Goodreads campaigns

After the Countdown deal at Amazon for Stone Bay by Min Edwards, we decided to see what an ad would do to increase readership at Goodreads. The campaigns are interesting. For a set fee (we chose $50) and a set click-fee (we chose $0.50 per click) Goodreads will display your ad to a filtered readership (Adult Fiction, Romance, etc). Everytime someone clicks on your ad, Goodreads takes $0.50 out of your budget. Often the same people who click to see your Goodreads profile, also place your book on their bookshelf to purchase/read later.

I don’t see the down-side of this at all. You budget your ad money, the ad (ads, you can run several simultaneously) runs until there’s no more money in your ad account, and I feel if readers just see your cover it’s got to be good for you, right?

However, I’m on an RWA self-publishing loop (a Yahoo Group set up by Romance Writers of America members) and there hasn’t been many kind words for this kind of campaign. I’m not sure I see the drawbacks. You make an ad, you decide your budget, voila, the ad flies until you run out of money! I’ve been pretty happy with it so far. It’s run a week and we have 6 Goodreads readers who’ve put the book in their to-be-read pile and we’ve sold books! How can that be bad?

We also discovered after our Amazon countdown sale ran it’s course… and yes, we sold books! That we couldn’t do this again until September (only once in your Kindle Select enrollment.) However, and this is cool… we can run another countdown deal at Nowhere else though. So as soon as Stone Cold, our Romantic Suspense title, is ready to publish, we’re going to do the UK thing for Stone Bay.

Marketing is hard!!! My virtual assistant had several clients, but has decided to concentrate on just my books… well, he’s my son, so of course he’d want to exclusively help his mom!

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KDP Countdown Promotion

My first promotion beginning Thursday, July 17th. For one week our author, Min Edwards (who is actually me), will have her novel, Stone Bay, on sale for $0.99. This promotion is in celebration of the sales she’s gotten, the reviews readers have kindly left on her product page at Amazon, and the successful book signing and talk on July 15th at the Lubec Memorial Library. People came, they asked questions, they were interested! And even men asked questions! I’m was so impressed, bless their hearts.

I shared the stage with two sisters, Judy Hupp and Brenda Norris, who write as Sadie and Sophie Cuffe… with a blog ‘Off the Cuffe’ and multiple books published by a small press in California. They are lovely ladies and the juxtaposition of agented and traditionally published authors and me, an indie-published author and owner of my own publishing house, was truly entertaining. I think we learned a lot from each other. And I hope we brought the audience into the 21st century of publishing.

I’m a bit nervous about the countdown promotion actually. I’ve gotten some nice reviews but I’ve heard that the cheaper the book, the more likely it will be to get bad reviews. Oh, well. What it is, it is. I’ll just not read any reviews less than 3 stars. Although I think the book is pretty good after the agony of just having it line-edited and proofed, then realizing that it wasn’t enough, and going back after the book had been up at Amazon for a few months, and getting a Developmental Editor to give it a look… then of course another proof, then a few more errors that a reader found (word usage, not actual typos), then a new version uploaded to Amazon as well as a print version. And I’ve sold some copies of those too!!!

So, now I’m a publisher and my alter-ego, Min Edwards, is an author. And, boy howdy, does that feel good. Go to this link and read an excerpt from my newest work in progress, Stone Fall, Book 3 in the High Tide Suspense series. Enjoy!


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KDP and Reconversion

The new Content menu on the Kindle is no longer the Table of Contents… I blogged about this recently, but I’m still upset by it.  On the iPad (Kindle app) that content menu shows the TOC that I construct manually and I do this for every file I format.  But now the new Kindles show the NCX table of contents which picks up the heading styles (h1, h2, h3) from the file and uses those to guide people through your book.  However, when you upload a mobi file (that’s the format that Amazon uses) to KDP (the Amazon platform) they convert your mobi all over again. And any futzing with a finished product you know can introduce unwanted things.

On our new book, Stone Bay (, our first novel from A Thirst Mind publishers,  that perfect little mobi file that we spent so much time on got tweaked by KDP on re-conversion. Now the Epilogue, instead of being an h2 style is now an h3… so that means the two excerpt headings for Stone Cold and Stone Heart are h4 heading styles. No problem you say? Well, actually the NCX only picks up the first 3 heading styles… see where this is going? Those two excerpts disappear from the Content menu on the Kindle.  They of course don’t disappear from the book and you can still reach them through the actual Table of Contents which is in the text of the book… but I’m disgusted. You work so hard to make things perfect… and then they’re not!

I had to tweak the mobi file anyway to add a live link to the phrase about ‘leaving a review’, so I made sure that the guide features were correct, and that the headings for the Epilogue and Excerpts were h2 and h3 respectively. Nary an h4 in sight! We’ll see what happens and if I get comments from readers.  The changes looked good when I previewed (before KDP re-conversion) on my Kindle Fire, but who know what will happen after?

