Tag Archives: e-books

After Christmas Sale!

All of our e-books are now marked down for our After Christmas sale. Unillustrated books are now $2.99 and illustrated books are $6.99. (The Teachers Edition of Biblical Studies remains at 99 cents, however.) If you got an e-book reader for Christmas and haven’t filled it up yet, follow the links on the right side of the page to Smashwords or Amazon! Merry Christmas to all!

And a shout-out for some bluegrass performer friends of ours. Check out their YouTube Channel!

http://www.youtube.com/user/bargwranglers/feed

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Filed under Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

Writing and Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy

Science Fiction can glorify God if the writer can keep his facts straight. It’s a haven for uniformitarianism, the perfectibility of man, in short, secularism of all kinds. But since true Science is based in the Scriptures, true Science Fiction must be based in factual information and reasonable speculation based on what may happen.

Man is still compelled to work hard, suffer failures, setbacks and fears because of sin, and will not be able to become a god and fix everything. He will not evolve beyond the need for morality, self-control, personal sacrifice, or buying and selling what he needs to make a living and to live.

Science Fiction frequently gives man extraordinary power to do without money, having unlimited materials, knowledge and resources. Who pays the bills for all these Starship Enterprises, anyway? One time someone actually mentions “buying” someone a cup of coffee, and is quickly told that one cannot buy anything on the Enterprise. A visit to the past results in the query, “What does it mean, ‘exact change?’” Economics aren’t going to evolve away.

Neither is belief in and reliance upon the True God, because He is real and the Scriptures are true. The universe is not eternal. The world is not billions of years old. Those “vastly superior aliens” out there are angels and demons. They are real, but they are not from other planets. They live in obedience or disobedience to their Creator, God, just as men do, only they are powerful and capable of influencing man for good or evil.

Man cannot solve the problem of sin. Therefore he cannot cure all diseases, end all wars, or preserve primitive cultures in pristine “innocence” according to a “prime directive.” Technology can be used to advance culture but if it goes bad or evil and attacks us it is because sinful men created it, not because we live in a universe of random chance. Plan, purpose, order, and the Designer of all things must be foremost in the mind of the Science Fiction writer.

Many people lump fantasy and Science Fiction together. Sometimes we speak of Speculative Fiction, which can include both genres. C.S. Lewis, particularly in his adult Science Fiction books Out of the Silent Planet, That Hideous Strength, and Perilandra, talked about possibilities with planets untouched by the curse of man’s fall. He speculated on the mythologies of our ancient cultures even in the Chronicles of Narnia for younger readers. J.R.R. Tolkien did the same thing in his Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit.

Fantasy fiction in modern times usually glorifies magic and human strength and cunning. It often gives man a means to control his world. Though he may still struggle, stories like the Harry Potter series show a progression not unlike the mythology of evolution. Harry’s “ancestors,” his dead parents and the elderly wizards who instruct him, are not as evolved as he is. Fantasy borrows freely from the biblical concepts of a chosen one, a messiah, but gives no credit to the God who met the need of lost man by providing Jesus Christ as atonement for His sins. Rebirth is a common theme in fantasy, the warrior going through a deathlike experience and thereby growing in power and even fighting some form of ultimate evil. All of these things are stolen from the Scriptures without mentioning the true source of power, of rebirth, of the ability to defeat the enemy.

Man is the source of the power, says modern fantasy, or the earth or its personified elemental forces. Other movies have even gone back to the concept that the Greek and Roman gods are real and still give birth to demigod children with great powers to help the world. Mutants such as the X-Men skip the necessity to make or remake gods. They are just the next step in evolution, spewing pseudoscientific gibberish about how such nonsensical powers might be possible in a materialistic context. Many video games are based on this concept, that man can and will evolve into an all-powerful being who can right wrongs and save worlds without any spiritual force behind him.

Worlds peopled with elves, centaurs, dragons and dwarfs promise adventure along with the triumph of the human spirit without the true and living God. The message is the same. Man can overcome. He doesn’t need God.

But fantasy, not so long ago, centered on allegory, the adopting of a veil of mythical settings and creatures to teach Scriptural truth and explore man’s proper relationship with God. Tolkien did not claim to write a true allegory in The Lord of the Rings but hinted at elves who stood for angels, trying to help man but disgusted with his corruption, yet sometimes intermarrying with men. Wizards, goblins and orcs are spiritual beings trying to destroy man or in some cases cooperating with him, or pretending to do so. Magical powers frequently lead to an evil corruption. This is echoed in Star Wars. The temptation to the dark side is presented to Gandalf and to Luke Skywalker. Gandalf resists, and is even reborn in a sense to become a powerful spiritual helper. The person behind the “ultimate” power of good is vague in Tolkien, especially in the movies.

Tolkien was inspired by an earlier work, as was John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress. That work was the Faerie Queene, an epic poem by Edmund Spenser, contemporary to Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh. Few people even know of it today. It centers on the English hero Saint George and his quest to slay the dragon. Spencer envisioned both a patriotic and spiritual meaning in his work, but especially he meant to glorify God. The fairy queen Gloriana represents God’s glory, the young man chosen for the quest wears the armor of Ephesians 6, magic is condemned as corrupting and wicked, and life is a series of victories and setbacks in the process of Christian growth. Spenser rose to a height few other fantasy writers have even attempted, but he is the standard to reach for in Christian fantasy.

Watch the YouTube (Channel ffvp5657) videos of the Faerie Queene commentary to better understand this timeless epic.

