“Zen of eBook Marketing” coming soon!

Many of you are undoubtedly familiar with my book Zen of eBook Formatting, a detailed, step-by-setup guide to building robust eBooks that will work on all platforms. After some deliberation, I’ve decided to write another “Zen” book, this time taking a look at the marketing and promotion end of book publishing in the digital age. I am in the final stages of this book, putting some last touches to it, having a few people read it and give me feedback, but I thought this would be a good time to let you know about it. Get ready for Zen of eBook Marketing.

3DBook-400

Like “Zen of eBook Formatting,” I wrote this book out of a kind of frustration because I felt the wealth of information was simply overwhelming, making it virtually impossible for aspiring self-publishing authors to stay on top of things. Add to it the incredible amount of poor advice I saw posted online on many of the subjects, I truly felt compelled to sit down and create a comprehensive overview over the self-publishing tools available to authors, and how they can be put to use.

It’s not a How-To Guide per se. Instead, it looks at many of the aspects that go into the marketing and promotion of books, explains how they work, what their shortcomings and strengths are, and how these features could help build success.

Just to give you a taste of the breadth of content, here is a quick overview:

  • The Book Package: Make the most out of your book and its product pages
  • Launch Preparations: All the things you need to know before your book goes on sale
  • Getting Reviewed: It’s not as easy as one might think, but reviews are essential, as many readers base their purchasing decisions on reviews
  • Online Presence: Readers need to find you and I’ll tell you all you need to know about it
  • Social Media: In today’s connected world, it is simply not possible to build success without a strong network of supporters
  • Zen Promo Ideas: A list of conventional and unconventional ideas that may help your book get noticed
  • Online Promotions: People love free reads, but is it always a good idea?
  • Giveaways: Draw attention to your books by getting people excited to win cool stuff
  • Newsletter/Mailing List: Supposedly the hottest ticket around these days, but it’s not without flaws, limitations or shortcomings
  • Personal Appearances: How to make the most of conventions, readings and signings
  • Virtual Assistants: You don’t have to do everything yourself. Learn how you can delegate work to hired freelancers
  • Print Books: A look at how print books fit into the equation in the digital age

Does that sound interesting to you? I certainly hope so, because even the most experienced self-publishers will have trouble keep on top of things and will find ideas and suggestions here that may help sell additional copies.

Make sure to sign up for my mailing list so I can keep you in the loop and let you know more about the book as it approaches its completion and release.





facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Doctor_Flat-192x300Those of you familiar with my book “The Doctor,” or “Dr. Prometheus” as it was previously called, may already know the answer to it, but here’s a little background on my writing of the Jason Dark series.

When I first set out to write the series one of the things I really wanted to include were historical and literary references to create a sense of alternate history rather than just plain gothic horror or supernatural thriller. At the same time I didn’t want to to make it too blatant. I aimed to place them so that they are oftentimes subtle little hints, evident only to the initiated, people familiar with certain periods of history, certain locales or certain pieces of literature or oftentimes even song lyrics. Yes, if you think you’ve spotted a loose reference to a Judas Priest song, you might be absolutely right… Lyrics like “The figure stands expressionless, impassive and alone” are just too powerful images to ignore and they conjure up worlds in my mind that I try to translate to my stories occasionally, giving a nod to the source with a few words that directly hint at their origins.

london-ripperMore often than lyrics, however, I use references to actual historical events and personalities, as well as literary figures. Anyone who’s been reading “Theater of Vampires” will have noticed a certain person approaching Jason Dark in the foyer of the Duke’s Theater. His appearance instantly begs the question, when will he meet the other guy making up the team? Depending on how far you’ve read through the series, let me just say, he will meet him-first fleetingly in one story-then in a head-on matching of their minds on another further down the line. Fun…

Assuming most of you are familiar with “Demon’s Night,” the first book in the series, I wonder how many of you remember what happened to the horse carriage the demon abandoned in Trafalgar Square. Do you? A man made a very brief appearance, taking care of the exhausted horses, leading them away, with the demon’s residue still lingering inside the coach. The man’s name was… John Netley. Who is he? Glad you asked, because John Netley was the man who allegedly drove Jack the Ripper through the streets of Whitechapel as he was hunting and killing women in 1888.

BAM!

See what I did there? I wove reality and fiction together in a way that is perfectly harmonious-at least it is to me-because the implications are just too perfect. First I had to do something with the horse carriage. I couldn’t just leave it abandoned in the square, so I needed someone to take care of them. Who better than a young man who would around that time become a coach driver and turn it into his business. With demonic residue still lingering in the coach, it is not too much of a leap of faith that it was this demonic influence that drove the Ripper to do his notorious deeds, and that turned the young man of a driver into a tool of evil, helping with the ghastly murders. It all fell into place and I was able to use the historical descriptions of the Ripper horse carriage to describe the one in my book.

I love it when things fall into place like this and allow me to create seemingly insignificant moments-almost like throwaway paragraphs-that fit into a much bigger and elaborate picture. The books are full of them and the next time you read one of my books try to keep an eye out for these moments and references-and let me know when you spot one. Post here, and share your findings with other readers.

alice-cooper-rock-meets-classic-arena-nuernberg-13-03-2014_0059So, what do Alice Cooper and “The Doctor” have in common? No doubt, you are still asking yourself that question. Even though completely anachronistic, Alice Cooper shows up in the book, but… yes, here comes the but, but before, let me tell you the why. I’ve been a fan of Alice’s work since I was an early teenager, more years ago that I’d like to admit. He’s always been a modern day gothic horror icon to me, the way Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, or Vincent Price were, because his theatrics have always been geared towards the creepy visuals. So, it made sense for me to pay homage to him, and I did. In the form of a corpse. Remember Alice has had many acts in his show where he hangs himself, or gets decapitated, etc, so having him as a corpse made perfect sense. But he is not just any corpse. He is undead, as the Doctor revives him with his evil magic.

I felt that simply dropping Alice Cooper in the story would be too jarring, the anachronism too stark. It felt too blatant, so I upped the ante and actually included him under his actual name, not his stage persona. Therefore, the character you will find in “The Doctor” is Vincent Furnier-exhumed by grave robbers and reanimated by the Doctor. Here’s a brief excerpt to give you a taste…

Pale and bare-chested, the bloodless corpse of a man lay on the operating table in the center of the room. His skin had an almost yellowish tinge. Unusually long black hair fell to the sides of his head in light, shaggy curls. The eyes, sunken deep into their sockets, looked already like the cavernous orifices of a skull. The body appeared intact, without notable scars; in fact, the dead man’s face had a rather peaceful look, despite the deep shadows cast by the murky, flickering light.
Somewhere in the distance a church bell rang and, joining it in a midnight duet, a dog began to bark.
“Well, Mr. Furnier,” a rich, baritone voice said softly, and a man appeared from the darkness. “Your audience is waiting.”

