Friday, December 16, 2011

Introducing "Nature Abhors a Vacuum" Book 1 of the Aielund Saga


Introduction

I have met a number of fellow authors on my journey as an Indie.  It surprised me when I discovered a person I had become acquainted with in passing in a gaming community.

Neverwinter Nights is a Dungeons and Dragons rpg (roleplaying game) I got into back in 2005.  It enables the player to use its toolset to create game modules.  I think it surprised a lot of people when the modules being put out were even better than the original campaign of the game.

One of those builders is Stephen L. Nowland.  His Aielund Saga is one of the most highly acclaimed series of modules in Neverwinter Nights and has won awards and achieved the Hall of Fame.

He is turning that excellent saga into a brilliant series of books, the first of which I am introducing to you now.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum



For Aiden Wainwright, a short trip to the nearby town of Bracksfordshire was supposed to be an opportunity for continuing his research into the arcane. But unfortunate circumstances see the town gates closed for weeks, and with supplies running low, Aiden finds himself thrust into the role of town saviour. Together with an old friend of dubious character, a drunken ranger on the edge, and a church acolyte out of her depth, he sets out to fill the vacuum of power left by the absent King’s army, and deal with a rapidly escalating situation that threatens the security of the entire land, while uncovering the mysteries behind his own past.

From Stephen

Embarking upon a task to write a novel is a dream I’ve had since the early 90’s, but despite my above average efforts at creative writing in high school, my first attempts were not met with enthusiasm from those unfortunate enough to be my test readers. I recall reading somewhere that most writers have to do it for 10 years before their work gets to a professional level, but I had hoped to circumvent this restriction and become awesome within a few months.

This, of course, didn’t pan out either, and by the mid 90’s I’d just about given up on the whole thing. In 1999, I decided to try again with an interesting story idea I had based on a D&D campaign I’d run a few years earlier. It took me three years to get it done, but the end result was something that most people were pretty impressed with.

I felt there was still room for growth, however, but further efforts were sidelined when I was sucked into the world of Neverwinter Nights, and set about creating stories for that instead. I finished up my epic saga for that in 2009, and the results were pretty spectacular – many players said that my characters and story were brilliant, and so when it came time to try my hand at novel writing once more, I decided to do a novelization of my NWN story, so that people who hadn’t (and wouldn’t) play the game could enjoy it.

And so, the first novel was completed in August 2011, and the feedback has been incredibly positive. As I continue to write the 2nd novel in the saga, I feel that my style is continuing to mature, along with my character building, world building, and story expanding endeavors. I weave the creative fabric of my universe in more complex ways, with far more gratifying results. The 2nd book is going to be my finest work yet, and there is much more to come.

My web page covers a lot of related work, and one can follow my progress on facebook too, if one is so inclined (all the cool kids are doing it!)






You can find it in eBook form at these locations:

Smashwords
Amazon
Apple
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
Sony
Diesel



For those of you who have Neverwinter Nights and are looking for an excellent module to play:

http://nwvault.ign.com/View.php?view=Modules.Detail&id=3920


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Writing without profanity

A Decision

I debated early on whether or not to use profanity in my writing.  After thinking about it for quite a while, I realized that stories could be told perfectly well without it.  Many of my favorite books had absolutely no swear words in them.  Recently, I've noticed that many books do have profanity, especially with Indie Authors who don't have anyone to discourage them from doing so.

My first two stories, "Blue Haired Alien Girlfriend" and "Test Pilot" have some light profanity in them, but it fit at the time.  They were written before I made the decision not to use swearing.  In writing my first novel, "Rojuun", I came to a point where it would make sense for a character to cuss, but I was uncomfortable writing it.  (I can be a total prude in some ways, oddly enough)



Would writing without profanity work?

In this day and age, swearing has become prevalent throughout American society.  Finding someone who doesn't cuss is rarer than finding someone who does.  Would it even be possible for me to write without it?  At first, it started out as an experiment.  Halfway through "Rojuun" I realized that it was pretty easy to do.

There have been two or three times when it's been really hard not to put swearing in a section where it would really fit.  I've been able to cover it by saying: "He said things that weren't polite in any language" or something like that.  It's worked pretty well.


The results

All of my novels and all but the two short stories mentioned previously have no profanity in them, a fact that I'm rather proud of at this point.  The mean characters haven't lost any of their toughness in the process.  The stories read better in my opinion.  It's also been fun putting the challenge before myself and meeting it.  The other advantage is that it makes my books palatable to a wider variety of audience.

The flaw in my plan is that I tend to add graphic violence with details of heads flying through the air and blood splattering against walls.  *sigh*  I don't really market my novels to younger children for this reason.  Another issue is that I tend to get somewhat descriptive with the beginning of sex scenes, although I fade out before it becomes erotica.  I've been accused of having too much kissing.  I'll let you decide if that's a bad thing.

So, to sum it all up: my books have gratuitous violence, mild sex and absolutely no profanity.  There's probably some sort of flaw in that logic, but it's working for me. ;)

Counterpoint

I have also read a counterpoint argument by Patty Jansen, a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest.  She makes very good points that refusing to use profanity limits vocabulary.
http://pattyjansen.com/?p=905

Friday, December 9, 2011

A note to my readers

To my readers

Many of you enjoy my books while a few of you wish my emo bunnies would die.  Either way, I thank you for reading. :)  Writing is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done in my life.  It's a lot like reading, but I'm right there with the characters, helping them to decide what to do next.  I find myself tearing up when they're sad, my heart races when they're in danger and I grin when they say something funny.  Of course this means I'm probably a bit crazy, but that's okay.  It's fun here in emo bunny land.


I love it when people read my books though.  I have had fans tell me how much they liked a story, how it made them laugh, how they didn't expect what happened next.  Hundreds of people have rated and reviewed my stories.  A few hate them, which is okay, but many more like or love them.  Either way, it is so amazing that people read my writing and respond to it.  I hope I never lose the sense of amazement I feel about it.

Exclusivity

This is a fancy sounding word that means only one person or company gets something.  It's generally a requirement of serious relationships. ;)  Amazon posted an offer yesterday that would require an agreement of Exclusivity from Indie Writers.  That means if I accepted the offer, I would only be able to publish my books through Amazon.

