Print on Demand with Amazon

I'm about to publish All the Safe Places as a print-on-demand paperback on Amazon. I've had it set up on Amazon's CreateSpace platform since I published the Kindle version but I had some formatting issues to sort out and have only just come back to fix them and publish the print version. I discovered that there is now another option - KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has a beta version of a paperback print-on-demand platform, KDP Paperbacks. Wondering whether that would be a better option, I searched for answers among the Indie publishing blogs.

The consensus seems to be that it's too early to switch, but Create Space will eventually be removed. If you transfer a book you've published on CreateSpace over to KDP Paperback, it's deleted from CreateSpace.

The royalties are the same but you can't order at-cost proof copies and author copies, and there can be some technical problems if you're transferring a book that you've already created in Create Space. An advantage of KDP is that if you make changes to your print book on CreateSpace, the old version of the book is removed (which can affect sales and ranking) while KDP – both print and Kindle – keeps your old version up and available for purchase until the new version is approved. An author on the CreateSpace forums mentions that "I really like the efficiency of Createspace Customer Support. KDP you can't even contact by phone and usually not at all through other means. (In fact, I am not sure how to contact them)." Another wrote that "If you are happy with CreateSpace, stick around and don't fix what ain't broke. In any case, being a no-backing-out bleeding-edge beta-test guinea pig is not advised for people who care about their publishing venture."

So I'll be publishing this one in Create Space, and waiting until these issues have been sorted out before publishing anything on KDP Paperbacks.

An important issue is whether either platform will enable books to be printed and shipped from the new Amazon Australia warehouse. Here's what one blogger said about this: "There was no confirmation about the Australian store being added to either POD platform soon. The recent opening of Amazon fulfillment centers in both Australia and Japan though gives hope that eventually Amazon POD books will be added as well."

Here are links to some of the useful posts I found:

Amazon's explanation of the new service: Publish your paperback on KDP (Beta)

John Doppler: Should Authors Move From Createspace to KDP Paperbacks? A First Look

Gundi Gabrielle: CreateSpace vs KDP Print

The discussion on the CreateSpace Forum

How to use your Kindle Paperwhite to become a better writer

The Kindle Paperwhite has some features that can help you become a better writer, in an enjoyable and relatively effortless way. Other versions of Kindle or other devices may have these features, but the Kindle Paperwhite is the one I'm using.

Firstly, if you want to write well, you must read widely. Any ebook reader can help you there. The classics are available free or at a very low cost, and when you hear about an interesting new book you can often obtain it immediately. Don't just read the popular works, though - and do read books from the previous decades and even the previous century, if you are not already familiar with them. By doing so, you will automatically absorb correct grammar, sentence structure, spelling and a wide vocabulary. You will see words and phrases in context, and will be less likely to use them inappropriately.

The Kindle Paperwhite has a direct link to Amazon and to Goodreads, the book reviewing application, where you can review books you have read and see recommendations for similar books.

The next useful feature of a Kindle is the dictionary. You can choose from several dictionaries, for example the Oxford or the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Sadly, the Macquarie Dictionary, which is the standard for Australia, does not seem to be available on Amazon. For Australians, the next best option is the Oxford. Once you have chosen your dictionary (under Settings), when you press on a word the definition is displayed. Since this is so much more convenient than looking the word up online, or dragging out volume 3 of your hardcopy dictionary, you are much more likely to look up words you are not familiar with and find out the exact definition, rather than relying on guesswork.

The Kindle Paperwhite also offers to look the word up on Wikipedia, which may or may not be useful.

The new feature that is offered in the Kindle Paperwhite, which didn't exist in the Kindle Touch, is the Vocabulary Builder. If you have turned on this feature, every time you look up a word in the dictionary, it is added to the list of words you're learning in the Vocabulary Builder.

When you go to Vocabulary Builder, you will see the words you've looked up, and you can see the definition. You can also see the word in the context of the sentence from the book where you read it. Even if the dictionary didn't have a definition, the context may be enough to remind you of the meaning if you looked it up elsewhere (for example, on Google). In this way, you will increase your vocabulary in a fairly painless way. More importantly, you will be reminded of the context, by seeing the word in the sentence from the book you were reading. This will help you avoid the classic mistake of using a newly learned word in an inappropriate context. If you have chosen well-written books to read, you will see new words used in interesting ways. When you are confident that you know the new word and how to use it, you can select 'Mastered' and it will disappear from your wordlist.

All of these tools can also be used to learn or reinforce your knowledge of a foreign language.

