Confessions of a Digital Novelist

Archive for May, 2010

Apple Offers iPad Self-Publishing

by on May.31, 2010, under Digital Publishing, Tools of the Trade

On Wednesday, Apple announced that they would be offering support for individuals seeking to self-publish to the iBook Store.  MacLife has the details at http://www.maclife.com/article/news/apple_reveals_new_service_authors_sell_their_books_directly_ibookstore

In short, Apple will allow you to publish directly to the iBook Store if you meet the following criteria:

  • The eBook must have a valid and unique ISBN number;
  • The eBook must use the ePub format;
  • You must have a US Tax ID;
  • You must have a valid iTunes Store account with a credit card on file; and
  • You must have an Intel-based Mac running OS X 10.5 or later.

All in all, this sounds pretty simple.  None of these requirements are at all difficult to get.  You can buy an ISBN through a number of services, you can Storyist (like I will) to convert your manuscript into .ePub, almost everyone has an iTunes account with their credit card ready to go, and Macs are pretty much a necessity for the serious writer anyway.

Obviously, there are numerous advantages in publishing directly through Apple.  They take a smaller cut than Amazon or Smashwords, you don’t have to go through an aggregator to upload your content, and the interface (like Amazon’s Digital Text Platform) will be simple and elegant.  Does that mean that i’m going to change my business plan once again, avoid Smashwords and Lulu, and go straight through Apple?

No.

There are two reasons for this.  The first is that I don’t have a US Tax ID.  This isn’t really a problem as I’m certain that within the next year, Apple will expand to service to multiple countries including Canada.  That’s what happened with Amazon’s Digital Text Platform.  But I would prefer to publish my novel this year.  I would rather not wait if I don’t have to.

No, the second and bigger reason is a financial requirement that is being underreported in the press.  Under financial requirement from the iTunes Connect page (https://itunesconnect.apple.com/WebObjects/iTunesConnect.woa/wo/0.0.0.5.7.7.1), reads the following:

Apple does not pay partners until they meet payment requirements and earning thresholds in each territory. You should consider this before applying to work directly with Apple as you may receive payments faster by working with an Apple-approved aggregator.

So in other words, you have to sell a significant number of books in order to get paid.  Now in my case, I don’t expect to sell more than a couple of hundred copies if I’m lucky.  Of course, this makes sense for Apple.  It would be extremely difficult if their account department had to handle hundreds of thousands of business partners, most of whom would be doing business in the single digits.  However, considering that Amazon offers a similar service without any problems, it is a little disappointing.

Apple helpfully provides a link to a list of Apple-approved aggregators which you can find here.  These include the following:

  • BiblioCore
  • Book Baby
  • Constellation
  • INgrooves
  • Ingram
  • LibreDigital
  • Lulu
  • Smashwords

Now I admit, I have only heard of Lulu and Smashwords, the rest are completely new to me.  I will have to do some research into these options in order to see which service would serve me best when I launch my novel this fall.  If any of you have any thoughts or reviews about these sites, please don’t hesitate to comment.

So while Apple’s announcement is a step in the right direction, it will only serve established authors at this point.  For us little folks, we will have to go through a third party.  Here’s hoping that Apple follows Amazon’s path and makes it available to everyone.

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I have myself an Editor

by on May.22, 2010, under Digital Publishing

Publication of Evermore: Call of the Nocturne is moving along quite nicely.  After some searching, I have found an editor.  Henry Baum, writer of The American Book for the Dead, recommended Erin Stropes (www.kallisti.ca) from Montreal, QC.  After reviewing Erin’s work, I have hired her to do a line edit of my manuscript.  Needless to say, I have been quite pleased about the quality of work that I have received.  I have received her comments on the first few chapters and it is clear that there is still a lot of work that I still need to do.  One of the things that digital publishers must do is ensure that the quality of the manuscript is top-notch.  One error or poorly-worded phrase and the reader will assume that you are an amateur and close the book.  For an independent author to succeed, he or she must provide a superior product than what you would find in stories.  Their stories must be more original, their characters must be more interesting, and their prose has to be top-notch.  It is for this reason that I made securing an editor a top priority for this manuscript.

A full line edit will set me back about $1200 and will take a couple of months to complete.  This will be followed by another couple of months of revisions on my end and then perhaps another edit if it is warranted.  It is a lot of money but at the end of the day you are selling quality.  If you are not willing to put the investment into your own work, then you are in the wrong line of work.

With the editing process, a 2010 release is still possible but it’s going to be tighter.  In the meantime, I will prepare one of my short-stories for release.  This will allow to learn the ins-and-outs of digital publishing on a much smaller scale.  Stay tuned for more details.

