Amazon’s Kindle Create for Ebooks

Have you heard about Kindle Create from Amazon? It’s a free service for self-publishers to format ebooks and print books to sell on Amazon. It will accept a Word .doc or .docx file and allow the publisher to create a “custom” ebook.

I’ve been fiddling around with it for a while, trying to figure out the best, easiest ways to use the program. There are things about it I like; and things I dislike thoroughly. So first, the pros and cons (in my rarely humble opinion):

PROS
  • Relatively intuitive and user friendly (an 8 out of 10 for ease of use)
  • Allows for some customization
  • Foolproof as far as creating a functioning ebook
  • Help pages are readily available (I give them a 6 out of 10 for usefulness)
CONS
  • It’s a proprietary format that can only be used on Amazon (Big consideration, given that you cannot use your formatted ebook for any purpose other than selling on Amazon. You will have to format an EPUB for other retailers.)
  • Themes are clunky (I don’t think a book designer had a hand in creating the styles. The results aren’t awful, but they don’t look very sophisticated either.)
  • Making batch changes is not possible (that I can figure out)
  • There is a Find function, but no Replace function
  • Uses page view only, rather than an adjustable Web layout view
  • Cannot edit with the Previewer open (Makes proofreading even more tedious.)

Before You Begin

As with any type of format, it’s Garbage In, Garbage Out. Your source document must be in tip-top shape–edited, polished, proofread–and as clean as you can make it against unwanted coding. (I’ve written extensively in this blog about the importance of a clean source doc and how to efficiently get it into shape.) I tried different levels of styling to see what the program will accept and what it won’t. I found that the best way is, in Word, to set up the body text or Normal style as if the doc is formatted for an ebook, but to leave the headings, front matter and back matter unstyled. Place all front and back matter in the order you want for the finished book. (And big pro, don’t worry about the table of contents–Kindle Create will generate it for you.) I also used tags to note where I want page breaks, scene breaks, and special paragraphs (the tags serve as search terms).

Above is a clean doc, styled in Normal, with Heading 1 applied for my own purposes in Word. Kindle Create doesn’t appear to recognize heading styles. And notice, no page or section breaks.

If you want to link to other works (Amazon listings only), your website, blog, social media or Amazon Author Page, create the links in the Word document. (All the hyperlinks I created in the Word doc worked just fine in the KC program.)

Step by Step in Kindle Create

1. When you first open the program a box will appear that asks you what type of project you are creating, and the language (the program supports a multitude of languages).

2. Next, open a Word .doc or .docx file. It will be converted. (If the conversion isn’t successful, that can only mean that you’ve done some damage to the Word doc. You will have to scrub it clean and copy/paste it into a text editor to remove destructive coding.)

Above, the loaded and converted Word doc. Basically no styling. The tag you see == is a search term, my indicator for page break.

3. Now select a theme. KC offers four. (The icon is on the upper right of the screen. Click it for a dropdown menu.)

4. Apply element formatting. In the Text Properties pane on the right side of the screen KC has broken down the “elements” into Common Element (the body of the work); Title Pages; and Book Start and End Pages (front and back matter). In a work that is text-heavy, such as a novel or narrative non-fiction, you will be able to find just about everything you need. (I’d be reluctant to use this program for any non-fiction project that requires sophisticated styling and multiple images.) To apply an element (actually, a style), set your cursor at the beginning of the text and then click on the option you want.

You can modify the “elements” to an extent. On the tool pane to the right click on “Formatting”. Any item that isn’t grayed out can be modified. For instance, if you want more or less space above or below your chapter headings, you can adjust them. Be aware, though, modifying one does NOT modify them all, and it does not change the element styling. So you will have to go through your book and modify each element individually. (Here is where using tags is helpful. Use the tag as a search term in the Find box.) You can also clear the formatting, if you wish, and apply all new formatting. If you make a mistake use Ctrl+z to undo the mistake.

In the above example, I changed the spacing above and below the chapter heading. For the first paragraph, I set a zero indent. (KC does offer a drop cap option. Personally, I hate drop caps in ebooks–don’t actually love them in print either. The option is there if you want it.)

