It's time once again to grade papers and rather than complaining about how I always have to mark all the same things, I created a Macro that I run on my students' Word files. In a nutshell, it highlights passive voice in red and puts "conversational" tone in green. I warn my students they are being too "conversational" when they use, "really", "very", "a lot", "I", "you", "we", exclamation points etc.

The Macro isn't perfect. It doesn't find all passive voice.  Since "has", "have" and "had" can be possessive, I don't check for those. It doesn't always replace the capitalization correctly.  If one of the substituted words is at the beginning of a sentence it will make it lower case when it changes the color.  It also isn't smart enough to detect when the student is quoting someone else.

Other than that, I've used this with my own writing and found it helpful.
What egregious writing problems would you have a macro mark, if you could? 

Enjoy!

P.S. Like any good programmer, I put comments in my code.  The Macro will ignore any lines that begin with '. So, if you look through the code for the word "Replace" it will typically tell you what the macro is doing.


Sub Passive_Voice()
'
' Passive_Voice Macro
'
'
' Replace " am "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
        .Text = " am "
        .Replacement.Text = " am "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " is "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " is "
        .Replacement.Text = " is "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " are "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " are "
        .Replacement.Text = " are "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " was "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " was "
        .Replacement.Text = " was "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " were "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " were "
        .Replacement.Text = " were "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " be "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " be "
        .Replacement.Text = " be "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " been "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " been "
        .Replacement.Text = " been "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " being "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " being "
        .Replacement.Text = " being "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " very "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " very "
        .Replacement.Text = " very "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " really "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " really "
        .Replacement.Text = " really "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' end sub
' Replace " seem "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " seem "
        .Replacement.Text = " seem "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' end sub
' Replace " seems "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " seems "
        .Replacement.Text = " seems "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' end sub
' Replace " seemed "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorRed
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " seemed "
        .Replacement.Text = " seemed "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' end sub
' Replace " I "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " I "
        .Replacement.Text = " I "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' end sub
' Replace " we "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " we "
        .Replacement.Text = " we "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' end sub
' Replace " us "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " us "
        .Replacement.Text = " us "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' end sub
' Replace " you "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " you "
        .Replacement.Text = " you "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' end sub
' Replace " your "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " your "
        .Replacement.Text = " your "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace "n't"
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = "n't"
        .Replacement.Text = "n't"
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace "that's"
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = "that's"
        .Replacement.Text = "that's"
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace "'ll"
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = "'ll"
        .Replacement.Text = "'ll"
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace "'ve"
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = "'ve"
        .Replacement.Text = "'ve"
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
' Replace " a lot "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " a lot "
        .Replacement.Text = " a lot "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub
' Replace "! "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = "! "
        .Replacement.Text = "! "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub
' Replace "more and more"
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = "more and more"
        .Replacement.Text = "more and more"
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub
' Replace " my "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " my "
        .Replacement.Text = " my "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub
 'Replace " it's "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " it's "
        .Replacement.Text = " it's "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub
 'Replace " OK "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " OK "
        .Replacement.Text = " OK "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub 'Replace " okay "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorGreen
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " okay "
        .Replacement.Text = " okay "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub
'
'Students often confuse Affect (verb) with Effect (Noun) 
'So the macro highlights it in blue
'
'Replace " affect "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorBlue
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " affect "
        .Replacement.Text = " affect "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub
'Replace " effect "
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Color = wdColorBlue
    With Selection.Find
' change here
        .Text = " effect "
        .Replacement.Text = " effect "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll ' end sub
End Sub

 
 
Shhhh! Don't tell Amazon, but I'm putting a book out on Smashwords.

To make a long story short, I'm working on my dissertation and have written up my literature review (so far) as an ebook that I plan to give away for free to people who respond to my survey.

So, I got my manuscript ready and then got everything going on CreateSpace (Amazon's print on demand option).  CreateSpace now allows you to (almost) directly import your manuscript into Kindle Direct Publishing.  It will convert your CreateSpace document into a Word .DOC file that you download to your PC and then upload to the Kindle DIrect publishing site.

Very cool.  The only problem is that getting Amazon to let you give your book away is a little problematic.  (This is understandable because on the regular Kindle there is a real cost to download the books because they use the cell phone network to transmit the data.)  So, you can only give your book away if you are part of the Kindle Direct Publishing Select Program. But, you can only offer it for free five days out of the quarter.  Another options is if your ebook is available for free elsewhere, Amazon will cut your price to zero as long as the other site lists it for zero.

