Tuesday, March 29, 2011

THE NEXT DOOR in Top 4 Percent of Kindle Books Sales

I checked the statistics for my suspense novel, THE NEXT DOOR, on Amazon's Author Central today and found that based upon sales it is ranked at 28,961.  I know.  You're thinking, "Big whoop."  However, this is significant when you consider that this ranking is out of more than 750,000 books in the Kindle Store.  That places THE NEXT DOOR in the top 4% in sales.

I am so pleased that people who have read the book have taken the time to offer me their feedback.  Some have reviewed my book on Amazon.com and some have kindly posted reviews on their blogs.  All of this has helped others find my book amongst everything that is available out there.  I am so grateful for your support.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ideas That Come While We Sleep

I recently published my suspense novel THE NEXT DOOR through the Kindle and Smashwords, and am currently working on my next suspense novel, which is completely different from the first.  I think that deep down inside I worry, because I feel like I should be working on a sequel to THE NEXT DOOR while that novel is fresh in my mind.  I left a certain murder case and character intentionally unresolved.

However, last night I had a dream that showed me how I can work that unresolved case and character into my new novel without making a sequel.  Fortunately, that idea clung to me while I woke, because I love it and want to use it.

Sometimes I read a book and I like the author, but the characters in the book just don't interest me enough for me to run out and buy any sequels.  However, I am interested in buying more books by the author.  I just want a fresh story with new personalities.  This idea of writing a completely different book with different characters, a different storyline, and different style, and then weaving in a couple of unresolved issues from a previous novel in a unique way excites me.  It's like serving leftovers from the night before in such a well disguised manner that everyone thinks they are eating a completely different meal, and technically, they are.

THE NEXT DOOR is focused on action and information, while the novel I am working on now is more visceral with the need to employ all six senses.  Yes, I mean six.  It's not a typo nor a lack of education.

For those who did read the first book, they will recognize the unresolved case and character and get that sense of familiarity one gets when they run into an old friend.  For those who didn't read the first book, it won't matter.  The second book will still be seamless and the reader won't feel like he is sitting on the outside of some inside information.  The carryover from the previous book will be minor enough that it won't feel repetitive or intrusive like an unwelcome person walking into a room and then monopolizing the conversation.

If I could carry this style of writing from book to book, it could be my signature, kind of like a computer programmer leaving virtual "Easter eggs" behind in his software or Disney placing hidden Mickey's around his amusement parks.  I'm sure this is nothing new and that other authors are already utilizing the idea, but I like it as a way to loosely tie all my books in together and offer conclusions for previously open aspects of each novel.

Do you ever have solutions to problems come to you in your sleep?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Benefits of Reading Bad Writing

Up and coming writers are always given the advice to read as much as possible, but what you read has a lot to do with how much you learn from that reading.  If you are always reading course-assigned literature, you are always reading good writing.

If every chocolate chip cookie that I ate was delicious, that doesn't mean that I would be able to bake a delicious chocolate chip cookie myself.  However, if I ate chocolate chip cookies baked by many different people, I'd probably come across some that leave my taste buds feeling disappointed and maybe some that are so hard that they chip my tooth.  Eating both delicious cookies and yucky cookies would naturally make me analyze what goes into making my preferred cookie.  I'd probably start asking questions about ingredients, measurements, temperatures, and baking times.  Then I would hold the knowledge needed to bake some delicious chocolate chip cookies myself.

Writing is the same way.  My first introduction to great literature was in a high school English honors course.  I couldn't get enough of that good writing.  I took a bunch of literature and creative writing courses in college, literally rushing home so that I could read the evening's assignments.  A good poem or short story was like a delicious chocolate chip cookie to me.  I wrote, but I didn't write anything delicious.  I tasted good literature, but hadn't inquired about the ingredients just yet.

It wasn't until I started working as an editor on the campus literary arts journal that I had the opportunity to read unpublished work from students.  Some of that writing churned my stomach and I had to wonder how the authors even made it into the university.  After a while I began seeing similarities among all the bad submissions, and I understood why they didn't work.  I was able to compare the good writing in my world literature classes with the bad writing of improperly prepared writers, and see what one had that the other didn't.

Back then, most everything published was in print and had been run through a gauntlet of agents, editors and publishers.  It was difficult to fail with so much talent and knowledge backing one's collection of words.  Reading unpublished student writing was the best way to gain access to bad writing.  Today there is bad writing all over the Internet.  There is bad writing in some self-published ebooks, but not all of them.  Many self-published ebooks never got published via traditional means either because the agents and publishers believed there was no demand or interest in the subject, or because the author simply chose the fast track to publication.

The point is that today we have better access to both good writing and bad writing than ever before.  Take advantage of it.  Learn from it.  You'll become a better writer for it.

