Monday, 30 July 2012

Comprehensive List of Canadian Book Bloggers

If you're an author looking for people to review your book, Carmel over at Rabid Reads has compiled a list of Canadian book bloggers who accept book submissions.

Do yourselves a favor and submit to everyone on that list! What an amazing resource!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Formatting Your E-Book (Yourself)

Kindle Direct Publishing prides itself on the variety of formats it can now convert to a .mobi file: According to its FAQ, you can upload Word, HTML, Plain Text, Rich Text Format, and PDF files directly for conversion (in addition to the standard .prc and .epub formats).

The rationale behind such a wide selection would seem to be convenience -- BUT, uploading in one of these formats would most likely result in a poorly-formatted book (especially if you upload Word or PDF files, since these have unique characters that are not recognized by a Kindle). That's why most writers opt to pay a professional to format their e-book for them...but why not learn how to format it yourself?

For most writers, writing is only a hobby -- they attend to their jobs in the day and have families to take care of at night -- so I understand if people feel the need to hire a professional in this circumstance.  Not all of us are tech savvy, and the whole process can be quite time-extensive. But if writing is your full-time job, you really have no excuse; it isn't that difficult (even if you consider yourself to be a computer illiterate).

Take me, for instance. I was completely clueless as to how to format an e-book, and I managed to figure it out and complete it in 5 days. And the main reason it took this long was because of the general lack of information online (the Mobipocket tutorial is a joke, and definitely not aimed at beginners). I had to search message boards for help and other lesser known sites for hours because every detail seemed to be in a foreign language.

Which brings me to this post: I'm going to make things easy for you, and put all the information you need in one place! And I'll make sure everything is described in simpler terms, for beginners. (You can thank me later). 

All you need to start formatting your book is the Publisher Edition of Mobipocket Creator (which you can download here). Once you have it installed, the dashboard will look like this:

Under "Import From Existing File", you'll notice you have the option to upload your book as a Word or PDF file. But like KDP, this will cause formatting problems. To avoid this, we need to open up the original book file in Word and save it as a "Web Page, Filtered". To do this, open up the Word document and select File > Save As > Under "Save As Type" select "Web Page, Filtered", like so:

NOTE: Before you  save it as a web page, it might be wise to make sure all of your chapter headings are formatted as Headers. This step is especially important if you plan to include a clickable table of contents with your e-book. To do this, highlight your chapter headings and select "Heading 1":

Once you have inserted your headings, you can save as a web page and open up Mobipocket Creator. Under "Import from Existing File" choose HTML document and upload the web page file. After a brief conversion, you'll be taken to the following interface:

The first thing you should click on is "Metadata" on the left sidebar. In this section, you'll see a whole bunch of options to fill in, but don't worry about it because most of these you will provide to Amazon (or whatever platform you are using). The eBook Title and the Author name are all you need to fill in. Once you've done that, scroll to the bottom and click update. If you're uploading to Amazon, don't worry about the Cover Image (for more on why, read my earlier post).

Next, you're going to want to make a Table of Contents (although it is entirely optional). If you remembered to format all your chapter headings as Headers before you saved as a web page, this step is really easy. Just click on "Table of Contents", and under "Tag Name" and "First Level", type "h1" (The HTML notation for "Heading 1", which is what you chose in Word to format your Chapter headings). It should look like this:

Click Update and then "Build" at the top right. You can preview your table of contents. All your chapter headings should appear as clickable links to the page in which each chapter begins. In the Mobipocket Emulator you can also survey your ebook document and check for any errors in the conversion process (chances are you'll find many -- which brings us to the editing process).

Click to go back to your "Publication Files", and click "Save" at the top just in case. Then click on your .html file and "Edit with HTML editor". This is where things might get a little intimidating. What you'll see is a bunch of scary looking code. I am not an HTML expert so I won't be able to help you with any complex problems, but what I can offer are solutions to the most common problems encountered:

Chapter Headings

By default, chapter headings are NOT bolded. You'll probably want to make them bold, otherwise, they'll look odd. To do this, scroll down the HTML code until you see /* Style Definitions */ (or you can press CTRL+F and type "Style Definitions" to get there faster). Under Style Definitions, paste the following code in to make your Chapter Headings bold:

        {color: #c33;
        background: none;
        font-weight: bold;
        text-align: left}

It should look like this:

Paragraph Indentations

I have this site to thank for this information. Basically, paragraphs are coded in HTML as a member of the p-class. This means that any code beginning with <p> and ending with </p> contains a paragraph inside. By default, all paragraphs are indented. If you want all paragraphs in your text to NOT be indented, paste the following code under "Style Definitions":

p {text-indent: 0; text-align: left}

This means that all members of the p-class (paragraphs) will not be indented and instead aligned left. Makes sense, right?