Smashwords allows you to give your books away for free and they also allow you to create coupon codes that will allow specific people to download the book for free.  So, I decided to try publishing on Smashwords.  The main reason I've avoided them before is because they publish tons of erotica (I've discovered that Amazon is not really much better on this point...) and because they don't have good digital rights management.  (After all, my glittering descriptions of my topic are sure to tempt anyone to plagiarism.)

So, that brings us to the main point of this entry.  I had a CreateSpace document.  What would I need to do to convert it to the Smashwords format?

The Smashwords Style guide has a lot of guidelines and it really should be your reference, but here are the steps I went though for my particular document.  (I should also mention that I had to create a new cover for Smashwords because I didn't think I could use my Createspace cover.)

- Step One: I reduced the size of the type on my title page to a 16 point font.

- Step Two:  I scanned through the document and removed an spots where I had four carriage returns in a row.
-- Select Advanced Find in the Find drop down list in the Editing group on the Home tab.
-- Click Replace
-- 
Type ^p^p^p^p (The find four carriage returns together) in the Find What field.
-- Type ^p in the Replace With field
--
Click Replace or replace all, if you're very, very confident.

- Step Three:  Smashwords will assign you a free ISBN for your book.  I found the CreateSpace ISBNs in the manuscript and put "CreateSpace" in front of them.

- Step Four: Smashwords doesn't like the way Word can automatically generate a table of contents.  So, they suggest that you build the table of contents manually using bookmarks. 
-- I added a new table of contents, removing the page numbers from my table of contents, reducing the table  down to two levels. 
-- I copied the resulting table of contents to the clipboard and pasted it into WordPad as plain text. Then I restored the indents and copied the table of contents in WordPad back to Word.
-- I then bookmarked the places in the text with entries in the table of content.
-- I used hyperlinks in the new table of conents to point to the bookmarks

- Step Five: According to Smashwords, you should either indent your the first line of each paragraph half an inch OR you should add a little space after each paragraph.  However, they do not want you to do both.  So, I removed the extra spaces after each paragraph.  (In retrospect, I should have done it the other way around.)

- Step Six: I copied the following Text in as a first page.  (By the way, that's not my real title.)

Please Take My Survey

by

Gregg Greer

Smashwords Edition
 
* * * * *

Published by Gregg Greer at Smashwords


 
Please Take My Survey


Copyright 2012 by Gregg Greer


So far, that's all I've really needed to do to get my book converted -- but then the formatting was pretty simple.  We'll see how this pans out in the long run.

Addendum: 10-18-2012

Another problem I ran into was that my .doc file was too big.  I discovered that the fonts were embedded in the document.  I think I did this for CreateSpace.  In any case, I made the file size much smaller by not embedding the fonts.
- File
-- Options
--- Save
---- Make sure the Embed fonts in the file option does not have a check mark.

I also needed to set the margins to the Office 2003 default settings.

 
 
From April 6 to April 10, anyone with a Kindle Reader or Kindle "App" will be able to download the Broken Toys: China's Song Kindle eBook for free.

I should also mention that we've lowered the price of the eBook to $0.99 and the Price of the print version to $5.99.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we put Broken Toys: China's Song in Amazon's KDP Select Program.  This allows Amazon Prime Members with Kindles to "Borrow" the book for free. (Right now, I'm reading Catching Fire on the Kindle for free -- Extremely cool!  The catch is, you have to have an actual Kindle.  I can't get it to work on any of my Kindle "App"s)

KDP Select also allows us to offer the eBook for free, five days each quarter.

Now, I have to admit that this is an experiment and begs the question: Why give your book away?

The logic goes something like this:  

Let's say that John Doe downloads a free copy of your book. John may like it so much that he buys a print copy.  (I downloaded a free copy of Imaginary Jesus and wound up buying the print copy because I loved it and wanted to share the book with my familyI also bought the sequel, Night of the Living Dead Christian -- and now I'm blogging about it...)

John may give your book a fabulous review on Amazon, which will encourage people unfamiliar with your work to take a chance on you.

Whenever someone pulls up a book John Doe has bought, then your book may also be displayed along with it in the section that says "People who bought this book also bought..."

