphic shows the “background” area. This is where you can add things that will show up on every single page. When I added those pure white graphics earlier to the first three pages, I was intending to cover up what is done here because the headers shouldn’t show up on those three pages. In this case you add text containers and position them to align with a temporary layout applied (the second novel one in my case). I delete the template afterward because it is just used to align the two header texts.

Page numbering conventions: Standard practice is to have odd numbered pages on the right and even on the left. That means page #1 must be on the right. This needs to be handled manually with Blurb (with CreateSpace the template is smart enough to make it work as it should without caring about which page is on what physical page).

I also add pages numbers starting on page 5 in my case. This is done through the menu with Add/Insert >> Add Page Numbers…

For every single page in the main text, you have to apply one of the page templates. In my case I use that second novel template shown highlighted in blue. In the case of a 5×8 book it seems to work alright. The larger templates will clip and the smaller templates seem specialized.

I copy and paste every single chapter of the book by hand. My setting of choice are these:
1. Palatino Linotype font. I really like how it reads compared to other fonts I’ve seen so far.
2. Chapter titles are size 14 font.
3. Body text is size 11 font with 1 em line spacing.
4. Every single paragraph has to be tabbed by hand (one really stupid software design choice of the program).
5. After everything is done, click the Update Text Flow button, otherwise the text won’t refresh.
6. Do this for every paragraph (eg, select all text and assign the font). I’ve had the program use a default font for the header even though I pasted text with the correct font.

When that is done for the chapter, I likely have to flow the text into multiple pages.

You can see the flow controls above. The top left allows you to remove flow connections. The bottom right allows you to link containers. In this case you will usually be using the bottom right button and then clicking on the next page’s container to link them up.

That’s about it for the editing stage. It take a lot of time and is prone to errors, so I’ll have to check and re-check things before pushing the project to the Blurb website so I can order a proof copy.

Hopefully once all of this is done I can link up this version of the book with their extended distribution networks.

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Getting the novel into my local library.

After finishing my first print version of Creator Sky, I ended up getting a pretty sizable order of copies made (in retrospect, probably too many).

I contacted my local library system to see if they would be interested in having a few copies to put into circulation. Their response was great!  Basically, they love local authors and would be glad to make it happen. Only about two weeks later I check out my favorite library branch and see this:

The biggest thing I noticed was that I should have put the title of the book on the top of the spine considering libraries put their stickers on the bottom (at least mine does). If… or rather when… I revise the book again in the future I’ll be sure to fix that. It’s something I didn’t even consider in the development phase.

Other than that quirk (and the two errors I know exist in that version of the text), it’s great to see it somewhere people can enjoy it! Now I’m hoping people actually give it a chance and check it out. The more active the book is, the longer it stays in circulation.

The process feels like it won’t end after each little mistake or unforeseen omission, but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, at least for this book outside of attempts at promotion. I still have around 40 copies of this version I need to do something with.

My next idea is maybe a road trip to deposit some copies into the “Little Free Library” system. Well, at least that’s the general idea. I need to research how it all works and what the code of honor is for the whole little library concept. They might frown on it for whatever reason. (Edit: It appears that there is no issue with the idea from what I’ve seen so far.)

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Blurb for novels… BookWright needs work.

I have my Creator Sky novel “published” with CreateSpace. The process is relatively straightforward. You can download a document template that is formatted to their specifications and it just simply works. You can also download a cover template based on your final page size and that just simply works.

In my attempt to find a second print-on-demand service so that there is some level of complete market coverage, I’ve been looking at the different services available.

The biggie is Ingram Spark. The problem is that they have no templates as far as I can tell. All I have seen is a large verbose file creation guide in PDF format. That’s great an all, but in my case I want something simple that looks like a standard novel inside. It shouldn’t be that time consuming and difficult. Not to mention they have a lot of fees involved in the process, so if I messed something up it would get costly fast.

Lulu is an option, but they don’t offer 8×5 that I’ve decided on. Curiously, they offer a 6.88×4.25 inch format that might be interesting for selling direct though that format can’t be sold through their extended distribution networks. I do really like their ebook process, so I do use them for that at least.

I’ve used Blurb before many years ago. I can’t exactly remember for what or why (either photo books and/or my old Convention Photography book). They are reliable and upfront with any costs or fees. They also mention distribution with Ingram Spark. With as much reach as they offer, it seems like a good second PoD publisher. The main issue is their process. It’s easy in some ways, but time consuming in others.

