Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How to Create a 'Read-in-One-Sitting' eBook

A Picture of a eBook                                   Image via Wikipedia
A regular novel of about 90 000 words takes about 5 or 6 hours to read end-to-end. That is, if you count all the time you spend reading, that's what it will add up to. Which means a lot of reading and a lot to remember.

Read-in-One-Sitting  books are those you can read in one train ride, say. Or one visit to a dentist's waiting room. Or one stand in a long queue, or at a bus stop. They are books you can load onto your portable device, and enjoy in one hit. One lunch-break, or one ferry trip. How neat.

They are becoming quite popular, because they are cheaper than the regular novel. Some even come free. I have three of these Read-in-One-Sitting books up at SmashWords, at the moment, and they are all free. I am testing the market. You are invited to download them here.

How did I make them? It was not that hard. I used to write a lot of short stories in the past, and they were published as collections which have gone out of print. So I found four stories, and bundled them in pairs that seemed to go well together. I also found one of my old historical novellas that was under 20 000 words - which means it's easily read in under an hour. Great.

So I had two bundles of two short stories each, and a novella. I formatted them properly, following the instruction manual at SmashWords, uploaded them, and made simple covers using patterned wrapping paper and a bit of typography.

Can you do the same? Probably: look through your old files and find stories whose rights are entirely yours. Give them a good edit so that they feel fresh, correct and very readable. Make sure that the wordcount of each eBook you make is under 20 000 words. Read them aloud while timing yourself. Each book should not take longer than about 20 minutes to read. Just the right length for a commute, a long wait at the doctor's, or that lag time between lectures.

Decide how you would like to go: Kindle? Read the instructions at Amazon. SmashWords? Read their manual. Formatting for these two is rather easy - there are others that are slightly more complicated.
Upload your eBooks after you have made yourself some covers (preferably a bit better than mine!) and try to price them within reason, always remembering they are only little books that take no time to read and enjoy. If you realise that they make excellent 'tasters' for your kind of writing, you can use them as freebies to excite readers about your work. They might then purchase your longer works more eagerly.

Making these short Read-in-One-Sitting books becomes easier the more you make. You might find your readers coming back for more.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Still in Time to Enter the Draw

You have to be in it to win it. 
The draw for a free mailed paperback copy of Death in Malta is on in earnest - I have been receiving entries every day since I announced it.

What's this draw for?

Well, I thought I'd celebrate Death in Malta coming out on Kindle on October 2. That's reason to celebrate isn't it? I am a firm believer in eBooks. This, my debut novel, has been available digitally since it came out with BeWrite Books in 2005.

This Kindle launch, however, has given it a good boost. So I thought I'd give away a paperback to the first drawn name out of the hat.
There's still all weekend to enter. the draw takes place on November 1.

All you have to do is email the address where you'd like it mailed if you win to:
If you would like a taste of the mystery, why not read Chapter One?
Click HERE, make a cup of whatever's your favourite, and sit back and enjoy. 
Good luck!
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why It Makes Sense to Give Books Away

Cory Doctorow, a Canadian blogger/author, at a...Image via Wikipedia
Cory Doctorow

Not all authors are hugely prolific. Some take a long time to craft a story; then chiselling it into a book takes time, irrespective of whether one goes the self-publishing way, or is taken up by a mainstream publisher. Everything to do with books is very time-consuming. Even authors with a high out-put say that time is one of the things they wish they had more of.

So why on earth - or online - would an author ever decide to give their writing away for nothing? There are some perfectly good reasons to do this. There must be: some authors with pretty big names have given books away for nothing. Cory Doctorow is perhaps the one that first comes to mind. There are many others. Here's an article that includes interviews with ten authors who decided it was the way to go:

Interviews with authors who give books away

They were all asked the same questions, and some gave very different answers. The crux of the matter, however, is exposure. Giving half a book away might entice a reader to buy the second half. Obtaining an entire book by an author might very well persuade you - if you like what you read - to purchase everything that author has ever published.

That, perhaps, is what I tossed up when I was presented with the concept, and the opportunity, to give away some of my books. Some! Yes - at the moment, I have three small books up at SmashWords that anybody can download and own for absolutely no dollars... or pounds... or yen... or euros.

What's more: they are available in nine digital formats, which means that there is no excuse, no matter what platform you do your digital reading on, for you to go on without trying out my stories! Seriously - this is a great opportunity for readers to try authors out, because many are doing this. They are tried out on PCs, on iPads, on Kindles, on Nooks... on every digital device known to humankind. Before they go and splurge on a lovely paperback - without the least notion, except perhaps for a review and a say-so from a friend - they try the author out and see whether whether their books are what they like to read.

Now I have taken a great risk, because the three books I have at SmashWords are literary fiction. They are atmospheric stories that are mostly about location, culture, folklore, tradition, and about language. They are almost fancy writing, I suppose. But they do tell you a lot about the person who thought them up, who wrote them. They tell you how I think, and how many styles I can write in, and where my fancy roams.