The Space Empire Saga is a collection of stories around a common theme. Here is the future of persecution. Here is the tale, beginning in “City on a Hill,” of ordinary family man John Winthrop and a group of believers literally driven out of this world by government persecution. Their only hope for freedom is to restore and make prosperous a sabotaged Lunar Mining Colony.

In “Sojourner,” the Space Empire expands throughout the Solar System, but its godly foundations have eroded into government corruption. Michelle and Mark, pioneers to the outer planets, fear their leaders will steal the possible fruits of their giant, gas-collecting “balloon ship.”

In “Humiliation,” internal rebellion and forbidden romance complicate the godly but hamstrung King of the Space Empire’s plans to control his son Michael. “Repentance” sees Michael conflicted over his duty to his father and to his empire in an encounter with a mysterious “fourth Empire” on Earth. His adopted brother and best friend Randoph struggles with understanding how to have godly character while planning, against everyone’s advice, marriage to Aidan, an Earth woman. The King still sees hope for peace but the old specter of persecution rises again in “Sanctification.”

“Bonus features” for this book include YouTube videos of the complete 3D novella Sojourner. Check out the ten-minute segments on YouTube Channel ffvp5657. We also have a gallery called “Stills from Sojourner and the Space Empire Saga” linked at the top of the blog.

Here is a link to a video with background on Findley Family Video and the Science Fiction books.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnqKrJe05V4&feature=plcp&context=C3be7f63UDOEgsToPDskJ_sgWtDWK1QkY-hf_aNB1i

The Sojourner 3D video links, in five 10-minute segments, are as follows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-pAngIkV1w&feature=plcp&context=C3d8b432UDOEgsToPDskIhRt3-xw-5NlsRlv4Gz-M9

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__oPqb967Bg&feature=plcp&context=C310399cUDOEgsToPDskIN1bWGORY_qJcCO5Z4WlgW

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIZuEKQ8qhM&feature=plcp&context=C3f841b9UDOEgsToPDskJrgfdJZGEFpHy_CdEiynih

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mNq21wioJ4&feature=plcp&context=C3f0c518UDOEgsToPDskIiZMEsvRukfXoCpcpRZYMq

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFqntYpSQuk&feature=plcp&context=C3bf0e61UDOEgsToPDskI5AYswoxF_–rey8_RkBsX

Here is a teaser for the Faerie Queene Teaching materials:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxdPx2XhFps&feature=plcp&context=C325bbfdUDOEgsToPDskIlefym7RFerXZ3T10Kjlme

You may also wish to watch the Faerie Queene summary and teaching video by following the links below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYIyM5TvE9E&feature=plcp&context=C31188b4UDOEgsToPDskKsufH-2BSF9d2_jdxN4Va7

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaF2WEXwduY&feature=plcp&context=C31002e0UDOEgsToPDskLwyT-1Xl4IbWpx0PYH3lNG

This is a link to our website, Findley Family Video Publications, with the Faerie Queene summary materials, more pictures like the one above, and even a game you can play if you wish. Let us know if you can put the pictures in the correct order!

http://findleyfamilyvideopublications.com/FaerieQueeneLinksandsummary1.html


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Filed under Excerpts from our Fiction Books, Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

Historical Fiction for the Young and the Young Adult

Writing fiction for and/or about children (roughly eight to fifteen years of age) is a tricky business. It is easy to appeal to their vivid imaginations, their need to be “special,” accepted by peers, to become independent of adults, and to explore relationships with the opposite sex. None of these popular topics for children’s books is really appropriate or necessary, however, in the way they are usually treated, and sometimes they shouldn’t be a topic for this age level at all.

Books and movies that give children unusual powers are extremely popular. Harry Potter is a wizard. The Animorphs series had children changing into animals. In a recent movie young people are the children of ancient gods. These children are definitely “special,” but in most cases these powers give them a license to avoid adult control, to get revenge on people they perceive as enemies, and give them an arbitrary superiority over others. They do not learn obedience, submission, or reliance upon the true God. They learn self-centeredness, contempt for adults who aren’t as powerful as they are, and are convinced that the world is full of arbitrary happenings with no purpose or design.

Being accepted by peers seems essential for happiness, but the reality is that your peers are immature, sinful, change their minds about what they want from you frequently, and rarely understand or care about the essential concepts of self-control, self-sacrifice or especially reliance upon the true God. Only people with experience in life can teach these things, and they are adults. Children must respect and take advice from adults, not despise them and think they are old-fashioned, out of touch or too narrow-minded.

Becoming independent from adults is something of a myth. Yes, children grow to adulthood, leave home, get jobs, and live lives apart from their parents, but they don’t do that successfully without reliance on wise and godly counsel. In most children’s books today the main character finds the adults he deals with outright stupid, disgusting, indecisive, or too far away (sometimes dead) to do any good. Mark Twain popularized the philosophy that children need to get away from the adults in their lives. Aunt Polly is dictatorial. Tom Sawyer deserves his freedom. Huckleberry Finn thinks of his abduction by his father as an escape of sorts from the confining life he finds with the Widow Douglas, but his father is an abusive drunk from whom he also ends up escaping.

Are there any really good adults in Mark Twain’s books for children? Jim, the Negro slave with whom Huck takes his raft trip, is hardly a conventional adult, and this is the key to understanding the “right” kind of adult in modern children’s books. There is no issue with his being black, as far as his fitness as an adult is concerned. But he is a being apart in the children’s perception Jim knows magic, like charms to get rid of warts and how to divine the future from a hairball. He is childlike in his approach to life, and he wants to be free as much as the children do. Of course slaves needed to be freed, but this is almost irrelevant in the treatment of Jim in Mark Twain’s books.

