29 June 2011

Guest Blog: Steven Lyle Jordan on e-book proofing and publishing

Steven Lyle Jordan is a Maryland based Sci-Fi author who has published his series The Kestral Voyages in e-book format, as well as a number of stand-alone novels. For more information visit his site at rightbrane.com. His guest-blog is on the advantages of e-publishing in terms of making revisions.

Take 2: Revising an e-book in no time flat

There’s a unique feeling an ebook author gets when they’ve released their book into the markets, ready to be bought… they’ve alerted the media, and told their customers and friends to spread the word… and they sit back, take a breath, and wait to see what develops. Naturally, what they want to see is right-off healthy sales, and maybe a few emails in their inbox telling them how great their book was.

So it was a let-down, to say the least, when I released a book a year ago, and quickly received emails… counting down my editing and grammatical errors. I felt sick inside. Admittedly, I generally do all of my own editing and proofing, because I can’t afford to hire an editor, and because I regularly received high marks for writing and reports in school.  But for whatever reason, I hadn’t done much of a job on this book.  Over half a dozen outright mistakes… things I should have caught… were right there in front of me. I couldn’t let them slide; I had to fix them.

Fortunately, that decision allowed me to demonstrate one of the greatest advantages of ebooks, not to mention the web and social media, in being able to make reparations, fix the ebook, and get the revised copies to my customers—in days, as opposed to months or years (or sometimes never) with printed books.
To begin with, the edits themselves were simple enough.  I made the changes (kicking myself along the way), and as I had just a few days previous, I made new versions of the ebook.  For me, this meant 5 formats for my website, plus Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords versions.  Sure, I grumbled about it a bit… but once I started, I had new versions online, in 4 different sites, in less than 2 hours.  Any new customers would get the new version, updated mere days after the first release.

Then, came the real kicker: Through my site, I store the names and emails of all of my customers, so I can easily keep track of who bought what, and so I can respond personally to customer inquiries.  This came in handy, because it allowed me to send an email to each of my customers who had bought that book.  I explained what happened, told them that they only had to contact me, and I’d personally send them a new copy of the ebook.  It worked like a charm: The customers emailed me back, and I attached a new file to each request, in their format of choice.

Even the process of revising the copyright on an ebook is easier now, thanks to the U.S. Copyright Office’s acceptance of digital files.  Through their website, a user can fill out an online form, download the document, make an online payment with a credit card or established account, and your copyright is essentially done in minutes. 

All told, the quick revision and resending of the novel took less than 2 weeks.  And as a bonus, I received new emails, complementing me on my quick and forthright response to the errors, and the efforts I made to satisfy my customers.  I had accomplished in days what print books sometimes never manage: To fix a simple error.

Print book users love to talk about the advantages of print, about the “look and feel” of books, the joy of a physical copy on their shelves, etc, etc.  But print books have errors, too… or did you think publishers do “revisions” just for the heck of it?  Unfortunately, when a book is re-issued with revisions, you can’t take your old book back to the store and ask to have it replaced with the new revision.

And that assumes a revision is made.  A lot of books get only one printing, especially if the market is considered to be limited, or if it doesn’t do as well in the stores as the publishers hoped.  You may have a book with the most glaring error, and have to accept the fact that it will never be revised.  Ever.
Whereas the new world of ebooks means that revisions can be made, and released to the market in days… even hours.  And there are mechanisms in place to manually or automatically send revised copies to consumers.  This is only one of ebooks’ gifts to the 21st century.  With things like this, and many others, going for ebooks… who needs print?

That little episode helped to remind me of the need for a good editing/proofing pass on my backlist books, before they are re-released.  I’ve been working on one book, Evoguía, for the past few months (off and on), and I was surprised at how many little errors crept by my original proofing pass.  Chances are, most of my earlier books are roughly the same, with small errors and mis-types, and the occasional odd phrasing that should have been yanked and fixed before the book was released. (If anyone who’s familiar with the original manuscript takes a “moment,” they’ll know what I mean.)

The only excuse I can offer for the earlier releases is, my eagerness to release the books resulted in rushed proofing.  But now that I am a relative old-hand at this, and don’t feel the need to rush (especially when releasing backlist titles), I can afford to take my time and do it right.

There’s another reason to take that time, as well: Major publishers are scrambling to convert their backlist titles to ebooks; but in many cases, they are doing an incredibly sloppy job at it, doing fast scan-and-OCR jobs, and not putting any effort into proofing their text.  As a result, major publishers are releasing ebook versions of their backlist that can only be called “hack jobs” by any consumer unlucky enough to purchase one.  This is my competition… and anything I can do to make my work look better than a major publisher’s work will benefit my sales.

