Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Strange Day 30th September 2010.

It’s been a strange day today, all sorts of peculiar developments to weave my way through, almost like walking through a minefield.

Not that anyone was going to explode if I put a foot wrong, nothing as dramatic as that but we had a long trans-continental management meeting yesterday – something like two and a half hours. Thank heavens for internet chat – god knows how much it would have cost on a phone!

Now I’ve started to implement some of the things discussed, and at the same time, work out the full implications for some of the rest. On top of that personal pressures built up as well – not least comforting my mother after some light-fingered asswipe stole her purse while she was up town shopping. Luckily she keeps her cards elsewhere, so only the cash went missing, although the feeling of violation hasn’t left her.

I’m also on the final verification stage of checking the upload for our new aggregator, I have three new releases to format and prep for release at the start of next month, and it is of course also the final day of the quarter – so from tomorrow I’m going to be buried in finalising and checking the quarter end figures – which incidentally look much, much better than the previous quarter.

One day I’ll find the time to start writing again, managed a little last week, but this week is definitely a washout from that point of view.......

Ah well, soon be Xmas.....

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The death of the long set up 28th September 2010.

Sorry, I haven’t kept up with my self-imposed six times a week blogging schedule, but things have got a little hectic around here.

I’ve been very busy spending the last four days, including the weekend, formatting stuff for our new aggregator. I’ve had to extract all the bios, blurbs and extracts and then format all of them to a different set of standards.

Not difficult you might think but that’s because I haven’t told you the standards. Firstly I have to strip out ALL formatting – and I do mean all, and then insert a limited set of html tags to replace them. This limited set includes only three the tag <> for italics, the tag <> for bold and the <>tab for paragraph. I had fun writing this - when I copied it in, it activated the actual tags and turned everything into bold italic! Hence the unnatural spaces in the tags.

It doesn’t even include a centre tag – so for starters, how am I supposed to centre the scene breaks where there are any in the extracts?

Just to make matters worse each of the above are limited to 3750 characters in length. I mean, who counts in characters these days? Answer – they do. Since the introduction of blobs (colloquially know as bloody large objects) into database technologies twenty years or more ago, together with the inherent flexibility of html – you don’t need them. Still I suppose they have to work to the lowest common denominator among their clients.

It’s annoying though – almost all of our novel length excerpts had to be trimmed to fit – a couple of them by more than half! Given the excerpts are usually picked from the first chapter and the original excerpt (as seen on our web site) was carefully chosen to reflect the book in the best possible light, you can probably see why I’m finding this annoying.

This is where the long set up point, comes in. If you can’t complete the plot/character set up in a short number of sentences, you are going to have a problem when it comes to the retailers – they won’t/can’t take these long passages as the excerpts. Ergo – your excerpt might end up being half the set-up, no action and your potential readers (those who look at the excerpts at least) end up being put off rather than encouraged to read on.


Keep the set up short.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

To continue ... 22nd September 2010.

I had some interesting comments by e-mail and on Facebook about my blog so I thought this opened up the subject wider and I’d continue in the same vein.

When we first started this company we decided we wanted to appear “friendly” and as a result we had a very relaxed set of submission requirements. Even then, we didn’t necessarily enforce them strictly.

We had all sorts of strange submissions sent in, including one very early on that was clearly the scanned handwritten copy of a school essay, complete with the marks given to it by the teacher – I won’t embarrass the young lady by telling you the mark just in case she actually reads this. Actually, that sounds a bit pretentious, so I will, it was a C+.

That kind of “silly” submission can be dealt with easily enough, it is so clearly a rejection it only takes a few minutes to write a polite rejection, without even reading it. We can’t process it ergo we can’t accept it.

The more subtle mistakes do take time to deal with, so when our submissions page reopens we will have a much harder set of requirements, and this time we will be enforcing them.

