It Should Not Be This Challenging

I hate inefficiency. It really, truly drives me nuts. And when I have the ability to control situations, I fix the inefficiencies that I find. But unfortunately with self-publishing I’m at the mercy of the distributors and their whacked out notions of how things should work.

Which is why I spent about an hour this morning checking the blurbs of my books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and fixing them.

See, with Amazon when you used to publish through CreateSpace if you just typed in a book description like I’m typing this post right now everything would show up on Amazon as one big chunk of text with no paragraph breaks. But when you published an ebook through KDP it showed up just fine.

Same text, different outcomes.

Now, you’d think that when they migrated print books to KDP Print that they’d fix this issue, right? I mean, it’s the same interface you’re using. The description book looks identical for the print and ebook versions.

But they didn’t. So you type in your description and use your little Enter key for paragraph breaks and for an ebook everything looks just like you wanted it when the book is published. But for paperbacks, it publishes as one big wall of text.

It looks fine on the screen where you entered the information, at first, but come back to that screen later and all your paragraph breaks will be gone.

You need to use HTML tags <p> and </p> around each paragraph to get it to display in paragraphs on Amazon.

I know this, but sometimes I forget. Or sometimes I used bold and italics for a header line and then don’t put the paragraph mark around it as well and that first line scrunches up against the next paragraph. So, fifteen or so revisions later, I’m finally done with fixing all of my paperback descriptions.

Barnes & Noble’s NookPress is it’s own version of hell.

Because it has an input screen just like Amazon and then there’s a little tab you can click that lets you see a preview. Great, right? No guessing. You can see what it will look like before you publish.

Except that preview requires that you use HTML coding to get paragraphs in your text. The only way to get that preview looking “right” is to use not just paragraph breaks but a <br> break as well. But…

(And here’s where it gets fun.)

When you then go to the Barnes & Noble website it looks like crap if you actually did that. Putting in paragraph and break HTML to get it looking good in the preview when you’re submitting the book results in the book description on the website having something like three extra lines between each paragraph.

Seriously.

It does not have to be this f’ed up.

Amazon: Just make it consistent. And let people know how it works, whichever way you go.

Barnes & Noble: Line your frickin’ preview up with how the page will actually look when it publishes.

Alright. Rant over.

Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who are mothers. Condolences to those of you missing a mother today. (And for those of you thinking I’m nuts because it’s not Mother’s Day, for some reason there is not agreement on which day Mother’s Day should be celebrated around the world. Today is the American one.)

A Reading List for Writers

I’ve continued to play around with the new Books2Read reading list option and put together this reading list of all of my favorite writing books. These are the books that are physically on a shelf in my office that I really liked. Definitely not all the writing-related books I’ve read over the years, but the ones I really enjoyed and found valuable.

There were a few that I couldn’t link to because they don’t exist in an ebook version, which I find strange in this day and age. But it is what it is.

I went ahead and created a separate account to do this because I have so many of my own books in my main B2R account, which means pretty much anyone could create an account as an “author” and then put together a list like this.

So, check it out if you’re looking for ideas on more writing books to read or if you just want to see how it works.

A Reading List for Writers

 

Ah, Life

I think one of the biggest challenges to this whole writing journey has been managing my ego. It’s one of the awful little side effects of having gone to really great schools (Stanford and Wharton). You’re puttering along in your life doing your thing and suddenly one of your classmates is appointed CEO of Yahoo! or wins a SAG award, an Emmy, and a Golden Globe for their incredible acting. (Both went to Stanford at the same time I did.)

Or another classmate casually mentions that they sold their firm with $10 billion in assets under management and are now taking a sabbatical to travel the world. (A Wharton classmate. And, ironically, that description may be too generic for you to even identify a specific individual.)

Now, I know in my heart of hearts that their paths are not ones that would interest me. I don’t look at them and say “that could’ve been me”. (Although I do think it would be fun to act. That’s one of those paths not taken for me.)

I know I’m not playing the same game they are. But when your peers have net worths in the hundreds of millions it can make it really, really hard to take pride in your own efforts. Especially when you know that you could be much more financially successful doing something other than what you’re doing.

A couple months ago a classmate at Wharton reached out and asked if I’d submit a class note about my writing. I almost said no.

One, because what I’m doing probably makes me the poster child for how not to use your Wharton degree. (You make your millions first, then you take up skydiving and writing novels. You don’t walk away from a good career without having paid off all your student loans to do those things, which is what I did.)

And, two, because as much as I’ve accomplished with my writing, I don’t view it as a success. Most of those class notes are people who’ve done something worth bragging about and for some reason I don’t feel what I’ve done is something to brag about.

Which is somewhat absurd. I have written ten novels and who knows how many non-fiction titles. And I’ve made a profit on them, which is actually saying something.

There was recently a thread on one of the writing forums where people were saying you should never expect to make $5,000 a month from writing. By that standard I’m a raging success.

(I think it’s a horrible mindset those people have when there are authors out there making $100,000 a month, but that’s another post altogether.)

But the problem is, I don’t apply the normal person in the normal world standard to my efforts. I don’t apply the “average writer” standard. Fuck average.

I apply the Stanford/Wharton standard. I look to my “peers” to judge my worth.

(And then I quickly look away, because holy shit.)

But that’s the thing. The people who’ve made it are in the news or in the class notes. No one writes in and says, “Since we all graduated I lost my job, declared bankruptcy, got divorced, and spent three months in a clinic for substance abuse issues. But now I’m living in a halfway house and getting by day-by-day.” Or, “Well, I got married, put all my dreams on hold, quit my six-figure job to raise kids I’m not sure I even like, and am now self-medicating with wine and Facebook while my husband spends inordinate amounts of time with his secretary.”

I have to remind myself that there are probably just as many people like that in my peer group as the superstars. Not that it helps. Because ego. I still think I should do well at whatever I do. Well being top 2%.

So, anyway. I submitted the note. With a good dose of humor included. And now it will forever sit there next to my classmate’s note about his very successful venture. Really, I think that combination pretty much says it all.

Oh, and for any Wharton classmates who find their way here, the skydiving comment was not in fact a joke. This is me doing a sit-fly over Taupo, New Zealand back in the day.

6- Me 2

A Little Link Fun

I spent the last two days doing Strengths coaching for writers and it was wonderful and awesome, but now I’m supposed to be turning back to the third cozy so I can release it on what would have been my dad’s 70th birthday. (Crazy to think about since he’s been gone for 24 years and he’s just frozen at that age for me forever.)

Anyway. Me being me, I of course am not actually working on finalizing the cozy. Instead I got distracted by Books2Read’s new reading list option.  You can go on there and create your own reading list that you can then share with others. As an author I have all of my books listed with them, but it’s not exclusive to authors as far as I know. I think anyone could go on there and list books and create a reading list out of it. So, for example, books you’ve reviewed or that you recommend, etc.

(Now that I’ve said that, I might try that myself, just for kicks.)

For authors, there’s also an option to edit your author page and provide a link to that.

So, here’s a page I put together for the Excel books.

And here’s one I put together for M.L. Humphrey.

Pretty cool, huh?

I’m not sure it saves more steps than having people come here to see what books are available, but it is a bit more slick.