Customizing the styling works on multiple paragraphs, too. For instance, in the book I was using for practice, I disliked how KC set up the copyright page. So instead I went to the first line, right clicked, and selected “insert a section break”. This put my material on its own page. Then I selected all the text and styled it.

With the text selected, you can see the options for custom formatting in the right hand tool pane. Click “Clear” to remove all formatting.

Now it’s time for last looks. If you used tags, make sure they are all deleted. Scroll through the section list in the left hand pane and make sure you’ve listed all your chapters/sections.

Once all the formatting is done, time to create your table of contents. In the above image you can see all the start pages in each section. Click on a page. The right tool pane displays “Section Properties”. Check the box if you want the section included in the table of contents. You can also customize what shows up in the list of entries. Next, go to the Title Page, right click and select “Insert Table of Contents”. (The ToC itself cannot be edited. So if you goof, or want to make changes, you will have to do so in the ebook itself.)

This is quick and easy–but I heartily dislike that I cannot modify the heading. If you will use this program for a print layout, KC will insert page numbers for you.

Now it’s time to preview your ebook and run it through its paces with various font faces, font sizes, and different devices.

The previewer does a fairly good job with a nice display. It leads to my biggest gripe with the KC program. I’m a huge proponent of proofreading. With every ebook I format, the author gets a chance to proofread it. The best way to proofread an ebook is to load it up on a device and go through it line by line. That way you can catch not only typos, but errors in formatting, too. If there’s a way to generate a proof file from KC, I can’t find it. (I haven’t gone so far as to try publishing my practice books. I’m assuming clicking “Publish” will take you to KDP.) You can use the previewer for proofreading since you can see the formatting, but with the previewer open you cannot do any editing. So it’s open, close, try to remember where you are, on and on and on. Ridiculous. My best suggestion is to have a markup doc (in Word) open as you go through the text in the previewer. Once done, transfer any changes to the ebook in KC.

What About Images?

Inserting images is easy. Place your cursor where you want the image, right click and select “insert image”. By clicking on the image, a tool pane opens that displays Image Properties. You can kind of size your image, position it and add alternative text.

The images I played with scaled pretty well in the previewer. Keep in mind, any image used in the print file must be at least 300 dpi. For the ebook, 96 dpi is sufficient. (Do not insert your cover! That will cause two covers to be displayed and that’s a seriously rookie mistake.)

What about print?

I haven’t messed around with that yet. So that will be in another post.

My Conclusion

For the self-publisher on a tight budget who intends to use KDP Select, this is a reasonable option. It produces a product that will work properly on any Kindle device or app.

_________________________________________________

So, Dear Readers, does anyone have a book they formatted with Kindle Create they’d like to link to in the comments?

 

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Kindle Previewer: New and (really!) Improved

I’ve been using Amazon’s Kindle Previewer app ever since I started formatting ebooks. Have to say, I was never much impressed with it. It had some useful features and it was a quick way to convert an epub file into a mobi file, and a sort of quick way to convert a Word doc into a mobi file so I could load it onto a Kindle or tablet. As for viewing a book on the computer? Forget it. It looked awful and the screen size couldn’t be adjusted. For some tasks it was essential, but I never fully trusted it to give me a hundred percent true rendering of my ebooks.

Then I got a brand new computer and when I downloaded the Kindle Previewer, I got the newest version.

And oh my God, Amazon, what have you done?

Look at this!

The display is big and clear and along with the “Kindle” view there are thumbnails of individual page screens.

Along with a much easier, clearer to understand user interface (everything you need is right there in a menu panel on the left side of the screen), it also does some nifty tricks. Like popping up footnotes.

It also gives a great rendering of a smart phone screen. This is essential for checking alignment and making sure such things as headers aren’t so oversized they look stupid on a small screen.

For those of you, my dear readers, with a Do-It-Yourself frame of mind, this version also converts Word docs. No more need for converting the doc first in MobiPocket and then converting the prc file. Click File > Open Book and select a Word doc and the program will convert it into a mobi file. It won’t be a commercial quality ebook and it won’t build the internal navigation guide, but it does allow you to check your styling and the mobi file can be loaded onto your Kindle or tablet for proofreading.

