Category Archives: ebook

Want to read a story about oceans, colonizing other worlds, friendship, and how time and memory are part of the fabric of the universe? Oh, good. Here’s my short story “Tear Apart Worlds”, first published in Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, Edited by LJ Cohen  and Talib S. Hussain.

Tear Apart Worlds – PDF
Tear Apart Worlds – EPUB
Tear Apart Worlds – MOBI


Are you a Kobo reader?

Good news then! The Seaborn books are now available direct from Kobo books.


Salvage is out from Masque Books!

Salvage—the first book in a new Seaborn series—is a fantasy/thriller with lots of cool shipboard stuff, bad guys with guns, commercial diving, weird things happening in the deep, and one seriously badass toymaker.

Get it now from, Barnes & Noble, Wizard’s Tower Books (UK), and more!

Here’s the back cover copy:

Salvage specialist Captain Jayson Wilraven finds his life and the lives of his crew in peril when a strange charterer wants a mysterious sunken vessel hidden, not raised—and sends armed mercenaries to make sure his orders are followed. Meanwhile, Jon Andreden’s trial of an underwater smart machine is disrupted by a weird organic submersible. His life is soon turned dangerously upside down when he meets its creator, the beautiful Laeina, who recruits him to help find her missing sister. The parallel adventures lead to an underworld of people who live in the sea—the seaborn—as well as secret naval projects, a ship-sinking monster, and the first rumblings of a war of immortals over control of human civilization.

Using Amazon’s KDP Select Program

As most of us know Amazon’s KDP Select program requires an exclusive agreement to publish an ebook through Amazon’s Kindle book channel, which means that while registered with KDP Select the book can only be available for any of the flavors of Kindle.  Not on the Nook, in the iBookstore, on your web site, or in another book.

You get two things in return.

1. You get to run five-day free book campaigns–one per quarter I believe, which can get you significant “promo sales” numbers in most cases. That means hundreds, sometimes thousands of readers have your story, your book cover, and your name on their devices.  Amazon’s also been very smart about how free books appear to buyers without spoiling the normal buying channel.  It’s almost as if you’re in a bookstore with two different dimensions, and you see full-price and free books on the same end cap depending on which way you tilt your head.  I think it works.

2. Amazon Prime customers can “borrow” your book for free and Amazon pays you some amount per unit “sold”–the amount determined each month.  Some months the amount is greater than the author’s side of the royalty split, especially if you’re in the $.99 – $3.99 range.

Those are the general rules–if I have them right.  But I don’t really take complete advantage of all of KDP Select’s features.  I use the program mostly for short stories, collections, and novellas. I have had full novels in Select but the borrowing thing never worked steadily to my advantage. (In other words, I don’t mind having a particular story or collection of stories exclusively in KDP Select, but I really want my full novels in as many sales channels as possible. I sell enough books through B&N, iBooks, Kobo that offering them exclusively through Amazon wouldn’t make up for the losses elsewhere).

For me at least KDP Select is about finding my readers.

Writers write stories and readers read them, but pairing those two up may not be as easy as it appears.  Or maybe that’s simple to understand–because I do understand–but difficult to accept when it’s my writing that some readers don’t want to read.

As a reader it’s perfectly clear.  I like certain kinds of books and I dislike other kinds.  I like many authors, but there a some I don’t like. Just like everyone else. And it’s not always clear from a cover, from a name, or from the description that any particular book is going to be my kind of book.

The strategy is about finding your readers by using solid storytelling and a decent cover in the giveaways–and most importantly links in the ebook to your other books in Amazon (more about tricks with linking at the end).  You want to offer your more compelling shorter work, something that will lead some of those readers to your novels.  (I know it may be that your kind of readers don’t even look at the free books.  I’m sure that’s true for literary and a few other genres, but if you’re writing anything close to mainstream science fiction, fantasy, or horror, some of your readers are out there scanning the first few pages of Amazon’s top freebies.  I know it because I’ve had giveaway ebooks ranked 1 for some fairly narrow fiction category and thousands of people suddenly felt the strange urge to get my free book.  Of course the lower your ebook’s rank the more people see it and want it. Crazy).

That’s pretty much it. KDP Select allows me to give away an ebook for five days (I don’t do one day here, another day there, but straight five day runs) and in that time readers will definitely grab the books.  If some small percentage of them remember my name, or like my storytelling, and go on to buy one or two of my other books, that’s a success to me.

Get four or five of your novellas, short stories, books in the program and run a free campaign one at a time across each quarter. I’d love to hear how it works out. Email me if you have questions:

A note about linking out to other books in Amazon

First, if you’re not linking to your other works in Amazon then you should.  Put an “Also by the author” or something like that in the beginning and at the end of your ebook. Go do that now!