Look at it from our point of view. Each guideline breach takes us time to deal with. It might not be much time for each one, some of them are time consuming, but if you add it up for twenty to fifty submissions a month it will add up. Time is money, and neither of us involved in this part of the business has that amount of time to spare not if we want to grow the business and heaven forbid actually start making real money from it!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

While I’m on the subject 21st September 2010.

While we’re on the subject of what not to do on a submission, let’s talk about title pages.

As a publisher – what am I going to be interested in on the title page of your manuscript? Your title, your pen name, and probably the word count. The later isn’t absolutely necessary if I’ve insisted on it being in the e-mail the manuscript is attached too – but others prefer it this way. So it doesn’t really bother me.

I can probably accept your contact details on the top but there are several things I don’t want to see.

One is your taste in decoration. Sure – there are some very nice colour schemes for title page graphics out there, and I’m sure they may even help you to “see” your own work, but I don’t want to see them. Seriously, I don’t, and for two reasons.

Firstly – they won’t match our “corporate colour scheme” (a particular two shades of blue) and I might not even agree with your “dodgy” taste in any case – remember putting me off your manuscript in any way is a bad thing!

Secondly, they distract me from what I want to do, which is to read the thing. In fact we’ve accepted manuscripts for publication without a title page – we don’t require one but accept others do.

The next page of your submission is critical too. We (and I know others differ) ask for your bio, your synopsis and genre for the book to form the body of the e-mail. Why then, would we want to read through them again as pages 2 to whatever of the manuscript? Okay, so you’re sending it to three hundred people (which is frowned on by probably 298 of them) and you want to send the same thing to all of them.

I can understand that, but I can’t accept something that is going to cost me time to scroll past to find the story, heaven forbid, I can’t find the start of the actual book because it starts halfway down page 4 of the synopsis.

Don’t get me started by the complex attempt at a copyright statement on page 5 either. There are two things wrong with this. Every publisher uses their own, usually legally checked, copyright statement so we WON’T use yours however much you kick and scream.

Secondly, it’s a trust issue. You’ve sent us your manuscript – usually we haven’t asked you for it. It represents a big slice of your creative life and it’s important to you. WE KNOW! We only contract the publishing rights – the copyright remains the author’s at all times. I’d be very concerned about a publisher that wants more than this. If you don’t trust us to honour that – what in four hells are you doing submitting it to us in the first place? Not only that, you insulted me, and my company. Not exactly a brownie point winner – is it?

If you must put a copyright on it, then just put the copyright symbol next to your name and leave it at that. I can respect that; you don’t know me (probably) after all, but no more than that.

Any more negative brownie points and it’s a reject slip. Simple really.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Why make it harder? 20th September 2010.

I want you to think about something for a minute. When you submit a manuscript to an agent or a publisher (yep – I’m back on that horse again) – you are taking the position of supplicant. You want them to accept your manuscript as worthy of publication, and although an actual begging letter isn’t in any way good from, you are begging them to find something g in your work that stands out head and shoulders above the others.

So surely, it’s reasonable to suppose that you’ve followed the publisher’s submission instructions to the letter (I’ve already covered that in earlier blogs), but isn’t it also beholden on you, the author, to ensure the internal consistency of the manuscript as well.

Hopefully, by following the submission guidelines it’s in the correct font, correctly spaced, and where applicable with (or without) page numbers, page headings etc. etc.

That’s reasonable – but have you checked everything else?

Have you stripped out your working cover, unless they’re already asking for that – which would be unusual, the pretty margin graphics, the fake parchment background and the “Draft” watermark.

You have? – Good! Second set of brownie points – the first was for following the explicit submission instructions.

Now for the one I bet you haven’t thought about – the embedded metadata.

You know - the author, title etc, which is embedded in the document. I bet some of you didn’t even realise it’s there, but it can create havoc for the publisher later in the process.

About from having an author name as your real name (when you want to use a pen name) or a title for the document which is actually the opening sentence there are worse effects still – the corporate ones.

