Excel, Word, and PPT Books Now in Hard Cover

Just a quick announcement to let you know that Excel for Beginners, Intermediate Excel, 50 Useful Excel Functions, 50 More Excel Functions, Excel Essentials, Word for Beginners, Intermediate Word, and PowerPoint for Beginners are all now available in a hard cover version.

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I have to say, I’m pretty excited about this one because the books feel much more substantial in hard cover than paperback. (That Excel Essentials one which combines the other four Excel titles into one book is a behemoth. It’s one inch thick and weighs two pounds! Who knew I had so much to say about Excel.)

The covers are case laminate so there might be a little denting at the edges like you can see on 50 More Excel Functions in the photo, but overall I was pretty impressed with them. And keep in mind with the skinnier ones that the spine text might be slightly off center because of print-on-demand variances, but it will be there on all of them.

They should be available on Amazon (here’s my author page for the U.S.) as well as Barnes & Noble and any other location where you can order print books.

IngramSpark Update

I thought I’d give a quick update on using IngramSpark. I haven’t been paid yet (and I don’t think I will be the first time until September which is kind of crazy), so until that happens I can’t declare myself fully satisfied, but so far I’m pleased.

One of the nice perks that came with using IngramSpark as opposed to KDP Print is that I had some additional format options.

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For example, I published the omnibus edition of Rider’s Revenge last year in ebook and was disappointed to find out at the time that I couldn’t do so in print because all three novels combined with the front and back matter adds up to about 1,122 pages.

Unfortunately, KDP Print maxes out at 828 pages for the size and paper I was using so a print version wasn’t an option. But IngramSpark will go up to 1,200 pages so I decided to go ahead and put out the trilogy in print as well.

It’s not as cheap as a trade publisher could do. That book you see in that photo is $29.95. But at least there’s now a print version for that series that’s more comparable to the print pricing for YA books published by traditional publishers.

It’s also fun to have on my shelf.

The other print format I’m pleased to have access to is hard cover. I’ve now put all of the Excel, Word, and PowerPoint Essentials titles out in a hard cover format in addition to their paperback format. (They’re slowly making their way to all the platforms. They look to have made it to Barnes & Noble at this point but not yet to Amazon.)

I have to say that I think I really prefer the hard cover versions for those particular books. They feel more substantial in hard cover than in paperback. It’s the exact same material, but there’s a definite perception difference between the two.

They aren’t flawless. There’s a little bending on the corners of some of the proof copies I received and I’m not 100% happy with the spine text placement with the skinnier ones. But overall, I’m pretty darned happy. And for a POD option, I have to say it’s not bad. Not bad at all.

I don’t expect to use hard cover for my other non-fiction that either are too skinny for it to make sense or that are in a size where I don’t think it works as well.

And I haven’t yet tried the non-case laminate hard cover option, which is what I’d want to use for fiction. (At this point I think doing so would just be a vanity project.)

But overall I’m excited by the additional formatting options and how they’ve turned out.

(I still don’t think the expense of going with IngramSpark is justified for someone just starting out unless they have access to free ISBNs through their country of residence, but it’s definitely something to consider when you have enough books to bring down the per-unit ISBN costs.)

More AMS Changes Coming

It never fails that I publish a book on AMS and then Amazon makes changes to how the ads work or, in this case, the navigation options. So for those of you who might have noticed a little note at the top of your AMS dashboard today that said changes were coming but that didn’t know how to find the Amazon Advertising blog, because who wants to provide a link for that sort of thing.

Here you go.

Short version: They appear to be moving all of the options at the top of the screen to the left-hand side of the screen.

Timing Issues

I’m on book four of a NYT-best selling YA fantasy series. I’ve devoured the series. Each book is about six hundred pages long and I’ve probably read the last three in less than a week. But an issue I noticed during book one is making it really hard to finish book four, so I thought I’d write about it here for any authors looking for non-obvious ways to improve their writing.

This author is great at characterization. Look at the 25,000+ reviews that each book has and you’ll see that readers love how fleshed out the characters are and how real they are.

But the author has issues with timing.

In book one there were some obvious ones. For example, in one chapter we’re told it’s been two weeks since an event happened and two chapters later we’re told it’s only been two days. This happened twice that I can remember. They were little hiccups that were somewhat annoying but not enough to keep me from immediately ordering the rest of the books in the series.

Now I’m up to book four and the finale is upon us. There’s someone trapped in a dungeon, another character under siege in a castle, others have fled the invading army, etc. And now all of a sudden all of those timing issues are getting painful. Someone takesĀ  a day to follow a trail one direction and an hour to go back down the same trail. Earlier in the book weeks passed, possibly months, for something that should have been incredibly urgent. And a council whose first meeting was supposed to be in a week or two somehow didn’t meet for perhaps months.

All the timeframes are muddied and conflict with each other. Character A goes off to do something and it takes five days. Character B does their thing and it takes two weeks. Then they intersect as if they both took the same amount of time.