There could be other services out there, but I’ve not found any that have reasonable fees and a smooth process. So today, I’ll be talking about issue I have with Blurb as my second best option to CreateSpace.

With Blurb, they got their feet wet in the publishing service with photo books. This is a problem for novel writing because there are still hold overs from that history in their processes. They have quite a few methods to get data to them. The most difficult would be making your own PDF, which I’ll avoid for the reason mentioned with Ingram Spark. You can make the book directly through their website, which I haven’t attempted. You can use their plugin for Adobe InDesign (I don’t own that software, no go on that). You can also make a book with two separate programs, one called BookWright and the other called BookSmart. I don’t know the differences between BookWright and BookSmart, but I’m thinking that BookSmart was their original software and will eventually be retiring that.

I’ve been using BookWright for a while now. I had used to to make up a test print of the novel with moderate success. For whatever reason it printed in white paper, which isn’t ideal for a novel. Here is a quick photo of the first result.

Like I said, not too bad, but not as nice as the CreateSpace print is. I’m hoping I can get cream paper selected somehow for the next attempt.

Here is a screenshot of the BookWright program itself:

In there on the left you have the side by side pages of the document. On the top you have page templates. There are a few for novels, but most of them are oddly shaped or don’t even work with the 5×8 format.

The problem start for me because I have a finished book and simply want to get it into a format that Blurb will accept. The huge issue with BookWright is that it doesn’t handle text flow well at all. You have to manually add pages and manually add a template to each page (you can select multiple pages and apply a template to all of them at once which helps a bit). The largest problems come when you want to get text into the book.

You can import RTF files, but it has a few large drawbacks. It won’t recognize paragraph indents. It also won’t flow the entire text if it is a large document. When working with novel sized text, it breaks their container design. In my first attempt at using BookWright, I quickly found out there is no way to avoid a large amount of manual labor to make it work.

  1. You need to add pages manually.
  2. You need to apply a template to the page (quickly done by selecting all).
  3. You have to manually link containers for text to flow between pages.
  4. When pasting or importing text, you have to manually tab every single paragraph. This leads to a huge potential for errors due to doing it by hand.
  5. You need to manually flow the text between pages. This means clicking a special icon on each page and then clicking on the following page to flow the text. It’s an added hassle.
  6. If you don’t pay attention, your text can flow into nothing. This is a great way to exclude text in a finished book. Say you edit chapter 3 and the last few paragraph flows into nothing because you added 20 tabs to fix their refusal to automatically indent paragraphs. I had this happen.

All of that extra work is better, in the short term, than spending days or more learning enough to produce a PDF by hand. My issue is that it seems pointless because it could be solved by better design of the application. Who on their design team thought not parsing paragraph indention in imported or pasted text was a good idea? Not to mention the idea of forcing users to mess around with the TAB character at all.

With that said, I’m still going to use BookWright and Blurb as my second PoD service, but it could be so much easier or less error prone if they would fix two simple things (paragraph intention and text flow between pages)

Here is my current process to make it work:

  1. Setup the new project in BookWright.
  2. Add a bunch of pages and apply a novel template that fits with the 5×8 format.
  3. Copy a single chapter at a time. Past it into the next available page.
  4. Flow the text by hand by clicking the special icon and then clicking the following page.
  5. Tab every single paragraph by hand.
  6. Verify that the text didn’t flow into another page and became hidden…
  7. Check for missed tabs and more hidden text flow issues.

It’s a somewhat slow process and prone to error, but sadly it seems better than any alternatives I’ve seen so far!

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OCLC Worldcat, not too sure how it works…

I recently noticed that my Scifi book, Creator Sky, is now listed on WorldCat.

I was talking about marketing ideas with a friend and mentioned the idea of asking local libraries to see if they would carry it. He said that a family member of his was an employee of a local library (one that’s in a small city of the metro area, as far as I know they only have one or two branches). It turned out to be a no-go because the book wasn’t listed in something called the OCLC Worldcat database. They apparently use it exclusively with books they have in circulation.

I had dropped that idea of getting in the small library and focused on talking with the larger library system of the city I live in. I’ll talk more about that experience in the future, but basically their response was wonderful.

It’s possible that my library system was the one that managed to get the book listed in that WorldCat system. Maybe they have some type of membership the other smaller library doesn’t. If not, it is possible that CreateSpace just needed some time for their systems to push the data into there and presumably other large databases.

The whole process is a bit hidden in layers of unknowns, but worth researching in the future.

 

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