Year-end thoughts

December 21st, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Writing |

Between the books you bought and what I gave away, somewhere around five hundred of you have read Soul Identity. A big THANK YOU to all of you, and please tell your friends about it!

The end of the year is rushing at us. I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the writing lessons I’ve learned this year:

  1. Writing is easier than it looks, and it’s lots of fun to live in the dreamworld of the first draft.
  2. But writing is just the tip of the iceberg: revising, rewriting, and editing make up the bulk of time spent on a book.
  3. Procrastinating on research drastically increases the time spent refactoring a story.
  4. Writers have to be sensitive enough to create ficticious worlds, but hardened enough to handle real-life criticism.
  5. Amazon’s Kindle just may work. I want to figure out how to sell better in an electronic world.
  6. Lousy and well-promoted outsells great and obscure. Here’s to the end of obscurity!

I published Soul Identity in July, and immediately started writing Soul Intent. I also had a lot of fun on the Amazon Discussions, and ended up reading over 30 self-published books this year (check out my Amazon Listmania to see which ones), and that taught me a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

Happy new year, everyone! And if you haven’t read Soul Identity yet, may I humbly suggest that you put it on your new year’s resolutions?

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Producing an eBook

November 18th, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Publishing |

Amazon is about to announce its Kindle eBook reader, and I thought it was time to get Soul Identity available in eBook format.  I had thought that eBooks were mostly good for technical book and porn, but maybe Bezos is onto something, and it’s really about to take off this time.

Anyway, it was simple to get it published, both on MobiPocket and on Amazon’s kindle page. Here’s what I did:

FOR MOBIPOCKET

  1. Went to www.mobipocket.com and downloaded the MOBIPOCKET eBook Creator. This only runs on Windows.  I also downloaded the MOBIPOCKET eBook Reader, which runs on lots of platforms, phones, and PDAs – including Blackberry.  (The reason I went with mobipocket: they’re owned by Amazon, and they have reselling relationships with hundreds of other eBook retailers.)
  2. Started the creator and used the easy wizards to create the content. It was really simple to do. I think the Word option was best.  One thing to remember to do: set the Metadata properly. I used a new ISBN (and registered it on http://www.bowkerlink.com/): you can’t share ISBNs on print and eBook versions.
  3. On the “build” panel, chose the “Content Encryption with DRM” option. Note: you probably want to do the “No encryption” first, so it’s easier to see what it will look like.
  4. Used the “deploy” panel to upload to mobipocket. The software gives you an option to sign a publishing agreement – this was very convenient. They sent me an activation email, and I was ready to go.
  5. Clicked on the activication email’s link, and “activated” my eBook.
  6. Set up a “promotion” for the eBook edition of Soul Identity – it’s only 99 cents until the end of the year.

Mobipocket pays 35% royalties for all downloads. So I won’t get rich off the 35 cents/copy, but I think that getting me out there and maybe getting some buzz going is more important.

FOR AMAZON KINDLE

  1. Signed up with Amazon’s DigitalTextPlatform (you use your Amazon account info).
  2. On the DTP page, added a “new item” and entered the product details (I reused the same ISBN from above)
  3. Used my MobiPocket creator (see above) to create a “no encryption” version of Soul Identity.
  4. Uploaded the file onto the DTP page
  5. Entered a price (I used the same price as MobiPocket: since I was using the same ISBN)
  6. Clicked “Save Entries” at the bottom of the DTP form
  7. Clicked “Publish” at the top of the DTP form
  8. Waited 12 hours, as requested, for amazon to update their central servers. **note: after 12 hours, it’s almost there – no price yet, but the page showed up a few minutes ago.

Good luck to Amazon with their kindle! If it works, eventually my kids won’t have to lug around so many pounds of textbooks… they can carry a single kindle and a notebook.

Click here to see the eBook version of Soul Identity on MobiPocket. It’s less than a buck – don’t you think it’s time to see what it’s all about?

