Genre Jazz: Re-cut – copyright, parodies, homage, tributes, image rights and public domain

The Story of Technoviking: The Film

technoviking

The Story of Technoviking, release date today, 15 Oct 2015 (50m06s, free to watch online): http://technoviking.tv/film

Writing parody mash-up on my blog while looking for inspiration in movie scenes made me realise two things: (1) That it’s still my strongest point writing-wise, and (2) Youtube kicks everyone’s ass!

In terms of public use, Youtube is the home of re-imagination. Whether the original muse is a movie, news story, pop promo, video game, or social commentary meme, it’s where users upload their re-interpretations, parodies, mutations, reactions, songs and art inspired by images appearing in the curated mainstream and entering the awareness of the social media sphere.

Perhaps the earliest cult internet muse inspiring an ongoing global artistic phenomenon is the Youtube uploader Subrealic.

Subrealic is the user name of Matthias Fritsch, a film-maker from Germany who took what appeared to be random public footage in a series of different locations, and posted them independently some time before joining Youtube.

The video in question was a candid single-shot in-camera sequence called ‘Kneecam No.1’ captured by Matthias at the Berlin Fuck Parade, a protest street event in response to what many underground EDM (electronic dance music) fans considered to be the over-commercialised Love Parade taking place in the city at the same time in 2000.

Matthias says: “The reason why I filmed this was to document the Fuck Parade as an event. Why I published this sequence was not to show the Fuck Parade but to raise a question for the audience: Is what you see real or staged? To create an uncertainty. I named it ʽKneecam No.1’ and ʽNo.1’ stands for a series of experimental videos that deal with the role of the camera… I started to upload my videos to YouTube to make them more accessible because it was much easier to host videos there than on my own website.”

The Kneecam No.1 video showed a short segment of the street protest party, filmed from the back of a moving trailer playing a mix of rave tunes by Can-D-Music and Winstan vs. Noia, while party-goers followed.

It captured a small moment of conflict, and its resolution by a figure intervening on the distracted parade with undeniable alpha-male status, who then reasserts the purpose of the event by leading the group in dancing behind the trailer for several minutes, before disappearing again.

Although the earliest reactions to the video came only in the form of comments debating the authenticity of the piece and whether it was an arranged set-up, once it began to be shared and re-posted on forums and other websites, the cult of personality of the alpha-male ‘character’ in Kneecam No.1 developed.

Matthias was on a trip to China when he received this email comment: “The video has been posted by someone 2 days ago and now there are 1 990 256 view. I have never see that before on the web. What is the name of those songs in the film? He needs to be on a T-shirt too. Thank you very much.”

Commenters on forums responded to it with custom memes and reaction images, and shortly, reaction videos. In one forum, the ʽstar’ was nominated for a title:

“He doesn’t dance to the music, the music dances to him. His name: Technoviking.”

As soon as the nickname Technoviking was coined, the cult status of the video was confirmed. The character was given the type of hero status reserved for action movie icons, compared to Chuck Norris.

Matthias began to collect and document Technoviking references to study what was occurring in the virtual world once it became apparent that this was a viral internet phenomenon.

“A whole Technoviking universe seemed to appear. So what I did was collect all those responses to my video. And of course most of them were remixes of the original video. So I put together an archive based on this Technoviking meme in order to study the behaviour of users online.”

Youtube users, artists, cartoonists, toy-makers, printers, songwriters and console gaming fans were soon using the original Kneecam No.1 film as a muse to create objects and scenarios in art based around the perceived leading character. The subsequent productivity and social awareness that surrounded Kneecam No.1 far outweighed the original – it had a self-regenerating, self-perpetuating, self-mutating life of its own.

Kirby Ferguson, from the film Everything Is A Remix Part 4, 2011: “This is evolution. Copy, transform, combine.”

Over the years, the film has been re-contextualised with alternative music, animations, re-scripted subtitles and voice dubs. It has been re-enacted hundreds of times over, with students, dolls, hula-hoop performances, in living rooms and outdoors, and uploaded by Youtubers sharing their enthusiasm for the Berlin Fuck Parade encounter scene and the mysterious individual known only as Technoviking, originally curated in Kneecam No.1.

Heinz Drügh, Professor of New German Literature and Aesthetics at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, states:It is a bit like the butterfly effect. Something that was not created for a big dimension got such a huge echo. Especially by taking into consideration that most things in the Internet are not getting any attention.”

Technoviking as a cult celebrity figure has been printed on mugs, t-shirts, appeared in graphic novel sequences, and even as in-game characters, epitomising the alpha male action hero – only as inspiration taken from real life, not a Hollywood movie set.

Matthias, his film only the trigger for all of the extended creativity that followed it, made a modest sum of money over a period of two years when Youtube invited him to monetize his video with advertising, and by selling a few t-shirts. The majority of his efforts were focused on studying the viral influences of Technoviking, where the marketing of products by others based on the video’s character were more visible and aggressive, and where other individuals in the world were sharing and reinterpreting its influences.

He was also making efforts to trace the man himself, hoping to share the phenomenon with him and ensure that the benefits of the original video’s cult status were available mutually.

“…After the video went viral in 2007 I started to search in different gyms by calling them, because I thought he is from Berlin and a body builder, so he must be known in one or the other studio…”

He kept coming up against dead ends, but eventually after a number of years, contact was made – in the form of a Cease and Desist order from the individual’s lawyer.

The most famous unsuspecting internet cult hero of the early 21st Century only wanted his privacy and ‘the right to be forgotten’.

Matthias had to agree to remove the original Kneecam No.1 and all of his own ancillary products.

That part was simple enough. For the complainant, there are a myriad more cases of ‘use of his image’ and constant re-postings of the video by other users to pursue.

It’s a case of ‘Life imitating art imitating life’ – a character inspired by a real individual, given the themes of justice-seeker and superhero by the public, arts and the entertainment world, prompts the individual concerned to pursue his own global justice and protect his own right to privacy.

The man formerly known as Technoviking will indeed take you down, just as the many memes suggested his character would.

Remember also that this is a private individual – not a celebrity. He has nothing to lose by pursuing enforcement of his image rights.

Antonio Broumas, Digital Rights Attorney, Digital Liberation Network: I am very interested in the result of this case. It actually determines many things regarding what we are doing on the Internet. What can be uploaded to YouTube? How can we use people’s photos in public places? What is permitted and what is not? And I believe that the aim of the court in these cases will have to be to make things clear for the citizens.”

Meanwhile, Matthias Fritsch, the Youtube uploader formerly known as Subrealic, has made a case-study documentary of the Kneecam No.1 viral video’s influence to date and the worldwide phenomenon it prompted, leading to the image rights case being brought against him by the perceived ‘star’ – the individual concerned. It’s both a cautionary tale and an evolutionary one regarding the global arts community, including commentary and interviews with legal, social and arts experts.

The documentary covers issues an artist will encounter when using material ‘found in reality’ and regarding visual image copyright and distribution when the image contains persons and their rights. There are forms of explicit consent required for specific further use of the images, beyond merely collecting them.

It explodes the myths regarding the right to use images or footage from crowd scenes, namely the ‘Five or more persons’ myth.

Louisa Specht, Personality Rights Expert, ZAR Karlsruhe: The ʽ5 Person Myth’ doesn’t exist as a law. I am allowed to record parades and demonstrations without the agreement of the depicted people, but when an individual stands out from the crowd this exception doesn’t apply anymore.”

It also dissects what is essentially art and public property – such as whether an individual can claim rights over an image that contains elements of earlier appropriation, whether those are actions or personal style, or the context of their appearance and behaviour. The argument over ‘fair use’ has grounds in whether art inspired by individuals and scenes found in reality, whose own inspiration for image is inspired by earlier identifiable arts and personality icons, can even be claimed as a private or personal image in any new context that an artistically-revised version gives it.

Felix Stalder, Professor of Digital Culture and Net Theory in Zurich: The owner has to be aware that he takes or that she has taken from the public – so he/she has to grant the public also the right to take from him/her.”

Something that’s inspired me in the past is the trend on Youtube for re-edits of trailers and movie clips, by fans. My brothers and I used to do our own re-dubbed voice-overs for Star Trek when we were kids, on an ancient VHS rental with a Play/Rec/Dub setting. Must have been the earliest invented!

For example, I published my parody The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum after writing it chapter-by-chapter on my blog, linking to movie scenes that were my muses and mashed-up music remixes on Youtube. I wanted to show where my influences lay. While searching for the scenes, with the most popular ones I would come across dozens of alternate versions in a creative online explosion, similar to the demographic portrayed by the ʽspawn’ of Kneecam No.1.

I don’t just mean ‘re-edits’ as in, a fan’s favourite bits of the movie put together as a tribute or slideshow. I mean where they’ve used the original as an artistic prompt, and changed the implied genre, or storyline, as a transformative work. Look up the political-thrillerised version of Splash’. That’s really creative, and the great thing about Youtube is everyone can share and appreciate a different slant on what Hollywood does.

And completely reinvented mash-ups, taking an existing concept and changing the context, like the re-imagined works initiated by Subrealic, aka Matthias Fritsch. One example is Youtube uploader Ryan (user name: nigahiga), known for a spoof of the social media game Candy Crush Saga by re-inventing it and shooting it as a Hollywood movie trailer.

It has been done in books already – most notably with Death Comes to Pemberley’ by P.D. James, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Two different interpretations of the same Jane Austen romance. James took the original characters from Pride and Prejudice’ but not the original book or prose, and penned a murder mystery in place of a happy ever after – but her imitation of Austen’s style is spot on, so it is the genre which has changed, but not the voice as such.

Grahame-Smith took the original text – legally, as it is in the ‘public domain’ meaning out of copyright worldwide (literary copyright expires in most countries at the wonderful-sounding date of death [of the author] + 70 years’ or in a few cases death [author] + 100 years’) – and added butt-kicking martial artist zombie-killer action to it.

If you plan to do similar, as in either of these examples, make sure the original content you are planning on mashing up is in the ‘public domain’ (as defined by the time-spans above). Public domain does NOT mean ‘the characters have been discussed in the Daily Mail’ or that they have fan pages on Facebook, or profiles on Wiki. One thing I was asked about by a cover artist – no, images on WikiCommons are not ‘public domain’ – they are provided for contextual use only.

Be wary of falling into the trap of assuming ALL books who fulfil the ‘date of death of the author’ are in public domain. Estates are often set up for prolific or famous authors – for example, the late British author Arthur Ransome.

Under normal circumstances, his books would enter public domain status seventy years after his death. However, the existence of an estate to protect his work, and an existing fan-base, means this is unlikely, and copyright may be renewed before it expires. This came as a surprise to at least two authors I have worked with – one who mistakenly assumed you could appropriate anything ‘from any book over seventy years old’ (misinformation about copyright lifespan, see above for definition), and one who thought you could publish new stories about an author’s famous original leading characters and situations so long as the author was dead (post-burial optional). As discussed before, that’s fan-fiction, and can’t be published for financial gain.

You also have to be aware of when a central character is not public domain, while the source story might well be. The fairytale of Sleeping Beauty is ancient and can be re-imagined by anyone. But Maleficent the character, based on the original ‘evil witch’ from the fairytale, as portrayed in all forms by Disney, was created and is owned by Disney. Again, this is similar in context to Stalder’s comment he takes or that she has taken from the public – so he/she has to grant the public also the right to take from him/her.”

Maleficent - before and after 1

Genuine Disney merchandise doll in original packaging on the left, with my re-dressed and repainted custom OOAK version on the right, made for myself as a fan of the character. Even more relevant – the doll on the right that I customised was not a genuine Disney original, but a bootleg version manufactured elsewhere and found online. So the Maleficent doll design has been ‘re-mixed’ twice.

It is possible to develop a new, copyrighted product inspired by public domain work. You cannot legally reproduce Disney’s version of Sleeping Beauty or Maleficent, or any of their named character designs, and equally neither you or Disney can claim the copyright status of sole use of the original fairytale. But you can write your own version of the original fairytale from scratch, change the title, change the point-of-view, add new characters of your own devising (called O.C.s by fan-fiction writers) and you may copyright your own unique version.

This is where the debate rages over transformative works, especially when they cross back and forth over the transmedia line, from imagery to written word to gaming to product marketing and back again. It happens with cultural appropriation in music and fashion – mutual admiration or artistic appreciation of lifestyle across communities leads to imitation, reworking, a new and temporary ownership of those styles for a period of time, and then transition again.

Domenico Quaranta, Art Critic and Curator, Link Art Center, Italy:The idea should have the right to evolve, and who did something shouldn’t have the right to value, to judge the following variations of the idea that he contributed to. Because if this contributed in a significant way to the evolution of the story, this contribution itself must be significant.

Parody, as made by National Lampoon, and the Barry Trotter books etc, is a reworking of a genre, of a recognisable copyrighted current franchise – but with new characters, which may sound and act similar to the originals, and also importantly, with jokes in. Although ‘parody’ is still not recognised in all countries. Some territories consider it copyright infringement where readily identifiable, and deem them not publishable either, as with fan-fiction.

Many books and films, especially fantasy/humour (including Pratchett’s Discworld series) pay homage to earlier works in ways that the reader or viewer can identify with.

For this to work, the parody element – or the tribute, or homage – has to be something that connects broadly with the audience. Kneecam No.1 gave the audience the ʽsuperhero’ identification scene. In generally accepted storytelling, you have a scene with a damsel in distress, an injustice, a battle or a risk to life involved, and a mysterious, larger-than-life stranger swoops in to save the day. After succeeding and re-establishing the status quo, reminding the rest of humankind to look out for one another and what their current priorities are, the superhero vanishes again. He has other places to be and problems to solve. This is the story archetype for that character, and the role that Technoviking immediately fulfilled in the imagination of the audience.

Maxa Zoller, Film Curator, Cairo: “I think it’s a certain male desire to become this CGI, muscular, protective archetype of a man. These guys, when they imitate the viking, film, edit, upload and watch other examples – and that’s also where the fun comes in – there is an affective context that is not just popular culture, that has a certain quality.

