Sunday, 1 March 2015

SMASHING APPLES AND GRINDING NOOKS by VALERIE LAWS

Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits - oops no, hares hares hares as it's 1st March.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been driven as mad as two March hares, beginning the process of putting my Kindle ebooks on all the non-Amazon platforms I can find. Encouraged by other AE luminaries, I’ve gone with Draft 2 Digital for most of this, and I can announce that my Kindle comedy novel LYDIA BENNET'S BLOG is now on Nook, Kobo, PageFoundry's Inktera, Scribd and Tolino (links below). However the process hasn’t been totally straightforward even with D2D who have a simple to follow method, and Apple/iTunes is a whole other vale of tears not yet put behind me. My AE colleagues have had to put up with my howls of anguish on Facebook and I don’t see why any of you should be spared so here is the tale of occasional woe.

Lydia Bennet, shameless as ever, now more widely available.
So I scrubbed and polished a nice clean version of LLB in Word. D2D supply front and back matter, but I added an updated ‘also by’ page at the end. They also supply the hyperlinked Table of Contents but actually, removing these from a ts already formatted for Kindle can be a lot harder than adding them. They are the digital equivalent of ghosts, haunting a document after their corporeal letters and word forms have been deleted, even after you've chased ‘hidden bookmarks’ and right-clicked to ‘edit/remove hyperlinks’. You can’t see them but they make strange things happen…
Sheet of paper haunted by hyperlinks! Ooooohhhh...
Uploading the resulting Word doc and cover image to D2D, I then filled in all the usual metadata, the ‘product description’ ie blurb, including a few glowing editorial reviews, and D2D showed me the TOC their algorithms had picked up. Sadly, LLB being in diary form, it picked up every single date heading and the TOC ended up being a novella in itself, so back to the formatting board to change it all. D2D (whose Style Guide online is very simple and clear) then send you three file versions of your ebook to cover all eventualities, (including Createspace which is currently in Beta), before you have to choose which ones you will do through D2D (who take a cut) and which you’ll do alone. They give you a pdf, for possible paperback conversion: a Mobi, and an Epub. You then check these over and if they pass muster, D2D then put them up on all the above platforms. I left ‘Apple’ unchecked, intending doing it myself. Possibly a huge mistake…
D2D, a way to get ebooks on non-Kindle ereaders
I was able to read the pdf and the Epub file on my iMac, the Epub file via Apple iBooks which is connected to iTunes. The Mobi file I sent to my Kindle to check using Amazon’s brilliant personal documents service. So far Lydia B looks delightful on all her dedicated pages on all these other selling platforms, despite a small hitch when the blurb on the Nook (Barnes & Noble) site appeared sans editorial reviews and in an altered form. My emails to long-suffering Tara at D2D eventually identified the problem which introduces another consideration. Had Lydia Bennet, she asked, been on Nook before?

I racked what was left of my brains. Smashwords! When I first put the book on Kindle, I also put it, and myself, through the notorious ‘Meatgrinder’ for Smashwords. I must be fair here and say many people are happy selling books through them, but I was not, O reader. My book, after much formatting and nit-pickery, ended up in the Smashwords ‘Premium Catalogue’ but in fact it was only featured on the Smashwords site. When I went to Nook, Kobo and the like and searched for it, it was not to be found. If I, wot wrote it, couldn’t find it, the chance of any reader finding it was slim to none, which might explain the sales figures, I mean figure, of ONE via Smashwords.

However, for some odd reason, Nook now recognised my book and used the old Smashwords blurb for it automatically, despite having never shown any signs of noticing it before. Anyway that righted itself. So a nice collection of pages for Lydia B to find some new readers. At least I feel I’ve put her out there, somewhere she’d be quite comfortable to be. But you know how people tend to be Morrisons or Sainsbury’s people (I’m a Sainsbury’s girl myself), well I’m now a D2D person rather than a Smashwords person, though credit where due, the Smashwords downloadable pdf ‘Style Guide’ makes a very handy free formatting guide for any ebooks, with a bit of tweaking.
An Amazon in her Prime, a Select soldier, off to Sainsbury's.

