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On Plans & Agility & Ippy Awards

Updated Wisdom Tree cover featuring gold Ippy seal

This post was, as of even as late as mid-April, intended to announce the availability of the second installment of Nick Earls’ The True Story of Butterfish. I’m looking very forward to uploading those installments and sharing that book with you, but barely more than a week ago we learned, as we shared last post, that Wisdom Tree had won the Independent Publishers gold Ippy award for Best Adult Fiction ebook.

That night, I got to talk to Nick by phone for the first time. We’ve been working together for going on seven years now, but all our communication has been digital. It’s mostly logistical; given Nick’s location, he lives not only around the world but technically tomorrow from me most of the time, and that’s not to mention that though a cell phone can call basically anywhere, they’ll sure charge you for it, and I think I paid nearly five bucks a minute to deliver the good news by voice (WORTH IT).

Within that initial excitement we were still able to discuss current plans a bit, enough to note that we’d planned for Butterfish‘s launch in just a few days, and to rethink that. We’re excited to make it available digitally, and hopefully for it to find a new audience.

In fact, that’s what we’ve been hoping for ages; that Nick’s work will find a new audience. I’ve long held that Nick’s work deserves it — I’m thrilled that Nick has one in his native Australia, but his work isn’t so very Australia-specific that it should find its only audience there.

That’s why we’re holding off on Butterfish for now.

The Ippy award is big. There are an incredible amount of entries, and previous awards have recognized authors like Dave Eggers and Ayelet Waldman and publishers like McSweeney’s, Grove, and Dzanc. It’s basically a who’s who in indie publishing.

So it’s a huge honor for Exciting Press (and me) for Nick’s work to be recognized in that context. We want to celebrate Nick and that recognition.

Which is why we’re for the moment postponing Butterfish. We want to focus for a few weeks on this cooler than cool (ice cold) news.

The good news is that’s the benefit of agility, and Exciting Press. We may be small, but we can pivot quickly when we need to, update sales info and cover images within hours, instead of days or even weeks.

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No Expectations & The True Story of Butterfish

At this point, we probably have to call this launch one of the marshmallow variety, given how it’s going. I’m working to tweak and fill in pages behind the scenes while trying to keep up with the publishing (that’s the real work) behind those scenes, and meanwhile there’s life and taxes and housework and day jobs to attend to.

But anything worth doing is worth doing well, and anything worth building is worth building solidly. As my father would tell me.

This summer, Exciting Press has at least two brand new titles on the way: Miya Kressin’s great new No Expectations and Nick Earls’ truly excellent The True Story of Butterfish, as I mentioned a week or so back.

And I mentioned an Easter egg, and now that it’s Easter, I think it’s only appropriate to reveal it.

The astute among you will have caught the “1” there on the No Expectations reveal. And if you didn’t you can see it right there in the cover.

We’ll be serializing it. In five parts, starting on the first day of summer.

We’ll be doing the same thing with The True Story of Butterfish, as well as Nick’s other novel Analogue Men. No cover reveal there, because I’ve been working on the text first and haven’t gotten to the cover yet. You can, however, expect a late summer/early autumn release for that one. As far as I know, both will mark the first publications of those two novels outside Australia and New Zealand (where Nick’s huge).

We’re doing it as an experiment, much as Nick’s Wisdom Tree novella collection was. But keep an eye out, and expect to see installments announcements as we go.

We’ll also be looking at doing pre-orders.

And I’m saying “looking at” and “experiment” because I’m not yet sure about this format, but I’ve talked to both Nick and Miya about it and both have been encouragingly excited about it.

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Kindle Create: The Best Thing to Happen to eBooks Since Kindle (if you don’t have Vellum)

Yesterday, I saw  The Digital Reader  post about a new Amazon-created tool for publishing on the Kindle platform, called Kindle Create. The screenshot (right) looked both simple and cool. A what-you-see-is-what-you-get tool that could help turn a Word doc into a Kindle ebook. I’m a total publishing geek, so I was excited all day to get home so that I could download it and try it for myself —

And it’s exactly as described. You import a Word doc, it runs some likely fancy algorithms, and BOOM nicely formatted Kindle book with guesses at elements like new chapters and such.

I’m not sure how the screenshot is appearing for you, but the interface is nice. It’s a simple menu, and then there are three columns:

Contents – which appears to be mostly navigational, and lets you flip through the book based on its chapterination (that’s not a word, but pagination is, and this is based on chapters, not pages, so there).

Preview – which you can move the cursor within, highlight and delete and add.

Text properties – which is basically formatting, so you can highlight something in the preview and change it to a different element. Like make a heading a subtitle, or something.

I downloaded and played with it for ten minutes. I imported a complete copy of Miya Kressin’s No Expectations, which I’m going to be working in this weekend to lay out and design, and it seemed to get most everything right. It broke out the chapters well, maintained section breaks, and where it didn’t it was fairly obvious what I should be highlighting to change so that I could format elements correctly.

From that ten minutes, I’ll say this: it’s fantastic. It’s easy to use, easy to understand, and it has all the basic elements necessary to import a Word doc, change formatting you can see, and export a file ready to upload to Kindle.

There’s an important word in that sentence, and it’s “basic.”

If Kindle Create had been available, say, six months ago, I think I might have adopted it and never looked back. It’s that good. Like Kindle, it’s platform agnostic, available for both Windows and MacOS as Kindle is available for everything from Amazon’s own e-readers to iPads to Android to etc.

