Tag Archives: Smashwords

e-Book Covers

It’s said you “can’t tell a book by its cover” but every book needs a cover that will “hook” the prospective reader so they’ll pick it up and look inside.

I’ve just finished editing and rewriting A Pirate of the Caribbees by Harry Collingwood. When I say rewriting I mean I converted a 100 year-old text with such archaic writing as:

“For pity’s sake,” I ejaculated, “give me something to drink!”

“Ten thousand pounds?” I ejaculated.

“Thanks,” answered I, with alacrity.

I spent the last four months working to turn the book into something that reads as if it were written in the 21st Century. I pared out nearly 9,000 words from the original text that were just unnecessary but left the basic story line intact.

Next I had to come up with a cover for the book.

Getting cover art isn’t easy. Most writers hire an artist to do this for them. Fortunately I’m working in a genre where there are plenty of images in the public domain. That is they aren’t covered by copyright and can be used by anyone.  In my search I came across a fantastic illustrator named Howard Pyle. Pyle even opened his own art school and one of his students was N. C. Wyeth who did the illustrations for Treasure Island that those of us of a “certain” age surely remember.

I loved Pyle’s pirate illustrations and it was a tough job picking the one to use for the cover of my latest effort.

There are certain things you have to look for in a picture when you’re choosing cover art. Your first consideration is, where are you going to put the text so that it doesn’t interfere with the picture. There has to be enough blank, or empty space for you to do this. Next, you have to go to some sort of photo tampering program and create the cover.

For my first four efforts I used the Microsoft Paint.net program. It was fairly easy to use,”user friendly” and quite intuitive. But then I got hit with an incredibly vicious virus that forced me to reformat my hard drive back to the original factory settings. Fortunately I’m pretty good at saving my work as I go along so I didn’t lose a whole lot of stuff when I reformatted. However, no matter what I tried I couldn’t get Paint.net to reinstall.

I searched all over for another program to use and believe me there are a ton of programs out there. I needed simple and I needed FREE. I downloaded several that just didn’t meet my needs. One that kept popping up and that I loaded is called GIMP. It’s a great program, so I’m told, but the learning curve would challenge a PhD candidate at MIT. I downloaded YouTube videos showing how to “work with layers,” resize photos and everything you need to monkey around with a picture to get a cover you wanted. I couldn’t figure out how to make the damned thing do what I wanted. The frustration kept building. I didn’t want to spend days learning how to make the program work.

Then I found something called Photo Pad Image Editor. It’s WAY better than Paint.net in what it does and within less than an hour I got it to do what I wanted. Talk about “intuitive” and “user friendly.” This is the program to have.

So this is what I came up with:

What do you think?


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The 99¢ Experiment

I’ve decided to try an experiment with the pricing of my book Despair and drop the price to 99¢ for one month.

This isn’t a desperate move. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I read a lot of blogs written by successful indie, self-published authors. One who has a lot of good advice for the likes of myself is J. A. Konrath and his blog: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ This guy is literally making tens of thousands of dollars a month from his ebook novels. The fact that they’re good reads certainly doesn’t hurt.

In several of his posts he’s talked about pricing of his books. Naturally there are different royalty payments depending on the price of your book. Sometimes dropping the price of a book and taking a smaller royalty payment you can actually make more money.Konrath had an interesting post about dropping the price of his book The List from $2.99 down to a bargain 99¢. http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/02/list-experiment-update.html

You can read his post but I’ll give you some of the highlights here.

“At $2.99, I was earning $2.03 per download. And I was selling an average of 43 ebooks a day.”

“At 99 cents, I only earn 35 cents per download. I’m now averaging 205 sales a day.”

“At $2.99, I made $87 a day.”

“At 99 cents, I’m making $71 a day.”

“But in the last few days, The List has been selling stronger, averaging about 250 sales a day. If it can hold that number, or do even better, that’s $87 a day–matching what it made at $2.99.”

It’s not that the book hasn’t been selling. It has and I’ve been surprised to discover that people in Canada, Great Britain and Australia have bought it. Not only that, it’s being translated into Spanish by a couple of students here in Panama who are working on their Master’s degrees in English. Despair has been selling at $2.99 but my short story Sailing Alone To Isla priced at 99¢ has been moving off the rack at a pretty decent pace. I certainly don’t ever expect to match Konrath’s numbers but it should be interesting to see what happens.

All school children in the western hemisphere know that “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Other than that ditty few people know that the Admiral of the Ocean Sea made three subsequent voyages to what was to become known as “The New World.” It was probably the most interesting of the four. It was the stuff of fiction: battling fierce storms, contrary currents and hurricanes. Pitched battles with hostile natives and former companions. Ship wrecks, marooning, mutiny, trickery, deceit, greed, dashed dreams, despair, extraordinary heroism and rescue. But truth is stranger than fiction. All of it is documented. The only license I’ve taken with the story is to create the fictional narrator of the events.

The book is available at: http://www.amazon.com/Despair-ebook/dp/B004LLIXT4/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1311258431&sr=1-2. I just made the change and it may take a day or two for the change to appear on their site. If you don’t want to wait you can get it at: Smashwords.com: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/39473 where it’s available for download to a Kindle or Nook reader.







