Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: self-publishing

Postcard Cover Art

postcard2013_cover-kindle-lo-resWhen I made the decision to Kindle-ize and relaunch A Place Without a Postcard, I decided to redo the cover. While looking around Shutterstock, I came across the photo that you see on the book. A UFO flying over the desert is exactly the kind of cover image I was seeking for a book about a photographer who makes fake UFO photos and gets lost in the desert.

This photo led me to try to learn more about the photographer, Michele Cornelius. She lives and works in Alaska, and her photos eloquently capture the beauty of that remote place and her deep concern for its wild spaces.

In addition to selling stock photos, Michele also has a great many of her prints available for purchase, and she has a beautiful photo e-book called A Back Road Traveler’s Alaska. Visit her site, Observations of a Backroad Traveler, and check out her work. It will be time well spent.

Also, if you’re looking for good stock photos, she has a lot more than UFO pictures available on Shutterstock.

E-Booking

Deb Scott over at Stony Moss wrote a nice post about how Birds Nobody Loves looks, works and reads on iPads, Kindles and paper so I figured I’d put something up here by way of explaining how it came to exist in its various forms.

I kicked around the idea of doing Birds Nobody Loves as an e-book but an illustrated book of poetry seemed like it would carry a pretty steep learning curve for a first e-book what with the whole line break issue and that kept me from pursuing it until I read NS’s Dark and Like a Web on my phone (before buying the paperback) and saw how well it worked. I read her blog posts on the subject and learned how she used Dave Bonta’s hanging indent solution in her e-books and so, I decided to give it a try.

I coded the EPUB version of Birds Nobody Loves using eCub. It was surprisingly easy for me considering I’ve spent a lot of time playing with the HTML and CSS on this blog over the years. That was the biggest surprise for me: an e-book is nothing but a series of web pages governed by a CSS file. Who knew?

It wasn’t long before I had an EPUB file that looked great on my phone and that took my breath away when I saw it on a borrowed iPad, which rendered the illustrations beautifully. And, the hanging indents worked too.

Next up was Kindle-izing the thing, which required a conversion to MOBI format. ECub works with Amazon’s Kindlegen to create a MOBI file but when I checked it in Amazon’s Kindle previewer, which lets you see what your book looks like on various Kindle devices, I was horrified to learn that while it looked great on the Fire it looked awful on all the other Kindles. I could “fix” this by removing the hanging indent code, which made it look okay across all devices but the poetry would lose the formatting if the reader made the font too big.

I messed around with the code for the better part of the day and then gave up, figuring I could either ditch the whole hanging indent idea for Kindles or just not release it for Kindle at all. I thought there had to be a way for the book to know what kind of device it was being played on and then serve up the hanging indent CSS if it was being played on a Fire, but how?

And here’s yet another reason why I love the Internet: there’s always someone smarter out there with the same problem I’m working on. That very night, Liz Castro at Pigs, Gourds and Wikis posted an excellent tutorial on how to get hanging indents in a poetry e-book (using the same technique Dave worked out) and how to make them work on ALL Kindle devices by having the book serve CSS geared toward whichever Kindle device was playing the book. It took less than 10 minutes to have the Kindle version working perfectly.

The Nook was another matter. The EPUB file seems to play well on my Dad’s Nook but when I uploaded it to the Nook Store, I found that Barnes & Noble seems to make changes to the file that destroy all the line breaks. Either that or the Nook doesn’t read EPUB like Apple’s products. So, sorry Nook users, I haven’t solved that one yet.

After that it was easy to upload the book to Lulu, the iBookstore and the Kindle Store.

Now, go pay Deb a visit and see what she has to say about it. And then read her blog.

The Decision to Self-Publish

Writing that guest post for Author! Author! on my thoughts about self-publishing got me thinking about the experience and something I didn’t address in that post: how I came to the decision to go the self-publishing route with my first novel, A Place Without a Postcard.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s how I got there.

I’ve been asked many times why I self-published Postcard back in 2003. Rejected by every agent and publisher in the land? Nope.