Click here to see the kindle eBook version of Soul Identity on amazon.com.

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Research, research, research

September 22nd, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Writing |

I feel like I’m earning an advanced degree on how US technology was used in post-war Germany.

My next novel has Scott and Val investigating a sixty-year-old robbery, and the story is told by a young Archie and Flora and how they assisted an ex-Nazi attempting to join Soul Identity before he’s executed.

My first novel, Soul Identity, is set in the present day (which I know), and took place mostly in Maryland, Massachusetts, and India (where I’ve lived), and had a heavy reliance on today’s technology (which I use). I researched to verify things I already knew.

But now I’ve had to read a bunch of books on the Nuremberg trials, learn about color photographic techonology of the 1940’s, figure out how to drive a 1944 Willys-Overland Jeep, trace the various Nazi gold legends, and search for salt mine locations all over Central Europe. I’ve had to sort through thousands of photographs of rubble to find what buildings still stood at the end of the war.

I know I’m not done; just this morning I spent three hours searching for what US Military railroad tickets looked like – all for a six word sentence.

I have gained a lot of respect for the amount of research a historical fiction author goes through. And I also feel bad about how little of what I learn will actually make it into the book.

I know the time spent on the research will make the next novel not only thrilling, but also authentic and informative… stay tuned!

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There’s no mystery here

August 31st, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Writing |

Yesterday somebody left a review of Soul Identity — it’s titled “Fails to live up to its full potential as a good mystery.”

I guess that’s fair. The bad guys in Soul Identity pop out in the beginning, and Scott has to outwit them–not identify them. Boring for mystery readers.

Soul Identity is a really bad romance story, too. No torrid relationships; no choices between opposite lovers; no heated scenes. Boring for romance readers.

And it’s a bad western, a lousy science fiction, and a pathetic cookbook… you get the picture.

Here’s what Soul Identity is: a great techno-thriller that’s hard to put down… give it a try!

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The Los Angeles Judge and Jury Book Club

August 28th, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Writing |

Two days ago I had the most incredible time talking about Soul Identity with the Los Angeles Judge and Jury Book club. These guys were wonderful: the questions were great, the feedback useful, and the support overwhelming.

A big thanks to YuSon, Vicki, Chris, Kathleen, Barbara, and Andrew for hosting a great meeting, and allowing me to test the plot of the next Soul Identity novel.

I’d love to chat with YOUR book club, too. Just give me a shout, or click here to submit a request form.

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Leveraging Bookcrossing

August 10th, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Publishing |

Bookcrossing is a cool site – it has this “catch and release” approach: you buy a book, get a bookcrossing id (BCID) by registering it online, then read the book and post a journal entry about it online.

Then (this is where it gets interesting) you put a sticker with your BCID in the book, and you release it into the wild. You record where you left it, and you wait for somebody to stumble across the book, notice the sticker register the book, write a journal entry, release it again…

The bookcrossing web site shows cool maps of realtime catches and releases. You can search for books, read journal entries, and even go hunting for released books in your area. You can also set up bookrings, where you use bookcrossing’s forum to pre-register a bunch of people to read and review your book.

That’s the idea, anyway. To me, it’s pretty cool. I took a quick look at bookcrossing’s site and noticed that maybe 10% of the books have more than one journaler, which ain’t bad (think of how many wheresgeorge.com dollar bills you’ve seen and haven’t registered).

What I saw was an opportunity to get more people to read Soul Identity. I’m trying my best to create a buzz, and what better way than releasing a bunch of copies out there, in the hopes that people will catch/read/release, and then hopefully tell their friends all about this incredible book they just read.

So, with the help of some awesome people (Jason, Bob, Peter, Arlene, Kristin, and Irina), we’re going to release 150 copies of Soul Identity into the wild, or into other people’s hands. 30 books each in Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Washington, and a scattering more in Arizona, Texas, and Southern California. Here’s hoping that all kinds of cool people will find a copy, read it, and then talk it up.