Sales, even if they are free, will bring your sales volume up so you have a higher rating at Amazon.

Finally, if nothing else, it gives you a chance to share your work with your friends without costing them anything.

Of course at this point, it's purely speculation because we haven't done this before.

If you do get a chance to read Broken Toys: China's Song Let us know what you think about it.


 
 
This is a little off topic from the e-publishing industry, but I had something happen and I wanted to alert people.

In the last two months, my wife has received two letters in the mail with checks in them. The checks were for thousands of dollars.  The companies say they are “Secret Shopper” companies for Western Union and other companies.  They say we could easily make hundreds of dollars depositing the check and then wiring some of the money back to them. Fortunately, my wife did her homework and discovered that this is a scam.  These checks will bounce, leaving the person who deposits them in the lurch for thousands of dollars.  (The depositor could also go to jail for passing a fraudulent check…)

Fortunately, we didn’t lose any money on this.  But I thought I would bring it to your attention, in case you received a similar letter.

Scopes.com has a relevant page: http://www.snopes.com/fraud/employment/shopper.asp

The Postal Service also has a page on this:

https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/radDocs/consumer/MysteryShopperScam2.pdf

The postal service has a page where you can report this kind of behavior at:

https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/MailFraudComplaint.aspx

(I don’t know that anything will come of having reported it, since the mail is postmarked from Canada…but it’s a little cathartic to turn these people in.)

Let me know if you’d like any more information on this.

Gregg Greer


 
 
We just made Broken Toys: China's Song available through Amazon's KIndle Direct Publishing Select program.

The good news for Amazon Prime Members is that they can "borrow" our book for free when they download it to their Kindle.  Prime members can only borrow one book a month and a Prime Membership is around $80 ($40 for college students). Prime members also get free video streaming on their computer or Roku player -- which is extremely cool.

Remember, that you don't have to have a Kindle device to read Kindle books. There are dozens of devices like the iPhone that can download Kindle books as well.

For authors, KDP Select is also a good deal because Amazon sets aside about $500,000 every month to divide among the authors whose books get borrowed under this program.  For January 2012, I think that worked out to about $1.70 per borrow.  (We just joined so we don't know what kind of response we'll get from this.)

Another opportunity is that this allows the author to offer their Kindle book for free to anyone for five days out of every ninety days. (Normally, the lowest price you can use is ninety-nine cents.)  Of course, authors who offer their books for free don't get any royalties, but it does give them an opportunity to increase their readership.  Getting a few positive customer reviews is certainly worth losing a few days' sales.

The down side is that the author promises to make the eBook exclusive to Kindle for the first 90 days.  Since the other 500 pound gorilla in e-publishing is Smashwords (their website has content issues...) and I've never been able to get excited about going that route, that's not a huge problem for us.

I should also mention that the Lubbock Public Library has a website where people with library cards can download free books to their Kindle or other e-readers.  Like the real library, often the book you want is checked out, but you can put in a request to have the system send you an e-mail when it becomes available.  If you don't live in Lubbock, check with your local library.  They may have something similar.

If you don't like e-books, Broken Toys: China's Song is also available in print through CreateSpace.
 
 
I mentioned a few posts back that there are some things that everyone thinks they can do:

- Make a greeting Card
- Make a funny t-shirt design
- Write the text for a children's book

However, all of these things are deceptively complicated.

I recently entered a contest sponsored by MeeGenius, a company that makes eBooks for kids 4-8.  The books can read themselves to the children or they can read them themselves.  My kids love the free books I've downloaded to my iPad.

You can read (and vote for...) my entry at the following link.

http://www.meegenius.com/challenge/wet-paint-by-gregg-greer

Let me know what you think of it!

So here are my tips on writing a great children's book:

- Go short or go home:

Children get about one additional minute of attention span a year.  So, my four year old can have a four or five minute book read to him before he starts squirming.  (My four year old does a better than that, but he's exceptionally bright!)  The MeeGenius format limits you to (I think) 420 characters per page and twenty pages per book.

- Watch your language:

Use simple words, simple sentences and use sight words carefully. Have a new reader read it to you and see where they stumble over words.

- Watch your content:

I grew up reading stories about lying little boys getting eaten by wolves, little pigs roasting big bad wolves in their kettle, and witches blinding princes unwise enough to enter a tower via braid.  Children's books take a much softer approach now.  MeeGenius specifically changed the stories I referenced above to make them a little more palatable for today's parents and children.