What do you make of this? It’s only a small portion. The entire scene is filled with references to Alice Cooper and his music. Try to find them, and post them here.

DoctorBut what’s more, just to show you how dense some of these injected references are, even that small excerpt above contains yet another reference to something unrelated to Alice Cooper. I challenge you to find it. Tell me where the reference is and what it actually refers to. I wonder if anyone can spot it.

Did you get a taste yet? Believe me when I say that the Jason Dark books are filled with these kinds of hidden nods, sometimes very openly, sometimes much more hidden. It is one of the small things that makes writing the stories so much fun for me.

Well, then, who can solve the puzzle? What is the reference I mentioned in the passage above? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and comments.

series

Feel free to check out all the books in the Jason Dark series on Amazon, or visit the official website at www.jasondarkseries.com

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Steinbeck1The best books usually read very naturally, with a rhythm that flows easily and almost reads itself, using language that perfectly suits the premise and characters. How many times have you stopped and thought about how it got to that point? Well, one answer is that these writers have a talent and the perfect concoction of words just flows from their handcrafted quills.

Sorry to disappoint, but, no, that’s not how it works. Usually, there is a lot of wringing of hands and pulling of hair involved—one of the reasons why so many writers are bald. No, it’s true, they just wear wigs to hide the secret to perfect writing.

The reality of writing is that it is a lengthy and time-consuming process. The job of a writer is not only to cough up the words but writing a book is a process during which you are making thousands of decisions. All those cool events in that story you’re reading need to be thought up and detailed out. Is that corridor leading to the left or to the right, or is it perhaps leading downstairs? What about furniture and decor? Who picked the wallpaper? Does it look spartan or is it richly furnished, and if so, with what?

Every scene in a book requires countless decisions to be made. Some come naturally out of the overall context, but many times, these decisions can be stubbornly hard. So hard, in fact, that the most typical problem of “writer’s block” is that the writer is simply not ready to commit to a decision and stalls the process as a result. It is more common than you might think because it is hard for a writer to make certain decisions. They lock you down on a certain path and it just may not be what the story needs later down the road.

The same decision-making process often applies to the writing itself. Questions, such as which words to use, how to describe settings and events, how to paint characters, their idiosyncrasies, their speech patterns and behavior, all of these things require forethought and a brick-load of decision making. As a result many writers—myself included—write their books in iterations.

Yeah, we’re about as perfect as the gnarled roots of that Ficus tree in your backyard. Even the best of writers have to go back and rework their creative flow. Let me show you how this works, how a paragraph of text is shaped and polished in such an iterative process, from its first draft to the final version you will find in the published book.

When I first write a book, I typically do not concern myself with grammatical details and style all that much. I try to write what is in my mind, without losing too much time so I won’t lose my train of thought. This can be very rough sometimes, but it does not matter because it is easy enough to clean up at a later time. The point is to get the story out and written down before it takes a one-way trip to Europe and never returns.

Hunted_Flat-192x300I find that during times I sink into what is called a “writer’s dream.” It doesn’t mean I’m writing in my sleep, but rather that I am completely absorbed and focused on the story. During those times I will see the scene I am writing before my mind’s eye, like a movie, and I am caught up in it, simply dumping it into the computer the way I dream it. I see characters act, react, and talk, allowing me to adapt believable speech patterns and behaviors for those characters. Oftentimes I will actually see specific actors in these parts, helping me to visualize the scene unfold even better. Before you ask, yes, I do have an actor I see when I think of Jason Dark, but I will not tell you who it is. No offense, but I just don’t want you to have any preconceived notions when reading about Jason Dark. The character is for you to experience and shape in your own imagination.

Once the story found its way into my computer, I have what is called a First Draft. This first draft is a rough unpolished piece of writing that will require a serious amount of work before it is ready for the prime time. Let me illustrate this with an excerpt from my book “Hunted,” the most recent Jason Dark thriller. What you see below is the first draft version. This is what I dumped out of my brain and into the silicon nethers of my computer, complete with typos and errors, without any work or cleanup done to it. Not very glorious, but well deserving to show the process.

A pale moon appeared from behind its veil of clouds and cast its hues across the gaslit streets of London, the pale blue fingers crawling across the desiccated features of a strange figure hiding in a darkened doorway. The city was bustling, as always, oblivious to the evil that walked the cobblestone streets, ready to suck the very life from its inhabitants.
A breeze blew from the south, pushing fresh sea air through the city and finally driving out the stench that had accompanied the dog days of late summer a few days ago. In serpentine wisps, a growing layer of fog wove its way through the moist night air, moving into every side street and court in the dockyards where ships were moored and guarded by the dim light of unsteady lanterns.
The figure stood motionless, dressed in midnight blue silken garbs. Not a muscle moved underneath the parchment skin. The man’s cadaverous features were mummified, like parchment, and blotched with rot. The skin was hanging from the skull bones in dry, crumbly folds with no sign of life. A velvet hat was crowning the man’s head, all blue, except for a thin, red rim and a small gold tassel.

With the first draft out of my system, I will usually set it aside for at least a week or two, without looking at it or even thinking about it. I do this so I lose my immediate attachment with the words. I’ve seen too many writers go mad over the prospect of having to change the words they set down in the manuscript because they were so much in love with them, they actually wanted to marry them. To avoid my trip to the looney bin, I distance myself from my initial brain dump, so that it becomes nothing more than an assortment of words and sentences.

I want to have a fresh approach to the book. I don’t want to get stuck in the same thought patterns I had when writing the book. I want to keep my mental health and more importantly, I want to experience it more like a reader than the writer. It makes an enormous difference. As writers, we analyze sentences—even those of other authors—and it is about as impossible to turn that mentality off as it is to get a politician to put together a clear sentence. That is not how your average reader perceives the book, however. They want to be entertained. They want to dive into it and immerse themselves in your story.

So, after some time has passed I will read the book. Very slowly, sentence by sentence. I will look for spelling errors, I will check the sentences for grammatical issues. Does it sound right or do sound like a pompous douche? Did I get my point across or have I been overly obtuse? I look for instances where I could perhaps shuffle around a sentence so it becomes more powerful.

Below you will find the same paragraph as before, only this time I have made a first revision pass at it. Note how certain things have changed. These might look like small changes, but the thing about really good writing is that its beauty is in the detail. One word changed can make a world of difference and truly elevate the impact of the text to a new level, or it can improve readability, allowing the sentence to roll all of its own.

