You Asked For It

Adaptation began its life on my PDA. That’s right, I didn’t really have a means to write my story in bed like some kind of, oh, I don’t know, computer that could sit comfortably on my lap – maybe a lap-computer of sorts? – and I wasn’t keen on resting a typewriter on the blankets, and writing with a pen was out so I resorted to the only thing I could think of. A Personal Digital Assistant which had, as part of its software, a highly trimmed down version of Microsoft Word.

There was an on-screen keyboard, and a little two by three inch space for the text, which made writing possible, albeit difficult. I’d tap away on there, adding my paragraphs and hitting save, and in the morning I’d download the text onto my computer and repeat the process the next night.

Why am I telling you this? Because it leads into the reason I’m writing this post. You see, after a while, the PDA began to suffer. It couldn’t cope with the demand of me hitting the save button after a couple of paragraphs. The files were just too big for its little processing unit to cope with and, after around a hundred thousand odd words, it just got too damn slow.

So I broke up the manuscript into three pieces, Adaptation Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, three different files, that could be edited separately and hitting the save button wasn’t so bad (still bad, but not to the point of annoying). It also meant I could cut my teeth on the whole publishing process and bumble about without having to wait until the very end.

This is why Adaptation comes in parts. The size of the project was just too big for technical reasons and, as such, it had to be broken into smaller chunks, each of about 100k words. When it came to hard copies, the breaking-up helped a lot, too, because that way I could fit the books into standard title sizes.

Great, great. What’s that got to do with the price of jerky in Iceland? (About 600 isk a bag at the time of writing, which is almost $10, so there you go)

It’s because, as of now, you can get all the Adaptation parts in one compendium. It brings all the bits together into one big book.

Adaptation Front Cover

As you can see, it has the new front cover design, but without the ‘Part X’ bit. On the inside, you’ve got all the parts, together with their own chapters and dedications, comprising nearly 600k words.

Now that’s got to be a lot easier than having to manually grab all of the individual parts, right? As a bonus, the Adaptation compendium is cheaper than the sum of its parts.

This is now live at Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, iTunes and all the other guys.

Smoking Bullets

Ha, now there’s a vision.

Once I’d finished with the front cover of Adaptation, I had a look at some of my other titles. Yep, you guessed it, I wasn’t happy with them. I mean, the Paranormology series ain’t so bad (except, let’s be honest, Beaumauris Road Ghost) and Atlas, Broken is almost where I want it to be, but The Bullet stood out as the poor, underloved book that just wanted to have its day.

The Bullet was one of the stories, back in 2014, that I pushed out without too much thought. It was the first to be put into hard-copy, because it was small and easy to manipulate I guess, good for a trial run. But it’s still a book and it still wants love.

So there’s the old cover. Come to think of it, that’s the one for the print, since the text is slightly to the left and squished in a bit, but never mind that. The whole point is that while the bullet is front and centre, sure, and the story is about the bullet, the cover doesn’t really let your eye do anything more than read the text and see the bullet. The factory in the background isn’t prominent. In fact, I was showing Joey just the other day and he said, “Yeah, I like it, but what’s are all those lines at the back?”

Good lesson there, too. Ask a kid. They’ll be honest.

So I got to thinking about covers and what makes this yawn-worthy? Firstly, it doesn’t convey anything about the book apart from the obvious – The Bullet, with a bullet on it. OK, great, what else? The factory is stunted, there’s nothing steampunk about it, and it doesn’t challenge me in any way. It’s also very symmetric (aside from the squishing to fit it to a print book) so, really, there’s nowhere for the eye to go but top to bottom.

I trudged back over my source material again and looked at a bunch of other book covers and realised, yup, it needs a make-over.

So here we have a completely different design. Firstly, it’s darker. There’s no factory to fuddle things up, but the implication is there what with all the smoke billowing about. You’ll also note, there isn’t one bullet, but many, highlighting the major theme of the story, of this bullet and its peers. It’s challenging in that it asks what’s so special about this bullet that looks exactly the same as the ones next to it. The font is an older newspaper-style, formed but haggard, rough and rusted. Lastly, the symmetry is removed, with the words somewhat right aligned, but not perfectly.

The eye is free to bounce about a bit, first gathering the bullet, then the words, then picking at the bullets in the rows to see if there is any difference between them, anything further to see through the haze of steam and smoke. The rows of perfect rounds suggests a factory, a process, so there’s no need to harp on about it.

With such a large print and uncluttered image, it looks waaaaaay better on the small scale which, as I’ve come to realise, is very important, considering most book sites display their wares in small icons and thumbnails.

I asked Joey what he thought about this one. He said, “I dunno. I liked the first one.”

Kids, eh? What do they know?

This cover change was also necessary because, well, I’ll let you know in a bit.

Judging a Book by its Cover

When I first started out writing, I was busy with the whole ‘writing’ part of the deal, you know, putting words together to make sentences and all that jazz. Then, when it got time to get real, I slammed into the ‘oh-crap’ wall, filled with blocks of requirements held together with a mortar of doubt.

Books need a description. And they need an ISBN. And they need to be categorised according to their content and type. And, of course, they need a front cover.

Well, as far as I can tell, you can get away with not having an ISBN, and you have categories of ‘General’ under fiction which, I guess, sort of covers just about anything, and technically you don’t need a front cover to have a book published.

But it sure helps.

So there I go, flailing against the wall, doing whatever I could to get through to the other side. A front cover? No problem. How hard can that be? I mean, it’s just words and a picture right? Well, technically yes, that’s correct, there are words and there is usually a picture, but it’s not as simple as… No worries, gimme two minutes.