- Watch your names:

Give your characters simple names and use them often. Children may get confused by "he said" / "she said" and wonder who is talking.

- Watch your tense:

Use sentences with Active Voice, not Passive.  Active sentences are shorter, easier to read and understand.

- Bring your "A" poetry game:

If you can do great poetry, make your book rhyme.  I don't do this very well, so I didn't have my book rhyme. 

- Have a message, but be subtle.

All writing should have a message of some kind. People who don't have much to say don't usually write books. But, don't you hate the books that say, "Then Molly learned a valuable lesson about..." or "Never again did Molly [insert moral here]"?  

Have a message for your reader, but let them figure it out. Admittedly, in the description of "Wet Paint!" I say, "...Molly learns an important lesson about reading".  Once you get into the text that will be read to the child, the book never says, "If you don't learn to read you'll miss important messages!", but I think that it's fairly obvious.

- Be Funny!

This can be hard, but children have a lot of patience for silliness and slapstick humor.  Remember to build up the suspense for the humor.  One of the secrets to the humor in the Far Side cartoons was figuring out what would happen next. Molly eventually sits on the bench with the "Wet Paint!" sign, but it takes several pages before that happens

- Have Pictures!

They really are worth a thousand words!  Sadly, this is another thing that eludes me.  But children would rather have poorly drawn pictures than no pictures at all.  If, like me, you are completely hopeless with a sketchpad, Amazon's CreateSpace has an illustration service that may be able to help you. (Better bring your checkbook...)

Those are the valuable lessons I've learned from Wet Paint!

If I had it to do over again, I would probably tone down the comments to the illustrator for the purposes of the contest. (Yes, that is what my wife suggested that I do, don't ask me why I didn't.)  I would also have the mother chasing her hat in the background of all the pictures.
 
 
Broken Toys: China's Song is now available in print from CreateSpace.com!

I posted a few weeks ago about the process of setting up the book on CreateSpace.com.

It took a little longer than I thought to make the book available, but that was due to time constraints on my part and not CreateSpace.  When I initially submitted the book for review, they got back to me in a couple of days.  Then I spent some more time proofreading the book and making small changes.  Ultimately, I uploaded the interior text again. 

Once they approved the book a second time, I needed to order a "Proof" copy to make the book available.  The proof copy cost less than four dollars and then about four dollars to ship.  You may want to consider ordering more than one copy to make the shipping costs a little more efficient.  The copies will have "Proof" written on the last page or so, but it is a relatively inexpensive way to get copies of your book. 

Of course, the down side of ordering a proof copy is that if you make any changes, you have to order another proof.  It's a minimal cost, but it is a cost.  So you want to be sure you book is completely edited and ready to go.  Now that I think about it, if you were planning on printing out your book on your printer and looking through it that way, it might actually be cheaper to have them send you a proof copy. 

It took several days for them to ship the book to me, because I didn't want to pay for faster shipping. Once I received the book and looked through it, I was able to log back into CreateSpace.com and approve my proof copy.  The book went "live" on CreateSpace almost immediately.

Since this is an e-publishing blog, I will "Fess up" to an error I made in the cover design.  My "Smoking eyes" cover design has a black background, so I chose a black background for the book as well.  However, the black background is slightly different from the picture I imported, so it doesn't look quite like I envisioned.  (You can see the box around the picture with the eyes.)  Other than that, I thought the cover looked spectacular.

While they toys were still in the attic, I wanted to have Jack say, "We're all broken here." (It's a Lewis Carroll reference.)

But these are really minor things compared to the joy of holding your book in your hands -- especially when we started this particular book in 1992!

Happy Thanksgiving!
 
 

Here's a question from the Ebooks/Epub Technologies group on LinkedIn.

I think the answer depends on how you plan to make your e-book available.  The general rule is: the simpler your design is, the more likely it will be to display correctly on any ereader that uses it.

If you plan to use Smashwords.com, I would suggest you pick up their style guide at:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52

From what I understand,if you can get the format right you can publish on a number of different devices. However, I haven't used Smashwords, so I can't say that with any certainty.  (I'm concerned about the lack of digital rights management capabilities.)  I will be happy to yield the floor to anyone who has used Smashwords.