Hopefully readers will notice the quality (or, at least, note the superior quality compared to other major publishers’ works) and will help spread the word about my work through reviews and recommendations.  So it’s clearly in my best interests to do the better proofing job, elevate my reputation as a quality artist, and be a positive element in the evolution of publishing from Big-Publisher domination to a more integrated field of publishers and independent artists.

27 June 2011

Review: The Enemy of an Enemy by Vincent Trigili

The Enemy of an Enemy by Vincent Trigili is a sci-fi space adventure which follows protagonist Vydor through his encounters in the Empire. It is intended to be the first in a series of three novels by Trigili set in the same universe. 

From Amazon

"Everything seemed to be going Vydor’s way, until the Dragon Claw was sent on a rather unusual assignment to investigate a minor incident deep within the Empire’s space. That would send Vydor down a path filled with fantastically powerful enemies and extraordinary friends that would obliterate everything he ever understood to be true and threaten the very foundations of the Empire itself."

First impressions are not good but the cover is very misleading, it gives the impression of a cheap and trashy sci-fi outing, when in fact it is an entertaining read, with a well-developed plot. Whilst the plot is good, the book is severely let down by it's simplistic, often child-like, writing style, which means that it reads more like a Young Adult book rather than the adult fiction it is. Hopefully this will be improved in the rest of the series. The simplistic writing style is countered by the brilliant pacing of the novel, particularly near the start, which makes this a sure page-turner.

The Enemy of an Enemy is available from Amazon UK for just 69p and from Amazon US for $1.13. It is also available in print from Lulu for £6.33.

23 June 2011

E-book - The Lost King and the Goddess of Time by Ali Naqvi

"It was only a nightmare at first, but Damont soon realizes that he can see into the future—a curse he has to live with for being the only son of a king dead for a thousand years, with a mother who is the goddess of time.

From Amazon
A man in black armor with a face as obscure as the shadows mantling him laughs wickedly. Who is he and why does he continue to haunt me, Damont wonders. Appearing only in his dreams, the man in the black armor stands alone and laughs high as if to mock him while the world around him burns to cinder. “They are not dreams, my son,” a voice calls out to him in a vision after the many nightmares—claiming to be his mother whom abandoned him when he was but a child. “They are shards of a broken world to come if you so take the path of your father.” If such a path does lie ahead beyond a throne that sits vacant for centuries, with an empire in the east growling for war, then Damont Langörn realizes he has but one choice: follow the visions and seek out the truth lost to both him and the world behind his lineage—but will he be strong enough to face such a malevolent foe of his nightmares?With a vampire and a sorceress at his side, Damont begins his journey, but such a road is not an easy one to take if the gods themselves do not wish for his return as the king who would unite the world against their existence and bring demise to their very doorstep."

The Lost King and the Goddess of Time is available from Amazon UKfor £2.14,from Amazon US for $3.53, for Nook for $2.99 and at Smashwords for $2.99. 

19 June 2011

Review: Can You Survive Antarctica? by Rachael Hanel

I've taught teenagers about Antarctica and finding appropriate and interesting resources for the students to develop their knowledge outside of the classroom is difficult. Can You Survive Antarctica? is set to change all this. It is an 'interactive book', which means that children and teenagers can choose their own path through the book by reading different pages, leading to different endings. It adds an element of fun and game play, which hopefully will encourage them to continue reading. There are three paths "early explorer", "modern day adventure" and "living and working in Antarctica". All paths combine aspects of history and geography, and often include elements of science and survival skills.

From NetGalley
The book begins with a general chapter discussing what Antarctica is like, with key geographical facts such as average temperatures which makes this book an excellent source of information for project work/homework. It then asks the students to choose which path they would like to follow. The story like style of the book, and the elements of danger, will distract children from the fact that it is a non-fiction book. Offering choices, such as the choice between the better equipped Scott expedition or the more experienced Amundsen expedition, helps promote students problem-solving and critical thinking skills. After finishing all three paths, readers will have a well-rounded knowledge of the history and geography of Antarctica, and what life is like living there.

The layout of the book is clean and modern, shaking off the image of boring non-fiction books. This clean, modern feel is replicated in the pictures and maps chosen, which, in the main, are colourful and appealing. In terms of reading age, it is generally appropriate for KS2-KS3, in my opinion, which is ages 7-14, however some words, by necessity, are more difficult, and KS2 and low ability KS3 students may struggle with them, although there is a very good glossary provided in the back of the book.