Although these stories and scenarios exist as common archetypes, Hollywood homage and copyright is a fine line. George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino are artists in their own right who have included style reference to their influences in their work. Steven Spielberg too. Hollywood director Chris Columbus used his own Young Sherlock Holmes cast and script as reference for many scenes and characters when directing Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone. My mother recalls watching Young Sherlock Holmes on TV as ‘that old Harry Potter film with the unconvincing Dementors running around in dressing-gowns. The one where Hermione gets shot at the end.’

A line is crossed in film when an entire story and its parallel sequences are seen to be ‘lifted’ from one other recognisable work – you can look up Disturbia/Estate of Alfred Hitchcock vs. Sheldon Abend Trust to research how one such case of two films and the original story was raised.

Any writer automatically owns their own prose. That’s word order on the page. Not title, not idea, not basic plot. If someone is proven to have Ctrl+C-ed and Ctrl+V-ed (copied and pasted) from another author’s non-public-domain work, or reproduced chunks of it verbatim, that is written copyright infringement in a nutshell.

A well-reported case in the last few years involved passages lifted from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, among others, by a hasty crime thriller writer, drunk on the lucrative new publishing contract he had received (Assassin of Secrets by Q.R. Markham, pen-name of Quentin Rowan, 2011). The portions of work that were stolen were quickly spotted in review copies by existing fans of the originals, and shared publicly in online reader forums. The plagiarising author’s book was withdrawn, and thousands of orders and pre-orders had to be refunded.

Titles, and names such as Discworld can be protected by registered trademark. You can go on that journey if you wish – trademarking is not automatic, unlike copyright, and must be applied for. You will have to prove ownership, originality, and that the word, image or phrase is not in common public usage. Look up the following two words together – ‘space’ + ‘marine’ copyright, for a good example of trademarking which has had plenty of online coverage (see Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 v. M.C.A. Hogarth)

It’s rare to see trademark owners attempt to get it enforced retrospectively, but it does happen.

However, unpublished and indie authors occasionally come out with the well-roasted old chestnut: “I’d love for a huge publisher to steal my ideas, because then I would sue them and be rich.”

When is the last time you heard of this happening? I haven’t – yet I have seen several instances over the years of where a case might be made. The only case I saw followed through and resolved, hopefully to mutual satisfaction, was in the case of an indie author’s unique and personally commissioned cover art on the Authonomy website (now defunct), which was clearly imitated on a different book announced for release by the host publishing house. The publisher blamed the individual working for them on cover design, and had not checked their sources or inspiration – even though they owned the promotional website that the design was lifted from.

Major publishers and film companies always have to be prepared for a deluge of copyright claims, and legally, the complainant has to prove the theft, that the opportunity was in hand. If you research JK Rowling and her product distributors regarding individual authors’ attempted copyright cases against her work – there is a whole Wiki page’s worth – you will discover that the claimants have been bankrupted by such efforts, not enriched.

Even if the small fry have afforded their losing legal costs, the big fish may counter-sue subsequently for tarnishing their reputation, or something called ‘lack of good faith action’ requiring substantial damages to be paid to them by the original complainant. Cue small fry bankruptcy…

You may also be in trouble if you use a celebrity as a character in your published work, never mind a private individual, such as the Technoviking case. This comes under ‘appropriating and distributing a person’s image without consent’ – a French traditionally published author fell foul of this recently, using a current Hollywood actress as the person his female leading character was mistaken for and used to her advantage in his story. He had to pay damages to her as his book was found to have defamed the celebrity’s persona, tarnishing her public image (by his character’s behaviour in the story), while further damages for appropriation of her likeness and personality had also been sought. (Scarlet Johansson v. Grégoire Delacourt re. La Première Chose Qu’on Regarde, 2014). A major console gaming designer was subjected to a similar case by another Hollywood star, who claimed that she and her clothing style, including specific visual images and a recognisable corruption of her name ‘confusing to fans’ had been used as a model for an in-game character, without licensing or consent. (Lyndsay Lohan v. Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive re. GTA V, 2014).

Lyndsay v. GTA V

Lyndsay Lohan in a selfie-style pose on the left. GTA V in-game character Lacey Jonas mimics on the right.

Alexander Paschke, lawyer for Technoviking:My client asserts the rights that he is entitled to. And if this includes a claim for compensation – then it is part of that. But again: He is not after money – it would be much easier to make money out of this in other ways – but this is about others not exploiting and commercializing his persona. If you look at it from the other side: If the violator, who is marketing somebody else illegally, if he can even keep the profits coming out of the violation – what kind of understanding of rights would this be?

In non-fiction, there is the established referencing system for quotes and sources. Even if your own work is a paraphrased version of the source and not quoted directly, a lot of non-fiction requires supporting evidence, not just credit to the originator. Verbatim quotes will still need permission, including for credited song lyrics. Look up the Harvard method of referencing to fill out your bibliography of research to include in the endnotes of your book. (See Dr Raj Persaud plagiarism case).

That’s the bare bones of it. The part I can shed a positive light on today is the genre twist option, accessible to authors. Where, like P.D. James, you take an old public domain tale, and tell it for a different audience. I hear that very kinky things are currently going on in the world of crusty old romances at the minute, never mind murder mysteries and zombies.

By the look of things happening elsewhere in fictional mash-ups and re-inventions, Technoviking got off lightly. The audience in general respected him.

Wolfgang Ullrich, Professor of Art History & Media Philosophy, Karlsruhe:If one wanted to speak very traditionally and philosophically, one could see a phenomenon such as the Technoviking as a nice piece of evidence for a thought that was first prominently formulated by Immanuel Kant in his book ʽCritique of Judgment’ in the year 1790, where he asks himself the question: “How does one recognize a work of art?” – and he explicitly means a great work of art, the work of a genius. And the criterion for him, which is actually the only criterion for him, is the reception, the effect of this work. For him it’s clear: The work is a work of a genius if there are copycats, if there are a lot of copycats, if it has something compelling that other humans can’t resist its effect. This would be an indicator of the original’s power, that created new rules and established new forms, and for Kant this would be the proof for a really great art work in the case of the original video of Technoviking.”

Supposing as a writer, for example, you became such ʽa copycat’ and took the genius of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, re-writing him in the style of Bridget Jones’ Diary or Are You there, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Or Frankenstein in the style of a CSI police procedural, analysing all of the body parts going missing. I’d like to see Kathy Reichs do that one… It was done fantastically with Johnny Depp as a police forensics expert in Sleepy Hollow’ – so it’s not an entirely new concept (just look at the action-style on show in the last Sherlock-based TV and movie releases, which are frequently re-invented for new audiences), but potentially there are many forms of almost-unexploited literary mash-up yet to reach the mainstream bookshelves.

You just need to find your genius to emulate – that’s unless you manage to become one, in your own right.

Matthias gives the impression that he still hopes to share an open dialogue one day with the reluctant star of his early film project.

“There is not only ʽmy intellectual property’ but also his, the work of the DJs, the people who made the music, the background dancers – they also were part of the creation – and therefore I don’t see myself as the only originator that owns everything.”

However, if you’re an author investing your time in words on the page, you’ll have to run to catch up with the creativity of online users making re-cut trailers and their own tribute videos on Youtube. That’s if the man formerly known as Technoviking doesn’t get to them first.

The documentary by Matthias Fritsch is released today on http://technoviking.tv/film – it’s free to watch, and compulsory viewing for anyone interested in the future of artistic interpretation, image rights, copyright, global cultural appropriation, viral marketing, and the individual right to privacy and maintaining the personal context of one’s own life, given today’s open social media culture. It’s a fascinating case study, showing how the phenomenon grew chronologically and in its exponential aspects, in which Matthias, the originator, had no promotional role.

Felix Stalder: Transformative uses – using something to make something new out of it… In a way this is covered theoretically by fair use in the US. But the way fair use has been interpreted in the court, it is very very narrow.”

Thanks to Matthias Fritsch of technoviking.tv for permission to quote from interviews in ʽThe Technoviking Story’ and to share the documentary

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Re-imaginings: Revisiting your earlier stories through new eyes

Twilight+Tenth+Anniversary-Life+and+Death+Dual+Edition

Stephanie Meyer revisits Twilight with a gender-bend portrayal in the Tenth Anniversary dual edition.

I love how mainstream authors now acknowledge the worldwide audience for fan-fiction, parody and tribute stories by taking the time to re-invent and re-imagine their old books.

EL James recently did it with Grey, but she now looks set to be upstaged by Stephanie Meyer. Rather than simply switch POV in her new edition, Meyer has changed the sexes of her characters, in what is known as a ‘gender-bend’ version. A popular method with writers of manga and anime fan-fiction, it looks like her new version of Twilight (called ‘Life and Death’, released in this dual edition above) will take her fandom by storm.

I’m not a Twilight fan, but as a fan of creative mash-up, re-cut and re-edit culture, I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Rather than bore you all with what would otherwise be viewed as yet another critique-based post drifting around cyberspace by a grumpy indie on the ‘talents’ of such authors and whether or not they need the money, I’ll just do my usual and see what happens when I try it out on my Zombie Adventure pet projects. Urgh. I think this might be unwise to read alone… 😀

***

DO ZOMBIES DREAM OF UNDEAD SHEEP?

(the gender-bend version of THE ZOMBIE ADVENTURES OF SARAH BELLUM)

CHAPTER ONE:

I look in the mirror. I do it every day. Pretty much most people look in the mirror every day.

I see a young man. That’s a relief. A man with hair, two eyes, a nose, one mouth, and as I push the hair back as I’m shaving around my sideburns – yes, still got two ears. Phew.

My housemate, whose name escapes me most days, has forced me into this, the reason I’m awake and brushing my teeth at the godforsaken hour of ten a.m. How dare he go for his STD check today, and pack me off instead to do his media studies homework? Couldn’t he have caught chlamydia some other time?

I have to go and interview some vending-machine business mogul. The company is called Dry Goods, Inc, and the owner, Kristen Dry, supplies our University with all of its vending machines. She’s notoriously hard to get appointments with. When you ring her office, you have to press so many buttons on the phone to finally get through – only to be told that your selection is no longer available, and to choose an alternative.

Whatsisname, my housemate, says that he’s got to get this interview for the University paper. I don’t know why, they only use it to wrap take-out cartons in the refectory. Maybe it’s to promote a new drinks machine range.

So I’m having to forgo my weekly visits to the Body Farm and the morgue for my own research project. I don’t even know if I’ll be back in time for work later.

He’s going to owe me big-time for this. If I don’t get to see a corpse this week, I don’t know what I’ll do. There’s one I’m rather fond of in a wheelie bin under a silver birch tree at the body farm, where I like to sit and eat my sandwiches. She’ll have changed so much the next time I see her…

I leave Whatsisface, my best friend, packing his rucksack for the clinic.

“Good luck!” says Thingummyjig, as I head out. “Make it a good interview!”

“I’ll bring you back some condoms,” I concede, and slam the front door.

*  *  *  *  *

It’s a long drive to Seaford West Industrial Estate, but luckily I have my mother’s trusty Fiat 500 in which to navigate the rain-soaked roads. I don’t think my Pizza Heaven scooter would have made it. When I put my books in the insulated top-box, it always skids over in the wet. And sometimes nasty people put other things in there, when I’m doing a delivery.

Dry Goods House is a huge monolith of connected storage containers, converted into offices on the seafront industrial park, an illegal immigrant’s dream. Mirrored glass windows inserted into the corrugated steel keep out any prying eyes.

The revolving doors swish as I enter the Customer Enquiries lobby. A brain-dead-looking blond Calvin Klein model dude is sitting at the stainless surgical steel counter.

“I’m here to see Miss Kristen Dry,” I announce. “I’m Basil Ganglia. Mr Thing from the University sent me.”

“I’ll text her,” says Brain-Dead, picking up his phone. “Have a seat.”

He eyes me as I sit down on the plastic chair between two vending machines, one for hot drinks, the other for snacks. I feel over-dressed. Maybe stealing my housemate’s Christian Louboutin studded deck shoes and YSL suit had been taking it too far. The receptionist looks cool and comfortable, in turquoise blue overalls and a neon yellow hi-visibility industrial vest.

“She’s on her way down,” he says, after a moment. He reaches under the desk. “You’ll have to put this on.”

I get up again to accept the hi-visibility yellow vest he hands me, which has VISITOR stencilled on the back. I pull it on grudgingly over my borrowed YSL.

The adjoining door creaks, and I turn, still adjusting my Velcro.

I know, the moment I see her.

The black dress. The pallor of her skin. The attractively tousled, unkempt bed-hair. The drool. That limp… oh, God, that limp…!

“Kristen Dry?” My voice catches in my throat.

“Mr… Ganglia,” she moans softly, extending a ring-encrusted hand.

My heart palpitates wildly, noting the ragged cuticles, and the long, blue-tinged, prehensile fingers.

“My housemate,” I begin. “Mr Shitface – he couldn’t make it today. Having his down-pipes cleaned out and serviced…”

I grasp her outstretched hand in greeting. So cold… and yet so mobile… a tingle crawls deliciously up my forearm, and I snatch my hand away quickly, scared of showing myself up. Her jet-black eyes glitter, equally cold, and her upper lip seems to curl in the faintest suggestion of a smirk. Or is it my imagination?

“Were you offered a refreshment, Mr Ganglia?” She gestures towards the famous vending machines.

I shake my head, and she turns to glare at the receptionist. He cowers visibly, and I’m sure I hear her emit a long, low, guttural sound. The receptionist scrabbles in his drawer and holds out a handful of coin-shaped metal tokens.

“I’m fine, really…” I croak, although in all honesty, my throat does feel terribly dry.

“Very wellll…”

My knees feel weak as she holds the door open, and beckons, her head at a quirked angle.

“This way, Mr… Ganglia.”

How she rolls my name around her tongue makes my own feel drier than ever. I stumble hazily through into the corridor, hearing the door creak closed again behind me, and the shuffling, shambling sound of her doe-like footfalls in my wake.

“Straight ahead, Mr Ganglia.”

Her voice is like tissue paper being unwrapped from around a stone urn. It tickles my inner ear and the back of my throat, sends chills down my vertebrae. It resonates with my deepest darkest thoughts.

Things I had not even entertained notions of while eating sandwiches under the silver birch tree, beside my sweet Miss Wheelie-Bin…

Her arm extends past me to swipe her security card in the lock of the next door, and a waft of her poppy-like scent washes over my strangely heightened senses.