The program no longer automatically creates a mobi file to place on your computer. You have to ask it to export a file. It takes just a second, so it’s no hassle.

The only downside I’ve discovered is that it’s no longer a good tool for what I call bizarre character checks. When I have questions about whether or not a particular character or symbol will render across the board in all devices, the old version of the Kindle Previewer allows me to do that by viewing the file in DX mode. If I see a question mark or gibberish, I know the character is unsafe and I have to find a substitute. There is no DX mode in this new version. I’m keeping the old version on my other computer specifically for that task.

So, thank you, Amazon, for an amazing new tool! As a client of mine said (after I told him how to use it to create a quick review ebook): “It’s like a little piece of magic from the gods.”

 

Self-Publishing: Amateurs versus the Pros

There’s a war going on right now. Hachette vs Amazon is the big battle du jour. You can read all about it here and here and here. That’s not the real war. The real war is being fought against indie writer/publishers. It’s being fought mainly with propaganda pushed by the big publishing houses (who are part of a HUGE media conglomerates) aided by agents and big-name writers.

In a perfect world (okay, in my perfect world) there would be a separate section on Amazon or B&N.com for self-published e-books, maybe even separate websites. I truly believe that it would help the reader distinguish the books as well. Readers don’t purchase books based on who the publisher is and don’t necessarily care. As a result, they might not even know if they’re buying a book that was professionally edited versus one that was self-published...” –Steven Zacharius, CEO, Kensington

(How about professionally formatted, Mr. Z.? When I purchase a trad pubbed ebook, I do so knowing that being highly annoyed by the sloppy, disrespectful ebook formatting is going to make me grind my teeth.)

ebook design by JW Manus

ebook design by JW Manus

I wish I could say with reasonable confidence that all errors have now been caught, but I reckon that’s unlikely. Hopefully, though, there are no more than a bare few, and minor ones at worst. I guess that’s an advantage of ebooks and POD, that small errors can be fixed and the files reloaded for future purchases… –J. Harris Anderson, author and publisher of THE PROPHET OF PARADISE

Amazon only appears to be the target. Except, it’s not competing against the big publishers. Amazon is a distributor. Sure, they have a publishing wing, but the big pubs don’t care about that. What they really care about is their real competition. That’s you, folks.

ebook formatted by JW Manus

ebook design by JW Manus

“Everything looks great to me. Just one thing to change and one question. In the author’s note, it should say Chesnut Hill (insert comma) Massachusetts. This was an error in the original book.” Kim Ablon Whitney, author and publisher of BLUE RIBBONS

The theory of propaganda is this: Tell a lie often enough and loudly enough and eventually it will morph into the “TRUTH.” Pretty soon, the actual truth is considered a lie and any exceptions to the established “truths” are considered flukes or outliers or aberrations. What the big publishers and agents and bestselling authors would have you, the indies, believe (because trust me, the readers don’t care and 99% of them are probably not even aware that this war is going on) is that your work is sub-par, that the only reason you self-publish is because you can’t hack it as a “real” writer, and that you’re lazy and amateurish.

“Amazon pays amateur authors, often unedited, who upload files not yet ebook-ready to them and don’t know anything about marketing or metadata, as much as 70 percent of retail if they meet certain exclusivity and price stipulations. (Obviously, there are great gems among those, but they are still mostly unproven, unknown, and unsuccessful.) They are apparently fighting hard to avoid giving Hachette — which invests substantially to be consistently superior to a fledgling author on all these counts — the same cut.” –Mike Shatzkin, The Shatzkin Files

ebook & POD design by JW Manus

ebook & POD design by JW Manus

“I have to find it. Once it says Theo instead of Thea. How do I fix that on the kindle? Can I edit the content just for that one word or do I have to upload a new file?” –Julia Rachel Barrett, author and publisher of WINNERLAND

I work with several new-to-self-publishing writers, but I wouldn’t call them amateurs. They’re in this to produce the very best books for their readers as it is possible for them to do. They care deeply about their work and care deeply about satisfying their readers.