Huck’s decision to go to Hell rather than return Jim to slavery sounds noble on the surface, but he is wrong in the foundation of his thinking. He has no conception of what the Scriptures teach or do not teach about slavery. In fact his whole perception of Christianity is based on willful ignorance. Church is a plague of boredom and a prison. Reading or studying anything is punishment to these free spirits, so reading the Bible to find out true and right thinking is out of the question. Huck and Tom reason things out in their heads and they are “right.” There is no perfect standard, just whatever they think.

Most modern fiction has relationships with the opposite sex starting very early, and they are not friendships. Some are quite innocent, but sexuality is no foundation for a children’s book. No child is “wise beyond his years” enough to make his own decisions about having sex, getting abortions, or dressing to attract the opposite sex. This is selfishness and self-deception. If you have to sneak around and hide a relationship from parents because they wouldn’t approve, it’s wrong. Sometimes a distracting device is used, like making the issue of parental disapproval one of race or social position so that it seems justified to hide it. But the issue is sex without maturity or marriage or responsibility, not whatever smokescreen the author tries to throw up in front of the reader’s face.

These are just some of the issues to consider in writing for children. Paramount is to make sure readers receive solid training in the Scriptures. They will end up like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn if given their “freedom,” ignorant of everything that really matters and reliant on flawed human reason to survive.

Benny and the Bank Robber begins a Youth and Young Adult Historical Adventure. Benny Richardson loses his father at the age of ten and travels from Philadelphia to frontier Missouri in the 1800′s. Though his story includes riverboats and rafts, it is a very different one from Tom Sawyer’s. Both Tom and Huck would have scoffed at the verse that keeps bringing Benny back to remember what all of us must take to heart, God’s promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Young Adult Fiction is roughly aimed at people in their late teens to late twenties. This is a time when they are essentially adults, but may still be under the authority of parents or other adults. Stories for this age group frequently focus on independence, the freedom to make choices about the future, and especially love relationships. Too often these immensely popular books only reinforce the secularist idea that human reason can provide answers to these critical issues of entering adulthood.

Many young people in books want a complete break from parents, to “Shake off the dust of this crummy little town,” as George Bailey wished to do in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. They want “adventure in the great wide somewhere,” like Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. They have dreams and wishes for a future doing what makes them happy. Unfortunately, secularist society has ill-prepared them to face the reality that you can’t always do what you dream, that you have to get a job that makes money, that college is often bankruptingly expensive, and that true love is not easy to recognize and true lust is all too common.

The Twilight series of books and movies focuses on the dilemma of a young woman. She’s in love with a vampire. Vampires are epidemic in young adult fiction and it’s simply shameful how often they are portrayed as the “forbidden fruit,” the lover a young woman can’t resist. Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel (not any of the movie or spinoff reinventions) was irresistible to women, but he was portrayed as evil and it was clear that a relationship with him didn’t end well.

How dare writers say that damnation is worth it to have the ultimate love? They don’t even know what damnation is. They think it’s a sad state that can be altered. Vampires (aka demons) can regain their souls. It’s the gospel according to Buffy. People can make deals with the devil and then weasel out of them. There is no knowledge of the Scriptures in any of these twisted fairy tales. They tell lies about the nature of the soul, man’s ability to save himself or others, and say that true love fulfilled is worth any risk.

Homosexuality is also a popular subject for this age group. Even if you don’t practice it, you must be tolerant of it, embrace it. Girls must make a gay guy their shopping buddy. But you should at least experiment with it. Really mature adults have at least tried “swinging both ways,” and people like “Captain Jack” in the Dr. Who/Torchwood SciFi series are so cool. Note that there’s more than a hint of bestiality when Twilight turns to the subject of werewolves as boyfriends. Positive portrayals of sexual perversions are becoming so pervasive in young adult fiction that no one can say this is pure entertainment. It is indoctrination in sexual wickedness no young person should subject himself to. It should not be the mission of this group to break down every traditional barrier possible before the age of thirty.

The corporate world is a place young college graduates dream of entering. Rich, powerful, successful people ooze out of boardrooms and why wouldn’t we want to be just like them? Yet that culture is openly portrayed as being selfish, utterly materialistic, living in debt to impress, counting on the next big deal and willing to lie, cheat, steal or sleep with anyone to get it.

There are, however, simple principles to guide what you should write about for young adults and also to help them choose what they should read. Self-control, self-sacrifice, never believing that things happen without a Designer behind them, even things that seem bad. Get these new adults out of themselves and into a work ethic. No more shopping for thousand dollar purses and five hundred dollar shoes (or shoplifting them because you’ve got to have them.) No more joining a gang or becoming a prostitute because it’s the only way you can live. No more “attitude.” Practice humility, purity, hard work, and love your family and your God. No obsessions with death, the supernatural and the occult. Demons are real, but we fight them through God’s Word, not with sharpened sticks. And we don’t fall in love with them. We fall in love with the Lord, with people of like precious faith, and with reality in serving God and not ourselves.

Benny and the Bank Robber Two: Doctor Dad takes Benny through the troubles and delays of his mother’s remarriage, a boarding school with a deadly secret society, and a Christmas ending where Benny has to remind friends and family, even at the cost of losing them, that Christ came into the world with nothing to be the Prince of Peace.

Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion has no vampires, werewolves, or budding sorcerers. It does have a mysterious returned crusader who alone believes Hope’s tale of a scheming kidnapper and pledges his life and honor to the cause of getting her justice. This book is also available with illustrations in the style of a medieval manuscript. Click on the page link “Illuminated Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion” above to see a gallery of images from the book. Your Kindle Fire or other color e-reader is waiting for this one!

