Tag Archives: iPad

Amazon Publishing – A few pointers for newbies

Our book in Kindle and iPad simulatorsPhil: It’s true, we are going to bring the book out using Amazon. That means someone has to get down’n’dirty with the mechanics of stuffing our words into their system so you can buy it. This sort of work is defined as “nerdy” so falls to me apparently.

I’m pleased to say, it’s remarkably easy, or at least appears to be so far.

Here are a few pointers to help anyone thinking of following the well-worn path we are currently walking:

Set all the text in your manuscript up using “Styles” rather than fiddling with the fonts. Define your own styles by all means but use them consistently.

For example, all our text is set up using “Body Text” style. This is currently 12pt Times New Roman but in truth it doesn’t matter. All the words in this style will be shown the same size, even if the reader makes the font bigger on their device.

(As an aside, e-readers are great news for those with poor eyesight. You can set the font size to massive, no need to search out large print books. Mahoosive fonts, especially with a high contract background, make reading a possibility for a huge number of people technically registered blind – accessibility needn’t mean special equipment, hooray!)

I’ve also got a chapter title style and one for e-mails shown on the page which we like to show using courier font.

If I’d set this up from the start, work at this end of the process would be reduced as the manuscript would be properly formatted already.

I’m hoping this also helps when we look at paperback print options. With large chunks of text defined by styles, I can alter the entire book with a few clicks.

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Pay attention to the sign up process.

Even for non-US authors, there’s a load of American tax questions to answer. Mostly in the negative for us but it’s a bit of a bind doing them. Be prepared.

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Amazon isn’t based in the UK. You’ll need the international versions of your bank account number.

I headed over to my banks’ website and after a little searching found a number generator that gave me the required information.

You can only pay royalties into a single account. Candice trusts me so it’s going into mine and I’ll transfer money to her. This is pretty safe. I’m only going to spend my cash on toy trains, old cars and unfashionable clothing. If I suddenly turn up in a flash car wearing designer labels, she’ll guess something is up and demand answers when I regain consciousness. If you are less trusting, set up a special account.

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If the book is a joint effort, share the login details.

Seriously, if one of you drops dead, how frustrating would it be for the other not to be able to administer the book? I’m not sure it is strictly speaking allowed, but seems a sensible move.

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Once your book is on sale, buy a copy.

This way, it will appear in the “People who bought this also bought this” bit of the page. The more people who buy, the more often you’ll appear. Don’t give copies to friends and relatives, make them buy it for added exposure.

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You’re not going to get rich.

We’re going to sell at £1.99 or its equivalent in other countries. Amazon takes 86p of that for providing the service. Stop moaning, this is world-wide sales for a relatively small fee. Imagine the printing and shipping costs you are saving.

We are lucky to be realistic about this. Writing is very, very rarely a route to riches. However, if we do strike it rich, we are prepared to deal with this.

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 I hope this helps. In a short while, once final polishing is complete, we’ll be doing it for real (I’ve tested everything so confidence is high). I’m genuinely surprised how easy all of this appears. Let’s hope I’m still saying this soon.

Then we only have the reviews to worry about!

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Push the button Max!

KeyboardsPhil: Tuesday’s post was written on a tablet computer. It’s a very nice tablet computer (Asus Memo Pad since you ask) but if this is the future of writing, I’m going to buy some new cartridges for my fountain pen.

Back in the “good old days”, the pen was the writers connection to their reader. That process of taking ideas from one brain and sending them to another involved making marks on a piece of paper so the nib was part of the interface. People became pen snobs. Only the best would do and of course some believed that their writing would somehow become better.

To be fair, this happens with all manual crafts involving tools with beginners believing that better tools rather than practise and effort make all the difference. A recent piece on the radio talked to knife makers who admitted that the most expensive kitchen knives costing thousands of pounds all went to people who just showed them off in the kitchen. Professional cooks used the mid-range models.

Anyway, once we stopped scribbling and started banging keys, typewriter envy became the thing. I’ve used a typewriter but fortunately by the time I was doing any serious writing, we had early word processors with their oh so important delete key to handle typos. If you want to get nerdy over the tools of the trader, head over here for a list of writers and their machines.