Here's the thing: if they were offering me a million dollar publishing contract, I would probably have to take it.  I would because I have a family and times are hard.  A million dollars would buy me a house, cars for me, my wife, my daughter (I have to buy her one when I get rich, cuz she's on my book covers) and the ability to write full time.

However, this is no such thing.  It's an offer to be part of a paid lending library for Kindle users.  Those authors who participate would share a $500,000 pot based on how many times their book was borrowed.  And each author who participates is not allowed to distribute their book anywhere else.

My promise to you

I promise that I will do everything I reasonably can to make my eBooks available to every reader in the world.  If I find it necessary to become exclusive with a company for the survival and comfort of my family, then I will break that promise. :(  However, I will try to avoid that if at all possible, even if it means taking the offer to a different publisher to see if they'll give better distribution. ;)

I want people to read my books.  I want them to do it on the reader they prefer.  I know many of my fans like to read on their iPad, Nook, Kobo or Sony readers.  Some even like reading on a smartphone or computer.  Not everyone likes Amazon.  Not everyone in the world can order through them either.

Right now, my books are available internationally through Smashwords.  They are available in 32 countries through Apple.  Kobo has made deals in England and France.  Amazon distributes through many countries, but charges a $2 surcharge for every book. :(  B&N is only available in the US (they really need to work on that)  I'm honestly not sure about Sony and Diesel's distribution.

The offer

Yesterday, Amazon made Indie Authors using Kindle Direct Publishing an offer to join their KDP Select program.  It sounds very nice.
  • Reach a new audience - Distribute books through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and reach the growing number of US Amazon Prime members.
  • Earn a whole new source of royalties - Earn your share of $500,000 in December and at least $6 million throughout 2012 when readers borrow your books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
  • Promote your book for free to readers worldwide - The newly launched Promotions Manager tool will allow you to directly control the promotion of free books.
  • Instant feedback - Check real-time performance of your books in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
The problem

Lower on the page Amazon says this:

When you choose KDP Select for a book, you're committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital. See the KDP Select Terms and Conditions for more information.

So if I were to join this program, I would have to remove my books from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony and Diesel.  I'm simply not willing to do that.  I'm not willing to shut out readers because they don't buy from Amazon, especially if my readers are in territories that are charged the $2 surcharge by Amazon.

Oh, and I seriously doubt I'd get more than a few dollars of that $500,000 pot.

Other responses to the offer

One of the companies this affects most is Smashwords.  Smashwords is a small company started a few years ago that allows Indie Writers to self-publish their writings as eBooks.  It is how I distribute my works to Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony and Diesel.  To participate in the program, writers have to unpublish works already submitted through Smashwords and anyone they distribute to.


Smashwords' response to the news is here:  http://blog.smashwords.com/2011/12/amazon-shows-predatory-spots-with-kdp.html

I've listened to a lot of Indie Authors respond in forums such as Kindleboards and author groups, such as Indie Writers Unite, Indie Authors Group, and Book Junkies on facebook.  Some are firmly against it while others have decided to jump in.  Many aren't sure what to do.

Writer Beware is one of the absolute best sites for any and every writer.  They discuss the fine print of the program:
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2011/12/fine-print-of-amazons-new-kdp-select.html


Feelings from Marsha Ward of American Night Writers Association
http://anwafounder.blogspot.com/2011/12/amazons-kdp-select-program.html

One of my writing friends, Guido Henkel, wrote his feelings in a blog post:  http://guidohenkel.com/2011/12/dear-amazon%E2%80%A6-heres-what-i-think-of-your-kindle-select-program/


Conclusion

So please feel free to enjoy or hate my books on your favorite reader.  I'm writing more and they'll be published on all the online stores I can find.  I truly hope they bring you a giggle or a laugh and that the characters in them intrigue you.  Writing is extremely fun for me and hearing from you fills my heart with joy. :)

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Self publishing one year later

I was originally going to post this on the 24th, but that was Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I was busy eating too much pie and relaxing with the family.  Since then, I've eaten more pie and spent time hanging a bunch of Christmas decorations while doing my very best not to fall off the roof.  Luckily I succeeded, though I'm extremely sore from the process.

I'll do a blog post on the Christmas decorations and why my wife and I go overboard with them sometime in the next month or so. :D

One year published

On November 24th, 2010 I self published my first book, "Rojuun" on Smashwords, a fact that filled me with quite a sense of accomplishment then and now.


One year later, I've published 4 novels, 1 novella, 8 short stories, 1 personalized children's book, 1 omnibus, and 1 collection of short stories.  That's not too shabby methinks.

In that time, I have reached over 1000 sales, which isn't too shabby either.  Over 100,000 copies of my free books have been given away in addition to that.  Many of the free giveaways result in sales or will result in future sales. 

"The Emo Bunny that Should" has been my most popular story, having been downloaded over 43,000 times.  I don't get results of how many free books I give away through Apple, so it's probably larger than that.

The journey

I decided to try writing in 1991 and put out a few poems.  It wasn't until 2002 that I tried writing a book.  It was a learning process that taught me I wasn't ready.  In 2007, I wrote a couple of short stories, the first of which was "Blue Haired Alien Girlfriend".  I submitted them to magazines, but the quality of writing at that time wasn't good.  I've fixed them since then.



I learned more through making a couple of Neverwinter Nights modules that total nearly 400,000 words of dialogue.  It gave me new ways to look at things and made me stronger at creating a character's personality through dialogue.

Playing D&D with a group and even DMing also helped me look at new ways to write.  World building became a strength, although I learned that it's possible to do so much world building that you forget to write the story.

Early 2010 was when I learned about self publishing through Amazon and Smashwords.  It was then that I decided to write that first book in earnest.

What I've learned

Self-publishing is an incredible amount of work.  Writing is only the first part.  Editing is vital if a writer wants to be truly successful in the long run.  I spend more time editing than I do writing the books.  I enjoy the stories that I write, which helps a lot.  If a section of book is agonizing to edit after the seventh time I look at it, then I study what's wrong with it and try not to do that every time I write again.

