What is happening to eBooks?

Smashwords - Ebooks in ALL formats Kindle - Ebooks
What is happening to eBooks?


– Apparently, they are selling more ebooks at Amazon than paper books – not surprising when you hear that they have made a special arrangement with authors to offer their books FREE for 5 days within a 90 day period. Yes, Amazon has put a special pot of 600,000 together for their latest play to get authors on this program … all at the expense of a possible loss of sales to all other ebook stores online.

– Amazing apps are becoming available that make ebooks interactive … not just kid’s books but adult books too, complete with the sound of railways and screams in the proper places. Pretty cool if you ask me!

In case you didn’t know, all books by J. Robert Whittle and Joyce Sandilands are available in all formats as ebooks.

Using Drop Caps in your ePub and Kindle eBooks

I just discovered the Tips website of fellow member of LinkedIn and wanted to share … how to go that extra mile in formatting your book for ePub and Kindle. I have not tried this yet, but I’ve thought about it often and seen many old ebooks with this feature not working! I use MSWord so it may be a challenge. I’ll keep you posted 🙂  Link for Drop Caps Also check out Marks’s website for other great tips. I’ve registered to “follow” him so I don’t miss anything! An additional tip on same subject from Cathryn Isakson on LinkedIn: “If you fiddle around with the font size in the dropcap definition, you can get the baseline of the dropcap to align with the baseline of your paragraph text. In my last ebook, I also added a subtle colour to the dropcap and it came up well.”

How to format eBook Images in ePub

Ah, the joy of it! We were having endless problems formatting our kids chapter books into ePub format with Smashwords. Today it was solved thanks to the very detailed tips by Paul Salvette. We had gotten so frustrated we had given up, but today I did a search for the issue and found Paul’s website. Now, thankfully, all is right with the world!

One of our issues has been no Table of Contents showing up,
another was text changing formatting and some of illustrations not appearing.

We thought we had followed Smashwords’ Style Guide explicitly but it still didn’t work.

Thanks Paul, we are in your debt.

Follow his instructions to the exact detail and you should have success too … and this helps a myriad of problems in books without images!!

Good luck.

Marketing Self-Published Novels

This is a handout from a lecture I gave on March 10th, 2012, for 3Penny Publishing in Victoria, BC.

Getting Down To Business for Writers Workshop

Having your own business takes discipline, stamina, and a computer!
For today’s purpose, I’m going to focus mainly on using the computer as the rest is pretty basic, easy to look up, and you’ve no doubt heard it all before ie., the accounting and keeping track of every expenses & your car use etc.

 Marketing a Self-Published Novel

– Non-Fiction has some differences and are often easier to write and sell. ie., can manipulate sales easier to get high rankings from Amazon.com*

First Steps  (in brief)

1.  Write the book!! This may be obviousto you, but to many it is not. Why waste precious time worrying about publishing etc? It could take you 1,2 or 3 years (or more!) and everything changes soo quickly in this industry. Just get busy and do it!!

2.   Experience the Surrey Int. Writer’s Conference held each October in Surrey, BC. You won’t regret it, but unless you can afford to go again I would suggest you at least write a minimum of a few chapters of your book before you go. Read the next paragraph. Writing the first draft would be even more helpful to take advantage of these options at the conference.

Publishers/editors/agents are present to advise you 1-on-1. You hobnob with successful authors such as Diana Gabaldon, Jack Whyte and published authors of all types/genres. Some of these authors/publishers/agents give workshops which are ongoing for 2-3 days … a packed weekend of learning and sharing with other writers and wannabees.

Note: If you don’t find a publisher at the conference – you will most likely need an agent and they are difficult to find. There are lists (online) and books to read but the easiest way may be to talk to authors who write books similar to yours, Or read the Acknowledgements in a recently published book for the name of their agent. Lots of info on the web. Be aware … it may drown you. At this workshop, we were told that there are so few Canadian Agents they are too busy already … and very little opportunity for first-time authors! Now I hear the same is also true in the USA.

3.  Research how to publish but don’t commit to anything too early! Your choices are: (a) POD (Caution: they charge via ‘packages.’ Do your research.’), (b) Indie or Self Publish with print books (like we did), or (c) Start with an eBook (there’s no guarantee of how a print book will do).

