Files Uploaded, Now We Wait

I found Kindle Create a breeze to use and successfully created a textbook replica file of 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. Then I created a JPG cover file. I uploaded both files to KDP, reviewed the interior in the online previewer and clicked on “Publish.” Now it will be reviewed and hopefully should be live on Amazon within the next 72 hours.

Using Windows Software on a Linux Machine

So if I want to convert a PDF copy of 5 Acres & A Dream The Book into an eBook, how do I do that if the conversion software isn’t compatible with my operating system? The answer? I must create a virtual machine on my computer that can run Windows. How do I do that? With Oracle’s VirtualBox.

VirtualBox is virtualization software. It can be installed on any host operating system, and be used to run a huge variety of guest operating systems. My host OS is Xubuntu Linux. My guest OS will be Windows 10. VB does this by partitioning off a small section of my hard drive and installing Windows there. When I start VB and choose Windows, it opens Windows in a private space within Xubuntu. On my desktop it looks like any other window. If I maximize that window, then you’d never know it was any other than a Windows machine.

Once I had VB installed I added the VB extension pack. After I installed Windows, I added Guest Additions. Both of these increase the functionality of Windows as a guest OS on my computer.

The challenge, then, is to share files between the two. I have my PDF on Xubuntu, but since Win 10 is sandboxed, how do I let Windows access it? And how do I get a copy of my finished Windows work back to my regular OS? For that I had to create a shared file as part of a networking system between Xubuntu and Windows. Once I had that created and added my PDF file, I was able to download and install Kindle Create within Windows and get started on my project. The completed project is saved to the same shared file, so that I can upload it to KDP when it’s ready.

I’m a Bad Author Blogger

A very bad author blogger. I’ve written many a post in my head, but none of them have made their way to this blog. Maybe it’s because it’s the busy outdoor time of year, or because I spend my computer time writing posts for my homesteading blog, or because I lost so most of my current writing project when my old hard drive died. Or maybe because there’s no pressure to keep fresh content before my slim Building A Book readership. (Thank you to those who do take the time to read and comment!) I should have at least posted about Prepper’s Livestock Handbook being available!

That’s my biggest news, that Prepper’s Livestock Handbook is now in print! As excited as I am about that, I confess that it was a lot of work, especially as we got close to the deadline. It was a relief to get it done and switch gears for awhile to focus on other things. Those other things have mostly been the garden, the goats, building the new goat barn, and making a rotational grazing plan. Also a little time to pursue the odd hobby or two. Even so, I’m always writing in my head.

Other good news is that fellow homesteading author Anna Hess has asked me to write a sidebar piece for the second edition of her The Naturally Bug-Free Garden. I’m truly honored to be doing so and have always appreciated Anna’s help in the promotion of my own books.

Mental work has begun on my next book. I’d like to do a sequel to 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. Dan and I have learned so much since that book was published. We’ve been steadfast in working toward our self-sufficiency goal, and in ways I never dreamed possible when I first published 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. As one might expect, there have been ups, downs, and learning curves, and I’d like to share them all with others on the journey. I’m just in the outline stage, but hopefully I’ll have that figured out soon so when the garden harvest slacks off in autumn, I’ll be ready to hit the keyboard.

eBooks. New volumes to my Little Series of Homestead How-Tos have pretty much been on hold for the past year as I’ve worked on Prepper’s Livestock Handbook. Then when I had problems with Paypal, I unpublished all of my books on Smashwords, because Paypal was how I was paid my royalties. However, I recently changed that payment option, so they are available there once again. I have ideas for several new additions to this series, so stay tuned for that.

In other eBook news, I have permanently unpublished my Critter Tales Series eBooks but will continue to keep the Critter Tales paperback on the market. Turning it into an eBook series was something of an experiment, but for the interested reader the paperback is the better bargain.

I think that about wraps up my author update. Hopefully I won’t be so long with the next one.

eBook Purchase Options Indefinitely Unavailable

I have to make the unfortunate announcement that purchase options for my eBooks through Smashwords and it’s outlets (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Scribd., etc.) are indefinitely unavailable. This is not something I ordinarily would have chosen to do, because I believe people should be able to choose where they purchase their eBooks and the format they want. I made this decision because last year PayPal made two unauthorized withdrawals from my bank account. They weren’t for large amounts, the first was for about $36 and the second for about $12, however, this not only set up an alarm, but also sent me in search of answers.

For each withdrawal I first searched my PayPal activity record to make sure I hadn’t forgotten about them. When I couldn’t find a corresponding purchase amount, I went through my emails in search of an old purchase receipt for that company in that amount. When I could find neither, I filed a report in PayPal’s resolution center. The auto-reply in each case said I would hear back within a week or less.