Marketing is the most time consuming and frustrating part of the process for me and a lot of other Indies.  It's largely about social networking and selling oneself.  To a large degree, there's no immediate result or gain either.  That makes it very discouraging.  The key has been to remind myself that self-publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.  Still, it would be nice to wake up one morning and see a million sales.  I can't help the desire. *sigh*

The most important thing I've learned is to keep improving the quality of my writing.  It's a long term plan.  I can focus all my energy on marketing and get a lot of sales right away or I can spend time becoming a better writer and earn those sales along with loyal readers over the long term.

Most readers look for authors they know and like.  It's important for an author to brand themselves so that people know who they are.  The way I'm doing that is to give away a lot of free short stories.  My most successful series is the Stories for Demented Children.  They're extremely popular and draw the attention of people because of the odd titles.  I recently put them together in a collection to sell in the hopes of earning a bit of extra change.




In the coming year

I'm working on The Dralin Trilogy.  It's slightly darker than The Willden Trilogy and set in the city of Dralin.  It's fun to write about the characters and imagine what their lives would be like.  The first book is done and I have a few pages of the second one written.  I really need to get going on it.




I want to get a few more novels written to balance books I charge for vs. books I give away, so the novels are primarily what I'm going to be working on for now.  I'm hoping to write three in the next year.  It's a reasonable goal.  However, I do have a day job *sob* which eats away my time.  I also make it a point to spend time with my family, much to their chagrin.  :D  So if I don't quite make it, that's okay.

It's been a good first year and I look forward to many more. :)

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How I became a writer

The beginning - poetry

It started back in 1991.  I was 21 and decided to see if I could write.  I had no clue, honestly.  It seemed the best way to find out was to write something.  I decided to write some poetry for a start, just to see what would happen.

I knew it was pretty bad and that the technical merits were nonexistent.  However, the one thing that did come out well was the image of what I was writing.  The blank page became my canvas and the words my paint.  I wrote quite a few terrible poems that I occasionally torture the readers of this blog with. (insert evil cackle here)

The poems came off and on for a while as I lived my life, picking back up when I met my wife. :)  But other than that, I didn't write much for a long time and nothing serious.  You might be interested to know that those first poems were written on a computer using Wordstar.

First attempt at a book

I started writing the first book, called "Liquid Wyvern" in 2002.  It wasn't very good, but I learned a lot in the attempt.  The first chapter of that book was used as the fabric for "Dralin", my fourth novel.  The second chapter will be my ninth book.  The original chapters work better as outlines for novels rather than as chapters.


I made it 40,000 words into the book before setting it aside.  After that, I wrote a couple of short stories, "Blue Haired Alien Girlfriend" and "Test Pilot".  I submitted them to sci-fi magazines where they were rejected.  After publishing "Rojuun", I took a look at them again and realized that they needed massive work, so I fixed them and now give them away for free. :)  They're both fun little sci-fi stories that I enjoyed writing.

Neverwinter Nights

I like playing D&D and computer rpg games.  Baldur's Gate was the first computer game that I played and I loved it.  Then in 2006 I discovered Neverwinter Nights, which has a toolset that can be used to create your own game.  People were making modules, which are separate games.  The cool thing was that they didn't have to fit into established story lines or rules.  There were some true gems out there and I decided to try my hand at it.

Over the next few years, I built two humorous adventure modules, "Resurrection Gone Wrong" and "Resurrection Gone Wronger", both of which made the hall of fame.  Between the two, there is over 350,000 words of dialogue, which is longer than my trilogy!

I learned a lot in the process of building these modules.  It gave me the opportunity to look at writing in different ways.  The biggest thing I learned is writing dialogue.  I've become very good at that aspect of writing.

I also created a character named "Zombie Bob" that has become a bit of a legend in the community.  He added a lot of humor to the module and even a strong story line.

Discovering eBooks

I started thinking about writing again and I did some research.  One of my biggest issues with trying to become an author is that you have to go through an insane process of getting an agent who gets you a publisher, a process that can take years or even decades.  It was something that always discouraged me.

While researching, I discovered Smashwords and Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.  It would probably mean never getting a traditional publishing contract, but I decided that would be alright.  At that point I decided it was time to get serious about writing and publishing my books.  It was a decision I do not regret.

Becoming a self published author


In February of 2010, I started writing.  My original story was lost at that point (I've since found it)  It took four months to write it, not counting a month where I performed in a play with my wife.  It took another four months to edit it numerous times before finally publishing it to Smashwords on November 24th 2010.  Since then, I've learned even more about writing and have become better, but I'm still extremely happy with the book.

In the year following, I've added 3 more novels, a novella, 8 short stories and a children's story that can be customized, called "A New Pet in the Family".



I'm getting ready to start the fifth novel and look forward to making a career out of this before long.  There is an unlimited potential for authors right now and it's exciting!

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Mountain Lake - A Poem

Explanation

I have been writing (mostly bad) poetry since I was 21.  This is very odd considering I absolutely hate poetry.  Poetry drives me up a wall.  As a form of writing, it tends to be overly impressed with itself.  If someone wishes to say something, it's best just to come out and say it instead of tying it up in uselessly colorful words that confuse the entire situation.

So . . . now that I've gone on a rant about how much I dislike poetry . . . Let's get back to the fact that I write it. *sigh*  The fact of the matter is, poetry is a very useful tool for writers.  It's a way to get concepts, images and ideas onto paper and experiment with words.  It's also awesome for saying lovey-dovey-gushy stuff.

This specific poem is about Muncho Lake in the Colorado Rockies of Northern British Columbia. Muncho Lake  It was a sight I viewed while driving to Alaska back in 1994.  The scene is as I remember it in the morning after sleeping in my little Toyota pickup truck overnight.



From Wikipedia:
The jade green color of the lake is attributed to the presence of copper oxide leached from the bedrock underneath. Its name is derived from the Kaska language in which "muncho" translates as "big water".