One of many great info websites/blogs:  http://allindiepublishing.com/

4.  Do I need a ISBN/CIP?  Yes, they’re needed for bookstores and libraries and free in Canada. They’re easy to get, so IMO cover all your bases from square one!  http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/publishers/index-e.html/

5Bookstores – (a) Local independent stores may/may not carry self-published books. May depend on subject matter, space availability, subject matter, your popularity from current marketing. (40% comm. is usual). They may list your book online. Talk to them before you finish writing. * invaluable for info: Check out format of books like yours (font, pitch, spacing, title pages) and copy it; the clerk may be an author and will gladly share info with you. *Realize that bookstores have expensive real estate and they must feel your book will be worth having to monopolize this space.

(b)   Chainstores (local or online)  – Chapters/Indigo, Amazon.com, big boxstores (Walmart) etc. take a larger commission (@ 55-65% commission and you probably need a distributor as well (for an additional 15% or so).

(c)  On-line bookstores – some have their own publishing arm ie., Amazon. Research. Ask around.

6.   Join a Canadian/USA/International Indie-publishing association. Some are co-ops. Fees apply.

Watch Rebecca Kennel’s 2010 lecture from an earlier 3 Penny Publishing Workshop. It’s excellent.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvcEMuWwNbc&list=UU90woABSqDsHGN7HkzaNFXA&index=3&feature=plcp

Marketing – Local

Now is the time to start work on a Business Plan and Budget for marketing expenses.

  • Book Clubs – offer to lecture and/or give a discount. Libraries may buy 10 books.
  • Join a Writer’s Group(s) – they offer critique – tap into their knowledge and support.
  • Libraries – Talk to them about carrying your books and give a lecture.
  • Lecture to schools and service clubs ie., Rotary, Lions  Non-fiction? Local college, Rec. Centre.
  • Farmer’s and outdoor Markets – books allowed, we were possibly the first to do this in many areas (’99).

Table fees range from $20/day for outdoor, ‘Farmer’s markets’ also have membership fees. Sidney Thurs. Night Market ($45) Don’t be fooled – many come to merely browse, walk dogs & enjoy the ambiance!

  • Craft Shows – rarity not to allow books.
    ie., local parks during band concerts/special events. ($25 and up) Works better if your book is small when combined with another event ie., car show, agricultural/trade show;  Indoor @ Christmas etc. (usually $100/day and up)
  • Specialty stores – ie., Butchart’s for garden-related, gift stores, etc. Best for Non-Fiction

Marketing – Internet

1.  Get your own website – check out different service providers prices, ask friends for advice. We use www.hostutopia.com with great success – not expensive @ $5.95/mo. The cost is if you have to hire someone. Consider a WordPress Blog – so popular now and a lot easier than the regular format. www.wordpress.com more options than www.blogspot.com We also have: www.bestsellingbooks.ca

2.  Sell your book through your website using Paypal or Clickbank etc. We use Paypal and they now have a shipping component direct from customer’s order – no more waiting in line at the Post Office.

3.  Make an eBook:  eBooks are hugely popular now and ours are available in all formats. We use www.Amazon.com (Kindle format) and www.Smashwords.com

Smashwords supplies ALL the formats necessary for ALL readers for FREE. This gets you on Kobo, Sony, iPad, Kindle, iPod, etc. It can be tricky or simple and using MSWord works the best. Images can also be tricky. Smashwords has promotions and coupons for discounting books to friends/media or promotion.

Our Kindle sales have almost disappeared since they started their KDP* program for authors. Kindle also have a bit more complicated payout system (+ less commission) for Canadians but this is improving slowly. * Presently, they are giving away tons of ebooks under the KDP program. Goodreads.com  has a long thread on their author’s experiences @ http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/760122-any-authors-in-the-kdp-select-program?page=1  (a must read – scroll down for most recent). I am now considering trying this program for one or two books.

 4.  Smartphones: Generate your own website/Facebook/Twitter barcode @ http://qrcode.kaywa.com/  post it on your website, on your book info handout, your poster etc. Any Smartphone can read it with the ‘Qr Barcode’ App.  Open the App and it will use your camera App …  you merely hold your phone close to the barcode as if you’re taking a photo of it. Once it’s a photo it will ask you to open the website or whatever.  Great for seminars/workshops/trade shows etc.