cover, ebook, & POD design by JW Manus

cover, ebook, & POD design by JW Manus

“...kindly see below a letter I just got from The National library of Israel in Jerusalem advising the book … has been accepted and listed with the library!” –Anna Aizic, author and publisher of THE CIRCLES OF LIFE (a memoir)

One of the things that really has the big pubs in a dither (or a tizzy or a dizzying meltdown) is how many traditionally published authors are self-publishing their back lists. Many of the big pubs just scan old books, convert them (errors and all), and slap them up on sell sites (usually with the original covers, many of which are entirely unsuitable for ebooks), and call it good. The writers I work with do not do that. They see reissuing as an opportunity to fix old mistakes and to update covers or create brand new covers.

cover, ebook, & POD by JW Manus

cover, ebook, & POD by JW Manus

Thanks for the two PDFs. Both sailed right through CS absent objection – but, with apology, I did catch one little detail that we’ll have to change (a web address). I’ll be getting an email off to Erin right after this, since how we’ll change that will depend on her answer. I’ll copy the email to you so you can see what needs doing.” –Jerrold Mundis, author and publisher of SLAVE

The real fear is that those authors self-publishing their back lists will realize that the process is the same for publishing new releases and it’s not an impossible task and not only can the writer/publishers do an excellent job, they can do it faster and even better than the trad pubs can. The media is still pretty much ignoring self-published titles, and that’s a downer, but it’s slowly, slowly changing and eventually self-pubbed titles will receive their due. If you don’t think that doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of the trad pubs…

BURGLAR

ebook, cover & POD by JW Manus

My decision to self-publish The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons has had gratifying results, but there’s been a downside: self-pubbed titles don’t get much media attention or store distribution. Well, Orion’s UK edition just came out, and here’s Geoffrey Wansell’s lovely review in the Daily Mail...” –Lawrence Block, author and publisher of THE BURGLAR WHO COUNTED THE SPOONS

The bottom line is, as always, money. Lots and lots of money. Every time you self-publish a book or a short story or an instruction manual or get together with like-minded writers to produce an anthology, you–yes, YOU–are costing the big pubs money. Have you been following the Author Earnings reports produced by Hugh Howey and Data Guy? If not, you should, if only to understand the scope of this situation and to understand why the big pubs and their minions are hitting back so hard. They need you to line up (quietly, hat in hand, head bowed respectfully) to provide them with vast amounts of materials from which they can pick and choose. If you don’t, well, that must mean you’re an amateur, right?

ebook design by JW Manus

ebook design by JW Manus

Love the edit. Jessica frowned at the little notebook though. She said it doesn’t fit in with the rest of my books and I have to agree with her. Can we do something in black/white under the chapter heading like all the others? Something reporter-ish?” –Randall Wood, author and publisher of INSIGHT

The big pubs and their minions want you to believe that you’re helpless without them. That you need nurturing and someone to hold your hand and to take care of all that nasty business-y stuff. Because, you know, writers are such idiot savants that accounting is waaaaay over their heads. Far better to let the grown-ups take care of that.

ebook design by JW Manus

ebook design by JW Manus

I was wondering if part of your illustrious services include helping with HTML descriptions?  I.e., when inputting product descriptions on Amazon, it is much better if the text is in HTML rather than, say, Word.” –Layton Green, author and publisher of THE METAXY PROJECT

To go for a publishing contract or to self-publish, either way is your choice. As a reader, if I like your stories or the information you’re putting out, it doesn’t matter a rat’s patoot who publishes it. And many, many other readers feel the same way. Sure, there are some who are loyal to a particular publishing house or imprint, but the majority are interested only in the authors. If their favorite authors goes indie, they follow. The big pubs know that, too. One of their responses has been even more draconian contracts which include life-of-copyright terms and non-compete clauses. AND, a propaganda campaign to convince you–YOU!–that self-publishing means you’re an amateur and a loser and you’ll never be successful and you’ll regret your foolishness to the end of your days…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return to proofreading an ebook for a self-publishing author who cares very much that his text and formatting are professionally polished.