Which brings us up to date. Now, a tablet computer is a wonderful thing. When Apple introduced the first iPad, most people fell into two camps – the “what’s the point?” crowd mainly consisted of techies who couldn’t understand that for most people the web is something they consume rather than create on. Others declared the death of the conventional computer. As it happens, they aren’t so far off – computer sales have dipped as people realise that if all you do is post on Facebook and watch YouTube, you don’t need an office, you can do it on the sofa in front of the telly.

I’m somewhere in the middle. I got the tablet thing even though I am a bit techie. For me a computer is a tool for a job, not an end in itself and sometimes a simple web access is all you need. My tablet is invaluable to me as it removes the need to be at the PC for e-mail checking and allows me to be where I’m working.

I can type on it – the choice of machine came down to the best keyboard option (it has numbers as well as letter unlike an iPad where you have to switch between the two) but prodding an unresponsive bit of glass is slow and uncomfortable. In years to come, I suspect fingers will become shorter and knuckle joins impacted in those who prod the screen a lot. I’m pretty certain it’s not possible to write anything longer than a short story on one

Even my phone (HTC Desire Z, tech nerds) has a flip out keyboard. This makes it heavier than most and it’s showing its age but it won’t be replaced until it dies as you can’t find anything similar with a sensible screen and keys for fat fingers.

No, I need a keyboard. A proper rattly one. Not a soft touch or something that looks cool but has only tiny amounts of key movement. A proper workaday model that can stand up to my heavy keystrokes and the occasional thump when the words aren’t flowing. Something that has to have crud cleaned out from between the keys occasionally. Until we can beam our words directly from brain to page or even brain to reader brain, it will have to do.

(In case anyone is wondering, or just thinking I’ve gone mad, the title of this post comes from a running gag in the film The Great Race)

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Magazines: Paper vs Digital – Fight!

BRMsPhil:  On a whim last week, I bought the electronic copy of the magazine I write for. The paper copy would eventually appear in the post but the digital version comes out a few days before this and I was curious to know how some of the articles I’d written appeared on the page. There was also a bit of extra content to be seen electronically and I was really interested in comparing the two versions.

Delivered via the PocketMags website, downloading the digital version takes around a minute over broadband and WiFi. Cost is £2.99 compared to £3.75 for print. I’ve loaded my copy on to an Asus 7 inch tablet computer although I understand I can log on to the site and see the issues I’ve bought on any device. The copy seems sit on the tablet as I was still able to read it when disconnected from WiFi.

The pages appear exactly the same as they do on paper. Swiping left and right moves you through the issue. Touching the bottom of the screen shows a ribbon of thumbnails for faster racing around. Pinching the page zooms in in the same way as it does on all other Apps.

Enhanced content includes a couple of videos, photo galleries and captions that are called up by pressing an “i” button on the image. Not sure about the later one but I suppose it leaves the pictures clearer of text.

So, am I convinced to go digital?

No.

One of the problems is that when looking at magazines, size matters. My tablet is about 2/3rd the size of the A4 printed page. Reading the mag involves squinting or zooming on the page. Maybe if I was using a 10 inch iPad or even a proper computer screen, this wouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, the iPad is heavy to hold for long periods and the PC screen means sitting at a desk.

Discussing this in the office, we also feel that readers engage with the content differently on-screen. They treat it like a web page and scan the words rather than reading them. It’s a less immersive experience perhaps, or just this is how people have learned to deal with screen based information. Plenty of useability studies tell us this is how web pages are consumed, hence the instruction to include plenty of keywords in text to catch the reader’s eye. You might think that when reading a publication, readers might behave differently but this appears not to be the case. I suspect this might be related to the size issue. If reading takes effort, they you’ll skim the content.

Of course, if you don’t want to read but just look at pictures then the tablet is good. Zooming in to the detail is easy. OK, in print the pics are bigger and I suppose in the analogue world you can use a magnifying glass but that’s not convenient and anyway, eventually you start seeing how the picture is printed and not the pic itself. Our photographer reckons the reproduction on the page is darker than the electronic version although this is a reproduction issue and not a deliberate choice, nor is it necessarily a bad thing as some readers comment they prefer darker photos.

