Dipping In A Toe

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was dipping a toe into the production of

Here We Go!

e-books. Well, the first one is ready. As a sort of “training wheels” project, I decided to put out three of my more than sixty published short stories. Of those stories, about a dozen fall into “series” of three of so stories about the same characters. Possibly because I had just finished working on the first of my collaborations with David Weber, I was drawn to a science fiction series, rather than a fantasy.

So my debut offering is the three stories featuring Captain “Allie” Ah-Lee of the singleship Mercury. Allie is one of my contributions to the type of science fiction stories I loved when I was starting to read SF. She belongs to a future where the individual still matters, where aliens trade with humans, and all the complications that can occur in such situations can and do.

The first of these stories is “Endpoint Insurance.” For those of you who note such things as copyright dates, yes, “Endpoint Insurance” was actually written second. The next story is “Winner Takes Trouble,” the story that introduced me to Allie and her interesting universe. The final story is “Here to There.”

I’ve made the stories available both as individual downloads and as a “bundle” of all three. The bundle contains a bonus in the form of a short introduction in which I talk a bit about the stories, both how they came to be written and what appeals to me about such a setting.

I’m not going to go into depth about the technical challenges of such a project for the very good reason that most of those were handled by someone else. I’m also not going to enter into the ongoing debate as to whether this sort of thing is a good idea for a new writer. However, I do want to tell you a little about my reaction to the project.

First of all, people will tell you it’s easy. Maybe it is if you’re the sort of person who likes spending time with computer programs. All I’ll say is that if you want to do a careful and meticulous job – the sort I felt I owed my readers – it’s time consuming. This was true even though I didn’t do my own program conversion. I entrusted this to a very reliable friend. (And paid for her services).

Even so, just reviewing the stories, making certain there were as few typos or other errors as possible, took time I could have spent on other things. So did responding to her queries on items as small as typos I’d missed or consulting over what dingbats – those little symbols that indicate a pause in the story – we would use where. (We also selected distinct dingbats for each story.) So did writing the introduction and cover blurbs. So did setting up with the various companies that handle distribution and setting up a Paypal account so that, if people wanted to buy directly from my website, they could do so.

(Aside One: Yes. I finally have Paypal on my website, both for e-books and for those out-of-print books I offer. Hopefully, this will make things easier for those would-be purchasers who have informed me that they’d love to get a signed book or two for themselves or for friends, but they don’t own a checkbook!)

In keeping with my philosophy that, for a writer, writing must come first, I would start in on my part of the e-book preparation only after I’d put in my quota of writing for the day. It made for very long days.

Second thought, although I think I have invested more considered study than most writers in the question of book covers, I don’t have the skills to make a good cover myself. Therefore, I decided to work with Pati Nagle, who will do cover design for a reasonable fee.

You can see  her work at http://mandala.net/ebooks-covers.html

I heartily agree with a statement that Tom Doherty of Tor Books has made on the question of authors and cover art. Tom says that most writers think would be a good cover is actually a good frontispiece or illustration. A cover needs to be something that provides a shorthand comment about what the reader can hope to find inside. First is genre: SF, Fantasy, Mystery. Second is some feeling for what the focus will be. Only third – and last – should come any actual illustration of some part of the book.

E-book covers provide the added challenge of needing to do all this in a very small image. Therefore, for the cover of Star Messenger (the collected stories) we selected a simple head-shot that with its space helmet and planet says SF, right off. I’d like to hope the image also says “SF, person, rather than scientific-extrapolation, oriented.” Finally, I chose this picture because the subject was looking right out at the viewer. I like her slight smile; to me it’s a little wry, a little ironical. Now, does this person “look like” Allie? No. Not really. However, I felt she had an “Allie-vibe” and to me that was much more important.

My cover designer chose a font that, I think says “SF.” It’s classic Star Trekish, somehow, with a bit of Star Wars – both futures where the individual remains very important to the story. We used the same basic image for the short stories, but selected slightly different planets for the background and a different color so no one could get confused and wonder why the same book was up four times.