By learning new words and the appropriate context for their use, you will become a better writer. By reading widely from the classics and the best modern literature, you will learn to write grammatically correct sentences. By increasing your vocabulary, you will be able to use vibrant language and avoid using cliches and jargon. All of these benefits can be obtained in snippets of time, on the bus, at lunchtime, or in the evening. You will become a better writer, confident in your knowledge of the English language.

Memory cottage for visitors with Alzheimer's disease

A 1930s cottage has been recreated by staff at the National Wool Museum in Geelong, Victoria, with the hope that an object or a piece of music might trigger a memory or moment of joy for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Link to article on the National Wool Museum's website

Read more in The Age article, and view the photo gallery.


Randy Gallegos: How to commission an illustrator

Randy Gallegos has an excellent post about what's involved in commissioning an illustrator for a self-published book. He discusses time, cost and quality, fees, contracts, what rights to ask for and illustrators' working methods. Understanding these aspects will make it more likely that your request for a quote will be taken seriously and that you will only pay for what you really need.

How to Commission an Illustration

Using Scrivener for writing and editing, and SF writers who use Scrivener

I've only just started using Scrivener in the last couple of months. I like the idea of having all the research notes, drafts, etc. in one place and having something equivalent to sticky-notes or menu cards for shuffling ideas around. Also - importing Word (or RTF) files, ditching all the horrible formatting issues and being able to just focus on the writing, what a relief!

Jamie Rubin on using Scrivener and the editorial process

David M. Kelly

David M. Kelly home page

Self Publishing: Dealing with information overload

Protect writers from online bullying (in Amazon reviews)

And the post that brought me here in the first place - searching for why Scrivener is so slow to load:

Scrivener auto-save blues

Should I use DRM?

I received an email from O'Reilly Media (technical publishers) today. I was interested to read their statement about Digital Rights Management:

Having the ability to download files at your convenience, store them on all your devices, or share them with a friend or colleague as you would a print book or DVD is liberating, and is how it should be.

I have a lot of respect for O'Reilly Media – their technical books are excellent and good value – so I value their opinion about DRM. I've read differing opinions in the books, websites and blog posts I've read about publishing ebooks. Most of them say that DRM doesn't stop the real pirates but is an inconvenience to your genuine readers.

I do feel that if I've bought a digital book, I should be able to store it on any of the devices I can use to read it.

The clincher for  me is another experience I had yesterday. I decided to purchase Office 2013 for Home and Business. After buying it, I searched the internet to find out whether I should uninstall the previous version, and stumbled across posts about the licensing. Guess what, the 2013 version is licensed to the device you install it on, not to you, the user. So apparently, if my computer crashes and I have to buy a new one, I can't install this software on it, I have to buy another copy. Adobe and Microsoft are both doing their best to force users into the subscription model - soon we will forget that once upon a time purchasing software was like buying a printed book - it came with discs, a printed manual and a key, and if your computer died you installed it on the new one, using the same key. You owned it, and you could choose to stay with the same old version as long as it suited your needs.

It seems to me that digital rights management has a similar effect on customers. —Maren


Deciding which ebook formats to use and viewing your ebooks


yellow bird sitting on a rock If you are producing ebooks and wondering about the best format, whether to use fixed layout or not, and how you can view what you've created in different devices, you can download samples of books in ePub2, ePub3 and Mobi/KF8 formats from the BB eBooks website.

On a related website, Substance-B,  you can find tutorials for downloading and using ebook readers for different devices and platforms. For example, you can use Redium in Google Chrome to view ePub3 books which such as fixed-layout picture books and poetry books.

This will help you decide the best format for your book, and whether you should bother with creating an ePub3 version - as well as whether your conversions are successful or not.



Making ePubs from scratch

If you want to find out how to create an ePub by writing the code and compiling it yourself, here are a couple of useful references. The eBook Design and Development Guide, by Paul Salvette. Available on Kindle.

Also, the related website, BB ebooks.

Build a digital book with EPUB, by IBM.

And a wonderful tool, the ePub checker, from Pagina online.

Warning - it's a painful process and takes time. If you don't want to write code, this isn't for you! However, if you are comfortable with html and css, I recommend learning how to do it yourself. Once you have repeated the steps a few times and worked out your own templates and processes, you'll be rewarded with messages like these:

Kindlegen message: mobi file created successfully

epubcheck message: no errors detected  Amazon message: file upload successful - no spelling errors


Services and tools for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand


Create Space cover template for 5 x 8 inch book Some great free tools are available from Bookow. I've used their ISBN and cover generator for All the Safe Places, for the CreateSpace print-on-demand version.