Now, if you still want your paragraphs to indent but want to target a specific paragraph to align left, you need to find the specific paragraph you are looking for. Try CTRL+F and type the first few words of the paragraph and it should pop up. You'll notice the text is enclosed in <p>, like so:

<p class="MsoNormal" align="center" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;
text-align:center;line-height:normal;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;">All work and no play make Jack a dull boy</span></p>

Here, the paragraph is "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy". If you want to make it so the paragraph aligns left, just find where it says "style=" and insert "text-indent: 0;" like so: 

<p class="MsoNormal" align="center" style="text-indent: 0; margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;
text-align:center;line-height:normal;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;">All work and no play make Jack a dull boy</span></p>

(Don't forget the quotation mark at the beginning and the end of the style section!)

Page Breaks

If you want to add page breaks at specific points in your book, first paste the following code under "Style Definitions":

.break { page-break-before: always; }

Now all you have to do is find the paragraph or heading you want on a new page, and modify the class. In the case of our earlier example, instead of it reading <p class="MsoNormal", it will now read <p class="break":

<p class="break" align="center" style="text-indent: 0; margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;
text-align:center;line-height:normal;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;">All work and no play make Jack a dull boy</span></p>

Line Breaks

There's nearly a 100% chance you will encounter an issue with line breaks. This is because, by default, when converted to .prc, all your text is crunched together. So if you had a page that looked like this in Word:

It will most likely look like this after being converted to .prc:

To add line breaks, you need to add <br /> after every paragraph or header in which you want the break to occur (If there is an easier way of doing this, please let me know). 

And there you have it! This should address your most common concerns, however, if you've read this and still feel like a professional is your best bet, then feel free to hire one. But be careful. You don't want this to happen to you.  

Friday, 20 July 2012

Proof Kindle Categories Matter!

Within hours of switching to two small Kindle categories (see previous post), I have already acquired an Amazon Best Sellers Rank and climbed significantly in both categories. Not bad!

I will update with more information as it becomes available!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The More Precise Method of Selecting Kindle Categories

When uploading to KDP, you are required to select two categories where viewers can find your book. This is a crucial step because if your book is in a saturated category, no one will find it, and you'll see very few sales. For example, if your book is listed under: 

Kindle Store  Kindle eBooks  Fiction  Romance  Contemporary

It will need to compete against 27,710 other books, and will therefore need to be truly exceptional to stand out. However, if you list it under: 

Kindle Store  Kindle eBooks  Fiction  Romance › Romantic Suspense

It will only have to compete against a much smaller 7,554 books, thus greatly increasing the chances it will sell.

The only problem is, the KDP system makes it nearly impossible to select the exact category you want your book to appear under since the category selection options do not correspond with the actual options listed in the Kindle Store. For my book, I was hoping to have it listed under these two small categories to maximize my chances of being read: 

Kindle Store › Kindle eBooks › Fiction › Comic Fiction (93 books)
Kindle Store › Kindle eBooks › Humor › Comedy  (663 books)

But these options do not exist in the category selection tool. I ended up choosing the closest I could find:

Fiction › Humorous
Humor › Topic › Relationships

When the book went up for publication, I found Amazon put it under the following categories:

Kindle Store › Kindle eBooks › Humor (31,441 books)
Books › Literature & Fiction › Women's Fiction › Single Women  (20,054 books)

There is a way around this though. The KDP staff are happy to put your book in whatever category you wish, all you need to do is follow these steps:

1. Forget about selecting categories when you upload your book. Instead, scroll to the bottom of the category list and select NON-CLASSIFIABLE. (Had I known this was a required step, I would've saved myself some valuable time)
2. Once your book is listed for sale, go to the KDP dashboard. In the bottom right, select "Contact Us"
3. Under "What is the problem?" select "Editing Book Details" and type your request to have your categories changed.
4. Within 24 hours, KDP staff will reply and say they have manually added your book to the categories you requested.

(If you want to learn more about categories and why they are important, read M. Louisa's post)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How Accurate is the Kindle Cover Previewer?

A word of warning to anyone about to publish on Amazon Kindle: The Kindle Cover Previewer is awful, and not at all indicative of how the cover will look once it is published on the site.

To illustrate my point, take a look at what I saw when I uploaded the cover of my book:

Imagine the horror on my face. I immediately googled to see if I was dreaming, and as it turned out, many other authors have had the same problem.

Why the preview image is so damn compressed is a mystery to me, but once it is published, it does not look nearly as bad. Here is my cover on the product page:

And as a thumbnail:

Like night and day!

Text Me, Guido Now Available!

My novel, Text Me, Guido, is now available for download on the Amazon Kindle!

It's only $0.99!

Blurb from Amazon:

"Text Me, Guido" is the debut novel from author Adrian Staccato, and the first in a planned series. Told entirely through text-messaging conversations, the book follows five Italian-American college friends as they complete their final semester of school. They are: Enzo, Sofia, Giulia, Claudia, and Phil.