Please understand that this was written before I was writing consistently.  The technical merits of the writing are . . . non-existant.  It could be written much better, but I'm not going to edit it.  I figure this will keep me from becoming too impressed with myself if I hit it big. ;)

My Mountain Lake

Snowcapped peaks
Rugged rock
Breaking the sky
Towering over land

Clouds above
Bringing moisture of life
Waiting for time
To release their gift

Beams of light
Parading down
Godly in manner
Brilliantly shining

A lake of jade
Calm little rippled
Silently lapping
Upon shores of grass

Trees climbing mountains
Douglas and spruce
Orange and red
Yellow and green

Swans passing over
On their way south
Spreading their wings
spreading their beauty

Over this I look
Gazing at this sight
Holding my breath
In wonder and awe

I am filled with amazement
At a sight of such beauty
I now leave my body
And play in this space

Over this lake I fly
Under the water I gaze
Hopping from peak to peak
I revel in life

Freedom is here
Untainted and true
Pleasure and beauty
Of the artist unknown

I look back toward my body
Basking in joy
I am at peace
With all that I am

Thank you my mountain lake
For sharing your beauty
FOr sharing your tapestry
For simply being there

I will always remember
The joy you have given
I will someday return
To see you again

Copyright 1994 John H. Carroll





Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anilyia - Book 2 of the Willden Trilogy

Anilyia

In a post a couple of months ago, I talked about my first book, "Rojuun".  Here I'm going to discuss the second book, "Anilyia".




The process

Writing and publishing my first book was thrilling.  At the same time, it gave me something to live up to.  I decided right away that I was going to make it a trilogy.  It just seemed like a good size that I could sell.  I didn't want to write eighty books and still not have a conclusion.  So then I had to figure out what the next couple of books would hold.

The good news was that I had four excellent, well-developed characters.  The group relationship was developed and I could have fun with it.  One of the hardest parts was figuring out how to re-introduce the characters without boring the crap out of the reader.  I did it by narrating the details through the memory of the main character, Tathan.  I did the same for book three.  On my next trilogy, I'm trying new ways that I believe will work better.

Writing the second book was fun because I had learned so much from the first one.  I ran into two big problems.  The first was that I stopped about 60,000 words into it in order to do final edits and publish Rojuun.  Then I had to pick up from where I left off.

The second problem was the middle of the book.  I had them traveling for weeks and I did an information dump in the process.  It was clumsy and my least favorite part of the book.  Before I discourage you from reading any further, I'd like to say that the rest of the story is well worth suffering through that part. ;)  And there is some rather neat stuff in the information dump.

Phongnhakebang Caverns in Vietnam

The story

I picked up a few days after the first book.  The characters are in an inn and they need to report their findings about the race called Rojuun to Mother Tree, who sent them on the quest in the first place.  I introduced some intrigue right away that I intended to follow up on in the third book.

I still hadn't come up with a plot by the third chapter.  I decided to make fun of the "Save the world" theme that most fantasy books tend to have and brought in a character that would be over the top.  For the next few chapters I had numerous opportunities for humor.  It's one of my favorite parts of the book.  The plot developed into saving a princess, which is another cliche.  However, it's not a normal rescue by any stretch of the imagination.
After the characters visited Mother Tree, I sent them back into the caverns of the Rojuun.  Setting up a vast ecosystem underground took quite a bit of imagination and research.  I have no idea if what I wrote is possible, but I do believe it's possible.  Luminescent plants and animals that produce both light and oxygen is a really neat concept.  I can picture the scenes in my mind as though they were part of a movie.

The Rojuun become more developed as a race in this book and also much more mysterious at the same time.  There will be future series in this world where Rojuun will come into play as well.  Many readers will not be sure what to think of them after reading "Anilyia".

I will leave the question of whether the companions save the princess and what happens after the attempt for discovery within the book.  Also, I should warn you that "Anilyia" ends in a cliffhanger that will make getting book 3 "Kethril" irresistible.  Luckily that also is available in all stores.

Jessica Jorgenson, the model for the covers of the Willden Trilogy.  Photograph by Tracy Carroll


Description

Book 2 of the Willden Trilogy begins shortly after the events of book one. Tathan and his companions meet danger with a healthy dose of humor and irreverence during their adventures.

After spending time in the deep caverns fighting the terrible creatures called sstejj, the companions return to Mother Tree deep in the Willden Forest to tell her what they’ve learned. Along the way, Liselle and Vevin meet a magical being who informs them that the world will go poof if they don’t save Princess Anilyia of Mayncal, believed to be held captive by the Rojuun.

The companions start their quest to gather information; only to have their plans interrupted by a mysterious green eyed woman and her pet . . . who, oddly enough, also has green eyes.

Their journey takes them into the depths of the world. They discover the location of the princess, but the odds of rescuing her are beyond difficult and everyone is talking about humpfiggers falling from the sky. Perhaps half a plan would be better than none at all.

Will the companions be able to accomplish the mission? Do they truly understand the Rojuun? Will Vevin finally get to nom one to see if it’s tasty? What in the world will they do with the princess if they do save her?

The Willden Trilogy is an epic fantasy that follows the adventures of Tathan and his companions through the Willden Forest and into the depths of the world. A new race called Rojuun has appeared in the world and is threatening to make humans their servants. It is the companions’ task to learn more and perhaps rescue a princess if they have the time.

This is a full length novel of approximately 103,000 words, or about 400-450 printed pages


The price of Anilyia is $2.99

Smashwords

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to find your books on international Apple iTunes, iBooks stores

iTunes bookstore, or iBooks as many call it.

As many authors know, or don't know, or guess, or deduce, or think, or figure, or remain oblivious to, or . . . I'm getting out of hand, aren't I? . . . Apple's iBookstore is available in lots of countries.  Smashwords distributes eBooks to Apple as well as to other bookstores.  They do it efficiently and also have the option free isbn numbers for writers, a requirement for publishing with Apple.

It's a little difficult to find your books on iTunes, but not impossible.  Smashwords has this information in their FAQs: http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#findonapple

How to Locate your Smashwords Ebook in the Apple Store:
Take a look at this (study the URL before you click):

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781452300030
                country code ^                      ^ISBN ^ 

On Smashwords, find your ISBN by clicking your Dashboard's ISBN Manager.

Note: be sure to take the dashes out of your isbn when you paste it. 

They also promote Russell Phillips' Tools for Authors: http://www.russellphillipsbooks.co.uk/pages/tools.php which has a tool to create the links for Apple.

Now you've found your book.