They also have typesetting, formatting and conversion services for ebooks and print-on-demand books, at what looks like reasonable prices and good quality.

Best of all, they're Australian!

bookow: Resources.

Setting up publishing accounts with Amazon and Smashwords

Once you've written your manuscript, and decided you want to self-publish, you will need to decide whether to publish as an ebook on SmashWords and Kindle Direct Publishing, and whether to offer print-on-demand on Create Space. You can set up an account with SmashWords and offer your book free, but if you want to charge for it you will need to get a US tax number, if you want to minimize the tax you pay on your royalties. The same goes for Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space - and publishing for free isn't really an option with them.

This might be the most painful part of getting started in self-publishing, and it's certainly daunting. However, it will be made much less painful if you follow the instructions in Euan Mitchell's book, Your Publishing Options, which I reviewed in a previous post, and on a blog that he mentions, Catherine, Caffeinated, called Non-US Self-Publisher? Tax issues don't need to be taxing. I had the forms all filled out to apply for an EIN before I called the US, and it was all done in less than 20 minutes. The fact that I already knew the answers to the questions helped enormously as some of them are quite confusing.

I recommend using both references. Euan Mitchell gives the information from an Australian point of view. Catherine gives the three addresses to send the forms to, and if you read the comments under her post there is some useful information about changes to the process.

Cloth of Life - poems about the devastation of Alzheimer's disease

This is the first release online of a collection of poems written by Frances Vadla about caring for her Norwegian husband, Lars. The poems are often humorous and always honest and moving. They open a window on a life of love, family and friends, weaving and homesteading in Alaska. Cloth of Life free download page

Book review - Your Book Publishing Options, by Euan Mitchell

If you're thinking about writing and publishing in Australia, I highly recommend this book: Your Book Publishing Options: How to make and market ebooks and print books - Euan Mitchell, Overdog Press, 2014.

Euan Mitchell gives clear and authoritative advice about how to negotiate the maze of options in the Australian publishing market, from writing the first draft of a book to publishing and marketing it. He explains how to publish an ebook or print book, print-on-demand, or a combination of these options.

Rescue and share old documents

We all have old documents that we'd like to rescue, archive, and share. Letters that we or our parents or grandparents wrote before computers came along, or in the early days of computers when we were using some ancient word processing software. Grandma's recipes with handwritten notes. Diaries and journals. What does it take to rescue these documents? Mostly time. You don't need to know a lot about computers.

Here are my notes about retrieving documents that are in old file formats, and scanning typewritten documents as text.

Recently I decided to dredge up some old letters I wrote to my mother when I was overseas for 10 years. In those days the filename had to be eight characters followed by a three-letter extension (which could be totally random so I used that to indicate a date). The first task was to locate the files. At least I'd had the foresight to keep moving from floppy disks to CDs to external drive, so I still have them. Next I opened them in WordPad, where I could see a lot of rubbish (scrambled characters) at the top of the file, interspersed with text. In some files the whole file was full of rubbish. I was able to copy and paste the text into a clean file and then save it as a Rich Text Format (RTF) file.

An RTF file can be read in most word processing software and will not become locked into a proprietary format - I don't want to have to extract plain text from a mess of scrambled characters again ten years from now.

My next task was to convert a set of typewritten articles (written in the late 80s and early 90s) into electronic format. For some reason my ancient scanner (Canon's Canoscan Lide 200) now refuses to perform the Optical Recognition (OCR) function. I think it's something to do with Windows 7. I used to be able to use this function, though the results were not satisfactory - in many cases it took longer to clean up and format the output than to retype the document.

First I tried scanning the articles and saving as a PDF, then uploading to free conversion software ( However, you have to use CAPTCHA to verify that you're not a spammer, and I find that after a few uses it becomes too difficult for me to identify the letters. I don't know how anyone recognises the letters in the audio version of CAPTCHA, I never can.

Fortunately, the authors kindly recommend an alternative - Abbyy FineReader OCR software. I downloaded the trial version and began using it. This software is amazing! It detected my scanner, and allowed me to scan directly to the desired output format (RTF, ePub, PDF and others). It also allowed me to convert the files I'd already scanned, from an image (the PDFs I had saved were actually images of the text) to any of these formats. In some cases I had a copy of the article from a newspaper or magazine, and I saved the image file as well.

The output is very clean, and the editing functions are efficient and easy to learn. I found the software very intuitive. Needless to say, once my trial period expires I'll be purchasing the software - the time it will save me easily justifies the cost.