P.S. — Giving a shout-out to some great folks from the Indie Writers Unite Facebook page who graciously encouraged, offered space for interviews, gave links and excerpt space. I can’t necessarily endorse all their books or content, but I  so much appreciated their “uppers” when I was down!

http://www.shewrites.com/profile/ChristineDeMaioRice

http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?page_id=3923

vickiejohnstone.blogspot.com/

http://jm-harrison.com/2011/12/19/a-story-for-the-holidays/

http://thereforyoumelissa.blogspot.com/

http://freebookreviews.blogspot.com/

http://www.indiedesignz.com/blog/

www.mad-gods.com

http://www.liafairchild.com/?p=472

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Books for All Kinds of Readers (Devices and People) Part One: Non-Fiction

Recently I joined my first forum claiming to be especially for Christians. I won’t name it, but I will say in my brief experience poking around over the last few days I am amazed at the wide variety of people who post on a Christian forum, and what they post. There are Pro-Choice Christians on there. There are Harry Potter fans on there. There are skeptics on there. There are people lamenting the death of Christopher Hitchens, an avowed atheist and and author of, among many other things, the book “God Is Not Great.”

I posted on my Facebook page the following status on the day I heard that news. “Christopher Hitchens, author of the book ‘God Is Not Great,’ has died. He knows better now, I think.” A pastor friend said how sad it was that he had died without Christ. I responded, “It is not as if he was misled or deceived in the way that some are, worthy of pity. I wish no one had to go to Hell, but such as he send themselves there. No one makes them go.”

The pastor took me to task, basically, for being unloving and apparently not having the heart of God. I am not unloving. It is sad, and saddens God, I am certain, when the unsaved die unrepentant, but once they actually are where they do “know better,” my tears cannot bring them back. Let me spend them on the still-living unsaved, please, and my prayers as well, rather than browbeating me over the ones who now know better but are past doing anything about it.

We have known so many people who were not atheists, who professed Christianity, but of a very different brand from mine. We know God will sort it out. We have to take them at face value, yet be a “Fruit Inspector,” and try to discern from God’s Word what We should be before Christ. We also have to try to minister to Christians. The talents with which we believe God has led us to minister include our writing and our ability to create our website, our e-books and blog, and to try to make people aware of them.

Back to the posters on the Christian forum. Most importantly to us, regarding the different kinds of Christians we have encountered, there are people on that site, quite a number of people, asking where they can find Christian fiction and non-fiction on there. Many people recommended classic authors of Christian fiction and non-fiction, like C.S. Lewis, who wrote both, but we have a more modern recommendation to make.

Since it’s the week before Christmas, we hope you’re giving or getting an e-reader, and we hope you’ll consider some of our books to help fill it up. Our posts this week will, we hope, give you a push in the right direction.

First of all we have non-fiction. Included on this blog are posts that are excerpts from Antidisestablishmentarianism, our non-fiction book about Secular Humanism, its history, and our future if we don’t disestablish it as our established religion in America and most of the rest of the world.

http://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/images-from-illustrated-antidisestablishmentarianism/ is a photo gallery of images from the illustrated version of the book.

http://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/introduction-to-antidisestablishmentarianism/ is the preface to the book.

http://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/introduction-to-antidisestablishmentarianism-2/ is the introduction to the book.

http://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/chapter-fourteen-from-antidisestablishmentarianism-what-does-the-scientific-evidence-prove/ is an abbreviated version of Chapter Fourteen of the book,

http://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/secular-humanism-americas-establishment-of-religion/ is from Chapter Six.

The unillustrated version of Antidisestablishmentarianism  is 4.99, and the Illustrated version (200 full-color, full-page illustrations of major points) is 9.99.

Our second non-fiction title is Biblical Studies, student and teacher editions, designed especially for homeschoolers. Homeschooling curriculum can be expensive and our curriculum is designed to help with that problem. Both versions are over 600 pages long, with illustrated portions, materials for all ages, Old Testament, New Testament, background historical studies, and more.

Our YouTube Channel, ffvp5657, has free videos correlated with many of the studies, including full 3D animated Jonah and Ruth video studies with digital puppets giving commentary. The Revelation video set alone has more than 30 ten-minute segments. The student manual is 4.99. The Teacher’s Manual has the full Student Text, answer keys, and extra projects. It is 99 cents. A new photo gallery in the blog, “Images from Biblical Studies,” linked at the top with the blog’s pages, has pictures from this curriculum.

The links on the right side of the page go to Smashwords and Amazon, where you can read more details about all our books, and see more samples. We hope this season you will consider adding to your library of Christian reading.

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Filed under Excerpts from our Nonfiction Books, Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

Part Three: Your Book, Where It Should Go, How It Will Look

Our e-publishing journey now comes to the formats and how your book will look in each one. Smashwords has great information on this topic from a mechanics standpoint. As a previous post we made on the subject said, http://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/the-hows-and-whys-of-e-books/ , although almost all devices can read the pdf format, consider that people might get your books on anything from a full-screen laptop to a pretty small smart phone. A pdf will look wonderful on that laptop screen. It’ll seem a lot like a real book, except for not being able to turn the pages. But if you try to cram that pdf image into your iPhone, the latest model brags about having a 3.5″ diagonal display, and it seems unlikely that it will look just right. Even in a traditional Kindle, pdfs do not really work all that well.

It is possible to convert a pdf into a format that the smaller machines can display. Calibre is one progam that makes file conversions. It is even free. If you have an HTML version of your document, the conversion is even easier. The question is, will a reader go to the trouble of doing that? Some will, but most will want a document that they can just open up and begin reading. So it is a good idea to make your document available in multiple formats, so that all the trouble your prospective customer has to go to is to get the right one off the internet and into his device.