Cue me running around like a maniac, taking photographs with my old, clunky phone, trying to figure out how to operate GIMP, fending off the calls from work – heck, it’s eleven at night – and a whisky shot or two later, here you go:

Yeah, I didn’t like it either, but you have to admit, there are words and there’s a picture, so it’s a cover, right? Besides, it was bed time and I wanted this thing up and out and off my hands (There’s a lesson right there – if you’re feeling pressured, you’re making mistakes and if you’re making mistakes, back off, go to bed and tackle it tomorrow).

Alright, fine, it was poo, I agree. So after I did the same for part 2 and 3, I sat back and thought that I’d better take it more seriously. After all, by this stage I was looking at hard copies and, yeah, these guys ain’t gonna cut the mustard.

I started with the idea of emphasising the split from title and author as top and bottom and the imagery in the middle. I found a nice carbon fibre background and a chrome bar to add the separators and changed the font to something more appropriate. And for the most part, I was happy with it, until I looked at it with fresh eyes last month and thought that looked unpolished.

The uniformity of the imagery was bothering me. Sure, the method of thresholding the image and using the darkness to create a silhouette over a gradiented background made some amount of sense, it still didn’t convey exactly what I was after. So I’ve gone and made a change, I hope, for the better.

Yes, that’s still the same carbon fibre and chrome curtain rod. Yes, that’s still my eyeball (albeit updated) but now we’ve got a more modern twist on things.

Firstly, you’ll notice the change from a single point of reference, to having the city below, a bustling, light filled city, shining in amber, contrasting the relatively cyan eyeball on top. Amber and teal, apparently, is the combination of the month. The cityscape lends itself nicely, since the perspective of the main roads naturally lead one toward the top, reminiscent of the famous ‘all seeing eye’.

I was going for a pixelated eyeball to emphasise the use of technology, but then I backed off on that since it made it look a little too 8-bit. Instead, I went for a glass-tile filter to add the squareness to it, keeping detail while still breaking the imagery up.

All things considered, I’m chuffed with the result.

Launching the Octopus

Now there’s a vision. 3 – 2 – 1 – Launch the Octopus! Fwoosh! Slooo-ooop, plop!
I can’t imagine they’d be the most aerodynamic of beasts. Still, with this vision in mind, the day is almost here where Tedrick rides the waves once more.

Launch day used to be a nerve busting time, a time where I’d be chewing my nails down to their stumps, where I’d be dreaming about spell checking issues and front cover problems and waking up in the middle of the night because I used the passive tense. No jokes. This business really gets inside your head.

Now I’m a little more relaxed with the whole affair, and that’s mostly because I’ve gotten some of the processes in place to ease things through. Setting time aside for drafts for example, means the book isn’t rushed. Starting the front cover design early on means I can iterate through a few sketches first, try out a couple and decide. Then there’s the uploading to the various distributors with their different formats and requirements.

It’s all very taxing, but at least there’s a way to ease through it all.

Lastly, the concept of the ‘pre-order’ has been a boon. The actual intent of the pre-order is to give time and a platform to shout out the book, build some interest, get some search-engine stuff going – that’s great, and I’m working to be better at that, but what I really love about it is that it gives me a deadline. Not a soft ‘yeah, I’ll have this by next month’ deadline but a real ‘you’d better get the damn thing right by August 13th’ deadline.

And that keeps the focus.

Shucks, thanks Amazon

Well shucks, thanks for that, Amazon. I finished making hard copies of Tedrick and putting together a compendium of Adaptation and felt pretty chuffed. Rather than going through Lulu, I decided to use KDP instead.

It’s a different experience, better in some ways, worse in others, but altogether things were looking up. Then I clicked on the option of ‘order proofs’ because, hey, I want to make sure the books print properly. It’s something that Lulu insists upon so that you, the creator, are satisfied with how your books come out in the physical world and I totally agree with it.

So I press the button and it tells me I’ve got 24 hours to check out my cart. Fine, but first let me add a couple of other proofs. Aside from a couple of weird issues, all good.
Then I go to check out. Houston, we have a problem. There’s a big, fat splash of red writing across the page (that’s never good) telling me that what I want isn’t possible. Why not?

What’s the issue?

It turns out that Amazon.com ain’t delivering to Australia no more. That’s right. I can’t purchase my own book. I mean… really?
Looking this up online answers my question: Really.
It seems that because Australia has the GST (A 10% tax on sales), purchases from overseas websites need to attract that tax. I’m not sure of all the politics behind it, but it seems to be something like a dummy-spit by Amazon.

“We don’t want to apply your taxes, so we’re not going sell anything to you unless you purchase from the Australian website.”
Great, but that doesn’t help me because the KDP proof doesn’t allow an Australian marketplace shipment, so I’m forced to use the American one. And around we go. So the tokens expired, I ordered it all again and this time sent it through a freight forwarding company, MyUS.com. The idea is that Amazon ships to them in Florida, then they ship it to me in Melbourne.

It looks legit. Only thing is that now delivery will necessarily take longer and cost more because there are now two shipments involved. Ah, well. So long as I can get the rotten things, I’ll be fine.

Still, I think the whole thing is a bit stupid from a buyer’s perspective – I am willing to pay money for available goods, but because of a spat between a corporation and a government, I have to go the hard way around, pay more and wait longer. What’s more, with Lulu, who also sell through Amazon, they seem to outsource the printing locally anyway, meaning I don’t have the book being sent from half way around the world.

Strange thing is that I just tested purchasing a gas tank from Amazon, and that seemed to be shippable from the US. So A petrol tank can be shipped, but books can’t? I don’t get it.

Even stranger, when looking at the page for Adaptation, it says it can be shipped to Australia, whereas Tedrick Gritswell cannot. Now I’m really confused.

If anyone has any insight, I’d be glad to hear it.