And “essential” may be a better word than “basic.” It’s got everything essential you need, and there’s something to be said for essential. Without digging too deeply into it, I don’t see a way to change the design of the “Separation,” but hey three black diamonds is as good a signifier as any.

I specify “without digging too deeply into it” because it may include others, but I just didn’t see them. Just like I think it can handle pictures and videos, but I wouldn’t see that because I don’t really deal with those.

But recently I’ve been using Vellum. I use switched to Apple’s ecosystem after one too many Windows laptops crashed on me and several too many Android phones went without upgrades to the latest, most secure versions, so I didn’t mind that Vellum is a Mac-only program. So is iTunes Producer, which is the only way to upload your book directly to the iBookstore.

Which is what I do. Where Exciting Press ebooks are available on different platforms (we’re still building out), they’ve been uploaded directly to those platforms. Mainly because there are four, total (Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and B&N).

Among those four, Amazon not only has the most marketshare but also the best experience for readers. Honestly, sometimes it feels like Amazon is the only ebook retailer that cares about readers and the experience of reading.

So maybe concentrating there isn’t a bad thing. That’s something for authors to decide for themselves. For authors who are fine with Amazon exclusivity, Kindle Create seems pretty great. Also, Amazon being Amazon, the algorithms that guess chapter breaks seems pretty spot on.

I’m not sure the final file is easily converted to an ePub, though — which may not be surprising, as ePub as a file format is awful. So backwards and difficult to format. (It’s no wonder all the corporate publishers chose it as their “standard” — long after the market had already decided on a different standard on its own.)

Also, Kindle Create is free. That’s huge. Vellum is better, with deeper formatting options, but it also costs $200 for a copy that is available only for Mac.

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Another Cover: The True Story of Butterfish

Perfect Skin was the first Nick Earls novel I read, shortly after its release, most likely during the early months of 2002 in January or February. It might have been even earlier, during the final months of 2001 — those months remain a blur to me, loomed over the sudden absence of the shadows of the twin towers. I’d moved back home, then, from Manhattan to my parents’ basement in south Jersey, and my life was a bit of a wreck. It would remain so for a long while afterward.

One thing I remember is browsing my local library’s stacks and reading book after book after book. Looking for authors I enjoyed whose other books I could seek out. Nick was one of those; after finding Perfect Skin I immediately sought out Bachelor Kisses and Zigzag Street and what became known in the US as Two to Go but which was known elsewhere as World of Chickens (if I’m not mistaken) and which is known now as Green.

That was about where my access to Nick’s work dried up, because it became mostly available only in Australia or via import, and I didn’t have access to those channels. I read about The Thompson Gunner but couldn’t get my hands on it.

It was years, then, before I heard about The True Story of Butterfish. It’s a novel about Curtis Holland, keyboardist of an Australian band who sells huge and then . . .

I’m not going to spoil.

Because I’m going to publish it! Nick sent me a copy of it when we first began working together (along with a hardcover of Perfect Skin). These are the perks of publishing your favorite authors.

I couldn’t be happier. I love this story. It’s utterly Nick’s — the sort of story that’s warm and funny and real and hard to summarize in just one sentence. You’re left with describing it as “Well, this retired rockstar moves to Australian suburbs and lives next door to a nubile teen girl and her also-attractive mother. Hijinks ensue.”

Which of course doesn’t do it justice. I mean, just look at that cover!

Look for upcoming posts about timing, so you’ll know exactly where and when you’ll be able to buy brand new Exciting books.

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No Expectations Cover Reveal (with bonus Easter egg)

Several months ago, before even the holiday season, Miya Kressin finished her newest novel No Expectations.

I am so sorry you haven’t been able to buy it yet.

Spoiler: it’s so good.

I mean, I knew Miya could write. One need only check out the Asylum Saga to see how well Miya puts words together. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that she’s among the finest prose stylists I’ve ever encountered.

What do I mean by that?

At a word and sentence level, her prose works. And you might say, well, okay, but isn’t that always the case, but no, it’s not. You’ll find a lot of authors whose prose is competent. It gets the job done, keeps the sentences going and the pages turning.

Miya’s words and sentences are something else. Her stories are great, for sure, but there’s an intricacy and craft to her actual writing I find astounding.

With the Asylum Saga, Miya’s prose was working on several levels. Roseen is a complex character with a complex story and complex motivations. There’s a heft to the proceedings; we didn’t call it a Saga for nothing, after all.

In No Expectations, Miya has a ton of fun.

Now don’t get me wrong; I know Miya had fun writing Asylum; I was there for a lot of it, and watched it happen.

But here’s the thing; Miya isn’t just an author I work with. She’s a dear friend of mine, and has been for more than a decade. We met on MySpace and are friends on Facebook, and we’ve played virtual tabletop games and exchanged holiday presents. I’ve never met Miya in person but I know her voice and have heard her laugh.

And that’s what No Expectations is like.

It’s wonderful and funny and entertaining.

It’s also crazy hot and steamy.

Miya sent me a finished draft back in probably October now. I’ll be honest — from August of 2015 through the end of 2016, I was about useless for everything that wasn’t my day job, and even there I feel like I had performed it better in previous years. My wife read it straightaway, so that she could start editing it. There were a couple setbacks there — file losses and transfer weirdness.

And me? Like I said, useless.

But when I was able to start getting back to things, No Expectations was fun. That’s what I was struck by. It’s Miya at her best, great writing and amazing prose and all, but it’s also so much fun. I found myself grinning, laughing. I found myself adoring Julie and aspiring to identify with Reed.

Those names make no sense to you yet, but stay tuned. They’re going to.