Category Archives: writing

FREE Books (Mine)

Recently a dear friend wrote and asked how I was progressing with my proposed book tentatively titled, “Four Feet of Less: A Gunkholer’s Guide to Florida’s West Coast.” Shamefacedly I had to confess, “Not very well.”

There are a number of reasons, and it’s hard to say which one carries most of the onus. So I’ll just say…I haven’t visited a lot of places I wanted to include in the a guide (Yet?). Last year I went to Cayo Costa, about 100 miles south. I was there for a couple of days and the water was taking on a strange, pinkish hue and my eyes started to burn as well as my lungs which isn’t good when you have serious COPD issues. It was Red Tide. So I pulled anchor and returned to Bradenton Beach. The tide followed me. In fact, at its worst it covered nearly 150 miles of Florida’s Gulf Coast and littered the littoral with thousands of dead fish.

I thought it would at least be a good time to get started with the writing. Then my beloved MacBook Air died! I’m an old guy living on a tiny 22-foot sailboat and subsisting entirely on Social Security. I didn’t have an extra $1,300 lying around to buy a replacement Mac. I thought about how I mainly used the Mac and it boiled down to emails and getting into arguments over politics with strangers online…So I sprung for an Acer Chromebook for less than $300. For the most part it does what I need it to do. The big BUT, though, is that instead of Microsoft Word, that I used to write my book “Adversity’s Wake,” I have to use Google Docs. Not nearly as good. And there has been a learning curve. It’s not easy to assemble and edit chapters. Move one thing and everything gets discombobulated resulting in extreme frustration so I move on to doing something else.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do since the gunkhole book is quite a ways from complete. This will take a little effort on your part, though.

I am offering my book “Adversity’s Wake” and the short story “Sailing Alone to Isla” FREE to anyone who wants them. BUT, you have to go and sign up with the site “SMASHWORDS.COM.” Don’t worry, they WON’T spam you or give your name to anyone else.

When you’ve registered, go to my page and select the two books. When you go to “check out” there is a space for entering a coupon number. Do that and when you complete your checkout you will NOT BE CHARGED for the books. This is a LIMITED TIME OFFER. After August 1 the price will go back to $4.99 for Adversity’s wake and 99¢ for Sailing Alone to Isla.

For Adversity’s Wake the Coupon Code is: QH93D (NOT case sensitive)
For Sailing Alone to Isla the code is: BB62U (NOT case sensitive)

There are different formats to choose from to read them. If you like them an HONEST review would be appreciated.


Filed under Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach, FL, digital books, digital publishing, Dual-Language Books, Dual-language books: English/Spanish, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, self publishing, Uncategorized, writing

Unique Dual-Language/Bilingual Book Formatting

When I decided to publish my book on Christopher Columbus’s calamitous fourth voyage along with the Spanish translation as an e-book I faced formatting problems.

In the days when books were printed on dead trees the solution for presenting dual-language/bilingual books was to place the two texts on separate pages. Usually the original text was on the left-hand page and the translation was on the right. This method had its problems. First of all, the two different languages don’t always have an equal number of lines in a paragraph because of spelling and other differences so one page of text might be longer than the other which can be visually unappealing.

Another problem with the two-page method is that the reader is forced to switch pages in order to check their reading comprehension making it easy to lose one’s original place.

Using a split screen on a Kindle or other electronic reading device isn’t very practical or visually appealing. You can turn the text on a kindle so that the screen presentation is wider but now there are too few lines on what is now the vertical screen, and again the reader has to take their eyes of the main text to follow the translation.

My solution for eliminating that problem was to present the main text in BOLDFACE followed immediately by the translation in italics. Like this:


The Old Man


El viejo


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.No recuerdo cómo el viejo, Juan, vino a vivir con mi madre y conmigo. Parecía que siempre había estado allí. Él no tenía ningún parentesco con nosotros. No que yo supiera, de todos modos. Él simplemente estaba ‘allí.’

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.De niño él me asustaba. No era nada por lo que él hiciese. Era sólo él. Corto de estatura, casi diminuto, su piel quemada por el sol estaba arrugada como una pieza de fruta seca. Siempre estaba encorvado. Aún de pie y apoyado en el viejo pedazo de rama de árbol que llevaba consigo a todas partes, él nunca estuvo erguido. Su espalda siempre estuvo doblada como si hubiera visto algo en el suelo y se había detenido por un segundo para obtener una mejor visión de ella. Cuando él había estado bebiendo no solamente se inclinaba ligeramente hacia adelante también se inclinaba de un lado al otro. Viendo sus brazos podrías decir, que alguna vez él había sido muy fuerte. Todavía se veían los músculos fornidos debajo de los diseños de tinta permanente en su piel.