Here is what my first book, "Rojuun" looks like.  Once you enter the above info, the URL is adjusted to add the name of your book.:

Also, you should now have an author page, which can be found by clicking on "View More By This Author" in the upper right hand corner.

If you look at the numbers in the links above for my first book and my author page, you may notice that the author number is one greater than the first book.  I've done some research and it appears to be that way for all Smashword authors.

Finding your books internationally

Okay, in the links above, you may have noticed that they all have /us/ in the link right after .com.  That is the country code.  I know for certain of 32 countries in which Smashwords distributed books are available.  You can read the recent Smashwords anouncement where Apple added 26 European and Scandinavian countries here: Smashwords Blog

If you would like to be able to see your author page or book in each country, simply replace /us/ in your link with the country code listed below.

US                                 us
Canada                          ca
U.K.                              uk
Germany                        de
France                            fr
Australia                        au
Austria                           at
Belgium                         be
Bulgaria                         bg
Cyprus                          cy
Czech Republic             cz
Denmark                       dk
Estonia                          ee
Finland                          fi
Greece                          gr
Hungary                        hu
Ireland                          ie
Italy                              it
Latvia                           lv
Lithuania                       lt
Luxembourg                 lu
Malta                           mt
Netherlands                 nl
Norway                       no
Poland                         pl
Portugal                       pt
Romania                      ro
Slovakia                      sk
Slovenia                      si
Spain                          es
Sweden                      se
Switzerland                 ch

I found the data on the country codes here: http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/codes/country.htm It seems like a very useful page to anyone who might need info like that.

Anyway, I hope this helps all you authors who have books distributed through Apple.  This is another useful tool that I'm creating largely for my own benefit, but also for other authors.

All my best and happy writing. :)

John

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Steps for an Indie Author to market eBooks

Introduction

As you may or may not know, I am an Indie Author, which is a cool way of saying that I write books, then edit them, make the covers, publish them to numerous eBook sites, and then try to get people to buy them through marketing and social networking.  If you know me personally, then you are aware that I almost never talk, so this whole social networking thing is really not my forte.  There are other Indie Authors out there that are much better than I am at this.

Note:  This is not all of the places or ways of marketing for an Indie Author.  I'm just listing what I do.

I'd really love to just spend all my time writing books and letting others do the everything else for me, but it doesn't work that way for Indie Authors.  I could try to become professionally published, but I'm a little too odd to be accepted and the pay just isn't good enough.

I'm making this post largely for myself so that I remember all of the steps I need to take each time I publish.  I'm starting to lose track.  But I'm also making it to help other Indies out there. :)  Part of my problem is that I don't always do all of this.  In addition to writing, I have a full time job and a family that I pay attention too.  Marketing isn't as much fun as writing.

My worst problem is that I can't stand being pushy, so I usually only mention my books every once in a while and then hope that people find me because they like them well enough to read them.  Speaking of pushy, I'm going to make the links to examples of my works where possible, partly so you can see an example of how to do it, and partly because I know you want to see my awesome stuff. :D

The first thing I do is publish to Smashwords, Amazon and B&N.

Another important step is to have images of my covers for all the sites that need it.  I have folders on my computer, but some sites like an online link.  I use photobucket:  http://s1227.photobucket.com/albums/ee436/kookoo88/  I also have my covers in three sizes.  My higher resolution covers are 1100x1500.  Then I have a 220x300 resolution that I use for forums, especially Mobileread which doesn't allow larger.  And a thumbnail size 80x109.  They don't have to be exactly that size, it's just what I use.  I also post my covers on Deviant Art: http://johnhcarroll.deviantart.com/gallery/

Steps I take when marketing

The Smashwords version is generally available immediately, so I promote that first.

1. Go to the Smashwords page and twit about it. (yes, I know, most people say tweet) http://twitter.com/#!/kookoo88
2. If you're an Indie Author, facebook fan pages are a useful tool.  I post the link to my fan page next. http://www.facebook.com/John.H.Carroll.Author
3. I'm not on reddit, stumble upon, or a bunch of others, but if you are, it's a good choice.
4. Put your books up on Goodreads. Create an author page if you haven't already. http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4479427.John_H_Carroll This is a very important place to have a presence.  It's advisable to join groups and engage in conversations. Do NOT self-promote in general conversations and forum threads.  Only promote where you're allowed and don't be spammy.  People don't like it you're only there to sell them something.
5. I post my book on Indie Book Lounge: http://www.indiebooklounge.com/
6. I post my book on Book Junkies Library. http://www.book-junkies-library.com/
7. I post my book with Calibre, but only if it doesn't have DRM (Digital Rights Management).  I never add that if it's an option. http://drmfree.calibre-ebook.com/by/author/john-h-carroll  The best way to get a hold of them is to post your book info, author name and link on their facebook wall: http://www.facebook.com/#!/calibre.ebook  Be sure to add genres and price as well. They like to know if it's a novel, novella or short story.
8. I post my book on Book Barista. http://www.bookbarista.com/
9.  Once you get your book published through Amazon, update its details on Shelfari. http://www.shelfari.com/johnhcarroll
10. It's a good idea to set up a page on Library Thing http://www.librarything.com/home/JohnHCarroll it's a little complicated and I don't have everything set up there, but . . .
11. Did I mention blogging about it?  Yeah.  I'm way behind on blogging about my books.  *sigh*  As far as that site goes . . . well . . . you're kinda here.
12. Explore different review sites and submit your book for review.  Be certain to follow their guidelines.
12-a. Important note.  Do your best to write a good book that's also technically well written.  If your book sucks, it will receive a bad review.

If you wish to pay for advertising, two reputable sites are Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today, the latter of which leans more toward romance books. 
Promoting in forums
Two of the biggest are Kindleboards http://www.kindleboards.com/ and Mobileread http://www.mobileread.com/.  They each have an author self promotion forum to post in.  I use the 220x300 resolution cover link on them.  One of the keys here is not to post in any other forums than the ones specified. The moderators are very draconian about their rules  Another key is to engage in general conversation on other threads in their forums.  Do NOT self promote in them.

One thing with Mobilereads is to introduce yourself in the introduction forum before going elsewhere. Also, you don't get a signature for the first week and you have to have 10 posts if I recall correctly.

