Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

The Fussy Librarian

The Fussy Librarian

One of the challenges of selling any product is making consumers aware of it. eBooks are no exception to this. As an author, there are myriad ways to get my books in front of people. One of the best ways is to let someone else do it. Even better if this middleman (or, in this case, middlewoman) 'sells' to people who requested a pitch. In this case, the request takes the form of a reader signing up to receive an email containing information about books to buy.

The key to success here, though, is for the sender of the email to provide a curated, filtered list of eBooks based on reader preference and selection. Enter The Fussy Librarian.

They're a new outfit in town, still growing their list and extending generous advertising terms to authors such as myself, but they're doing everything right so far, which is a pretty good first step.

Not only am I using their service as an author, but I also use it as a reader. When signing up to receive an email from them, I like that I can specify which sub-genre (Steampunk and Epic Fantasy for me, of course) from which to pull books for me to see. They also let you specify what level of language you're comfortable with in your books, as well as violence and sexual content. It's another way to narrow down the books you'll see each day.

I'd like to see The Fussy Librarian do well, both as an author and a reader. We need more services like this. Not ones that will hurl a barrage of titles at you each day, but ones that curate what they're sending so we can avoid some of the you know what.

The other side of this is that without more services like this certain ones (Bookbub) gain a stranglehold on the "good" advertising venues.

So do us all a favor and go check out The Fussy Librarian.

It's Read an eBook Week

Read an E-Book WeekIt's Read an eBook Week. All the world over, readers of digital content are singing and rejoicing.

Why, you ask? Because, this week only, readers can get some steep discounts on a variety of eBooks. Some of the discounts are so steep prices go down to free!

I enrolled both of my eBooks in Read an eBook Week via Smashwords. This week only, both titles are free. Just use the coupon code RW100 to get the discounted price at checkout.

Here's the Smashwords links:

The Five Elements

The Hall of the Wood

Oh, and if you do take advantage of this offer, please, please, please leave a review on Smashwords, your blog or web site, or another retailer if they'll let you. Honest reviews help your fellow readers out and they also let authors like myself know that someone took a chance on a new author.

Happy reading!

eBooks, eReaders, and Maps

I recently added a map to the front matter of The Hall of the Wood because I think maps are an important part of the fantasy reading experience. One of the first questions my illustrator, Jared Blando, asked me was if I wanted black & white or color images. Because I wanted to use the map on the World of Uhl site and because lots and lots of people now have color eReading devices, of course I said color. If needed, I can easily convert the image to black & white myself.

I anticipated problems. Not with Jared or the maps themselves but with eBooks and the devices we read them on. Sure enough, after adding the map to the Kindle eBook version and viewing it on my Kindle 2, I saw right away that the map was next to useless. It’s simply impossible to read.

Here’s a couple of images which attempt to demonstrate the problem. It’s unfortunately very difficult to take a picture of a Kindle screen. (Try it if you don’t believe me. Maybe if I took in in full sunlight, but it’s too darn cold out right now.)

Anyway, check these out and believe me when I say the map is unreadable.

image

IMG_3046

However, when I brought the same eBook up on my iPad and viewed the map…

IMG_3045

I guess this image isn’t the best (again, taking a picture of one of these devices ain’t so easy; lots of glare, for ex.) but the map is very viewable in all its glory. One of the best things about viewing it on the iPad? Pinch and zoom. You can zoom in, pan, zoom out, and swipe away. The higher res image really shines here when you get close up.

Which is all fine and dandy if you own an iPad or similar device. But what about those who prefer traditional Kindles or other b/w eReaders?

My solution is to offer a link to the World of Uhl site where the map is viewable full-size. To that end, I put this disclaimer into the eBook:

A friendly note from the author about maps: Maps, eBooks, and eReaders do not always mix well. If you have difficulty viewing this one or simply wish to see a larger version, I encourage you to open your favorite browser and visit the World of Uhl map section (www.worldofuhl.com/maps.html).

In the eBook, it looks something like this:

image

While my primary motivation for including this extra option is to make things easier on my readers, I’m also trying to preemptively avoid any 1 or 2 star reviews because someone couldn’t read the map on their Kindle or nook. If you think that someone won’t do that, I have some primo beach front property to sell you here in Dallas.

I think this is an adequate concession and hopefully accommodates everyone.

Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher

I'm stepping into the way-back machine today to highlight a series I wrote back in 2009 about selling your eBook without a publisher.

Back then I was just getting started with self-publishing. A lot of people were. I used the series of posts primarily as a way to familiarize myself with the various retailers, services, and how to actually produce an eBook. I've learned a lot since then. Still learning, in fact. But I think this series is still relevant. In fact, I think I could expand on it. For example, Kobo and CreateSpace are missing as retailers and service providers, respectively. Both are used by yours truly.

But, for now, here is the 8 part series in its original form broken down by post.

  1. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 1: Introduction
  2. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 2: E-book Formatting
  3. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 3: Book Covers
  4. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 4: Amazon.com
  5. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 5: Smashwords
  6. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 6: Scribd
  7. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu
  8. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy

The Structure of an eBook

A book, whether electronic or not, is traditionally divided into three parts:

  1. Front Matter
  2. Body Matter
  3. Back Matter

Front matter typically includes but is not limited to the title page, foreword, an acknowledgments section, dedication, table of contents, and a prologue. Body matter is the content itself. Back matter, like front matter, can vary, but might include a glossary, bibliography, index, or an about the author page.

Of course, the structure of a book depends largely on its type. A history textbook is going to be quite different from a fictional novel which is going to be different from a picture book and so on.

I grabbed a couple of print books off the "to read" shelf here in my study to see how the publisher chose to organize their structure. One of the books is Stephen F. Hickman's The Lemurian Stone (which I read a long time ago but want to re-read because it's been so long I hardly remember it) and Stephen King's It (which I've never read).

The following is an amalgamated list of the two:

  1. Cover
  2. Excerpt/Praise
  3. Other Works/Also By
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. Dedication
  8. Maps
  9. Table of Contents
  10. Content
  11. About the Author

That's a pretty traditional list. Really no surprises.

It's no surprise either when you bring up an eBook on your eReader and find much the same structure. Most eBooks follow the above conventions because that's the traditional way.

But, of course, times have changed and so too should a book's structure. Or at least an eBook's structure.

I'm not suggesting anything drastic. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time doesn't make it wrong or ripe for drastic change. In fact, I think altering the structure of an eBook from what people are used to might just generate confusion and put off an otherwise interested reader.

Here is the structure I've settled on for my own eBooks with some comments on each part. The biggest change I've embraced is including various links to my online presence and a shout-out to readers (item 10).

1. Cover

Exactly what you might expect.

2. Copyright Page

The usual legal mumbo-jumbo, but also a link to this web site.

3. Table of Contents

This is more than just a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. The table of contents in an eBook should include links to any section the reader might want to easily access. The TOC of my eBooks includes everything from item 4 down to the end.

4. Other Works

This is a complete list of not only my novels but also some short stories which I encourage any one to read for free.

5. Informational (link to World of Uhl site)

The World of Uhl is where I showcase and, quite frankly, personally keep track of many of the aspects of the world in which I set my novels. It's a work-in-progress in the sense that it's constantly growing as I come up with new characters, places, bits and pieces of Uhl's history, and other pieces of information. I include a link on this page to the site in case it's something readers might be interested in.

6. Informational (Maps)

Fantasy books should have maps. I'm currently rolling out the maps for both of my novels and will be doing the reveal for the map to go along with The Hall of the Wood in a couple of days.

7. Informational (Players)

This is a list of all the characters featured in the novel along with a very brief description of their role. This is reference material meant to assist the reader in keeping track of who's who. You can see all the characters featured in my novels under the People tab of the World of Uhl site.

8. Quote

The Five Elements has one of these. It's an excerpt from The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by the Greek sophist, Philostratus. This obviously should have relevance to the story.

9. Content

The story itself.

10. Request for Reviews

This is a gentle push for readers to return to the retailer where they bought the book in order to leave a review.

11. About the Author

In the end, it's all about me. Just kidding. This is your basic informational page about the author.

Conclusion

There's a lot of innovation going on in eBooks. They're becoming more social, interactive, immersive, and dynamic. I've barely scratched the surface with my own. But considering more and more people are reading eBooks on multi-function tablets with sophisticated graphics and fast internet connectivity, it should be interesting to see what new innovations people come up with for redesigning a format that hasn't changed much in a very long time.

Further Reading