The pale face of the moon appeared from behind its veil of clouds and cast silvery hues across the gaslit streets of London, its pale blue fingers crawling across the desiccated features of a strange figure hiding in a darkened doorway. The city was bustling, as always, all but oblivious to the evil that walked the cobblestone streets, ready to suck the very life from its inhabitants.
A crisp breeze blew from the south, pushing fresh sea air through the city and finally driving out the stench that had accompanied the dog days of late summer only a week ago. In serpentine wisps, a growing layer of fog wove its way through the moist night air, conquering every side street and court in the dockyards where ships were moored and guarded by the dim light of unsteady lanterns.
The figure stood motionless, dressed in midnight blue silken garbs. Not a muscle moved underneath the parchment skin. The man’s cadaverous features were mummified, like parchment, and blotched with ages of rot. The skin was hanging from the skull bones in dry, crumbly folds that showed no life. A velvet hat was crowning the man’s head, all blue, except for a thin, red rim and a small gold tassel.

After this first revision, I will immediately go back and read the book again. This is important to me because I now have the entire story and plot details still vividly in my mind. This step, to me, is crucial to hammer consistency into the story so that forward references are correct and actually make sense to the reader. I can mentally check if the information a character is referring to is actually known to him at that point in time. As a writer, it is all too easy to get caught up in the writer’s dream that we will occasionally forget to introduce key elements, hints or even people.
During this second reading, I will also constantly keep an eye on my verbs. Big step, that. Catch weak verbs and replace them with much stronger and all of a sudden you sound like a real Steinbeck. In fact, the maestro himself was one of the strongest proponents of strong verbs.

Use verbs, not adjectives, to keep your sentences moving. All fine prose is based on the verbs carrying the sentences.

There you go, straight from the master’s mouth. Strong verbs put your sentences on steroids. In addition, I will look at my word pictures, the nouns and descriptions I am using, to ensure my writing is as evocative as it can be.
At this stage I will also pay close attention to the rhythm and flow of the text. I will check the beginnings of sentences to make sure they are varied and interesting. If I notice too many sentences in a row starting with “He,” for example, I know it is time to shake my writing like a cup of dice and work some rephrasing magic.

Below, for your pleasure, you will once again find the same passage as before. This time he version after I took a second pass at it. Once again, notice the subtle differences, and observe how these small changes actually do make a big difference.

The pale face of the moon emerged from behind its veil of clouds, and cast silvery hues across the gaslit streets of London, its pale blue fingers creeping across the desiccated features of a strange figure hiding in a darkened doorway. The city was bustling, as usual, all but oblivious to the evil that walked the cobblestone streets, ready to suck the very life from its denizens.
A crisp breeze blew from the south, pushing fresh sea air through the city, and finally driving out the stench that had accompanied the dog days of late summer only a week ago. In serpentine wisps, a growing layer of fog wove its way through the moist night air, conquering every side street and court in the dockyards where moored ships groaned, guarded over by the unsteady light of dim lanterns.
The figure stood motionless, dressed in midnight blue silken garbs. Impassive, not a muscle moved underneath the parchment skin. The man’s cadaverous features were mummified and blotched with ages of rot. The skin was hanging from the skull bones in dry, crumbly folds that showed no signs of life. A velvet hat was crowning the man’s head, all blue, except for a thin, red rim and a small gold tassel.

At this time, I am usually close to what I want my text to be. If I am not entirely satisfied at this point, I will repeat the aforementioned process until I feel the text has reached the level of maturity that I am after. With each iteration, however, it becomes more and more important to keep the original intention in mind. It is all too easy to completely lose the original voice of the text by accident, which is, of course, not something I want to happen. The original zest of the story and its tone is critical and needs to stay intact. It will always take precedence over second-guessing myself.

It is time to give the book one more read. During this stage, I will try to put on my reader hat. I will read the book and take note of things that stick out, such as spelling errors and typos, or missing or misplaced punctuation marks. I will also note down adverbs as I encounter them to go back after the read and see if I can perhaps remove them, or replace them with stronger verbs instead. This I will do after the read because at this stage I want to experience the story as a whole and not break up the reading with a lot of distracting editing.

Below you will find the excerpt from “Hunted,” once again with these kinds of changes applied.

The pale face of the moon emerged from behind its veil of clouds, and cast silvery hues across the gaslit streets of London, its pale blue fingers creeping across the desiccated features of a strange figure hiding in a darkened doorway. The city was bustling, as usual, all but oblivious to the evil that walked the cobblestone streets, ready to suck the very life from its denizens.
A crisp breeze blew from the south, pushing fresh sea air through the city, and driving out the stench at last, that had accompanied the dog days of late summer only a week ago. In serpentine wisps, a growing layer of fog wove its way through the moist night air, conquering every side street and court in the dockyards where moored ships groaned, guarded over by the unsteady light of dim lanterns.
The figure stood motionless, dressed in midnight blue silken garbs. Impassive, not a single muscle moved underneath the parchment skin. The man’s cadaverous features were mummified and blotched with ages of rot. The skin was hanging from the skull bones in dry, crumbly folds that showed no signs of life. A velvet hat was crowning the man’s head, all blue, except for a thin blood-red rim and a small gold tassel.

At this point, I usually ask my wife, Lieu, to read it before I actually publish it. She is the Jason Dark series editor and knows the characters perhaps better than I do. She was usually also the person who helped me put together the storyline by providing input, suggestions and ideas, so she is very well suited to let me know when a character in my book acts out-of-character.

Lieu also has an uncanny ability to pick up on loose ends or things that make no sense. It makes for great commentary track while watching bad movies or TV shows, incidentally, and is incredibly valuable to me in my own books. She will point these issues out to me and ask questions, such as, “Why did the bad guy wait around all this time? He could have killed them on page 34 already.” It is then up to me to make things fit and perhaps add a sentence or reference in certain places of the story to make sure it all happens for a reason.

What comes next is crucial. At the same time it is, sadly, the step that all too many independent and self-published authors skip. Bring in the Editor!

I will send my book off to my editor, usually my friend Terry Coleman, in the case of the Jason Dark books. The job of the editor is essentially the same I have done in all the above steps, only that now it is being performed by a trained expert who has no prior affiliation with the text. He has a completely new set of eyes, he has a wealth of experience, he is a walking dictionary, thesaurus, and etymologist all wrapped in one person. Terry knows things I don’t. He notices things I don’t. He sees misplaced modifiers that I read over. He notices when something doesn’t make sense or feels stilted. He knows dialects and can polish the things people say, and he does all of that without breaking a sweat, before breakfast. In short, an editor is the ultimate egg-laying-wool-milk-hog.

Terry will return my book with all sorts of corrections and comments inserted as notes in the document. I will accept or reject these comments and correction suggestions at my own discretion, but even when I disagree with his suggestions, I will ALWAYS think about them before dismissing them. Most of the time I find that he is correct and that a small clarification here, or a restructuring there may lead to a stronger emotional response, or will simply improve the writing in general.

Below you will find the same passage we’ve been looking at all this time in its form, after Terry went over it.

