Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Writers Craft Online: What you need to know about writing E-books by Kristen J. Tsetsi

Today we have a guest, American author Kristen J. Tsetsi whose independently released Homefront paperback and e-book has been featured in publications that include the Huffington Post and the Stars and Stripes, on television, and on (American) National Public Radio.

Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest. I’m happy to discuss the future of e-books and e-publishing, and I think you'll find I have great news for those of you considering digital publishing.

The most important question is whether selling e-books is a viable proposition.

Answer: Yes! People with e-readers are far more likely to buy your e-book than they are to buy your paperback, and the Kindle and other e-reading devices are extraordinarily popular and more than a passing trend. Omar Gallaga, who reports on technology for the Austin, Texas Austin-American Statesman daily newspaper, says in a recent radio interview that he expects more than three million e-book readers to sell this year and that ten million are expected to have been sold by the end of next year.

Westerners are even using their smart phones (iPhone, Blackberry, Droid, etc.) to read books electronically.

In short, independent authors are doing themselves a disservice by not turning their paperback books into e-books. Ten million e-readers may be sold. How many of those people might buy your e-book?

As you begin experimenting with e-publishing, be aware that Kindle is not the only option for you. You may also format your book as a PDF you can sell (or give away) at, and there’s also the digital publisher Smashwords, which – when it receives your prepared document – converts your file into a number of digital formats that work with a variety of e-readers. (This very informative and interesting video at discusses Smashwords, digital publishing, and the future of e-books.)

When you format your book for the Kindle (here is a guide to selling on Kindle), you set the price and receive thirty-five percent of the suggested retail price. It’s advised that if you’re a lesser known author, you sell your book at a lower price if you want people to read it.

I started out selling my critically-acclaimed literary novel, Homefront, and my short story collection, Carol’s Aquarium, for ninety-nine cents each. (Both appeared on the same list of Kindle's Top 100 best-selling independent books.) You want to draw the readers to your work. I'd sold just under 300 copies of Homefront as a paperback in two years before turning it into an e-book.

Within months of releasing the digital version, more than 2,000 people had read, downloaded, or bought it online. Reader satisfaction has never been the problem when it comes to my book sales; reviews have been glowing and passionate. But good reviews, sadly, don't sell the work.

The problem as an independent author is that people don't know you, and you have to work harder to get the readers. That involves offering your work at a lower cost so they're not risking as much. Once they read it, if readers like it, they'll talk. And that's what you want.

The best part of publishing an e-book: minus the percent the publisher takes from sales, it's free to you.

Smashwords and Kindle both offer comprehensive formatting instructions, and a search engine query will link you to a number of free help manuals. (To format my books for the Kindle, I used April Hamilton’s incredibly thorough and easy to understand Indie Author Guide.)

I hope this has been helpful. Thank you again for allowing me to be part of this exciting discussion about the future of e-publishing. I hope I’ve convinced you to participate.

I have just a few words of advice to those seriously considering e-publishing:

1. Covers are visible on the sites where you sell your writing, so put as much energy into your e-book cover as you would the cover of a paperback.

2. Market your work. Create a website, start a blog, and become part of the digital publishing community. Writer/reader forums, such as, provide an opportunity to connect with readers.

3. Enjoy this new venture! After the holidays, many new people will be armed with the e-readers they were given as gifts, and they’ll be looking for books to buy. Make sure one of them is yours.

Kristen is a former reporter, former writing instructor and English professor, former cab driver, and an award-winning fiction writer whose work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a founding member of the independent publishing collective Backword Books and editor of the literary fiction journal American Fiction, due for release in the Fall of 2010. Her website is and she blogs at From a Little Office in a Little House.

If you have questions, you can contact Kristen, or ask them here so that we can all benefit from the answer...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Biting the hand that feeds, and cuddles, and pets...

Great news! Target is feeling a lot better.

