Archive for August, 2011

Oftentimes when I send out a finished e-book to a client after I completed the formatting for them, I get an email that asks me, “Why is the Table of Contents in the back?”

The more I thought about it, the more I felt it is something I should probably talk about here on my blog, because there are a number of reasons why placing the Table of Contents — or TOC — at the end of an e-book makes a lot of sense.

Traditionally, in print books that is, the TOC served for readers to orient themselves within a book. You would simply crack the book open, go to the TOC, look for the chapter of interest and then go from there until you got to the chapter you were looking for. We all know where to find a TOC in a print book — in the front — and through years of practice we have learned to use our eye to estimate a position of a certain page number within the whole of a book.

In an e-book things look a little different, however, because if the TOC is in the front, and you are currently reading on page 560, you will have to do a lot of paging to do in order to get to that Table of Contents. Hundreds of button presses are in order… That doesn’t sound cool, does it? No, instead e-book readers have a button that takes you to the TOC, so that a simple button press takes you to a menu from which you have direct access to the table of contents. From anywhere in the book. And you won’t even lose your current reading position.

Hold on a minute, doesn’t that mean…? Yes, it does. The word menu means that the TOC does no longer have to be in the front of the book, because no matter where it is, the e-book reader always finds it for us and displays it in its Contents menu. In fact, it does not have to be part of the actual book text itself at all anymore.

Yeah, but you’re traditional-minded, right? Like, you never thought you’d be using a digital thingie-ma-whatsit to read books on anyway, because you like the feel of a bound book. And because you are a traditionalist, you want your TOC in the front nonetheless, just for tradition’s sake.

Well, not only have you obviously made the switch to digital despite your traditional preference of the printed book, but take it from me, you also want to adapt to modern TOC usage. There is a very good reason why you would not want your TOC in the front of the book.

Apart from the fact that it can potentially give away major plot points through chapter titles, which would be the first thing people see when they open your e-book, the main reason is a thing called reading samples. How does that make sense? Well, think of it this way. When Amazon creates an excerpt of the first 20% of your book to allow people to sample it for free, they take it from where in the book? The front, that’s where.

So, instead of using that exceedingly valuable space to hook your potential future readers and clue them into the premise, your style and the story of your masterpiece, you are boring them to death with a Table of Contents that contains — at its worst — nothing but a three-page list of the numbers 1 to 85. Perhaps you also threw in about five pages of legalese and credits and acknowledgments and such.

Honestly? I don’t think that’s a particularly good way to win over potential readers, let away convince them to give you their hard-earned money for the effort. Therefore, it makes sense to put non-essential things, such as a Table of Contents, in the back of the book where people can reach it but are not forced to sit through it and most importantly, where they are not bored by it when they first open your e-book or reading sample. First impressions are vital — never forget that.

This is no longer the world of print books. Things have evolved and the Table of Contents has evolved with it. Not only has its placement in the book become irrelevant, it has become interactive and therefore deserves special treatment in every possible way.

Last week I told you about my upcoming middle-grade book, Kitt Pirate and also showed you the cover artwork for the book. Well, as these things go so often, we actually made a number of change to the cover because there were a few things that Juan, my wife and I felt could still be improved.

So, Juan had another go at the cover and added some more detail. The result is an incredible cover artwork, I feel, that is definitely stronger than the one I showed you last week. More fleshed out, it hits the nail perfectly on the head in my opinion and if a solid cover were any guarantee for stellar sales, I am sure that Kitt Pirate would have to become an instant bestseller when it is released. Naturally, things are not all that easy, but hey, one can dream, right?

Preliminary Kitt Pirate Cover

You may also notice from the cover that I have settled upon a pen name for the book. After much deliberation I have decided upon the name Ben Oliver. My wife and I felt that the name has a certain playful quality and a good ring, so we thought for children’s book it may be a good choice. So, there you have it. Let me know what you think of both, the improved cover and the name.

Some of you may recall that I mentioned before that I have been working on a middle-grade book for some time. Well, the book is essentially finished and almost ready to be published and I thought I’d give a quick heads-up, as to what it actually is.

Please meet Kitt Pirate!

Kitt Pirate Logo

As the title suggests, this is the story of a young pirate. A young lad who is captain of a bunch of salty pirates as they sail across the Caribbean in search for treasure and plunder. But they’re not the kind of bunch who will slaughter and kill just about anyone.