 

 

Calibre, Word and MOBI: A Tale of Three Programs

(Yes, I know, MOBI is not a program, but my blog, my headlines…)

Ever since I started blogging about ebooks, I’ve cautioned people against using Microsoft Word to format their ebooks. Not because Word is a bad program and not because it’s impossible to create ebooks with it. It’s because it’s the not quite right tool. Word’s strength lies in creating print documents or pdfs.

Recently, I’ve been cautioning people to not use Calibre to convert their Word files into MOBI files in order to sell them on Amazon. Not because Calibre is a bad program and not because it’s impossible to create MOBI files with it. It’s because it’s not quite the right tool. Calibre’s strength lies in managing a person’s digital library. It was not created to convert commercial ebook files.

EPUB files are not as troublesome as MOBI files. EPUB is EPUB is EPUB, and while each device has its own special way of rendering the file to fit the platform, the differences between devices aren’t big enough for most people to notice. A single EPUB file will work pretty much the same on a Nook as it does on an iPad.

Calibre is set up for optimum use with EPUB files. If a publisher converts a Word (html) file into an EPUB file using Calibre, then what they see there is pretty close to what a Nook or iPad reader will see.

This is not true with MOBI files. The reason is Amazon. You see, EPUB devices have evolved and changed and upgraded and gone the way all technology goes, ever upward and onward. But the device makers built the newer devices around the existing ebook platform. So an EPUB ebook formatted five years ago will work pretty much the same on a new iPad as it did on a first generation Nook. Amazon went bass-ackwards. They built the new devices then tinkered and recreated entirely new ebook platforms to fit the new devices. So a MOBI file being sold on Amazon isn’t just a MOBI file. It’s also a KF/8 file and an iOS file and an AZW3 file and god knows what else is there. I don’t quite get all the technical stuff. What I do get is that the same ebook can work fine on a Kindle Fire, but go to hell on a Paperwhite and look okay on a Kindle Keyboard and turn into gibberish if an iPad user gets hold of it.

The whys and wherefores don’t matter as much as the fact that a file formatted in a program which is optimal for printing documents and then converted with a program that is at its best with EPUB files, is going to have trouble meeting the very odd demands of Kindles.

(By the way, if you are using Scrivner or InDesign to create your ebooks for sale on Amazon, you will run into the same exact problems because Amazon is constantly tweaking and fiddling with the platform(s) and updating devices and they don’t necessarily share what they’ve done with the rest of the world.)

I realize that none of what I just wrote is going to dissuade people from using Calibre to convert their Word docs into MOBI files to sell on Amazon. I know this because people are using Word because that’s the program they know and love(hate) and they need a way to convert those Word files and Calibre is the shortest distance between A and B.

So instead of wagging my finger and clucking my tongue, I did some research. Question: Is it possible to format a file in Word and convert it with Calibre and create a MOBI file good enough to sell on Amazon? (Here, I make a very clear distinction. If your Nook died and you bought a Kindle, and you want to convert all your Nook books into MOBI files you can load onto your Kindle, Calibre is a great tool. That’s personal use. You expect that the ebook might not work completely right, but that’s okay, at least you have it. You can’t ask your paying customers to accept that standard.)

What I discovered is: Yes, it is possible.

I managed to fix the worst problems I see with Calibre-converted ebooks. I managed to create ebooks that respond properly to all the user preferences in three generations of Kindles (Kindle Keyboard, Paperwhite and Fire). I almost got Calibre to build a toc.ncx (what the user sees in the Go To features on Fires and Paperwhites) the way I want it to. I think with some more tinkering and fiddling around inside the opf file, I can fix that problem. I couldn’t get the cover to display on the bookshelf in my Paperwhite, but that’s kind of a non-issue, since Amazon will handle that when the book is uploaded. (It is only a big deal if a publisher is selling direct.)

Even though the ebooks I created this way aren’t up to my standards, they will respond to user preferences and they will look fine and read fine, and thus, they are good enough for uploading to Amazon.

There is a caveat. If you format your document, save it as an html file and convert it as is with Calibre, your ebook will be broken. It will be a substandard product you should not ask people to pay for. What you have to do first and foremost is format your Word file so it works within Calibre’s parameters, and secondly, you have to fix the html coding in the Word file.