Word, is an absolute menace in that respect. Let’s say you’ve been taking your manuscript in to work and using your company desktop to edit the manuscript during your lunch hour. As far as I’m concerned there’s no harm in that – but Word has a couple of tricks and your company system administrator has probably, and correctly, utilised them. Some companies have a policy to stamp the company name into the author metadata field, or you inherited the machine from your predecessor and their name gets inserted when you save. Companies can set their systems to automatically stamp any document processed on their system with additional metadata fields, identifying company department etc. etc.

For commercial purposes this is perfectly acceptable behaviour – but you don’t want them in your manuscript and you don’t want to force me to remove them either. If I have to remove them, or edit or alter them at any point in the process – believe me you just wasted my time and that is a serious mistake – remember you are the one who needs this, not us. You’re the supplicant.

Where is this metadata, you ask?

Well, I’ll tell you for Word 2007 – because I’m nice like that, although exactly where to find it in other systems or older versions – I can’t help you.

Click on the big start button, scroll down the New, Open Save menu until you reach Prepare. The second pane of the menu should now open up and the top option is Properties – a.k.a. Document Properties.

You should be able to follow your nose from there.

The next manuscript I find with corrupted properties is going to get a “reject, try again” notice immediately. You have been warned....

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Issues with being International 16th September 2010

The very nature of our business meant we could truly classify ourselves as international from the very first moment of the company’s existence. After all – one of us lives in New Zealand and I live in the United Kingdom. Until they actual start getting space habitats up and running I don’t think we could be physically further apart. Just to further complicate matters are editing staff are predominantly domiciled in the US.

All of our work is done electronically so the physical distances aren’t a problem, although the time differences can induce frustration, but it’s something we can generally work around.
Of course from the eBook point of view we don’t have any issues either –the web transcends distance in ways no other system can, and we deal with retailers on a worldwide basis. In fact, since many of our retailers and distributors have overseas subsidiaries it can be convoluted to keep track of who is selling our eBooks where.

It took us a while to find an accounting package that dealt neatly enough with our, often three-cornered, currency movements, but we have now and that’s up and working. (We bill in US dollars for eBooks, and many of our suppliers bill us in US dollars, which are paid from a Sterling account and recompensed in New Zealand dollars. In fact one particular supplier bills us for some transactions in sterling and some in US dollars just to complicate matters.)

The thorn in our side though, remains print shipments. We print books in either the US or the UK, depending on which location is the most economic. This is where things get very complicated and very frustrating very quickly.

(Yes I know you shouldn’t repeat a word like I did in the last sentence – but I did it for emphasis!)

For example – if I ship a book by post in this country, it costs the same, whichever part of the country I’m shipping it to. (Courier is different of course, but post costs the same). In the US the size of the country dictates different charges for different states. If I have books printed in the US and shipped to Canada we incur customs duty, despite it being the longest land border in the world, and they even speak the same (well almost) language. If I ship the books from the UK – no customs duty but the extra freight cost more than makes up for it.

If I need to ship books to New Zealand, it’s more economic to do this from the UK, but if the order exceeds NZ$ 500 then it will incur customs duty. Bear in mind the printing company and the courier are billing us in sterling at least a week before the shipment arrives and in the meantime the currency rate can fluctuate which might push a shipment over the limit.

These are just two examples, there are many others. No wonder I get a headache some days...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Bizarre little exercise for you 15th September 2010.

A little bit of fun today.

Like most modern authors, I am totally reliant on my word processor and my keyboard skills – and sometimes they can let me down.

I use autocorrect to pick up my common errors so I don’t even think about the fact I sometimes type yuo instead of you (and I had to type that twice to get it to register – autocorrect corrected the deliberate mistake).

Autocorrect, spell-check and grammar-check are integral parts of our lives as writers now, and most of the time we don’t even stop to think about them.

By the way, my autocorrect list contains about 70 items I‘ve added to cover my common errors – so don’t be ashamed to admit to the odd dozen or so – Please comment and tell me how many – as long as it’s not zero – I don’t like braggarts.