This is what makes Smashwords such a great e-book creation site. You upload a simple Microsoft Word document. Smashwords runs it through the Meatgrinder and produces HTML (good for computer reading), JavaScript, mobi (Kindle format) EPub, which as Smashwords says on its site, works on “Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others.” The Meatgrinder also churns out RTF, PDF, LRF for older Sony readers, PDB (Palm Document files), and two versions of plain text.

Please bear in mind that although you as the author can download any format of your book for free, you cannot redistribute these files on other sites where you can upload and sell your works. Smashwords creates them, doesn’t charge you anything, puts you into premium distribution, and asks in return only that you don’t re-use the files the Meatgrinder creates. You might say, “But it’s my book.” That’s kind of like an architect making plans to build one house and someone stealing and using those plans to build a bunch more houses. And you didn’t even pay Smashwords like you paid the architect. Nope. Can’t do it. Sorry.

Smashwords also gives you coupon codes so you can give copies away for free. This is useful for reviewers and for contests or promotionals. Instead of just pricing your book at free, which you can do on Smashwords, just offer a coupon, so that you know who’s getting your book. Amazon makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to get your book priced “free,” and they don’t give any copies away otherwise. You have to buy your own book yourself if you want to be sure it was formatted correctly.

Smashwords premium distribution gets you into Barnes and Noble and the iBookstore, among others. Customers can buy the mobi format from them to read on a Kindle. Even so, Amazon clearly has the largest and most successful marketing apparatus, and your best chance to be noticed and purchased is on Amazon. Many authors have chosen to pull their books from general distribution and make them exclusive under Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select plan. Indie authors in all the forums and discussion sites I belong to are extremely polarized about this. It is a personal decision, but the author must be sure to read and understand the agreement thoroughly. It’s not a boilerplate terms of use like we all unthinkingly agree to get on many sites to promote our books.

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?ie=UTF8&topicId=APILE934L348N#Select

Please read the entire agreement carefully, and especially pay attention to these two points.

1 Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.

 

5 Your Commitment. Your commitment to these terms and conditions is important, and the benefits we provide to you as part of this option are conditioned on your following through on your commitments. If you un-publish your Digital Book, we will remove it from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but you must continue to comply with these commitments, including exclusivity, through the remainder of the Digital Book’s then-current 90-day period of participation in KDP Select. If you don’t comply with these KDP Select terms and conditions, we will not owe you Royalties for that Digital Book earned through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program, and we may offset any of those Royalties that were previously paid against future Royalties, or require you to remit them to us. We may also withhold your Royalty payments on all your Digital Books for a period of up to 90 days while we investigate. This doesn’t limit other remedies we have, such as prohibiting your future participation in KDP Select or KDP generally.

Remember, all you’re getting is inclusion in the lending program for Amazon Prime Members. In return, it seems to me that you’re giving up a lot, and taking a big risk that Amazon can deny you royalties and revenue if you don’t do exactly what they say.

But there’s nothing wrong with having your books in the KDP program generally. In fact, the Kindle is a great reader, and your books will look fantastic on it. We have both the Kindle Keyboard model and the Kindle Fire. Both are great readers and both are easy to use and look wonderful. I prefer the Kindle Fire display because it allows the full screen illustrations we have created for our two illustrated books to show in full color and full size. And the ease of buying (or getting free) the bunches and bunches of books Amazon has for Kindle is hard to beat.

http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-3126_7-10010211.html

Here is a link to CNET’s Kindle Fire review and the screenshots they show. It really does look that good. Fun to read in bed, and, though the battery only lasts about 4 hours, compared to the keyboard model’s lifespan of a month or more, it’s the perfect in-bed reader.

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Filed under Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

Part Two: Make It Clean, Get It Out

So many people have said writing a book is the easy part. Still, it can’t be repeated often enough. New writers are cropping up all the time, while the traditional publishing contract including a marketing machine to get your word out is fast becoming downright mythological. “Do it yourself” takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to new author/new book self-creation and promotion. Check out our previous post on the hows and whys of e-book production for more on the production end.

First step after you think your book is “finished” is to realize it’s not. You have to make your book technically clean before you can seriously try to publish it. Whatever your financial abilities, get the best vetting you can to get rid of the errors. If your editorial staff consists of you, your mom, your oldest kid, and a co-worker you bribed with lunch for a week, so be it. Many author-oriented sites have sections, often called workshops, devoted to getting help from other authors, editors, or those who will take on the task free or cheap if you help them in some way. Avail yourself of them if you can, but remember that everyone, especially unpaid volunteers or friends, will take time to get through your work. They might give up and never finish. In the end, you must get someone you can depend on. Goodreads, Kindleboards, “Indie Writers Unite” and “Indie Author Group” (the last two are facebook groups) all have editors or at least people willing to exchange a read and comment in their ranks.

Some people depend on an auto-editing program. White Smoke is one I have heard praised. I have not personally used one, but I have read three modern self-published books recently in which I found, consistently, the following types of errors. I will paraphrase to avoid picking on or identifying a particular work. One had, at the end of a piece of conversation, “said Robert quietly said.” The word “shudder” appeared where “shutter” should have been, referring to a window’s protective covering. The word “peak” appeared where “peek” or pique” should have in two different books (“I took a peak in the bag,” “this will peak your interest”) instead of, “I took a peek in the bag” or “this will pique your interest”). This is what an auto-editor will do for you. Not only will it not catch/fix everything, it will introduce new things. In the immortal words of Captain Kirk, “Spock, we’re all human.” An auto-editor is only human. It makes mistakes.

