Fireworks and “Flames of Prague”

Argh. The last several days have been very frustrating.

Kimball

Ah, the old Tennessee Alabama fireworks stand in my hometown, Kimball. It’s still there, but they got cheap and redid their sign sans neon. It’s just not the same.

I did have a pretty decent Fourth of July weekend, although it rained the entire time. We had to miss out on a cookout with friends and the fabled fireworks displays in Marion County, the fireworks capital of the United States. (No, seriously. There are no less than 6 permanent, year-round fireworks stores in the county. I went to elementary school next to a fireworks manufacturing facility. When we were safely ensconced inside the building, they closed off the street with gates and shot off experimental pieces in the road.)*

What has me really frustrated (and silent on my blog for the past week) is the proof copy of The Flames of Prague.

I uploaded my file and cover, but the file was rejected for having too many consecutive blank pages in it.

I thought that was bizarre, considering I didn’t put more than one blank page between sections. But, after dredging up year-old memories about this process, and looking at the actual .pdf file (as opposed to the Word file), I remembered that, for some bizarre reason, extra blank pages get inserted into the .pdf file when it gets converted from Word. I have yet to figure out why this happens—although I spent the better part of a day trying to figure it out last year. The easiest, fastest thing to do is to convert the file, open up the .pdf, and then manually delete the extra pages. It’s still a pain in the ass—because you have to do it every time you make a change to the text—but it works.

The only problem is that I no longer have access to a full version of Adobe. Where I used to work had a copy, so it was no trick to just delete the pages. But Adobe Reader and Foxit Reader neither one let you delete pages. A full version of Adobe Acrobat is $140; Foxit is $90. I hate to pay that for a program I need to use three or four times a year to do this one thing.

I downloaded a free trial 30-day version of Foxit yesterday, installed it, and fixed my file problem. Now I’m ready to try uploading my book again. (All this work and it’s just the proof copy. I still have to let my beta readers read it and do all my proofing.)

I did hit on a good idea yesterday, though. My former boss is trying to close up her law practice. I’m going to go work for her Sunday, and I’m going to ask her if I can buy her copy of Adobe Acrobat, since she doesn’t have a need for it anymore. (In fact, I’m going to make an offer on the office computer, since I know it’s newer than mine. Mine belonged to my husband before it was mine, and he bought his new computer back when times were still good—no less than 5 years ago. So my current computer is probably 7-9 years old.)

So, note to people who want to publish their books on CreateSpace: you need to get a full copy of either Adobe or Foxit Reader because you’re going to need the ability to edit a .pdf file. Start looking for an older, used copy now, before you actually need it. (Having to hunt for one has put me a week behind.)

The other thing I learned from this experience: make a CreateSpace to-do list (I wisely made one for Smashwords/Kindle, but not for the print portion of this enterprise). A lot of the problems I had with formatting and uploading both the text and the cover were problems I had last year when I did the same thing. In other words, I had to reinvent the wheel. You can be sure, though, that I wrote a checklist this time.

Non-Sequiter

An updated Gadsden flag for our times.

944181_550595001665505_651250922_n

I think “they” know I’m trying to post this picture. Suddenly I can’t connect to Google anymore. I had to use Bing. And we all know that’s the first step towards a Communist takeover.

*You may ask yourself: what happens if a fireworks store catches fire? Well, it gives the volunteer firefighters all the way into Alabama something to do, I can tell you that.

Someone drove through the front of one fireworks store in Jasper and caught it on fire. But, other than melting the siding and roof off one end of the Western Sizzlin’ next door, it didn’t do any serious damage to anything but itself; it was eventually rebuilt. One building of the fireworks factory blew up one night, but it didn’t do any major damage to any of the other buildings or the surrounding homes or school (it may have blown out some windows, but that was it). It, too, was eventually rebuilt. And I seem to recall that the Stateline fireworks store burned down when I was very little. I think it rocked the neighborhood, but nothing more.

All in all, it’s better to live near a fireworks store than a fertilizer plant.

