Sunday, May 15, 2011

Welcome Norman Spinrad

     Welcome to Smashwords Norman Spinrad. A popular science-fiction author who is sometimes compared to Harlan Ellison, Spinrad wrote the very interesting Child of Fortune and many other novels and collections of stories. His take on interstellar travel should be experienced by all. His appearance as a Smashwords author gives new meaning to the term indie publishing. More on that in a future post.
     For what it's worth, I think his prices are too high, but $8 for a 195,000-word novel is really not that off the wall if you think about it. I would check out your local used bookstore first, though.

What is Smashwords? is a company that allows authors to upload and publish their e-books. It is a free service. They will not only convert your original manuscript file into various e-book formats, but will distribute your book to almost every major e-book retailer. You only pay a fee when your e-book is sold, and even then the percentage taken is shockingly small by book industry standards. If any of your e-books are sold (either at Smashwords itself or through any of the outlets such as Diesel, Apple, Borders, Barnes & Nobel, and others) you will receive up to 70 percent of the asking price. This is many times higher than what you would be paid by a publisher for a hard copy of your book.
     How much do e-books cost? As the author, you decide, but remember; unless you already have a large following, the cheaper the better. Many e-books are free. In fact, I published a small pamphlet of my late father's poems and made them free to anyone who is interested. Unknown authors who are not financially strapped can make their e-books free simply to garner an audience--many broke readers frequently troll through the "Free" section of Smashwords. I have seen at least one author who published his first book for free, then charged a fair price for the sequels. But most e-books are not free. Most titles on Smashwords run from 99 cents to $4.99, although I have seen some for as much as $9.99. They even have an option where you can allow your readers to pay what they think your book is worth. It is called "You set the price." On one hand, this seems to be an ideal way for the higher quality books to command higher prices, but my guess is that authors get pretty low prices for any of these, quality or no. It is an interesting concept, though.
     What does an e-book look like? Well, in most cases it is not going to be real fancy--e-book technology is still in its early stages--but it will look a lot like any physical book. You'll generally get Times Roman type and not much illustration, but it is different in different formats. Through Smashwords, you can purchase e-books in the following formats: HTML, Javascript, Kindle's Mobi, Epub, PDF, plain text, and a couple of palm-reader formats.
     Viewing e-books on JavaScript and HTML--which most people can already do on most computers--you are able to change the font, size of the type, line spacing, and even the background color. In fact, you can do this on most of the reading formats if you finagle enough. If you don't have a Kindle reader, or even if you do, you can download Kindle for PC to almost any computer. Likewise Epub, which is the industry standard e-book reader used by many outlets. My brother uses Epub to read books on his new iPad 2. Epub is a part of the Adobe empire (developers of Photoshop) and as such, a quality product.
     So most e-book customers have a choice in format. Visit and select any book in its library and experiment with the various formats. Samples are almost always available for any book, and samples are always free.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I will convert your manuscript into an e-book

 I've spent a lot of time in the last few months studying the formats used in various e-book readers like Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iPad, and others. What you might not know is that your manuscript will look different in each format. And unless you get it right, it will look downright awful in some. Amazon's Kindle is the worst, despite being the most well known.
   If you have a manuscript you'd like to see as an e-book, I can make it happen. What I need is the manuscript in a Word file. I am most comfortable with poetry--a subject most other e-book publishers stumble over. What you will get is an e-book that will be available in almost every format, including those listed above. It won't be fancy--e-books really can't fancy be because of the various types and sizes of screens that they will be read on--but it will be clean and professional.
   I charge $100 for a poetry manuscript under 100 pages and $1 a page after that. For chapbooks of less than 30 pages, it would be only $50. Prose will be negotiable, but somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 for every 100 formatted pages. I take PayPal and checks, preferably the former. I'll give you more details and answer any questions when you contact me. In the meantime, look at the samples of my own poetry books listed in the post below this one. All are available not only at that link, but at most of the major e-book retailers, such as Diesel, Borders, and Apple.
   P. S. Watch out for Apple--their new iPad 2 is going to take away a lot of business from Amazon.

Welcome to this blog.

I originally started this blog several months ago to help a friend who was new to on-line activity. I posted a few throwaway comments just to see how they would look on the screen. I never intended to actually use it; after all, there is facebook for short comments and my website for longer discussions about writing or about my life here at Black Bay Farm.

Since then, however, I have been involved in the creation of e-books and also in the philosophy behind it. I have published as e-books four of my volumes of poems as well as a format guide for others to use in converting their poetryh manuscripts into e-books. To view samples of these, go to Note that each of my four books of poetry were originally published in print format by four different publishers. In fact, a fifth book--originally published by a fifth publisher--is only available in a print edition because the publisher does not like e-books and will not give me the rights to convert it.

So this blog will give me the opportunity to discuss some of the controversy surrounding e-book publishing versus traditional publishing or mainstream publishing versus independent publishing. Sound interesting? You bet. But it will also give me a chance to talk about other issues that strike me that are too long for facebook and not appropriate for my website.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or add your opinion to mine in the comments section below.