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.Él nunca peinó su cabello. Era un blanco cegador y lo poco que quedaba de él creció en lugares aislados en la cabeza. Estaba como ligero y fino, cual la pelusa, como la flor de la planta del diente de león y que ni la más leve brisa lo haría agitarse.

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.Sus ojos eran del azul más oscuro, como el color del mar, donde la línea recta del horizonte reúne el azul claro del cielo y que a menudo parecía que él estaba mirando fijamente a esa línea lejana donde todo lo que un marinero busca aparecerá en primer lugar. Y su nariz grande, como la de un halcón, hendida en el mar de su cara como la aleta de un tiburón surcando las tranquilas aguas dentro de un arrecife.

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. Él me dio miedo, el viejo Juan lo hizo, pero eso era cuando yo era joven. A medida que fui creciendo y poco a poco él reveló su historia, yo crecí con el amor del hombre y la maravilla de la aventura de su vida.

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. Juan podía pasar sus tardes en una u otra de las tabernas en el paseo marítimo en el puerto de Cádiz, más abajo de nuestra casa. No sé de dónde sacó el dinero para comprar su vino, pero los viejos marineros, comerciantes y los ensambladores de muelles, quienes trabajaron a lo largo de la costa, siempre le pagaban cierta deferencia y le compraban una copa de vez en cuando.Yo también lo había visto, una o dos veces, verter los restos de la copa de otra persona en su propia copa cuando dejaban sus mesas para responder a una llamada de la naturaleza. Si él fuera de bar en bar durante una tarde, usualmente podría guardar bastante, así que estaría tambaleante mientras subía la colina a nuestra casa por la noche

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.Era una tarde lluviosa a principios de la primavera temprana, cuando mi madre insistió en que fuese a los muelles a buscar a Juan para la cena. Él y yo estábamos en la puerta de la taberna mirando hacia la calle empapada por la lluvia y las carabelas ancladas en el río, temiendo a la idea de tener que abandonar el calor acogedor de la barra para viajar en el aire frío de la noche, cuando Juan murmuró, “Era como ésta, la noche en que los conocí.”

“Met who?” I asked.“¿Conociste a quién?” le pregunté.

“My friend Ferdinand and his father, the Admiral.”“A mi amigo Ferdinand y a su padre, el Almirante .”

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.Caminamos bajo la lluvia, nuestras barbillas metidas profundamente en nuestros capotes empapados en un vano intento de alejarnos del frío y nos encaminamos a la casa. Juan no dijo ni una palabra más el resto de la noche.

As you can see it’s easy to follow the main text and if a reader wants to check if their comprehension is up to par the translation is right there without having to go to another page.

The book is available in two versions: English/Spanish (for Spanish-speakers learning English) and Spanish/English (for English-speaking readers studying Spanish) at the Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Store, Apple, Page and Baker-Taylor for $4.99.

 However, I’ve decided to give readers of this blog a discount. First you have to sign up for an account with I know some of you might be reluctant to do that but I can assure you they DON’T give away your e-mail address and they DON’T SPAM YOU.

At Smashwords the books can be downloaded in a number of different formats:

Kindle (.mobi for Kindle devices and Kindle apps), Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others), PDF (good for reading on PC, or for home printing), RTF (readable on most word processors), Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices), and Plain Text (download) (flexible, but lacks much formatting).

For those of you who don’t own a Kindle, and iPad or any other “tablet” you can read the books by downloading the free app Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac which simulated those readers on your home computer.

If you want to buy the English/Spanish version,

“Buy” it and when you go to check out of the site insert the following code (VB92L) where it says “price” and you will pay only $2.99.

For the Spanish/English version

use the code (PE75U).

You can also buy the books in paperback for $9.99 at

English/Spanish version:

Spanish/English version:

Because of printing and shipping costs there is no discount available for the paperback versions.

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Filed under Bilingual Books, Christopher Columbus, digital books, digital publishing, Dual-Language Books, Dual-language books: English/Spanish, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, Learning a new language, Uncategorized, writing

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 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 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 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?


Filed under digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, writing

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: 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¢.

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: 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: where it’s available for download to a Kindle or Nook reader.







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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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Filed under digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, indie writers, self publishing, writing

My Book To Be In Spanish

As my regular readers know, I have a book available on

I’m certainly no threat to break the number of sales posted by the likes of J.A. Konrath or Amanda Hocking. Not by a long shot. Those two are pulling down close to a million bucks a year off their digital books. Despair! currently logs in at #404,115 on the Amazon Bestseller’s List. It’s not the bottom of the barrel, because some people have actually bought the book whereas some people never sell a single book, and Amazon actually made a direct deposit of royalties earned to my bank account at the end of last month. So while not at the absolute bottom of the heap it’s certainly visible from where I sit. Sigh!

Despite the lowly ranking I’m not discouraged. In fact, I’m pretty sure my book has a distinction that those in the top 100 haven’t achieved. It’s being translated into another language!