The first time I waited several weeks without hearing a response to my case. The auto-reply is a no-reply, so I went back to the PayPal resolution center and discovered that my case file had disappeared. It was neither under open nor closed cases. I filed again with the same result. I finally went to the PayPal forums and asked for help. Someone had a number to call, which I did. After making several tries with the auto-options, I finally got a computer voice that told me I had filed for a refund back in 2016 and had lost. Good grief, if I had money coming to me wouldn’t I remember that? And for it to take over a year to be resolved? That didn’t make sense. What made it more puzzling was that the amount was for GBP. No other details were given that would have helped such as original transaction date and seller, and there was nothing on my activity records for 2016 to verify this. Even so, a record of my claim should have been in the resolution center for the entire time. I should have found it when I went to file the withdrawal the first time. But there was no claim.

Last month I found another unauthorized debit to my account from a company called Enumber NJ. There was a phone number, which I called, but it just hooked me up to PayPal’s automated phone answering system. Once again I first checked my PayPal activity records but there was nothing for that amount by that company. I opened another case in the resolution center. While I waited for a reply I tried to find information on this company. The only thing I learned is that they are a foreign company that has filed to do business in the U.S. No mention of what that business is or what they sell. They have no website.

When I heard back from PayPal all they said was that the debit was consistent with my activity record. Again, no date, no reason why the amount appeared nowhere on my record, no details about the company. This time my case did not disappear, but was placed in closed cases. It simply said “transaction not covered.” The only information I can find on this is that it has something to do with seller protection. I’m not a seller so I don’t understand what that means.

I later found quite a few complaints about this on the PayPal community forum. The official explanation is that the Enumber charge is because the buyer didn’t have enough money in their PayPal account and this is the fee for them using your backup bank account. Huh? I thought the purpose of PayPal was to pay directly from my bank account. I missed the memo that this was now just a back-up and that I would be charged $12 any time money was debited from my bank account. Even worse, I haven’t purchased through PayPal for months, so what purchase am I being fined for?

Anyway, this tale of woe is to explain why I have discontinued Smashwords publishing for the time being. Smashwords royalties are paid via PayPal, but it’s too nerve-wracking to leave things as is. It’s a horrible feeling to check my bank account online and be afraid more money has disappeared, especially when there’s nothing I can do about it. The bottom line is that I no longer trust PayPal.

I’ll conclude with the standard “apologies if this is an inconvenience” blah, blah, blah. Honestly thought, I hate that it’s worked out this way. My eBooks can still be purchased through Amazon.

 

Kindle to Paperback, And Why I Wouldn’t Recommend It

Kindle Direct Publishing has added a new option to its publishing services, that of turning eBooks into paperbacks. I found this pretty interesting, considering how popular electronic books were when they first appeared, and how many self-proclaimed prophets declared print books dead. So much easier and economical to carry an entire library on one small, lightweight device than to buy expensive, burdensome hard-copy books, right? I confess that I never bought into this (see “Why A Print Book?“). Even though I’ll acknowledge that eBooks are convenient for fiction, I have remained staunchly in the print book camp for everything else. With KDP now offering the paperback option, I can’t help but wonder if the electronic fad, er, trend is fading.

So, being the champion of print that I am, why wouldn’t I recommend clicking on that “Create Paperback” button? For several reasons: page numbering, images, indexing, and formatting options such as charts and tables.

Electronic books are formatted differently than print books. Pages in print books have a fixed design that the content fits a particular page size, including images, text placement, white space, and page numbering. To someone with an eye for aesthetic design, the placement of these elements is important. Because of the variety of eBook reading devices, however, eBooks are formatted so that the text is flowable, i.e. not fixed in terms of page placement. This is to accommodate any brand of eReader on the market. In the printed eBooks that I’ve read, I’ve found the formatting is often too haphazard to be professional looking. Depending on how the author formatted their original file, the print version can be distractingly “off.”

Images, if you include them, are formatted differently for electronic versus print books. Electronic devices render images small enough to fit the screen. Because of file size limitations, low resolution and low DPI (dots per inch, usually 72 DPI for electronic rendering) images are recommended. Most of us probably know how pixelized an enlarged jpg image can become, but smaller looks crisper and cleaner. Images formatted for an eBook will often have that same pixelized look in print. Recommendations for print images are 300 DPI and the specific physical measurements you want on the printed page. In addition, tall, narrow images can be offset side-by-side with text in a print book. This can’t be done with an eBook.

If images include maps, such as I did in 5 Acres & a Dream The Book, then size becomes important for readability. My Master Plans are barely legible in the 6-inch by 9-inch paperback. A reader wouldn’t be able to make them out on a smaller electronic device.

eReaders all sport search functions, just like a search engine does on the internet. Obviously a print book can’t do this, which is why a good index is important, especially for nonfiction. At least it is important to me, although considering how many poorly constructed indexes there are out there, it apparently isn’t as important to everyone else. A paperback from a Kindle version will have no index, so there would be no way to search for specific topics and text.

Another consideration for nonfiction books is tables. I used quite a few charts in the paperback version of my How To Bake Without Baking Powder, whereas in the eBook version, the charts had to be lists. Why? Because charts are usually created in a word processor as tables, and eReaders can’t support tables. Yes, a chart could be supplied as an image, but remember what I said about image size on an eReader? You’d have to make sure that chart is legible in a two or three inch width, which is what an eReader will likely do with it. On the one hand, I agree that charts aren’t absolutely necessary, but on the other, I think they make information visually more accessible to the reader. If I feel I have information that is useful to my reader, then making that information easy to find and access is important to me.

