As many of you know, Nights of the Road is now published in Kindle edition. Nook, i-Books and Kobo editions should follow soon, and we’re hoping the paperback edition will be available in February.
Life’s been especially hectic here, since The Big Week for Self-Publishing the e-book edition of Nights of the Road coincided with our friend, Kenney Jones flying into town for a birthday party, and ratcheting up our socializing quotient in the rock music and entertainment scene.
Below you will discover how you can use your encyclopedic knowledge of Kenney’s first band – or your Internet research skills, if you were born post-Small Faces and/or the 60’s rock music scene passed you by – to enter a competition to win a free Nights of the Road e-book. But first, let’s take a ride together along:
The road to self-publishing
It’s been quite an experience learning what it takes to ‘get into bed’ with the major e-book publishers. Each makes different demands on would-be bedfellows, even if all do ask for much in common, Their own performance appears to vary, as does their promise of what to expect from what they will deliver.
Many of us are experimenting with self-publishing and we are learning together about the rapidly evolving digital world. If any of you who have already ridden down the digital publishing path feel like sharing here some of your own trials, tribulations and great triumphs, please do press the comment link above and tell us your tale.
Having done my due diligence, I had initially thought to work directly with just two service providers: Kindle Direct Publishing and the ‘aggregator’ company called Smashwords, which sells direct from its catalogue and claims to reach just about any digital publisher in the world who isn’t Kindle. I thought going with the latter would simplify and ease my work load. That was before I began to read the Smashwords style guide and upload instructions…
I’m still scratching my head and trying to wade through the detailed directions in Mark Coker’s friendly and chatty guide. But the idea that my lovingly created Nights of the Road file should have to be converted into literary mincemeat in order to be reconstituted into an e-pub version through what Smashwords calls their proprietary Meatgrinder doesn’t appeal. It also seems superfluous, since I have already produced my own e-book file, courtesy of the wonderful writing application called Scrivener. If I want to short-circuit and send Smashwords the e-pub file instead of a very particularly formatted file in Word, I am apparently barred from being published in their Premier Catalogue. I don’t know what I am losing out on there, so I’ve decided to keep it simple, put Smashwords back into a possibly pending tray, and continue on my do-as-much-of-it-as-possible-yourself, independent path. I’m glad I have, because I’m learning a lot along the way.
Four digital publishers later, I’m feeling hopeful that I may have mastered the e-book route to over three-quarters (some say more than 90%) of the marketplace. Maybe I’ve simply mastered initial nerves that I might make a irreversible error when uploading files. Here’s my experience to date:
Amazon: large, efficient, relatively anonymous yet you know immediately that you’re in competent and customer-oriented hands. I am not their first lover. They have clearly done this publishing dance millions of times before. They have a streamlined system and they own the largest share of the e-book market, so they can dictate terms in the relationship. Especially about royalties and ways to reach a reader. Financial terms are strongly – very strongly – in their favor. Watcha gonna do in the face of the mega-machine? Turn your back and walk away? Not me, since I want to make it easy for Nights of the Road to be read as widely as possible.
I laughed aloud at observing the challenge that some 17th century English words in Nights of the Road presented to Amazon’s spellcheck. I felt it impressive that they took the occasional drop into 21st century Cockney vernacular in their stride – never querying a single dropped ‘h’ or a ‘wiv’ instead of ‘with.’ But the redoubtable Lady Hatton was clearly too much for them – as she seems to have been for many who knew her, when she was alive in the 1600s.
The idiosyncratic and dramatic letter that Elizabeth Hatton made her young daughter Frances sign caused Amazon’s spellcheck mechanism to burp and belch. They then asked me (politely) several times whether I did really intend the letter to remain as written. Read it here, and you may find yourself sympathizing with Amazon!
I gyv myselfe absolutely to Wyffe to Henry Vere Viscount Balbroke Erl of Oxenford to whom I plyghte my trothe and inviolate vows to keepe myselfe till Death us do part: and if I even brake the leaste of these I pray God Damne mee Bodye and Soule in Hell fire in the world to come: and in this world I humbly beseech God the Erth may open and swallow mee up quicke to the Terror of all faythe breakers that remayne Alive.
Fortunately for readers and spellcheckers alike, there is only one such paragraph in Nights of the Road.
Nook (Barnes & Noble) didn’t blink an eye about 17th or 21st century prose. They do not need to, since they leave spell checking and editing to the author, once the book is uploaded. They provide a simple and easy-to-use publishing interface, and so we made friends easily, but they didn’t like my cover image size. If you’re using Nook, don’t send them any jpeg over 2MB or their system gets indigestion.