“Go through, Mr Ganglia,” she practically whispers in my ear.

The door clicks open, and I step through. Murky grey daylight filters through the tinted windows from the seafront, and I gasp. Another brain-dead blond is banging his head repeatedly on the steel wall, not three feet away from the door.

“Kevin,” Miss Dry says. Is that a tinge of disappointment, or disapproval in her voice? “Take Mr Ganglia’s coat. You will not need the yellow site vest either while you are with me, Mr Ganglia.”

Kevin turns to look at us, his flat bleached-out bloodshot eyes registering nothing. He holds out his arms to accept the navy-blue YSL and hi-visibility vest as I shrug them off, feeling exposed now in my Andy Warhol soup can t-shirt. Mr Brain-Dead Mk II takes my jacket with a soft grunt, but goes nowhere, turning back to face the wall instead, contemplating the smear where his head had been rebounding off it just a moment before.

Kristen Dry takes my arm to steer me past, the unexpected contact eliciting another gasp from me. Those long, cold, prehensile fingers, closing around the warm flesh of my tricep…! I trip along the next corridor, trying to keep pace with her rolling, loping stride, like that of a wounded deer.

“My office…” she hisses, swiping her security pass a second time, and ushering me through.

It is black. Everything is black, from the desk, to the leather seating, to the vertical blinds. The only colour in the room is a giant white canvas, on the wall facing the long window, upon which a modern meditation in red is represented.

“You like my art, Mr Ganglia?” she murmurs, seeing my open gape at the piece.

“It’s yours?” Wow – now I’m really intimidated. The only art I see is on custom tattoo bodywork when passing the breaker’s yard, hoping to catch a glimpse of the fit female mechanic. “It’s beautiful…”

“I call this one… ‘High-Velocity Spatter’,” she confides in a husky voice.

“It must be expensive.”

“Very,” she agrees. “Sit.”

I plant my nervous glutes onto the soft leather, and start to take out my notes. The only sound otherwise in her office is the eerie call of gulls, from the windswept pebble beach outside.

Kristen Dry watches me, calculatingly. She circles around the sofa opposite, not yet seated.

“Would you like something to drink, Basil Ganglia?” She moves languidly towards the huge, black, state-of-the-art vending machine in the corner.

The sound of my full name on her lips is like the opening of a beautiful white lily…

“I am a little parched,” I admit. “Yes, please, Miss Dry. Thank you.”

“What would you like?” Her hand hovers over the illuminated keypad. “Tea, coffee, hot chocolate? Iced water? Chicken soup? Gin and tonic? Bubblegum? Breath mints?”

Mmmm – a vending machine with everything!

“A chicken soup would be lovely,” I hear myself say, and my stomach grumbles in agreement, recalling the last slice of cold Pizza Heaven pizza I ate for breakfast, many hours ago.

“Chicken noodle, chicken and sweetcorn, Thai chicken and lemongrass…?”

“Yes please – the last one…”

I watch as her elegant fingers dance over the keys. There is the faintest hum from the machine. In a trice, a large fine china mug appears, steaming, on its own saucer, garnished with fresh chives and coriander. There is even the traditional porcelain soup-spoon on the side, intricately decorated.

I wonder what sort of businesses she supplies this particular machine to. All that the University ones dispense, is various colours and temperatures of pond-water à la Styrofoam. We must be at the very bottom of their budget range.

She brings it to the low onyx table in front of me, and presents it with the gallant flourish of a red napkin. Something of the gesture, and the way she arranges herself laconically on the sofa opposite, makes my heart sink slightly.

Oh no. She’s so married… the way she’s fidgeting her earlobe in that I’m-ready-to-listen way and stroking her knee with the other hand – that’s at least fifty shades of married…

I struggle to focus on the list of questions that Knobhead has written out for me. I’m starting to worry that maybe I won’t enjoy finding out the answers to some of them.

“It’s very hot,” she says, in a warning tone. It startles me.

“Hmmm?” Am I always this jumpy?

“The soup, Basil.” Her mouth twitches in the corner, and her black eyes crinkle slightly. It’s as if she can see into the dark shadows at the back of my own mind.

“I can get started with the questions while it cools down,” I say, brightly, batting away the shadows in my head at her curt nod. Definitely married. I look down at the sheet of paper. “Now… the first question. Is it true that you employ foreign child labour in the construction of your vending machines?”

“No.” The answer is as cold as ice, and as solid. “There are other ways of manufacturing our machines to a budget that is mutually beneficial, to the product consumers, and the workforce.”

“Right…” I scribble this down, in my best pizza-order shorthand. “And is it also true that you sub-contract your perishable goods supplies, for human consumption, out to companies who deal in black market foodstuffs and out-of-date stock?”

“Our sub-contractors are fully vetted,” she assures me. “If any sub-standard products are finding their way into my machines, it is usually the fault of the site owners, outsourcing to cut-price vandals who access the machines without our endorsement. Quality control is of paramount importance in this business.”

The aroma drifting up from the soup is certainly backing up her argument. But still…

“Are you saying that the recorded cases of food poisoning at Cramps University, and at other sites, is the faculty’s fault?” I ask.

“I am not saying anything, Mr Ganglia,” she muses, her eyes still faintly entertained, her head still quirked. “But you are, it seems. Is this some sort of empathy test?”

I stare down at the page. Twat. That last question was me, my stupid mouth running away with me. Not one of Fucktard’s questions at all. Double twat.

“Moving on,” I say swiftly, aware that her eyes are mentally dismembering me. I look at question number three. “How do you explain your current one thousand percent increase in profits in the current financial climate, Miss Dry?”

“With excellent book-keeping.”

I look up at her, uncertain whether this is merely a stab at humour. She is still lounging on the sofa, the jet black of her eyes resting on me steadily. My own eyes follow the line of her lips, and the rumpled raven mane of hair, still intact. Her square shoulders and tiny waist in that black power-dress make me feel weak. What’s wrong with you, dude? She’s still walking around and talking! You’d be bored sick of her within minutes, same as all the others…

I press on with the questions, covering the various charges of tax evasion, pollution, carbon footprint, and illegal immigration, and she has a cool answer for every single one.

“Are these questions designed to determine whether I am a businesswoman… or a zombie, Mr Ganglia?” she asks in return.

My blood runs hot and cold both at once. I’m relieved to turn the page, and find the closing questions are brief.

“…Finally, Miss Dry. Can you tell me your favourite colour?”

She indicates the décor of the office.

“Black,” she confirms. “With a little fetish for red, occasionally. And sometimes…”

Her face darkens. She looks away.

“White?” I suggest, thinking of the painting.

“When black meets white, there is a certain shade – a very delicate and vulnerable shade – that illustrates humanity in its most primitive state.”

“You mean gr…”

She puts her finger to her lips.

“Best left unspoken.” Those black eyes burrow into my head. “A colour for the mind. Not for the lips. Only… under very special circumstances… should the matter pass the lips.”

She’s bonkers. Just what we need right now. Another married psycho cougar. I return to the final questions.

“And what music do you listen to?”

“Soul.”

“And last question. What car do you drive?”

“I have a number of cars, all black, and a chauffeur, who drives very sedately. You must allow me to take you on a tour of the rest of my complex some time. I may have an opening for a new PR assistant soon.”

Outside the window behind her, something turquoise blue and neon yellow crashes wetly onto the pebble beach from above. Without looking around, she produces a remote control, and closes the vertical blinds. Automatic halogen lights phase on overhead, so there is no change in illumination inside the office.

“Thank you, Miss Dry.” I’m on my feet in that instant, suddenly wary of being in an enclosed office alone with her. Those dark shadows have all sprung to attention in the back of my mind, at the closing of those blinds. “You have been very accommodating, but really I mustn’t keep you any longer.”

“Indeed?” she asks, rising out of her seat. For the first time I notice how tall and shapely she is… was, I correct myself angrily. “Keep me for what purpose, I wonder?”

So arrogant!

I just nod, blushing fiercely, and head for the door.

“I will have to show you out,” she reminds me, taking out the security pass again, and lurching forward to accompany me. “It has been a pleasure, Mr Ganglia.”

Her voice is driving me crazy. And her hand on my arm again, guiding me out of the door and into the corridor. I practically scamper ahead, snatching my coat back from Brain-Dead Blond Mk II.

“Thank you for your time, Miss Dry,” I say, back in the near-safety of the lobby. There is no sign of Brain-Dead Blond the receptionist, and I can’t wait to get away. “It has been very educational.”

“I’m sure it will be,” she agrees, with a courteous nod. “Au revoir, Mr Ganglia.”

I run to the Fiat in my shiny deck shoes, and lock myself in. I can see gulls flocking to the spot on the beach outside her office, on the far side of the building.

Those shadows in my head – I fight to control them. How dare she hijack my fantasies, my pure and innocent thoughts of the dead? How dare she make a mockery of it all by walking around in broad daylight and touching me??! There ought to be a law against that sort of thing…

As I drive home again, all I can see through the rain bouncing off the road in front of me, is her pale and amused, sardonic and angelically attractive face.

Deckard meets Rachel in ‘Blade Runner’

See the original chapter ‘Filthy Shavings of Gray Matter’ in The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum:

The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Available on Amazon Kindle worldwide – click for Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

Moist von Lipwig OOAK doll and Lady Gaga repaint

Some of my other WIPs, not related to writing 😉 Never fear, Chapter Two of the Cosmic Carbon Cycle Cash Machine will be up soon 🙂 xx

Screen Kiss Dolls

Moist von Lipwig commissioned doll

Here’s Moist von Lipwig of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett – a request recently made to me by a family friend. He’s an acrylic repaint on a Jackson Jekkyl Monster high boy doll. As usual I managed to make his outfit reversible.

IMG-20150513-03662

As well as his face, I repainted his boots. His post-bags are knitted in basket-weave stitch and then the AM logo embroidered on. I also made him a black briefcase/satchel for his incarnation as Albert Spangler. He has grey knitted long-johns as well.

I’ve had a few requests to see more Discworld characters in my collection, but I’m also practising other styles for my repertoire. This is a second-hand superstar-era Barbie doll that I’m turning into Lady Gaga from her video for ‘Telephone’:

Lady Gaga repainted Barbie doll by Lisa Scullard

I highlighted her straight blonde hair with a yellow Sharpie before curling it using the boil perm method. then gave her an acrylic/pastel repaint…

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OOAK Discworld inspired Tiffany Aching Monster High hybrid doll on ebay UK (for JustGiving)

Doing what I can for a good cause while grieving for a great author who has influenced most of my creative life…

UPDATE: Tiffany sold for £56.00, which means I will be able to donate £44.80 (80%) to RICE as soon as the new owner has received her safely 🙂

Sewing and painting has been my recuperation from sports injury surgery in the last couple of months – and it looks like I’m still not done with treatment yet for a while. No fear – I’ll be back on topic imminently 🙂 Lisa xx

Screen Kiss Dolls

DSCF2909

For auction now – profits will go to RICE (Research Institute for the Care of Older People) via Lynsey Dalladay’s JustGiving page dedicated to Terry Pratchett. For full details and photos, please visit the listing.

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Another tutorial: Linking to multimedia in ebooks

Hello! Spring has sprung, the holidays have come, and hopefully we’re all outdoors getting some sunshine and healthy fresh air, not indoors with a TV movie marathon and a serious hand-blanket-stitching cosplay costume-making addiction. Just me on that one, I think…

Ok now, we all want to publish ebooks that stand out in the current market, and one thing you can do to perk them up is to add links to multimedia content:

Remember that you must own the content to share it (visual AND audio), and you must keep in mind that many of the more basic e-readers will not be running Flash player, or support video and audio content, and you don’t want their own enjoyment of reading the rest of the book interrupted with large blocks of non-functioning embedded content.

Check out the ‘Look Inside’ preview of this ebook that I formatted for a true-life memoir author, Sophie Neville: The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons.

She’d shown me some old home-movie footage her family had taken at the time the film was made, and I suggested editing it into short clips that could be linked to in the text inside the book, as well as create a book trailer from it.

You’ll see hyperlinks under the first two photographs on the title pages of her ebook, linking to footage uploaded onto the author’s Youtube channel. (I also edited the footage for her, and used music soundtracks available from the copyright-free libraries). I edited the ebook’s description on Amazon to include the line “contains links to behind-the-scenes home movie footage for readers with browser-enabled tablets” – so that customers would be aware of how this worked.

If you own one of these non-browser, non-Flash Kindles or e-readers, you can download the reader app to your PC or other internet device to read and view books with multimedia content, where the links will work on your PC or device with an internet connection and fully-functioning browser.

On the iPad or iPhone, for example, when you tap on the video hyperlink in this ebook, the video appears full-screen, ready to watch. When it has finished, you just tap on the Youtube prompt ‘Done’ – it closes automatically and you’re back on your page in the Kindle book. Neat stuff.

Here’s how to format and publish a standard text or illustrated ebook – click here.

Start with your content – you have to own it, as will become clear shortly, and also have permission of anyone (or their property, or music) who appears in your footage, whether it’s made using stills or video. Make sure you include a written acknowledgement of their contribution in your ‘Thank You’ list at the end of your book, for granting you permission.

Firstly, set up a Youtube channel in your author name, and upload your edited content.

In your video’s description on the Youtube edits page while uploading, include the words ‘(Book title) Copyright (your name) (year) Thanks to (names of contributors in this video). All permissions obtained.’

Copy the shortlink to share the video you want to link from the ‘Share’ tab under the video on Youtube, e.g. http://youtu.be/chXkQ8m8tKM Make sure you only have the link to your video copied. Don’t copy any longer links from the address bar, which may contain ‘play all’ loops or playlists, which prompt the link to include the rest of your videos, or ones with the same title or search terms in the content that plays when the link is clicked on. If you can only copy the link from your browser’s address bar, make sure that if it contains the symbol ‘&’ you first select the ‘&’ and anything that appears after the ‘&’ symbol, and delete that part, before copying the first part of the link only. Also delete the ‘s’ from ‘https’ at the beginning of the link – otherwise your link is set to ‘private browsing’ and will only work if the reader is also signed in to Youtube.