More useful links:

Book Covers

There are many ways to find great images for book covers and I have used several methods for our 12 novels:

Victoria Chronicles - Bk One

watercolour cover image


1. An actual human artist (Victoria Chronicles – 3 covers); and Lizzie Series – last 3 covers of series);  painted by Barbara Porter to my specs via email.




Dreamstime.com image

2. An online photo supplier ie., Dreamstime.com or other such photographic supplier  where you purchase for a small price a license to use a photo for a certain number of copies (covers, articles etc.). You have to read the rules & reg.  I paid less than $100 to use this great image of a Spanish ship for 10,000 copies. I would be very happy to pay this amount again when we sell 10,000 paper/ebook copies of Race For a Treasure!


photograph by author


3. When all else fails and you can get the photo you need, take it yourself, as I did for Whispers Across Time (Fiction). It’s not always that easy, as this photo proves … I took during the daytime during the early writing stage then realized the cemetery scenes all took place at night. Photoshop to the rescue!


public domain image


4. Our first cover, Lizzie, was a Renoir painting in public domain. Our graphic designer (for lettering etc on cover) found this on a website and the original image had been somewhat changed (colour etc).




I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration for your next cover.

Starting out … publishing is not complicated

Books ArriveUpdated November 28, 2013:
I assume, as you are reading this because of the title, that you’re a writer, a wannabe or already a self-published author and you think I might have some valuable information you can use to help you produce and/or market your book(s). I suppose this is true because I have learned an immense amount of information over the past 13 years. In that time, I became the publisher of my husband’s bestselling and popular novels and, as time allows, I will share some of the things I learned.

Does the thought of having a skid of books, like that in the photo, arrive at your door, scare the living daylights out of you? Well let me first say that you don’t start with anymore than 500 books and a smaller order with POD would be much less risky. That skid holds approx. 1000 books. We began with 500 copies in 1998 but Robert turned into a great salesman and our orders became greater. So began our adventure of a lifetime. This scene has happened almost a dozen times in our driveway and yes, some sell more than others and sometimes we make a mistake and order too many! Thankfully, soon after this photo was taken, POD and ebooks almost solved this problem for others … but not for us as we have too many fans who still want print books.

Self-publishing is definitely not complicated, as a matter of fact, it’s a whole lot easier now  than when we began, but it is VERY TIME and LIFE CONSUMING if you care enough to get it right. And if it means that much to you, YOU SHOULD CARE … I am shouting this out so you get the message. You will learn from this blog,our website and the internet, that successful marketing is an ongoing project. Any self-published, or otherwise, author can do it with all the help available to you today but there will be many challenges. I don’t want to sound crass, but in a nutshell … you simply get out there, in their faces so-to-speak, and promote, promote, promote.  If you’re not prepared to do that, don’t expect that allowing your book to sit on a shelf in a bookstore or at Amazon or on the Kindle Store that they are going to sell it for you. This is a hugely competitive business now. And when this promo thing gets so tiring that you begin to hate your job, it’s will be time to sit down, take a deep breath, and assess why you feel that way and what your course of action will be!  Yes, I even reached that point for a while myself.

Do you know why it is called self-publishing?  It’s because YOU fund the book yourself. Even if a wife publishes her husband’s book (like I did), yup … it’s still classed as self-publishing by all those high and mighty people (read publishers who want an exclusive on the term) who want to give out awards only to their ‘class’. Why? because they are still in the dark ages and figure a wife is always financially dependent on her husband.  In publishing, we are still in the dark ages it seems?Okay, enough said. It’s a common argument in publishing circles. Just to think about it frustrated me so much in the early days despite being told (by the staff of publishing houses and published authors) that we had sold more books than most Canadian published authors ever hoped to sell. Fans have told us for years that our books are the best and that’s good enough for us!

I have no doubt spent a hundred hours or more working on our webpages over the years … do you have one yet? That’s a must to start with and one way to start is with a WordPress blog or a website from Author’s Den. Let me tell you about the latter as it is slightly different from a blog (which you are on right now): At Author’s Den you can add your stories, poems, books, blog, newsletter, etc. It has stats so you can see how many people are visiting; you can entice people to request your newsletter and you can sell your books there as well (it hasn’t helped us but you never know! It’s an invaluable site and thousands of people visit it every day. You’ll find Robert’s site at Author’s Den here.

Have a great day!

