“A tragedy is a tragedy, and at the bottom, all tragedies are stupid.” Stephen King
Weather: mottled skies
Word of the day: La-li-loong – a thief. Originates mid 19th-20th century.
Tragedy is befalling me like I broke a mirror or hung a horseshoe upside down, but I don’t remember doing either of those things recently.
A few days ago I noticed my laptop was damaged, the casing of the screen was cracked so that it could no longer shut. It looked like I’d stepped on it, but surely I’d remember such a thing? I stuck a note along the top saying ‘DON’T SHUT’ (because I have a tendency to forget everything) and then tried to be really careful with it. It’ll hold out for a while longer, I told myself.
Then yesterday I needed to go to the kitchen to get some popcorn for dinner, put the laptop carefully on the rug, came back in my room and kicked it across the floor. Bollocks! The crack became a split and I could see the exposed wires and gleaming metal inside. Well I ate my popcorn (first things first) and then taped it up as best as I could, using an elastic band to hold it together. So that’s probably fine now. No problem.
Then yesterday evening I went out to the pub with my work mates and was having a really nice evening, lots of drunken rambling and laughter. I left my bag under a table for a while and then thought I better retrieve it, but it had gone! We looked everywhere. Dan was annoying strangers at the pub by picking their bag up and shouting ‘Is it this one?’ to me. My boss was ranting about the evils of modern society.
I was feeling quite smug though. Earlier on when getting changed out of muddy work clothes I thought Shall I leave my keys and phone in my bag? No I’ll keep them in my pocket, just in case. So I did. And the thief is going to be super pissed off when they discover all they’ve got is an old ice cream tub with cucumber and cherry tomatoes in it, and some biros. So that’s also pretty fine too.
As promised, here are some further tales of my adventures into self-publishing, I hope you find them useful. I’m pretty atrocious at self-pubbing, I’ve made mistake after mistake, and the different programs and websites I use all clash and crash and do totally nonsense things. I don’t know if that’s just me being hopeless, or it’s a corporate plot, but either way, I’ll list a few of the problems that I’ve had, with solutions that I’ve come up with.
You don’t need them. If you publish a paperback you can get an automatic ISBN generated by Createspace. Ebooks don’t need them at all. And ISBN’s aren’t cheap. I paid £160 for ten (I thought you needed at least two, one for ebook and one for paperback) and ten is cheaper than two. They say you absolutely can’t get a refund, but I hadn’t assigned them, so they refunded me anyway which was much appreciated.
Don’t trust Word. Don’t trust Mobi. Don’t trust Createspace. Don’t trust KDP. Each program will take your careful and consistent formatting and throw it up in the air, letting it fall randomly. Problems I had – pages disappearing (although they reappeared again). Page breaks working in only some formats (in one, the dedication became the first paragraph in the story.) Page numbers being at one height on some pages, then at a totally different height on others (fixed this by making the left and right pages the same). Often I would find that a problem with formatting only occurred on some uploads, so it was possible to just reupload and the issues would go away.
Doing everything the way the programs requested didn’t help at all. You need to check through the book each time, all programs do have facilities for doing this, they are mostly slow, but essential. Once the book is published, download it and CHECK IT AGAIN. TRUST NO ONE.
I set my price in the UK at 99p and my price in the US at 99c. I then went to Amazon.com via their link to check the page and found my book to be at $1.31. Once I’d checked I’d completed everything right, I wrote to Amazon. They wrote a vague confusing email telling me that the extra money was tax. Which: a. Seemed like a lot of tax and b. Didn’t help me put the book at the right price. After checking on Goodreads to see if anyone had the same problem (Goodreads is excellent for solutions like this) I learned that the price probably IS 99c in the US, but costs more when seen from the UK. Then Amazon wrote me another vague confusing email that sort of confirmed this.
Searching the title
When I first put the book up, I could only find it via a direct link. If I searched the title it insisted that I had misspelled ‘Paddling Doomsday’ (wtf? That is a scary paddling pool) and that there was no such thing. I thought it would take a few days to right itself. It still wasn’t showing up after a week, so I wrote to KDP. I got a nice clear email saying they didn’t know what the problem was, but would have it fixed in ten days. When I checked again the next day, the title could be found. So I guess they fixed it.
I had a promotion running from the 7th of June. When I was first planning this, I figured I’d publish the book on the 5th, just to allow for any problems to show up, so I could fix them before the promo started. DON’T DO THIS, A FEW DAYS IS NOT ENOUGH TIME. In the end, I didn’t do this, luckily I published about a week before. Firstly it takes up to 72 hours for an ebook to be available. Then there are all the problems I’ve described above, that each take up to 72 hours to change. The paperback version takes much longer, I think it was another week before that was up, but I reckon that’s ok. The paperback is maybe for people who have an interest in your book specifically.
Uploading the paperback from Createspace to KDP
Ebooks are created in KDP, and paperbacks can be KDP or Createspace. I used Createspace. Once the book was ready, I set the price of the paperback (the minimum is $9.99 wtf? That seems awfully high), then pressed the button to send the book to KDP (you can create a paperback in KDP, but rumour has it, it doesn’t do a great job with paperback formatting). It came up with a little box saying Your book is uploading to KDP and will be ready in a few moments. It said that for a few hours, then I left it running over night, it still said that. I wrote YET ANOTHER message to KDP and they replied asking for a screenshot of the uploading page (although I told them exactly what it said, and it’s their screen, they must know what it looks like). I gave up trying. Anyway, having looked, the paperback is available online, which is the main thing.