Another thought is that a lot of the magazine involves “how to” articles with step-by-step information for readers to follow. That’s the bit I write and I’m not convinced that reader want to take a pricy tablet near some of the plaster, paint and glues I use in the articles. Paper magazines are far more resilient in this respect. At least if you glue the pages together , you can buy another copy from Smiths, “I dropped it in some plaster and not it’s stopped working.” isn’t likely to garner you much sympathy in your local electronics shop.

All of this is moot. While the digital edition sells well, the paper one sells better. All expectations are that this will be the case for over a decade so the presses will continue to roll. Mind you, predicting the future is difficult…

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Ah this new fangled modern technology

iPad Candice: In the land of marketing speak I don’t class myself as an early adopter, but I do think I follow a close second.  I don’t have an iPhone, but that’s because I prefer the functionality of my Blackberry, not that I havent thought about buying an iPhone.  I’m on twitter, and tweet by my phone, pretty modern.  And last year I bought an iPad for Christmas, and already decided this year that it was time to upgrade to the new one.  Not just for the funky extras, but after a year of using one that only had WiFi we decided we needed a SIM one.  I have recycled though, the parents had my iPad 2 as a christmas present!

So, I thought I would try the whole concept of reading a book on an electronic device.  I downloaded something cheap and not too challenging and off I went.

Initially it was quite funky, swiping the pages across.  But after a while my finger started to hurt, as did my arms from the weight of holding the iPad.  I also got a bit fed up with looking at a screen, as I do that all day at work. I must admit the story I was reading was ok but not great, which probably didn’t help.

I did finish but after a few goes because each time I’d have to give up due to the weight of the device.

Now, I know this is not a true representation as a Kindle is better designed for this.  But I have to admit, I just prefer the feel of holding books.  The ability to add a bookmark, turn the corner down on a page, flick back to check the plot line you have forgotten.  I also like the experience of going in to a shop to read the backs and pick my story.

Now, this might put a total kibosh on anything Phil and I plan to do if we want to publish online, and I will try the whole e-reading thing again but I have to say, when it comes down to reading, I’d rather have a paper version.

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The Help

Candice: I’ve been abit slack recently and haven’t posted for about two weeks. It’s a good job my partner in crime is a regular writer. I shall blame my flu-like feelings over the last week, and general franticness at work for this week. Actually, it’s just because I spend all day on a computer I often don’t want to log onto another when I get home.

Because of this I’ve asked for an iPad 2 for Christmas, thinking I can just whip it out in the lounge, do what I need to do and then ignore it. Rather than going up to the spare room and turning the big beast on, and then getting sucked in for an hour. Anyway, this is not what this post was going to be about.

There is a film out at the moment called The Help (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Help). The story is about African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s, based on the personal experiences of the author Kathryn Stockett. This in itself is not that relevant to our story. Yes it’s probably a good book and film but I’m more interested in going to see “My Week with Marilyn” next time I go to the cinema. However, the bit that caught my eye when I was reading the review in Grazia the other week was that, apparently, the book got rejected 60 times before being picked up.

That’s six zero times.

Well, obviously I’m not looking for Phil and I to be rejected that may times but 60 – I think I really would have given up by then (in fact if I was unemployed and been rejected for that may jobs I’d be thinking about leaving the country). So, as Phil mentions in his last post, we are going to give it another go. The last two agencies we submitted to have resulted in the sum total of no response. Slightly annoying, as we’d met one briefly at an event in London and the other was based in Brum (and we thought we had the regional spin to a tee). But, their loss….

So its back to the Writers and Artists year book for more ideas and discussions over cake (though we seem to be going more towards baked spuds at the mo but that might be because its winter). And yes, come 2012 Book 2 will be up and running, ‘cos it needs to be. One can only flog the first book so many times without feeling that we really need something fresh to talk about. Now, I just need to get better at having a lunch break and meeting Phil and we’ll be fine.

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