Archive | April, 2011

Cheaper Shipping, Less Mystery: I Heart CreateSpace

26 Apr

Any follower of this blog will know that I love CreateSpace, the Print-On-Demand service that I used for Mousetrapped, that I’m using for the soon-to-be-released Self-Printed (have you seen the cover? It’s here in 2-D and here in 3-D) and that I will use for the currently-being-written Backpacked. I’ve always found their service great, their products of good quality and their customer service second to none, but up until now there was one not-so-little thing that was spoiling all my fun: their shipping costs.

My shipping costs were actually greater than the costs of the books I was having shipped (although as I’ve said before, even taking this into account, they were still cheaper per unit than Lulu). By way of example, here are some orders I’ve placed with CreateSpace in the past:

  • On 19th March 2010, I ordered books which cost $181.50 and paid an additional $230.90 to ship them to me by standard shipping*
  • On 2nd April 2010, I ordered books which cost $90.75 and paid an an additional $131.90 to ship them to to me by economy shipping
  • On 25th April 2010, I ordered books which cost $174.24 and paid an additional $225.95 to ship them to me by standard shipping.

*CreateSpace had three shipping speeds: economy (forever), standard (a week or two) and priority (express courier). 

Anytime they sent me a survey or asked for feedback, I always said the same thing: I love you, but your shipping is killing me here. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, and CreateSpace were listening, because they are now offering far more reasonable shipping rates to all their customers. For example, I just ordered books that cost about $50 and the economy shipping was only $23.99. Better yet, I could upgrade to expedited shipping for just $34.49 (i.e. an additional $10.50).

But that’s not the best bit. Before, CreateSpace shipping costs were an utter mystery until you actually came to ordering your books. This wasn’t much good for a self-publisher who had yet to even decide on a service, let alone produce their book, and was looking to factor shipping costs into their budget, business plan or pros and cons list. I used to tell people to find a book similar in size and page count to theirs that was already published on CreateSpace and try to buy copies of it through the book’s CS eStore; this way you could guesstimate how much it was going to cost. But now CreateSpace have installed this:

A shipping costs calculator! Oh joy of joys. You can now work out how much buying copies of your own book will cost you before you even register for a CreateSpace account and get estimated quotes for how much it will cost you to ship those books to you by CreateSpace’s new shipping speeds. Hooray! You can access it here. Long overdue but hey, better late than never.

And another thing: One of the reasons I don’t like using CreateSpace’s forums is because of the disproportionate level of complainers on there. (But then same with TripAdvisor, ApartmentRatings, etc.) Reading the entries, you’d think that CreateSpace were in the habit of drowning peoples’ puppies and making them watch. So here is a nice CreateSpace customer service story, courtesy of me, and if you were getting suspicious, no, they’re not paying me to say nice things about them. (Although they should be.)

CreateSpace changed their shipping policies on March 29th, and sent out an e-mail to all customers saying as much. What this e-mail didn’t say, however, was that certain customers (i.e. international ones) wouldn’t be able to avail of the same shipping methods that they had in the past – at least not for the moment, anyway. What this meant was that I’d no longer be able to order books on a Friday, pay for expedited shipping and then have them arrive 7-10 days later, as I had done in the past. Trouble is, this is exactly what I was planning on doing for the copies of Mousetrapped I’m bringing to Mousemeets this Saturday. So I got a bit of a shock when I went onto the site and found that I’d have to wait six weeks for my books to arrive, or until May 20th. As you know, Saturday is April 30th, or The Day After The Royal Wedding Day.

I sent CreateSpace an e-mail asking what was up, and they responded by saying that for a few weeks, international shipping options would be limited while they changed things over. BUT as a courtesy to me, they would upgrade and thus expedite my order at no extra charge. Not only that, but they would upgrade any other orders I placed in the meantime. And so, thanks to someone called Ashley at CreateSpace, my books arrived on time (they’re already here) and at no extra cost to me.

(And they have now installed their new options, so no, you can’t go running off to get free upgraded shipping!)

So CreateSpace, I loved you before, but now I really love you. Now all I need is a hardcover option and I’m yours forever.

UPDATE: CreateSpace have since contacted me to say that they do have a hardcover option available for anyone who has published a paperback book with them. The upgrade fee is a one off $199, and then there’s charges onto that. HOWEVER this option is only available for books you are ordering from them yourself to sell on, and not for sale through their retail channels. It is this that I’m after. On Lulu, you can make a hardcover book and sell it just like you would any other book. I appreciate that they got in touch, but that’s what I hope CreateSpace eventually get around to doing. In the meantime though, I’m more than happy to keep selling my CreateSpace paperbacks…!