I’ve already mentioned some issues with formatting. One other to be aware of is that eReaders can only read a limited number of fonts. In the professional publishing world of print books, there is quite some snobbishness about fonts (not that I can personally tell muc difference) as though this divides the masters from the novices. Or in my case, the Lobster 2 font for my 5 Acres blog and book title are sort of trademark, i.e. part of my brand. For a print book file, I can use any font I please, as long as I embed it in my desktop publisher. For an eBook, the title would have to be an image.

So, off the top of my head this is why I would recommend not simply opting to print a nonfiction book from an eBook file. It would certainly be the easiest route, but if the author things her or his book has quality and worth, then it makes sense to take the time and give it the respect it deserves.

 

 

 

Is Good Information Worth Paying For?

Pricing books, especially eBooks, is something of a challenge. There are a lot of blog posts and articles written about it, because it seems to be a common question. I know it was for me, and actually, I still sometimes wonder if I’ve priced my eBooks just right.

There are some guides out there about pricing according to the number of words, but this is mostly for fiction. Experienced writers seem to agree that people are willing to pay more for nonfiction, because of the perceived usefulness of the information. That made sense to me, but I’ve been wondering lately if that’s really true.

I’m saying this because of a number of customer reviews that state that $0.99 or $1.99 is overpriced for information that can be found for “free” on the internet. In spite of that, I think part of the problem is that the consumer knows there are no print costs involved in producing an eBook. Unfortunately, they place little or no value on the author’s time. When I consider the number of hours I spend researching (both on the internet and off), sorting through and organizing the information, writing, creating a glossary and list of resources, and then putting it together in a thorough, logical, and easily accessible manner, I’m more than a little amazed. I’d be willing to go toe to toe with most of what’s free on the internet, confident that I’ve produced a more useful product.

A fellow homestead writer has turned to writing fiction because, she says, it sells better than her homestead eBooks. Considering the popularity of homesteading, this makes me wonder if people are really willing to pay more for useful information; perhaps people are willing to pay more for entertainment.

I do find that my How To Bake Without Baking Powder sells more print copies than electronic. To me, this makes sense, because useful information keeps better as hard copy. It’s physical location (my bookshelves) makes it easy to find, I don’t have to recharge anything to read it, and there’s no worry of losing the information if my device goes.

So what’s the answer to the question? Is good information worth paying for? I suspect the answer is subjective, but I’d be interested in your opinion.

First Series Success

Whew. That turned out to be a lot of work. But at last I can announce that Critter Tales is now out as an eBook series.

ctseries_webpageIt’s webpage can be found here.

Preparing the book interiors and covers was a job, and so was getting web pages built for each volume. Now comes the work of getting the word out. Next I’ll tackle 5 Acres & A Dream The Book as a four- or so part series. There’s no rest for the indie author.

Bundles and Series

Bundles and series are two publishing devices for eBooks that seem to work well for both readers and authors. I’m just starting to branch out in both directions.

A bundle (also called a box set or omnibus) is a collection of short related works. These are usually priced more economically than the individual volumes making them a good buy for someone who likes a particular author and the subject they are writing on.

goat_bundle1When I published the first volumes of my The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos, it was fellow homestead author and blogger Anna Hess who suggested that I bundle them when I’d written enough. The other day I realized I’d done just that. I have five goat related how-tos on offer, enough to bundle and offer at a 4-for-3 price.

There is only one set of front and back matter, with the individual eBooks treated as sections. I combined the photos from the four eBook covers to create a new cover, but I still kept my overall series look.

One question authors ask is whether to include their bundle as another volume in the series. I decided against that because it isn’t a separate volume, but a combination of volumes. My solution was to call it a new series, “The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos Bundled Editions.” Not particularly clever, but a search engine will bring up both options so I think it’s a good one!

My other project is to create a series of eBooks from Critter Tales. A series is just that, a long work broken down into shorter segments. Oftentimes the first eBook of the series is sharply discounted or even free. This gives readers a chance to sample a new author. If they like what they read, they are likely to be willing to buy the rest of the series. Or in my case, they can simply buy the tales for the critters they are interested in. I’m tentatively calling my series “Critter Tales Series.”

concerning_critters_cover350x233Critter Tales lends itself well to this idea, because the sets of tales focus on one type of critter each and can make stand-alone reading. Pictured on the right is the cover idea I have.

I think cover design is important, and this is similar enough to the paperback so as to offer instant recognition. eBook covers are a different ratio than paperback covers, so that allowed me to adapt the cover images and highlight the one pertaining to the subject.

“Concerning Critters” is the title of the paperback’s introduction, so it will be my free offering to the reading community. The various sets of tales will be priced according to length.

This project is rather slow going at the moment, because eBooks require a different setup than print. This means I need to create a fluid file for uploading, and photos make this more challenging than text-only documents. My goal is to have it all done and released well before Christmas.