There are many, many other forums out there.  One trick is to find forums specifically geared toward your genre, such as romance, sci-fi or horror forums.  This is a lot of work and I'm going to be honest in that I don't do it near enough.  I have limited time and I usually end up writing instead.

Once your books go live on Amazon and B&N, you can bump the Kindleboard, Mobileread and any other forum posts where you've posted your book.  You can do it again when Smashwords distributes to Apple, Kobo, Sony, Diesel and any others.  Also, if you get a review, you can post that . . . although, I'd keep quite about any 1 star reviews. ;)

If I'm giving the eBook away for free, I can promote in more places.

1. getfreeebooks.com is the single best site to list your free eBooks. http://www.getfreeebooks.com/  I get hundreds of downloads every time they post my books
1-a. Once you have a book there, you can create a very nice author page: http://authors.getfreeebooks.com/2011/08/john-h-carroll/
2. Ereader News Today will generally post your free eBooks on their site, which brings in quite a few readers.  Their fans tend to be Kindle customers, so it's best to have the story go free on Amazon first.

Where I don't promote.

1. I'm in a few facebook groups, like Book Junkies, Indie Author Group and Indie Writers Unite.  I like these groups and they're a nice place to talk.  I could promote to them a little bit, but they see a lot of that anyway and I really prefer to go there just for the conversations. :)
2. Forums where it's not allowed.  You will make readers hostile towards you.
3. Don't get hyper about asking everybody about reviews.  Put a note that you'd like reviews at the end of the story and let it go.  If you have twenty solicited 5 star reviews, real readers aren't going to believe them and may start voting harshly to correct the discrepancy.

Final Notes

Readers buy books from authors they know before they'll buy from anyone else.  The key is for an Indie author to get readers to know them.  My main strategy for this is to give away short stories for free and to market as much as I can stand before going back to writing the next novel.

It is a truth that one of the most important thing any writer can do is to constantly improve their craft and put out a higher quality product each time.  This is the best marketing of all.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sensible writing, using your senses

Capturing the five senses


Nymphenburg Palace - Photograph by Gryffindor - Loadscreen by Mistress
Writing is an adventure; sometimes enjoyable, sometimes torturous. In my writing, I've been working hard to add the five senses to everything I do. I believe it will make it a more immersive experience.
The five senses are: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. (we're leaving out spiritual and non-physical senses out of this one)

The difficulty becomes how to add them to the story. (a fantasy novel in my case) How does the writer describe these things while making it all flow smoothly with the rest of the scene.

I found in my early writing that I was completely leaving out smell, sounds and taste. The only thing I was doing well was the sights, but even that left something to be desired. I'm getting better at it, but it's difficult. I've decided to share some of my observations so far.

I call adding the senses "coloring". The story is the black and white outline of the pages. Everything else is coloring the story to make it pretty. Most people don't like bland or plain stories.

I generally add details in two different ways. Sometimes I write a paragraph or two about the surroundings. Sometimes I add the details in the middle of dialogue. 


Photo by Tracy Carroll

Examples of how to add the senses

These are the first two paragraphs of my first book. I set the scene with them. In it I tried to describe all five senses in order to immerse the reader:

Tathan was a tall man of twenty nine years with short, curly black hair framing a face tanned by travel.  His hand was on the hilt of a thin, slightly curved sword sheathed at his waist and his intense grey eyes studied the peaceful valley where he had been raised.  Throughout his journeys, he always remembered the sights and scents of this valley.  Tathan closed his eyes and felt the breeze caress his cheek as it had in his childhood.  It brought the sounds of bees finding the first blossoms of the year.  Other insects buzzed through the valley hoping the birds would be too busy singing their songs to feast upon them.
The sun had risen just an hour ago.  Tathan knew it would take a full day and night’s travel to make it to the eastern side of the valley where he used to live, so he adjusted his travel pack on his shoulders and continued on.  There was no path or road; his parent’s house being the only dwelling in the valley.  Snowcapped mountains surrounded wild grasses which were dotted with groves of trees and crossed by small streams. The sky was deep blue with wisps of clouds that would likely become afternoon thunderstorms.  It was early spring and flowers were beginning to bloom, mingling their scents with that of fresh grass.If you look through those, you can see an instance of each. The first time I wrote it, I left out everything but sights. I had to go back and re-work it five different times. Now as to whether or not it's good, we'll leave that to the reader, but it does include all of the elements.

Here is an excerpt where I've described some of the senses while adding dialogue and advancing the story:

“Hello there travelers!” a tall, heavyset woman said with a great smile.  She stood at the bar, cleaning mugs.  Her hair was strawberry blonde and she had a ruddy complexion.  “I’ve not seen you in town.  Come have a seat and tell me of yourselves.”  Her voice was loud and cheerful as she waved them over to the bar with a thick hand.  “It’s a pleasure to see you.  Dinner’s just about ready if you’re hungry.”
“That would be wonderful,” Liselle responded.  She smiled and sat down on one of the bar stools.  “The food smells delicious.”  Indeed, mouthwatering aromas were emanating from beyond swinging doors at the far right of the bar.
“It is superb.  My sister, Renna is the best cook you’ll find in this town,” she stated confidently.  “I’m Hulda by the way.  The White Tree Inn is my pride and joy, though we don’t get many customers at the moment.”

It's pretty common to describe a person's appearance and voice when introducing. I manage to throw in smell and taste with "mouthwatering aromas" too. I could have added that the adventurers had aching muscles which would have covered the sense of touch. (you don't actually have to touch something to experience that sense. It could also be the sense of "feel")

Here is a sample from my most recent writing, "Dralin", where I'm starting to add a lot of mood into the descriptions as well:

The bench was damp from the snow that melted as soon as it landed on anything, not being quite cold enough for the flakes to stick.  Sheela’s dress was already wet and dirty anyway, so sitting on the bench didn’t bother her.  It felt good to get off of her feet for a short time and she rubbed the cold ache out of them.  Many of the people traveling by wore shoes and Sheela thought perhaps she might own a pair someday.
Sounds of the city surrounded her as she watched the people passing in a mad rush to finish their tasks before nightfall.  Wagon drivers yelled above the clopping of their horse’s hooves, which clattered sharply over the humming drone of thousands of voices talking incessantly about whatever matters might be important to them at the time.
Endless buildings obscured a ruddy sunset that lit the bottoms of patchy clouds on the western horizon.  Rays of light burst through the smog and snow to cast a dirty orange radiance over everything.  Exotic scents came from many of the wagons that had traveled from such places as Mayncal, Brindlyn, and the Iynath Empire.  They mixed in with the odors of livestock, unwashed bodies, cooking food and smells Sheela couldn’t begin to identify.
The assault on her senses was overwhelming, making her dizzy and lightheaded.  Taking a deep breath didn’t help because it brought something new each time.  The odors were so heavy that she could taste them on her tongue, both pleasant and unpleasant. 