If your ebook is illustrated, you can do the same as I did for this particular author, and put links under appropriate illustrations. This means that folk with regular e-readers still get something nice to look at, and the video is just enhancement for readers with fully-functioning browsers. Don’t link the video to the illustration itself – this will mess with the ‘zoom image’ tap function on touchscreen tablets, and no-one will know it is there! It’s best for clarity to type the line ‘Click here for video’ or something similar as I have done, and hyperlink the sentence.

Highlight the phrase you want to link on your document in Word/OpenOffice etc, click on the ‘Insert’ tab, select ‘Hyperlink’, select ‘on the web’ in the left-hand sidebar of the control box that pops up, and paste your video’s link into the box saying ‘web address’, then ‘Apply’ and ‘Done/OK’.

Once you’ve added your video hyperlinks, whether they’re book trailers, vlogs, author interviews with yourself, you dressed up as one of your characters acting out a scene etc, finish formatting your ebook document, and upload and submit it for publishing as described in the Formatting Ebooks tutorial.

Your book will appear in the Kindle store. Now, at some point, you will receive an email from KDP stating that your book ‘contains content freely available on the web’ and to ‘verify that you are the owner’ of this material, otherwise your book will be removed and the rest of your author account as well. You must reply immediately, as they only give you a few days’ notice to answer. All you need do is send a polite and prompt reply confirming that it is your own footage on your own Youtube channel (see name on your Youtube channel) and has been uploaded for the purpose of marketing your book (see book title and author name in your video descriptions). The same goes for images if queried, or your own written blog posts, that you might have replicated in your published books. Also follow any prompts they have given you in their email to confirm ownership by re-submitting the book, by opening the edit menu of your book on your KDP dashboard, re-selecting ‘All territories’ on the ‘Rights & Royalties’ page, and re-submitting your book for publishing. They will later reply to your reply, confirming acknowledgement of your right to publish the content. These emails are not automated, and your content and written verification will be checked by actual people.

For the above reason, make sure that any video content you have created to link to in your ebook does not contain anything illegal, defamatory, plagiarist, obscene, or that could be interpreted as an actual declaration of war in our Universe or the next.

Also, be aware that browsers with some child-safety ‘nanny’ programs running to block adult content may be set up by readers with families on shared computers (to whom your own book and content might be perfectly safe and suitable, as is the one I formatted), but the fact that your book contains Youtube links will mean it does not appear on their home computers in online searches. This is because Youtube and other video sites overall contain content blocked by these programs, and there’s nothing you can do to get around parenting shields that detect and block Youtube and video links (I’d be very concerned if there was a way around it). If the parents have alternative access on other computers and tablets without these parenting shields, they will be able to find your book without any problems. Just because your book doesn’t appear on or is blocked on one family’s computer doesn’t mean it will be blocked on all of them. (One of my author clients got quite excitable when she thought her extremely tame book had been ‘banned’ after trying to look it up at a friend’s house and found it was blocked by their online family filter).

So it can be done, and managed effectively, and if it all ties together nicely it makes a really good transmedia reading experience for the customer – you only have to see what the Amazon reviewers have said about the video content in the book I formatted for Sophie Neville (although she has allowed one reviewer to give her ALL of the credit for technical wizardry, LOL!)

…If you are formatting a paperback version later on, change your hyperlinks to the original shortlinks as above. That way readers can find your video content by typing in the address itself, as there’s nowhere to click on paper yet 🙂

To learn how to format and publish a paperback or hardcover, click here.

Have fun, and good luck. And remember to get out more 😉 xxx

Back to Basics: I, Wordbot – or, who is the author anyway?

Okay. So, you’ve started writing – let’s say, something.

Where do you see this expedition taking you, as an individual?

To the Oscars? To the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards? To a disciplinary at work? To the headmaster’s office?*

*Usually if you start by penning your work of genius on the walls and furniture.

A few writers do well. A few do very well indeed.

For the majority though, it’s the worst hourly rate anyone could wish for.

What person in their right mind spends 17 hours a day for weeks/months/years on a soul-baring project, for the small chance of grossing $10 from Amazon Kindle in the first fiscal year after publication?

  • Do you visualise yourself turning into a 24-hour book-pimping machine once you’ve completed the fun part (viz, writing the story)?
  • Do you plan to change the world by preaching your message to the masses with the concise summation of “Buy my book! And write me a review!”
  • Do you want social conversations around you to gravitate away from the fondly-remembered “What are you up to nowadays?” and more towards “Do you know, I have no time to read anything anymore. I can’t even keep up with the latest Terry Pratchett and Jeremy Clarkson…”

Perhaps there’s something to be said for keeping your new hobby a secret. That way, you can succeed or fail in private.

Maybe analyse your reasons for writing. Do you desire to be a more interesting or worthy person? Instead of inventing interesting and worthy characters, maybe go out into the world and do some volunteering. Or take up an adult education class.

People write for many reasons. Catharsis and therapy, for their own entertainment, because they simply can’t find books to read that they identify with… to learn, to share, to teach, to excavate old personal bones of contention, or to throw light on dark corners of their life. Some of those dark corners seem to contain many heaps of used tissues. Remember, what makes you happy (or sad) may not be viewed the same way by everyone.

Anyway. Selling is a different job altogether, and if you don’t see yourself as a salesman (I’m certainly not one) by all means write – but don’t let the business of being ‘an author’ take away the enjoyment of writing. Just write, publish, and move on.

Being an author doesn’t have to define you. Again, rather like that thing what may merely light your own candle in fiction being the complete witch-trial pyre in other people’s minds and cultures – what you picture the job description of ‘author’ representing in your own mind, may manifest itself differently in other people’s.

When I was very young, someone made it clear to me that their idea of a writer was a useless bum with no skills whatsoever. My own idea of a writer was Barbara Cartland in a pink frilly dress writing about men in tights and ladies swooning, or possibly Clive Barker with a pint of snakebite and blackcurrant, writing about dead things and the afterlife. But the thought of being useless and having no skills was also taken on board, and I’m proud to say I have avoided gaining any of the skills that I should have supposedly gained by not writing. I found that the opportunity to learn more interesting skills came my way instead.

Writing shouldn’t be your excuse for avoiding life, but rather a way of expressing your experiences and philosophies of it. If you don’t have any experiences that you want to write about, and can’t manifest them (either legally or physically, such as sprouting wings), like the best of us, make them up – but it’s your own slant and viewpoints which will tell your readers who you are, through the medium of your characters.

So let’s talk about the taboo subject of authorial leakage. Unintentionally, or otherwise, what private agendas and personal revelations may surface in the process of revealing your new talent to the world.

Writing is like any other art form – so far in the West, until recent history, held as being mystically separate from the laws of real life. Free speech, artistic licence, call it what you want.

There are different forms of art. Art that is life-affirming. Art that inspires criticism. Art that inspires debate, and art that instigates discussion on what constitutes art. However, in modern history, public concerns are voiced more frequently about art that inspires crime and atrocities.

The old-school art school tend to stand by their guns that art should be allowed to be art in any form, whether it’s a dirty unkempt bed or half a cow in formaldehyde. But if it’s a dirty unkempt child or half a pet dog, that’s the NSPCC and RSPCA notified.

With the advent of social media, and internet-based reality live-streaming TV, some people are sharing ‘art’ that should more accurately be described as ‘evidence’. And with certain art forms inspiring domestic violence and murder on a daily basis, now in the headlines with alarming regularity, the conscience of the artist has to be considered as much as the consumer.

For instance, compare the theoretical concept of a designer of a war propaganda poster that leads to an uprising and mass genocide, to the writer of a play that inspires a sick man to go home and shoot his dog. Both had a detrimental effect. One, you might argue, was only doing their job, and was not directly responsible. But which one?

That’s the worst case scenario that you might potentially face, at any point in your career. A crime of any scale being credited to you as the inspiration.

When the paranoia bugs strike at the heart of your art, and you find that your hobby has become a form of inadvertent disclosure about the deepest and darkest places where you occasionally hide the used tissues, it helps to examine and monitor yourself as you write. Um, or maybe seek counselling, and take a bit of a break until things normalise around you again.

At least, until your fantasy world is looking a bit more healthy.

What’s your basic need for recognition, as a writer?

Some examples of an artist’s basic needs:

  • To share an enthusiasm for a specific theme or genre
  • To exorcise a past event or relationship
  • To shock the audience
  • To make people laugh
  • To make people cry
  • To make people angry
  • To gain any reaction whatsoever, usually in as an obscure fashion as you can muster
  • To prove something
  • To disprove something
  • Revenge
  • To make money
  • To make someone love you (good luck with that, have you tried baking? Or giving them a lift anywhere?)
  • To win awards
  • To give your imaginary friends something to do
  • To brag about how clever you are

Note that ‘to be a book promoter/salesperson’ is not on the list! 🙂

The skill isn’t in what you can excavate from the depths of your soul. The skill is in filtering out the story and making it user-friendly, so that whatever inflammatory critique it inspires doesn’t also have the police taking an interest in your magnum opus appearing on a convicted felon’s Kindle, highly annotated and shared with members of his gang…

Don’t worry that writing your book will have your friends and family looking at you funny, talking behind your back, or avoiding you. They’ll be doing plenty of that when you start asking them to buy it and to leave you reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

And that’s BEFORE they’ve even read it 😉

L xxxx 🙂

Niche marketing – part 2…

Following yesterday’s post Niche marketing – the psychology behind success I’ll give you an example from my back catalogue, where I really was writing for a perceived ‘niche market’ as I saw it.

When designing your perfect reader, you have to realise that there is an element of caricature in the concept. Like for romance writers, their perfect reader might be the single city girl commuting, with her dog-eared, much-loved paperback copy of their book (not ebook, so that everyone can see what she’s reading) in permanent residence at the bottom of her Chloé.

Have you noticed that bags and shoes aren’t referred to as bags and shoes in chick lit anymore? It’s all label this and designer that. Shopping-channel porn. Unfortunately, it also tends to date books quickly, due to fashion’s fickle nature – you’ll see what I mean in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho novel, where Patrick launches into a loving and verbose description of the contents of his man-tastic living room.

Christian Bale in American Psycho

As such, lurid technology envy should probably also be avoided, now everyone and their two-year-old owns an iPad. As for cars, they go out of style faster than shoes – quite literally…

Digression alert! What I was saying, is that your planned ‘niche market’ is ‘a character’ as much as the people in your novel are also characters. So for the traditional romance/chick lit author, her ideal reader is the city girl commuting on the train, enjoying her favourite books en route, and usually sneaking them out under the desk and in her lunch hour too. She probably gets wobbly on a gin and tonic, and leaves parties early to curl up in her PJs and watch Bridget Jones for the umpteenth time rather than embarrassing herself instead. She’d never ask a guy out because she’s too shy, but secretly would like to dance on a table just once in her life. Abroad. Where nobody knows who she is.

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones

That’s a caricature. It’s a perception of a potentially real person or reader, but doesn’t define or specify a completely real person or reader.

The romance author only needs to write their own book with his/her particular reader in mind. She/he doesn’t need to try and target ‘everyone’ and include members of the House of Lords, prisoners on Death Row, Guatemala, Greenpeace activists, people who work on whaling ships, and the creepy guy that never talks but licks the library windows. Even though they can all read as well, most likely. What I’m saying is, don’t announce that your book is for ‘everyone’ – try being specific, and see how your story, its cover, and the way you promote it stands up to your concept of who in the worldwide ‘market’ you are considering would appreciate this sort of book.

Here’s my own example – chick lit/crime, ‘self-help’ fiction, Death & The City:

DATC hd cover

Other editions and covers available – see ‘eBooks’. Also in paperback print and hardcover.

Now I had only one reader in mind at first: Me.

But as I wrote, I realised there was an existing concept of women out there who might also enjoy it.

The ones who hadn’t always managed to pick the right guy – or any guy. The ones who clung to the rails but spent most of the time off them, while they struggled with growing up, daily life, work and peer pressure.

Lindsay Lohan Daily Mail UK September 2013

The ones who saw everyone else’s mistakes, but still couldn’t make their own life work out perfectly…

Angelina - Girl, Interrupted

Somewhere inside them is always a seed of strength, whether it’s that they know better, they know what’s best for them deep down but other people always seem to get it wrong, or that they have already been through the ‘worst case scenarios’ on a number of occasions, and have come out the other side…

Britney at MTV Awards

They’re a bit feisty on the surface, and never seem to take any crap, and are occasionally better survivors single than in a relationship – but that’s only because they’re protecting themselves, their sanity and their children first…

britney-spears

They don’t ‘need a man’ but the right one will find them – eventually.

Katie Price 'Jordan'

And you know that the minute she picks up the ball and runs with it, she’ll kick everyone’s ass…

Angelina Jolie - Lara Croft

…So that’s my caricature of a potential ‘niche market’ audience. It sounds quite specific. But when you read into it, and expand on it, you’ll find that some of the characteristics you’ve given your ‘specific reader’ speak to a much wider audience than you first realised. Lots of people will identify with elements of it.

But you don’t advertise that fact.

You stick to communicating your idea of ‘one perfect reader’ who will get the most from your work, take the best message it contains on board, feel it speaks to the best version of themselves, and leads them to further insights of their own.

Sounds idealistic, doesn’t it? But niche marketing is all about selling idealism, that others will then want to be a part of. How or what you write is up to you, whether your intentions are good and it comes from the heart, or you only want to find the fastest route to making money. Either way, you still then have to promote it, whether it’s to a publisher or directly to the public – and you need to say who you are writing for, not just why.

It’s funny. I’ve never put together an actual pinboard of my ideal reader as above, and here it is. I carried the concept of my ‘reader’ and the various representations of that reader around in my head. But looking at them, and looking at my various covers, I think this is the best one so far:

Death & The City - Heavy Duty Edition hardcover

Cover for the Smashwords/Kobo/Sony/Diesel Ebooks/iTunes Bookstore version and Lulu hardback

The pink is more appropriate – but I still think it’s not quite there yet. I’ll need to make a bigger ‘niche marketing’ pinboard and see where that leads me…

Make your ‘ideal reader pinboard’ – it might surprise you 🙂

L xxx

Formatting PDFs for print on demand (POD)

 FORMATTING PDFs FOR PRINT-ON-DEMAND BOOKS

(c) Lisa Scullard for Writing Buddies, February 2013

If you have formatted a document for e-book already, it is a good starting-point for your print version (n.b. This does not work successfully the other way around, due to format restrictions in e-books). Otherwise, your original document may be in Word, Works, Rich Text Format or Open Office text (ODT).

