The Officially Unofficial Release!

Iris. Of. The. Shadows. Today, the 21st of July, 2021, marks the actual, official, bona fide, genuine, you-beaut, true-dinks, honest-and-for-realsies-this-time release of Iris of the Shadows.

You know, because I stuffed up. Because Jez and dates are two things that shouldn’t be mixed together. But let’s not dwell on what was supposed to be and concentrate on what actually is, you know, base ourselves in reality. Which is kind of funny, because Iris is a fantasy. That’s the reality.

Enough of that! There are celebrations to be had, libations to be dribbled and carpets to be soiled. Eat, drink (in moderation), read and be merry, but be sure to get your hands on copy. Go eBook, it’s faster delivery and prolly better for the environment, what with the size of the book and all.

Slow down, Jez! Where do I find Iris?

Good question. Check out this awesome link from Book2Read: https://books2read.com/iris

She comes in eBook format and softcover, and there are bound to be more sites tomorrow once the release has taken effect, but Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Google Play are all up and running. And there’s Angus and Robertson, Book Depository, Scribd, take your pick. Please leave a review, however you feel, and enjoy that read!

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It’s Happening!

In the previous post, this one, I mentioned that I’m looking to see if Teddy, your favourite octopus detective, can get the next in series done in audiobook. Of course, that would all depend, right? It would depend on the time I have, the motivation, my capacity, if Findaway will have me. Sure. All of that. But it also depends largely upon a certain chap by the name of Larry Gorman and what his schedule was like, and, well, if he even wanted to do it.

It’s one thing for me to say “Yup, I want the Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves audiobook to be a thing”. It’s another thing for it to actually happen.

So when I said that I’d have to go check, that’s exactly what I did. Over at Findaway the process of starting the follow-up was dead simple.

New Project – Click. Title and series – click, click. Who do you want as the author – Clickety-click-click. Hit the button, count a couple of hours and, boom, waddya know?

I am pleased to say that Mister Gorman is on board and chuffed to be narrating for Tedrick again, flopping on his fedora, putting on his Sam Spade best, and getting his suckers dirty in the next installment of Tedrick!

Now, don’t get too excited just yet. Sure, it’s kind of a big deal. A really big deal. But there’s work to be done and these things don’t just happen overnight. I’ll keep you up to date. In the meantime, there’s a really special event happening tomorrow (July 21st, 2021). I’ll tell you tomorrow.

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Can you handle *more* octopus?

Tedrick’s audiobook was so much fun! Hearing him come to life, the characters, the narration, it was a real treat, you know? The Findaway experience was smooth from start to end, and the amazing Mister Larry Gorman is a true gentleman and a proper artist. There really was nothing that caused any friction throughout the whole thing.

On a further note, I had a look at Audible today and was well chuffed to see that we’ve already got some feedback:

Thanks Margaret! You’re a champ!

I say we because this really is a team effort – Larry brings the book to life and he’s put a lot of bloody hard work into it, so a lot of this goes out to him. But you see, there’s that bit at the end, the part about the follow up. Disappointed. I – I can’t have that.

Well, Margaret, if you’re reading this, first I’d like to sincerely thank you for your feedback. All authors love to hear any feedback at all, and for you to take the time to set it down means more than you can know. Secondly, and importantly, you’re articulating what you want. Couldn’t be more clear. You want… more octopus.

What to do? What to do? In the words of someone wise, ‘You have to give them what they want’. So, in light of all of this, I think the best course of actions is…

Tedrick gets his sequel!

That’s right, Madge (you don’t mind me calling you Madge, do you?), consider yourself the catalyst to kicking my sculpted butt into gear and getting Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves converted into an Audiobook!

Now, here’s a little secret (because we all like secrets): I was going to be working on the new Tedrick Gritswell ebook, titled ‘Tedrick Gritswell gets Crabby‘, and I will be doing that in the background but, since you insist, I will make pains to get this happening.

That is, of course, if Larry is available. I’ll check. Back in a bit…

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OMG it’s an Octopus!