(Aside Two: If you’re interested in hearing more about my views on cover art, good and bad, let me know and I’ll see about updating some of the columns I did on this subject for Tor.com).

Now, I should note that these short stories are not the first available electronic versions of my work. Tor has made certain that all of my novels with them (the six Firekeeper novels and the stand-alone works Child of a Rainless Year and The Buried Pyramid ) are out there. I’m certain various collections to which I have contributed are available. This is simply my first effort at making otherwise unavailable works available.

Now that I’ve dipped in a toe, I’m planning to continue the plunge. Next will come my novel Changer. Changer has been out of print for so long that I ran out of copies to sell a long while back, but I still get requests for it. A bookseller friend tells me that copies in good condition are hard to find and usually priced impossibly high. I’ll probably follow Changer with its stand-alone sequel Legends Walking, but I believe I’ll go back to the title I wanted all along – Changer’s Daughter.

I’ll also probably make both books available as print-on-demand for those who, like me, still prefer having the option of a non-electronic book.

Let me know what else you’d like to see. More short stories? More early novels? If so, which ones? I’m listening.

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15 Responses to “Dipping In A Toe”

  1. Nicholas Wells Says:

    Nice to hear. E-books are part of the future. There’s no use running from it. Might as well learn to handle it now rather than later. Plus it’ll be a great way for some readers to feel able to get some of your older books/stories. So all in all, I’m glad to see you doing this.

  2. heteromeles Says:

    Great news! I’ve always had trouble finding your short stories, and my copy of Changer is getting worn.

    One small editing issue: the link above is broken. http://mandala.net/ebooks-covers.html currently links to “http://mandala.net/ebooks-cover.html” (note the missing s after cover).

  3. Peter Says:

    I’m really looking forward to Changer and its sequel, my paper copies having vanished three or four moves ago (any chance of more stories of the Athanor?).

    As far as what else I’d like to see…well, everything :). I’d probably buy re-issues of your older novels (any and all of them) before buying individual short stories, but I’ll eventually buy them all once they become available.

  4. Peter Says:

    I’ll take “possibly, it’s complicated” over “no chance, sorry” any day 🙂

  5. Dominique Says:

    I am so excited that I will finally be able to get a copy of Changer and Legends Walking! Every used book store I go into, I spend at least 20 minutes searching for them! Still, I would love to have them sitting on my shelf someday.
    It would be really nice to have all the short stories you have written over the years. My favorite is your version of Cinderella 🙂 It is so brilliant, and unlike anything else out there.
    Anyway as always, I can’t wait for the next book…

  6. Tori Says:

    I would really like to see a collection of a bunch of your short stories. I know there’s at least one for both the Athanor and Firekeeper series that I would like to read again.

    I’m so glad you’re doing the Changer books next! I recommend those two all the time and they’re so tough to find in stores. Plus I have friends who are much more likely to try something new on their e-reader.

  7. Emily Says:

    I can’t wait to read Legend’s walking! I’ve been meaning to buy it ever since I read Changer. My dad who generally steals from my book collection is also expecting me to buy it soon. I also would like to read some more short stories; its very hard to find any of yours. I’d never heard Allie until now. Maybe I can look into getting a Nook or Kindle soon.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Well, Emily… You don’t need to invest in a Kindle or Nook to get LEGENDS WALKING. I still have copies for sale via my website bookstore — and prices include shipping.

  8. janelindskold Says:

    Thanks for the thoughts. It’s nice to know that there would be interest in more short stories.

    I think eventually I’ll put together a larger collection with a mix, but first to get the athanor out there…

  9. Paul Says:

    I still have my copies of “Changer” and “Legends Walking,” and recently used the former as a Good Example in a monthly library discussion group. Now, other members of the group who were interested won’t have to borrow my copy and read it to pieces, they’ll be able to get their own.

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