Acceptance Now Available

My book is now available for purchase

Smashwords (e-book only, all possible formats, including Kindle)

Friends and Family Discount: From August 31 to September 1, use coupon code AS46F at Smashwords to get 50% off. (Feel free to share this coupon on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Amazon (Kindle only)

CreateSpace (print only)

(The print copy of my book will also be on sale on Amazon, but it can take 5-7 business days for it to appear; look for it the end of next week.)

Countdown to Book Launch – 10 Days!

My revised print copy has been accepted by CreateSpace and I reviewed it online; it looks fine. But I’m paranoid, so I’ve ordered myself another proof copy, just to make sure. Somewhere in Charleston, SC, someone is inputting it into the magical book-making machine.

I’ve set my prices. I’m starting the e-book out at $4.99. The British print edition is £8.99, the European print edition is €9.99, and the U.S. print edition is $10.99. I’m only making about $1 on each print edition (versus about $3.50 per e-book), but I cringe at high book prices (in 2008, the average price for a soft-cover book was $15.64!). Considering that it’s only available online, which means S&H costs, I think I better keep the price low to make it more attractive. With shipping, it will cost the same as most books in a brick-and-mortar store.

From what I’ve been reading, it’s better to have the price of the e-book a little high ($2.99 is about average for self-published e-books; traditionally-published e-books start at about $9.99). A lot of people are actually turned off by a price that’s too low because they automatically think it’s crap.

But there’s some wiggle room there. Some people find they sell much more (and make more money, overall) at the $2.99 price point. What works best depends on a combination of factors: genre/book topic, author pull, amount and quality of the reviews, etc. Playing with the price point to find optimal sales figures seems to be a requirement.

Some people say you should never offer a book for free on Amazon because it generates more negative reviews. Oddly enough, if a book is very cheap or free, people grab it up without thinking, then are disappointed that it’s not what they thought and they write a bad review (Catherine Ryan Howard said on her blog that she has a problem with some people not reading the description of her books and then being angry that they don’t contain what they thought they ought to contain.) Pricing a book higher gives people pause and makes them do more research; the people that buy it are more likely to like it.

On the other hand, some people have found that they had a breakthrough (meaning their sales exploded) after offering their book for free–especially when they offer the first book in a series for free. Again, there are a lot of factors at work, so you never know what you’re going to get.

Because I’m also publishing on Smashwords, I won’t have the ability to make my book free on Kindle, but Smashwords does allow me to offer coupons, so stay tuned here for future offers; I have a few planned for this year.

Formatting is a Pain in My _______ [Fill in the Blank]

I got the proof copy of my book, Acceptance, in the mail Friday. The cover looks good (my husband said it looks professional) and the formatting inside looks nice, with one exception: the spacing of my words is hinky. S o y  ou get s ome thi g t hat lo oks like this.

Unacceptable to the nth degree.

I went back through my documents to figure out where the error crept in and found it in one of two .pdfs. CreateSpace really prefers .pdf/x documents because that file type imbeds fonts. As I’m using several different fonts–not all of which are standard–I’m thinking I should definitely use the .pdf/x file type. The only problem is, I can’t save as that font type directly from Word (not even when I’m at work, where I have a newer version of Word and a full version of Adobe). What I was able to do, however, was save the Word document as a .pdf, then open that in Adobe and convert it to a .pdf/x.

Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Except that making it a .pdf/x created those spacing problems; they’re not in the original .pdf.

So, it’s back to futzing with Adobe for me. I may have to take my chances with a regular .pdf and see if CreateSpace guesses my font types correctly. But, I can look through the book virtually, so I shouldn’t have to order another proof copy and wait. As of now, I’m still on schedule for having the print copy available on August 31. (The e-book is going up that day regardless.)

On a more positive note, my two novellas were reviewed over on Michelle Proulx Official and I got good reviews. I’m feeling really pleased that my first published romance (and my first attempt at writing contemporary romance ever) seems to be pretty good. It makes he more confident going into my historical romance (I plan on publishing The Flames of Prague next fall).

The Last Golden Dragon and The Widow are both just 99 cents/ 70 pence–which is about the price of a candy bar these days. They’ll last longer than a candy bar and contain no calories, so why not treat yourself? (A few more sales and I may actually earn a royalty check before the end of the year!)