We all need a bit of love, and octopuses are no exception. What with all them hearts tucked away inside them, there’s a case to be made that they need MORE love! You know what I’m talking about…

Tedrick Gritswell, that little scamp, has his own Audiobook now, officially, for realsies, 100% and it has been released on all the good platforms today, ready to make a splash!

Narrated by the illustrious Larry Gorman, perfectly suited as an underwater gumshoe, grab your copy of Tedrick today from:

Thanks so much for your patience. It took four years but, hey, we got there in the end and I’m well chuffed with the result. I really hope you enjoy it.

What’s that? You want Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves as an Audiobook, too? OK, OK… I’m… working on it.

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I Stuffed Up

Me and dates, we don’t get along. Not dates as in the fruit. They’re alright. And prunes, I’m a fan of prunes. Dried apricots, sultanas, raisins, currants, yeah, they’re all good. But that’s not what I’m on about.

I’m talking about dates, mate. Dates. As in, the day of the month of the year. Dates. It’s a bit of a running joke, see, that I get muddled when it comes to dates. If you say, “Hey, be there on the 14th”, my brain promptly forgets that whole sentence and starts wondering if the Macarina and macaroni have any relation.

To give you an example, on at least two occasions, I have requested leave from work, locked it in, put it in the calendar, only to turn up at work on that day clueless. One day runs into the next and, next thing I know, I’ve missed a birthday or an anniversary or an important event.

This works in the other direction, as well. Like, for example, setting the bloody date for a book to be published. You see, I had Tedrick’s Audiobook on the go at the same time as having Iris of the Shadows about to be launched. Prolly a silly idea, in hindsight, but that’s how it was. So:

  1. Tedrick was supposed to be published on July 1st.
  2. Iris was supposed to be published on June 21st

Sound simple enough? It was supposed to be. Iris goes out a week or so before Tedrick, too easy, lock it in. Only… only Jez, in his unique way, managed to set the release for Iris to be the 21st of July, not June.

So, picture this. There’s me, on the 21st of JUNE, all ready to rock and roll with the big announcement of “Iris of the Shadows is Released!” and… and… wait, what did I do. Face + Palm. Cue mad scramble to Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Google and Amazon to fix it all up. Well, try and fix it up.

Nope. Too little, too late. In terms of distribution, Kobo and iTunes and Barnes & Noble still have it set for July 21st. Google will allow it out on the 23rd, Amazon on the 25th, Smashwords on the 24th and… yeah.

I stuffed up.

Sad to say, but thems the facts and the facts can’t be changed because otherwise they wouldn’t be facts, now, would they? Alrighty, what does that all mean? Well, you can get Iris of the Shadows in hardcopy and ebook right now from Amazon, Google and Smashwords, but you’ll need to wait up to a month for Kobo and Barnes and Noble. I guess it’s a bit of a soft-launch, then, and I’ll look to doing a more formal announcement when I can confirm it’s properly up and out. I guess it has waited ten years, what’s another month, eh?

Sorry about that.

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Draft2Digital vs Smashwords – Continued

I have been using Smashwords to publish and distribute my eBooks for yonks. For Iris of the Shadows, I decided to try something different. I went with Draft2Digital. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t really like to change around if I can help it. Too many links to consider and sign-ons and all of that. Be that as it may, I believe that it’s always a good idea to look around once in a while.

I’m glad I did. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think the work Mr Coker at Smashwords has done has been essential for independent writers across the world, without exaggeration, and that without the kind of vision that Smashwords has brought forth, we would see a monolithic ‘Amazonian’ ruled landscape… and that’s it. The ease of access to publishing, the quality assurance, the distribution and promotional periods – they’ve all helped build a rich and liberated author community. Amazon still rules the eBook world, it seems, but it’s not without competition and that’s something I wholly welcome.

That being said, let’s get down to Draft2Digital, or D2D. No, not Dungeons to Dragons. Draft2Digital. This is the same mob behind Books2Read (B2R). How is it? In a word, impressive.