Going back to the handful of old, rotten paperbacks I purchased at the local library book sale, I did throw one of them in the trash without reading more than the first couple of chapters.  This decision did have to do with the headaches I was getting from holding rotten paper too close to my nose, but it also had to do with the fact that I couldn't follow the story.  I read the whole first chapter believing that the main characters were two little boys somewhere around 10 years of age.  Then upon reading the second chapter I discovered that one of the boys had pot-smoking roommates.  They were young adults, not children.  How hard would it have been for the author to clarify that in the first chapter?

Then the author brought so many new, indistinct characters into the second chapter that I couldn't follow who was saying what.  People were randomly wandering in and out of the scene interrupting the conversation for no good reason that was obvious to me.  It just made me feel as if someone were interrupting my reading, which was making my headache worse.  Also, the characters were trying to figure out something that the author already spelled out to me -- the reader, which felt like a waste of time.  Why would I want to sit through hundreds of pages of characters trying to solve a mystery that is obvious to me?   I tossed that novel in the trash with a thud of finality.

The next book I picked up was newer, so the yellow pages didn't reek as bad.  I've been having a hard time putting it down.  It flows well.  I'm immersed in the story.  At no point do I feel like shoving the author out of her own way.  I'm learning from it, just as I learned what not to do from the author whose book ended up in the dump.  Iris Johansen's "The Ugly Duckling" is a breath of fresh air, but I'm also thankful to the other author for drowning me in the mistakes she made that led to both my confusion and unintended education.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

One More Argument for Ebooks

I made the mistake of picking up a handful of old paperback books at my local library's book sale, only to open them up and be smacked in the sinuses with that rotting paper smell.  I instantly developed a headache.  I've been trying to figure out how to read these books without getting sick, but after about two pages of reading, my head is throbbing.  I could take an antihistamine, but that combined with reading would put me to sleep.  I'm afraid I may have to toss my purchases in the trash and just be happy with making a donation to my library.  Live and learn.  If any of the books can hold my interest for two pages, I'll search for them on ebook sites and save my sinuses by downloading them there.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kindle for the PC and Mac

For those of you who don't own a Kindle device, you can download a free Kindle for the PC application and read my books on your computer. This application is compatible with Windows 7, XP and Vista.

You can also download Kindle for the Mac if you have a Mac OS X 10.5 and above. That application is free as well.

If you have an Amazon account, you can log in and start using the application. Otherwise, you can create an Amazon account.

I just wanted to get this information out while I'm researching other avenues of publishing. Thanks for your interest in my books.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Books are Officially on the Kindle

Currently, my two books are available electronically through the Kindle. I'm still working on getting them formatted for other eBook publishers.

THE NEXT DOOR is a thriller/suspense novel that is about 62,000 words in length. Here's the summary:

Home-based web designer and weekend equestrian Ivy Landor has lived peacefully on her mini-ranch with her husband Wade and teenaged daughter Crystal for the duration of Crystal's 16 years and beyond. However, as Ivy watches her small rural community grow with an influx of strangers, she feels uneasy with the changes they bring.

The new neighbors next door start out to be a mild annoyance, but soon Ivy finds herself embroiled in a struggle to regain her peace, quiet, privacy, and safety. Her ability to work with her horses is limited by her neighbors' thoughtless actions after Ivy suffers injuries from a couple of accidents which she considers might have been intentional.

When Ivy starts paying closer attention to these neighbors, she realizes that their trespasses exceed mere rudeness. The entire family is stalking her and her daughter. Ivy must find out why before this discomfort escalates to terror. Using her technical skills as well as some stealth, she investigates these odd people and is shocked by what she finds.

Available in the Amazon Kindle store for only $2.99: THE NEXT DOOR

If you own a Kindle and do read it, please give me your feedback. If you like it, I could use some reviews on the Kindle Store site. A lot of people won't read books unless they have 4 or 5 stars from other readers. Also, I left the ending open for a sequel, so I'd like to know if you would be interested in reading a sequel to this novel. Thank you!

HOMESPUN AND WOVEN is a collection of poems I put together when I was pregnant with my first child up through when she turned six-years-old. I actually do have some chapbooks of the 1996 version that I can mail to you for $5.00 if you want to read it, and don't have a Kindle. Here's the summary:

First published in 1996 as a chapbook, Gayle Sliva's HOMESPUN AND WOVEN is a collection of poems crafted from the universally known spaces of marriage, pregnancy and motherhood. These poems span the range of emotions that come to those who work with young children. Quotations from the Queen incorporates sometimes impossible, yet wise quotes from a preschooler, such as "Shadows just tell you where night is."

Electric with lines like, “She's been my extension cord for one full year now, reaching outlets I'd rather not let out,” this collection of poems is honest and pure, simple as a spring day in some cases, and complex as a memory from the poet of her own near-drowning and comparing it to her child choking on food, the very fuel that keeps one alive.

Though some serious subjects are explored, the book is not without humor, such as with Spaghetti Under Duressed -- the words “under duressed” being a play on both “under duress” and “undressed”. Mundane moments such as doing laundry and cutting hair contain love and warmth. The final poem, Letter to my Daughter, is a freeze frame of the cruelty that can be imparted by kindergartners and thoughts of what the future may bring.