Family Novels by J. Robert Whittle

If this is the first time you’ve discovered our numerous (10) novels, you may be pleasantly surprised to hear that they are amazingly read by all ages. Now, you might say that is a rather unique idea … novels that can be read by old and young alike, when did that last happen? Well, there once were the classics which are making a comeback due to ebooks. I think our series will be classics one day, especially our Lizzie Series of 4 books set in old England.

A few years ago the idea caught on again and someone came up with the unique slogan “family-friendly” books and movies.  We were ahead of our time we found, but we quickly realized are books were definitely suitable for all ages and that became a huge part of our success beginning in 1998. To date, we have 3 Canadian Bestsellers and 2 Gold-Medal IPPY winners plus thousands of copies/per book in paper sales.

Our novels keep almost everyone entranced save for a few people who require blood to be running in the street and children being killed or molested to make a story interesting. Parents, teachers, homeschoolers, etc. are extremely happy with our stories and they refer to them as ‘refreshingly different.’

My husband has a remarkable imagination but he doesn’t swear so why should he add it to his books? (My first husband only cursed when he watched TV hockey, but it is not one of Robert’s interests, thank goodness!). He comes from a family of 10 kids and he was the oldest guy. So, for the record, Robert also hates hearing news of terrible things happening to kids, hence he doesn’t write in that style either.

You just have to experience one of his books yourself to see how great they are (that’s what our fans say in their reviews – see our reviews for each book) … and they are now available as ebooks, so no excuse not to be able to find them or afford them anymore!!

Win a Contest – Accelerate your Success!

IppyLogo 1x1HRSelf-publishers … I learned an important lesson in 2007 when, for the first time in 6 years I entered a contest with one of our books. In 1999, I discovered the Independent Publisher Book Awards and entered our first book, Lizzie: Lethal Innocence. In those days, it was a very new contest and didn’t even offer a shortlist. At the time of the award, I spoke to one of the organizers and found out that we had done very well but because it was nothing official I could not use it in our promo.

So the years went by and usually by the time I had the time to think of entering a contest I was either too late or I didn’t think our book would fit the categories (partly because they were all series). I also found myself rationalizing (incorrectly) that the contest was simply too expensive to enter (cost of the copies they wanted + entry fees + shipping). I now believe it was the devil of procrastination that held me back! Then in 2007 after 6 long years, for some reason, I decided to enter the IPPYs again. I think I was feeling a bit more flush and they weren’t asking for as many copies as they had previously … or did I have a premonition … an feeling similar to the one which told me to publish our first book!! No matter what it was, it was another decision that needed making, right then.

Loyalty's HavenWhen they announced the winners, we were informed we had won a FIRST PRIZE , actually it was a GOLD Medal for my husband, J. Robert Whittle’s novel, Loyalty’s Haven … wow and yippee! No, it wasn’t for the best novel of the year or anything quite that prestigious but it was for a Regional Award and a Gold Medal wins lots of attention, no matter what, especially when you can re-print with their sticker on your cover as we did a few years later (in the interim, we purchased stickers to use).

Loyalty’s Haven was our most recent book at the time being an unplanned 3rd title in the series. Because of its historical content (Spanish Flu Pandemic 1918) I believe this swayed me in my decision to enter it despite being in a series. The regional award was to recognize an author who either lived in the region or writes about the region. In our case, we covered both, so the Canada: West category was a perfect fit for us. [2011 update: We won this award again the following year (see below)].

The IPPYs are a very prestigious award for not only self-published authors but independent presses and university presses as well, giving us a bit more competition. This was the contest’s 11th year and it has helped further the careers of many hundreds of authors and indie publishers (indie publisher description is now replacing the ‘self publisher’ misnomer).

Whispers Across Time2011 update: Our 2007 novel won our 2nd Gold Medal IPPY and sales, which were already good, went wild!

So, a recap on contests, if you can find the time, enter as many as you can, but make sure what you enter is perfectly edited. That means you have to get someone else to edit or proofread it for you (we hire a professional proofreader). When you can say you won, were short-listed, received an Honourable Mention etc., people sit up and pay attention. It’s like getting several critics to positively rate your book all in one fell swoop 🙂 It also rewards YOU, because you suddenly feel it was all worthwhile. So go for it!

Until next time, happy writing and editing … and good luck with your contests!