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The Table of Content view on New Kindles

Since I use my Kindle Fire all the time for previewing clients’  work, I need to be able to see what readers who buy that book will see. Previously when I had a First Generation KindleFire… but it died an untimely death last month after only 1 1/2 years of service… I loved that the little ‘menu’ icon on the bottom bar when you were reading a book took you directly to the Table of Contents. That was nice because I’m very careful about crafting TOCs in books.

But when I started using the new KindleFire HD recently, I noticed that the little menu icon had moved to the upper left corner and was displaying NOT the carefully crafted Table of Contents but the NCX file, also a Table of Contents file, but it’s built upon heading choices (h1, h2, h3) and not bookmarks and internal links. Not good. I hate this. It doesn’t even allow you to click on Table of Contents and be taken to the nice little manual beauty living in the front matter of the book!

Converting a book to an ePub version of course always gives you this NCX view and I’ve yet to discover how to make the TOC be included on this list, even if I give it an h1 Chapter Heading.  There might me something hidden in the Guide feature at Sigil that is causing this, but I don’t know for sure.

I talked to a lovely man at Amazon this morning who had to step in and help me re-register my Kindle after the first ‘helper’ had wiped everything off of it… but I digress… anyway, he knew the answer to my query right off.  The new Kindle operating system feels that the most up-to-date feature to use is the NCX table of contents… so that’s what you’ll see.  Amazon should have left what wasn’t broken alone. I loved the old Table of Contents. Of course you can still see that as well as the NCX view if you preview your book on Kindle Previewer.

If someone out there has a way to force the TOC view and not the NCX view, I’d love to hear it. This is a little thing, but I’m very particular about my eBook formatting!

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Inserting links in an ePub with Sigil

Lately I’ve been asked to get back into books that I’ve formatted and change text and links. Authors often update their websites or construct new ones, and if they have links in their eBooks then those must change too. Of course changing out the links in a Word doc (such as one you wish to upload to Smashwords) is a snap. But editing an ePub can bring in all kinds of problems.

1) If you’re going to be taking out a whole section (offset by page breaks) then you’ll end up with a blank section in your html list in your ePub (each chapter and section… anyplace you have a page break… is considered a separate html document). I haven’t figured out a way to delete an entire html document within a book and keep the ‘content.opf’ file (which is the contents of the file in code) from getting wacky… but when I do, then I’ll post the instructions immediately. And remember if you do decide to delve into the content.opf file, and change anything be sure that you address the ‘manifest’, the ‘spine or toc.ncx’ and look over your ‘guide’ to make sure that’s good. There’s got to be a way to re-organize and re-number those html lists within the ‘content.opf’. But for now if you are taking out a whole section, leaving a blank html, you might want to go back to your underlying Word to HTML file. In fact it’s probably better to go back to the document (HTMLBook.doc) that you formatted specifically for ePub and mobi conversion. Just edit that, then save as Webpage filtered… then go from there. It may actually take less time than editing the ePub within Sigil and trying to figure out how to work with the contents file (content.opf).

2) If you are changing every link in a section, but little else, then Sigil may be for you. Get into the appropriate html file in Sigil and begin taking out the links that you don’t want anymore. There is now an ‘unlink’ icon right next to the ‘link’ icon on your task bar (broken chain, unlink… strong chain, link). After you have unlinked whatever you are changing, just copy the correct link (you may have that in a Word file such as in the Smashwords file that you just edited) highlight the text to be linked in Sigil, click on the strong chain icon (link), and paste the new link using not your mouse but the paste feature within Sigil. Do this as many times as necessary for all the links you want changed. You of course can instead of copy/paste, just manually type in each link… but I’m a copy/paste freak. It takes the chance for errors out.

The files that I’m working on now have such extensive deletions and new links that I found it more efficient to go back to the HTMLBook.doc, correct them there, save as Webpage Filtered, edit the Book.html file which you got from this save, run it quickly through Calibre to get yourself an ePub, then open it in Sigil and do your normal tweaking (Guides, removing the instances of embedded fonts which is important for the mobi but not so much for the ePub). Don’t forget to save your epub file and don’t forget to validate it either within Sigil itself or through the IDPF website (

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iBooks tips for formatting

Yes, iBooks has formatting rules. You have to abide by them and think about them as you’re formatting a book for ePub. Most of the rules are the same, abiding by the rules set out by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). But there is one little thing that I didn’t know.

Several of my clients like using ALL CAPS for their book titles. Now that’s perfectly OK if referring to a list of their books, or talking about one of their books within the body of the eBook, such as in the Bio… MY INCREDIBLY AWFUL MORNING.  I like to set these titles off in italics or bold italics myself… My Incredibly Awful Morning… because I think the reader’s eye can pick this out better. And also to me ALL CAPS seems like shouting.