Firstly, you will need to decide on your physical book’s dimensions. The most popular, and easiest to set up free distribution for, are ‘Digest’ (5.5”x8.5”) or ‘US Trade’ (6”x9”). Not all sizes work for extended distribution, and some are more expensive to price afterwards, so the above are recommended. Choose one or the other – unless you wish to publish a hardcover, in which case select US Trade (6”x9”).

Start by downloading a free template file from Createspace (templates available here) or Lulu (templates available here) for your interior. The templates work in both Word and OpenOffice, and either download will work for both websites later. This sets up your page dimensions, mirror page styles including ‘gutter’ (the deeper margin that appears in the book’s spine to account for page bend), and trim area. Do not alter the page layout, unless prompted to do so by your online previewer later upon uploading (for example, if prompted to increase the gutter margin for books of over 400 pages – you will be told how much the gutter needs to increase – remember to decrease your outer margin by the same difference).

Using Ctrl+A, select and copy your document, from either your e-book document you created earlier, or your original document if you have not created an e-book yet. Open the pre-sized interior template with either Word or OpenOffice, and paste your document into it. Make sure your document already has a front/title page followed by a page break included in your original document before pasting it in, as the template begins with title page formatting already set. The first page of your novel will look odd (e.g. centred, heading style, bold) when you paste it in, if you do not start your book with a title page.

If you have previously created an e-book and used it as your source, all of your title page, copyright page, table of contents, page breaks and formatting will be preserved. If you have not created an e-book from your original document before, you will need to do some basic cleaning-up at this stage:

For clarity, set your paragraph formatting like this:

  • Left indent: 0cm
  • Right indent: 0cm
  • First line (special): 0.5cm
  • Above paragraph: 0cm
  • Below paragraph: 0cm
  • Line spacing: 1 line

It is up to you how you set out your justification. Both left and parallel margin justification is fine, so it is your choice depending on your preferred aesthetics. Centralising chapter headings, and right justification for other information, is also used.

You will need a title page for the very first/front page – just the title, in the font/size of your choosing, and your name underneath.

The next page is your copyright page. The legal minimum, to protect your rights, is to say ‘Book title © (your name)(year)’ and on the next line ‘The moral right of the author has been asserted’. You do not need to write anything more. If you have given yourself a publisher name, also include it on this page, e.g. First published by XXX Press in (year). You can also list other titles you have previously published on this page.

Then your Contents page/pages should appear, followed by an Introduction page and/or About the Author, a dedication if any, and then your chapters.

Always insert a page break at the end of a chapter or information page. The page break should be immediately after the last full stop of the chapter. This will be preserved if there are any later edits – do not use line returns to move new Chapters onto the next page, which will corrupt at every minor edit anywhere in the book – always use Insert/page break or Ctrl+Enter at the end of the last line of a chapter or information page.

Insert any headers, and page numbers. Your pagination will traditionally start with odd numbers (from 1) on a right-hand page, and even numbers on the left. (N.b, these pages appear back-to-front on-screen while editing in parallel viewing mode – what you will see side-by side on the screen is the right-hand/odd-numbered page on the left, and its reverse to be printed on the right, i.e. the following left-hand page as you turn it in the printed book).

To displace page numbers at the beginning of a book, for example to start with Chapter One on Page 1, click in the footer before the page number on any page, and go to Edit/Fields. In the ‘offset page numbers’ box, type the number of pages you wish to skip before page numbering visibly starts. So if your copyright page, Contents, Introduction and About the Author take up four pages before Chapter One starts, type ‘-4’ numerically (minus four) in the box. You will need to do this for both the left and right-handed page.

Traditionally, Chapter One starts on the right-handed page (viz, offset as page 1). If you have not enough pages beforehand to offset with an even number, it is perfectly acceptable to have a blank page facing page 1, or an image, or a dedication. It is entirely up to you, and often more visually pleasing to have this ‘space’ on the left-hand page, rather than a continuation of previous information such as contents or introduction facing the start of the first chapter.

Your headers are also a matter of aesthetics. You may have your author name as one header, and the book title on the facing page – or if the book is part of a series, you may have the series title on the left and book title on the right, or book’s main title on the left and sub-heading on the right. Or simply the book title on both pages. Once a header is filled in on an even page, it must then be filled in on an odd page to appear throughout, as the page style in the template is ‘mirrored’ but information in these fields is denoted as ‘right page’ and ‘left page’ entries, so like the page numbering field settings, headers must be done twice, but do not have to match on left and right pages.

Page headers are also a space to be creative. You can use Wingding swirlies either side of your title or name, exotic fonts, experiment with font-size and capitals, or just use traditional text. Remember that what you are seeing on the template will print in the finished book as actual size, so opt for clarity, whatever you use. The same goes for your title page and chapter headings – have fun with it.

Footnotes and endnote positioning from your original document will be preserved. You do not need to worry about these. Endnote pages will have a separate header area to the rest of your book, so in your header area there you can have something different if you wish, such as ‘References’ or ‘Articles’ – whatever is relevant to your notes, or you can just fill in your book title/author name as before.

Any internet hyperlinks will need to be changed to actual internet addresses – remember that there is nowhere to click in a paperback book yet!

Some things you can of course do differently in paperbacks, compared to e-books. You can use line returns for spacing and positioning on the page – every page will be printed as you see it on the template document, so you have more freedom. You can use as many different fonts and sizes as you like, special characters, smiley faces, foreign text – whatever takes your fancy.

Any images should be added last, using Insert/Picture/from File, and in order from the front, as they will shunt all text and corrupt the layout of pages following them, which will then need any formatting issues corrected. Pictures will only print grey-scale if you opt for black and white interior printing (pencil drawings and pen-and-ink look wonderful). Short books can be printed with colour interiors – some POD printers only have ‘shiny’ paper stock for this (as in a photobook, or cookery book) and it applies to every page, even those without illustrations. The only decision to make there is cost, as they are more expensive to produce, so you may find it cost-prohibitive to produce a full-colour interior book if it is very long.

Format your pictures using right-click/Picture to resize or crop. Do not drag the corners of the image to re-size – they will distort, and no longer maintain aspect ratio or picture quality. Use the ‘percentage of original’ re-size control in the Format Picture ‘Crop’ window. Vertical and horizontal should match – ensure that if you insert 30% in the vertical, you also put 30% in the horizontal instructions to maintain proportions. You can wrap text around images by aligning them left, right (or centred, if that floats your boat!), right-clicking on the image and selecting ‘Wrap’ or ‘Page Wrap’ and the wrap style you want. If edits are made later, remember that everything shunts up or down a page, and images are the worst offenders. Always check your document from the beginning thoroughly after inserting images and if any further changes afterwards are made. If something nasty occurs, like images overlapping after an edit, or text vanishing behind a picture, it’s best to click on ‘Undo’ and try again.

Once you have finished adding to your interior, proofreading it and dealing with any problems, such as hanging lines at the end of a chapter (where a single line appears in a lonely fashion at the top of the last page in a chapter before a page break – the best way to deal with this is to either give it some company by breaking up a few longer paragraphs in that chapter to move it all down a few lines, or to bring it back a page with some editing – some of my best edits/additions have occurred while dealing with end-of-chapter hanging sentences!), you can page-number your Contents list, which is very pleasing to see in a printed book. If your contents list is still hyperlinked from your ebook file, you can find your page numbers easily by navigating your way through the list and noting down each page that every chapter starts on. Keep a note at this stage of the total number of pages in your document. If you edit at any point after page-numbering your contents list, and it gains or loses you pages, you will have to re-page-number the contents list of every chapter after the loss or gain.

The neatest way to create a numbered contents list in a print book is to use an invisible table. Just insert a table two columns across and with as many lines as you need. Drag the centre line across to the right to make room for longer chapter headings. Cut and paste your chapter headings from the original list, one at a time, into their positions in the table. Then insert your page numbers. Left-justify the chapter headings in the left column, and right-justify the page numbers in the right column by selecting the column, and clicking the appropriate justification button on the toolbar. While the table formatting box is visible, select the entire table, and change the line-style to ‘none’. You will see in your print preview that the lines are invisible. You can also adjust the spacing above and below text in the boxes using Format/Paragraph – this one below is set to 0.05cm, both above line and below line:

CONTENTS:

Introduction
About the Author
Chapter One

1

Chapter Two

7

Chapter Three

16

Chapter Four

24

If your chapter headings, or any headings/text elsewhere in the book still contains navigable hyperlinks, it is now a good idea to right-click on each and remove the hyperlinks, as they may otherwise appear blue, underlined, or in different fonts after saving and exporting to PDF.

Here’s a small problem I’ve encountered when pasting a document into a template using OpenOffice, which is easily remedied. If your prose/paragraphs are refusing to justify vertically at the bottom of pages, or cutting off prematurely and leaving large empty gaps at the bottom of sometimes half a page or more, once you have dealt with all the other issues, this can be remedied. Click the cursor into the prematurely abbreviated paragraph, then in the OpenOffice toolbar select Format>Paragraph and select ‘Text Flow’ in the pop-up box menu. Look for the check-box that says ‘Do not split paragraph’ and make sure it is UN-ticked, before clicking on ‘Apply/OK’. The other check boxes should also be left clear.

IMG-20140803-00622

Un-tick this box in the image above, and confirm by clicking Ok/Apply – all four check boxes should be empty

Your paragraph will now wrap properly to the bottom of the print template. You will need to do this on every following page where the error gaps appear. The gaps may reappear with any further edits to the document, or in really irritating cases if it has been closed after saving and then re-opened, so make sure that this is the last formatting correction you make before saving and exporting the finalised version as PDF. If you are inserting and justifying images as well for an illustrated print book (see below), you can do these paragraph corrections at the same time. You may find that the book is shorter as the text moves up a few pages throughout the whole book, meaning the page numbering in your contents list may also need to be checked and changed. It is all worth it in the end, trust me!

Remember to save your work (‘Save as/Book title’, so you still have a copy of your blank template) in whatever file type you are using.

To export as PDF: In OpenOffice, a text-only book will save perfectly using ‘File/Export as PDF’, and following the prompts. Open the new PDF of your book after saving, and check it to ensure you are pleased with its appearance (and for typos!)

For illustrated print books, or to export from Word, you will need to download a free unlimited-use third-party program called ‘doPDF’ and install it on your PC or laptop. This is required to address problems in documents corrupting during export, such as images shunting to overlap text and blank pages appearing, and also works beautifully when exporting PDFs from Word, Paint, and other programs with no automated PDF creator. It is a small file size and has had no issues in the last two years I have used it. It works by setting itself up from the ‘File/Print’ menu. Once installed, go to File on the toolbar, then select Print… and in the control window, select the printer ‘doPDF’ from the drop-down printer choice menu. Click on ‘okay’ to proceed. It will say as usual ‘printing’ but is not actually printing, but converting the file. Once finished, it will open your new PDF automatically for you to check using your own previously installed Adobe Acrobat. Make sure your Acrobat viewer zoom setting is re-set to 100% to see your new PDF at actual size. You may find yourself having to search for its saved location in your ‘My Documents’ afterwards, but it’s worth it!

You now have a complete interior to upload onto either Createspace or Lulu, or both. Lulu makes lovely dust-jacket hardcovers, so if you have made a 6”x9” interior, you can use it for both hardcover and paperback versions.

Cover image:

You have two choices – you can use the high-quality online cover creators on Createspace or Lulu, using their templates, and add your own high-resolution images, or free non-copyright images (e.g. from www.morguefile.com). These cover creators will calculate the spine width for you automatically and give you a range of font styles, backgrounds and layouts to use. Or you can create your own complete wraparound cover file from scratch. You will need to know the spine width and dimensions required by typing in your page count, trim/book size, and paper quality choice into the Createspace calculator or Lulu, and downloading a cover template to follow, which will have the trim area marked out as well. The cover you create for one site will not be the right spine width for the other, as the paper used by each is of different gauges. The best tool I’ve found to create these single covers is OpenOffice Draw, which exports files as PDF, although you could also use MS Paint or Photoshop, using ‘doPDF’ as your exporter via the Print menu as before. You may find creating a single wraparound cover can be hit-and-miss – I have done so for four of my books and thoroughly enjoyed it, although it was very time-consuming, as covers have to be precisely actual size. I also use the cover creators for other titles and Lulu, as I can use a single image created myself for the front cover, and the rest is just selecting background and font colours on the back and spine to match, and adding a (usually square) author image for the reverse.

Uploading:

Createspace is owned by Amazon, so you only need your Amazon details to set it up, and like KDP for Kindle, it is free to publish, with ISBNs, and to distribute to Amazon.com, Amazon UK, and Amazon Europe. It is also free to list your books elsewhere such as libraries and academic institutions and for direct shop ordering, but it will require you to raise your US cover price. You will need your bank details for any royalty payments.

Use the step-by-step method to publish and follow the prompts. It will issue you a free ISBN, listing Createspace as the publisher. If you buy and supply your own ISBNs, then you are the publisher. Select your trim size and paper stock at this stage – the classic cream paper is good quality, slightly thicker gauge than stark white.

Use the online previewer to review your book after uploading the interior file – reviewing your book by ordering a print copy, before approving it for distribution, can take up to two months just to arrive from the U.S.A. – so it is worth it to go through the online previewer pages as well as quite fun to watch the virtual pages turn and load.

If the online previewer detects problems with your file, address the ones such as ‘insufficient gutter’ or ‘insufficient trim area’. Ensure that if you increase your gutter area, that you decrease your outer margin area by the same amount – or you will narrow the middle text area and increase your page count, forcing you to re-format and re-page number again. A bit of adjustment either side usually does the trick, but a gutter deficiency of a couple of millimetres won’t spoil the readability of the book.

Problems such as low image resolution (as low as 72dpi) do not affect book printing or distribution, and there are perfectly good image reproductions at low-res in print books. Low resolution is generally fine for small graphics and scanned artwork. Photographs print better at a more optimum resolution, 300dpi, which is the recommended resolution for all images in a print book.

