Nook Gook

It appears that my Claire Delacroix books have issues in their Nook editions, available from B&N. Some readers have posted complaints that the books are blank, which certainly isn’t what they thought they were buying!

The Nook PubIt interface has been very glitchy since the beginning of December, when Nook sales were opened to the UK. I have tried repeatedly to upload the new covers for THE COUNTESS, THE BEAUTY, THE TEMPTRESS, BQII Boxed Set, THE ROGUE, THE SCOUNDREL, THE WARRIOR, Rogues of Ravensmuir Boxed Set and THE RENEGADE’S HEART. It has consistently refused to process them.

The strange thing is that when I log in, the changes appear to have been saved. (?) Today, I had a better look around and discovered that it HAD updated the covers on the site. The issue is that the files appear to be blank, so the technical issue must have been in the conversion of the file onsite. This is really strange. I checked out the preview and it was fine, but then was told that the update couldn’t be processed.

I’m pretty annoyed right now, as I expect some of you have been. I’ve removed the books from sale that have complaints posted in the reviews. It appears to be the Bride Quest books and the Rogues of Ravensmuir books, as well as all four boxed sets. The boxed sets might be an issue for a different reason, in that the files are large. I don’t see any complaints for THE RENEGADE’S HEART so have left it on sale – if you have had issues with that Nook file, please let me know.

Fortunately, I’m right in the midst of having ALL files made beautiful by a professional formatter. When she’s done, I’ll upload them again.

I’ll let you know when that happens. Thanks for your patience – it should be soon. :-)

 

Update on The Highlander’s Curse

I promised all of you an update on my progress with THE HIGHLANDER’S CURSE, which is the second book in my new True Love Brides series. This is Annelise’s book. As most of you know, THC was supposed to be published in December 2012 and it wasn’t.

Why not? Well, I’m learning a lot about scheduling in this brave new world of publishing. Working indie is different from working with traditional presses. Plus Tupperman’s story doubled in length, which meant it exceeded the time I’d allocated to writing it by a good 6 weeks. Not having Annelise’s book ready to go to the freelance editor on time meant that I lost my editing slot with her. This is perfectly reasonable and I should have anticipated as much – in traditional publishing, even if the author is late, the book usually ends up being published on schedule. Part of that is because there is so much more buffer built into the schedule – traditionally published books are usually due at the publisher 12 months in advance of publication, so a few weeks here or there can be accommodated. We run things a little tighter in indie-pubbing-land, which means when something goes wrong, it casts bigger ripples. No one is on salary and everyone gets paid for the work they do – which means that freelance service providers need to move ahead with new work all the time.

Also, I learned a great deal about covers and links in digital books at the conferences I attended at the end of October. As a result, I had nine covers redone in the fall and uploaded them to all the various portals, along with new versions of the digital books. That took a bunch of time that I hadn’t counted on spending – and it’s not done. B&N’s portal has been plagued by technical difficulties since December 1 – the issues seem to be linked to their opening the portal in the UK – so the new versions and covers have not yet been uploaded there.

All in all, I failed Planning 101 in the last four months of 2012!

So, where do we go from here? I’m determined to keep my dragon novellas on schedule. The three Dragon Legion novellas will be published in February, March and April respectively. I’m also on a big crunch to finish THE HIGHLANDER’S CURSE and get the ms to my editor ASAP. This book also needed a new cover concept – based on what I learned in October – and I’ve commissioned a cover image that will be exclusive. (Fingers crossed that this experiment works out!) I’m hoping to be able to show the cover to you by February. I’m also hoping that the book will be published in April.

And in future, I’m not going to make promises about publication until I know for sure what they will be. Upcoming titles will be “coming soon” until they are published. That will keep things simpler.

Now, back to writing!

Clickity Clack

In October, I attended several conferences, one of which was very focused on the digital book market. The sessions were pretty interesting, and I came home with a long list of things to do. One of the phrases that sticks in my mind is “ensuring a rich end-of-book experience for the reader”. That’s marketing-speak of a variety I don’t often hear since my departure from the corporate universe. I think it was the publicity and marketing person from Open Road who said it. It’s a reference to what is called “end matter” in printed books.