This morning I had a meeting with Stephany Peñaloza and Deyreth Garcia, two students who are working towards their Master’s Degree at Latina University in David. Stephany will translate the first half of the book into Spanish and Deyreth the second half. Actually they could translate far fewer pages of the book than there are and still comply with their course requirements.

I’m not sure who it was that contacted me first, but it was a gringo who Stephany had contacted saying she was looking for a book about Panama to translate for her thesis. Since fully a third of the book, about Columbus’s ill-fated fourth voyage to the Americas takes place here in Panama she selected my book over others that were submitted to her. I’m honored.


They say it should be finished this fall. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty cool.

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Filed under ebook, self publishing, Uncategorized, writing

Another Book On The List

When I finished my book about Christopher Columbus I self-published it through Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle Store. Well, I’m certainly not getting rich off it like Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath who are selling thousands of books each month (Hocking sells 100,000+ a month.). But there are a few souls who have bought what I have to offer.

It’s a rare author, either traditionally published or self-published, that makes much money with only one book on sale. Hocking, for example, has 11 available at Amazon and Konrath, who used to be traditionally published but now only self-publishes, has 43!

So, it was obvious that I needed to get more on my list. But how to go about it? The Columbus book took nearly a year to write. Closing in on my 69th birthday I don’t have a lot of years ahead of me to build up much of a list at one book a year. So there had to be another way.

If you look at Amazon’s offerings you’ll see that there are a lot of Public Domain books that people are selling with themselves as the “Publisher.” Most of these books are free, but others have prices ranging from 99¢ to $1.99 and up. Some people are slapping their own “forward” to one of these books and offering it to the public.

What are Public Domain books? As Wikipedia says, “Works are in the public domain if they are not covered by intellectual property (copyright) rights at all, if the intellectual property rights have expired, and/or if the intellectual property rights are forfeited. In other words anyone can do anything they want with a public domain book including selling it if they can find anyone willing to pay for something they can get absolutely free.

One of the biggest sources for books in the public domain is The Gutenberg Project. There are literally thousands of books available here. All of Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, for example and you can download them to your computer or even onto a Kindle if you own one.

Rummaging through Gutenberg I found a ton of wonderful books that would have captivated me when I was a young reader. Great, gripping stories of adventure with one glaring problem. The use of the language a century ago wouldn’t be something a young reader in the 21st century would be willing to wade through. A lot of the books were written by English authors for British readers so the spelling isn’t something a kid in the USA would be thrilled with. Spellings like harbour, colour, neighbour, etc. And simply the way things are phrased. For example: “I don’t believe you just did that,” expostulated Jack.

I labored (not laboured) through a book titled From Powder Boy to Admiral written by W.H.G. Kingston. A great story about three youngsters in the late 1700s who sign on to a Royal Navy frigate and go through some great adventures. Battles at sea, shipwrecks, being captured by the enemy and escaping. All the things that young readers can get behind, but certainly not written with the lasting literary style of a Robert Louis Stevenson.

But I liked the underlying story and decided to edit the book for the modern, young adult reader of today. I went through and changed the awkward, to us, spellings and rewrote almost every paragraph to make it seem like a more modern book. It was also very long at over 112,000 words. I decided to break it in half. Book I follows young William (Henry) Rayner from the time he signs on to the HMS Foxhound until he is made a midshipman. The second volume, which I’m currently working on will take him from midshipman to command.

It took me over a month to edit and rewrite the first volume. I went through it so many times that I got really sick of seeing the same story over and over, but that’s really no different than if you’re writing and editing something you’ve done yourself. It’s just that I didn’t have to create the characters, plot, etc. Just bring the century and a half old story into the modern world.

I priced it at 99¢. It was uploaded to Smashwords Wednesday morning before I went down to David for a weekly meeting with other gringos to practice our Spanish and then to the International Feria (fair). When I got home late that afternoon I’d already sold one copy! (At 99¢ and taking out the PayPal commission I made a whopping 35¢ in royalties. Since then three other people have bought it so I’m up to $1.40. Like I said earlier, I’m not getting rich.)

It’s currently available at Smashwords and should show up at Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon.

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Filed under digital books, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, self publishing, Uncategorized, writing

It Actually Worked!

Patience not being my long suit I didn’t want to wait for Smashwords to go through their process before putting my book on, so, as I said yesterday, I went there and did it myself. AND IT WORKED! This morning when I went there to check, sure enough, it’s available as a Kindle download.



Filed under digital books, digital publishing, indie authors, indie writers, self publishing, writing

My Book – Despair! – Should Appear on Amazon Kindle Books Tomorrow

I went in and published the book directly on Amazon. We’ll see what happens now.

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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: 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.


Filed under digital books, digital publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, writing