I asked the author of one of the books I read about her editing process when I found errors like these. She described shared/workshop readers, her own many years of experience, her training under a professional editor, and the fact that she used an auto-editor. She said she couldn’t afford or justify $5,000 for professional editing services. Another writer said she couldn’t afford such services either, that she had herself, one or two other people, what she could get from the workshop volunteers, and White Smoke. I noticed a pattern even in just these two authors. The auto-editor came last.

I am a former English teacher, editor and proofreader, and these things disturb me. I don’t want to read them in your works, please. So, from my tiny sample and admittedly narrow experience, I am going to dogmatically state, Survey says, the auto-editor should not come last. Reel ayes shield bee lest (Real eyes should be last), lest you put out wrong stuff. That being said, if you do use a “professional editor,” understand that there’s a limit to what you should let other people do to your work. One of the published authors I spoke to went self-published because she had bad experiences with editors. No one is saying editors are always wrong, either, but be careful when the changes become extensive and substantive.

It’s your story. Let them fix the typos, the grammar, the punctuation, maybe, but don’t let them say that they can tell your story better than you can, unless you or someone you trust actually agrees on the “improvement.” Editors can be very intimidating people. Don’t let them change what’s vital to your tale for the sake of marketability, not offending people, or because they disagree with what you’ve said and think they can bully you with their “professionalism.” But you have got to get the book clean, or you will annoy and chase off people even less picky than me, based on what I’ve seen. I read a book in which I am sure I found, conservatively, 5% of the content to be errors. That is oh so very much too much.

I am devoting another full post to covers, (yes, you have to have one, yes, it has to be stunning) but, once you feel your book is as clean as you can make it, refer to the earlier post called “The Hows and whys of E-Books” and get your book up on Smashwords, on Amazon, on whatever other sites you can. There is a program called Calibre, and there are others, that, if you can figure out how to use them, can convert your book to multiple formats. There’s no limit to the number of sites you can upload to if you can do your own conversions. But Smashwords premium distribution does get you on most of the major ones, B&N, iBooks, etc.

Once you are up, the sales do not, alas, automatically begin pouring in. This is when you start running the gamut of promotional possibilities. First some of the free ideas. Join forums and talk to people. I’ll use Goodreads as an example. Set up your author page(s) according to directions. Put up books you have read and review them intelligently and honestly, and keep doing that. Then go join some groups, say hello in the welcome areas, and join some conversations. Talk like you are paying attention to what people are saying. Address them by name. Quote from their posts so they know you actually read them. And read the entire post before speaking.

Meanwhile look around for other forums, appropriate groups, lists and subject areas where you can add your books. Try to engage the readers as well as fellow writers. Try to make the readers like you as a person, a thinker, maybe even a friend, and then they might make friends with your books. Don’t just spam your book or blog links at them. You might mention a blog topic if it fits in with the discussion and post a link, or they might ask you for it. Goodreads has the ability to insert a book cover with a link into a post. Do that with your book when you post. If you want to stick your post onto all the threads that say “Share your book (or blog) here” go ahead, but you’re likely to get lost in pages of the same.

Rarely do I go back and look through those lists. Participation is what gets me friends and followers and response. Don’t stay with groups that are obviously just a bunch of friends chatting and recommending mainline popular books and ignoring the Indie authors who try to interact. Don’t stay with dead groups. Pick small but active groups with opportunities to talk to living, breathing people who talk back. Talk to readers, not just writers. Writers are as broke and desperate as you are, and may be helpful, friendly, supportive and full of information you need to know, but readers are looking for books. Make them want to look for yours.

Kindleboards is a rather strict, well-policed but respected forum. They demand that you participate by posting and that you post in the right places about the right things. They also have beautiful author and book pages and active link signatures and banners for you to set up. I am still intimidated by Kindleboards, but I keep trying.

Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, StumbledUpon, Book Junkies Library, Author’s Den, Breakthrough Bookstore, and a host of blogs like Kindle Author give you free space to promote. Absolutely make use of those and any others you can find. Almost all forum sites additionally have opportunities to purchase paid advertising. The costs vary widely. Kindleboards is frequently called the most expensive. Other sites are internet-promotion oriented but not specifically for writers or writing. FeedShark, Pingomatic, Technorati and other blog search engines and other pingbacks can drive free traffic to your blog, where your book(s) better be linked.

Try to get people to write valuable reviews of your books. I have requested and been promised several, but so far only one result. That may be something you will just have to pay for. Not sure on that one. The article from the Wall Street Journal circulating about the Indie author who has sold over 400,000 copies of her e-books says she spent under $2000 advertising and that included one paid review from a company respected in the industry. She also charges only 99 cents for her book. How you price your book is something you have to decide. You might have sales or giveaways but I am still not sure people value something they can get cheap or free. Pricing is a promotional tool, but make sure you aren’t just selling to be selling, unless that’s really all you want to do.

There is a theory going around among Indie authors that if we add likes and tags to each others’ author and sales pages we will be more visible to potential customers. Getting reciprocation on this is difficult, but if you wish to do it or set up to have it done, here’s how.

People can like your Facebook author page. Beware of going around liking a bunch of fb pages if you don’t want their blood and guts horror titles (or smarmy romances) showing up in your feed. Do what you can to support other authors, but be realistic, honest and responsible. People can like most any other author pages you have. How to do that is to find a like or thumbs up sort of button and click it. Tags are a bit trickier. You should have set up tags when you first uploaded your book, but if you didn’t, your Amazon book page is set up as follows: The book’s cover near the top, next down is editorial reviews, next is product details, next is Customer Reviews, next your Shelfari extras if you have that set up, next your author page link, and ‘way down the page, “Tags Customers Associate” with this Product. I have tried hard to have at least 15 tags. I keep a text file saved with them ready for all the sites that ask for tags.