The pallid face of the moon emerged from behind its veil of clouds, and cast silvery hues across the gaslit streets of London, its pale blue fingers creeping across the desiccated features of a strange figure hiding in a darkened doorway. The city was bustling, as usual, all but oblivious to the evil that walked the cobblestone streets, ready to suck the very life from its denizens.
A crisp breeze blew from the south, pushing fresh sea air through the city, and finally driving out the stench that had accompanied the dog days of late summer only a week ago. In serpentine wisps, a growing layer of fog wove its way through the moist night air, conquering every side street and court in the dockyards where moored ships groaned, guarded over by the unsteady light of dim lanterns.
The figure stood motionless, dressed in midnight blue silken garbs. Impassive, not a single muscle moved underneath the parchment skin. The man’s cadaverous features were mummified and blotched with ages of rot. The skin was hanging from the skull bones in dry, crumbly folds that showed no signs of life. A velvet hat crowned the man’s head, all blue, except for a thin blood-red rim and a small gold tassel.

This is the way I had the passage published before, but at a later point fancy tickled me to give the book a read. Don’t know, why. Just so happened. It struck me immediately that after such a long absence, my mindset had completely changed and I began re-writing the passage extensively.

The pallid face of the moon emerged from behind its veil of clouds, and cast silvery hues across the gaslit streets of London, revealing small swirls of fog that drifted lazily through the night air. Its pale blue fingers crept across the desiccated features of a strange figure that stood, hiding motionlessly, in a darkened doorway, bereft of any life, it would seem. The city was bustling, as usual, all but unsuspecting of the evil that hid in the tenebrious shadows of its cobblestone streets, ready to suck the very life from its unsuspecting denizens. Oblivious to the sinister thoughts it harbored.
A crisp breeze blew from the south, driving fresh sea air through the city, and finally driving out the stench that had accompanied the dog days of late summer only a week ago. In serpentine wisps, a growing layer of fog wove its way through the moist night air, conquering every side street and court in the dockyards where ships groaned at anchor, guarded over by the unsteady light of dim lanterns.
The figure stood motionless, dressed in midnight blue silken garb. Impassive, not a single muscle moved underneath the parchment skin. The man’s cadaverous features were mummified, and blotched with ages of rot, the skin hanging from the skull bones in dry, crumbly folds that exhibited no signs of life. A velvet hat crowned the man’s head, all blue, except for a thin blood-red rim and a small gold tassel.

Gosh dang it, it actually got longer. After taking a few notes while reading the book, I actually decided to really rework the entire book. I pulled out the fine-toothed comb I use to coiffeur my words and went to work. By the time I was done, what used to be a 25,000-word novella had suddenly turned into a 45,000-word novel. Even through in a few new chapters, characters and plot twists while I was at it.

Like the computer games I created in the past, it made me realize that a book is never really finished. We just stop working on it.

As you can see, writing a book is a lot more involved than simply putting down the initial text. It is a process that is iterative and very time-consuming, and can be extremely draining. But if done right, the end result can be exceedingly rewarding, for both, the writer and the reader equally. A carefully crafted book is a thing of beauty and well worth the effort.

JDSeriesThere you have it. A lot of reading involved here, and the fact that you made it down here shows that you really care. So, if you haven’t done so yet, no would be a tremendously great time to grab a copy of “Hunted,” over on Amazon. It’s totally awesome. It really is, and I just proved to you how serious I am about the book. I’ve worked it over and over again. Surely that warrants your support, won’t it? And once I got you on the hook with “Hunted,” there’s no reason for you not to go back and read all the other Jason Dark books I have available. Support the arts. Support me!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The horrors of Kindle Format X

While you are reading this, Amazon is silently rolling out Kindle Format X (KFX) to supplant the previous KF8 formatting. You may have noticed the little “Enhanced Typesetting” entry on their Kindle book pages, which, when set to Enabled, indicates that the new format is in place for that particular book. Naturally, the new features will be visible only on devices that actually support the new KFX format, and as in the past, Amazon will deliver a downgraded format to all other devices to match their respective capabilities.

AMZEnhancedRight now, it’s still all hush-hush with no official information or documentation available, so everything I am pointing out here may still change going forward, but given Amazon’s track record in that respect, this is highly unlikely.

Welcome to the abominable new world of Kindle!

The actual implementation of KFX is being handled on Amazon’s server backend, which means no extra formatting is required in actual eBooks and not tools are currently required, though that is most definitely likely to change because it makes the creation and evaluation of content a tedium at best and a nightmare at worst. See, currently, only a small portion of books actually supports the feature, each of them picked at Amazon’s sole discretion. See, KFX is not something you actually author, as it is rather some conversion that Amazon is doing on their end to tweak the eBooks on their servers before they are delivered. This means that in order to evaluate KFX currently as a developer, not only do you need to have access to a book that Amazon has deemed worthy and that is offered with Enhanced Typogaphy, but every time you make a change you ill also have to upload the new test-version and wait about 24 hours until the new version goes live and you can see how the formatting behaves under the new KFX engine. It is, quite frankly, a nightmare and a tremendous time sink.

The Kindle eBook format could use some improvements, there can be no question although, with KF8, Amazon has brought the format so close to the ePub specs that one really has to wonder why they did not go it all the way and eliminate the majority of problems that plague the platform once and for all.

Four years ago I wrote a blog post called “10 Things Amazon should correct in the Kindle” and in retrospect it is frightening just how little the problems mentioned there have ever been addressed. As Amazon moved forward with the KF8 format, there were plenty of improvements but in many ways the new format was also a step that made things worse, as outlined in my blog post “Amazon introduces new Kindle eBook format and makes a major misstep“. Once again, nothing was done to resolve the serious problems underlying the format. With that in mind, it is clear that Amazon does not care about existing flaws and all the issues we see emerging right now will plague the format for years and device generations to come.

Naturally, I was curious to find out what would await us with the migration to KFX. Boy, do I wish I had never opened that can of worms.

The Kindle creators never understood books

The problem with Amazon’s Kindle platform has always been that it has been designed and maintained by people who, quite evidently, do not understand books. The device and its firmware has been designed by Lab126, a company that specializes in handheld devices, and the name, Lab126, could not be more fitting, because everything about the Kindle has felt like something put together by lab rats, from day one; people with no sense of the real-world application of their devices. I would not be surprised to hear that the engineers at Lab123 have never really read a book on a Kindle or tried to format one, for that matter.

Farewell to non-breaking spaces

So, what’s the problem with KFX, you wonder? Let’s start with what is, perhaps, the biggest whopper. The Kindle no longer supports non-breaking spaces. This means all those instances where you made sure your text units will remain together and won’t be broken apart, will all be ignored. Line wraps will wreak havoc with your finely crafted “Mr. Smith,” “5 minutes,” “November 5,” “3 p.m.” or the “1964 Mustang,” as they will all potentially be butchered by rampant line breaks, splitting the units into non-sensical individual words. To find this in a device that is designed specifically to display books is like selling a car without a steering wheel.