Anyway, back to the point of this blog. I had a bit of a finger “spasm” as I was typing yesterday’s blog and one particular work was seriously mangled. It was of course awarded the wavy red line and I went to retype it from scratch. By accident, I caught the right mouse button rather than the left and was surprised to see that despite the a, r and s being the only letters that were correct in the word authors, that was the only correction offered.

So the exercise for today is to find the weirdest, strangest and most impossible misspelling you can for either that word, or another of your choice of 7 letters, which still gives the correct spelling as the only choice when you right click it.

It’s harder than you think....

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Beware the Tricksters out there 14th September 2010.

Since I subscribe to several web services and blogs, and belong to some newsgroups and so on , s well as having “author” prominently on my Facebook profile, I tend to get quite a bit of spam e-mails about the writing world and profession.

Some of these are offering services to us as a company, which we don’t want or need. “We’ll convert your books to the most popular format for free.” “We’ll help you get your books on the Apple iBooks store - worldwide.” You get the picture – and for those guys information – we already have our eBooks in the most popular format, and we have them on Apple too, and apple are not yet marketing their iBooks store worldwide so how they can do something that Apple don’t do beggars belief.

My all time favourite was one I recently yesterday and which sparked the thought train that became this blog.

“Sign up as an author with us and we can guarantee you will receive twice the average earnings.”
I just about rolled on the floor over this one. Let me explain why, to those of you who don’t already know.

There is NO minimum wage agreements in force for authors anywhere. Sure one or two reach the stellar heights and the millions roll in, there are many who make a comfortable living from their writings. These fortunate souls are the very pinnacle of our profession, there are vastly outnumbered by those who scratch around at the bottom of the pyramid hoping to make it big someday. Authors live in hope rather than expectation.

Something like 0.1% of authors are fortunate to actually make a living wage from their writing – that’s one in a thousand. Around about 10 times this many, i.e. one in a hundred make enough to consider it more than pin money.

The rest, me included, don’t really make enough to buy the pins. LOL. Certainly not enough to put the food on the table. It’s why I moved into cover work, submissions handling and eventually publishing as well.

So, if only 1% of authors make anything close to decent money, and there is a vast pool of authors who end up with nothing to show for it, and the rest make peanuts – how low is the average going to be?

You do the math.

Anyone want a couple of peanuts?

I’m not trying to discourage anyone, far from it, but it’s these “I can help you make money from your writing” guys that really get to me.......

Monday, 13 September 2010

Is it a science or an art-form? 13th September 2010.

Sorry, pressure of work has meant the blog has bene neglected for a couple of days.

There’s a poser for you, is what we do, as writers, a form of artistic expression, or a scientific progression?
Do we fly freeform into the storyline with no heed paid to rules or do we progress from preposition to supposition to theorem to experimental measurement to eventual proof. Given that not all forms of science actually follow the latter, don’t discount it immediately.

In my last post I talked about a particular rule that is often applied to novel length works. “The reader should be introduced to both the protagonist and the antagonist within the first three chapters and preferably given a good idea of the cause of conflict between them.”

On the face of it – it’s not a bad rule. But could you run that rule over every successful book from the Twentieth Century and would every single one of them pass? Not even close. Let’s look at one of the most successful American novels of the last century – “To Kill a Mocking Bird” – where is the antagonist in the first three chapters? Not present – in terms of the final dénouement – although you could perhaps argue the Great Depression and prejudice were in fact the real antagonists.

Before anyone adds me to the effigy burning pile, I rate this book as one of my all time favourites, and make a point of rereading it every couple of years or so.

The fact remains; there is no clearly identified antagonist in the first section of the book. Take, arguably the book voted the best British book of the Twentieth Century – Tolkien’s epic – where does the real antagonist appear? Sure we meet the protagonists early, but not the enemy.
So there we have it, two very successful books that do not fit the rule as stated above, indeed you could even say they deliberately flout the rule. You can’t even class this as down to the author being well enough known for earlier works to be able to get away with it – Harper Lee was unpublished before Mocking Bird, and Tolkien only had academic credits.
So, unlike proven science, we break the rules, sometimes extremely successfully. OS ergo, this proves we are practitioners of an art from. Q.E.D.