If you have selected ‘black and white interior’ any images you have inserted in colour will show up in colour on the previewer, but will print as greyscale (the same goes for the preview on Lulu).

However, you can select a full-colour interior on Createspace, on white paper stock only. The Createspace full-colour interior option is excellent, with a matte finish as in all good colour books, and very good reproduction quality for cartoons and illustrations as well as photographs and graphics, illuminated or colour text. Your book will be more expensive than a black and white interior, so is worth doing if you have a graphic novel or a great many illustrations (for the best value for money) as it applies to every interior page included in the overall price, and for cost-effectiveness is best for shorter, densely illustrated books, no more than 150 pages in length – where readers can appreciate they’re getting a full-colour book without feeling too extorted!

Once you have approved your file, ignored any minor issues and moved on, created or uploaded your cover (a great fun part to do online, as you see it appearing before you!), you will see a summary and a button to ‘submit files for review’. You now wait up to 48 hours, biting your nails, for the human reviewers to quickly check the files as well. Reasons for rejection can be things like the author name and title of the book differing from how they appear on the cover, or another ISBN appearing on the copyright page – I had my other books listed here with their ISBNs, and was told those ISBNs were ‘not correct for this title’ and to update them. I ended up removing them from my book-list altogether, as it was quicker than pointing out their own oversight in not realising they were associated ISBNs alongside a list of my other books. But usually they just highlight minor issues such as image resolution, which can be ignored. You then approve your file by going back onto the site and confirming it for distribution, selecting your sales outlets, adding a description and author blurb, and it will appear on Amazon within a few days. Order a print copy to review as well – it is very cheap, will take a while to arrive, but you will have a copy to proof-read and mark-up for any changes.

Createspace now offer the expanded distribution channels for free should you choose to select them – brilliant. This means your book can be ordered by high street stores and academic/library institutions in the USA. You will be required to raise your Amazon.com cover price, but it will still keep your book within the reasonable price range for a new title.

You can also select your cover ‘finish’ at this stage – gloss or matte (both options are free).

Createspace will offer to forward your paperback file to the KDP site to publish as an e-book for you. I would suggest you say no, especially if you have already published it as an e-book on KDP. This is because you have no idea how your book, optimised for print, will appear on an e-reader. There may be blank e-reader screens, and there will definitely be no linked table of contents or nice hyperlinks elsewhere. Use the e-book formatting guide to optimise an e-book version and publish your ebook separately.

You can upload new versions at any time, and go through the review process again. Always select ‘Interior’ and ‘Change/upload new version’ from your product’s dashboard on Createspace to upload your new edits. Don’t delete the book and start from scratch, or upload it again from the start, or you will have multiple versions available with different ISBNs. Always make changes to the existing book. This will ensure the old version is updated with the same ISBN, and the same product page, rank and ratings on Amazon.

On Lulu: A similar step-by-step process is used, somewhat clearer, to publish books and make available to the public on Lulu, or to distribute to Amazon etc. I find it easiest at present to have my Amazon version published by Createspace with their free ISBN, and to make special editions, hardcovers, and easy-ordering copies for author events printed by Lulu, as paperbacks from Lulu only take two days to arrive. For that, you can select one of the first two publishing options – ‘Make private and available only to me’ or ‘Make public to sell in the Lulu marketplace’ without an ISBN (these two options are 100% free).

Once you complete the process, there is no reviewer stage, and your book is available instantly. Look for coupon codes on their homepage, which are a regular feature – you can get up to 30% off coupons, or free postage, all of which adds up to considerable author savings when ordering copies for your own events. If you have selected option two as above, you will have a Lulu product page to share with the public and on your blog, and your book will be visible via search and browse, unless you make it private and available only to you. You can change your book’s visibility at any time by selecting ‘Revise’ from your author dashboard.

You can have ISBN versions distributed from Lulu as an alternative to Createspace, but the last time I checked into this, the process requires you to have your PDF created by an ‘approved’ agent – so unless you want to pay for this too, stick with Createspace for distribution and ISBNs. You can use Lulu as well as Createspace, for identical books for your own purposes – you are the self-published author and maintain control where your publishing platforms are – but you cannot add your Createspace ISBN as your own on Lulu, as it is not transferable.

An alternative print-on-demand company is Lightning Source, which have a very good reputation, distribution reach (although it is up to you to do the selling and marketing to outlets as before – just because the printers say they supply high street stores does not mean that the shops will automatically order yours for their shelves), and like Createspace now do as a free option (you can order a sample booklet from Createspace to see their cover quality alternatives), they have the option of matte (not smooth satin-finish matte) covers for paperbacks if you like the slightly rubbery recycled car-tyre tactile effect rather than the traditional print-on-demand gloss – but they are expensive and slow to set up, and you have to have a business bank account in your ‘publisher name’. It can cost over £475 to publish one book through them, and spotting a single typo would cost (at last report) up to £88 to upload a revised version. Remember that it’s 100% free to use Createspace and Lulu for the same, and there are no limits on the number of revisions you upload to either of those. Worth mentioning is that if you publish on Createspace, and a customer orders your book from Amazon in the UK or Europe, your book will be printed by Lightning Source anyway, as Createspace have subcontracted their printing locally with Lightning Source to speed up delivery to EU customers. And at no cost to you. (Info: Createspace at London Book Fair, 2013)

A note on uploading illustrated print books: Files of over 15MB will take a long time to upload, and may time out or crash if the site is very busy. Keep persisting, try uploading at different times of day, and close all other work and windows. If there is an apparently insurmountable problem, which so far I only encountered once on Lulu with a file refusing to upload, I looked on their advice page and downloaded an FTP client program which allowed me to transfer the file directly onto their server. It took three hours via FTP, but when it finished and I signed back into that author’s account, the illustrated PDF was available to select from their ‘My Files on Lulu’ at the interior stage of publishing, so it can be done. I have not had problems with Createspace – you just need a little patience while the bigger files upload. If you have compressed the images, as in the instructions for formatting e-books, uploading issues are likely to be less troublesome.

Formatting text and illustrated ebooks for publishing

Since you’ve all been so good to me reading my nonsense, or my making nonsense out of other people’s literary works, I wanted to share my latest instruction handout on formatting ebooks, and also formatting interior print files and covers for POD (Print-on-Demand). So long as you stay within the permitted file size, it’s possible to publish illustrated ebooks for all devices, as well as text-only books, and the idea is to ensure the reading enjoyment of the customer is optimised by making sure everything is clear and easy to navigate. If you want to, you can also include links to multimedia, and that minefield is covered here.

Some things, like linked endnotes, are also still a bit of a minefield, and what works for Kindle won’t work for Smashwords. But the main thing is to get the basic formatting of your book right. So once you’ve cleaned up your spelling, grammar, checked you know the meanings of all the words you’re using (I could write a whole blog post about misplaced meanings that I’ve come across, it’s one of my favourite things about proofreading!), double-checked your research, and decided you’re going to unleash one of the 25,000 new books currently being published every week (source: London Book Fair seminar, April 2013), here’s how to deal with the technical stuff…

FORMATTING E-BOOKS FOR INDIE/SELF-PUBLISHING:

© Lisa Scullard for Writing Buddies, February 2013

Format your ebook first, before your print version.

Your original document may be in Word, Works, Rich Text Format or Open Office text (ODT). The most usual format to save it as and upload into Kindle for sale on Amazon is as a webpage file (HTML). However, if your computer’s word-processor is OpenOffice, your formatting will be preserved better for Kindle if you save it as a Word 2007/XP document (DOC) instead. If you find persistent conversion errors in your HTML file after uploading and previewing it on KDP and Kindle, such as changes to line spacing or font sizes (the ‘Look Inside’ preview on your book’s product page on Amazon is a good indication), go back to your document that you formatted and save it as Word for upload to KDP instead.

Firstly ensure that there are no manual reasons for corruption in the end product. Different fonts are not supported, so your e-book should be set in either Times New Roman or Arial, and no larger than 12-point font size (the e-reader devices support zooming-in and re-justifying of font size for easy reading, so having larger fonts in your original document is not necessary).

*****

For clarity, set your paragraph formatting like this:

  • Left indent: 0cm
  • Right indent: 0cm
  • First line (special): 0.5cm (if centralising a heading or picture/caption, re-set to 0cm or ‘none’ at those points only)
  • Above paragraph: 0cm
  • Below paragraph: 0cm
  • Line spacing: 1.5 lines
  • Paragraph style: either – Normal, Default, Body Text or None – not a combination

It is up to you how you set out your justification. Both left and parallel margin justification is supported, so it is your choice depending on your preferred aesthetics. Centralising chapter headings, and right justification for other information, also works.

Always insert a page break at the end of a chapter or information page. The page break should be immediately after the last full stop of the chapter.

Remove all headers, footers, and page numbers. These will not convert.

Make sure border styles in your ‘Page’ formatting is set to ‘none’.

You can use bold and italics in e-books. These convert well into e-reader format.

Most readers of Kindle prefer a hyperlinked/reverse hyperlinked table of contents, and for other converters including Smashwords and Lulu for Nook and Apple, it is compulsory for distribution. If you do not know how this is done, we will cover it as well.

Automated footnotes1 and endnotesi always convert to appear at the end of a document in e-books. The automated links will not convert into Kindle format unless you manually hyperlink them – they will be numbered, but not navigable otherwise. Remember to link the endnote back to the start of the text where it originated as well. Use the same method to hyperlink them as you do for the contents list and chapters. For Smashwords, all automated bookmarks for footnotes/endnotes must be edited manually to include the prefix: ref_ Then each endnote and its reference will have to be re-hyperlinked manually as well. This ensures that rogue bookmarks do not convert into additional chapter numbers at the end of their automated Table of Contents.

You can use internet hyperlinks in e-books, as most e-readers are browser-enabled. This is useful to direct readers to your website or blog, to online references in non-fiction, or to research articles. Put your personal links in your author page at the beginning of the e-book. Distributors like Nook and Apple will reject books where outgoing links appear at the end of the book.

Straight apostrophes (‘) and speechmarks (“) look better in e-reader screen format than predictive curly ones (“”) and you will also have no problem with them appearing back-to-front as typos. Use ‘Find/Replace All’ to change them – remember to search for both (mirror) versions of each.

*****

Some important DO NOTs:

  • Do not use multiple returns for line spacing. E-readers convert multiple returns at the end of paragraphs, or at the top of pages, into completely blank e-reader pages. For a text pause, use one return and then ‘*****’ as a break (see above), which is the accepted format. You may use a single line return only before a chapter heading following a page break, for aesthetics.
  • Do not use space bar hits for indents, spacing or positioning text. Although fashionable in prose poetry for print books, your formatting will be lost once converted to an ebook. Again, these will convert into blank pages or empty lines, depending on the size of screen your book is viewed on. Phrases positioned using space bar strikes will not preserve their position when converted into e-books, but will simply ‘shunt’ phrases unevenly. Always use paragraph formatting settings (as described above) to create indents. A paragraph indent should never be more than 0.5cm – larger indents, such as 1.5cm, will push the first line of your new paragraph too far across the screen on smaller e-readers, such as the iPhone. You can use ‘Find/Replace all’ to remove multiple space bar hits – simply search for two spaces and replace with one space, and repeat until no more double spaces are found. This ensures that only one space at most appears between words, or in error. You can also use ‘Show Non-printing characters’ to scroll through and find spaces inserted in error at the start of a new paragraph.
  • Do not insert an additional blank line/return at the end of a chapter – this will convert into an empty e-reader page between the chapters.
  • If your writing style includes ellipses (…) make sure your ellipse immediately follows the previous word, without a space in between, i.e. ‘ellipse…’ or ‘ellipse… continued’ is correct whereas ‘ellipse …’ or ‘ellipse … continued’ will give the e-reader the ability to shunt the ellipse by itself to the start of a new line, or even to the top of a new page. This is frustrating if the ellipse appears at the end of dialogue or a paragraph, meaning that the sentence will appear to cut off dead on the previous page, while the three dots, or three dots and closed speech-mark, will appear all alone on a new line, or at the top of the next page. (The same can happen when formatting print books as the lines re-justify to your trim size). For your prose to make sense, always anchor your ellipses to the previous word by leaving no space in between them. Use ‘Find/Replace all’ to search for ellipses with a space before them ( …) and replace with ones without (…)
  • Do not include hyperlinks leading to other e-book retailers – for example, e-books containing links to Amazon, including your Amazon author page, will be rejected by Apple, Kobo and Nook etc. Link instead to the ‘books’ page of your blog or website, to direct readers to find your other work, on your ‘About the Author’ page at the start of your e-book.
  • Do not include pages and pages of reviews and comments at the start of your book, unless they are by celebrities! (This is a Kindle audience preference). A few comments are fine, should you wish, or a single page ‘Introduction’.
  • Do not use Wingdings, smiley faces or other non-typographical characters, even if they appear predictively through key-strikes. These do not convert into e-reader format. On my first attempt, I found these converted into empty square boxes on Kindle, and Chinese lettering on Smashwords! If you want to insert a character which is not on your keyboard, use ‘Insert/Special character’ from your chosen font only (for example, when writing the word pâté) and if you want to insert a smiley face or swirly shape as an artistic form, use ‘Insert/Picture/From File’ – there will be more on inserting pictures later, as the saved file format and layout is more complicated.
  • Do not leave a hanging space bar strike at the end of a paragraph. This will insert a blank line under the paragraph.

*****

Once you have cleaned up and formatted your file as above, there are a few inclusions to add. You will need a title page – just the title, in Bold, and your name underneath. This is usually centralised, and should have no more than one line return above the heading for aesthetics. Do not try to position it halfway down the page using line returns, or the first few pages of your e-book will be blank on smaller e-reader screens. A page break should follow immediately after your name.

The next page is your copyright page. Some authors write long-winded copyright pages. The legal minimum, to protect your rights, is to say ‘Book title © (your name)(year)’ and on the next line ‘The moral right of the author has been asserted’. You do not need to write anything more below that. If you have given yourself a publisher name, also include it on this page, e.g. First published by XXX Press in (year). Do not say ‘published by Kindle’ – they are not your publisher, just your distribution platform.

