August 18, 2017

Book Review: Stellar Detective Tales by Scott Markley

Stellar Detective Tales: The Hunt for the Living Shadow by Scott Markley
My Rating: 4 of 5

When I spied a fellow author at Galactic-Con, I took the first opportunity I could to slip away from my table and introduce myself. Scott immediately launched into his elevator pitch: A detective from the 1930's finds himself on a futuristic spaceship.

Damn, that sounds cool!

I love noir style detective stuff and am personally working on a space opera series, and the mash-up sounded unique and intriguing.

The Hunt for the Living Shadow follows Flint, a private investigator from 1930s New York City, who has somehow swapped brains through space and time with Sammy Teegs, a detective on a space ship recreation of NYC. The first half of the book feels like a superhero origin story while the second half focuses on the current mystery at hand.

I'm a sucker for origin stories, so I found Flint's tale fascinating. The temporal rift which placed him in Teegs's body has given him a glowing blue eye which can selectively see events in the past. He has to use his new ability along with his investigator intuition to solve the case at hand. A lot of Flint's dialogue is steeped in speakeasy lingo which was both charming and a little distracting.

The mystery itself didn't really grab me, but since I was so invested in all of the characters, I couldn't put this book down until I finished. The settings on the spaceship were intricately detailed. I could feel myself plopped in the middle of the city with the spaceship's dome encasing everything. There's a nice hook at the very end for Flint's next adventure and I'll make sure to pick it up!

If you like noir, mysteries, or origin stories, you'll enjoy reading Stellar Detective Tales.

August 14, 2017

Selling eBooks in Person


I did a lot of research on how I could offer ebooks at live events. There are a few people who are so loyal to their eReaders, they wouldn't entertain the idea of purchasing a paperback. These readers insist that they will look you up online once they get home and will totally purchase your ebook, but there's no real way to know if they actually do. So instead of asking people to remember to check your website later, why not offer ebook copies in person?

I had a few false starts when I was trying to figure out how to do this. At first, I thought giving out USB drives would work, but the price of purchasing a bunch of jump drives seriously cuts into potential profits. I also thought about burning my book onto CDs before having the realization that I don't own a single working CD drive and can't rely on customers having one either.

In the end, the most viable option is to offer a way for readers to download your ebook. There are a few great ways to do this, and I'll detail them all out below:

The One Stop Shop: Dropcards


This is the simplest solution I found and can all be done through the dropcards website. These are sturdy plastic cards the size of a credit card with a download code for your book. Simply upload your ebook and your cover, purchase a block of cards, and you're done. When readers purchase a card, they go to the dropcards website and enter the code on their card to download the ebook. The only drawback is the price. Unless you're buying 5,000+ cards, expect to pay about $1 per card. If you price your ebooks at $0.99, this method won't make any money.

Print your own card


I personally decided to find a more affordable method for offering ebooks. The next two methods will require printing your own cards. I personally decided that I wanted to offer 4" x 6" postcards instead of a wallet card. Then, readers have something cool to take home with the book cover on it that has enough space on the back for an autograph (if I buy a book directly from an author, I want it signed). However, you can use whatever size you want. I bought my postcards through Vistaprint which is incredibly affordable.

Download codes using Card Included


With a stack of beautiful postcards of my book cover, I just needed a method for readers to download my book. I used—and highly recommend—Card included. They have excellent customer service and the cost of hosting is very affordable since ebooks aren't huge files. It's tailored to music, so you'll want to input your pen name for 'artist or band name', the book title for 'album or song title', and your publishing imprint or self-published for 'label'. I purchased 1,000 download codes for only $10—very affordable.

They send a PDF of printable cards along with a CSV containing all the download codes. What I did was purchase Avery labels. The software Avery offers allowed me to input the CSV file and presto! I had tons of little labels printed, each with a unique code. Then I just stuck a label on the back of each postcard.

Email


If you don't want to do download codes, you can just send digital copies purchased via email. In this case, collect the emails of every person who purchases the ebook (and ask if they would like to receive your newsletter!) then send them an email with your ebook attached. Even better, if you have a laptop and reliable internet during the sales event, you can send it at the time of purchase. Otherwise, just specify that they'll receive their book within 24 hours.

I'm sure there are other ways to sell ebooks in person, but these were the best methods that I found. Do let me know if you try any of them!

August 7, 2017

&%#*ing Dust Jackets

Although I do most of my reading on my Kindle, I still love the feel of a physical book. The smell of freshly printed paper, the weight of the knowledge held within, and the velvety smooth feel of the cover.

Something that most fiction hardcover books have in common is that they are adorned with attractive dust jackets. Wanting to follow the tradition of beautiful book making, I decided to order a hardcover copy of Quality DNA complete with dust jacket. Just a little extra formatting and adding flaps to the paperback cover, and everything was set. I went ahead and ordered a proof.

It wasn't pretty.

The first thing I noticed was how incredibly off center the spine text was. Had I really flubbed up the measurements that much? The front cover was horribly off center and the flaps didn't look right either. In fact, one of the flaps was much larger than the other. My dust jacket had been folded way off-center.

With the help of Google, I learned that misfolded dust jackets are incredibly common amongst print-on-demand hardcovers. I was able to remedy the situation by ironing to get the creases out then refolding the jacket over the book. However, I won't be able to do that for every book sold, so I had to go with a different solution to ensure readers get the highest quality product.

After chatting with some fellow writers, I learned that I wasn't the only one who thought dust jackets were a pain. The only reason I gave it a try was that I thought it would make my book look "classier." But those paper coverings are fragile and get annoying while reading. I usually tuck the covers away, only replacing them after I finish reading the book.

It made me wonder, why do books even have dust jackets in the first place? I kind of assumed it was to hide the ugly cloth that covered the book boards. It used to be quite the opposite: the bindings of books were beautiful and ornate which made wrapping them in paper necessary to keep them in top condition until purchased. Before adding a book to their collection, readers would tear off and discard these plain dust jackets. Over time, more and more information was printed on the jacket and the bindings got much simpler.

I am all for keeping with tradition, but in this case, I think utility takes precedence. I've already reformatted the cover of my next book so that the case is printed instead of requiring a dust jacket. In the end, it's easier for me and my readers.

July 31, 2017

Poop Everywhere


I've been incredibly busy this summer—promoting my first novel, gathering together everything in preparation to launch my second novel, incorporating edits from my editor in a third novel, drafting a fourth novel, all while acting as the primary caregiver of my two small children. I'm really looking forward to the school year starting back up in September.

So naturally, I figure this week would be an excellent time to start potty training my daughter. The first two days were a bit of a disaster. There were definitely more accidents than successes. For all of our sanity, we pulled back out the pull-ups for the weekend so I could take a break from cleaning up pee puddles.

To be honest, she's catching on pretty quickly. She would much rather wear her pink princess panties and loves the praise she gets for sitting on her little potty seat. Still, all that cuteness doesn't take all of the crappiness out of cleaning poop off of the floor (and walls—that takes talent!) when she wasn't able to make it to the potty in time...again.

On the bright side, at least we don't have carpet.

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