Ding-ding! Let’s get ready to rumble!

The Good

There’s a lot of good to go over. First, there’s the website itself. It’s a modern-looking site. My care level is about a 3 out of 10. I’m more of a function-over-form dude. If it works good but looks clunky, so be it. In this case, though, it works good and looks good. It’s easy to navigate and see just where you need to be. There is no store front, which is a bit of a shame, but that’s neither here nor there. I don’t really believe the majority of people will venture out from their mainstream sellers like Amazon and Kobo to get books. So, as far as looks go, D2D wins the SW <> D2D battle. Call it a flesh wound.

What about making the damn book already? I’m getting to that. Creating a book is as easy as signing up and clicking the ‘Add Book’ button. You fill in the meta-data, set the cover image and you’re ready to go. The image has recommendations, but the little description says ‘so long as it’s rectangular in nature, with the height greater than the width’ you’re golden. This is fine, but I’d prefer a stricter structure. Knowing what I know about all the various requirements from different distributors, I like the security of knowing my cover won’t be pixelated or bloated or whatever. Still, it’s nice to have the freedom.

Like Smashwords, you can set a release date, so that your book can be pushed to publishers before the go-live. And, as you can see, there’s a lovely little banner telling you all about when it’s going to drop. SW <> D2D trade blows here, nothing really substantial. Think of it as functional parity.

Then you upload your manuscripts. Word doc is fine. You can have your own title, and own links, but there’s a kind of cool feature here: You don’t need a title, copyright or contents page. That’s right. Just write your book, with Chapters and upload. There’s an option to automatically add these things, along with ‘also by’ and ‘author bio’ pages:

At this stage, you can see just how your book has been broken down. If it looks good, you head to the next step. If not, you figure out what you’ve done (ohhh… I mucked up the chapter naming) and re-upload. And if there are any issue, there’s a big red button you can use to ask for help. I didn’t use that, but it’s there. Anyway, upload, check, click next. It’s that easy. D2D <> SW, D2D lands a quick jab to the shnozz.

Where D2D really shines is the uploading and – wait for it – previewing. That’s right, there is an online previewer. Wait, let me get a picture for you:

What – what is that? Did I add those drop-caps? No. Did I add that scrollwork? No. Did I add the arrows as a break? No. That comes with the style on the right. Watch:

That’s real-time previewing right there. What really saved my bacon, though, is that the previewer showed a lot of weird formatting in my original upload. Cue groaning. Why? Because Smashwords has this thing called the Meat Grinder. It’s a way of taking a Word doc and converting it to an eBook. For what it’s worth, I liked to use Calibre for that, but that’s neither here nor there. The Meat Grinder worked very well – if there was nothing too wrong with the formatting. That said, I did have my own issues with some documents where Word had slipped in some invisible elements that screwed things up.

To troubleshoot, I downloaded the epub format file and tried it on Freda and Calibre to make sure and, yes, there were some very strange formatting issues. I went back to the Office Libre and looked at what was going on. Turns out, because I had written Iris of the Shadows in softback format, I had left in the margins on the left and right pages, and the headers as well. It took a couple of uploads and a bit of trial and error – in the end I selected all and set the page to A4 for everything – and that did the trick. Upload, preview, approve. Boom. That’s a solid 1, 2, 3 from D2D to SW. The crowd gasps.

ISBN! I forgot to mention that. SW and D2D both offer free ISBNs as part of the deal. Block -jab – counter -jab. Necessary, and welcome, and with both I’ve found that there’s a kind of lag between asking for an ISBN and it being set on the system. With Smashwords, the ISBN is delivered immediately, but it isn’t updated in their system for about half an hour. With Draft2Digital, it was displaying as ‘No ISBN’, even though I had requested one, but then, after half an hour, it appeared. This was a bit annoying as I wanted to include this in the KDP submission. Not a huge hit, but a chin-dusting from SW there.

Then it’s a matter of pricing and distribution services you wish to opt into. There is the option of Amazon, but I’m going to be doing that myself, only because I’m used to doing it with Smashwords and, hey, I don’t really trust that it’ll go smoothly. Amazon can be a bit thingy, you know.