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Why I picked Storyist

by on May.04, 2010, under Tools of the Trade, Writing

Over the past few weeks, my writing output has been slowed as I’ve made to transition from Windows to Mac. When I was on Windows, I would fight my way through MS Word. Word is probably the best word processor on the market, but I found that it got in the way of the writing experience when working on fiction. Far too often I would have to worry about formatting rather than what was happening next in my story. I wrote all of Evermore: Call of the Nocturne on Word and it was a long laborious process.

So when my PC died and I made the switch to Mac, I wanted to choose my writing software carefully. Checking the Internet, it seemed that there was only two programs to consider: StoryMill and Scrivener. Far and away the most popular writing programs, StoryMill and Scrivener deserved to be taken head-to-head. So I downloaded their generous demos and got to work.

StoryMill
This was my early favourite. Easy to set up, easy to use, StoryMill did a great job of getting out of my way and letting me write. It didn’t look the best, especially on Mac, but it got the job done.

However, it did have a few annoyances. It’s full screen writing mode was an ugly, eye-sore that stretched across my widescreen monitor, making it look like my paragraphs were lonely sentences. Its character section was nice but didn’t let me add groups. As my wiki file for the Evermore Trilogy contains characters, groups, things, and locations, this wasn’t enough for my purposes. Finally, StoryMill was good but it didn’t feel incredible. It didn’t make me excited to write. Instead, it felt like a chore.

Scrivener
While I took StoryMill through its paces, I didn’t spend too much time with Scrivener. It looked nice but I could never really get into it. It simply took too long to set up and coordinate in order to facilitate the writing process. It made the whole thing harder rather than easier.

Thus, I was all set to buy StoryMill. I was ok with it but I wasn’t overjoyed by the product. I felt that it would simply get the job down.

Then I heard about Storyist. Storyist caught my attention when I heard that it was the first writing program tha would allow you to directly export to the .epub file format. Curious, I read some reviews. They were enthusiastic about the new version, even more so then StoryMill or Scrivener. So I downloaded the 15-day demo and put it through it’s paces.

Storyist
First I tried out the character documentation feature. To my surprise, it allowed me to create groups. Secondly, it put them into an attractive and concise format. After playing with it fo a couple days, I was convinced that it’s Story creation features were better than StoryMill and more focused than Scrivener.

Next, I transferred over a Novella that I was working on in StoryMill to see how it handled the actual writing. It took some getting used to but soon enough I was writing with far more efficiency than I was used to.  Chapters are organized on the left hand side but it also allows you to subdivide the chapters down into sections.  I really like this feature as you can create your story as a group of sections and simply move these sections from chapter to chapter as you edit.

The full-screen option is another feature that I love.  Rather than the ugly wide blue screen of StoryMill or slight translucency of Scrivener, Storyist uses a straight-up manuscript look with black letter boxes.  The look is appealing in that when you write the pages go by quickly because of its low word-count per page.  This is great because it makes you feel like you’re really flying and getting a lot of work done.  It’s a subtle form of positive reinforcement that really makes the writing experience fun.

The only thing that I don’t like about the writing with Storyist is the Progress Goal.  StoryMill has this great progress meter that allows you to set a daily session goal (say 1000 words) and updates a progress bar as you write.  Storyist on the other hand uses an Inspector that you must click to pop up.  The Inspector contains other features but its session goal feature leaves a lot to be desired.  Unlike StoryMill, the session goal does not reset on every writing session.  That means that if you set a goal of 1000 words and finish that goal, when you come back the next day the session goal will not reset automatically.  In other words, you have to reset the session goal automatically each and every time you write.  This is highly annoying especially when you’re used to the ease of StoryMill’s progress bar.  Hopefully in an update they’ll fix this issue.

The feature that I love most however is Storyist’s ability to export your story to an .epub file.  As everyone knows by now, .epub is the format used by Apple’s iPad and it also works with the popular Stanza app for iPhone.  Storyist allows you to organize your pages and include a cover page from the images section of the navigator pane on the left.  The end result looks great in Stanza (I haven’t tried it in iPad yet).  It’s nice and clean and it makes sure there  are page breaks for each new chapter.  This is something that Smashwords’ Meat-Grinder process does not do all, leaving chapter breaks in the middle of the page.  The result is a far more attractive file.  After you’ve exported the story to .epub you can still edit it, allowing you to optimize the file for the platform.  All in all, it works exactly as it should.  It’s easy and simple and allows you to do what you need.  It makes it a breeze to publish books on the iPhone and iPad.

For all the reasons above, I found that Storyist was the best program for my needs on the Mac.  I purchased it a couple weeks ago and have made a lot of progress finishing the first draft of my next novella.  I would recommend it to anyone.  It just makes writing fun.

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