Category Archives: Adventures in Self-publishing

A more personal and up-to-date companion to the Incomplete Guide to POD Publishers

News and updates

Hi guys. Okay, so the blog has been languishing for a while, the good news is that I’ve been busy writing, and a few new titles should be coming out in the next few weeks. Another thing I’ll probably be doing is redesigning the site as a whole. This blog is not going anywhere, and the same goes for the legacy aspects of the site, but for the most part I’ll probably be changing the way in which things are organized by moving some things to a different site where I don’t have to worry about exceeding GreenGeek’s ridiculously limited ‘unlimited’ service (if you’ve been following this site for a while, you are probably aware that that’s been an ongoing issue for some time, as I’m fed up with the fact that traffic spikes are routinely penalized).

For a while there I considered of opening a facebook page. That would have been the logical thing, but I admit that by now my refusal to have a facebook account is pretty much a matter of principle (I don’t like the fact that having such an account seems to have become almost a requirement, especially considering their rather cavalier approach to privacy). Anyway, that’s where things stand, so watch this space!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

CreateSpace ruins the day!

Up until now my experience with Createspace had been a fairly positive one. Now I have to report an extremely unpleasant experience: I was in Mexico, and I needed some copies of my books in a hurry, so I placed an order and paid for priority shipping, which was ridiculously expensive (as in 150% of the cost of the books themselves!). I was told that the books would be there within a week. That felt a bit too long in light of what I was being charged, but seeing how I had ten days, I figured I could live with it. The order was placed on March 11, the books were ready to ship by the 13… and there they sat, neglected until the 17, when I finally got a notice letting me know that my order had shipped… and would arrive by the 23 (and that 23 has now been changed to a 24). That’s thirteen days for priority shipping, and long after the time those books will do me any good. I wrote back to them to ask what was going on, and I had my shipping fee refunded.

That was something, though there was nothing remotely resembling an explanation, and the truth is that it didn’t really do me one lick of good, as what I needed were the books, not the refund, that was why I had paid that outrageous shipping rate in the first place… and then I began poking around. It was then that I realized that they had sent an international shipment that had been billed as priority, and for which they had charged the same rate they would have charged if they had been sending the books all the way down to Argentina (there’s a flat rate for Latin America), using UPS’s Standard service, which the company itself lists as “economical ground delivery for your less-urgent shipments”.

Ground delivery? On an international shipment? And how do they reconcile the word ‘priority’ (as in priority shipping) with UPS’s   ‘less-urgent’ wording? Quick, someone get these folks a dictionary.

In short, buyer beware, when it comes to international orders CreateSpace’s ‘priority shipping’ is a mess, one that can leave you looking like a fool if you dare rely upon it, and no refund is ever going to fix that.

UPDATE: Okay, so the books won’t be here on time, there’s nothing anyone can do to change that, but I just got a call from a representative from CreateSpace, acknowledging their mistake in shipping via UPS Standard, and doing his best to find a way to make things right. Unfortunately there were some elements of this particular mess that made finding a real solution impossible, but I realize that those are not CreateSpace’s fault. Yes, they screwed up, but they owned up to their mistake, and I definitely appreciate it.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

On the POD comparison’s future

From day one the comparison of POD publishers has been one of this site’s most prominent features, and for years I updated it on a yearly basis. For the most part this got me a lot of abuse from publishers and quite a few thank you notes from would be authors (I saved each and every one of those), but the thing is that as time went by, and the publishing landscape changed, the comparison became less and less relevant. The way I see it, it has been reduced to a quaint relic of a bygone era, where small players could make a difference and e-publishing was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. It is also a relic of a time when personal websites were truly personal. For better or for worse, that web is gone. That is one of the reasons why I didn’t even bother to update it this year (the other one had to do with the fact that real life has been pretty crazy). That brings me to the question of the comparison’s future. I am not going to delete it, and if I can I will try to update it sometime next year, but at the same time I am enough of a realist to realize that, given the changes we have seen both in terms of the web and the publishing industry over the past twelve years, it will never regain its former relevance. It was a good project, one I am proud of. It is also one I’m not willing to let go of just yet, but for the time being, I am willing to tuck it in and kiss it good night.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