Also, the short-link appears directly under your Books2Read account, so that’s a bit of a shin-kick (snicker). Price wise, the commission rate for D2D is comparable to SW. SW does have a store-front and takes a higher commission rate, though the author gets more in their pocket because there’s no middle man (so that’s positive). Bit of a muchness there. I have read that returns are higher on D2D but I have no evidence of my own to back that up.

Distribution comes next. With Smashwords, once you’ve submitted, you can opt to go in for Premium Distribution. The ebook is quality checked and then, after a few hours, your book goes to the distributors you’ve nominated. Thing is, you have to check yourself when they actually arrive (B&N is especially slow, it seems). D2D comes with a swinging upper-cut:

The state of the publishing is displayed, along with the time when it was sent to the stores, and when it was received. I don’t know if it’s an acknowledgement style service, or a polling or scrape, but it works. Not only that, you get emails to alert you to when your eBook has hit the shelves! A winding body blow.

It took about the same amount of time to publish to Kobo and Apple (just by gut feel) which was only a few hours. So there’s no great advantage there.

Both Smashwords and Draft2Digital have a partnership with Findaway Voices (which I can definitely recommend) which entitles you to a waving of the $50 casting fee. No contention there.

Lastly, Smashwords has a greater reach beyond D2D at the moment, in that it can distribute to more stores than D2D so – here’s the thing – I’m going to use BOTH. That’s right. I’m going to upload to Smashwords for their distribution to the stores D2D doesn’t do, along with with their own storefront, and KDP, and Google Play. Don’t you love options?

So, the winner? You are! The independent author. While Smashwords might have copped a licking, it’s still the front-runner in terms of pure numbers, and it has every reason to expand and improve. Draft2Digital has brought the game up to a new level and shown just how good publishing can be. Something tells me, though this fight goes to D2D, there are going to be further battles in the future.

The Bad

I got to writing the good then, I was about to publish this when I realised… I hadn’t done the bad. The bad? The bad… let me see. Um. No, really. Um.

Hmm… there’s nothing bad so far. It’s a breath of fresh air into the indie author scene and, while the ISBN took a while to appear, I can’t really fault it in any way. I will be keen to see how the Marketing Module works, and I look forward to walking through the Reporting engine, but, until then, I really can’t complain.

I guess… I guess if I really want to complain, I would like to see some kind of ‘pseudo-storefront’ that would link out to the various stores, but that’s a nice-to-have.

Apart from that, I’m annoyed that I didn’t try D2D earlier.

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Draft2Digital vs Smashwords

Even since the first upload of Adaptation and for the next 15 odd titles, I’ve been using Smashwords to perform the conversion and aggregate the distribution of my titles. I found working with the first few titles a bit tricky, but once I got the hang of formatting the documents and then doing the chapter links, it went smoothly.

I haven’t had any real complaints with Smashwords so far, so why am I writing this? Because it always pays to look around, see what else is out there, see where the industry is heading. For Iris of the Shadows I reassessed my options. I’ve decided to publish the softback via KDP rather than via Lulu, but there’s the eBook format to worry about. OK, there’s also the audiobook, but that’s a later thing. My first instinct was ‘well, why not Smashwords?’. Yeah, Jez, why not Smashwords?

No real reason why not, more that there’s another reason to try Draft2Digital. What’s that? It’s like this: I don’t want to go with KDP Select. That’s KDP Select, not KDP, mind. The whole 90 day exclusivity thing is, to me, not nice for those of us who don’t have a Kindle (like yours truly). It feels Draconian and, yes, I know there’s the Kindle Unlimited program doover, but that doesn’t really interest me more than having an even playing field for books. Long story short: KDP Select is out.

So that leaves Smashwords, the independent author’s friend. Only, there are other players. Ingram Spark comes to mind. I had a look and, while there are benefits, it was a case of ‘yeah, nah’ for me. Then there’s Draft2Digital.