You can find my book on bookcrossing here – maybe you’ll even be able to find a released version out there.

(and a very big thanks to those helping get the books out – your help is much appreciated)

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Writing Soul Identity

August 6th, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Writing |

January 1, 2006: I sat at my desk in our temporary apartment in Hyderabad, India. Just the day before, we discovered our fifth (!) child was on his way (oops), and I suspected Irina was going to retreat to Maryland to have the baby while I finished out the remainder of the work assignment.

It was as good a time as any to kick out the story that had been rattling around in my head for the past four years. A few months before I had said (a bit too audaciously) that I wouldn’t return from India without the novel completed.

Anyway, it was New Years. So I resolved to get it done. I typed two pages that first day, and settled into a five-page-a-day rhythm. I wrote every morning before going to the office, and caught up on my quota on the weekends.

And I had a blast writing that first draft, living in dream-world. My smart-aleck hero, Scott Waverly, also had the time of his life. He fell in love, got hooked on a new spiritual idea, and fought and beat the bad guys. I felt God-like: I got to choose the challenges that would either grow or destroy my characters. What a rush!

Six months later, on July 7, some time after two in the morning, I typed the last words of my first draft. I was so thrilled that I finished it–I don’t think I slept that night–and all 142,000 words were perfect, and I couldn’t wait to send it to the agents.

How naive. I spent the next twelve months slogging through the edits. I would read another “how to edit” book, learn some new tricks, and then go through the most recent draft. Or I’d hire an editor to read or critique the story, and then go apply some more lessons. In the end, I rewrote the story 11 times, and cut it down to 89,000 words.

And then it was done, which was bittersweet, because now I miss working with Scott Waverly and shaping his world. But I’m thrilled that you’re going to meet him and see what he’s done. And I’m hoping that you learn a little bit about yourselves as you read the book–I tried really hard to make you think.

Just for giggles, I’ve written some of the interesting lessons I learned during the edits (and felt really stupid about later):

  1. Towards and afterwards are wrong. It’s toward and afterward in America. Only Brits add the “s” these days.
  2. Said Val is old-fashioned. It’s Val said. Apparently nobody told J.K. Rowling, because there’s lots of said Harry‘s in those books. Whatever.
  3. He shook his head. “No.” really does sound redundant, redundant.
  4. Even though it’s a heck of a lot easier to tell your reader something instead of showing it to her, she hates it when you do that.
  5. Compound numbers have dashes – like twenty-six. Weird I missed that in school.
  6. Work on varying rhythms. Mix your sentence length. Otherwise you sound choppy. Writing is not haiku.

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Searching Inside

July 28th, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Publishing |

I love it when I’m on Amazon and can “search inside” a book. I also like looking at the statistics about the books–they tell you the statistically improbable key phrases, show you a concordance, and publish the text stats. Which is all cool.

I also love Google’s book search. They have all kinds of books there, and they also have links of where to buy the book.

Microsoft once had a Live Search Books, and they’ve discontinued it.

So of course I wanted this for myself–Soul Identity should be available for searching and buying everywhere! Here’s what I went through to get onto these sites.

Google’s book search

  1. Start at Google’s books partner page and register for the program
  2. Add a book – you need your ISBN, title, author. You can even set a “Buy Link”, which can link back to your publisher page (I set mine to lulu.com’s, because I did this before I went live with amazon) Suggestion: Use your ISBN-10. I used my ISBN-13, and I think it confused the system.
  3. Upload the files. Google requires a pdf for the book content, and two jpg files for the front and back covers. They have a good tool for handling the upload.
  4. Wait. My status was “processing” for a long time before it was all there, but after a week, the book was searchable. Check it out here.
  5. Adjust settings. You can decide what %-tage of the book is available for people to read online. I chose 70% – I think they default to 20%. One thing I liked: they don’t include the last couple pages of each chapter in their preview.