These are picked up by search engines as subjects and matched to customer searches. Just having yours set up is a good idea. Type an appropriate subject in the box and click “add.” Once you have one in place, you will see the word “edit” beside the box. Click on edit and you will be given a larger box into which you can cut and paste or type a list of all the tags you want, separated by commas. When finished click “add” and all the tags will appear at once. If you wish to participate in tagging, other people can click in the box beside the tag word and add to its number of uses. Tell them to make sure they are logged in as an Amazon customer, to be sure that the click actually increases the number beside the word, and that they click all the tags.

It’s difficult, it’s complicated. If you belong to an author group with 700+ members and you try to tag all of them, then get a dozen or so in response, that’s the way it is. I try to tag people when I see them post and put links up, but that means nobody’s even trying to tag mine because We have a round dozen now and I can’t put them up every time I post. And I don’t give likes to things I haven’t read. But if you can, and think it helps, at least try to reciprocate.

You can create video teasers for your books using the free moviemaker programs that come on your computer. Record a soundtrack of a reading excerpt, music, sound effects, whatever you are able to do, but make sure it’s good quality. Ever see a TV commercial where the image was fuzzy, the voices and music were almost inaudible or way out of balance, the text was hard to read? Maybe you haven’t, but they do exist and they are painful to see. Don’t do that.

Do add an author image (a good, clear, and preferably casual-appearing one) and bio. Do add book descriptions. Do add cover images, and in all this image uploading, pay attention to size requirements. They vary a lot. Create banners and whatever else you can, business cards, postcards, bookmarks (this is why you should keep an image file with the elements separate).

Twitter seems to get a response, for reasons I am still unclear about. Set up to automatically tweet your blog updates if nothing else, and update your blog often. I mean several times a week. Really. Consider posting on Google Plus. I complained to another author that we joined Google Plus in the latest wave of Facebook discontent but most of our friends weren’t there. He wisely said, “Facebook is to keep track of your old friends. Google Plus is to find new ones.”

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E-Book versus Print Book Curriculum

Before America was even founded, Benjamin Franklin published the same 3 categories of print material we still have to today. First there is what I call “public domain.” This is stuff that has been around for awhile: The Bible, Plato’s Republic, Isaac Newton’s books on Physics and Mathematics, etc. Next is stuff we have to have, even if do not want it: Textbooks, dictionaries, repair manuals, warning labels, directions, instructions, etc. Though these might be expensive books, the last category is the real money category, stuff we want to read. While a few people might enjoy technical journals, most people read fiction or the news. Since Poor Richard’s Almanac, these were printed in vast quantities that made them highly profitable.

After centuries of enormous success, it is no secret that traditional book publishers are going out of business. While there are many reasons, such as poor marketing strategies, the major reason is competition from e-books. The year 2011 witnessed the sale of e-books surpassing the sale of print books at Amazon. There are many reasons for this, but three stand out. First is availability. A book we had not heard of was highly recommended to my wife and I and within a matter of minutes we had downloaded it onto our Kindle and begun to read it. This is possible to anyone anywhere in the world that has access to the Internet.

Second is security. We have lost or destroyed some very expensive books in our lifetimes. Kindle books are backed up by Amazon. Though it is not an automatic process, it is possible to recover books lost on a damaged Kindle, as we have just learned when our Kindle screen went to Kindle Heaven. Also, many authors find the security of a Kindle superior to the security of paper books. Every year thousands of printed books are stolen. While electronic theft is possible, every purchase is tracked and is traceable. At this time theft of printed books is more common that the theft of Kindle books.

Third is cost. Cost will eventually drive print books into a niche market. They will never disappear completely, but a generation raised on electronic books will fail to understand the mass appeal of print.

Cost is the reason we are developing an e-book curriculum. At this time, a high quality homeschool curriculum in print is at least $750, often over $1000 per student per year. For those who are unable or unwilling to afford these costs, an entire ebook curriculum is much less, about 10% not counting the counting the cost of the ebook reader.

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The Hows (And Whys) of E-Books

Screenshot from Kindle of a page from The Illuminated Hope and the Black Lion

Do you really understand the spiritual warfare taking place in publishing? Christian publishers and bookstores are, to put it mildly, not very Christian anymore. There is a desperate need to make writers aware that secularism is a real and powerful enemy determined to prevent the dissemination of any works with a truly godly and scriptural basis.

Conventional publishing, Christian and non-Christian, seems to be completely lost as an avenue of getting the truth out. Christians have allowed so much of the world in, praised such small bits of semi-religious content, scrabbled for any crumbs of good that could be found in a work, that the leaven has leavened the whole lump and there seems nothing left that is pure, good, lovely, or of good report.

Independent publishing disseminates truth when truth is stifled. Writers don’t have to see their message suppressed by indifferent or hostile publishers and literary agents. They don’t have to watch the mangling or destruction of truth, if they are “accepted,” by an editor who “knows what will sell” but doesn’t care what must be preserved because it is right.

E-readers come in many formats. Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader Store, and Kobo are only a few. Smart phones can display e-books. Many e-readers are grayscale. Nook has a color version. Amazon’s Kindle Fire, coming soon, will also support color. People can, of course, read books on their computers.

An e-author should still make his work as “perfect” as he can. Grammar, spelling and punctuation matter to most readers. The work must be original. The author must own the rights. After that, there are two basic ways to translate the book into e-format.