Draft2Digital

I’ve actually used the Books2Read service for aggregating the links to my books. I didn’t realise that this was part of the D2D platform. So when I went poking about, having a tentative e-sniff as it were, I already had a sign-in. Good. That made life a little easier. Reading their description, they sound a lot like Smashwords in that they can take your work, turn it into an ebook and distribute it to a bunch of retailers. So far, so good.

The list of retailers isn’t as extensive, it seems, as Smashwords, but that didn’t really concern me since the main players – Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Overdrive and Bibliotecha – are all there. They do distribute to libraries as well, so that’s neat. What they don’t offer is a direct selling page from their own site – you can’t buy from D2D.

They do have an integration service with Amazon. I know that this is possible with Smashwords, too, but there’s a caveat that one needs a couple of grand worth of sales before they’ll consider it, and then you need to write in and ask them to help out. I prefer to upload directly to Amazon KDP, so that’s not a deal maker or breaker.

They can supply an ISBN. This is necessary for some platforms like Apple iTunes. Plus the interface looks snazzy. Not that I care too much, but it’s a nice feeling to be working with something more modern.

With all of that in mind, I did a bit of searching around and the consensus is that D2D is proving to be quite the competitor to Smashwords, and that can only be a good thing. The more players there are, the more innovation and the better the service and, hopefully, it can take KDP down a peg or two.

So, in the end, what did I do? I went and signed up and uploaded my book.

The uploaded book at Draft2Digital

In the next few posts, I’ll be going over just how that all went. Until then, I’m going to be wrapping my head around the whole experience.

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Cover Decisions

It’s almost ready! But I can’t get ahead of myself. There’s more work to be done. In a previous post, I explained the differences between eBook, Hardcopy and Audiobook covers and how it makes it a lot easier if you can create your cover with all three formats in mind.

That’s great. Lesson learnt. Hindsight is 20/20. When it comes to moving the pre-existing books into the audiobook realm, however, it’s a different kettle of fish. For The Bullet, I toyed with the original cover for a while before I scrapped the whole thing and rebuilt the cover from scratch. The same for Atlas, Broken. The original cover just didn’t translate all that well to a square format. That, and it was time to update the covers, anyway.

For Paranormology, I kept the original aspect ratio, but planted the covers within the 3000px square with text to accompany it. The was because the houses in the pictures go with the book, and there is no scope to change the aspect ratio for the houses without redesigning each cover. If I were to do it all again, I’d consider a different layout altogether but, alas, I don’t have that luxury.

Tedrick, it was a bit of a mixed case. I had drawn the octopus, so I could play around with the artwork to make it fit. I also had the GIMP layout of the ebook ready to go, so it was more a matter of rearranging the whole thing to make it fit. That meant clipping the top and the bottom of the artwork, losing some of the details. Either that, or coming up with a way of keeping the original book and ratio, while adding a contextual background. Or redesigning it altogether.

Leaving the last option aside, since I wasn’t really keen on discarding poor ol’ Tedrick, I came up with the following:

Bubbles, octopus tentacles and the book itself was maintained.

I didn’t hate it. I didn’t like it. It looked too much like I’d, well, shoved a rectangular peg into a square hole. The background was contextual, yes, but the style of pictures was too different and the whole thing felt confusing and claustrophobic. Uncool.

So then I went back to the first option and got the old scalpel out:

Tedrick Gritswell Audiobook
The gold border helps define the whole thing as if it’s supposed to be there, contrasting with the blue lettering.

I kept more of the bubbles and light from above, dropping out the silt at the bottom. Eh, what’s some silt between friends?

Here, I’ll stick them side-by-side for you:

Comparing Tedrick Gritswell Covers

In the end, I stuck with option #2, because it looked more like a CD cover would, with everything aligned to fit to the square and, though I lost a bit of the artwork, I don’t think it takes anything away from the picture as a whole. What do you think? Which would you rather see as you’re listening to the audiobook?