As an educator, the book provides a quiz and further information sources, which should consolidate and extend learning. However, the quiz is more focused on survival skills, and is not useful for assessment, and the 'Read More' section could have been longer to provide a greater selection of paper based resources. The FactHound code, used to produce a list of verified, trusted websites, is an excellent idea, as it will give parents/educators the peace of mind that their children/students are getting reliable, appropriate information from the internet.

Overall this is an excellent book where learning takes place almost by accident. From a parents/educator's point of view, it is a well-researched, non-fiction book that will keep children and teenagers engaged and entertained while they are learning. For children/teenagers, I believe they will enjoy the choices given and the style of the writing, which makes it read more like a fiction book rather than a non-fiction book. A must have for any school or public library!

Can You Survive Antarctica? is released on the 1st August and is available to pre-order from Amazon UK and for $6.95 from Amazon US. It is currently not available in e-book format, if you want to see it available for e-readers either use the link on the Amazon website or contact Capstone Press directly. 

[An advance reading copy was provided by Capstone Press]

18 June 2011

Free e-book - Chasing Eden by B.K. Sherer & Sharon Linnea

"April 8, 2003. U.S. Army Chaplain Jaime Richards is stunned when her civilian friend Adara Dunbar staggers, mortally wounded, out of the Iraqi night, with an urgent "package" for Jaime to drop at ruins of the ancient city of Ur, now inside a U.S. military base. Jaime is soon pulled into a web of five-thousand-year-old secrets as she joins forces with Adara's mysterious brother on a quest through Ur, Babylon, Baghdad, and Iraq's southern swamps to save a hidden treasure that powerful men are willing to steal and kill-and start a war-to find. Smart and suspenseful, a hold-on-to-your-seat race to find the site of the original Garden of Eden."

Chasing Eden is available free from Amazon UK and Amazon US. 

17 June 2011

Review: Exposed by Alex Kava

When O'Dell and Cunningham receive a coded threat, they expect a bomb has been planted in a suburban neighbourhood. The truth however is even more frightening when they find a seriously ill woman and are exposed to a deadly virus nicknamed 'the slate wiper'. O'Dell finds herself locked away in isolation whilst a calculating killer goes about setting off an epidemic. Will O'Dell figure out who the killer is in time to prevent a crisis? 

From Amazon
Exposed had the potential to be an outstanding example of a mainstream medical-thriller, indeed the premise is a  intreging one. Unfortunately the execution of the novel did not live up to its promise, leading to a rather mediocre example of the genre. The book starts well, with the reader thrown straight into the action with the description of Waheem, followed quickly by O'Dell's and Cunningham's grisly discovery, but the plot quickly falls away after that, with the focus bizarrely being put on the minutiae of the character's lives rather than on advancing the plot. To be quite honest I was bored, with the gaps between plot advancement long enough to allow you to forgot the last major event. This wasn't helped by the plethora of characters involved, nor by the hints of back story that were not fully explained, making this a frustrating book for those who have not read the earlier books in the series. The plot wasn't all bad, and at points I found myself eagerly awaiting the next page, regrettably these moments were few and fair between, and at the end you feel as though nothing has really developed since around Chapter 11. 

On a more positive note Kava's research is clearly evidenced by the detailed, accurate information on the disease and USARMID. Anyone who has read Richard Preston's The Hot Zone in particular will recognise snippets of that book throughout Exposed, although at times perhaps too obviously for my liking. In any case, medical/science geeks will definitely not be rolling their eyes at this novel. 

Overall this is a weak example of both the genre and Kava's writing. The lack of pace, poor plot development and almost constant flipping back and forwards between a large cast of characters, made it more of a chore than an pleasure to read. Possibly one for fan's of the series, for whom the focus on character relationship will be more appreciated, but it doesn't work as a stand-alone story for me. This is a real shame as the premise was interesting and promised to be a exhilarating read. 

Exposed is available from Amazon UK for £4.65, from Amazon US for $7.64 and from Waterstones for £8.24.

15 June 2011

Free E-book - The End of the World by Andrew Bliss

Another free e-book for you, this time a contemporary fantasy called The End of the World. 

"Accustomed to a life of cosseted seclusion at home with his parents, Valentine is suddenly faced with making his own way in the world. His new life is quickly upended, however, when he's mugged at gunpoint. Finding shelter at a mysterious inn run by the dour Mrs. Anna, he soon encounters a Bosnian woman with a hole where her stomach used to be, an American entrepreneur with a scheme to implant televisions into people's foreheads, and a Catholic priest who attempts to lure him down inside a kitchen sink. Then things start getting strange...

In this story based loosely around the state of Bardo from The Tibetan Book of the Dead - an intermediate state where the dead arrive prior to rebirth - dying is the easy part. Getting out of Bardo and returning to the land of the living is a far more perilous proposition, and unless you know what you're doing...you might never leave. 

An odd, yet oddly touching tale of life, death, and the space in-between." From Amazon

Free to download from  Amazon UK and Amazon US.

14 June 2011

Review: Wildcard by Ken McClure

After reviewing Lost Causes at the weekend I felt like I needed to re-read a better example of McClure's work, so pulled out, electronically, Wildcard which is the third book in the Steven Dunbar series. We're thrown straight into the action when a man becomes violently ill on a flight from Africa, bleeding from every orifice of his body. Soon others who came in contact with the man fall ill and die. The government think they are in the clear until other cases start appearing all over the country - Manchester, Perth, Wales - all wildcards with no know source of the illness. Will Steven Dunbar figure out the connection between the wildcards before the whole country is infected? What will the personal cost be?

From Amazon

Wildcard is a wonderfully paced read which takes you straight into the action, with the unveiling panic on the aircraft, and the action and suspense hardly lets up until the final page. McClure carefully balances story progression with holding enough of the truth back to keep you guessing into the last few chapters, and weaves in a beautifully bitter-sweet sub-plot which reveals some stark truths about Dunbar. The medical information contained in the book is spot-on, ensuring that the story is believable throughout; a hallmark of McClure's work. The only downside I can see is that it is so fast-paced that reading the book only takes a matter of hours and leaves you wanting more.

Overall this is a fantastic example of the medical thriller genre, which is so well written that fans of the genre and non-fans alike are likely to find it an engrossing and enjoyable read.

Wildcard is available from Amazon UK for £1.59, from Amazon US for $2.61, from Kobo for £2.03 and from WH Smith for £1.69, a bargin price for a book of this calibre.

12 June 2011

Review: Lost Causes by Ken McClure

I couldn't wait to get my hands on the newest edition to the Steven Dunbar series by Ken McClure, Lost Causes. We arrive upon a different Dunbar than in the previous instalment, disillusioned, he has quit his job at Sci-Med, and moved in with girlfriend Tally, he's even got rid of the Boxer. It is obvious however that this situation won't last, and he is soon called back to Sci-Med to face an impending public health crisis and investigate the re-emergence of a old threat.

From Amazon

I have to say that as a McClure fan I was disappointed with this offering. Unlike many of his other books, the plot in this one is a bit to predictable for my liking. This stems from the fact that Lost Causes is a sequel to Requiem, one of McClure's earlier, non-Dunbar novels. Whilst you don't have to have read Requiem prior to reading this, indeed the first third of the book is taken up with describing the prior events, I do think if you have read Requiem before the plot is too easy to guess, and this takes away from your enjoyment of the book. The exposition at the start of Lost Causes also leads to a slow start, uncharacteristic of McClure's work, but once the story gets going, around Chapter 8, it goes with a bang and there is non-stop action till the end. The last few pages however seem rushed, and this detracts from the ending, and almost makes it seem like McClure had a page limit he had to stick to, with a disappointing "afterwards the characters did..." paragraph on the final page. On a more positive light, once the story gets going, you are literally dragged along with it, and as such it only took me a little over 3 hours to finish the book. There are also some great moments of suspense, which unfortunately were not exploited enough.

Overall this is not the best example of McClure's work, with a slow start, and the feeling that really this was a much longer novel that had to be squeezed into a set number of pages. However, if you have not read Requiem (or cannot remember what happened in Requiem) Lost Causes will provide a gripping read with moments of suspense, in a believable political setting. Above all else I would not recommend re-reading Requiem before this, as it will spoil the plot for you. Although don't let this put you off reading it afterwards, as it is one of the best examples of McClure's writing with a plot so suspenseful it will knock your socks off.

Lost Causes is available from Amazon UK for £9.35, from Amazon US for $15.36 and from WH Smith for £9.75.

11 June 2011

Kobo 20% Discount!

Kobo is offering 20% off all e-books brought from it's store throughout June. To claim, visit the website here and enter 'June20off' at the checkout. 