Decimals are a bitch

But the fun doesn’t end there just yet. Amazon has also fiddled with the hyphenation rules, but instead of making them smarter and more real-world-like, they have gone backwards and implemented an algorithm that conjures up memories of 8-bit computers. Imagine, an algorithm that treats every period as a point where lines can wrap. Suddenly you will find that “FM 99.8” becomes a garbled mess where the number 8 ends up on its own line. Forget about scientific texts with decimal notation or website names with a dot-something extension. They all can now be brutally butchered beyond comprehension. What an awesome improvement… what an “enhanced typography.”

Another such issue can be found when it comes to em- and en-dashes. The new KFX implementation is suddenly teaching the Kindle layout engine to do line wraps before the dash, as well as after. If I didn’t know any better, I would almost believe that Amazon wants to rewrite typography rules with botched features such as this. These problems clearly show a lack of understanding of the subject matter and a wholesome disregard for everything relating to book design.

The list goes on, and as we will be exposed to an increasing number of KFX-formatted and rendered books, I have no doubt that more problems will emerge and we are only but scratching the surface. It makes you wonder, where exactly are the “enhanced typography” features that Amazon is touting?

So where exactly is the “enhanced typography?”

Well, nowhere, really. Text flow has not been improved from what I can tell, and word spacing issues have still not been addressed, while tables still remain unusable. While it can finally hyphenate, in a kind-of sorta way, when justifying text, the Kindle will still only expand word spacing and it will never ever reduce spacing the way you would do in a print book. As I said, the layout engine operates on the level of a Commodore 64 8-bit computer. This is incomprehensible because handheld devices are so powerful these days that highly sophisticated algorithms could be put to use that would properly evaluate line widths and adjustments to them to create visually pleasing layouts. Instead, the Kindle is still simply dumping text on the screen without any regard for typography.

The Kindle still suffers terribly

Simply introducing a new typeface and a few ligatures does not make for enhanced typography. The Kindle still suffers endlessly from widowed words, orphaned lines, inaccurate spacing, ignorant kerning and other problems galore.

A bright light…images…perhaps!

And then there are the images… For the longest time, Amazon has ignored image transparency in PNG files and in recent years they have given us a completely borked 8-bit PNG implementation that resulted in nothing but black blocks. With KFX we can now celebrate the arrival of their new JPG format, JPG XR. In and of itself, JPG XR is a wonderful development, a useful enhancement to the standard JPG format that results in smaller images with less loss in definition. With this new image support in place, Amazon is now converting all images in an eBook into JPG XR format, including all GIF and PNG images, as well as SVGs. Like they did with the KF8 format, Amazon is also creating dedicated versions of a book for devices of varying capabilities. As a result, they will now convert images to grayscale for delivery to monochrome Kindle devices, once again a step to curb in bandwidth – and thus, reducing the cost of delivery fees for you.

But there is an inherent danger in doing this and given their shoddy track record, I am not entirely sure Amazon or Lab126 have gotten the memo how to properly utilize JPG XR. Normally you would not want to convert a line art image, like a PNG, to a JPG format, but since JPG XR features a mode with lossless compression, this may no longer be true. At this time I am not entirely convinced, however, if the KFX backend is taking this into consideration, or if PNG images are simply converted to regularly compressed JPGs. As more samples emerging over the coming months, I am sure we’ll find out soon enough. Regardless of compression issues, however, at this time it is clear that Amazon is once again completely forgoing all image transparency, completely ignoring the alpha-channel support that the JPG XR format offers. So even in 2015, the use of images in eBooks appears like a clunky, broken relic of – yeah, you guessed it, the 8-bit era.

Once more, Amazon is hopelessly missing the mark

When you want to create a format that lauds itself with “enhanced typography,” the first thing you need is to have people on board who understand typography, and to Amazon’s shame this has evidently never been the case in the Kindle department, ever. The company and Kindle-developer Lab126 are stumbling from one mistake to the next, making things worse with each incarnation. Rather than finally investing some time and actual experience in the platform to hammer out a “real” eBook format, really useful eBook features, and real eBook-ready firmware, the companies still seem to leave the job to code jockeys.

With each iteration, it gets harder to explain away the ineptitude displayed by the people creating these implementations. The shortcomings of the first-generation Kindle could still be attributed to weak processing power, limited display technology, and the journey into completely uncharted waters, but in today’s market, Kindle users should expect a device that has been honed to perfection, not a tinker toy gadget that continues to miss its marks and its core audience by a mile or two.

If you thought Smashwords’ Meat Grinder was a monstrosity, welcome to Monster X and the abominable new world of Kindle!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

What is the real purpose of a book cover?

With the lowering of the barrier of entrance, self-publishing books has become the norm rather than the exception. Something that was traditionally handled by big, lumbering publishing houses or by individuals with a lot of money, has now become a reality for anyone. It no longer has the stigma of vanity publishing, but has instead evolved into a perfectly viable route to market.

But the fact that it is easily possible does not mean that it is easy to do. There are countless pitfalls along the way, and for someone who has never even had tangential contact with the publishing industry there are inevitably a good number of lurking misconceptions. The number of decisions that have to be made, and the impact these decisions can have on your potential success are immense.

Choosing the right cover is perhaps the most important decision you will make surrounding your book

Let’s take a look at book covers, for example. It is so easy to get them wrong—and for all the right reasons.

For many years now I have been working with authors who self-publish their books. I have been formatting their books, as well as providing cover art for them on many occasions, and if there is one red thread that weaves itself through the nearly one-thousand book projects I have worked on, it is this: passion!

Authors spend a lot of time writing their books, massaging them to perfection, editing them, reading them again and again, proofing them, the whole spiel. It takes a lot of time and passion, naturally, and as a result authors always have a very close attachment to the project. A lot of passion. It is the essential ingredient or else the project would never have come to fruition.

Don’t let the fact that you are, perhaps, too close to the project cloud your judgment

However, this passion can easily become detrimental when it comes to certain aspects of the actual publishing of the project, because publishing a book requires a number of business decisions. A cool head is required to make the right choices, or you might get in the way of your own success.

Covers are one of the areas where these problems often manifest themselves very quickly, creating a dangerous slope, because covers are, perhaps, the single most important decision you will ever make regarding your book.

So, let me ask you this question… what is the purpose of the cover?

The purpose of a book cover is not to perfectly illustrate the story down to the smallest detail or to showcase every aspect and facet of the plot. If you think this way, you are too close to your project, and you are thinking about your cover too literal—especially in the digital world where books are bought primarily online and the presentation of the cover has changed from a beautiful piece of art to a small 100 pixel-wide thumbnail.

The sole purpose of a book cover is to help sell the book

A book cover is a selling tool! Nothing more, nothing less. It serves the purpose to attract eyeballs and then get those people intrigued enough to click on the cover thumbnail and learn more about the book, which, hopefully, will then result in a sale. If visitors on Amazon do not notice a book cover because it is easily overlooked and disappears among other covers, it serves absolutely no purpose and is actually detrimental to the author because uncounted potential sales are lost right there.

