Sep 06 2010

Adventures in the Amazon

Published by at 2:51 pm under Writing

As I mentioned last week, I spent much of the past few days adventuring in the Amazon — Amazon DTP (Digital Text Platform) that is. That and getting a couple of my stories, which happen to be adventures (of Jason Curtis, owner/pilot of the Starfire) Kindle-ready and uploaded for sale.

The process is pretty simple for a work of fiction (ie no fancy formatting or graphics as might be needed in a textbook). I ended up spending most of my time working on images for the “covers”. That’s not strictly necessary. A plain gray rectangle with the title in plain text would work, but wouldn’t attract many customers.

I used the Gnu Image Manipulation Tool, the GIMP, a free/open-source imaging suite that is remarkably powerful. I kept learning new tricks. One strong suggestion: layers are your friend. Put each element — background, foreground images, title text, etc — on different layers, especially if you want to re-use some of them on different covers to maintain a theme e.g. for a series. For example, here are the cover images for the first two Jason Curtis stories:

The art itself is a mix of free-drawn and pieces of images from public domain sources (mostly NASA photos).

Converting the text is dead easy with a good editor (like vim) and a basic knowledge of HTML. Amazon’s upload process will convert other formats, including MS Word .doc, epub and Mobibook .prc, but does the best job with straight HTML. What I did to convert my text from OpenOffice was to, first, replace all italicized (or underlined) text with the same text surrounded by HTML <i> and </i> tags. (This involves regular expressions. I have no idea if MS Word is capable of this. I use Linux as my main desktop OS.) Then I just copied the whole thing and pasted it into new .html file that I’d opened with vim. A few global search-and-replace’s converted quote marks and m-dashes. The HTML header portion I cribbed from Shala Kerrigan’s web page on Kindle formatting. I previewed the HTML in my Firefox browser to make sure it wasn’t too horrible, and double checked with Amazon’s “preview” tool once uploaded.

It takes a couple of days between uploading the ebook (or estory) and it appearing for sale on Amazon’s site, as they run some checks and get their databases populated. You need an Amazon DTP account, but you can set that up online in a matter of minutes.

I have a couple more things to prep and upload yet. I’m making my story “Snowball” (which appears in the Footprints anthology) available as a standalone story, and I’m also going to put up a collection, Starfire & Snowball, with the Jason Curtis stories, “Snowball”, and “The Gremlin Gambit” (published in MindFlights last year). Amazon price-points are a little odd: it will be cheaper to purchase Starfire & Snowball, which includes the other stories plus, than the others individually — but it will pay a better royalty to the author (that would be me). So, go for the collection.

The next step, after I get back to doing some actual writing for a bit, is to convert these to some different formats and check out the programs at Barnes & Noble and at Smashwords. That and figure out the marketing side of all this. 😉

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One Response to “Adventures in the Amazon”

  1. […] the subject line for the email from Amazon DTP telling me that my Kindle edition stories/books (see Monday’s post are now on-line and available for sale. Now, before you rush off and buy them all, let me save you […]