What I Thought Of… PLUGGED by Eoin Colfer

25 Apr

You may know Eoin Colfer as the author of Artemis Fowl series (described as “Die Hard with fairies” by Colfer), or as the holy one chosen to write the sixth Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book, And Another Thing…, for which he was commended for doing the impossible: pleasing Adams’ fans and creating a great new book of his own. (By most people, anyway.) Now he’s gone and written a “part crime noir part screwball comedy” for adults, and having never read him or comic crime before, I was a bit nervous.

Especially when I heard that it was about hair plugs.

“Meet our hero Daniel McEvoy. Daniel, or Dan as he is known to his friends (if he had any) is an Irishman in New Jersey who ekes out an existence as a bouncer in a seedy strip joint. Dan is moving on as soon as his hair grows in. Once he has hair he’ll be happy. At least that’s what he tells himself anyway. Unfortunately Dan’s best laid plans often go awry and the murder of a hostess (who he definitely didn’t have a thing for) sets off a sequence of events that lead our hero outside the law, pursued by ruthless drug dealer Mike Madden and with only an unstable cop-killing female copy as his ally. Disclaimer: Daniel McEvoy is definitely not based on Eoin Colfer himself.”

Plugged is narrated by Dan, a former Irish soldier who joined the army because he figured that it was  “better dying overseas than living at home.” Between his murky past in Ireland and the horrors of war – “war” in this case being UN peacekeeping duties in Lebanon – Dan has a litany of mental health problems (post traumatic stress, imaginary friends, daddy issues), an aura that according to a gypsy he met once looks like “shark-infested water” and a set of hair plugs that have yet to take. And only a few pages in, all hell breaks loose for him.

After Dan has to eject a patron from the club where he works as a bouncer after an argument over whether or not licking a hostess is the same as touching a hostess, the hostess in question is found murdered the following night. On top of that, his hair-transplant surgeon (whom he first met when one of them was performing a, ahem, enlargement operation of the kind only males can get) is missing and someone has trashed Dan’s kinda trashy apartment. There is also a cop-killing cop, a criminal overlord, a corrupt lawyer and a deranged neighbor who’s convinced that Dan is her ex-husband. Add in plenty of gratuitous violence, blood, weaponry, Dan pretending that he is her ex-husband and, um, grabbing an angry Rottweiler by the delicates, and you have something along the lines of The Sopranos meets Curb Your Enthusiasm meets When Unlicensed Cosmetic Surgery Goes Wrong 3. 

(So I made that last one up but, come on – surely it’s only a matter of time before Sky TV gets around to making it?)

And it’s hilarious. Truly. The wit in this book is so sharp that your fingers aren’t only at risk of paper cuts. Description is definitely a gift of Colfer’s – one of my favorites was “he looked like the Bee Gee that married Lulu, after walking through a plate sheet of glass” (!?!) – but his dialogue is just pure joy. (Has this man written a screenplay? Because if not, he needs to.)

The one thing that was missing for me here was suspense; I didn’t really care who had done it or finding out what was really going on, but considering I was getting the giggles on every page, did that matter? I don’t think so. This book is more about the journey than the destination, and boy – it’s a fun journey.

I give Plugged two thumbs and a head’s worth of newly implanted hair plugs up. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Plugged is out on May 12th. Click here to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk. Thanks to Headline for my copy.

Click here to read all my book reviews.

How Much I Paid for My SELF-PRINTED Cover…

24 Apr

… and how it can be the same price you pay for yours.

On Saturday I shared the finalized Self-Printed cover as created by Andrew Brown of Design for Writers (who also did Mousetrapped) and amongst all the very nice comments about it, the lovely Elisa asked how much it cost. Andrew did a great deal for me and so I didn’t want to say how much I paid as it might put him under pressure to give others the same rate. But then what did Andrew do? He said I could offer you, my lovely blog readers, the very same deal for the very same price – just €89! (Or £79 or $129.)

This offer:

  • includes 2 design rounds, a paperback cover, an e-book cover* and a presentation view (pictured above)
  • does NOT include the cost of licensing any images used**
  • is based on the writer providing an initial idea for the design
  • must be booked by May 31st 2011 and finalized by July 31st 2011.

E-mail hello@designforwriters.com with the coupon code “SELF-PRINTED OFFER” in the subject line.