However, some like to have this ALL CAPS title on the title page… and I’m betting that’s OK, but the iBooks rules state that titles should be in Title case… which means First and Last word capitalized as well as any words in between except those little ones (a, an, the, you know the ones) in regular case.  So, when you are uploading directly to iBooks (and that means only with a MAC, not even with an iPad although it’s an Apple product… I know this… I asked them), make sure that when you give them your title at the book set-up you use the correct format for it and NOT ALL CAPS.

Also there seems to be a problem with the file name generated by conversion software such as Calibre if your ePub file is  being uploaded at iBooks. They don’t like those spaces that Calibre generates in the Title… My Incredibly Awful Morning – Lizzie Bordon.epub… The spaces bother them. So if you are directly uploading to iBooks, just rename your ePub file… My_Incredibly_Awful_Morning-Lizzie_Bordon.epub or MyIncrediblyAwfulMorning_LizzieBordon.epub.  I think this will suffice. Although sometimes my computer warns me that I’m doing something awful by changing the file extension, although of course I’m only changing the file name and not the extension which stays .epub. But I think that’s an issue between me and my operating system from Microsoft.

I hope this helps someone. To get this info, I even had to have a client who works on a MAC send me the PDF of the iBooks instructions because of course since I’m a PC baby, I couldn’t reach their Content section. Maybe it was because I don’t have a publisher or author account though. But soon… we’re breaking down and getting as cheap of a MAC as we can so that we can offer things like… uploading clients files to iBooks.

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Re-arranged Chapters

I got a shock last night from a client. I had bundled 3 of her best-selling novels into one Anthology. It was gorgeous. I did the work many months ago. BUT yesterday a reader emailed her and said one of the chapters in the second book in the bundle was misplaced! If it was misplaced, why on earth is she just hearing about this now… almost 5 months after publication date and after she’s sold untold numbers of copies? Well, that’s another issue entirely.

How could that happen? No clue, so I went back to the source… the original WORD doc. There were all the neatly organized files for all the books. The table of contents linked to each chapter beautifully and the chapters tripped one after another in a nice organized manner.

Then I went to the epub on my iPad (which I use to preview epub files). I opened the book, went to the appropriate chapter with the TOC… it was there. Then I paged through to the next chapter. What the HEY! That’s not the next chapter! How in the world could this happen?

So then I went to the source… the html file. Nope all files in order. This was getting stranger and stranger. How could the html file be correct and the resulting epub file be incorrect?

Getting really frustrated (well it was past my bedtime and my office had been closed for hours) I looked at the epub that I had made on Calibre. Viewed it with the Calibre viewer. Nope, all files were in order, so the html file that I uploaded to Calibre to start the process wasn’t the problem.

Now maybe Sigil, the editor, was the problem, although I haven’t a clue how an editor could misplace an entire chapter. So I viewed the file in Sigil… Chapter 10 came neatly after Chapter 16. I opened the manifest from the menu (handy thing those Sigil menues… all your fonts, images, styles, manifest, etc… are listed so you can easily reach them). Oh look… html40 (which was the identifier for the 2nd book, 10th chapter) was right after html46 (the identifier for the 2nd book, 16th chapter). Could I move those around?

It was too late and I was too tired, so I just uploaded the correct HTML to Calibre, got a correct EPUB, uploaded that to SIGIL, did a ton of necessary editing, looked good, validated it, then opened the validated epub in Adobe Digital Preview…. all files were in order. Converted the epub file to mobi with KindlePreviewer, all files were in order. Then I went to bed.

This morning I was still thinking about that messed up manifest and how I could have easily corrected the mistake. At least my client now has a new epub and mobi file with all her chapters in order… but maybe I could have done this differently.

So I opened the manifest of the old epub in Sigil… where it was wonky… highlighted the ‘html40′ line, moved it to its proper place right after ‘html39′ then looked at the epub again in Sigil… Chapter 10 was still out of place, but I went over to the TOC.ncx (on the left of the screen), cut the ‘html40′ line out of the TOC, pasted it under the ‘html39′ line, cleaned up the blank lines… and re-previewed.  Oh looky there!!! The files were all in order. So there was an easy fix after all. Who knew you could just move those lines and individual chapter html files around?

The moral of this story… although I don’t think something so wonky has a moral… but if it did it would be ‘carefully look at the entries in the TOC.ncx and the manifest in Sigil before completely re-converting the file because if you find a mistake there you can easily fix it… don’t be afraid!’ Good to know that you can actually move those TOC.ncx html files around. But remember you have to start with the manifest and move the misplaced line to its correct position… this will re-number the TOC.ncx entries. Then the mistake in the TOC.ncx will be glaringly apparent and you move it where it needs to be.

To get back to the original problem… I still haven’t a clue how the HTML file got corrupted or how the manifest could have lost some of its organization between Calibre, where it was made, and Sigil, where it was edited. If anyone has a clue, let me know PLEASE.  Hopefully none of my clients find misplaced chapters. Unfortunately I always check the TOC to see if all the chapters are there, but I don’t normally page through to see if the chapters fall where they should… I’ll do that from now on obviously.

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