Kitt and his gang have a mission. they have decided to take the money from the rich and put it to use to help the poor – of which there are many. Under the oppression of the Spanish, the French and the English, no one in the Caribbean is safe from these greedy, gold-hoarding invaders, and Kitt feels it is only apropos for him to return the favor.

The book I wrote is called “Kitt Pirate: Snaggletooth’s Treasure.” Kitt has come across a treasure map that promises unfathomable riches and for months he and his crew have been sailing across the cerulean seas in search for the elusive island where the treasure is rumored to be buried. When at last it surfaces on the horizon, nothing can stop them… or so they thought.

I have been working with an old friend of mine, Juan Fernando Garcia, to provide me with interior illustrations for the book, as well as the cover artwork. I’ve worked with Juan before, as he was one of the artists on one of the game projects I was producing for Squaresoft, and I knew his style would be perfect. not only is he a killer pencil artist, but he has also branched out into other areas and has recently worked on comic books as well as — I am not kidding you — candy packaging for kids. So, clearly, he was the perfect man for the job, and as you can see from the cover artwork below, it shows.

Preliminary Kitt Pirate Cover

For the past few days I’ve been formatting the book for its digital release and I’ve been tweaking the cover and I am now at the point where I could theoretically upload the book to distribution channels.

There’s only one snag, which keeps me thinking. My name…

I know it sounds weird, but I am seriously considering publishing this book under a pen name. Why would I do that? The main reason in my mind is that it would allow me to separate my horror books from this children’s book. While my Jason Dark mysteries are not overly explicit most of the time, I think they are definitely not suitable for fourth or fifth-graders, at which I am targeting Kitt Pirate. The last thing I’d want is for them to google my name because they liked the book and ending up reading some of my horror fiction. I am sure every parent can appreciate that sentiment — I know, I do.

So, that raises the question, what pen name should or could I use, and that’s what’s holding me up right now. A pen name is something, I feel, I need to take seriously. Not only does it allow me to project something into that name — hopefully an exciting sense of adventure for children — but it is something that will stay with me for a long time, as books do not really outmode. I am sure I will come up with a name I find suitable soon enough, and then it’s off to the races!

Today I have more exciting news for you. Like Gord Rollo and Gene O’Neill, I met Joe McKinney during the World Horror Convention in Austin a few months ago, and I was also immediately struck not only by his warm personality, which was particularly evident also during the reading Gene and he held on one of the days.
For those of you, who are not familiar with Joe McKinney’s works, let me tell you that he is for zombie books, what George A. Romero is for zombie movies — a guiding light with sweeping ideas and a knack for great storytelling.

You can find his zombie books on the shelves of any book store in the country — if there’s any left in your corner, that is — but like many traditionally published authors, Joe was reluctant to enter the digital playing field.

While his zombie novels were published as e-books by the respective publishers, he did have the rights to some of his other books, including the e-book rights to his latest book, The Red Empire — more on that later.

To make a long story short, I suggested to Joe to work with me to get his books out on e-books and he soon came back to me with a book called The Predatory Kind. Together we’ve prepared it to be released in all e-book formats and I am proud to let you know that today is the official release date for the book! Yay!

What you have here, is a collection of ten short stories, penned by some of the greatest horror writers of or time, including the likes of Joe McKinney, Scott Nicholson, Joe Nassise, Kealan Patrick Burke, Lisa Morton, Nate Kenyon and others. To say that this book is a heavy weight is an understatement, really, because not only do these incredibly talented and renowned authors lend a hefty amount of credibility to the project, but the stories they deliver in this collection are nothing to sneeze at either.

Exploring scenarios to show that our world is not as safe and secure as we may believe, The Predatory Kind contains supernatural stories about the hunters out there, watching us, stalking us, waiting for their moment to strike. They are the predatory kind!

The Predatory Kind is available now at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo or only $2.99.

While it may not feature the human flesh-eating zombies we’ve come to know — and perhaps expect — from Joe McKinney, this book offers up about 300 pages of unbridled suspense and terror, so make sure you take a closer look and grab a copy. If the launch of this title will be successful, we will also bring out The Red Empire as an e-book soon, and that is also a book you don’t want to miss — a magnificent throwback at 50’s-style Jack Arnold-inspired science fiction, where a secret government project goes wrong and a wave of flesh-eating red ants sweeps the countryside. Awesome!