That’s all the stuff that comes after the end of the actual book.

In print publishing, the end matter often includes an excerpt from the author’s next book – that might be a linked title or it might not be. End matter can include some ads, for the author in question or for another author who writes in the same sub-genre, and it might include the author bio. That’s usually about it. It’s not a particularly rich experience, partly because adding more pages to the book increases the cost of producing it. If those pages aren’t strictly necessary, they will be left out – and even excerpts usually have to be edited hard to fit within the allotted space.

In digital books, though, length is less of an issue. Although a huge book or one with a lot of images would cost more to download, the incremental cost of adding a couple of thousand words is negligible. So, we can easily add more stuff to the back of each book. In addition, a lot of “front matter” has migrated to the end of the book, since readers of digital books like the digital book to open right at the beginning of the story. In a print book, the front matter will include review quotes, the copyright page, the list of the author’s other works in print, maybe a letter from the author to the reader and maybe a teaser. (That’s often on the first page.) In a digital book, as much of that can move to the back.

In addition, there are some quirks specific to digital books. Because there is no physical book, the outside cover doesn’t automatically travel with the inside content of the book itself. Most portals and their engines now include the front cover image in the book file during the conversion process, sizing it as appropriate for the device in question. I also include the cover copy in my digital books, so readers don’t have to go online to read it again.

Last but not least, the expectation has developed that digital books will include a navigable table of contents.

Which is how we come to today’s title, Clickity Clack. “Navigable” means that the table of contents is full of hotlinks. You can click on Chapter One in the table of contents, and leap right there. That’s pretty basic and maybe it’s useful, but what enriches the end of book experience is adding even more links than the chapter links to those digital books.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks uploading new versions of the digital books that I’ve published, ensuring that all of the front matter and end matter is included in the table of contents and is hotlinked. (Clickity click click, clickity click clack.)

I’ve also added hotlinks into those materials – you can click to subscribe to my newsletter, for example, where it’s listed in my contact info, or click on a series in the bibliography to visit the appropriate page of my website. (In German, Click Here is Clicken-Sie Hier.)

You can click to go to my Facebook pages, click to visit this blog, click to find the monthly contest posts on the blog or click to read the posts categorized as Wild West Thursdays. (In French, Click Here is Cliquer Ici. Say Click-kay EEEEcee.)

Finally, I’ve added a second excerpt to each book – not only is there an excerpt for the next book in the series, but there’s also an excerpt from a book published under my other author brand. The links on the book titles will take you to my website pages, so you can follow the buy links to the portal you want.

Clickity click click, clickity click clack.

My book files are now filled with linky goodness for those of you who like to click. I hope this means they now offer a richer end of book experience. Either way, they’re more fun.

If you bought older versions, just ask the vendor to supply you with the shiny new one. You can tell that the new version is available on your portal, because I’ve included a note in the descriptions that list the included excerpts.

Clickity click click, clickity click clack.

Vexed

Well, I’m vexed.

This week, I received the comments back from my beta-reader and editor for Tupperman’s story. I glanced them over and thought it would be easy to address them all. But as soon as I started to make changes, the story did that horrible thing – it began to unravel right before my eyes. It became a can of worms – or, maybe more accurately, a nest of vipers.

I hate when this happens. It leaves me quite vexed.

But stories do this when editorial questions – usually the ones that seem minor – uncover a structural flaw in the book. I’ve learned over the years that these kinds of issues are often resolved elegantly, but never quickly. I will dream the answer – the trick is that I don’t know when I will dream the answer.

See why I’m vexed?

So, Tupperman’s story has been put aside. I’ve loaded the questions and issues into my dream buffer, and we’ll just have to wait and see when the answer comes to me. (I will encourage that process as much as possible.) On the upside, you would vexed if I published the story today and you weren’t satisfied with it. And the beauty of indie publishing is that I can ensure that the book is right. Beyond our mutual expectations, there are no hard deadlines.