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Tracking Tedrick

The first thing that hits you when you start doing Audiobooks is how bizarre it is to have someone read something you wrote. When I did the Audiobook stint with the Paranormology series, I had to deal with hearing my own voice read my words, which was very hard to get over, let me tell you. When I first put the headphones on and spoke into the microphone, I froze.

It took more than a few days of practicing to bring the shock down to an uncomfortable sensation, and then a whole couple of books to bring that down to a dulled angst. By Cooper Alley, I thought I had it all down, no probs, just another thing to brush off.

Then I listened to the first sample of the audiobook; my jaw froze and my face flushed red. It was good – very good, in fact – but there was something about having someone else read out something that you wrote. Considering I hadn’t gone over Tedrick for quite some time, I had forgotten just how it was written, the characters, the scenery. Then, in a few sentences of a gritty voice, it all came flooding back.

So far there have been eight chapters completed, and with each one I am listening while reading over the book. Man, there are some really cool benefits to having someone read back what you’ve done. It’s like being in the passenger seat rather than being the driver. As you’re following along, you can spot the scenery and see how it appears to others. You can hear if a sentence actually makes sense in the manner you’ve presented. There are little grammatical nuggets that need fixing here and a couple of typos there. Larry, being a professional, rolls right over them as best he can and with the communication channel provided by Findaway Voices, he can ask clarifying questions about his concerns.

About a third of the way through now. Tedrick’s looking good. But hey, Jez, you say, weren’t you supposed to be releasing Iris of the Shadows soon? Yes, that’s also true. It’s also true that I’m looking at making the third installment of Tedrick, and another Paranormology. It’s a little bit of juggling to get all these ducks in a row, or herd the cats, or stuff the octopus into the string bag, as it were. Don’t worry, I’ll get there.

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Atlas, Submitted.

The past few weeks have been cold. Bloody cold. OK, not Canada cold, so I can’t complain so much, but there’s something to be said about doing voice work when you’re chilly.

I have to rug up in layers, of course, because the garage isn’t heated and, though the sound booth has a good bit of insulation, it, too, is not heated. In summer it’s a hot-house and in winter it’s a refrigerator. The problem with layers, though, is that the warmer stuff tends to be noisy.

Noisy clothes? Yep, totally. You probably don’t pay much attention to it, but when you move your arm or twist your torso, or lean forward or back, or even roll you neck, there’s an associated noise. If you’re naked, it’s not so evident. If you’ve got on cotton, it’s hushed. If you’re wearing a polyester puffer-jacket, it’s the equivalent of unwrapping a Mars bar in the middle of a quiet cinema.

Not good. The slightest shuffle or motion (let alone wild gesticulations) are captured on the mike and each scene needs to be done again. And again. It’s a waste of time, but at least I’m warm.

Cotton hoodies are pretty good, so long as I suppress the zipper on the front. It makes little ‘tink, tink’ noises that are pretty darn obvious. I’ve taken to putting a blob of blu-tack underneath to stop it chattering while I’m vocalising. The chair is solid, steel chair, very cold on the tuchus, so I’ve put a small cushion on and covered it with a terry towel.

I can’t put a heater in there because the space is too confined for anything that isn’t electric, and electric heaters are notorious for making a hum. I’m thinking seriously about pre-heating the space before I start, to take the edge off. Makes sense, I guess, only we’re on the other side of winter and that means the days are getting warmer and all of this effort will be for nothing until the next year.

So that was me these past few weeks: Squatting in a rickety sound booth, freezing my proverbials off, rugging up in a woolen beanie, gloves and scarf with a wodge of blu-tack stuck to my zipper. And that’s if the weather was favourable. It was a slog, but I got through it and I’m happy.

I had to do the supermarket scene again because there was a lot of choppiness and I flubbed the voices. Everyone got a bit too bogan and by the end of it, I couldn’t even understand what I was saying.

After all of that, Atlas, Broken has been turned into an audiobook and submitted through Findaway for processing. It will be a few weeks before we see it come out the other side. Fingers crossed I’ve dotted all my i’s.