Then you can decide whether to purchase my debut novel, a mystery called Death in Malta, or not. And it will persuade you, perhaps, to purchase my brand new thriller, According to Luke - soon to be released by BeWrite Books. It will not be such a great risk, and your euros, or dollars, or yen, or pounds, will be well spent. 
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Monday, October 18, 2010

A Day with Mark Coker

Image representing Smashwords as depicted in C...                Image via CrunchBase
Attending a seminar about the future of books, eBooks , and publishing is a great way to spend a Monday. The drawcard for me when I received the invitation for this one from WritingWA was the main speaker: Mark Coker.

We all know who he is: the enterprising owner of SmashWords, the innovative eBook site where self-publishing authors and commercial publishers rub shoulders. I was ready to soak up every word: the fact he was in Western Australia to speak to authors and readers alike was an exciting opportunity.

What a very pleasant and informative day! The seminar - under the auspices of WritingWA - included an entertaining but very useful presentation by Kate Eltham, CEO at Queensland Writers Centre. Spanning from a nicely nostalgic tour of the early days of books and writing, to the possibilities and avenues of the future of the book, it was fascinating stuff for all in the packed auditorium.

Mark Coker regaled the fascinated audience with his generous advice and canny industry knowledge. He showed how truly global publishing is today, how authors can address anyone - from family and friends, to communities, to the whole world - and how they can form direct relationships with their readers. This is possible now, and is an enormous development from the traditional supply chain the publishing industry has been for decades.

There was a lot to take home, as the saying goes. Advice, informed opinion, and a ground-level view of what authors and readers are learning to expect will happen in the next decade. While both Kate and Mark expressed affection and regard for the paper book as we know and love it, they were both realistic about the future. I had to agree that there could be no doubt of the importance of the eBook, whether or not it out-does the paper book. Both said that we stand at the very commencement of enormous changes that are bound to overtake publishing. Both said they had no idea where we will be 15 or even 10 years hence.

Exciting stuff, which can be a bit daunting to the uninitiated, the wary and the technically-challenged. Acronyms peppered the talk, the future kept raising its head, the inevitability of e-everything was a palpable reality, and the consciousness of the ever-increasing numbers of authors filled the day.

I returned energized, filled with optimism, and excited about the potential, prospects and possibilities that lie ahead for me and my books. The dynamic sense I got of being on the threshold of momentous changes has still not gone away. I want to do something about what I felt today. Here it is:

I have shorn off the price-tags on my three SmashWords published eBooks. From today, my readers can enjoy Vision or Delusion, Two Short Stories: Rosaria's Dowry & Counting Churches, and Two Short Stories: Woman Peeling an Apple & Rainstorms  at no cost. That's right - download them free, gratis and for nothing, and enjoy them. This is my way of celebrating the future of publishing as I see it. Use them to try my writing out, if you still have not read anything from my pen.

Enjoy my stories, and come back for more soon.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Death in Malta is on Kindle!

The Amazon Kindle 2                                                        Image via WikipediaMy first novel, Death in Malta, was first published in 2001, in paperback and eBook, by Jacobyte Books.

This small South Australian publisher then amalgamated with BeWrite Books, who took me on in 2005. The novel has continued to sell, sometimes more slowly than others, but for a book that has been out there for some time, it's a nice little runner.

This month, it's been launched on Kindle, and to celebrate this new avenue, I am holding an old-fashioned raffle. And the prize is an old-fashioned paperback! Yes - Death in Malta as a paper paperback! Delivered by post to you, with real stamps and all, wherever you live in the world.

All you need to do to enter is send an email to rosanne.dingli@gmail com , giving your mailing address. Only entries that write to this email address are eligible. The draw will take place on November 1, so the last entry will be accepted on October 31.

To read a bit more about this book, you are very welcome to visit its own website.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to breathe real life into fiction

Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. Watson. Fr...                             Image via Wikipedia
The only difference between authors and the characters they create is that the authors are alive. They create characters so cleverly sometimes, that readers become attracted to them; want more, read everything they can get that concerns them. Authors have been known to create series with followers and fans demanding more.

We all know names of famous characters, whose lives and habits, friends and foes, we understand better than we know our own relatives, sometimes. Sherlock Holmes, Jo Marchant, Miss Marple, Alice, Gandalf, James Bond, Harry Potter... we can even picture them in our mind's eye.

When they create such memorable and imaginable characters, authors are breathing life into what they write: they make it all realistic, even if it is fantasy or science fiction. Their characters eat, sleep, speak, make friends and enemies. They garden, cook, read... and we know exactly how they do it, what they like, what they are ignorant of, how they think.