Sorry, it does nothing of the sort. We have arrived at a conclusion based on insufficient evidence, to quote a cliché (again) “one swallow doth not a summer make”. There are many, many rules in fiction writing, from basic spelling rules, to grammatical rules (ed: note this writer can’t use commas to save his life) to structural rules.

Note – the two books discussed above both confirm to another age old writing rule – each story must have a beginning, middle, and an end. Admittedly Tolkien took three volumes to reach that point, but some authors take even longer, the late and prolific L Ron Hubbard once taking ten volumes, and Harry Turtledove these days rarely writes single volume anythings.

There are rules in writing, just as there are rules in science. There again there are rules in most forms of art.

Personally I believe it’s a craft rather than a science. Mind you, the jury is still out...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Submission Fail 09th September 2010.

Sometimes, people do the submission thing right, only to fall short and fail for a far more obvious reason – a major problem with their manuscript. A very good (or should I say bad) example of this, is the case I’m going to relate to you today – and I’ve changed the numbers (slightly, only slightly) to prevent embarrassment.

The actual story concept was really exceptionally original, and certainly the synopsis was intriguing – so far that’s a pass.

The manuscript formatting was within acceptable parameters and at first glance the writing was technically (i.e. grammatically, spelling wise and word choices) within acceptable limits so that’s a pass too.

Now we come to the structure of the piece. It’s roughly 81,000 words long and it had 80 chapters. So that’s an average of only 1,000 words per chapter, and it was almost metronomic in the way each chapter was approximately the same length as each other. Sometimes, a choppy style like this suits the work, but usually this makes the piece very hard to read. The author did restrict the points of view to one per chapter – which is very good for a tyro, but changing them so frequently is disconcerting in a novel that has no pretentions as a saga where this is more acceptable. SO the first warning flag is now flying, and it’s a fairly serious one, we are now at best dealing with a possible after rewrites for structural issues.

Having flashed through the book making the general assessments noted above, it’s time to actually sit down and start reading it. Unfortunately that warning flag has lowered the enthusiasm level; still I don’t want to risk losing it by prejudicing myself. An open mind is key.
As I said, my first flash view impression of the technical abilities of the author was good, and now reading it carefully I can confirm that impression. It is well enough written. “Felicity of style” is perhaps the correct cliché – structural issues aside it’s readable.

Now we come to the killer blow, again this is a structural issue – a real serious mistake and one that converts the possible into a no.

Let me lay it out for you.

Chapter 1. – We are introduced to the main protagonist, we get to understand him, his history, his motivation for the very risky undertaking he is about to leap into. 90% Narration, 10% Dialogue, 0% action.

Chapter 2. – We are introduced to someone who will be a bit player in the drama, on his own as he gets ready to leave his flat at the start of the day. We know him, his history, and his (venal) motivation. 100% Narration. No action.

Chapter 3. – We are introduced to the next player in the drama. We get to know his motivation in aiding the protagonist, his history. 95% Narration, 5% Dialogue, 0% action.

Chapter 4.......

You get the idea. After several chapters of this, we get back to the main character and the story tries to limp off to a start. By the way, we don’t actually meet the main antagonist during this phase, which breaks the traditional rule about meeting both the protagonist and antagonist in the first three chapters. I know, some rules are meant to be broken, and can be very successfully, but not all the time.

Combine this with such a choppy structural style and tell me I shouldn’t simply reject it outright. Go on... tell me...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Grindstone Time Again 08th September 2010.

A small observation today, seeing as I’m going to be spending a good portion of the next few hours reading submissions I thought I’d mention an observation about writer behaviour that has become apparent over the last week or so.

We closed submissions at the beginning of this month in order to allow us to catch up on both the existing submissions – those that came in before the deadline, and also our work in progress (or should that be works in progress?).