Enzo is your typical bronze-tanned Guido. The son of a wealthy home builder, he spends his days at the gym and his nights at the club. When he’s not buying drinks for his friends, he’s showering his longtime girlfriend, Sofia, with gifts – making her the envy of the neighborhood. Her friends, Giulia and Claudia, secretly hope the two will break it off, but Sofia is set on marriage and eagerly awaits Enzo’s proposal.

Enzo’s friend, Phil, is the outcast of the group. He dislikes to party, and attributes the “Jersey Shore lifestyle” to the decline of civilization. Nevertheless, he finds himself infatuated with Giulia – a crush since kindergarten. Giulia, however, is wildly insecure and has no interest in his bookish ways. She has her heart set on Enzo – and with a little maneuvering, she might just get what she wants!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Internal Cover, or Not?

While formatting ebooks for publication, many authors prefer to include an internal cover image. Indeed, this was the norm (and in fact, mandatory) for Kindle publishers up until recently; authors needed to provide an internal cover, as well as a second image for when the product is displayed on the Amazon site. This is no longer the case.

Now, only one product image is required. According to the KDP section when you are uploading the cover, Amazon uses this image in their search results, as well as your book's product display page, and now automatically embeds the image as your internal cover page. This means that inserting an internal cover is no longer required, and doing so will result in the cover appearing twice within your book.

Many thanks to Suzanne Parrott and M.A. Demers for the info!

Do you need a US Bank Account? EIN? Registered Business Name? License to publish on Amazon?

After months of research, I decided to self-publish my book on the Amazon Kindle. I designed my cover page myself, and I spent a week learning HTML just so I could convert my book to .prc format (using Mobipocket Creator). But just as I was about to publish, I came across this bit of information on the KDP FAQ: 

"We'll pay you automatically by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to a US, UK, or EU bank account"

As a Canadian, I was shocked. How was I to get paid? If I had continued reading, I would've noticed "or mail a check" on the same page, but I was too shocked to pay attention. After a google search, I discovered that this was in fact true. I do not need a US bank account to get paid in Canada. They will mail the check in USD, and it can be converted at the bank. Simple.

But this opened up a whole new bag of problems. I discovered that (as a foreigner) I was subject to a 30% withholding tax by the IRS on all Amazon royalties I received. So not only would I be taxed by the Canadian government, but also by the US, which would no doubt leave me with very little income! The only way around this is to apply for exemption as a result of a special tax treaty between the US and Canada. But in order to do this, you need a TIN (Tax Identification Number) for Amazon to process your exemption.

There are two types of TINs: An ITIN (Individual Taxpayer ID Number) and an EIN (Employer ID Number). Until very recently, many people believed that the ITIN was required for self-publishers on Amazon. I had heard horror stories that involved filling out the ITIN form and required documentation and months of delays and rejections. The prospect of doing all this tedious paperwork and waiting months for approval was NOT appealing, and I was deeply saddened...for a few minutes. Then I stumbled across Roz Morris' blog post suggesting that all you needed was an EIN, which could be acquired within minutes. Catherine Howard's blog post confirmed it! You don't need an ITIN at all! An EIN is just fine!

There is just one catch: you need to have a business. This involves registering a business name (which usually costs anywhere between $60-$100 depending on your local laws) and applying for a business license (again more fees and form filing). But this is not necessarily the case... If you visit the KDP FAQ you will find the following: 

"For non-US persons, a TIN may be an EIN (for individuals and businesses) or an ITIN (for individuals only)."

The reason individuals qualify for an EIN is because the majority of self-publishers are publishing as individuals, not as a company. You DON'T need a company to publish on Amazon. When you call the IRS  (1 267 941 1099) for the EIN number, just let them know you are self-publishing as a sole proprietor.

This brings us to the next issue: If you are a sole proprietor, do you need to register for a business name? Well, that depends. If you are publishing under a different name, then yes you do. If you are publishing under your own name, then no you don't. (NOTE: the name you publish under on Amazon is different from the author name, so you can still use a pseudonym to conceal your identity, if you wish). Just tell the IRS you are a sole-proprietor publishing under your own name, and they won't mind. That's what I did, and I had my EIN in under five minutes (excluding the fifteen minutes I was on hold).

Do you need a business license as a sole proprietor on Amazon? No. Business licenses only pertain to the jurisdiction in which you live, so the IRS and Amazon do not care if you have one, and they will not ask. Check your local laws to make sure, but in Ontario, a business license is only required if you are servicing customers directly or are required to collect taxes for the government. Since Amazon is distributing your books for you, you are not servicing customers directly. Amazon handles the business side of publishing for you, so a business license is not required.

There you have it, you can have an EIN in under five minutes without paying a dime!