I’ve already complained elsewhere about a series where two main characters became so out of synch in how their storylines were presented that they were months apart in alternating chapters. To the point that a minor character was in back to back chapters in completely different parts of the world.

This is worse than that because it’s clear the author didn’t have a good handle on how long anything in the book took to happen. And because they didn’t have that firmly established for themselves, the timing of events slips and slides around in the story that made it onto the page, too.

It’s worse with this book because of the multiple points of view. But this can still be a problem even with single POV novels.

You send someone off to do X, does it make sense that they would take as long as they did to do it?

Or, for example, with my cozies I have to account for the fact that the character actually has a job to show up for six days a week. She can’t just be off solving a crime for three days straight without there being a consequence for that. Right? Or take off for hours every day to investigate clues. At least not during work hours.

So watch for this one. With my multiple POV novel I actually had an Excel spreadsheet with a timeline for all of my main characters and where they were and when to make sure it matched up. But it can be as simple as reading through the novel once with an eye to timing if the focus of the novel is tight enough.

Anyway. Something to think about when you’re not worrying about plot, pacing, characterization, tense, point of view, or genre expectations.

 

 

Let’s Talk Luck

One of my coaching calls this last week was with an extremely successful author. Multiple six-figures and for multiple years. And during part of that conversation the author said, “I’m just lucky, that’s all.” Or something along those lines.

My response was very immediate and very adamant. “No. You were not lucky to be where you are. Sure, maybe the genre you chose and when you published factor into things and that can be about luck. But the ability to produce novels on a consistent basis that meet your readers’ needs has nothing to do with luck. That is all you and your hard work and talent.”

It was an interesting conversation because I’ve never been a fan of the other side of that argument where people who’ve done extremely well say that there was nothing lucky about their success. That it all comes down to how hard they work. I always think that’s a bunch of bullshit, to be honest.

To me it’s always a balance of the two with the hard work taking more than its share but serendipity playing a part as well.

Let me give an example that has nothing to do with writing.

My very first job out of college we were each assigned to a mentor who taught us how to conduct securities examinations. We worked side-by-side with our mentor for about a year. We also had to study for and take a series of tests in that first year, but the bulk of the learning occurred on the job.

I started within about a week of another individual in our office who was extremely intelligent. Fully capable.

But I was assigned to a first-class mentor. Probably the best examiner in our office. And that other person was assigned to one of the worst examiners in our office. It was luck that I was assigned to who I was and that they were assigned to who they were.

And as a result I was provided an environment in which I could flourish and they were not. Luck.

But the hard work I put in to then take advantage of that opportunity was all me. I was the one going after opportunities and eager to learn. I was the one asking questions and working hard to get up to speed.

As a result, I was quickly promoted and this other individual was not. It made a significant difference in our career paths.

And, sure, I can point to how much effort I put in to make that happen.But the fact of the matters is that all that hard work and drive would’ve been wasted if my mentor had been someone else.

So when I think about writing, I always look back on that situation. And I acknowledge that it’s about luck and effort.

Luck happens when the right reader sees your book and helps it go viral. Or you write something that it turns out is in demand with a large number of readers. Or you catch the cultural zeitgeist at just the right time in just the right way.

Effort happens the rest of the time. When you’re writing those books and getting them out there for readers to discover. When you’re learning from your early mistakes and adjusting your plan to account for what you’ve learned about readers or your writing or the market. When you acknowledge what you don’t know and take steps to learn it.

Yeah, maybe it takes luck to make half a million a year as a writer. But most of the authors I know who are very successful in this business (consistent six-figures) also work very hard and very smart. They consistently produce good books that their audience devours.

To do that year in and year out requires more than luck. It requires talent and dedication. So if you’re one of those people, don’t sell yourself short.

Unreliable Narrators

I did something interesting this morning. I read through my diaries from twenty-five years ago. It was fascinating to see what I wrote about versus what I remembered. And it was fascinating too to see what I wrote about and didn’t know I was writing about.

Often in writing we hear about the unreliable narrator. The person who is telling you a story and maybe not telling the whole story or telling the story their way instead of telling the truth. And there’s always this idea that maybe that’s deliberate.

But the funny thing about reading those diary entries was that eighteen-year-old me was telling the truth as I saw it at the time and completely missing some things that were right there on the page. I wasn’t trying to be unreliable. Who tries to be unreliable in their diary? But I was being.

Even more interesting is that I went reading back through those entries because I’d started to wonder if a close friend of mine had maybe been not so close and if I’d just failed to see it at the time. (They ended up dating both someone I’d had a complicated situation with and my best friend which prompted the question all these years later. Coincidence? Or something more?)

And what I realized after doing so is that when you hold memories in your mind and have no record of them when they happened that they grow and shift and take on different forms than they actually had at the time.

Turns out we’re all unreliable narrators. (And more so, whether real or not, the stories we tell ourselves about what happened in the past are more important than what actually happened because the stories we tell ourselves are what we let shape our future.)