Available in the Amazon Kindle Store for only 99 cents: HOMESPUN AND WOVEN

If you look at the sample, all you get if the first half of the first poem. They cut it off before the ending. The quickest way to locate these two books with your Kindle is to type "Gayle Sliva" into the search box.  Again, if you enjoy reading either book, I could use a few stars in my favor. Thanks again!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Electronic Publishing Tips

Some readers have expressed an interest in electronic publishing through the Kindle.  Here are some steps to get you started:

1.  Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin
2.  Create an account and review the Kindle Publishing Guide in the Getting Started and FAQs section.
3.  Pay attention to the links.  Someone them will help you download the software you need.
4.  There are many ways to publish and many formats you can use, but this is the way I did it...

I created my books in Open Office, which is open source freeware, and I saved them as .docs.  My first discovery was that though the tool that imports your document and converts it into the type of file needed for publishing does import Microsoft Word documents, it does not import Open Office documents saved as Word documents.

So, then I tried saving the books as .html.  You just change the extension in the Save As box.  That successfully imported.  You then follow the steps in the wizard to create a format that is compatible for publishing on the Kindle.  This file has an extension of .prc.

Then you view that converted format in a previewer or emulator tool, which looks just like a Kindle screen, only on your laptop or PC.  Here you will find all kinds of formatting problems, because what you wrote in your original format never completely translates once you reach your final destination after multiple format conversions.  There will always be indents and extra lines where you don't want them and vice versa.

At this point you need a tool that helps you alter the .html document.  I used Mozilla's Sea Monkey, but if you aren't familiar with .html, the changes you need to make may not be intuitive.  Don't worry, if you hit a wall here, there are companies that dedicate themselves to doing all this work for you for a fee.  Once you are satisfied with the changes in .html, you can import the changed .html document and rebuild, thus overwriting the Kindle format document on your desktop.  View it in your Kindle previewer or emulator again, make a note of what needs to be tweaked, and go back to the .html drawing board again.

You need to actually upload your Kindle formatted document to their website while logged in to your account in the browser.  You can't use the conversion wizard to do that.  Be prepared to upload a cover and a summary for your book.  The summary is kind of like what you see on the back flap in a bookstore that tells you what the book is about and gets you interested enough to buy it.  This is probably the most important couple of paragraphs you could write, so don't rush it.

The cover is equally important, because it must appeal to the eye.  When you are searching hundreds of books, you first consider the titles and the covers.  If the book passes your scrutiny on that level, you then read the summary, and the summary may lead you to browsing inside the book.  It is at that point when you make a decision whether to buy it or not.  I created my covers by opening my own photographs in Photoshop, adjusting their appearance and size to the guidelines, and adding the title and by line text.  There are plenty of free software programs out there that can help you do this too.

At this point, there is another Kindle emulator on the website in which you can view your book before hitting the PUBLISH button.  I found that the website's Kindle emulator displayed my book differently from how my PC's Kindle emulator displayed it.  I had to deduce that this was a bug in the emulators and decided not to make further adjustments.  

Once your book is uploaded for publishing, you can watch it change statuses on your bookshelf.  I published two books within two days of one another, and there was some kind of mix up.  My bookshelf told me that Book A was live while Book B was still in the publishing phase.  However, when I went to the Kindle Store and searched for my name, Book B showed up and Book A didn't.  I decided to give it another 24 hours to see if it corrected itself, and if not, I was going to contact support for help.  It turned out that Book B had previously been in Amazon's search engine, which is why it got published so fast.  Book A was new and it took another 24 hours for it to go live, and then another 48 hours before it showed up in a search engine.

I downloaded a sample of Book B, and found that my title page was split in two on the real Kindle when I didn't see that problem on either of the Kindle emulators.  So, I had to make more changes to the .html file and republish the fixes.  Formatting is the most difficult part of the process since the software isn't reliable in showing you exactly how your book will look on the Kindle.  The text size setting can really mess up your page breaks.

I recently had a writer tell me that the sign of an amateur fiction writer is someone who indents his paragraphs after transitions and at the beginning of chapters.  I dug around in some fiction books and found that he was right.  Most book publishers do not indent in those locations.  So, I went through all the work of removing indents in those locations in my Open Office document.  Then when I converted it to .html and the Kindle format, I found that they forced me to indent in those locations.  I didn't want to look like an amateur, so I had to remove all those indents in the .html file.  It can get quite tedious.  But ultimately, you spend way less time formatting your own book for electronic publishing than you do waiting for the support of an agent or print publisher.

Writing is a gamble.  You don't get paid for all the work you do before the book is published if you don't already have a contract with a publisher.  You just have to have faith that all your hard work will eventually be rewarded with royalties.  However, you are still not done once you are happy with how your book is presented on the Kindle.  Now you have to go out and market it.  That's where social networking comes in.  Those of us who have made the effort to keep up with the use of computers and the Internet are at an advantage.  The world is literally at our fingertips.