After dislocating his front right paw a month ago, Target has been getting better slowly. Three days ago he put his paws around Au's neck and challenged the senior kitty to wrestle. Au is a nice fluff so he was very gentle.

And Target is also playing "bite the hand that tickles your tummy." We worry about his sore paws so we hold our hands still and let him choose how hard to push. He's not pushing very hard but gosh he has sharp little teeth!

I'm also very excited because I've been invited for an interview at BFM89.9 the Business Station radio channel in Malaysia on Monday at 2PM local time. I will be writing a new story especially for the radio programme, so tune in. 2PM in Malaysia is 7AM in Spain and Belgium, 6AM in the UK, 1AM in Michigan USA, and 10PM California USA. Hear it online live here!

See you then!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Au is happy

Au is an indoor kitty as Target has a sore paw but our senior fuzz quite likes being indoors.

First of all, it's monsoon. Au doesn't like wet paws. And secondly, he enjoys being given extra treats in compensation.

Here he is, hanging out.

Check out more by visiting Gattina.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Writers Craft Online: Attracting Press Coverage Part 2

Katz tales book
I'm in the middle of writing a children story, Mystery of the Demon Caves, and so I am totally frazzled. I'm also pushing Katz Tales with media releases this week so I'm going to give you short notes.

And speaking of media releases, here are some tips on using them for Attracting Press Coverage.

When an newspaper is short of material, they sometimes push in a press release... as long as it's well written.

1. A simple press release has a strong focus, a quote or two, and a picture. Put extra and background information at the end. The idea is that the end bit may be cut, without the release losing its message.

2. Make sure you've got your name and contact on the release. And date it!

3. To find out who to send it to (and how! by fax, email etc) contact the company and ask. This may take some calling around but it's worth the effort.

4. If it doesn't work, don't despair. Just write another one. Sometimes it takes familiarity before your press release is pushed onto the top of the stack of stuff to be used next. Also, it may tempt someone into inviting you for an interview.

5. If the group has a policy of not using press releases (and they'll tell you this when you phone) ask about taking out an ad. All companies always favour advertisers over non-advertisers.

If you have a good publisher, they should be doing quite a bit of this media release stuff. However, not all books get the same attention, so it's worth co-ordinating your efforts.

That's all for this week. But good news, I'm arranging for a successful American author to give us tips on e-publishing next week. So stay tuned!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Freaky Dogs and Other Horrors

Dog Talk is out in The Star, Weekender section, print version only. It stars Girl, our friend from down the road, and discusses the pedigree controversy.

For those of you interested in reading what the big Crufts scandal was all about, check out these stories:

Story: The Big Question: Is the breeding of pedigree dogs leading to cruel abnormalities?

RSPCA Australia explains why pedigree inbreeding is cruel

Story why RSPCA withdraws from Crufts show

Story why Pedigree drops Crufts sponsorship

The official BBC statement explaining why they did not televise Crufts this year.

Story how Kennel Club asks for permission to change breeding rules to end cruelty

How new rules will change breed looks story: Healthier new bulldog will lose its Churchillian jowl

Learn about the film that opened up this issue worldwide Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Target Is Cold

Thanks to the monsoon it's been about 20C or 70F here the last few days. Au has fluffed up his coat and is keeping warm with lots of games. Plus, he's got layers of fat like a polar bear.

But our tropical Target is cold. We've given him a fluffy towel to cuddle inside, and he sleeps under the sheets with us at night.

More on Friday! For other cats, visit Gattina or the links in the margin. And buy my book Katz Tales, OK?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Writers Craft Online: Attracting Press Coverage Part 1

Media people are usually short of time. They have deadlines to deal with, and need information quickly. It is important to offer as much up to date information as possible in the quickest time. If it takes a page ten minutes to download, or it takes more than a few clicks to get to the information needed, they'll get bored and go somewhere else. Web sites that are easy to use, updated frequently and give lots of information will be bookmarked and visited frequently.

What's useful...

A short biography citing whole name, and a few words about major achievements. Putting a "last revised by" date on each page is also useful - I found myself wondering why some people weren't answering their telephone and it turned out they had moved a year ago and not updated their web site.

News or Press Releases. Each press release should be available in plain HTML, with the release date and your contact details posted at the beginning or end of the article. This means that someone who sees the press release without visiting the site will find it easy to contact you.

Images. If you want to be fancy, you can also offer a bank of complementary images for the press to use. Sending images over email is time consuming. However, if you offer a free bank of images, chances are that a newspaper or magazine will pick up one or more to use as illustrations. Offering links to suitable images at the end of each press release is also an excellent gimmick.

List of links to reviews and articles already out there. This helps journos see what's already been said about you, and prevents them from writing the same stuff over and over again. If it's appeared in print only, ask if you can offer a scan. Most will say yes.

If the piece is online, don't copy and paste and stick it on your own site. Nobody likes to have others hijack their work and visitor traffic. Be polite and offer a link that helps lead traffic to the people that have given you publicity. Do, however, keep a copy for those publications that take their stuff offline after a certain amount of time. Once it's no longer available, you can then offer your saved file on your own pages.

By the way, don't take my Media Page and Logomania and Katz Tales pages as models - yet. I've got the basic elements in place but it needs several more hours work. I'm updating as I go along and with screaming deadlines this month it's a slow business.

Notice I tidied up the pages by making the thumbnail images smaller (by defining HEIGHT as 100 in HTML mark-up). I also rescanned the click-through larger images to be about 150kb so they'd download quicker.

Pop back next week to see some additions, and to learn more about getting to the press. And hey, buy my Logomania and Katz Tales books for someone as a present, OK?

In the meantime, you can also check Dawn Farnham's web site. It's not perfect, but it has all the elements you could hope for as a journo.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nisbo: my husband's feline first wife

Sharon Bakar from Bibliobuli, Malaysia's premier book blog, is as nuts about cats as I am but hardly ever gets to write about them. So today she is guest-blogging here. Enjoy!

Ellen very kindly invited me to come guest post on her blog knowing that I am another person besotted with cats. I’ve been owned by them for most of my life. At present we share our lives with two cats and I thought I’d write about just one of them.

My husband calls her his first wife, and they gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes for hours before curling up together to sleep wherever she chooses. He steams fish and poaches chicken for her, buys her favourite foods in tiny tins, but completely forgets to ask me if I’ve eaten. I just don’t get a look in any more.

The worst of it is, I knew she was a floozy the first time I laid eyes on her, sitting under my car and flanked by the two boy cats. She was a young tortoiseshell, with a white bib and paws, and the biggest green eyes. She also had the most flirtatious manner, talked a lot, and seemed to have a loud opinion on everything.
The boy cats invited her inside to share their food. Their motives were not altogether altruistic, but she did not seem to want to play their game.

When no-one in the neighbourhood claimed her, I tried to find her a home. I put adverts up in the pet shops and even advertised her on writing e-groups I belonged to as a creative muse that no author could afford to be without. But no-one took the bait and she was in the house to stay.

She needed a name. Abu called her Nisbo – after a favourite rugby commentator on ESPN since the sport is the other love of his life.

Not everyone was pleased with the new arrangement. We were already a five cat household (not willingly, but who can refuse a home to a cat who wanders in and has no place else?) and the hierarchy of relationships was firmly established. She did her best to upset it all. She bullied the tom cats, slapping them smartly about the face when they got too fresh.

She wasn’t able to tussle the venerable Muffin for supremacy in the house, but Bear, the timid black cat I’d rescued from a drain in Taman Tun, was petrified. She took to the tops of the kitchen cupboards until Nisbo followed her up there and fixed the evil eye on her. Then she fled the house altogether and for months took to living in the neighbour’s garden, until eventually an uneasy truce was reached. Our little black and white cat, Chiki, crept past her at all times, belly close to the ground, like a commando snaking through a minefield in an exaggerated pantomime of distress.

But then Nisbo began to fall sick. A mystery stomach infection almost cost her her life. She screamed with pain when sores began to develop at the corners of her mouth, and she had gum infections that would not heal, no matter how many courses of expensive antibiotics and steroids were thrown at them. We asked time and time again what was the diagnosis, what was the cure, and none of the vets we went to could answer us despite the fact that we the bills were mounting. Three of our other cats – the two boys and Bear, began to show the same symptoms and then rapidly lost weight and died.

As you may have guess by now, Nisbo had brought something else into the house though – a slow moving disease called FIV – Feline Immune Deficiency virus, sometimes called Feline Aids, which now affects a large proportion of the stray cats on the streets of this country. Sadly, as far as I know no research has been carried out in Malaysia to find out which strain is affecting cats here and thus whether vaccination would help. And many pet owners I’m sure are completely unaware of the nature of the disease, as we were.

We had Chiki tested too, and she also turned out to be infected with FIV. But it was a relief to at least know what we were up against.

We now seem to have the disease under control in our cats with a steroid called Prednisone and by keeping a very careful watch on our friends’ health and making sure they eat well. With any luck they should be able to live long and healthy lives.

So if Nisbo ends up getting spoiled, perhaps I shouldn’t get too jealous. She’s been through a great deal over the years and I think deserves some extra loving now. She’s a good friend to me too, and I enjoy our conversations in the kitchen, with her perched on the top of the fridge, grumbling about a cold belly every time I open the ice compartment.

And she plays a very useful role in making all human visitors to our home feel welcome and showing just how endearing cats, even the sick ones, can be.

Hope you enjoyed this guest Katz Tale. See you on Monday for the Writer's post that will discuss media galleries and on Tuesday for more cat stories. Also, do please take look at my new books Katz Tales: Living Under The Velvet Paw and Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From And How To Use Them.

Plus, I've changed my Twitter address and am now tweeting only about cats at KatzTalesTweets. Follow me and let me know where you are so I can follow you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Target Is A Fur Brain

Target is walking about like an old lady. Having his dislocated bones put back in place, every muscle and tendon in his paw and shoulder are sore. Also, as he must have used tremendous force to pull his paw out of whatever trap it was in, he also damaged the muscles on his haunches and back paws. Plus, he scraped all the skin off his undamaged front paw. In other words, our little fuzz is in total recovery mode.

Until that is, a very soft spoken friendly man rattled our gate to announce he was here (our doorbell doesn't work) thereby sending Target out of bed, out of the window, down to the wall, down to the ground and into the storm drain system.

We were so worried he'd hurt his paw again, we hustled our guests out of the house. (Sorry about that Joleen and Ang!) Target appeared 1 minute after their cars vanished down the road.

I love Target but sometimes he is such a fur brain that I want to strangle him! And how come he's so good and calm and brave in the vet and a scaredy cat maniac at home???

Here he is, resting his sore bones on two pillows placed on his rug by Tom, the other servant.

There is no Katz Tales or Dog Talk out this weekend but Sharon from Bibliobuli will guest blog about her cat Nisbo on Friday. It's a good story so see you then.

In the meantime, do please take look at my new books Katz Tales: Living Under The Velvet Paw and Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From And How To Use Them.

Plus, I've changed my Twitter address and am now tweeting only about cats at KatzTalesTweets. Follow me and let me know where you are so I can follow you?

And see Gattina or the sidebar for more Cats On Tuesday.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Monday Writers Craft Online: Show Off Your Work Online - But Keep Control Part 2

Last week I put up scans of several pages, teasers, of my two books Katz Tales and Logomania. I chose to put up image files because it is harder to steal information in this form. People may still copy-type the information but it's unlikely. Or at least, harder than cutting and pasting text or PDF files.

I asked a few friends to take a look at the scans. One pal, and possibly two, thought the scans were too small. I realised later my first friend only clicked on the image once, and was trying to read the thumbnail. It states clearly on each page that clicking on the image twice would give you the Big Picture but when surfing online you have to accept the fact that some people don't read everything. I'm not going to worry about it now.

Another said the pictures were too big and too slow to download. I tested the downloads with several others who said they were fine. I'm going to leave this as is for now, however, if in the next few weeks I get more complaints, I'll have to rethink this and perhaps make smaller sized images.

Another friend, Mathew Titus suggested this for Logomania, "... offer a list of terms (or, words) which are in the book - and then lead them on to the fact that you'd have to buy the book to find out where they come from (rather than to have people read the full pages... ) It would be kind of like, an extended version of the Back Cover of the book."

I can't put in the whole index; it's just too large. But I've added info to the Logomania book page that the book investigates more than 400 phrases and have included a few. Click on the book images to see the difference.

Mat also added, "Honestly, I never read scanned page online if I can avoid it. I usually print them out - and read them later. JPG files aren't very good with reproducing words (you MIGHT try the GIF format as an alternative - although, they do carry a copywrite... technically. Or, use PNG - which is still better than JPG or JPEG for scanned text.)"

He is of course quite right. PNG or Portable Network Graphics gives you a much sharper image and a smaller file size than JPG and GIF. I wish I'd thought of that when I did the original scans. I don't have time to rescan everything (got screaming deadlines) but when you do your scans, consider PNG over GIF and JPG.

About scanning book pages etc... If you are a tech dunce, take your stuff to a photocopy cum printing shop and ask the staff there to do it for you. Ask for two scans: one in as big a file size as they can, and one small one. Use the big file size when you want wonderful clear big images that are slow to download, and use the small file sizes that give people an idea of what's what and are fast to download.

Katz Tales by Ellen Whyte Book front cover imageLogomania by Ellen Whyte Book front cover image

File sizes are hugely important. If you look at the image of the book covers here, the Katz Tales one is 8KB and the Logomania is 7kb. These little pics are great for decorating a web page because they download in a snap. My bigger images meant for Sneak Peaks run around 1000kb. This gives an image with text large enough to read comfortably, but not so large that it takes forever to download on a dial-up connection.

However, even my biggest files here would be useless to a book reviewer who wants to use them in a magazine or newspaper. For them, you'd need to send the big version that come in at over 3000kb each separately via email - or offer a media page. We'll get into media pages next week.

If you can do your own scans, even better. Combination printers, scanners, and faxes are so cheap, they're worth investing in. Mine is a Lexmark model that is easy to use and fairly robust. However, it is good to have some fancier image editing tools about.

These tools can help you: resize images, superimpose text (like copyright notices!), fix small problems like glare, erase certain parts and much more.

I strongly recommend FXFoto. Try to free version and I'm sure you will end up buying the extended edition - I did and I never regretted it.

The other change I've made to my book pages is to add a note to the big images that these are scans from my books. So the ones for Katz Tales say, "From Katz Tales by Ellen Whyte available from" at the bottom. This means that when Google Images or someone posts these scans on their web site, readers can see immediately where they came from - and visit if they want. I have not put notices on thumbnails as the text would be too small to read.

Hope this was useful. Next week: getting through to the media using galleries...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Target Recovering In Bed Like King

Target is sore all over. So sore he can hardly move. So he's propped up in bed on a stack of pillows, and we bring him water, cat food and biscuits in bed. No wonder he's purring!

Katz Tales is out in The Star Weekender section, print version only. It's all about whiskers and cat intelligence. Have a great weekend!

Au speaks as guest blogger on Bibliobuli

While Target and I rushed to Kuantan for emergency help, Au was holding court. He guest blogged at Bibliobuli, Malaysia's most popular and best known book blog. Of course, Au talked all about himself.

Helo reederz. i dont do intervoows ewesualy but as Sharon sends homidge often i haf graceeousli agreed to tak two yoo. And too tipe it myself. There is no need to fank me; just send a rost chikkin.

Sharon aksed me to shair my eksperiences as a faymus kat. Wel, what kan i say? i have always been a top kat so i am used to kontinual adorasyun."

For the rest of Au's post, visit Bibliobuli

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Target Getting Better

Thank you for the purrs and the prayers. I was touched that friends said prayers in church, the mosque, Buddhist and Hindu temples, and also thought for us, and otherwise petitioned the universe on Target's behalf. IT WORKED! Target is whole and fine again.

As it turned out, Target had a dislocated paw. The elbow bone had come out of its socket completely. Our vet was away, so we visited another vet - one who has an xray machine.

Dr Vijay of Healing Rooms was great. He was kind to Target, diagnosed the problem, and told us it was so bad, we'd need a specialist.

The local specialist was abroad, so we traveled 300 km to Kuantan to visit Dr Puah at the East Coast Medical Centre. He examined Target, knocked him out and managed to fix it without an operation.

Target was an angel throughout the whole thing. His paw is a the proper angle although a little swollen. He's now recovering in bed.

Thing is, Target has to be an indoor cat for the next 6 weeks. He is not allowed to jump up and bash himself about. So this means Au is housebound too. This is how Au looked when we told him the bad news.

More about sore paws and travels with Target on Friday. In the meantime, here are the guys that Target owes his paw too....

East Coast Medical Centre A615, Ground Floor, Jalan Beserah, 25300 Kuantan, Tel: 09 568 7168, 013-349 3920, Fax: 09 568 7168

Healing Rooms Vet Clinic, Lot 29,Ground floor,Wisma Dicor,Jln SS17/1A,SS17 Subang Jaya,47500 Petaling Jaya,Selangor. Tel:03-5637 6166

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Target is Hurt

This was going to be all about our book Katz Tales but we've had a disaster.

Target was out all day on Sunday. I called for him at lunch, at teatime and then, really worried, went out at night and walked the streets, looking for him. Tam, Snow and the other cats came with me, also worried that I was worried.

Target heard me and came home limping. When Tom picked him up in his arms, Target heaved a sigh of relief. His front paw was horribly twisted. We feared a break but it wasn't swollen. Also, he didn't mind us touching it.

There are now 24 vets anywhere near us. But thanks to Cathy, we got a phone call through to a vet. He thinks Target fell and hurt his shoulder, damaging his nerves. A visit to the clinic this morning showed he has a dislocated paw that needs surgery. Vet who can do the job lives 280km away so planning trip in the morning.

Target is asleep under the bed now. He is not in pain thank goodness but we're all nervous wrecks.

Purr for us?

PS I don't want to bother him with the flashy thing so this pic was taken Friday, before the accident.

Follow me on Twitter, or on Facebook. Check out Cats on Tuesday with Gattina.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Show Off Your Work Online - But Keep Control

At the Publisher's Conference in Singapore last week (which was terrific!) several people wanted to know how to offer part of their work online as a teaser, without losing total control of text.

In the past the solution was to put up PDF files. However, search engines now index these and offer text "translations". This means putting up a PDF file today is exactly the same as putting up plain text or a text document.

The simple answer is to scan in book pages and save them as image files. GIF works as does JPG.

To see how you can offer a bit of your work, and be reasonably sure it won't be hijacked, take a look at my two new web pages advertising my two news books: Katz Tales: Living Under The Velvet Paw and Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From And How To Use Them.

Note that I have not superimposed my name and the book name on the images. I had no time! But by the end of this week, I'll tidy it all up. And I'll post on this subject again next Monday. If you have questions, please put them in the comment box and I will reply next week Monday on this blog.

Also, to make sure your stuff is listed by search services, read my articles Understanding Search Engines, Directories, Meta Search Engines and Portals and Basic Guide To Internet Research.

Again, if you have questions about searching, please put them in the comment box and I will reply next week Monday on this blog.