Forget how much you love your friend’s illustration, or how you feel this frilly font really reflects your main character’s taste for the intricate. If people do not notice your cover or if it is muddled up, you won’t make a sale.

You always have to keep in mind that for the most part you are trying to sell books to people who are not familiar with you and who do not know the book or the story—at all. It is the cover that will hopefully draw them to it. It is the cover that will hopefully connect with them and intrigue them enough to find out more. Only then will you be able to tap into new readers. Readers who are essential for growing your customer base not only for this book, but also for your next.

A good cover will open your book up to a new readership

I suppose it is easy to see that the impact one good cover can have are very far-reaching over the course of a writer’s career.

What makes a good cover then?

Again, with the digital revolution, software has become available to anyone with a computer that enables us to do everything by ourselves. But should we? A better tool does not necessarily mean the output is getting better. Even with a better knife you will still not be able to carve a better statue, because you lack the necessary skill set, and you really have to ask yourself whether you feel that you are qualified enough to tackle something as important as your book’s cover by yourself.

Among many things, I am a trained typesetter. I took a three-year apprenticeship to learn about fonts, their impact, their structure, the creation and design, and the subject of printed matters on the whole.

This apprenticeship taught me things that allow me to make educated decisions when it comes to the visual presentation of the written word. Which font to choose, which size to choose it in, how to properly kern it, how to adjust and tweak it for best visual impact or for best readability. The list goes on.

Covers are not just an image with a few words sprinkled on for good measure

See, it is a very common misconception that covers are just images with a handful of words thrown on them. Nothing could be further from the truth, really. A cover needs focus. It needs to create intrigue. It needs to guide the eye. It needs to create emotions that connect the story with the person browsing the virtual bookshelf.

Do a little experiment, if you wish. Do a search on Amazon that should bring up your book, and then quickly scan the results with one glance. If your book is not the first one that jumps to your eye, your cover is missing something. How could I say something like this? Because you are so familiar with your cover that your eyes should immediately pinpoint it—with your eyes closed, almost. If they don’t, you know that something is seriously wrong, because the odds of a stranger honing in on your cover at a glance are deteriorating rapidly here.

Aside from the cover motive itself, font choice is vital. A font that is unbalanced and hard to read is useless, but what is “unbalanced” and what is “hard to read?” These are the things that typesetters and graphic designers have spent years learning and studying. A well-chosen font on a single-colored background can be extremely dramatic in the hands of the right cover designer. It can cut to the chase and deliver its message, and that is exactly what you need. That is what trained professionals are for, and access to trained and professional talent is easier and more affordable than ever.

If you can’t see your cover, no one will

Though custom designed covers are still quite pricey and not within everyone’s budget range, a new alternative has emerged over the past years—pre-designed covers. One of the players in the field of pre-designed covers is my most recent venture, Covertopia.com, where I team up with experienced long-time graphic designer and illustrator Lieu Pham to bring bestselling book covers to authors at affordable rates.

The concept of pre-designed covers, or premades as they are often called also, is very simple, really. The cover designer creates and hosts a catalog of covers that have been prepared ahead of time, without any particular book in mind. These covers are usually following themes and trends that reflect the current state of the market, without honing in on exact details of any one book. This way the cover can be potentially applied to a variety of books, because it illustrates more general subjects, while maintaining the high quality and professional design elements you would normally find in much higher priced custom designed covers. Reputable designers will make sure that the covers remain nonetheless unique, by selling a particular cover design only once. In these cases, after it is sold to an author, the cover design is taken off the market, and no longer available to others.

Predesigned covers are a cost-effective and fast way to get that professional look

This kind of service should not be mistaken with supposed cover designs you can get on sites like Fiverr. These are usually not created by professionals, but hobbyists with extra time on their hand, and therefore often lack in real design and typography fundamentals, not to mention that many of them are using imagery without obtaining proper rights clearance, etc. A professional cover designer will always ensure that the images used will be legitimate and will not create copyright nightmares for you.

So, if you are a writer, looking for an affordable cover for your next book, while making sure it plays on a professional level and doesn’t break the bank, a pre-designed cover might just be the ticket. In addition, pre-designed covers have a very quick turn-around, because they can be finalized with your book title and handed over to you much faster than a custom job. Reputable designers will get the final cover to within a day or two. This means no delay for your project, so you can go to press anytime you’re ready!

On Covertopia.com my partner Lieu Pham, a long-time graphic designer and illustrator, and I are offering covers for a wide range of genres, in a wide range of themes and looks, all optimized for best discoverability, all making a statement and an impact, and we strive to give each pre-designed cover the same kind of feel that we afford our custom design projects. Sound interesting? It should, because getting professional covers has never been easier.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Scotland Yard, well, hello…

ScotlandYard2For most of us, the name of Scotland Yard is synonymous with detective stories. Whether it is Sherlock Holmes, the books of Agatha Christie or Edgar Wallace, or even the exploits of Jack the Ripper, the involvement of Scotland Yard roots these stories, often elevating the institution to mythical heights. Its involvement lends credence to the powers of traditional law enforcement.

The Yard has long been part of my Jason Dark supernatural mysteries in a variety of ways, not in the least through the fact that Inspector Lestrade calls upon Jason Dark and Siu Lin on occasion. Since the cases of the ghost hunters involve killings and deaths, it is only natural that the two occult detectives have a lot of contact with Scotland Yard.

At one point I began to wonder what would happen if the powers of the Yard would were to realize Jason Dark’s skills and acknowledge his legitimacy. An idea evolved in my mind that, perhaps, they would offer him a job. More to the point, perhaps, would they even open a department for the special kinds of cases he is regularly involved in?

ScotlandYardDivisionMapTraditionally, Scotland Yard worked in Divisions. Greater London was divided into a number of sections that had a degree of autonomy under the Scotland Yard umbrella. In history, H Division became the most notorious one, no doubt. It covered London’s East End, and among it the Whitechapel district, the part of town with the largest crime rate and, of course, the killing grounds of the infamous Jack the Ripper. Other letters of the alphabet were assigned to other parts of the city. Interestingly, what many people do not know is that the City of London itself, which makes up only the very heart of what we typically consider London as a whole to be, had its very own police force and was not part of Scotland Yard’s jurisdiction.

While this divisionalization had its benefits, particularly as the city continued to grow, it also had its limitations, of course. To counter the shortcomings that arose from the many disjointed divisions, another department was founded, commonly known as CID, the Criminal Investigation Department. Without the jurisdictional limitations of separate divisions, CID operated independently and quickly took charge of cases surrounding murders and rapes. It is this division, in fact, that we usually associate with the name Scotland Yard. It consisted of detectives in plainclothes, often working undercover in disguise as they investigated the most notorious and brutal of cases in the Greater London area.