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As many of you know, I wrote a book about Christopher Columbus’s failed fourth voyage. Naturally I want people to buy it so I thought I’d put this little teaser here. The first chapter of the book.

It’s available at Amazon.com for you Kindle people. The price is only $2.99.


The Old Man

I don’t remember how the old man, Juan, came to live with my mother and me. It seemed he had always been there. He was no blood relation of ours. Not that I knew of, anyway. He was simply there.

As a young child he scared me. It wasn’t anything he did. It was just him. Short of stature, tiny almost, his sun-weathered skin was wrinkled like a piece of dried up discarded fruit. He was forever hunched over. Even standing and leaning on the old piece of tree limb he carried with him everywhere he was never straight. His back was always bent as if he’d just spotted something on the ground and had stopped for a second to get a better look at it. When he’d been drinking he wasn’t just bent forward, he leaned to one side or the other, too.  You could tell, looking at his arms, that he had once been very strong. The muscles still rippled under the faded designs permanently inked into his skin.

He never combed or brushed his hair.  It was blindingly white and what little there was of it grew in isolated spots on his head. It was as light and fine as dandelion fuzz and the slightest suggestion of a breeze would cause it to flutter nervously.

His eyes were the darkest blue; like the color of the sea where the straight line of the horizon meets the lighter blue of the sky and it often seemed that he was staring intently at that distant line where whatever a seaman is looking for will first appear. And his large, hawk-like nose cleaved the sea of his face like a shark’s fin slicing through the calm waters inside a reef.

He scared me, old Juan did, but that was when I was young. As I got older and he slowly revealed his story to me I grew to love the man and marveled at the adventure of his life.

Juan would spend his afternoons at one or another of the taverns on the waterfront in the port of Cadiz below our house. I don’t know where he got the money to buy his wine but the old sailors, merchants and dock hands who worked along the waterfront always paid him some deference and bought him a cup every now and then. I had also seen him, once or twice, pouring the leftovers from someone else’s cup into his own when they left their tables to answer a call of nature. If he moved from one bar to another during an afternoon he was usually able to cage enough so he would be staggering as he climbed the small hill to our house in the evening.

It was a rainy, early spring evening when my mother insisted I go down to the docks and fetch Juan back to the house for dinner. He and I stood in the doorway of the tavern looking out at the rain-soaked street and the caravels anchored in the river dreading the idea of having to leave the cozy warmth of the bar to journey into the cold night air when Juan mumbled, “It was just like this on the night I first met them.”

“Met who?” I asked.

“My friend Ferdinand and his father, the Admiral.”

We stepped out into the rain, our chins tucked deep into our soggy cloaks in a vain attempt at keeping out the cold, and trudged back to the house. Juan didn’t utter another word the rest of the evening.

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Interesting Sales Info On My Books

As I was finishing my fictionalized account of Christopher Columbus’s ill-fated fourth voyage I knew I was going to publish it as an e-book and not try to have a “traditional” publisher. With 68 summers behind me, and hopefully a bunch more ahead, I knew I didn’t have the time to find an agent who would then try and market it to a publisher and then wait another year of more to actually get it printed and into bookstores. I wanted to get it up and out to the public as fast as possible. That meant going “electronic.”

I knew it was possible to “publish” your own book on Amazon’s Kindle site. But it seems every company that has a “reader” also sells e-books and each has a proprietary format. Besides the Kindle there’s the Barnes & Noble “Nook.”  Apple, of course has a store for it’s iPad, and there’s the Diesel ebook store.

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the Smashwords site. Probably through a Google search or from reading a blog post about e-book publishing. Smashwords. The brilliance of Smashwords is that if you properly format your book when you submit it to them it converts it to all the different e-book formats and distributes your work to the different booksellers as you can see if you click any of the links above.

Today I checked my Smashwords “sales report” and found some interesting information. It seems I’ve made sales through the Smashwords site as well as Kindle, Barnes & Noble and the Apple Store. What really surprise me was where I’ve made sales. Naturally the U.S. is where most of the sales have come from but I’ve also sold my offerings in Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

By far my best seller is my short story “Sailing Alone To Isla.” It’s priced at 99¢ which is the magic number for “impulse” purchases. Of course at 99¢ the royalty isn’t huge, between 55¢ and 65¢ for each sale, but, believe it or not, that’s generally more than most “traditionally” published authors receive for a $14.99 book!

I’m certainly not getting rich off of these things, but I don’t care. I still think it’s cool that the books are out there and that some people are finding them and actually buying them, even on both sides of the two greatest oceans.

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People Are Actually Buying My Book On Smashwords

I put the book up on Smashwords on Thursday and people have actually been buying the book. Looking at the stats section of Smashwords for my books is interesting. For DESPAIR! five people have downloaded it and four have actually shelled out the $2.99 to buy it. My friend Omar, who writes the blog Lingua Franca: http://epiac1216.wordpress.com/ did me the honor of the very first sale and I wish there was some way I could have given him a signed copy.