However, when publishing on Smashwords for Apple and Nook etc, and accepting a free Smashwords ISBN for distribution, they require acknowledgement as your distributor. In this instance, you must have ‘Smashwords Edition’ on the first (title) page, or the copyright page under your name, to be accepted for distribution. If you have paid for and supplied your own ISBN, then you are the publisher and must use the publisher name you bought the ISBNs with.

The free ASIN e-book identifier that appears automatically on your Kindle copy when you publish through KDP is not an ISBN, and not transferable – likewise, you cannot list your Smashwords-supplied ISBN on your Kindle version.

Lulu do not require to be referenced in your e-book as the publisher, when issuing their exclusive free ISBN for distribution on Nook and the iBookstore. If you have used Lulu, and also wish to publish on Kobo directly, you do not need to reference them as your publisher in the file either, or require your own ISBN. One will be issued free for Kobo once your book goes public, even if you leave the ISBN field empty when uploading the book on your Kobo Writing Life publishing dashboard.

*****

Following the copyright page is the Table of Contents. This should be hyperlinked. Your chapters can be named or numbered, standard numeric or Roman Numeral, or simply headed by title, e.g. all of these are acceptable:

  • Chapter One

  • Chapter 1

  • One

  • Chapter I

  • Ch. 1: A Mysterious Event

  • I – A Mysterious Event

  • Chapter One ~ A Mysterious Event

  • A Mysterious Event…

Or any combination of the above. A chapter heading should be long enough to understand and to navigate via hyperlink on a touch-screen, but not too long that it takes up several lines on a smaller e-reader. For example, the longest chapter heading I have in the Zombie Adventures series so far is ‘Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Leg of Extraneous Genito-Urinary Medicine’ – in the contents list, I only used the titles, not the chapter numbers, and it still took up two lines!

The way to hyperlink your chapters for Kindle and Smashwords is to insert bookmarks above each chapter heading, thus:

^Top of Contents page following page break^

(Insert bookmark in blank line here: Position cursor, Insert/Bookmark, e.g. ‘Contents’)

CONTENTS:

Introduction

About the Author

Chapter One: A Mysterious Event

(^Hyperlink to corresponding bookmark ‘001’^)

Chapter Two: Another Event… etc.

^Top of new chapter page following page break at end of previous chapter^

(Insert bookmark in blank line here: Position cursor, Insert/Bookmark, e.g. ‘001’)

CHAPTER ONE:

(^Hyperlink to bookmark ‘Contents’^)

A MYSTERIOUS EVENT

Where the bookmark is positioned determines the top of the e-reader page when the link is navigated. You can have the bookmark on the word ‘Contents’ but having it in a blank line above is aesthetically pleasing, and less overcrowded at the top of the screen.

Then hyperlink your chapter headings in the Contents list to the start of the corresponding chapters, by selecting the text to link and then using, from the toolbar, or by right-clicking: ‘Insert/Hyperlink/Target in document/Bookmarks(show list)+/(select appropriate chapter bookmark)’ and reverse-hyperlink the chapters themselves as shown above by selecting the chapter heading at the start of each chapter, and using ‘Insert/Hyperlink/Target in document/Bookmarks(show list)+/Contents’. Click ‘Apply’ before ‘close’ on the hyperlinks window, and your links should appear as above. Remember this style of contents list formatting is compulsory for Smashwords, for distribution to Apple, Nook, Kobo, and other outlets. They do not currently serve Amazon.

If you are using Lulu for your Nook, Kobo and Apple distribution, the chapter list is linked differently. Simply ensure that the rest of your document contains no ‘Heading’ styles, and format the title page heading (your ‘book title‘), the ‘Contents‘ heading (but not the chapter list) and each chapter title (at the start of each chapter only) all as the style ‘Heading 1‘. Then save as a Word 97/2000/XP doc. This is much simpler and quicker to do, and they have recently added distribution to Amazon Kindle and Kobo – previously they only sold to Apple and Nook. They pay regularly at a minimum of only £3 ($5) revenue gain. If you use Lulu and choose to have them distribute to Amazon Kindle as well, you will not need to use Amazon KDP.

Once your linked Table of Contents is complete, and you are sure there are no other potential conversion corruptions in the file, you are ready to save and upload. All of the below options are 100% free:

To save a file for upload to Kindle (kdp.amazon.com – you will need your Amazon account details to sign in and set up, and a bank account to receive royalties – for EFT payments there is no minimum payout threshold, except for sales in Amazon Brazil, and payout direct to bank takes place in the month 60 days after sale. Click on ‘Save As…’ and save it as Webpage (complete) – .HTML. Other file types such as Word are accepted and convert well if properly formatted as above. Kindle Help recommend HTML to prevent corruption of things like the linked Table of Contents and image cropping.

To save a file for upload onto Smashwords (www.smashwords.com – you will need a Paypal account to receive royalties quarterly, at a $10 minimum threshold) save it as ‘Word 97/2000/XP’ – .DOC.

To save it for upload onto Lulu* as an e-book (www.lulu.com – you will need a Paypal account to receive royalties), save it as Word 97/2000/XP as above – .DOC.

*You can also self-publish e-books on Kobo, if you have only used Lulu for Apple, Nook, and/or Kindle. (www.kobo.com/writinglife – you will need a bank account to receive royalties), save it as Word 97/2000/XP as above, or Open Office Open Document Text – .DOC or .ODT.

If uploading to Smashwords, you will not need to use Lulu, and vice versa. Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon, so you will have to use KDP for that.

COVER FILE:

In all of the above cases, you will need a separate JPEG cover file, high resolution, aspect ratio ‘portrait’ minimum 1400×2000 pixels to ensure reduced image quality. Do not insert these images into your e-book file – the online converter will do this for you, and you will be asked to add it via a separate instruction. The cover file and image is entirely your taste and choice, but for Lulu and Smashwords ISBN distribution, they must contain the title and your author name, exactly as they appear on the book’s title page (i.e. no alternative spellings, initials or additional extensions). It is recommended that they appear eye-catching in both thumbnail and full-screen, but there is no tried-and-tested style guarantee.

Thousands of free photographic images without copyrights attached or credits required, are available on www.morguefile.com, which you can customise and adapt any way you like, and appear in a range of resolutions and sizes. Search their site by keyword, e.g, trees, rainbow, cocktails, church, clouds, military etc.

*****

PREVIEWING BEFORE PUBLISHING AS AN EBOOK:

If you want to preview your ebook without the risk of publishing it on a public platform first, you can convert the file on your computer using Mobipocket Creator, a free non-nagware program to create mobi (Kindle) files. Your document will need to be saved as Word (see the instructions for illustrated books for Smashwords, Lulu & Kobo below if your file contains images). Once you have installed the free (full unlimited use) program, follow the prompts to create a mobi version of your book. If you don’t have a Kindle or Kindle app to try it out on, you can also download the Mobipocket Reader app for your computer or tablet desktop, which will open your mobi file for you automatically when you click on the new ebook document from its saved location in your hard drive files. Your mobi ebook can also be transferred like any other document to another file or memory stick, or attached to emails if you want to send it to reviewers for feedback.

ILLUSTRATED E-BOOKS:

So far I have had success creating illustrated e-books on Kindle format, because the accepted file type (HTML.zip) supports inclusion of an image file, and for Smashwords in Word document (.DOC), where the graphic links have been broken (meaning that the images are embedded, not in a separate file) and the images are compressed to be optimised for ‘web/screen’ i.e. to 96 dpi.

After creating your e-book document as above for Kindle, add your images where you want them to appear in the text, right-click each image, and in ‘Format Picture’ ensure that ‘page wrap’ is set to ‘none’ and the image is centred. You can also crop at this stage.

Images should be no more than A4 in original size before inserting, and should be saved once inserted, using image menu ‘Format/Picture/Compress’ as ’96dpi/Apply to all images in document’. This reduces the file memory size to a manageable one for uploading. Images can be landscape, portrait or square (in fact anything), but remember they tend to appear at the top of a new e-reader page due to shape and size, so the previous e-reader page may cut off early, as it shunts the image to the next page. For this reason, do not place images in the middle of a sentence or paragraph, where a large gap in the previous page would make no sense. They work best at the beginning and/or end of chapters. One way to have a neater presentation is to always have a page break before an illustration, and to insert any caption as text on the illustration itself before inserting, using MS Paint or Picasa image editing tools. As you will have no control over where text on the previous screen will cut off, depending on how much the reader has zoomed in on your font for reading, it may be more aesthetically pleasing – particularly in non-fiction books – to have the phrase ‘Photo (or ‘illustration’) on following page’ on a new line below the last paragraph before the page break where you will insert the image.

The e-reader conversion means that larger images will automatically be sized to fit the screen being viewed on, while tiny images will stay tiny. This does not always appear true in Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ preview, which is quite scarily random as the page boundaries are not set, but on the e-readers you can trust that your images will fit the screens.

Illustrated ebooks for Kindle:

Once complete, save as ‘webpage’ (HTML) as before. Then right-click on the icon for your HTML document, and select ‘Send to… Compressed/zip file or folder’.

A folder with a zip logo on it will appear under the same name, e.g. ‘Mysterious Events.zip’. Also a new separate folder will appear with the same the name as your book, e.g. ‘Mysterious Events files’ in the same location. This contains the tagged image duplicates required for your Kindle book. Click on the new ‘files’ folder containing these duplicated images, and drag it over into the HTML ‘.zip’ folder so that it is inside the zipped folder as well. You now have a complete zipped HTML file with tagged images, to upload as an illustrated e-book. When you sign in to KDP, select the ‘.zip’ folder as your file to upload.

N.B. When formatting illustrated ebooks in OpenOffice for Kindle, use the html-to-doc method described below, as for Smashwords, Lulu or elsewhere, and use the ‘saved as Word doc’ version for upload to Kindle KDP – NOT the html original. You are only saving your OpenOffice odt file as html initially in that instance in order to select and break the image links into an embedded format, but they are not preserved in the html for upload to KDP.

The previewer for ‘Kindle Fire’ and ‘iPad’ on KDP will show your illustrations in colour, but remember the basic Kindle has a grey-scale screen only, so the previewer will only show what your images will look like in black-and-white. This does not affect your original file.

KDP will offer to show a list of perceived spelling errors in your book, and after viewing this it is worth clicking on ‘Send this to me as an email’ so that you can review them and make any corrections before re-saving your file and uploading again.

Illustrated ebooks for Smashwords, Lulu and Kobo:

After inserting your images, go to ‘Edit’ in the Toolbar and select ‘Links’. In the dialogue box, a list of your images and their source locations will appear. Hold down the Ctrl key plus A, and select all the Graphic file locations in the list, then click on ‘Break Links’ and confirm the command. Your images are now saved within the file, which will be much bigger. There is a maximum file size limit, so you will also need to compress images as below – but not necessarily reduce their dimensions.

To do this when using OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Word, you will have to save your odt document as ‘webpage’ (html) first to embed the images. After doing so and closing it, go to its saved location and right-click on it, and select ‘Open using… OpenOffice Writer.’ When it re-opens for editing, follow the process for breaking the image links as above. Then use ‘Save as’ to save it as a Word (.doc) and confirm. Check that the links are still broken by clicking on the Edit menu (if the ‘Links’ command is not clickable, you have succeeded and won’t have to do so again). Use this saved-as-Word document for your upload – check your conversion previews carefully to ensure the images are in place.

To reduce the memory size required for the illustrated Word document (it will need to be less than 10MB for Smashwords and less than 600MB for KDP) in MS Word, right-click on any image in the document and select ‘show image toolbar’. Hover over the small white square in the pop-up toolbar that has an arrow pointing inwards at each corner. This is ‘compress pictures’. Select the option in the dialogue box that says ‘Web/screen’ (96dpi) and ‘delete cropped areas of pictures’ and ‘apply to all images in document’ and confirm the command. Your illustrations will look exactly the same in quality and size as you have placed them, but will take up only about a third of the original memory. Save as Word 97/2000/XP .doc. You now have a complete illustrated ebook document ready for upload onto Smashwords, Lulu or Kobo. Only upload this document as is – do not ‘zip’ it before uploading.

You can reduce image resolution of very high-res images in OpenOffice by using the ‘Mosaic’ filter in the Picture Tools toolbar – try a re-scaling of 4 pixels or 2 pixels to adjust them. If they subsequently blur or pixelate in your book, then they were already low-res enough and just click on ‘Undo.’ I’ve found this does not necessarily change the memory size taken up by the file significantly, but may do so with very densely-illustrated ebooks.

Always check your conversion previews. On KDP there is a good online previewer, while the best way to preview and check your Smashwords or Lulu version is to download your converted .EPUB file for Nook from your finished product page, and view it using Adobe Digital Editions (free to download and install from Adobe). The online-reading previewer for Smashwords strips out all your links and paragraph formatting for simplicity, so it is not true to your final version – it is only meant as a sample, so don’t take it as your final conversion. The .EPUB file on Adobe Digital Editions will show you the final version, fully-converted and functional.

*****

Editing your book after publishing:

Make your edits to the original document (right-click on your HTML document, select ‘Open using…’ your chosen word-processor) edit and save it as before. Select the title of the book you want to update on your Kindle dashboard and in the menu select ‘Edit book details’. Scroll down to ‘Browse for interior file’ and upload your new version. Preview your changes to ensure it has updated, click ‘Save and Continue’ and then ‘Save and Publish’ on the next page as before. Always make changes to the existing book – do not start again from scratch, as it will appear as multiple books with multiple product pages on Amazon.

The same when updating versions on Smashwords, Lulu and Kobo – edit your original Word document and save it again, select the title from your dashboard online, and edit/update it from there. On Lulu, at the interior file stage, delete the old file as it appears on the dashboard below the ‘Browse’ button before uploading the new one. Otherwise you will be asked to select from the multiple files available, which can get confusing.

KDP Select: AT YOUR OWN RISK 🙂

Smashwords discussion on FB

A version of your e-book must be exclusive to Amazon Kindle to use this. If the identical e-book is available elsewhere, your book is not eligible for the scheme. But you can publish the book in print, have 10% samples available online on your blog, continue to submit to agents, or have your book serialised in print magazines and journals.

