Sunday, December 28, 2014

Photographing Central Park in Winter

It's only been in the past few weeks that I've once again begun carrying my camera with me on my walks through Central Park.  The challenge is to find shots that haven't already been taken a million times over by visiting tourists.  I've found the best solution is to get close to the smaller details, especially the season's faded greenery.  The plant life has a monochrome beauty all its own at this time of year that in many ways is more photogenic than springtime's bright flowering.  I took both these photos on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Publishing an Ebook on Barnes & Noble's Nook Press

Like Amazon, Barnes & Noble offers an ebook self-publishing program that allows authors to place their work online.  Formerly called PubIt!, it has now apparently been renamed Nook Press.

Before beginning the process, I once again took my MS Word document and converted it in Calibre, this time to an epub file, B&N's native format for its Nook reader.  I was then able to look at the new document in the Kindle Previewer to make sure it had been correctly formatted.  In so doing, I found that Word's justified paragraph alignment does not always convert properly, at least not as can be seen in Previewer, and so I revised the original Word document to make all text paragraphs left aligned.  For good measure, I removed the automatic hyphenation as well.

After having gone online and registered (having made sure to use a secure password), I was prompted to upload the manuscript.  I submitted the epub file and was given the opportunity to review it in B&N's online Nook reader.  Everything appeared fine as far as I could see.

I then uploaded the cover image.  In order to do so, I first had to go to Adobe Photoshop and downsize the cover image I had previously submitted to Amazon.  The maximum file size allowed by B&N is limited to 2 mb.  

Once the manuscript and cover had been uploaded, I was prompted to provide the standard book information.  First I was asked to give a title and description.  Secondly, I was asked for the category and subcategory, keywords, language and audience.  The audience category was broken down into children, young adults, general adult and mature adult.

When I prepared to go to the next screen to set a price, I was told I must first submit my vendor information.  This was a two-step process.  First, I created an author profile complete with my photograph.  Secondly, I entered my tax ID and banking data.  A popup then appeared stating that the bank account information would be verified within 72 hours.

I then had to click "Projects" on the overhead menu to return to the pricing screen.  Here I verified that I held worldwide rights and said "no" to DRM (Digital Rights Management encryption to prevent unauthorized copying).  I kept the price the same as that charged on Amazon, of course, since it would make no sense at all to price the same book differently from one online store to the next.

On the next screen, I verified that my work was not in the public domain, was not part of a series and was not currently available in print.

Finally, I was asked to provide editorial reviews, if any.  This step is optional.

Once all this had been completed, I clicked "Publish" but again saw the notice that my bank account information would be verified within 72 hours.  It is not possible to publish on B&N until this verification has been completed.  In the event, it only took about 18 hours for B&N to send me an email announcing that the information had been verified and that I was cleared to publish.  I then returned to B&N's website and clicked "Publish" once again.

When I returned to the "Projects" page and clicked on the book title under the heading "Project Name," I first saw a popup that indicated my request was being processed.  When I tried again several hours later, the popup stated "This NOOK Book is available for sale" and provided the B&N Identifier number.  Nothing else needed to be done after that.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Publishing an Ebook on Amazon

I'm not going to detail here all the steps involved in publishing an ebook on Amazon.  For the most part, that is covered not only in Publishing E-Books for Dummies which I've previously reviewed but also in the step-by-step instructions provided on Amazon itself.  Listed below are only a few comments based on my own experience that might facilitate the process for those not already familiar with it.

When arriving at Amazon's Kindle portal, it's first necessary to register and set up an account.  I would here point out the obvious - since in the process of establishing an account one must necessarily submit sensitive personal information (legal name, address, Social Security number, bank account number, etc.) it is most important to choose a secure password.  I advise using one that is unique, i.e., one that differs from those used for entry to other websites.

Amazon takes care of the tax information first.  Until this is done, not only can one not publish anything with Amazon, but there will be an annoying reminder shown every time one signs onto the site that the necessary information has not yet been provided.  Submitting the required data, though, is more than just a formality to be hurriedly breezed through.  The information collected at each step will in the end be used to complete IRS form W-9 (which can be printed out once finished), and one will be required to certify to the accuracy of that form.  As with any IRS filing, great care should therefore be taken to ascertain that everything set forth is honest and correct.

While still on the "Your Account" page, it is a good idea to at this point enter one's banking information - name, routing number and account number - so that one can be paid by Amazon for sales of published books.  Once the bank account information has been verified, Amazon will provide by country a list of the "supported marketplaces" for that particular banking institution.

After these initial steps, one can proceed to the business at hand of actually placing the ebook online.  Again, Amazon will walk one through the process.  There are, however, a few points which should be taken into account before beginning this procedure.

First, though an ebook can be submitted in MS Word format, it is much less troublesome to submit one's manuscript as a mobi file.  This is the native format used by Amazon and the one to which Word documents must eventually be converted if they are to be read on a Kindle.  The advantage to submitting a mobi file is that one can preview it beforehand (using the Kindle Reader that can be downloaded for free from Amazon) in order to make sure the document is properly formatted.  There are certain MS Word features (dropped caps, for example) that do not convert properly and give a jumbled appearance to the ebook if not edited.  It saves a lot of time and frustration if one downloads the free software from Calibre, does the conversion oneself, and then uploads the mobi file to Amazon once one is satisfied with its appearance on the Kindle Reader.