I have published a book for the Amazon Kindle.  The formatting wasn't too tricky.  The best information is on the Kindle Direct Publishing Website.  Here's a brief overview:

- Start using Microsoft Word. Save your document as a .doc or .docx file.
- Do not use bullet points, weird fonts, headers or footers.
- Put page breaks between chapters.  Other than that, page breaks may not matter because they will be dependent on the font size the reader is using.
- Use JPEG images that are high contrast. Insert them as pictures.
- Each body paragraph will be justified.
- The first line of each paragraph will be indented automatically.  Do not use the tab key.
- Use Word's table of contents feature to create a table of contents where the reader can click and be taken to a particular area of the book.
- Save your .docx file.  This way you can make changes to the text later.
- Save your .docx file as "Filtered HTML".  This is what you'll upload to Amazon.
(The page I'm working from has several additional steps, but I don't think I did them -- but then I don't have any pictures in my ebook.)

Best of luck to you!

Gregg

http://brokentoys.weebly.com

 
 
Last Summer, when we published Broken Toys: China's Song for the Kindle, a number of people asked when we'd make the book available in print form.  I told them we couldn't do it because we were concerned there would be set-up costs that would prevent us from offering the print version.  However, my wife did some investigating and Amazon also offers a Print on Demand service at CreateSpace.com.  CreateSpace also allows creative people to publish music and video "on demand".

Here's the process we went through to make our book available on CreateSpace.
  • We created a CreateSpace account at www.createSpace.com.
    Actually, we did this some time ago because it's what I thought we needed for the Kindle.
  • CreateSpace has a forum where you can give other members "previews" of your work to elicite their feedback.  (We didn't do this, but it looks like a good idea.)
  • CreateSpace also has editorial and illustration services and I'm sure they are great.  However, you have to pay for those and we're trying to make the book available with no up-front costs.
  • We created a book title, short description and entered our author information
  • Amazon generated free 10 and 13 digit ISBNs for the book
  • We chose an interior for the book.  That was the biggest step. The instructions for that are below.
  • The next step was to create a cover for the book. The instructions for that are below as well.
  • We submitted our files for review.
  • After that we submitted additional marketing information for our books such as the authors' biography and category for the book.
  • Before proceeding, we had to enter our tax information.
  • Then we needed to set the price and distribution channels for our book.  We set the price at $10.99 because that gives us roughly the same profit per book as our 2.99 Kindle eBook.  We chose the Amazon and eStore options because the additonal options had a fee associated with them.
We haven't heard back from Amazon, yet, but they should contact us soon with our Proofs so we can finalize any changes.

All in all, the process was relatively painless.  

Here are the split-out topics:

Choosing an interior for your book. 

Amazon suggested the 6X9 format as their best selling format. They even have Word Templates you can download.  I was able to easily convert our original Word Document by opening the template and copying the appropriate section from the book into the template.  The important part is to paste into the document using the Merge Formatting Paste Option.  However, this did necessitate re-proofreading the entire book, which was time consuming.

Choosing a cover for your book.

Despite conventional wisdom, your book will be judged by its cover.  Amazon provides several different pre-formatted templates and pictures you can use.  They also allow you to completely design your own cover.  You may want to consider waiting to design your cover until you've settled on the interior.  Some changes to the interior of the book can wipe out your cover entirely.

 
 
I recently got the following e-mail from Amazon about the new "Kindle Indie" bookstore.  At first, I was excited because it gave the independent publishers an area free from the publishing houses with lots of money to throw around.

However, if you read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) Amazon is going to determine which authors are featured and which books are featured.  So, from here it looks like it will be a great venue for people who have already sold tons of books (assuming that you can assign a weight to a Kindle book...)

What do you think are the best ways to get your work out in the public's eye?

So, without further comment, here's the e-mail:

Launched Kindle Indie Bookstore We are excited to announce the launch of the Kindle Indie Bookstore (www.amazon.com/kindleindiebooks) on Amazon.com. This page will provide readers a convenient way to explore and browse some of the indie selection available on Kindle from KDP authors and publishers. We hope the Kindle Indie Bookstore will showcase top selling, popular and high quality books from independent authors and publishers. "We are excited to highlight our growing selection of indie books to Kindle readers through the launch of the Kindle Indie Bookstore and provide this new avenue of exposure to KDP authors and publishers,” said Atif Rafiq, General Manager, Kindle Direct Publishing. Please read the Kindle Indie Bookstore FAQ for answers to commonly asked questions.