Sound scary? It is, kind of. Word’s html coding is a nightmare, full of mso odd bits that give Kindles the hiccups. The good news is, all you really need to do is remove some very specific lines of code and rearrange a few others.

Since this post is running long and I don’t even have any pretty pictures to enliven it, (plus I have a buttload of Christmas gifts to wrap) I am going to explain how I did it in my next post. It’ll have pictures. In the meantime, if any of you, Dear Readers, have figured this out and feel like sharing in the comments, feel free.

I Don’t Hate Calibre, But…

duck coverJudging by the heated storm I roused the last time I criticized Calibre it’s probably a mistake to do so again. What the hell. I have to say it:

DO NOT USE CALIBRE TO CONVERT YOUR EBOOKS FOR THE PURPOSES OF SELLING THEM ON AMAZON.

Yesterday I did a troubleshoot and repair on a writer’s ebook. The EPUB she had converted from Word via Calibre was perfectly fine. It was a valid EPUB, and it displayed the way it should on both Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions. Problems arose when she converted the EPUB into AZW3 and MOBI. The ebook worked when she loaded it onto her Paperwhite Kindle, though it had some disturbing issues. Amazon rejected the file outright.

I took her EPUB and ran it through the Kindle Previewer to see what the problem was. It converted with WARNINGS (never want to see that). The ebook opened, but the button under Devices for Kindle for iOS was greyed out. And the cover didn’t display. When I loaded it on my Paperwhite, some of the user controls were locked. I then went back and looked inside the EPUB. The Calibre conversion had declared font-families–Georgia and Times New Roman–neither of which display on Kindles, but they aren’t ignored either, and hence cause all sorts of interesting little problems. Plus, it had built a cover page.

I’m not a techie person, so I don’t know if I can explain it adequately, but I will try. When a file is uploaded to Amazon it converts the source file into a 3-in-1 ebook. If you’ll compare the size of an EPUB to a Kindle, you’ll notice that the MOBI file is about 3 times bigger than the EPUB. The ebook you buy from Amazon will work across several types of devices: e-ink readers, Fire tablets, and a variety of apps, including iOS for Apple. This is tricky stuff. While Calibre can and does convert your files into the MOBI format or AZW3 format, and the files are suitable for personal use, they aren’t suitable for commercial use because the probability is about 97.3% that an ebook converted through Calibre and then uploaded to Amazon will be broken.

This is all about Amazon. They have proprietary platforms and they are constantly updating and improving and tinkering and it’s difficult for outsiders to keep up. Calibre is a library management tool, not a commercial conversion tool. They can’t be expected to stay ahead of the Amazon updates and bugs. That’s not their purpose.

The fix for the writer’s problem ebook was fairly simple. I removed the font-family declarations, removed the cover page, added a line of code to the metadata in the content.opf so Amazon knew the cover was in the file, resized the cover and ran it through the Kindle Previewer. Voila! Everything worked the way it should. The writer was able to upload the file to Amazon with no problems.

My recommendation to the writer for future projects was this: continue using Calibre to convert her Word files to EPUB files since there appear to be no problems and her ebooks are working fine. But, then to refresh her knowledge about using stylesheets in Word via Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide, and direct load her Word file to Amazon. It’s a bit of a pain since you can’t examine and adjust the file before you start the uploading process, but you can take full advantage of the previewer at Amazon and make sure everything works before you hit the Publish button. That way there won’t be any extraneous items like cover pages and “embedded” fonts to muck up the works.

So seriously, folks, don’t kill the messenger or throw rotten tomatoes. This is just the reality. Calibre is not the right tool for converting files to sell on Amazon. Use the program for what it’s intended–managing your ebook library–and find other means to deal with Amazon.

Making It Easy For Readers: Links In Ebooks

Does it bother you when authors ask for a review? It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. As long as the request is pleasant and upbeat, (no whining!) it serves as a nice reminder. I recently did a job for a writer who included a review request in the back matter (pleasant and upbeat), and then kicked it up a notch by making it very easy for readers.