(I’m still vexed. Are you?)

Another reason I’m vexed is that this story has consumed far more time in the writing than I’d expected. Now I not only don’t have a completed novella for you, but I’m behind on the writing of Annelise’s book. ARGH! Major vexation here!

So, I need to have a plan to ensure this doesn’t happen again. It’s one thing to get behind once, but I don’t want to do that again.

The Plan goes like this:

1. I am determined to publish the Dragon Legion novellas on time, which likely means that…

2. Annelise’s story will have a spring publication date.

3. And, as of this minute, I’m not giving any more projected publication dates for any stories. I’ll show you the covers when they’re done, but they’ll be “Coming Soon” until they are being uploaded. Now I’m off to write about Drake and his dudes, to ensure those deadlines are kept.

I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who have been waiting for Tupperman’s story. When I work out the plot kink, it will be a better story – and trust me, I’m far more vexed than you!

Surrender!

One of the things that’s happening behind the scenes here right now – besides Tupperman getting his HEA, and the Bride Quest II books getting new type on their covers – is that the Rogues of Ravensmuir are getting new covers. I’ve been ’round and ’round about this, but finally decided to go for it. The thing is that I love these three books so much that I want everyone on the planet to read them and love them, too. :-)

Packaging this trilogy has always been a challenge, mostly because I made it one. The three books are linked, but not a tightly linked trilogy. They are all darker historical romances with Gothic elements, but they have their differences, too. THE ROGUE is the one I think of as a true Gothic, with a mystery, an intrepid heroine, a mysterious (and possibly guilty) hero and plenty of secrets to uncover. It’s even set in a castle on a cliff. THE SCOUNDREL is more of an action-adventure book – I think of Gawain as my medieval James Bond, the guy who specializes in derring-do and is believed to have no heart, but discovers in the key moment that he had a heart until the heroine stole it away from him. THE WARRIOR is a paranormal medieval, filled with portents and danger and dreams. All three of them – I think – have powerful core love stories. So, they are the same but different.

I always believed that their covers should make them look different from other medieval romances, even different from my other medieval romances. Warner wanted to put a half-naked man on the cover of THE ROGUE – lounging against a four-poster bed, he was, and (to be fair) looking quite rogue-ish – but I said no. I wanted a dark candy box cover (i.e. with no people) maybe with a guy’s stuff, like Merlyn’s box of secrets, a brass spyglass and a night sky. My idea was that the cover should appeal to historical fiction readers, as well as historical romance readers, because I thought the book would. (I was wrong about this so have finally surrendered this conviction.)

For the Warner original edition, we ended up with the red cover with the tone-on-tone plaid background and a white box with a key with a ribbon. It’s pretty, but it looks more like a Regency romance to me than a medieval Gothic.

When Eithne and I repackaged the book last year, I thought we should have a shot of just Merlyn. Photo stock was even harder to find eighteen months ago than it is now, so we chose one of a guy’s face. I did love the type she did with all its golden swirlyness, and I thought the tone was right – but what I learned about digital covers this fall made it clear that at least the type had to be updated. I also found it annoying how often this stock photograph was used on romance covers last year!

This fall, I had a hard think. The series hasn’t been selling that well in comparison to my other titles, which is might be more evidence that the covers might not be sending quite the right message.

I didn’t want clinches, because I don’t think the books are sufficiently sexy to justify that. That might send another wrong message to readers!

I was quite stuck until I remembered this cover, which I always liked, for the Spanish edition of THE WARRIOR.

It’s very Photoshop-y  (I wouldn’t have put my name on his face!) but the combination of images clinched it. It’s time for the man-chest covers. I surrender. I give it up. I am going for man-chest. These books are romances and they are hero-focused romances. Having the guy alone on the cover makes sense – just as it does for all of my other books. When I found stock photos with the right look on the guy’s faces, they had bare chests.

At least they don’t look quite as forbidding as the Spanish dude.

And I picked the castles to match the stories.

Here’s a sneak peek of the new Merlyn:
What do you think?