But one thing I’m sure of, I’m very much an Amazonian! I’ve a new appreciation of their relatively clear, simple, well thought out Kindle site and process now. My attempts to navigate the Apple iBook maze have given me the pip – shaken me to the core. I’m off Apples, though I still like a nice big hard Cox. In fact I’ve just had one, and who can blame me? It’s taken over a week to find out how to fill in the personal information, bank, tax, contact details, before getting near the actual book formatting bits. What a badly designed, needlessly complicated, unclear and horrible set of forms to fill in. They refused to recognize my bank branch, despite my bank being one of the most well known in the UK, and didn’t allow me to put the info in. Several polite but almost tetchy emails were exchanged, until eventually they told me that as they only recognized my bank’s branches in Manchester and Birmingham, I had to pretend to bank in one of those despite them being hundreds of miles away. I can only be grateful I have the US tax number business down, or I’d be gibbering by now.
Getting through the Apple iBook process... we're going to need a bigger worm. And a machete.
So next week I’ll be attempting to actually upload an Epub file of LLB to Apple iBooks. Because Apple iAuthor, which I downloaded, produces iBooks you can only read on an iPad, apparently. Yes they have two versions of iBooks, confusingly. Googling and searching for how to upload an Epub file, I found a page where Apple provide four or more downloadable pdf guidebooks on how to do it! Maybe I should have let D2D do the Apple for me too. Time will tell, though I’m not sure how much longer I can cope with it. News on Apple will be forthcoming if I get through it, like a Very Hungry Caterpillar with a machete.
My first crime novel, about to be Kobo'd, Nook'd, Scribd'd, and Appled.
In the meantime, my first crime novel THE ROTTING SPOT is going through my own meatgrinding and teethgrinding process to upload to D2D. And I’ve been reminded by this, how my existing Kindle books are in some ways out of date. I’ve no teaser page at the end of TRS to tempt readers to buy the sequel, THE OPERATOR. My ‘also by’ is out of date, my website address has changed a bit, my About the Author is also in need of fluffing. I’ve put TRS through the ‘nuclear option’ to strip out any formatting I don’t need, and it’s now being painstakingly edited for D2D and an update of my Kindle file. But at least we can now update our books, change them or their front and back matter (that sounds a bit Carry On Nurse, come to think of it), so bring on the Ebooks, iBooks, Nooks, Kobos, Scribds, Kindles, Mobis, Epubs, or just perhaps pubs.

Links to LYDIA BENNET'S BLOG, now on non-Kindle e-readers, HERE 
and also on Kindle US and UK
My Amazon author page is HERE for other books on Kindle, soon to be on other ereaders.
Visit my website http://www.valerielaws.com
Follow me on Twitter @ValerieLaws

8 comments:

Mari Biella said...

The Smashwords Style Guide is a truly useful thing to download, whether you use Smashwords or not. I’ve always been pretty happy with my Smashwords experience, though I’ve had some formatting problems too – the Meatgrinder can only do so much. Interestingly, I think they’ve recently changed the system to allow authors to upload their own pre-prepared ePub files, which may help – I’ll have to check it out.

I agree, though, that preparing books for Amazon is surprisingly easy. You don’t realise quite how easy until you start working with other distributors!

JO said...

Please can you follow this up with a post about how much you sell on all these different platforms? I was beginning to lose the will to live after Kindle, Smashwords and Kono - but if the extra effort makes a huge difference, then maybe I'll have to think again.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

This so made me laugh this morning - I've been at the tearing my hair out stage more often than I care to admit and I only use Kindle and D2D. Sympathies! I must say there are so very many occasions these days where I find myself thinking 'why can't they be like Amazon?' The last time was when waiting in for a delivery from a shop where I had bought an item, and wondering why they couldn't text or email me with an hour long 'window' the way Amazon does so that I'm not trapped for the whole day. In many cases it's because Amazon is a tech company while so many aren't - but this shouldn't happen with Apple, should it? There's no excuse. I also really identify with the way old uploads go out of date a bit though. On my mega list of things to do this year, as soon as I've got to the end of the first draft of the new novel, is to systematically go through everything I have out on Kindle, revise and refresh them if need be and put out everything through D2D that isn't already out there. And then there's Createspace ...

Lydia Bennet said...

I know, it's a full time job just keeping up with ebooks admin! Jo, I will, but I don't expect much in the way of sales, just feel the books might as well be 'out there' available.

Chris Longmuir said...

I really shouldn't be laughing, but I'm afraid I am. However, I feel for you, and wish you every success in getting your books out there via the routes you've chosen. In the meantime, I think I'll stick with Smashwords for all other sellers, and I've had no trouble finding my books on Apple, Kobo et al.

Bill Kirton said...

Oh dear. This is a chore I've been putting off for ages. I think I might put it off a bit longer now. Most of mine are only on Kindle and Createspace and it would make sense for them to be more widely available. I hope it proves to be worth all the trouble, Valerie.

barbara lorna hudson said...

V impressed. Found putting stuff on Amazon Kindle quite hard enough. Would not dream of tackling the rest. Loved Lydia's blog, by the way.

Lydia Bennet said...

Thanks all, and thank you Barbara for the kind words!