Before, when we put the closure notice up on the submissions page on the web site, we left the page intact, and put the closed line at the top. Despite this, we still continued to get a steady trickle of submissions being sent in. This time, I did it differently, literally gutting the page and removing all references to submissions, the formatting and other guidelines. The page says we are CLOSED and that’s it.

I did leave the general points and links to information and sample contract in place but that is all there is on the page. Result – you guessed it – no unsolicited submissions.

So there you have it – a conclusion, drawn on insufficient evidence, writers are selective readers, and they practice selective blindness, only seeing what they want to see.

Not exactly earth-shattering is it – oops, must stop the puns about the earthquake.

We have 4 or 5 submissions sent in at the tail end of last month before I put the closed notice up, so I’m about to pull on the harness, shrug on the aqualung tanks, spit in the goggles and jump right in.
Wish me luck on this particular fishing expedition.

Retrospective 07th September 2010.

Today has been a retrospective kind of day. I’ve spend the entire day so far ploughing through our start up and first full quarters on the new accounts system. After several hours I’ve finally balanced the figures back to the manual figures – the only difference being a couple of journals my partner needs to post. (I know the amounts but not the dates). So that’s it – the accounts are done for the period to 31st December.

Once we’ve tidied up those last couple of points we can move on to the next quarter and so on. The big advantage will be we’ve broken the back of the learning curve already, and created all the missing cost centres etc. etc. – so the next quarter will be comparatively easy.

What has really made the whole process a retrospective one isn’t the fact I’m working on historical figures, actually ancient history really, but more the things I’d kind of forgotten about.
The sheer frenetic level of activity reflected in the number of e-mails flying between the two countries, particularly during August and September. The constant passing back and forth of press releases and articles, and text for the web site as we competed with each other to get everything right.

That’s aside from the little incidental costs and invoices I’d forgotten about. They were in the old system; they simply hadn’t remained in the old memory.

So there’s no other news today, I’m simply relaxing now, done enough for the day. Not quite feet up but almost, certainly the St Clemens is going down well (for those who don’t know this non-alcoholic cocktail – it’s made from Bitter Lemon and fresh orange juice), in fact I could do with a refill – see ya!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Real Life Intrusion 06th September 2010.

Over the weekend real life intruded into our operations in a way that was luckily nothing more than disturbing – but it could so easily have been catastrophic. Working on the tag end of an eleven hour time difference doesn’t help.

You see, we are based in two countries, half a world apart – here in the United Kingdom and my business partner in Christchurch, New Zealand. No doubt, by now you will have heard, how, at approx 4.35 am on Saturday the city of Christchurch was rocked by a massive 7.x earth quake.

Thankfully she, and her family are all okay, just a couple of minor bits of damage to their house and two very panicked dogs and a cat that disappeared for 24hours and came back smelling of “the bowels of the earth”. There have been over 60 aftershocks, not all of them minor and there is widespread devastation and damage throughout the city, both to buildings and the vital infrastructure.

Still they came through it, they have heat, light, water and comms, there are others much worse off, although the amazing thing is the total lack of fatalities. Only two people seriously injured, other than that a plethora of bruises, and several dozen broken bones.

Thank god, for decent building codes, rigorously enforced.

Compared to other major quakes and tsunami, the damage is not so much of a much, but to the people in the middle of it, it’s more than enough.

It’s the kind of intrusion I, and more particularly, Paulette could do without!

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Dreaded Block 03rd September 2010.

We closed down the submissions page a couple of days ago, to allow us to do some catch up work on the work in progress we already have in hand. For the first time in a couple of months my e-mail inbox isn’t bulging at the seams with submissions that are in one way or another unusable or unsuitable or just downright not good enough. On top of that, with respect to yesterday’s demi-rant I’ve sent off my support e-mail but as yet had no reply, and I’m waiting on a confirmation from New Zealand on the edited Chart of Accounts for the new accounts system. Finally, the SEO work discussed last week has had the first phase down and I have to wait for a couple of weeks to see if there’s any impact before I start the next tranche.

