C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Another Easy Tech Tool Authors and Publishers Need Part 3

I’ve become quite a fan of the Author Marketing Club.

Another tool in their arsenal is the Amazon Enhanced Description Maker. It’s simple, but effective: Make your Amazon book descriptions easier to read with headlines and lists. Best of all, the html coding is taken care of for you. I’m into anything that simplifies my life while attracting readers.

Yes, Amazon allows this. In fact, here’s a sample of the end product. 

Note what makes it different:

The header (Armand Rosamilia’s blurb); the attention-grabbing subhead; the bullet list; and the call of the “Special Offer”. You can make that a numbered list if you want. 

Highly recommended. See AMC’s demo tutorial here.

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My Kindlegraph adventures: a little more tech helps

Last week I posted about using the kindlegraph, a neato tool for autographing ebooks. Soon after I blogged about it, I made my books available on kindlegraph. (Simple. All they need is the ASIN for each of your books and you’re set.) Soon after that, the nice man at kindlegraph informed me that I had received my first request for an autographed ebook. When someone asks for an autograph in person, I feel weird about it. Dealing with people over the Internet, though? That’s inside my comfort zone, along with the hot almond milk, the crackling fire in the wood stove, my blankey and teddy. I mean I’m wearing a very comfortable teddy.

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.
These are the foundation stories of the coming Poeticule Bay Series of suspense  novels.

You can type in a message or choose a font and enter that for your signature. That felt like kind of a cheat to me. A reader had requested my signature on their copy of The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. It didn’t seem right just to type my name and say, “See ya!”

I tried writing my signature with the mouse. It looked like I’d written my signature drunk, with my eyes closed, in kindergarten. (That brought back some memories of Scotch breath and reciting my ABCs, I can tell you.) At one point I actually did close my eyes to try to get a closer approximation of my signature through pure muscle memory. My penmanship approaches Level: Wicked Awesome, but no matter what I did, the scrawl looked just as bad. Unconvinced by my writing, my new loyal reader was sure to think I was a clumsy  idiot. I simply can’t write with a mouse.

Fortunately, every time you screw up your signature, you have the option of clearing the field and beginning again. It’s very frustrating to get two-thirds through your signature, almost make it and then screw it up hideously. I felt like Batman attempting to climb out of Bane’s prison, only I had the good sense to give up.

Then I got out my Bamboo tablet and plugged it in. I should have gone with that from the start. The Bamboo comes with a pen so you can write your name like a human. Without the tablet and pen, I felt like a dull rhesus monkey with a full bladder and hives, wearing an extra thick Hazmat suit while trying to figure out the safety catch on a machine gun and balancing on a spiked ball while testy penguins are thrown at him by taunting, white-coated, angry grandmas. Uh…that was a tad hyperbolic.

Anyway, Kindlegraph is cool and I’m always ridiculously pleased to sign my books (with the burnt end of a stick if necessary.) Any of my books. In fact, I’ll sign other authors’ books, tag a subway car and sign somebody’s tits if asked nicely.

Not you, sir. Let’s just stick with the kindlegraph for you.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Free tech tools to help you edit and proofread

Proofing and revising can be fun, especially if you have sharper tools to help you do the job better. I now have a new tech tool in my editing arsenal that’s a huge help: free text to speech (tts) software.

I’m in the last stages of revising Higher Than Jesus, the next instalment in The Hit Man Series. I had plot problems to review and choices to make about how fast the action would evolve for my Cuban hit man. Then there are the typos to catch, Chicago street names and geographical logistics to marry up and more jokes to make.

Necessary aside: The tech tool I’m about to recommend is not Scrivener, it’s text to speech software. However, if you aren’t already using Scrivener, I recommend it, not least because Scrivener already has tts built in. (Click speech on the Edit menu.) Last night I needed to know if I’d revealed a name in an earlier chapter. With Scrivener, it was easy. With Word, it would have been a time-consuming pain. Writing Higher Than Jesus is like putting together a puzzle and using Scrivener helped me make sure I wasn’t screwing up. Scrivener is $45 USD and compiles your book for manuscript, print or any ebook platform. This concludes the Scrivener PSA.

As I podcast Bigger Than Jesus, chapter by chapter, I find things that I’d like to change (and do so as I record.) At the microphone, some edits are clearer, especially when you have to speak them. Yes, I know editing never ends, but still, I find things that bug me. Finding those niggles on the mic, I make a note to edit the print and ebook edition. (That’s the beauty of ebook and print-on-demand publishing. I can go back and make those minor adjustments quite easily.)

One way people edit is to go through a draft reading backwards. That’s very tiring and I don’t know anyone who has actually accomplished that for a work of any length. For short stories, that’s reasonable. Another way is to read your book aloud. I do that, but one chapter at a time, one podcast at a time. When I read too long aloud, my throat gives out. TTS helps me catch problems by getting the computer to read the book to me and saves my vocal cords. 

I catch much more than I thought I would. As I prepare to hand the book off to my editorial team, I’m saving them a lot of time by giving them a more polished draft. I really don’t want to waste the team’s time. Perfection is impossible, but excellence we can reach.

The Read4Me app is free software that can read you your story, for instance. With tts apps you can, of course, control the speed of the narration. For editing, let it read slow. I listen at 141 – 149 words per minute and follow along as the highlighted text lights up.

One problem is the available voices can sound a bit too much like Stephen Hawking (who still hasn’t updated his speech software! I’d love to hear him talk about black holes as gateways to other universes in a Texas drawl, wouldn’t you?) I tried “Alex’s” voice. Alex is familiar to all Mac users as the computer voice that cuts in and says, “Excuse me,” when a program you don’t want to deal with now requires your attention. I switched to one of the female voices because it punched me in the ears less over time. If you’ve got a long book to read, you want a pleasant voice in your head.

I found another option that’s available free to Microsoft users: NaturalReaders.com. The voices are pleasant and you can easily test out that assertion on the landing page. I’m very impressed with what NaturalReaders.com offers, but here’s a much more extensive list of tts products on Squidoo for your evaluation. And yes, they’re all free.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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