They are getting stricter, but at your own risk, you can try any of the options below. If they judge that your book is not exclusive, they will contact you within around 14 days of enrollment:

You can publish alternative content versions or ‘special editions’ either exclusively to Kindle, or elsewhere as e-books – with bonus material, or omnibus editions, without risking your KDP Select status. So long as the content of the book, its title and cover enrolled in KDP Select is not identical to other e-books available on Nook, Apple etc, you will have no problems with it. For example, you could have ‘Mysterious Events’ on Amazon Kindle and enrolled in KDP Select, and also ‘Mysterious Events: Omnibus Edition’ with a slightly different cover available on both Smashwords and Amazon Kindle, but not enrolled in KDP Select.

If you enrol your book in KDP Select, it allows Amazon Prime readers to ‘borrow’ your e-book rather than purchase, should they wish, and also gives you five days you can list your book as free every three months in any order you choose using ‘Manage promotions’. Wet bank holidays are good uses of this, and will gain you a number of downloaders looking for freebies.

However, this is no indication of actual reads, these free promotions tend to attract no reviews, and then often negative ones, or ‘one-star review’ protection racket-style scams, whereby you are then spammed by pay-per-review promotion schemes. You may attract one or two follow-on sales, and I mean literally one or two!

But you may be lucky, and find readers keen on your subject who continue to share and promote it on your behalf.

Smashwords promotions:

Smashwords allows you to set up free promotion codes any time of your choosing, by generating a 100% off cover price coupon for you to share privately or publicly with friends, family, customers, blog followers, or in contest giveaways – simply select your published title and set up a coupon for your chosen time period, which will email you a code. There are no limitations of usage for this facility on Smashwords, and your book does not have to be ‘exclusive’.

Pricing:

Amazon is the only site so far I am aware of which sets up competitive pricing. If your e-book is cheaper on Smashwords, and it is reported to Amazon by a customer as ‘cheaper elsewhere’, Amazon will also cut the price and thereby your royalty. So it is best to have your prices congruent. Having a coupon code available on Smashwords will not affect this, as the ‘for sale cover price’ visible on your product page online will remain the same, and the coupon details remain private to you and those you share it with.

1 A footnote appears on the relevant page in a document, but will convert to an endnote in an e-book, like this.

i An endnote always appears at the end of a document, like this. All footnotes also convert to endnotes in e-books, in a separate list.

Have fun and good luck 🙂 xxx

Funnily Enough…

The Kindle bestseller Funnily Enough, by the awesome Sophie Neville 🙂

Here’s how the latest bestseller happened to find its way onto Kindle in the first place…

In spring 2011, a conventional English rose of a lady popped down to her local photocopy and printer outlet, to have one of her screenplays bound. The intrepid Sophie Neville, actress, writer, charity-founder, explorer of darkest Africa, had written among other things waiting in her bottom drawer, a true-life, historical wartime romance based in Tanzania. She started to chat about it to the helpful young man at the counter.

The young man said, “My sister writes as well. Screenplays and books. She’s just published some on Amazon.”

Intrigued, Sophie scribbled out her telephone number and directions to her house.

These subsequently found their way to me, early one morning, when my Mum came over to feed her cat, who has adopted my front garden as his permanent pied-a-terre. My Mum told me I have to ring this woman, who is a local film producer and wants to see my screenplay.

Having finally found Sophie’s house, which wasn’t easy (Sophie usually draws far better maps, but in this case I ended up at the ferry port first), we met for the first time. Her house at the time was more of a work-in-progress than her writing. She had just gutted out the bijou manor-style house for a renovation, and plastic was still covering the structure where the conservatory would be. She and her husband were camped out in the annexe for the duration.

We had a cup of tea and a rather nice chat. It turned out that Sophie was the Sophie Neville who played ‘Titty’ from Swallows and Amazons, which I had probably seen at some point, between The Great Escape and The Railway Children in distant holiday-TV memory. And she was interested in reading my screenplay about bouncers, because she had a friend in the business who was developing some concept for TV about female personal security. Having been in security work as my main job for some time previously, including before and after SIA licensing, she wanted to know what my insights were.

So we did a read swap. She went off to read Heavy Duty and some first proof copies of Death & The City, and I went off to read Makorongo’s War. I quite enjoyed it. Not my usual subject matter, but it was good writing, and I could see it working well as a film.

In turn, Sophie liked Heavy Duty, and wanted to see more material. She also loved Death & The City, and was a useful spare pair of eyes to have when proof-reading. She started talking about me making supporting trailers for my script, and asking if I would write a screenplay of the novel. But having done producing myself previously, I did say I’d only work on further adaptation of my work if a company optioned it, and I was paid to do so as part of a contractual agreement. I’ve had a go in my own time at playing around with this sort of thing, but not at the request of anyone else. If someone else wants it for their own future purposes, they can pay for it 😉

Anyway, back to Sophie. Sophie had only one old out-of-date website, for her artwork, and an IMdB page. What concerned her was that if Will Smith was handed a copy of Makorongo, and he Googled her, he’d find a hundred other Sophie Nevilles, mostly young ladies in schoolgirl fancy dress on Facebook.

I remember the first time I sat at her computer, and she Googled herself on Images. She pointed at all these grinning photographs of young women on birthdays and hen nights, and asked me: “How do I get rid of all these girls, who are appearing here instead of me?”

Ahem… okay, well, I just write fiction about hit-men, I don’t think she could afford that sort of intervention… it’s all a bit Terminator when you think about it. But that’s not what she meant, of course. She wanted to have her photographs appearing in the top matches. The problem was, she only had about three photographs of herself online. So, we started talking about WordPress, and Twitter, and Youtube, and blog pages, where she could add images that would start appearing in a Google search – they can’t appear if they don’t exist in cyber-space.

And she also wanted to publish her diaries and letters, which she’d had typed up for some time, and edited, and even at one point had an agent some years ago, until he passed away – hopefully not the subject of Googling with extreme prejudice. So I introduced her to the wonders of KDP, Createspace, Lulu, OpenOffice, and Authonomy.

It took a while, as I found Sophie likes the socialising, networking and marketing part more than the technical – so it was me ranting at the computer and scanner and various uploaders. Having taken her through the process of setting up pages on WordPress, she entered her bio, some photographs, and some links to her Facebook and Twitter and IMdB, and then asked me how you got people to look at it.

“Well, you have to start writing posts on it.”

“I did one. And those girls are still appearing in Google Images. How do I remove them?”

*Cough* Okay. So I explained about continuing to add posts and images to a WordPress blog, essentially what a blog entails, with interesting anecdotes, stuff you’ve done, or where you’ve been. Basically, more posts = more matches to your name in Google. You can’t just ‘have other matches removed’ – as if they’re something you can delete from a folder in your own hard drive – but you can add more of your own.

And then she’d take me to look at the main house (still in progress) and ask me where the best place to put a stove island and an extractor hood was. Usually in the kitchen, I find.

So she started writing about being in Swallows and Amazons. And not just a little – she had a lot to write about. She’d kept her diaries from 1973, and also had her father’s own behind-the-scenes footage which could be edited into Youtube clips. Her memory is so good, within a short time followers were flocking to read about the filming that took place on Coniston Water, in real boats, and where the cast and crew hung out, what they got up to, and what else they went on to work in. Half of the technical crew seem to have won Oscars since, working on films like The King’s Speech.

But I have to say, the best stuff doesn’t make it onto the blog. The best stuff comes out while she’s sitting next to me, maybe while I’m cutting footage of the crew eating lunch, and suddenly I’ll hear about who wasn’t really there as part of ‘Wardrobe’ at all. A bit of extra-curricular seamstressing, maybe… I recall her laughing and pointing at a clip saying “How did he get hold of a boat? He was in charge of the chemical toilet. He told all the girls on the set that he was the producer!”

Shortly, due to the matches she was creating by her regular posts and media, more matches for Sophie began appearing in Google searches, and she stopped worrying about what Will Smith would think. The occasional Facebook girl would pop up, but not enough to ask me any more awkwardly-worded questions about displacing them 🙂

In the meantime, we were formatting Funnily Enough, her diary from 1991, when she arrived home from South Africa to work for the BBC, and abruptly collapsed with CFS. But instead of a mis-lit about illness, it’s a British romp of true-life, about an English upper-class family all working in television and film (including their famous pets), while their adult daughter returns home to bed for ten months, unable to do much more than watch the pratfalls of everyone passing through, praying for God to see her through to health and sanity again.

I loved it, and I’m neither a true-life or religious reader. My first novel was about teenage blackmailers and Satanists, but Sophie and I share the same sense of the satirical, so I could see immediately why she enjoyed Death & The City on reading the first draft.

There were a few typographical issues and edits, but it was pretty much ready to publish, once the file was set up with her illustrations included (colour for the Kindle, if your app is on a colour screen). I would occasionally query things, like for example, a dog’s rather questionable name…

“Was ‘Dogger’ really that dog’s name?”

“Yes, why?”

“Do you know what ‘dogging’ means…?”

“No, what?”

And then I would tell her. And she would laugh. “Oooh – we have to leave it in!”

Anywho… Things were going pretty well – she’d done some promotions over Christmas, and had a book launch at Ashton House. Sales of print versions through Lulu.com direct were going well, and the ebook trickled along too.

Then, as the reviews started to come in, other feedback followed it, usually from her sisters, and old friends. “We were wondering… would you mind changing the name of…” It seems that although they’d all read it ten years ago, and said yes to it all, now they were getting older, some sort of decorum had entered their lives. And although yes, they’d love to be associated with a successful book, perhaps certain things could be moved to a respectful arm’s length, when facing the church and pony club circuit.

These requests seemed to be turning up daily for about two months. I’d arrive at Sophie’s having just uploaded and approved a new version, and she’d greet me with “More changes, I’m afraid… we need to change ‘Seargent’ to ‘Field-Marshall’, and So-and-So wants their neighbour’s house name taken out because they’re trying to sell it…” Nothing to do with the fact that Fred West was doing a lot of driveways and patios around there at the time it was written, honest…

So I’d argue for some things to stay in, especially when one reading group of her sister’s, who didn’t know Sophie, were apparently only interested in gossip about her family and not in the fact it was Sophie’s diary, and wanted her parts of it edited out entirely. I argued that I’m about as far away from a spiritual Christian memoir fan as it’s possible to be (sitting here at home right now listening to Korn’s slash metal Greatest Hits Vol.1, wearing a Hell Bunny t-shirt, and wondering why I’m lacking Pringles nearby while the lawn wants mowing and the cats want biscuits) and I loved it. And it’s Sophie’s memoir. She’s entitled to be in it…

The problems arose from these multiple edits when the PDF converter got tired of all the shuffling around of various words, and started to drop images out in the print copy conversion, or add blank pages, where the carefully-laid-out pages were no longer justified. We had some revised proofs back with missing pictures, or text obliterated by images that had shunted. Lulu’s customer services gave us a great tip about downloading doPDF, which I used in conjunction with OpenOffice to export PDFs more reliably. I made a point of doing a page-by-page check of every single new version of the PDFs on the screen in front of me before uploading them. When having to do this with new edits every few days until the furore calmed down, it was frustrating. Sophie was of the opinion that she should be aiming to please everyone she knew, or even didn’t know, and although it’s sweet and admirable, none of those people know the work that she’s already put in. Or that if you take out a paragraph, every image after it has jumped, and nothing is where you last had it. Blank spaces appearing and page numbers obliterated and everything. It all has to be re-justified and/or re-sized manually.

It also meant editing the ebook file separately in parallel, as it’s a completely different format to a print PDF. And although there was no problem with the pagination in that, as a Kindle book is a continuous file, the images liked to give themselves a random aspect ratio occasionally, or jump off-centre, so those would have to be adjusted manually too.

…I got my own back though. You’ll have to read the sequel to see it, but all these name-changes and place-name changes led me to be, shall we say, creative – in the naming of a certain village 😉 Sophie did give me the go-ahead, but still…!

Most of these edits arrived as we were in the middle of formatting the sequel, Ride the Wings of Morning – Sophie’s letters to and from Africa, when she escaped back there to work on horseback safaris, and immediately recovered from her illness. So some of these little changes had to be made in that document as well. Again, the minor edits screwed up a lot of the pagination. We’d done a perfectly good upload and got some proofs back, and then the teeny tiny changes were necessary again. The PDF was perfect, but the uploader didn’t want to know – it would crawl to the end of the ‘uploaded’ bar, and then freeze – you couldn’t move onto the next step, and the document never transferred into her online files.

Due to the much larger number of illustrations, the file by this time for the paperback of RtWoM was ten times bigger than Funnily Enough, at 111MB. After seven attempts at uploading the new revision onto Sophie’s print-on-demand page, yesterday I downloaded an FTP client access program and copied the file directly onto their server. It took three times as long, but arrived in one piece in her file list, and could then be imported into the new revision of her book, which is now public. Any more changes will have to get past me 😉

The last thing I found in the ebooks, completely by chance and just before the London Book Fair 2012 promotion, was that the endnotes didn’t convert into links on KDP. I was checking it after loading it onto Sophie’s Android tablet, and realised that the automatic superscripted endnote links were dud. They’d appear at the end of the book, but the mutual hyperlinks set automatically by the document in Word were lost. No idea why. It meant you couldn’t navigate them. So I went through and bookmarked them all manually, inserting hyperlinks that did work. Just in time for the promo on Kindle to start last weekend.

Well, Sophie was at home on Facebook and Twitter, happily sharing some links to her London Book Fair freebie. I was probably asleep until lunchtime, crawled out of bed as usual, looked at my own Book Fair freebie promo for Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition and decided it could get on by itself as it had already had 30 downloads in my sleep, and I’d Tweet when my laptop could be bothered to load Twitter. I looked at Sophie’s Funnily Enough, and it was ZOOMING up the UK charts.

Over the next four days, Funnily Enough reached #2 in all categories on Amazon UK Kindle Free, #1 in Humour, #1 in Parenting & Families, and #1 in Self-Help. And after the London Book Fair promo ended, it’s still selling, and already closing in on the top 100 paid, having cut a swathe back into the top ten of its categories.

If you want a taste of the classic, upper-crust British sense of humour at its best, the type from Ealing comedy to Fawlty Towers, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Funnily Enough and Ride the Wings of Morning, both by Sophie Neville, are available on Kindle worldwide.

L xxx 🙂