Amazon Search Inside the Book

  1. Register with Amazon’s search inside program. Note: I filled out the form when my Amazon processing was still half-baked, and I had to redo it later.
  2. The form calls for entering the ISBN of your book. Suggestion: use the ISBN-10, just like above. Amazon seems tied to ISBN-10 here, just like Google.
  3. You’ll get a welcome email from “Inside the book – submissions”, which will ask you to send a book in the mail, or send them a request for access to an upload web page.
  4. Send an email to “insidethebook-submissions@amazon.com”, asking for an upload account.
  5. You’ll get an email from “SITB PDF Uploads Manager”, which asks you to log in to sellercentral.amazon.com, where you’ll see a special confirmation code.
  6. Log in and get the confirmation code, and reply to the email message with the code.
  7. You’ll get another email from “insidethebook-submission” telling you your account is confirmed.
  8. Log into amazon. You’ll see a prompt on the left for upload pdf’s. Click there.
  9. Upload. Similar to Google, you can upload a pdf of the book content, and jpg’s of the covers. Or you can upload a single pdf which contains the covers and book (this is what I did).
  10. Wait. Amazon says pdf’s take 3-5 weeks, and I just did it today… once it gets there, it should show the “search inside” logo on Soul Identity’s Amazon page…    *note: it’s there now… but the text stats/concordance aren’t :-(

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Getting reviewed

July 24th, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Publishing |

So Soul Identity is published – woo hoo! It’s even beginning to appear on amazon.com (check it out) and other sites. But for now, the image still comes up empty, and for a week it said “ships in 4-6 weeks”. It’s improving every day, though. Lightning Source says it’ll take another few weeks to get all the bits of data through the various systems.

But by far the most glaring hole I see is the lack of reviews. I use them before I buy a book online (not in the bookstore – there I read the back cover and the first page), and I’d like to have them as well.

So I went online and tried to find out where to get book reviews done. And, sadly, I find I’m not alone in this quest… most book review sites brag about getting 50-200 books a week, and only a small fraction of these actually end up getting reviewed.

I also found plenty of sites saying they only do reviews before the book is published. So they were out.

Fortunately, some enterprising souls have offered to do “express” or “fast” book reviews in exchange for getting paid. Now it’s up to me to try and balance the following factors:

  1. minimize my costs
  2. maximize my reach
  3. maximize the review’s credibility

All of a sudden it doesn’t sound too easy.

The options I’ve come up with:

  1. ForeWord Magazine’s Clarion Review for fee service. (Cost: $305). What I liked: they archive the review in Bowker’s Books-In-Print, Ingram’s iPage, Baker & Taylor’s TitleSource3, and their own online magazine.
  2. Norm Goldman’s Bookpleasures.com site offers a fast track, priority, and express review service here. Cost: $99. What I like about Norms reviews: he posts the review through American Chronicle (21 online news magazines), amazon, his own bookpleasures.com site, bookideas, searchwarp, authorsden; he does an author interview, which he posts on his myspace site and links it in amazon’s discussions. Norm is one of amazon’s top 1,000 reviewers.
  3. BookReview.com’s Express Review Service. Cost :$125. What I like: They post to amazon, and their own site, and guarantee a review within 15 business days.
  4. Armchair Interviews. Cost: $0. What I like: The price, and the quality of the reviews I’ve read online. Armchair Interviews claims members in 25 countries visit their site each month.

I’m also looking at moorhen publishing’s book review services (125 British Pounds), and kirkus discoveries ($350), but I’m still making up my mind as to whether I want to spend more money to get more coverage: The UK, and Kirkus’s clients.

Do I like paying for reviews? Not especially. I wish I was well-known enough to have people clamoring to do it for me. But I’m not there yet.

I’d love to get some feedback on my choices, or hear about other people’s experiences in paying for book reviews…

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About NetLeaves and Soul Identity

July 7th, 2007 by Dennis Batchelder. Posted in Publishing |

NetLeaves is a tiny publishing and design company which I started because I really wanted get my story told, but was frustrated by the difficulties of breaking into the publishing industry.This publishing business seems weird to me… if I were a musician, I’d be considered cool if I ripped my own tracks. If I were a painter, nobody would think me nuts if I ordered my own prints and hawked them myself.