Technical difficulties may cause some delays

ARGH! Okay, so I had said that we had a tentative release date for book three of Citlalli, and that that date was late July/early August of this year, now it looks like that may have to be pushed back to March of next year. The book itself is coming along nicely, but this is due to some circumstances beyond my control. I am doing my best to remedy the situation and find some sort of a workaround, if I can things will probably go back to their original schedule, if I can’t I will probably wind up publishing a whole bunch of books simultaneously, as Citlalli is not the only one that would be delayed.

What can I say, human stupidity just got in my way.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

And we have a (tentative) release date for the third book of Citlalli!

Remember how on my recap of 2013 I mentioned that I had one book being revised? Well, that one is the third book of the Citlalli series and, if everything goes according to plan, it should be out in the last week of July/first week of August!

I have to say that the fact that it is in a readable form and with a possible release data clearly established is a relief because that is one that did give me quite a bit of trouble. In fact it is nowhere near what I thought it would be when I first started toying with the idea a few eons ago!

Oh, and i case you were wondering, chances are that Citlalli is going to be a tetralogy… or maybe it would be more accurate to describe is as a trilogy with a twist.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

And in the end 2013 was a pretty good year

Another year is behind us and in hindsight I have to say that it was a good one.

  • I published six books (one revision, three translations and two new ones).
  • I began work on three new ones (one of those is being revised, while the other two are in the rough draft stage, though they seem to be coming along nicely).
  • I read 126 books.
  • I did my best not to forget three languages.
  • I allowed my curiosity to get the best of me at times.
  • and best of all, I adopted a dog (or maybe I should say he adopted me)

No, it was not the year in which I found commercial success (in fact that was one of the things I didn’t even try for), but in the end that doesn’t matter.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

A limited view of ‘unlimited’

And just a little update on my problems with my ‘unlimited’ host (that would be greengeeks). Since my site was taken off line for the better part of an afternoon with no previous warning whatsoever for using too many resources last week I have been keeping a closer eye on things (I had assumed that ‘unlimited’ meant that I could relax, or that they would let me know if there was a problem…I learned the hard way that that wasn’t anywhere near the case).

So far I have managed to get the number of spam comments being posted down to zero (the problem was caused largely by excessive spammer activity), but given that the site is already in those spammers’ databases, the fact that they can no longer post hasn’t really had much of an impact on my resource usage yet (and I don’t know if it ever will, as getting deleted from those databases is likely to be all but impossible). Still, the most interesting thing was a little tidbit I came across as I checked my resources usage statistics, as it made crystal clear just how ‘unlimited’ is defined: 256 MB per day.  I am including a series of screengrabs showing not just the limitation notice, but also some additional details about my data usage for the month (the site was restricted on the 12th).

Resource usage restrictions

Daily usage statsDecember stats

That means that, at least as far as greengeeks is concerned, ‘unlimited’ translates into between seven and eight gigabytes per month tops (as traffic varies from day to day, that would be if you reach the resource limit on a daily basis without ever going over it, and that’s not likely to be the case). Assuming that these restrictions are close to the industry standard, I have to say that it is a pretty rotten deal. In fact, with the exception of the most limited of starter plans, few metered packages restrict you to less than 10 GB per month… the problem is that most of the hosts that used to offer rollover bandwidth have either gone out of business, or they have converted to an ‘unlimited’ service… and yes, I am incredibly frustrated by this whole mess (and by the fact that while greengeeks  offers free migrations to entice new customers, it disables the ‘Backup Wizard’, making it that much harder for existing customers to move away, or even take the most basic precautions to ensure their data’s safety).