Secondly, one should already have prepared a cover for the ebook before publishing it.  The cover must be a color image in either tiff or jpg format and of sufficient size.  A very basic cover can quickly and easily be created in Adobe Photoshop, but sufficient consideration should be given to its appearance since it is on the basis of this one image that most potential readers will make their decision whether or not to purchase the book.

Third, one should decide before publishing how much to charge for one's work.  Authors will receive maximum royalties (70%) if they price their book between $2.99 and $9.99.  As I was more interested in attracting readers than in generating income, at least in the case of my first novel, I chose to go to the low end and charge $2.99.

Finally, authors will be invited to join the Kindle Select program when publishing their work on Amazon.  After I had carefully reviewed the Terms of Service and weighed both the benefits and restrictions that are entailed in joining this program, I decided that it was not worth it for me.  Other authors may, of course, feel differently.  In any event, one should read Amazon's documentation carefully before making a choice.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

More Photos from Central Park

I'm posting here several photographs I took last month while walking through Central Park.  More photos can be viewed on my Fine Arts America page where prints are also available for purchase.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Review: Publishing E-Books for Dummies

I had already read Publishing E-Books for Dummies by Ali Luke early last year when first planning to publish a novel online.   I was then at work on another piece of fiction with which I have since grown dissatisfied and decided to shelve.  At that time, however, I found Luke's book extremely informative and so decided to reread it in its entirety when recently preparing my novel New York Sonata for placement on Amazon.

In spite of its obnoxious title (how I loathe paying money to a publisher that refers to its customers as "dummies"), Publishing E-Books is actually as comprehensive a guide as one could hope for when initially approaching Amazon and other self-publishing sites.  Luke's style is thoroughly engaging and easy to read as she guides the novice writer in this often confusing task.  She offers a number of strategies and tips I probably would never have thought of on my own.

The book is divided into six parts.  The first, "Getting to Know E-Books," is very basic and mostly common sense.  Still, those who are considering ebook publication will find it an encouraging introduction to the subject.  The second part, "Creating Your E-Book," is far more useful as it delves into the mechanics involved in preparing a book for online publication.  Contained here are instructions for properly formatting a manuscript in MS Word and for saving it as a pdf file.  Also included in this section are chapters which were not of immediate interest to me but might be helpful to other authors.  One dealt with designing a cover on a budget (I'm a photographer and am already knowledgeable in the use of Adobe Photoshop) and the other with using Apple iBooks Author (for those creating multimedia works on a Mac platform).  The chapter I found most useful for my own purposes was the one that explained in detail the process of converting Word files to epub (native format used by Barnes & Noble) and mobi (native format used by Amazon) through the use of Calibre, a free program that accomplishes this task quickly and easily and of whose existence I had previously been unaware.

By far, the most useful part of Publishing E-Books is Section IV, "Selling Your E-Book."  Here are located the essential step-by-step instructions one must follow in order to actually place a book with online publishers.  I found this information invaluable when first signing on to Amazon's KDP site.  The book guided me through the entire process so that I was able to quickly and efficiently establish an account, upload my novel and then complete the Amazon author page.  The next chapter dealt with Smashwords, a site designed to simultaneously place an author's work with a number of online publishers (excluding Amazon itself) while requiring from the writer only the submission of a single Word file with highly simplified formatting.  I had used the Smashwords site once before when publishing a short photo book, though, and was not really satisfied with it.  Aside from Barnes & Noble, the publishers with which Smashwords is affiliated are generally too marginal to be worth the effort, and I have so far not bothered with it for the publication of my novel.  In retrospect, I think it would have been far more useful if Luke had instead provided instructions for publishing on Barnes & Noble directly and had skipped the middleman.  (Luke herself may not have gone this route because she is located in the UK and mentioned in passing that it is necessary to have a US bank account in order to publish on B&N.)

The remaining sections of Publishing E-Books were of varying interest to me.  While Part III, "Creating Your Website," does contain sufficient information to enable one to set up a very basic website using WordPress, most readers will want a more detailed guide to the subject and a fuller choice of both software and hosts.  Part V, "Marketing Your E-Book," did contain a number of highly useful tips for promoting an ebook on Amazon.  It also introduced me in detail to the Goodreads site which is probably the only form of social media I will end up using for marketing purposes.  Here again I found the step-by-step instructions extremely helpful.  There is a similar chapter devoted to the use of Facebook and Twitter, but the inordinate amount of time required to effectively market a work on these sites makes them for me a far less desirable choice.  (I admit here to being one of the few people on the planet not already registered with either one.)  The final section, "The Part of Tens," which I take to be a standard feature of the "Dummies" series, is almost entirely useless as the "articles" contained therein are too short - only a paragraph or two in length - to be of any real assistance.

The bottom line is that I'd strongly recommend this book to any writer considering self-publishing an ebook for the first time.  It is a great help in understanding what's involved and in simplifying the entire procedure.  The chapters regarding Amazon are alone worth the purchase price.