But since I’m writing, I have a different set of rules to play by. I’ve learned that I’m not really a published author until one of the big boys pays me an advance to publish my book. Otherwise it’s assumed that i’m writing trash.

I did try to play by the rules, for a bit. I sent out thirty query emails to the top agents, and got polite rejections from half of them. I searched for publishers, but the big ones only want to talk to agents, and the small ones just didn’t get me excited enough to want to submit to.

And here’s the rub of it: I really think my novel is good, and I really want people to read it. Should I throw it in a drawer to languish while I write another one, hoping that I’ll win the publishing lottery?

No, that would be stupid. Because nobody but my wife and kids and parents and friends would get to hear my story, and while that is nice because they can share with me how they felt, I think it would be a crying shame if I couldn’t get more of the world to read it too.

I took a look at a ton of self publishing companies, all designed to help me get into print. But nothing fit me just right. Lulu.com was cool, because it was all online, wingspanpress.com had incredibly helpful people, and dragonpublishing.net seemed to “get it”. But at the end of the day, I’m finding that having my own imprint makes a lot more sense.

So NetLeaves is my vehicle to self publishing. Fortunately, my wife and I are both in the software business, and we both get excited with the technical side of things. I also like the business side (once upon a time I started and sold a software company), so it might just work.

This journey to self-publishing has been arduous, but hopefully it will also be rewarding. Here’s what we’ve done:

Setting it all up:

  1. We bought some Adobe software (InDesign is a must for making bookblocks and covers, and Dreamweaver kicks butt on websites). We found better prices by buying on ebay.com than buying directly from Adobe.
  2. Bought a block of ISBNs from Bowker (all online)
  3. Ordered an LCCN from the Library of Congress
  4. Came up with a publishing logo
  5. Set up a relationship with lightningsource.com and made them our distributor.
  6. Getting it ready:

  7. Wrote the book. Actually, this came first. Seven months to write, and another twelve to edit. The darn thing dropped from 142,000 to 89,000 words, and I had to kill an awful lot of my cool scenes, but my, it’s gotten nice and tight.
  8. Prepared a cover. Lightningsource.com was a great help here – once you’re registered and have an ISBN, they have this cool automated tool that gives you an InDesign formatted blank cover with your ISBN/price built into it. No paying a barcode company.
  9. Imported the bookblock into InDesign, and played around with formatting. Produced a pdf.
  10. Uploaded the pdf and cover to lulu.com and ordered some copies to take a look at it.
  11. Reworked, corrected more errors (amazing how many you find once you can cuddle up to your story in a book format), and submitted to lightningsource.com, all online.
  12. Received a proof–the book is a real beauty–and approved it.
  13. Where we are now:

  14. Placed an order for some copies to use in our own marketing
  15. Preparing a shoestring budget launch plan, and figuring out how to do some viral online marketing… we’re looking at stuff like bookcrossing.com and using booksense’s advance access program.
  16. Figuring out what happens next with lightningsource.com: the mechanics for getting to amazon.com, bn.com, ingram advance.

Hopefully it will all pay off with a well-distributed, well-read, thought-provoking novel. And my story will be told.

Or it won’t pay off, and NetLeaves was still the way to get Soul Identity in print. Which is just fine with me… some stories just need to be told.

So, if you got this far, thanks for reading. Wish us luck on our venture, and if you’re looking for a cool novel to read–one that will make you think–check out Soul Identity.

And if you find yourself in the same situation as me, and you believe that you:

  • really have a story to tell,
  • have written it down and cleaned it up and believe it’s well-written,
  • need some help in making it happen,
  • are willing to bankroll the process,
  • and are happy to conduct 100% of your business with us via email at info@netleaves.com, then give us a shout, and we’ll find a way to work together to help make it happen for you too.

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