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

The problem with akismet

When it comes to fighting comment spam, akismet is the default, goto option… the problem is that, as I learned the hard way a few days ago when my host took my site off line for using up too many resources, it is an option that has a pretty major downside. Still, let’s focus on what akismet gets right first: it is extremely effective when it comes to identifying spam, quarantining it, and keeping it from showing up in your blog, that is most definitely a good thing. The problem is that this approach allows those comments to be added to your database before blocking them and keeping them from showing, and that means that it does nothing to keep spambots from using most of your bandwidth. In other words, what you need is something that can keep those comments from being posted in the first place, and that is where adding some sort of CAPTCHA can help you and/or an automated system that can tell bots from real users is bound to come in handy.

Now, I’m not saying that akismet is a bad idea, in fact I find it downright invaluable and it is definitely not going anywhere, but chances are that you’ll be better off making it your last resort for the odd spam comment that manages to get through, rather than your first line of defense.

And a word of caution, if you have a major spam problem already it may take a while to get the spam-bots off your case, as chances are that your site is already in their databases, and that means that they are going to keep on trying (if this remains a problem you may want to give blocking them via the .htaccess file a shot.. you can find the information on how to do that here, but the process is not for the faint of heart).

Okay, that’s it for now. Hopefully I will soon be able to go back to focusing on the things I actually care for, and I’ll finally be able to put spam and spam-bots off my mind.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

Will your host penalize your success?

Up until a few years ago when you purchased a hosting package you got a fixed amount of storage and bandwidth. If you went over your monthly quota, you could purchase some additional bandwidth. In fact you could even have a couple of days grace period in which the cost of that additional bandwidth was deducted from what you had paid in advance for your existing hosting package (usually up to 50% of your remaining credit) … not to mention that, if you were lucky that bandwidth was a ‘rollover bandwidth’, meaning that whatever you didn’t use in a given month, was added to your tally for the next one, giving you a nice cushion that enabled you to absorb a spike in traffic, and basically served to ensure that your site would remain online under most circumstances. In recent years, however, webhosts have hit on something that borders on a scam: they offer unlimited bandwidth in big bold letters in their homepages, and then tuck some very strict restrictions in their TOS, things like twenty simultaneous connections (or other even more obscure measurements). This means that rather than a monthly lump that can be allocated any which way, now your bandwidth is restricted on a minute by minute basis and you have no flexibility at all. If you exceed the limit, or have spammers get a little too active, or suffer a DDoS attack, tough luck… and this situation is then compounded by the fact that limited bandwidth hosts have been forced to switch to an ‘unlimited’ scheme or they have been driven out of business. After all, common sense would seem to suggest that ‘unlimited’ is a more generous option.

So what are the real world consequences of this arrangement? Basically that,  if you are lucky and one of your posts happens to go viral, your host will immediately take your site off-line, effectively robbing you of your success… and given that it may take a while for you to sort the situation out (usually by purchasing an upgrade to a more expensive unlimited package that is a tad more unlimited than the unlimited package you had purchased in the first place thinking that it was, you know… unlimited), all that potential traffic will be lost.

This is, as you can probably imagine, not a position you want to find yourself in… and the situation is further complicated by the fact that some hosts have made it needlessly complicated for you to migrate away from their servers by disabling the ‘Backup Wizard’ from their cPanel. Yes, you can still create a backup the old fashioned way, but especially when it comes to databases, the lack of a one-click solution is a pretty major pain.

In other words, if you are looking for a host, beware of the fact that chances are that the words ‘Unlimited bandwidth’ you see prominently displayed in their homepage don’t mean what you think they do, and -especially if you are not a pro- contact them to ask about the status of the ‘Backup Wizard’ before you sign on the dotted line.

After all, even though you are looking for a host,  you don’t want end up being taken hostage.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

It can be read!

Yay, I finally managed to get the third book of Citlalli into some semblance of a readable form… of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have half a dozen rounds of corrections to look forward to, but for the time being I’m aiming for a late July, early August.

That’s a little later than I would have liked, but nowhere near as late as I had feared it would be.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS