Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There Are Opinions, and Then There Are…

Regarding book reviews, I keep hearing: “Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion…” and “All opinions are valid, because you can’t argue with subjectivity.”

No, not everyone is entitled, and no, not all opinions are valid.

Everyone is allowed his or her feelings and beliefs. Opinions, on the other hand, need to be informed, well reasoned, and stated intelligently. If they are not, they are less than useless, they are harmful, and shouldn’t even be given a forum in which to be expressed, much less listened to and taken to heart.

Or this, posted on Twitter:

“I hate when people give your book a 3-star review because they don’t like the digital formatting. Was it a good book or not?”

Hey, Buddy! If you expect us to care about your words, you have to care about our total reading experience, and that includes the formatting!

The strongest and most lasting appeal of any story arises directly from only one source: the unified effect of the totality of the words. Distractions from that story, however, can come from several individual but interrelated sources, that also, interestingly enough, have to do with the words:

• bad spelling
• bad grammar
• incorrect punctuation
• inappropriate word usage
• incorrect information
• anachronisms
• bad storytelling involving
     - character development
     - setting
     - plot

Any of these can jolt the reader out of the story and into the “here and now” and, as a writer, that’s the very last thing that you want to happen. My teen-aged daughter, Hope Edwards (author of The Adventures of Dough Girl), will even stop reading a book in disgust if there are too many misspelled words.

If you—as the producer of the words, as the creator of the story—if you do not understand that fact, if you think that we who speak of the importance of spelling and punctuation and grammar are “nit picking” or are being “too fussy,” in short, if you just “don’t get it”… then no, you are not a good writer and, no, yours was not a good book.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New covers for “Memograms”

I have redesigned the front and back covers of my book, Memograms. I think that they now have a fresher, more professional look to them, and I have added review blurbs from Liz Alexander,The Book Doula (especially look at her Birth Your Book on Amazon), Steven Lewis of Talelist (a great site for Kindle publishing info), and from Kathleen Maher (author, Diary of a Heretic). I did a little tweaking of the front matter, also.

After I get it uploaded to the Kobo online store soon, I will be doing a more directed marketing campaign to increase exposure and sales. I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What Would You Like to See In a Formatting How-To Book?

I am working now on my next book, From Idea to eBook: a 1-2-3-Easy Guide, and (since it’s an e-book itself) it’s relatively easy to add things as I go along, and that got me to thinking: I remember what I wanted to know as I was doing the formatting for the two books that I’ve published so far (Memograms and The Adventures of Dough Girl), and that’s what I’m putting in my book, but what would someone else want? What special problems have other people had? What really drives you guys crazy when it comes to getting your e-books formatted and ready to publish?

I ask that because I want my book to be as useful to as many people as possible. I’ve paid for and read a number of other formatting guides, and there have been bits and pieces of each that I have found useful, but no one of them completely addressed my particular needs. I had to find some answers in this one and some answers in that one. It was difficult and should have been unneccessary.

I want my book to be as complete and thorough a guide to basic e-book formatting as I can make it. So, I’m asking you now: What do you want in a formatting book?

Give me your answers by commenting, or by email. I’d love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Contest Winner

Our recent contest winner is fiction author Kathleen Maher, and her web site is called, “Diary of a Heretic.”

Her answer:

I’m popping by to say I looked up the quote: it’s from a 1950 movie, “Harvey,” with Jimmy Stewart. My mother used to love putting together “treasure hunts” for us kids; it sounds like something she might have said when we were begging for clues.

Kathleen’s prize was a free copy of my wordplay book, Memograms, for her Kindle.

Kathleen is a little unusual in that she doesn’t make you pay to try her writings. She posts her fiction, chapter by chapter, story by story, right there on her web site, for all to read and comment upon. I’ve started reading her and I find her opening sentences absolutely intriguing:

From Motivations:

From The Battered Child:
A month after his Emergency Contraception escapade, he still couldn’t guess.

From Plan B:

If those openings don’t make you want to know more, then you should just stick to reading soup can labels! Check out her work. You just might find yourself to be a fan.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Contest, Twitter Me @GallantPress

Well, I have a Twitter account now (@GallantPress), and I’m learning how to use it to connect with people—people I know, people I don’t know but would like to get to know, people I don’t know and from reading their Tweets would never want to know! I wasn’t breathlessly anxious to jump into Twitter at first, but I have to admit that there is a certain fascination in reading short things that various people find important enough to say to the world.

Anyway, I will be Tweeting “here and there, now and then, to this one and that one.” And the first person who Tweets me back, or comments here on my blog, with the correct source of that quote will get a prize. I’m not sure what, yet, since I just thought of this, but something trivial and commercially worthless (remember, it’s the thought that counts).

I will give you only one hint: it has nothing to do with anime.

And tell your friends, I’d love to start getting more followers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Up and Ready

My book Memograms: The Fun Way to Remember Hard-to-Spell Words is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and the Apple iBookstore. Click any of the links in the text above or on the pictures to the right to go to those stores. It’s only 99¢ everywhere.

I took the extra time to specially format my book to work on all reader devices and smart phones, so you shouldn’t have any trouble viewing it, whether you have an Android, a Blackberry, a Sony, a Kobo, a Nook, an iPad, or any of the desktop apps that simulate an eReader on your computer. And it works in either black-and-white or color.

One place that it is not available is Smashwords. That is deliberate on my part. The extra trouble that I take to format my books correctly is not available to me if I distribute through Smashwords. They insist that writers send them a Word file, which Smashwords then runs through their own formatting program called “The Meatgrinder.” The results (which I have repeatedly looked at in books from other authors) are… to put it politely… less than “ideal.” They’re sometimes even less than that. However, in all fairness to Mark Coker (the owner of Smashwords) and his team, that may be partially the fault of the authors and how they format the Word files that they send to Smashwords.

I have read post after post on blogs from people who are just crying because they are desperate to figure out how to do their formatting. They have tried this-and-that and are just lost! I’ve also read posts from other people who have told them this-and-that to (supposedly) help them out, and their directions sound like advanced physics.

To see if I can help to remedy the situation, I am writing a new book. It’s called From Idea to E-Book: a 1-2-3-Easy Guide. It will tell you how, in a series of easy step-by-step instructions, how you can format your book to be the best that it can be for the widest variety of devices. It is really not that hard to do, but it is specific! You can’t be sloppy. But, if you can follow simple directions exactly, you can do it, and I can help. I have been both a computer systems engineer and a teacher of computer classes. I know how to make computer programs work and I also know how to make computers users understand new concepts and new ways of doing things. So I think that, if you want to learn how to format an e-book, and the other places you’ve looked haven’t helped very much, my book will be for you.

I will keep you posted here how it’s coming along and when it will be ready. Stay tuned, and if you know of other people who might need a book like this, send them over here, too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memograms Is Published

My first e-book to be published is now available on Amazon and at Apple’s iBookstore, and it will be available on the Barnes & Noble web site in a few days. I’m also working on getting it on the Sony Reader Library and at Kobo. It’s called Memograms: The Fun Way to Remember Hard-to-Spell Words, and it’s published by my own publishing company, Gallant Press.

From the description: “Memograms: The Fun Way to Remember Hard-to-Spell Words is a collection of humorous mnemonics (memory-helpers) for 120 of the most difficult words to spell. Each word is presented with an accompanying anagram (a rearrangement of its letters) that is not only linguistically correct but is also sometimes eerily related to the original word (“aspirin” becomes “I sprain”). These are followed by an often funny sentence that uses both the original word and its anagram. Finally there is a short definition of the original word. All of which is designed to help the reader conquer some of the most formidable “spelling demons” in the English language.”

It costs 99¢ and is a great little book to have handy on your smartphone. If you have any particular words that just drive you crazy with their spelling (mine was “dictionary” for years), and if you’ve ever been in a situation where your spelling checker wasn’t helping you—they truly don’t always work and you sometimes find yourself without one available—there is a Memogram to help you. I’ve collected a first 120 of them here in this book; I’m working on volume two, More Memograms, now.

Check it out at Apple’s iBookstore (using the iBooks app) or at Amazon. Read the sample. Give it a shot. At 99¢ it’s hard to go wrong.