Smashwords, without a doubt, is not a site with a million hits a day like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, so I’m quite happy that the book has been selling at all. When you publish on Smashwords they have what they call the “Premium Catalog.” They review the submissions and if they meet all the formatting requirements and a few other things then a book or story is released to Amazon, B&N and other book sellers. Right now my submissions are under review. If they make the cut and appear on Amazon then I think I will actually start making sales that will be a nice supplement to my income.

I find this all quite exciting. So much so that I’m working on my next submission. If I can get it up to the proper length, 10,000 words minimum, I might just try and submit it myself to Amazon’s “Singles” section which is reserved for short works of between 10 and 30,000 words.


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An Explanation

This is a tremendously exciting time to be a writer. I hate to say it but I wish I was 20 years younger.

Before I became a boat captain I made my living as a writer. I worked as a newspaper reporter,  magazine editor,  advertising copywriter, and a hospital public relations director. I also impaled myself on my own free lance more than once. I published articles in national magazines on such subjects as health care, environmental issues, sports, theater, East-West trade issues when the iron curtain was still in place and crime stories. I even wrote a novel no one wanted to publish.

Back in those days, the middle sixties and early seventies, all publishing was in its traditional form and there were gatekeepers also known as editors. If you had an idea for a magazine article you went to the library and checked the Periodic Guide to Literature to see if anyone else might have been writing about the same thing. If you thought you had a new slant on an idea you wrote a query letter, put it in a self addressed stamped envelope and sent it off to an editor. If they hated it you got a printed rejection letter. If they liked it they’d give you a tentative okay to write it and send it to them “on speculation.” That meant they’d like to take a look at it but it was no guarantee they’d buy it.

All of this took time, of course. There were no computers, no email. Hell, I remember how cutting-edge I thought I was at the hospital when I got an IBM Selectric. Back then you depended on the Postal Service. You considered yourself real lucky if you got an answer to a query letter in a month. If your idea was rejected you went to the second magazine on your list and started all over again. I have to say I usually did quite well and got the go-ahead on almost every query I sent the first time out.

I stopped writing for publication shortly after I started working on boats. One of the main reasons I gave it up was that, unless you were able to get into one of the big “slicks” like Playboy, Esquire or something like that, the rate of pay really sucked. Most of the time you got paid “on publication” rather than “on acceptance.” It could be months before your story was printed, and half the time you had to fight to get them to pay you even after you were in print. It just wasn’t worth the effort as far as I was concerned.

Twenty years later, when I stopped being a captain and had stories to tell, it was worse than before. The rate of pay in those intervening two decades hadn’t kept up with inflation by a long shot and if it wasn’t worth doing back then it certainly wasn’t worth doing now. I wasn’t in it for the ego strokes of “being published.” Been there, done that.

Within the last two years, though, things have changed with the advent of electronic publishing. This past Christmas millions, literally MILLIONS of Kindles were sold and other eBook readers, like the Nook and the iPad stuffed stockings. Even the Luddites among us, like myself, have downloaded Kindle for PC and Kindle for Mac to our computers.

Now, here’s the interesting part. If you have a book YOU can upload it directly to Amazon and offer it for sale in electronic form. A lot of people are doing it and some of them, not many, I’ll admit, are making MUCH MORE money than if they went the traditional publishing route of finding and agent and landing a contract with one of the major publishing houses. J. A. Konrath is one of them and he stands to rake in at least a quarter of a million in 2011 from electronic sales.

Here’s another thing about eBook publishing. YOU get to keep the lion’s share of the money. If you have a book available on Amazon you get 70% of the selling price compared to 15% if you’re lucky with a traditional publisher. Granted you won’t get an advance on your book but the truth is the majority of traditionally published books don’t earn their advances back. Let’s take a look at what this means to the writer. If you have a book out that sells for $19.95 you stand to earn $2.99 on each one sold. However, been in a book store lately? Even though the book SAYS $19.99 you can often buy it for less and the author gets less money as well.

Now, if you have an eBook on Amazon priced at $2.99 you get to keep $2.09 cents of the sale. Sure it’s less, but here’s the thing. The shelf-life of a book in a brick and mortar store isn’t very long and if your book isn’t selling very well it’s returned to the publisher and the first run through the printer will also be the last for that volume. When it’s up on Amazon in eBook form it’s up there forever and you can keep selling it and keep making money. There’s also an outfit called Smashwords. Go through them and they format your book so it’s readable on all eBook platforms and it’s distributed to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Sony store, the Apple Store and others. You get to keep 85% of everything that’s sold through their own online bookstore which means a $2.99 book nets you $2.54. YOU set the price, not a publisher  but it seems that $2.99 is the magic number that seems to sell the most books.

For the past couple of weeks while I’ve been neglecting writing entries to this blog and uploaded silly cartoons just to keep things going. Instead,  I’ve been doing two things. I’ve been reading a LOT about self-publishing and I’ve been going to town on the first draft of a novel that’s been gnawing away at me for a long time. Writing the book I’D like to read. I’ve been knocking out from 1,500 to 4,000 words a day and am probably three-quarters of the way through now. It’s my intention to submit it, eventually, directly to Amazon and Smashwords. I’ll let you know what’s happening when it’s finished.


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