In Conclusion

Creating the image for the reader is one of the areas where the craftsmanship of the author truly comes into play.  If it's well done, then the reader feels immersed into the story.  If it's poorly done, the reader begins to think that housework might be a preferable alternative and we don't want that.

It's not always easy to add the senses and doing it well is even more difficult. It's been a learning process for me with each new book written.  I recommend doing it whenever possible though. It will provide a much grander experience for your reader. :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The hats an Indie Author wears

This is about all the hats an Indie Author has to wear when self-publishing.  I would like to note that it's very important to have the emo bunnies do these positions, because trying to do them by oneself could lead to insanity.

Writer

This is your job.  Don't worry about any of the rest.  Let the emo bunnies take care of it.

Emo Bunny in charge

This is the bunny that makes certain all the other emo bunnies are doing their jobs; the CEmO, the Executive Director Bunny, the President Bunny.  However, this emo bunny usually spends all his time on the golf course eating the grass, so he doesn't count.



Emo Bunny Editor

This is the bunny that makes certain the story is good.  She is responsible for the flow of the story and cuts things that don't add to the main plot.

Emo Bunny Copy Editor

This is the bunny that makes certain every word is spelled correctly and is in the right place.  This emo bunny tends to take a lot of naps and loses focus often when working for Indie Authors.



Emo Bunny Publisher

This is the bunny responsible for getting files formatted and uploaded to Smashwords, Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, Scribd, Wattpad . . . and numerous others.  It's very important that everything be done exactly right here, so have Emo Bunny Resources put your least depressed bunny in charge of this.



Emo Bunny Marketer

By far the busiest job.  It's best to have numerous bunnies to work on this.  They won't talk to each other much unless it's about how much they like rainy days.  They post new releases to forums, Getfreeebooks.com, Ereader News Today, Breakthrough Bookstore, Goodreads, Book Junkies Library, etc . . . Due to so many bunnies working on this, things usually get missed.


 
    
 


Emo Bunny PR Agent

Very similar to the marketer, but this one handles emails, facebook, twitter and everyday conversations on forums that aren't about the books.  These bunnies should be cute because they're trying to get people to like the writer.  Luckily, emo bunnies are even cuter than normal bunnies.

Emo Bunny Accountant

This is a very boring job for most bunnies working for Indie Authors not named Amanda Hocking, making it the most sought after.  Even though it deals with complicated numbers and even taxes, there's usually not enough revenue to stress over anything.  Of course that never stops an emo bunny from stressing.

Emo Bunny Resources

This is the equivalent of Human Resources.  But since Indie Authors can't afford humans, we have to settle for emo bunnies.  This office is responsible for keeping track of them.  It's usually unstaffed due to lack of interest.



Conclusion

It's a really bad idea for an author to try to take on all of these tasks alone.  Publishing houses have large staffs of humans to do all of it.  If you can't afford humans, get minions.  My minions just happen to be emo bunnies.  I advise against getting ducks because they're noisy, obnoxious and they nip.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drippy the Peg-Legged Rainbow, A Story for Demented Children

Why do I keep writing stories for Demented Children?

I've decided that I'm going to make a habit of asking readers questions that I intend to answer.  I don't know why, so don't ask.

I write stories for demented children because normal children have plenty of stories and don't need anymore.  I write stories for kids who think the world kinda sucks and nobody gives them enough hugs, at least not the non-creepy sort of hugs.

Also, when I was a kid, I always thought the world kinda sucked.  My parents were really great and my brothers and sisters were okay.  But the rest of it just seemed mean and out to get me.  I wanted to lose myself in fantasy worlds.  These stories tap into a lot of how I felt then.

How in the world did I come up with a story about a peg-legged rainbow?

Last month, I saw the leg of a rainbow.  I though to myself: "Hey, there's a rainbow somewhere that's missing a leg!"  Then I thought it was probably a peg-legged rainbow.  I tweeted these thoughts, much to the dismay of my followers.  Eventually I decided to write a story about it . . . . much to the dismay of my followers . . .




The picture on the cover was taken by my wife, Tracy.  She does a lot of the photography for my covers. :)

What's it about?

It's about a rainbow.  DUH!

It's about a peg-legged rainbow that's mad at having his leg stolen by a leprechaun.  He decides to use a tree to help get around.  Along the way he meets a bunny named Emo, (surprise, surprise) a couple more rainbows and a leprechaun or two.

I won't tell you too much about it.  It is a short story after all.

Where can I get it?

Boy, I ask a lot of questions.  But I have a lot of answers too, so it all balances out

As of the time of this writing, you can get it from smashwords. :) 

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/90553?ref=johnhcarroll

It will be available on Amazon in the next day or two, but it will cost $.99 there until they price match after a few weeks.  It will also be available at Apple and Barnes & Noble here in the next few weeks and will be free right away. :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bookata - Personalized ebooks.

Why am I telling you about this?

I seem to start a lot of these blog posts by asking questions that I'm supposed to answer.  It seems a bit silly, but . . .

Anyway, in March of this year (2011) I received an email from a person who had read "The Emo Bunny that Should" and one of the poems I wrote to my wife.  He liked my work and wanted me to write a story that could be customized.

I wasn't too sure about it at first, but took a look at the website and decided it had amazing potential.  The stories on it are completely customizable to fit anyone's situation.  There are drop down choices for a person to select from for starters.  Once all the choices are made, a person can edit every section to make adjustments to fit their personal situation.  The illustrations that go with it are exceptional work and add extraordinary life to the work.