10 June 2011

Great Gift Ideas for Father's Day

Father's Day is nearly upon us, falling on the 19th June, and if your anything like me you will have been blisfully unaware of that fact until you just read it. Luckily my dad is a book fiend like me, so buying that last minute gift is relativlty easy. So if your wondering what to get your long-suffering dad this year, here are my suggestions:

Kindle 3 

I love my Kindle, and if I ever manage to convince my father that e-reading is just as good as reading a good old fashioned dead tree book, it will be top of my gift-buying list. Amazon makes it very easy to purchease the device as a gift, and as an accompanyment, why not buy a gift card so your dad can start reading straight away. In the run up to to father's day, Amazon is offering 20% off the purchase of any official leather cover with all Kindle's brought, click here for details.

Go the F*@k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

Bring back the memories off all those nights your dad stayed up reading the same old picture book to you with this hilarious satirical masterpiece,  which probably should not be used for lullying the little ones off to sleep with such lines as "How come you can do all this other great s*!t, But you can’t lie the f*@k down and sleep?". It is available in Kindle format from Amazon UK.

Notes from the Hard Shoulder by James May

Notes from the Hard Shoulder is James May's hillarious take on motoring told through a series of humerous acadedotes and articles. A must have for every grumpy old man, top gear fan and petrol-head at home. It is availble in Kindle format from Amazon UK, Waterstones and WH Smith.

Life and Laughing by Michael McIntyre

In my parent's house Michael McIntyre's comedy roadshow is a cornerstone of the weekly TV schedule, so why not let your dad learn more about this fantastic comedian by buying him McIntyre's biography. Available from Amazon UK.

It's Your Time Your Wasting by Frank Chalk

If your dad is a teacher, this is one for him! We all know that most teachers like nothing more than chatting shop, often with the more than occasional moan about the 'yoof' of today. Why not read shop as well? This is a funny account of what life is really like in Britain's schools, and will bring a both a frown and a smile to your educator-dad's face.
Available from Amazon UK.

Lost Voices from the Titanic by Nick Barratt

Next year is the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and Nick Barratt has produced a definitive account of what happened aboard the great ship. A must for any maritime or history buffs out in dad-land. Available from Amazon UK.

If you think you have found the perfect Father's Day e-book gift, please share your idea with other by leaving a comment.

9 June 2011

Free E-book - L.A. Noire by Rockstar Games

L.A. Noire is a best-selling computer game set in the 1940s and follows a series of crimes that are committed in LA. This collection of short stories is a tie-in to the game with several original stories.

From Amazon

"1940s Hollywood, murder, deception and mystery take center stage as readers reintroduce themselves to characters seen in L.A. Noire. Explore the lives of actresses desperate for the Hollywood spotlight; heroes turned defeated men; and classic Noir villains. Readers will come across not only familiar faces, but familiar cases from the game that take on a new spin to tell the tales of emotionally torn protagonists, depraved schemers and their ill-fated victims."

L.A. Noire is available FREE from Amazon UK.

Review: Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa

Dirty Little Angels is a gritty contemporary novel which follows down and out teenager Hailey Trosclair, who, through her twisted view of the world and religion, teams up with a violent religious criminal, Moses, which places her and her brother in great danger.

From Amazon
The novel is as dark as the blurb would suggest, and has a perpetual feel of helplessness threaded through the narrative. Although slow and awkward to start, the story itself is compelling, and makes you want to keep reading, and Tusa is a wordsmith, who's metaphors in particular, are superb and add to the reading pleasure. However, the violence and profanity, at times, detracts from, rather than adds to the stories, and this, despite it's length, is not a Young Adult novel due to the content. The background of the character is a real strength of the writing, and Tusa gives a very realistic description of a family spilt by depression and addiction. At a few points, the characters seem almost 2D, with stereotypical responses and a needy/greedy voice, this jars you as a reader, but this type of characterisation is in the minority in the book, and is countered by the realistic and believable character portrayals in the rest of the novel.

Overall, this is a well crafted novel that in places is let down by characterisation and an over-zealous approach to violence (particularly towards animals) and profanity. I enjoyed the journey the book took me on, although I was let down by the lack of happy ending, which leaves you with a slightly depressed feeling.

Dirty Little Angels is available from Amazon UK for £5.54, Amazon US for $9.15 and from Smashwords for $4.99

[Dirty Little Angels was obtained through a giveaway on LibraryThing]
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