The best way to make fiction come alive is to give characters senses: smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste. It is even better, however, to give them strong emotions: vehement disgust at something rather ordinary, for example, would be very memorable. A reader can relate to idiosyncrasies because we all have a few of our own. I have created characters who love yellow crockery; who write letters to their dead relatives; who never wear wristwatches; who use only yellow pencils to write with; who avoid their own reflections in shop windows; and who place their books spine-inwards on their shelves. Why?
Alice in Wonderland
I give my characters memorable little quirks because it says something about me, the author. Writing coaches say we must know our characters intimately: but that is not enough. Not nearly so - making characters memorable enough for a reader to want to read the next in a series means they need quirks and idiosyncrasies. They need odd habits and peculiar rituals or observances.

Next time you are creating the dramatis personae of a new piece of writing, try to work something 'not quite normal' into the make-up of one or two of your characters. You will be breathing life into your fiction, drawing in your readers, who will raise eyebrows at your inventiveness... and remember you for longer.

I like writing about characters in fiction. For more, see a post I wrote in September.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Businesslike Writer

It has long been the misconception of beginning writers that they belong firmly in the camp of art and literature. Spending a decade or two up to one's ears in word-processing programs, broken pencils, scribbled drafts and rejections slips, together with a swathe of publishing credits and awards, soon teaches a writer what it's really all about.

Writing is all about starting again. I'll say it again: writing is all about starting again. It's like acting. It's like playing an instrument. It's not necessarily art: it's more like entertainment. As part of the entertainment industry, writing is about frequent rehearsal, and about having your head in the clouds... with your feet firmly grounded in James Wood's How Fiction Works.

It's about practising, failing, and starting all over again. It's about sending a draft to one's readers, having strips torn off it, and starting all over again. It's about discovering a big hole in a plot during a discussion about your 'next book' with a friend or two, and having to start all over again.

Regarding all this in a businesslike way is the most rational approach. Even tennis and golf require frequent practice: pros will tell you about their day with a bucket of balls. A businesslike writer ought to be able to describe a similar day with a bucket of past participles, sub-plots and secondary characters. They ought to be able to swing a backhand easily using only 5 double-spaced pages and two adverbs.

Note there is no mention of passion: it might raise its head, but is to be kept firmly in hand, like passion in the office, passion in the wings, or passion while playing a pub gig. Writing is a finely-wrought skill whose results create passion. It's what writing creates as a response that can be uncontrolled, abandoned, hysterical and unrestrained. The act of writing itself, and the product that comes of it, needs as much orchestration, planning, trial and discipline as a string quartet.

Eliciting passion and excitement is indeed the job of writers, but they cannot do it by being impassioned and excitable... not while they are writing, at least. It takes about as much control, incisive choice of words, precise deliberation, and concerted effort to write a passionate scene that actually works as it does to play a successful piano concerto. One or two tries are simply never enough.

The businesslike golfer is the practising golfer: the one who out-competes the rest. The businesslike piano player is the one whose dogged determination and persistence win her that audition to play at Carnegie Hall. The businesslike writer is the one who re-writes Chapter 17 about 15 times, scraps it, and starts again.

What - talent has nothing to do with it? Artistry? Aptitude... your gift? Er... yes! But without being businesslike, without turning away from the dream of glittering prizes without application and determination, without strict discipline, and the willingness to start again, they are nothing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What has Elmo got to do with Malta?

Malta, Valletta seen from Fort Manoel (on Mano...                               Image via Wikipedia
Fort St Elmo -
Elmo is a name that everybody recognises. Yet very few of us know anyone called Elmo. The image in your head right now is that of a small excitable puppet with a high-pitched voice. He is a celebrity of no mean proportion: more famous than most mega-stars.

But his name is one all Maltese people recognise - and it is known to be a name closely associated with Malta. Why? The pictures might give you a clue: it's Fort St Elmo, one of the many sites belonging to the island's historic patrimony. It is built of limestone, and is so old, it seems to rise from the bedrock as part of the headland's own substance.

The bastions were built by the Knights of Malta, and form part of the fortifications that give the capital, Valletta, its unique appearance. Whether you come upon it from the air, over the crystaline Mediterranean water, or on foot through the narrow Valletta streets, Fort St Elmo is a memorable sight: one that is not easily filed away together with a hundred snaps from various other tours, trips and voyages.

This is what the name Elmo conjures for anyone who has been there - or, like me, grown up with. It is a considerable legacy, this harking back to when the island was beseiged by the fleets of the Ottoman Empire, and the Knights of the Order of St John, together with valiant Maltese soldiers, fought off the enemy from these strange but formidable battlements.

The next time you hear the name Elmo mentioned, you might attach the image you see above, and others you might look up, together with the eternal story of wars fought in the Mediterranean Sea, to the fluffy red one already in your mind.

Is this amazing monument to the ingenuity of the Knights mentioned in my books? It is included as a location in my current work in progress, whose title is still under wraps, and might emerge in a couple of years as part of a new novel. For the time being, I am still excited about my forthcoming thriller, According to Luke, of which you have heard more than enough for now!
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