The story I wrote is called "A New Pet in the Family".  It was a challenge to write all the different options, but it was also a great deal of fun.  The experience has made me a better writer too.  I'll be writing a customizable love poem for them soon too.  I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

I highly recommend checking out these stories to see if there's one that may fit your personal situation.

What is Bookata?


From their website:

Bookata is an online platform addressing children's life events through personalized stories. Families and friends use our engine to adapt beautiful narratives and art into unique stories, for actual people, who have a name, a personality, a unique history.
Started in 2009 by three dads (as an amusement for their 7 kids, combined), Bookata aims to become a much appreciated, friendly and familiar provider for content personalization on all tablets and eReaders. We don't target a massive success - we just want one reader at a time to fall in love with our portable, unique, personalized e-books.

A New Pet in the Family


This is the story I wrote.  Artwork was done by the amazing Claudia Mendoza

Kids are willing to promise anything in order to get a new pet. The parents should open their heart but also be prepared to have a bumpy ride, full of adventures, sometimes funny, sometimes less. It is a serious medium and long term commitment and the decision should be wisely taken, with all the family members. To make the enlarging of the family an exciting moment the parent can take elements from the child life into this charming story of love, transition and humor. Like in all Bookata books, the whole story can be personalized. In this case the new rules and responsibilities surrounding the pet, as well as the usual child and sibling gender, age, race, and name. And, of course, the pet: name, breed, color, etc.

A Soft Place to Fall



Birthdays are important milestones that celebrate who we are, who we were, and who we will be. Personalized birthday wishes are a perfect way to honor a child's birthday. With unforgettable moments that illustrate unconditional love, the birthday child will feel the way everyone should feel on their birthday, cherished, unique, extraordinary.

Patch Pirates



Despite two decades of public health initiatives, stricter government dietary guidelines, record growth of farmers’ markets and the ease of products like salad in a bag, American children still aren’t eating enough vegetables. Pediatricians and nutritionists concede that perhaps simply telling people to eat more vegetables isn’t working. There is nothing a parent can say that will get the kids willingly to eat more veggies. Eating vegetables is a lot less fun than eating flavor-blasted Doritos. Bookata is repositioning vegetables as fun filled adventures with pirates characters included. And, of course, your child in the center of the story.

We Had Such A Great Time!



The loss of a pet is hard on everyone. Children can be especially sensitive at this traumatic time. Because it is often a child's first encounter with death, it is important that the situation is handled with care. With this book, a parent can thoughtfully create a remembrance space where the family honors the pet. By integrating real life elements, and events meaningful specifically to the individual pet and family, the parent is better adept at guiding their child in a positive direction toward closure.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Options to replace the word said

This is a list of words I've compiled to use in the place of "said".  I've catagorized them to a degree, but probably not as much as I could.  The list of most common are the ones I use the most.  They may not match yours.  Hopefully this will help you. :)  If you should have others that aren't on this list, feel free to let me know in the comments and I'll add them.

Most common
added, asked, assured, began, claimed, commented, confessed, confided, continued, explained, finished, guessed, informed, inquired, insisted, mentioned, mumbled, observed, pointed out, promised, reassured, remarked, repeated, replied, responded

Generic
admitted, advised, answered, articulated, assumed, called, cautioned, chatted, cited, consulted, conveyed, debated, decided, described, directed, disclosed, divulged, echoed, elaborated, emitted, estimated, exposed, expressed, forced, foretold, gasped, gawped, held, hesitated, hinted, implied, indicated, instructed, maintained, mimicked, mouthed, narrated, noted, notified, obeyed, offered, panted, petitioned, predicted, prescribed, prodded, professed, prompted, proposed, purported, purred, pushed, quivered, quoted, rambled, rationalized, reasoned, reckoned, recounted, reflected, related, relished, remonstrated, reported, restated, resumed, returned, revealed, ruled, shrugged, shuddered, slurred, smiled, speculated, spoke, started, stated, stressed, suggested, swooned, testified, thought, told, touted, trailed, twitted, twittered, understood, urged, uttered, verified, voiced, voted, wondered, yawned, yelped

Agree
accepted, acknowledged, admitted, affirmed, agreed, concurred

Disagree
contended, denied, disputed, argued, corrected, countered, disagreed, retorted

Interrupt
cut in, cut off, interjected

Positive
applauded, approved, beamed, complimented, cooed, empathized, emphasized, encouraged, enlightened, illuminated, invited, lilted, praised, sympathized

Negative
accused, alleged, bellyached, berated, boasted, bragged, chided, choked, complained, criticized, cursed, disrupted, faltered, feared, fretted, frowned, fumed, fussed, gloated, glowered, gossiped, grated, grieved, griped, groaned, growled, grumbled, grunted, hissed, interrogated, interrupted, jabbed, jibed, judged, lamented, lectured, leered, lied, moaned, mocked, mourned, nagged, nitpicked, objected, preached, protested, scoffed, scolded, scowled, seethed, snapped, snarled, sneered, sniffled, sniped, sniveled, snorted, sobbed, spat, sputtered, stammered, struggled, stumbled, stuttered, swore, taunted, teased, threatened, warned

Asking
queried, questioned, requested

Strong positive
announced, asserted, cheered, chorused, commanded, crowed, declared, dictated, exclaimed, howled, persisted, persuaded, proclaimed, pronounced, rejoiced, sang, sang out, vocalized, vowed, whooped, yelled

Strong negative
barked, bellowed, bossed, chastised, demanded, hollered, ordered, raged, ranted, roared, screamed, screeched, shouted, shrieked, stormed, thundered, vented

Quiet
breathed, comforted, consoled, dreamed, murmured, muttered, whispered, yawned, sighed

Musical
chanted, chimed in, chirped, crooned, droned, harmonized, sang, sung

Humor
chortled, chuckled, giggled, grinned, guffawed, joked, laughed, smirked, snickered

Twaddle
babbled, blubbered, blurted, clucked, croaked, drawled, exaggerated, gurgled, jabbered, quipped

Angsty
agonized, appealed, bargained, bawled, beckoned, begged, beseeched, cried, cried out, entreated, implored, pleaded, pouted, prayed, quaked, trembled, wailed, wept, whimpered, whined