First, an e-author can produce a .pdf document and distribute it online. It can be formatted much like a conventional print book, with specific margins, numbered pages, spacing and fonts like a “real” book. It can have illustrations, in full color if the author wishes, and emulate the size and shape of a print book. Open Office Writer, and the newer versions of Microsoft Word, can convert the document to a .pdf which will look just like the author lays it out. Many e-readers can read a .pdf document. There are limits to how well it can display if the author formats his document rigorously like a conventional book.

The second method produces an e-book formatted very differently from a print book. The author is creating a type of HTML document, similar to a webpage on the internet, that will change its size, shape, font size and type, and  almost everything else from e-reader to e-reader. There are no “pages” as such. The person reading the book can make more changes as he reads the book on his reader. He can in most readers make the font larger or smaller, rotate from portrait to landscape mode, and in some even change the color of the font and background.

If the author has formatted his work like a conventional book, or even with inconsistent styles, and converts it to this second form, it will likely have large blank areas, lines that end in strange places, varying fonts the author can’t even see in the original, and other problems that will make a reader think the book is defective. For most e-readers, it is better to use the second method of formatting, especially to allow the book to be read on as many format readers as possible.

Although there are many sites that accept e-books for free distribution or for sale, and many are free to upload, some charge, some reserve the right to reject what is submitted, and all take a percentage if the book is to be sold.  Some sites (such as Booklocker) ask that an entire work be submitted for review. The author is notified if the site declines to publish it. Marketability is one factor in this decision. Content criteria, like rejecting “hate speech,” discrimination, or objectionable content can also be a factor. All sites require an author to be able to list “tags” and search keys to make his work “visible” on the Internet so that people can find it in search engines. Most upload sites have easy places to enter these words reflecting content, identifying and describing the work.

This article will only deal with three sites as examples, all of which have no expressed criteria by which they “accept or reject” books as long as format guidelines are met and content is not rejected as objectionable. They are representative of many others and exemplify probably the easiest (Scribd.com), the “one in the middle,” Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, which is time-consuming but has the most methods of self-promotion, and the most demanding (Smashwords) in e-book upload sites. Detailed submission guidelines and step-by-step instructions can be found on the sites. Only some of the basic requirements will be included here. Any site that allows e-book uploads requires an “account,” free to set up, giving the site email contact information and usually very little personal information. If works are offered for sale, an author will be required to give information so that percentage payments can be made, SSN number for IRS accounting, and an address for checks to be sent to or a bank account for electronic transfers. Many require electronic transfer.

Scribd.com accepts a number of formats and creates pdf documents. Authors’ submissions do not have to be complete books. Many authors submit essays, books in progress, even single poems or photo collections. Many works on Scribd are offered free. Scribd has a rotating display of featured works. It has category listings for searching the site, and the site shows multi-page previews of books for sale. People can become “followers” of authors’ works and links can be made to a facebook or twitter account to announce what the author has “readcast” on Scribd, his own works or those of others.

Smashwords.com is a site that specializes in producing e-books for multiple formats. The site has a detailed style guide which can be downloaded from there or at Amazon.com for the Kindle reader at no cost. This style guide can be used to create the second type of e-book described above, even if the author is not using Smashwords as his publisher. An author can, if desired, upload a book to the Smashwords site and, if accepted, it will be converted for free to most of the formats listed above. (They do not format for Amazon Kindle). The submitted work must rigorously follow their style guide, however, because they use an automated system they call the “Meatgrinder” to convert to the multiple formats. They give very clear instructions in the style guide but it does require considerable simplifying to format correctly.

Books that do not format correctly may be rejected, and Smashwords has a “premium catalog” for perfectly-formatted books that includes distribution in more outlets than ordinary uploads, which are only featured on their site. The style guide is quite detailed. It explains that there are a limited number of fonts that reliably convert correctly into e-documents. It cautions authors to remove most complicated formatting and gives guidance on how to include graphics, though it recommends they be small and few. The philosophy of Smashwords is to focus on the words and message of the book and not to be concerned about the loss of certain conventional features. Smashwords only publishes complete works for sale and file size cannot exceed 5 megs.

Amazon.com allows writers to upload e-books through Kindle Direct Publishing, or kdp. The system is very easy and even cover art is optional but extremely simple to upload with the book or at any time afterward. It takes a day or two for a book to become live, and authors must charge at least $.99 for original works. There are no length limits and books can be illustrated, though the e-book will probably have space gaps above or below the illustrations depending on the page display size and the size of the graphic. Instructions for uploads are very easy to follow. The book cover, information and “look inside” features display like any other book on Amazon. Amazon has sold more e-books than print books for more than a year now. Authors can easily check sales, which are updated very frequently.

Authors can add as much information about themselves and their books as they like. Amazon has Author Central, where a writer can add blog and Twitter feeds, images, videos, and biographical information which can be changed and updated very easily. Amazon has Kindle stores in the UK, Germany and France, and even English language books can appear in Europe. Amazon Shelfari is a reader/writer community where the author can place his books on his “shelf” along with those he reads. He can write reviews and detailed character, plot and book info. The author can also have followers here and send messages back and forth to them. Amazon recently started a facebook page for Kindle Direct Publishing where they pose questions to writers and allow for book promotion and exchange of advice and encouragement.

Microsoft Word is the preferred format for Scribd, Smashwords and Amazon. The 2000 version can be purchased for $30 or less. Covers or illustrations can be created by hand and scanned, or by using simple photo editing or paint programs. Photo Impact from Corel includes impressive faux 3-D titling and object creation and great texturing and effects for under $50.

                                                       Screenshot from Kindle of a page from The Illustrated Antidisestablsihmentarianism

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