SRzombiesHe did it in a way that made me slap my forehead and wonder why I hadn’t thought of it first! He published his book on Amazon, then as soon as he had live links, I updated the file with the links and he updated the book at Amazon. He included not just the link to the listing at Amazon, but to Amazon.uk and Amazon.ca, too.

So now, when a reader is basking in reader ‘afterglow’ the link is right there. If the reader happens to be in Canada or the United Kingdom, they have a direct link, too.

But, Jaye, you say, Amazon already offers links to write a review when the book is finished. Plus, Amazon sends emails to remind you to review.

This is true. IF the reader has a Kindle. What if they are using an app or reading it on their phone or computer or magic toaster? I don’t know if all the reminders and such show up then. And the reminder emails from Amazon are a bit random and come whenever. So.

Here’s my philosophy on review and sell links in ebooks: They don’t hurt.

Anything that makes it easier for readers to find your books is a good thing. (As a reader, if I really enjoy a book, I have a tendency to immediately hop over to Amazon and One-Click my way through the author’s other offerings. Can’t let that TBR pile get too low, you know?)

So, on Amazon, which makes updating a listing so very easy and painless, if you include a direct request for readers to review your book, make it easy for them to do so by providing live links.

What Makes Self-Publishing Fun

Alert: for the second time this week, this post is not about producing ebooks.

It’s not my habit to use this blog to promote books. I’m not big on marketing and promotion. I do urge my friends to read books all the time, sometimes to the point of obnoxiousness and sometimes will resort to gifting them books from Amazon so they HAVE to read whatever I’m excited about. But other than an occasional tweet or talking about books on my other blog (which I haven’t done enough of lately) I rarely do that with strangers.

Today, though, I want you to buy a book.

It’s a short story and it’s only .99 cents on Amazon. It’s about zombies, so it may not appeal to everybody. Maybe you could gift it to a friend. Or give it a tweet or a mention on Goodreads or whatever it is you happen to do. You could even read it and review it.

Junk_Mail_CoverLet me tell you why.

I get emails from folks who solved a problem or learned a new trick from reading this blog. They say thank you. I’ve had emails from folks who’ve dipped their toes in self-publishing waters and found out the water is just fine, and they say they got up the nerve to try because this blog encouraged them to do so. They say thank you. I’ve made friends who’ve helped me and I help them and there are thank you’s all around. I look at the search queries that bring visitors to this blog and it gives me a good feeling knowing they are finding some answers. It makes me feel useful and for that I feel thankful.

None of this would happened without one person. If you’ve learned something or felt inspired to self-publish or to make more beautiful ebooks or striven to meet new challenges because of something you’ve read on this blog, you should thank Marina Bridges.

I met Marina many moons ago on the eBay blogs. Our senses of humor clicked. When I found out that not only was Marina funny as could be, but that she wrote, too, I started bugging her for stories. When I began looking at self-publishing. I asked Marina if she’d be interested in being the “test” case, so to speak. She said yes and that’s how it started. We bought Kindles. We got hooked. I started the process of learning how to produce an ebook. Marina trusted me to get better. That’s a terrific quality in a friend, by the way. I’d propose something nutty and she’d say, “Um… okay,” and then I’d scamper off to do the nutty thing. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but she always had faith that I’d figure it out.

She’s still my biggest supporter. Most days the chat box is open and she gets to “hear” me bitching about my computer or railing against my own idiocy when I screw something up. Whenever I figure something out or produce something nifty, I send her screenshots and she listens while I crow. It must bore her to tears when I’m problem-solving “out loud” about formatting issues, but she never says it does. She listens. When I’m feeling down, she writes stories and sends me snippets to make me laugh. (somehow, ahem, always forgetting to issue a spew alert)

She is the number one reason book production and self-publishing is fun for me. She doesn’t let me get too serious–she mocks me heartily when I do. She encourages me when I feel stupid and out of my league. She’s always ready to say, “Oh go ahead, you can do that.” She keeps it real and she keeps it fun.

There is no Thank You in the world big enough for that.

So. If you have ever felt the urge to say thank you to me for this blog, the very best way you can do that is to thank Marina and buy her short story. It’s a little thing, but it would mean the world to me.

Junk Mail, a Kindle short story, on Amazon.