ScotlandYard1With all that in mind, I began to imagine the possibilities. What if Scotland Yard would indeed open a department dedicated to supernatural incidents? I foreshadowed the idea in a previous Jason Dark mystery also, “Curse of Kali,” and in the latest adventure, “Hunted,” I took that leap all the way and made it official. In the story you will find a scene in which Dark and Siu Lin are approached with the concept, as proposed by the Home Secretary and the Queen herself.

Like many of the historic references and character cameos I have constantly built into the series over its course, this once again added a nice touch to the story, I felt, expanding the horizon of Jason Dark’s world and the possibilities for me to play with the characters and settings. He would no longer be a civilian, scrutinized suspiciously by policemen on the beat. He would no longer be the prime suspect as people fall dead along his path, and he would suddenly have an entire police force at his disposal to help him solve cases. Not that I would want him to be regular copper, of course. Far from it. He is just not the type, but as you may agree, it would open up certain new thematic possibilities, not to mention the drama that would undoubtedly unfold if he were suddenly accountable to Queen Victoria herself. What is his relationship with the Queen, anyway?

Check out “Hunted” to find out how Jason Dark reacts to the Yard’s offer, though. It may be good for a few chuckles along the way as he improvises in critical moments. Naturally, the story as a whole is probably more interesting than that small tidbit alone, but it is like a proper spice. It adds dimension without getting in the way.

Hunted_Flat-192x300Therefore I would like to invite you to check out “Hunted” and get a taste of Jason Dark dealing with an exotic hopping vampire from China in an action-packed mystery that takes every last ounce of resourcefulness out of Dark and Siu Lin. The book has just been released and is now available for a limited time only for $0.99.

I hope you’ll have a blast with the story, and I’d love to hear what you thought of it, so don’t be shy to write to me.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The return of Jason Dark

TerrorLord_Preview-192x300Today is a big day for me! It is a make-or-break kind of day, to be exact, because today I am giving Jason Dark a second lease on life.

When I first started my Jason Dark series of supernatural mysteries six years ago I had no idea where the adventure would take me. Ebooks were a technological aspiration that had not yet fully emerged, let away broken into the mainstream, and I simply wanted to spread my wings into true fiction writing, after having spent decades writing for computer games.

Consequently I wrote seven adventures featuring the inimitable ghost hunter Jason Dark and his sidekicks Siu Lin and Herbert, along with a serialized short story that was published in Fangoria magazine. Those who read the stories enjoyed them. some loved them—or so they said, and yet, the series never took off and I was forced to abandon it after finishing and publishing “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire” more than three years ago. It was a hard decision for me to walk away from the series. I had fallen in love with the characters and the setting of the series in Victorian England. Writing these stories was a dream come true on so many levels, but I simply could not afford spending any more time writing, publishing and promoting books that did not sell enough to make a living.

And so, the books languished for a long time, until earlier this year, I felt the urge to give it another try. The market had changed so much in those years. Ebooks are now fully established in the market, self-publishing was the only viable way for authors to get their work out, having practically replaced traditional publishing industry altogether, which had imploded by its own hand, helping its own demise along with an abandon of intelligence I have never seen before in any industry. But I digress…

It all started when I re-read “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire,” the last book in my series. I have the habit of taking notes constantly when I read—regardless of whose book it is—and I found that I had a lot of notes on this particular book. Notes where I felt the wording was weak, where more information would have been à propos, where the flow wasn’t as well-rounded as it could have been, and so on. It was then that I decided to give the book a good do-over and perhaps try to bring to full novel length. And so I got to work—and when I was done the book was 45k words long and deserved a new title—Hunted.

Theater_of_Vampire__Flat-192x300With that done, and the knowledge that new title would require a completely new launch of the book, it was almost a foregone conclusion to relaunch the entire series along with it. So I talked to Lieu Pham who has been creating hundreds of covers for clients and her Covertopia.com website. Together we went through every book in the series and she created a stunning new cover for each one.

At this time I also decided to make the first book in the series, “Demon’s Night” permanently free as a hook, to get readers to try out the series and hopefully continue from there. Although each of the Jason Dark adventures is a stand-along book that does not require any knowledge of the previous books, I understand that mean reader simply want to get into a series with the first book.

DemaonsNight_NewFont_Flat-192x300For me, the problem was that “Demon’s Night” was the first book I ever wrote—six years ago—so I wasn’t sure if the book would live up to expectations. While one could argue that a free book is a free book, my intention is to use it to introduce new readers to the series, and to hook them, and if that book is weak, clearly, the plan will not work.

I daresay that I have grown as a writer since and when I began re-reading the book to check on the quality of the writing, I very quickly realized that it, too, would require a bit of extra work, so I made some changes. Not to the same extent as I did with “Hunted” but I did clean out some sections and added more information, while also looking for grammar and, most importantly, wording issues.

The last step was reformatting all eleven eBooks in the series to update their look, making it more contemporary and more what you’d expect from current eBook technology. You may recall that I discussed the subject in a previous post called “The new look of Jason Dark.”

Doctor_Flat-192x300Which brings us to today’s launch. The new website is live, all the books have been updated in online stores, making sure readers can now grab fully updated copies with their beautiful new layout. And, of course, the crème de la crème, “Hunted” is now available for everyone to read!

The book is currently available at a $0.99 introductory price to help give the book a strong start. The first weeks of a book are the most critical because they determine how online stores like Amazon will treat the book, whether it is something worthy of recommending to their millions of readers or whether its fate will be more along the lines of “also ran.”

Help me bring “Hunted” to the forefront of readers’ minds, would you? It’s a 99 cent investment, less than a cup of coffee or a candy bar, and it will keep you entertained—I promise. Better yet, it will lure you back to the fog-shrouded streets of Victorian London and throw you in the middle of an action-packed mystery.

Heavens_on_Fire_Flat-192x300New York Time-bestselling writer Joe Nassise even compared my character Jason Dark to the likes of Carl Kolchak—don’t be afraid to show your age—and Fox Mulder. I felt incredibly humbled when I read his endorsement. I mean, we are talking about Mulder here… THE Fox Mulder!

So, if you’ve gotten curious, do yourself a favor. Buy the book—once again, it is only 99 cents currently, an investment I am certain you can afford—and help my Jason Dark series back on its feet. There are so many cool stories in the series, and so many more in my head that I have yet to write.

So, let’s get this show on the road. Let’s put Jason Dark and Siu Lin on the map for all fans of supernatural mysteries to find, and your purchase of the book will go a long way towards that goal.

Enough with the procrastinating, already… click on one of these links and get your copy of “Hunted” right now! If you don’t like the book, throw it in my face, and I’ll give you your money back. How’s that for a deal?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The new look of Jason Dark

Many of you have probably heard by now that for the past months I’ve been busy at work to reinvigorate and relaunch my Jason Dark series of books. All the hard work is about to pay off, I hope, as I am nearing the launch date of September 14 for “Hunted,” the latest book in the series, and with it the relaunch of the series as a whole. Just to get you started off, here is a look at the cover for “Hunted,” which shows off nicely the new style that all new covers in the series sport.