Thankfully, since I’m a novice in the pixel princess stakes, one of my knights of the road, Mike Kempsey, http://www.dt6.biz, book cover guru extraordinaire, was on hand to help. He’s a night owl, so our eight-hour time difference didn’t bother him, and he converted the cover image so quickly to an edible size for Nook that my upload process scarcely lost a step.
Nook Press upload’s mechanism made a unilateral decision to italicize nearly a whole chapter of my book. I spotted it during the chapter check and the error was quickly remedied in an easy-to-edit mechanism. Still it reminded me that, in self-publishing upload as in all other forms of communication, the receiver does not necessarily get exactly what you intend to communicate.
Overall, I found the Nook system slightly quicker and easier to use than Amazon’s, but Amazon was more pro-active than Nook in pointing out possible errors, which gave me confidence that their end product would be clean.
Apple i-Books has been my biggest disappointment in self-publishing adventures to date. As an Apple Mac user since 1985, I expected a user-friendly customer interface. Once I had found and connected to i-Tunes Connect, I received a responsive support service, but be aware that the phone number that connects you with a human who knows the answers to your questions is given in the introductory video. Said video disappeared before I made a note of the number. Thereafter, I found myself apparently locked into a one-way upload process.
Also, unless I have missed it, when uploading a book to i-Tunes, I have no way of checking if what I provide has been received without conversion errors. Since certain choices can only be made once in Apple’s system, it’s best to get it all right first time round.
I sat and willed the screen to explain to me whether ‘DRM free’ meant that Digital Rights Management protection would be given if I checked the box, or whether checking it would leave anyone able to copy my novel for free. Nobody in online telephone Apple Support knew the answer. They told me there was no phone support for the service I needed – wrong, there is – and passed me to a poor bemused soul who turned out to work for Apple Accounts Billing. She kindly offered me a link to someone else who didn’t know.
Dear Apple, I have been a devoted customer for 30 years and IMHO your computers are quite beautiful and also more powerful and portable than ever. Yet your human interface seems less responsive each time I approach you. Hey there, intuitive Apple, what’s with the linear-only thinking? Whatever happened to multi-tasking and save-as-you-go and come-back-whenever-you-need-to? Why can’t I begin to input or upload anything until Apple has verified my tax details, when other publishers do this while I’m inputting the data and files they’ll need for publication? That’s heel-kicking and time-wasting for me, as your customer. It also slows the product getting to market, which is against both our interests. And why are you the only publisher I’ve used that demands and requires my credit card details before I can even approach your self-publishing service, when it’s you that is supposed to pay me if you sell my book?
I want to thank Kanesha in i-Tune Connect support. I finally located her number by leaving the system after an un-question-answered hour in the labyrinth, and beginning again with the video. She soothed my shattered customer nerves and her service skills fairly sparkled, as she reassured me that I wasn’t the only person to have reported difficulty in decoding the meaning of ‘DRM free.’ By the way, if any of you want DRM protection with your Apple i-Book, Kanesha says you should leave the box unchecked!
The best experience of all so far? By far and away, it was with Kobo who are based out of Toronto, Canada. I now plan to use them for my own e-book purchases, thanks to their pleasant, easily understandable, human and user-friendly website and publishing service. And I notice their exchange rates on the US dollar conversion to other countries’ currencies are currently not as inflated as on Amazon or i-Tunes.
In summary: if it’s speed to market from initial approach and maximum potential customer reach you want, Amazon’s Kindle service wins hands-down. If you want a simple, easy-to-use, high % royalty and intimate-feeling service, with relatively few strings attached, then try out Nook and Kobo.
Win a free e-book copy of Nights of the Road:
I had hoped to share on this week’s blog some of the delightful conversations I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy with Kenney Jones (Small Faces, Faces and The Who Drummer) but I have simply run out of (nights of the) road, time and energy in this busy week.
So I’ll leave you now with another photo of Kenney, plus a promise and a question.
The photo is taken with Robin McCauley and his lovely and talented wife Gina about whom more in a later blog (you can catch Robin’s performance currently six nights a week at Raiding the Rock Vault in Las Vegas)
The promise is that my next blog will be devoted to rock music and include the results of my time with Kenney. He’s a fascinating man to talk with, as well as a lovely and multi-talented human being.
The question : Who is the principal character in Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake and what is his quest? The first person to answer correctly will be awarded a copy of Nights of the Road in the e-book version of your choice.
Use the contact box via the contact menu link above together with your name and the email address you would like your prize sent to, and then watch this blog space to see if you have won!
If you have already bought your copy of Nights of the Road – Thank You! Enter the competition anyway – you may win a copy to give to a grateful friend!