Suddenly that massive work load has dried up leaving me, not exactly at a loose end but with some time where I could actually write!

Wow! Amazing! Writing time! That precious gold dust that is so elusive I usually don’t see any from one week to the next. Of course real life is going to intrude and claim some of it, but there’s still some left.

Only there’s a problem – my own peculiar form of writer’s block has me in its terrifyingly icy grip.

We all encounter the dreaded can’t write won’t write syndrome from time to time and we all develop strategies to deal with it and I thought it was an appropriate time to share my three pronged strategy with you. You never know it just might help.

My first strategy is to do something completely different. No, I don’t mean run down the street with my arms outstretched singing the theme song to Top Gun at the top of my voice. That would just be silly. What I mean is to tackle a form of writing I don’t like. In my case this is poetry – and for those of you who know me personally you will know – I don’t do poetry. I can’t write and won’t write poetry. It’s just me. So I sit down for ten or twenty minutes and force myself to do so. End result – going back to whichever piece of work in progress then takes my fancy is a blessed relief. Bingo – no block.

My second strategy is the photographic one. This one I used to use on a creative writing course I used to teach, and it works, even with the most recalcitrant student. Find a photograph that takes your eye and then write a couple of sentences about the photograph from each of several different points of view. It must have a foreground object, a background and preferably no people in it, certainly no family. For example if it’s a picture of a road tanker, write an accident scenario, a comedy scenario, an environmental story ... you get the picture. Sorry about the pun. Try half a dozen headings and the creative juices are flowing again and away you go. The only problem with this technique is procrastination – sometimes you just don’t allow yourself to find the photo that will work

The third strategy – oh come on now. You must have guessed this by now – what am I doing? That’s right – I’m writing. The fact I’m writing my blog means I’m writing and I don’t have writer’s block anymore.

So.... Where did I put that best-selling romance novel I’d written the first two pages of......?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Down to Earth 2nd September 2010.

After the euphoria of yesterday it’s down to earth with a bump, if you will pardon the deliberate cliché.

The list of technical requirements to upload our work to Content Reserve is daunting to say the least. Let me give you a sample – and I mean a sample:

1. We have to supply metadata (that’s title, author, description etc), in a specific spreadsheet format according to their template. Only thing is they haven’t sent me the template yet – ask the support department for it.

2. The book covers have to be sent to them at a particular minimum size (which is larger than the maximum size used by every retailer we deal with direct. The problem with resizing jpegs to suit is every time you do this the image quality may degrade. Especially when you are increasing as opposed to decreasing. The size they want is in fact larger than the size they use so it’ll be resized a minimum of twice.

3. All files must follow a strict naming convention – using the ISBN numbers as the file name followed by the file type as the extension. Not a problem you’d think – except do they mean a 10 digit or a 13 digit ISBN – and do you leave the dashes in or take them out? Not clearly explained – ask the support department.

4. Epub files (Apple, Adobe Digital Editions etc) – please submit a set of between 5 and 15 files for quality check before proceeding. You are not told where to send them – you guessed it ask the support department.

5. Microsoft Reader files – you need to set certain security parameters that don’t exist in the program we use to create them. Going to have to investigate those.

6. PDF files – remove all existing security features – they’ll add the DRM to replace them.

7. Kindle files – please send files with level 4 security only (this prepares them for DRM but prevents you from opening them on your own Kindle or mobipocket reader to check them first).

I don’t have a problem with them wanting things their way, after all so does everyone else – it’s simply a rather long list and it’s going to take some considerable time to resolve all issues – especially if they decide the Epub files don’t match their quality conditions. As far as I’m aware, from the retailers who give us feedback and our own site sales we haven’t sold a single Microsoft Reader version, so I suspect point 5 will become depreciated.

Seeing we are talking upward of 90 existing books at the moment, and many more in the pipeline, several of which will be published before this process has been completed, I could very well be here till Xmas....