Hunted_Flat

As part of the process to breathe some new, fresh air into the Jason Dark books, I reworked the first book “Demon’s Night” once again, ironing out some things I wasn’t too happy with upon re-reading the story a while ago. More importantly, however, all the books in the series have been completely reformatted from scratch, using some of the more advanced formatting features that eBook readers of the current generation can handle.

Here’s a look at the new look of the eBook versions for you.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 2.44.16 PM

Compared to the simplistic look of the original stories, you can see, that the new layout is much friendlier on the eye with plenty of white space.

A beautiful splatter of ink appears at the beginning of each new chapter, adding style to the layout. The splatter was actually the idea of Lieu Pham from Covertopia.com, who also redesigned all the covers for the series, and you would not believe what a difference it made once I dropped it into the page. Small things, such as this can often make a huge difference and her experienced design eye instantly realized the potential.

The new layout also features custom fonts to create a brand-look for the books. The chapter title itself is using the same font that is found on the book covers, creating visual continuity throughout the book and with it, the entire series.

In addition, I opted for the use of a large initial and first-line small caps for the beginning of each chapter. For that I also used a custom font to create an intricate, yet delicate look that is open and breathes. Naturally, the use of custom fonts and features such as this is not without issues, as those of you familiar with formatting limitations of eBooks will know. Not all devices support custom fonts, the small-caps feature or the way I set up the initials. It was important to me, however, to push the series forward, even if it meant using formatting features, even if it meant that older devices may not be able to display the pages exactly the same way. In a worst-case scenario, older devices will abandon the custom fonts in favor of the device default font, it will ignore the small-caps command, leaving the first line of the chapter formatted the same way as the rest of the text, and it may ignore the set-up of my initial, rendering it as a regular character, the same size as the rest of the text. While it may not have the glamor of the “advanced” layout of modern devices, I made sure that it won’t result in a garbled display and still look perfectly fine.

The Jason Dark website has been completely revamped as well, and you can see it in all its glory here – www.jasondarkseries.com. Check out all the new covers for each of the books. Fans familiar with the series will also notice that I have changed the title of the adventure “Dr. Prometheus” to “The Doctor,” a title that I think works much better.

With only a few days left before the official launch, the next few days will be filled with a flurry of activities, all to raise awareness of the series and the upcoming new book.

You want to help me make this launch an all-out success story? It’s really easy. Just share with your friends the news of the upcoming release and the overhaul of the entire series. Point them towards the website, let them know that “Hunted” will be available on September 14 with a limited time price of only $0.99, remind them how important reviews are, or simply show them the cool new look of the books, over on the official website.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Teaching TextMate a new trick

I recently had to switch to TextMate 2 because I had upgraded to OSX 10.10 Yosemite, and my trusty old version of TextMate was no longer fully operational. Some of the bundles I am routinely using when formatting eBooks crashed Ruby, making them useless.

One of the features I constantly use is the “Wrap Each Selected Line in Open/Close Tag” command from the HTML Bundle. It is one of the most important commands I use when formatting eBooks, because it allows me to automatically wrap every paragraph in a text in <p> and its corresponding </p> tags.

After the update to TextMate 2 I found, however, that the functionality was no longer what I really expected. Instead of wrapping everything in <p> tags, I found my text wrapped in <li> tags instead, which was not very useful. Actually, it was not useful at all. It was detrimental.

I’ve done a little bit of TextMate Bundle coding myself in the past to create streamlined commands that help me format eBooks much faster. They have become essential part of my everyday tool chain. Seeing the unexpected behavior of the TextMate 2 bundle I decided to simply dive into the Bundle Editor and change the default behavior of the “Wrap Each Selected Line in Open/Close Tag” command to my needs.

If you want to do the same, here’s how you’d go about it. Simply open the Bundle Editor by selecting “Edit Bundles” from the “Bundle” menu in TextMate. Next, select the HTML entry in the list that appears on the left hand side of the window. You will now see a number of entries appear in the second column of the window. We want to drill into the one called “Menu Actions” and then the one called “Wrap Each Selected Line in Open/Close Tag”.

droppedImage

In the lower window that contains the code portion of the command, you will find the following lines

#!/bin/bash
[[ -f "${TM_SUPPORT_PATH}/lib/bash_init.sh" ]] && . "${TM_SUPPORT_PATH}/lib/bash_init.sh"
perl -pe 's/[\$`\\]/\\$&/g; s/([ \t]*)(.+)/$1<\${1:li}>$2<\/\${1\/\\s.*\/\/}>/'

As you can see, in the jumble of the regular expression there is a reference to the unwanted “li” tag. All we have to do is change that entry to “p” instead and make the line look like this

#!/bin/bash
[[ -f "${TM_SUPPORT_PATH}/lib/bash_init.sh" ]] && . "${TM_SUPPORT_PATH}/lib/bash_init.sh"
perl -pe 's/[\$`\\]/\\$&/g; s/([ \t]*)(.+)/$1<\${1:p}>$2<\/\${1\/\\s.*\/\/}>/'

Once you’ve done that, hit Ctrl-S to save the change, and you’re done. Whenever you now press the Shift-Control-Command-W keys or select “Wrap Each Selected Line in Open/Close Tag” from the Bundle menu, every paragraph of your text will be neatly wrapped with the correct <p> tags.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Win a cover from Covertopia.com!

Feeling lucky? You should, because I can feel that today is your lucky day. All you have to do is enter in Covertopia’s Give-away, and keep your fingers crossed. You may just win a cool cover for your next book! Heck, I’ll even throw in the formatting for your book.

As you may know, Covertopia.com is a new service provider that I am closely affiliated with. Primarily, the website offers pre-designed covers for authors at an affordable price with an almost instant turn-around time. With a catalog of almost 200 instantly available premade covers at this point, from many genres, you can win any one of these covers for your own book.

CoverTopia_Logo

Participating is easy and you will be helping us spread the word to the community, to make sure more and more authors hear about Covertopia.com. It will enable us to make even more covers, make even cooler covers, create a wider variety of covers, and you can be instrumental in the process.

The way it works is really simple. Go to Covertopia’s give-away page and share info about this give-away on your social network, tweet about it, Facebook about it, or post your favorite cover on Pinterest, and earn points for the give-away. The more points you have, the better your chance of winning—it is that easy! You can even earn points by signing up to my newsletter, liking the Covertopia Facebook page, following on Twitter and more.

Just head on over there and take a look for yourself for the full details, and please, help us letting other writers out there know that the perfect cover for their book might already be waiting for them at Covertopia.com.

Thank you so much for your support! If you want to, you can also submit your entries right here! Keep in mind you can come back every day during the duration of the give-away to collect more entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail