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This week: Starting a business, conquering ePub

It's strange to think of myself as a business. I'm just one person, doing something she's been doing since the sixth grade (albeit, I hope, with fewer Mary Sue-type characters and more depth and interest to my work!), and yet — I'm sitting here with a shiny new pen name, books for sale via an international marketplace, and in another week or two at most (I hope) I should have DRM-free ebooks for sale from my very own website. How did this happen?

I think all of us have that one sticking point (or two sticking points, or three, or four). In my case, it's usually taking that first step toward change — if I make that first move, even if it's sloppy and haphazard, I have motivation to keep going. In this case, taking the leap meant getting set up with Amazon's Kindle Market — and now I've got lots and lots of motivation to continue and get a DRM-free storefront set up. \o/

Speaking of that DRM-free storefront, I spent the week banging my head against the ePub format. On its face, it seems like it ought to be a very easy standard to plug my work into — it's all nicely defined, the specs are easy to get your hands on, and XHTML-compliant files aren't difficult to write. In the end, I spent two days working on it, struggling with the doctype declarations and metadata and all kinds of things that seemed as though they should have been easy. Today, I broke through to a point where I was getting everything but my cover and my table of contents to work, and then I was able to solve those, too. YAY! It's just a matter of getting a few kind people to take a look at how the ePub renders in devices and programs to which I don't have (easy) access. (Although the idea of collecting e-readers as a business expense is more than a little compelling.) Pulling this together required immense amounts of combing through tutorials (some outdated, some not), looking at working ePub files (thanks to for their public-domain free works!), doing some work at the command line (adding a file to a zip archive with no compression turned out to be much easier in Linux) and writing some Perl scripts to cut down on repetitive typing. All those things will come in handy, no question, but I'm also very glad that future books will require little more than digging into the existing file, changing info as needed, and zipping back up.

Also possibly worth noting: This weekend I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary with my beloved (and very supportive) husband. \o/ He's awesome, and I'm very lucky to have him. :)

Posted in Monday post.

Shelfari, file formats, sequel

All right, here's what's been going on over the past week:

I created a Shelfari page for Under Contract! (Suggested by one of the emails from Amazon's Author Central. Amazon really likes the idea of getting people to contribute to their own offshoot projects, don't they?) I might actually start using Shelfari to talk about the books I'm reading, although if it can only pull information out of Amazon's own database, I'm going to be limited in that regard. Hmm. We'll see how it works out. For now, I'm kind of excited by the idea of getting to add a Cast of Characters to the book page; that was fun.

Progress toward getting other file formats up and for sale: still ongoing. I am very lucky that my husband actually does internet marketing as a hobby, so he had Ideas About How To Do Stuff, and is working on the software (Magento, if you're curious, and yes, every time I look at that I see "Magneto"). In the meantime, I've registered "Helen Saito eBooks" as a business here in Washington State, and am waiting on paperwork that will let me open a bank account so I can, y'know, accept payments. :)

I've started working on Cascade #2 in earnest. I have a great fondness for book series where the author picks up secondary characters from previous books and tells their stories, so I'm picking up Demetri Brennan, Brian Patrick, and Rhys Fenton, and will be spending the next few months exploring their past histories, how they met, and what they end up doing after the events of Under Contract. (I had some brief thoughts of saving this story for NaNoWriMo next month, but then it occurred to me that I'd rather start working on it right now; my goal isn't to use NaNo as an incentive to start writing, but rather to finish a current project, and I have no desire to shoot myself in the foot by declaring arbitrary limits on when I get to start writing, you know? Why waste momentum and initiative if I've got them?)

As interesting as the business end of this has been, I have to admit that the thing that's most exciting about this whole project is the motivation I've got to work on original fiction. I'm really happy to be writing these characters, and I'm excited to have a whole new universe to write in. I'm looking forward to seeing where the characters take me this time around.

Posted in Monday post.

Exciting weekend!

This weekend was definitely exciting for me. After a couple of months of researching Amazon's Digital Text Platform and figuring out what I needed to do to publish something via the Kindle market, I got it done, my book went up, and I finally have both a page with reports on how my sales are going and an Amazon Author Central Page. (Changes to the AACP take a couple days to filter in; I've given it a link to the RSS feed for this blog, though.)

My husband has been working on the buy-from-us, download-non-Amazon-versions site. It's looking like we can get PayPal working with a couple more days of work, and then we have to learn how to use Google Checkout. (Actually accepting electronic payment ourselves without a third party is something for way off in the future, as merchant fees are pricey; at the moment, one month's merchant fees would eat up what I'm estimating would be five months' worth of my net sales, let alone the fees for each individual transaction. Online payments not using PayPal and Google Checkout are hard.) Hopefully by next Monday I'll have some good news on this front!

Speaking of next Monday, I'm going to try to post something or other every Monday; if there's one thing I learned from my (brief) adventures as a web comic writer, it's that success is partly a matter of having something out there on a regular schedule. My one fear is that I'm going to run out of things to say so fast that by the end of November you'll be getting nothing but cat pictures, but that is a risk one takes anywhere on the Internet, I suppose.

Posted in Monday post.

Now available at Amazon: Under Contract

And it's out!

Under Contract: In the Kindle store at ($2.99)
Under Contract: In the Kindle store at (GBP £2.17)

Still working on other formats, but if Kindle is your preferred e-publishing platform, it's available! By the way, this is me loving the way it says "Text-to-speech: Enabled" and "Simultaneous device usage: Unlimited". Three cheers for no DRM! (I can't wait to have non-DRMed html/doc/pdf/mobi/epub versions available; right now, for everything but epub, the sticking point is the payment system and not the file format.)

Posted in Books.

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In the pipeline: Under Contract

My first book has been written, edited, formatted, and uploaded to Amazon as part of its Digital Text Platform, and now it's "in review" — they say it'll take 48 hours to go live on the site. As you can imagine, I'm really impatient for it to BE THERE NOW!

However, in anticipation of its actual e-publication, I've set up a page for the book: Under Contract.

You can also browse two sample chapters — Chapter One and Chapter Two.

I am actually very happy with this book — it's one that's been near-and-dear for quite some time — and I'm looking forward to writing its sequel.

And, of course, when this successfully hits the Kindle Market, I'll let you know. (I would very much like to offer other formats, and am working on it; I'll let you know when that happens, too!)

Posted in Books.

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Coming soon…

There's no content here yet, but there will be in the upcoming days. Hoping to have an announcement up by the end of September.

Posted in Blog meta.