*The e-book cover will be a crop of the “front” part of the paperback cover which any small text removed if necessary. **Unless you have already purchased images for your cover or you do not need images, you will have to factor in the cost of licensing them from stock photo websites. To give you some idea of the cost, the two images used in my Self-Printed cover amounted to €48. On my Mousetrapped cover, the only image purchased was the “postcard” template, which cost around €18. 

Self-Printed: The Cover is Here!

22 Apr

I’m avoiding the internet for the weekend because (a) I love to use religious holidays as an excuse to do less work and (b) the time I don’t spend lying on the sofa watching TV will be spent correcting the second Self-Printed proof which arrived today (so, those of you in the first round of road-testing, should receive your copies on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week), so all going to plan I can do the final upload/proof ordering on Monday. But first…

I just got the final cover from my designer, Andrew of Design for Writers, and I actually let out a little squeal when I saw it. I’m a total control freak and normally send Andrew very specific instructions for what I want him to do, but this time I let him have free reign with everything other than needing to use grey (long story) and to match Mousetrapped, and look what he did!

I am SO pleased with this, I can’t tell you. What do you think?

And, self-publishers, check out Design for Writers. Their website is coming soon but in the meantime if you need some work done (and done well for a very reasonable price) contact hello@designforwriters.com. I highly recommend them!

On Pink Pangea: My Stint as a Campsite Courier

21 Apr

I know that my blog posts this week have mainly consisted of me pointing you in the direction of other blogs where I’ve written things, but thanks to Michael Connelly Day*, getting stuck into the first draft of Backpacked, actively ignoring news of an Irish writer getting a MEGA deal (and the fact that actually, the book has a very clever premise and is something I’d love to read), playing with my new coffee machine and keeping one eye on the window at all times for my DHL delivery/Self-Printed review copies,  I haven’t really had the time to write new content for both.

My tent. I know, right? YIKES.

This actually went live last week, but on PinkPangea.com I’ve been sharing the horrors of working as a campsite courier in France (for six whole weeks).

“In 2005 I was working for a British travel company at their staff training facility in the Netherlands when I was offered the opportunity to finish up my summer with a six-week stint as a courier (a general assistant) at one of their resorts in the south of France.

I know. That’s a lot of places in one sentence.

Here’s one more: Ireland, the home I didn’t want to go back to yet. The French resort was a campsite called Les Sablons in the town of Portiragnes Plage, near Béziers. It was right on the beach, and that beach was right on the Med. The customers were British and Irish so no French was required, and I was eternally chasing sunshine. Most importantly, what else did I have to do? I said yes.”

Click here to read the whole article.

I also got the WordPress mads late last night and moved a few things around on MousetrappedBook.com to make room for news of Backpacked, etc. Do go have a look if you have a spare minute.

*Michael Connelly is my No.1 favorite author in the whole wide world and I always get his books on publication day. Then I bring them home, clear my schedule and read them all in one glorious sitting. I’ve been doing that now for ten years. 

Pixie Dust in the Powder Room

20 Apr

I’m over on In The Powder Room today (which I KEEP mistyping as the Power Room – Freudian slip?) talking about pixie dust, marrying astronauts and Dirk Gently.

Or, in other words, how life has a way of working out in mysterious ways, even if before it does it beats you up, robs your wallet and leaves you unconscious on the street.

Or something.

“I’d assumed I’d be spending my Floridian days skipping merrily through the Magic Kingdom drinking liquid pixie dust through a Mickey Mouse-shaped novelty straw; in reality I was trudging alongside the smoggy highway, sipping on lukewarm Coke in a Big Gulp cup.”

You can read the full post here.

Double-Spaced: My Writing Day

19 Apr

If you haven’t already heard I am now also blogging every Tuesday over on Writing.ie, under the title Double-Spaced.

Today’s post is a blow-by-blow account of my average writing day which, worryingly, doesn’t seem to involve much writing…

8.46am: Coffee preparation. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf House Blend in a one cup filter belgique.

8.57am: Morning rounds. Yahoo mail, Gmail account, other Gmail account, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Twitter again, Yahoo mail again, Novel Rank, Amazon DTP, Perez Hilton, TMZ, Google News, Twitter, repeat as required.

9.45am: Get dressed.

10.10am: Coffee preparation. Decide to open the Dunkin Donuts House Blend and make it in the french press as this will waste more time.

10.04am: Breakfast.

10.35am: I’ll just check Twitter…”

Click here to read the rest of this post on Writing.ie.

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