Any problems and/or solutions of your own, I’d love to hear them 🙂
Most people at my work have to drive a van, and in the past having a clean driving license was considered enough to show that we could do that. However, that has now changed, and this week we all got given psychometric driving tests to do. We were told these tests used clever algorithms to determine how careful and conscientious we were, how quick our reaction times were, etc. There were three possible outcomes: to be low, medium or high risk. Almost everyone came out as ‘medium risk’, which is fair enough, but the two most dangerous (reckless, rude and impatient) drivers were the ones given a ‘low risk’ status, which made me suspicious. After doing some investigation, I think I’ve figured out why this was: the test doesn’t use clever algorithms at all, it isn’t testing reaction times and conscientiousness, it’s just bollocks.
Disclaimer: no promises here, presumably there are a few tests like this around, and I only have experience of one. I’ve done my best to figure out how the tests work, but it’s all guesswork.
I took the test first. It consisted of a series of very simple questions you don’t need any knowledge to answer, such as:
When a cyclist pulls out in front of you without warning, how often do you get annoyed?
When late for an appointment, how often will you exceed the speed limit to get there on time?
There are five possible answers, things like: always, often, sometimes, rarely or never and you have to pick one.
The questions seemed so simplistic that I assumed to just put ‘never’ to every negative trait and ‘always’ to every positive trait would raise a red flag that I was lying. It being a psychometric test using a fancy algorithm, suggested that there was something complicated going on. So I didn’t completely lie, instead I put answers that were a slightly better version of me, my answers to the above questions were ‘rarely’ and ‘never’.
I came out medium risk. I discussed it with another colleague, and he had much the same approach, assuming that to claim he never got irritated with another driver or never sped up to get through the lights before they change would be unrealistic. He was also medium risk.
Then today I asked the colleague who got low risk, how he did it (I was in the van with him at the time, he was speeding through lights and cutting people up as we talked about it.)
“Well, they obviously just wanted us to put that we’d never do anything wrong, so I did that. I don’t know why they even put options other than always and never, because those were clearly the only answers they wanted. I mean they’re just idiots really.”
So there you are. As far as I can work out, there is no fancy algorithm or subliminal testing, they assume that if you say you’re a great driver who never does anything wrong, that you must be telling the truth. When asked if you’ve ever sped up to get through an amber traffic light, you should put never. Having asked around other colleagues for how they answered, backs that up also.
The frustrating thing is that the kind of personality that is comfortable and confident about lying, is not likely to be one that is a safe driver. Those who put more cautious answers (the ‘rarely’s and ‘sometimes’ answers) are penalised. I’d quite like to find out I’m wrong about this though, so if anyone has a different experience, or knows more about how the tests are designed would like to comment, that would be great.
I expect you’ve heard of Pokemon Go. We invented it twenty years ago, with ghosts.
Growing up my twin sister and I were isolated by geography, we lived on a farm in Cornwall, in the middle of nothing and nowhere. Our dad was intent on going off-grid, becoming self-sufficient, and with his fervour, he took his new bride out to the arse end of oblivion and set up home. Piecing together his notes from the time (the ones he didn’t burn before he died) he believed that if he joined nature, it would welcome and enrich him. It didn’t; he got hayfever, he was bored (this was long before the Internet), most animals eluded him, his attempt at agriculture failed.
He gave up.
He quickly fell into a depression and it was up to our mum to take over. She turned a small corner of the farm into a vegetable plot. She had no idea what she was doing, but did a good enough job. Our vegetables were mostly edible; wonky and you had to pick out the grubs, but otherwise fine. She learned to fish, to bake bread. Smart woman our mum.
Anyway, all this meant that me and my sister looked after ourselves. We made our own entertainment and we searched for ghosts. And they were everywhere. Not the pale, flimsy wraiths that you get in horror stories, ours were all shapes and sizes. Some were fat, some had tentacles, some had many feet and others had none and slithered along the ground like snakes. There were colourful ghosts, solid ghosts, ghosts that span in circles and ghosts that could do tricks.
We’d be sitting at dinner, mum would be busy reading while she ate, dad would be staring at his dinner mournfully. We’d have to stay quiet, but we didn’t need words, we could signal with our eyes: look over there, by the sink! A lesser purple-splotched wriggling turkey ghost! And we’d point our ghost catching devices at the ghost (the devices were actually calculators, but the fancy kind with sin and cos) and press the right buttons and the ghost would be ours and we’d write it down in our notebooks.
Or we’d be out on the hill behind our house. Staring up at the clouds and then we’d hear a rustle in the bushes, we’d whisper so we wouldn’t scare it away,
“A jumping, three-eyed lumpy sprat ghost, quick!”
Me and my twin don’t talk anymore, we’ve already said everything there is to say, but still when Pokemon came out I sent her a postcard, on it I said: hey, didn’t we do Pokemon already?
I thought about adding a smiley face or putting a couple of exes, but we’re not that kind of family. She hasn’t replied.
Bert didn’t really pay much attention to the TV, instead he liked to have it on as a background to inspire his theories. They were watching an old episode of Star Trek, and Captain Kirk and Spock had just beamed down to a planet that looked a lot like painted fibre glass. While his wife carefully combed chewing gum out of the cat’s fur, Bert relished his indignation,
“Look at that! He used his communicator to talk to Uhura, then he just shut it again! Look! He’s just carrying on with his life! He’s not opening it again to check Facebook, is he? He doesn’t hunch over his communicator with a glazed expression for hours on end! And Spock and Kirk are still talking to each other, and they’re even looking at each other, instead of glancing down at their communicators all the time, hoping no one will notice. I tell you, Star Trek got it all wrong, they had no clue how stupid we were! No one could have predicted that.”