It had more to do with my own entrepreneurial streak and maybe some inspiration from the indie films and punk rock albums I’ve always loved. A Place Without a Postcard is about neither of those things, but its journey is related.

It started as a screenplay for an indie film I imagined I’d someday make with a bunch of friends and a stack of credit cards. I never did that, but a few years crewing films taught me my talents, temperament and passions lay with the pen. Well, okay, the word processor, but that doesn’t quite have the proper poetic ring to it, does it?

I submitted it as my writing sample to the graduate screenwriting program at The University of Texas at Austin. I got in and it even won me a James Michener Fellowship from the Texas Center for Writers.

Not bad for a quirky story that straddles the worlds of science fiction, mystery and modern myth.

In grad school, I wrote a number of scripts and work-shopped Postcard in a revisions class. Somewhere in grad school, though, A Place Without a Postcard became a story that needed to be a novel and so after I graduated, the screenplay became notes. Because the protagonist is blind through much of the story, I wrote most of it without any visual descriptions. The experience taught me a lot about how we hear and smell the world, and in the end I had a solid manuscript.

By 2002, and after many rounds of revisions, I noticed new things in the publishing world. Print on demand (POD) technology was going to change everything (and I suspect it still will change a lot by reducing the inherent risks of large print runs) by democratizing publishing. POD only required minimal resources and a firm belief in one’s vision. My friends in bands were recording their own CDs. Filmmakers were making and releasing their own films. All without anyone’s permission. Could POD be the key to allowing publishing to go DIY like music and film?

I learned about xlibris and iUniverse, the two main self-publishing POD companies at the time*, and liked what I saw. Their services weren’t bankrupt-you expensive—they were much cheaper then—because only books purchased would be printed, a fact that also appealed to the tree-hugger in me.

In December of 2002, I made my decision and decided to trust myself. In January, my book was available on the iUniverse website and within a month, it was available through Barnes & Noble online, Amazon, Book People and Powell’s (though with weirdly mis-colored  cover art on those 2 sites) as well as most other online booksellers.

Then the selling work commenced. I got interviews in a couple of local papers, a review here and there, did a radio interview, a reading and signing, and even got a small indie bookseller to stock it. I sold more copies that I expected and even made my money back, which they say is hard for a self-pubbed author to do. I met a lot of people and learned more than I could have imagined.

In all, it’s a decision I’ve been happy with.

*If I were to do it again, I’d look at createspace and lulu and the many other options out there now.

Thoughts About Self-Publishing

I’ve got a guest post up over at Anne Mini’s Author! Author! blog in which I share some thoughts about the experience of self-publishing my novel A Place Without a Postcard back in 2003. Here’s the link: Thoughts about Self-Publishing by guest blogger James Brush. Go read it, Anne says nice things about me and my book.

If you’ve not visited Author! Author! and are interested in anything relating to publishing, check it out. Author! Author! is a veritable treasure house of useful information for anyone trying to navigate the world of agents, editors and publishing companies, and Anne is truly committed to helping writers succeed in that quest.

And, since we’re on the subject, if you haven’t done so already, I hope you’ll consider purchasing a copy of A Place Without a Postcard. Here’s the back cover copy:

Paul Reynolds, a photographer who creates fake photos for tabloid magazines, wakes up with no idea where he is or how he got there. He can’t even recall his name. A strange man lurks nearby, breathing heavily and slowly flipping through a book. Paul hears the man’s breath, but he cannot see him. He realizes with mounting panic that his eyes no longer function.

He remembers racing down a desolate West Texas highway. He remembers a cop who pulled him over for speeding. He remembers a shotgun-brandishing cook chasing him out of a diner. And he remembers a life abandoned, but he cannot put together the jigsaw puzzle that brought him where he is: blind, wanted by the law, and in the company of this invisible stranger.

In the backcountry town of Armbister, Texas, where temperatures hover around a hellish 110 degrees, Paul’s memory, intangible as a heat mirage, lies just beyond his reach, and God may be a coyote.

Thanks. Plug over.

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