I haven’t dug into this as much as I should, but here’s what I know:  say you have an “Also by the author” page in your Kindle book, and you’re using standard anchor tags to make those links hot—e.g., “<a href=…”, if you’re using a Kindle device with web browsing (Fire, etc.) then the links will get you to the Amazon product page for the linked book.  However if you’re using the Kindle app on the iPhone or iPad there is a restriction (This is an Apple restriction) on linking out to the Amazon store from within the app. If you’re using “” or Amazon’s URL shortener, “” in your links then you will run into problems. If you use a 3rd party URL shortener ( or one of the others , but I don’t think works for this because it creates a link through Amazon’s own shortener.) or your own redirection process then you should be fine, and your book page will show up inside the Kindle app.

Here’s an example.

Both of these links will go to the same book page–the B0041OSB7A is the ASIN or Amazon’s own product identifier:

On the “Also by the author” page in your ebook you will have something like this in html:

<a href="">Seaborn</a>

But it won’t work in the Kindle app on the iPhone or iPad.  Use something like this instead:

<a href="">Seaborn</a>



Yes, there will be a new Nanowhere, and it will…

…have illustrations.  Here's a peek at some of them!  Some of these are re-works of my original character sketches while writing Nanowhere. Check out the ebook edition at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and elsewhere, complete with some of Jon Andreden's research papers on building an artificial intelligence, teleology, and other fun stuff.







Where eBooks are Going—Pop-ups in EPUB 3

This isn’t about whether or not we’re going to have or how often we’re going to be reading eBooks in the next few years, because I assume that’s been thoroughly answered to everyone’s satisfaction.

This is a little view into what they may look like in the next few years, focusing on one cool feature: pop-up glossary or footnote data inside your books. Before you run off saying this isn’t for fiction, think about how often you’ve been in the middle of a complex SF or fantasy novel and wished for a f**king character list—especially when half the character names seem to start with the letter K!  (Yes, that’s an actual quote from a reader). With science fiction you’re dealing with advanced technology that may require a little optional background info—selectable or ignored at the reader’s choice. Choice is always good, but clarity and one click away from answers is…priceless.

Let me walk you through it and then you decide if this is for you and your books.
I’m going to begin with the end and show you what it looks like first, along with a sample chapter you can read and use in iBooks to see what’s going on.

Right after this part, because this is where I spent a good deal of time. And because I think it’s cool:

I built a prototype web app that automates adding the pop-ups to your EPUBs. The app takes an EPUB page (good old HTML with some new bits in it), lets you add descriptions for characters, places, events, and then adds the code, references, and pop-up functions into the page. If all goes well you should be able to drop this into your ePub file and load it up in a reader that supports the type:epub attribute (e.g., iBooks 2.0 and higher). Screenshots and a link to the builder below.

Back to the beginning. Here’s what the pop-up glossary info looks like in iBooks—which currently supports this portion of the EPUB 3 spec:

Click for the full view: 


Click for the full view:


Here’s the working example of Seaborn I built with the web app I made. Download it and view it in iBooks or other EPUB 3 reader, or just hit this page with your iPad and click the link.  You should get an “Open in iBooks” dialog and then you’re set. 


Here’s the link andbelow ita walk-through of the app that I made to generate the EPUB with pop-ups.
Pop-up Glossary Builder app



You get to the next page, which looks like this:


When you get to the bottom of the page…



Keep in mind that this is pretty experimental right now. The parser for the nouns and phrases is very simple, and the find/replace operations don’t take into account words or phrases inside other words and phrasesso a link for “Atlantic” will also be dropped into the link for “Atlantic Ocean”.

Another thing: you will probably have to update your XML Namespace to point here:

What this means is that at the top of your EPUB file you’ll see something like this: 

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″ ?>
<html xmlns=””>

Change the part that says xmlns: … to this:


Link structure

To make pop-up links in your EPUB files here’s what you do:

Wrap any words or phrases you want to explain in an anchor tag with epub:type=”noteref” with the href pointing to an in-document location, like this:

<a epub:type=”noteref” href=”#prax”>Prax</a>

Then, at the bottom of the page (I put mine right before the end body tag </body>) add an HTML5 <aside> tag, which supporting readers/browsers won’t show with the page.  This is where you stick your pop-up text and images:

<aside epub:type=”footnote” id=”prax”><p> <img src=”../Images/person.png” /> Praxinos (Prahx-ee-nos) was the third Wreath-wearer, King of the Seaborn, from House Alkimides. Kassandra calls him “Prax” for short.</p></aside>

Okay, that’s it for now. Let me know if you find any of this useful, how it can work better, all that stuff.  Leave a comment!

Big thank you to Liz Castro for her post on pop-ups in EPUB 3 at Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis.

Other things I was thinking about: EPUB is broken up into one file per chapter, section, or some kind of logical text break. So, you can have different text for the same word or phrase in different chapters, which allows you to reveal just enough info about a character without revealing too much and spoiling the plot or suspense. Also, wouldn’t it be nice at some point if you could turn links on or off?



Category: Books, ebook, ePub, EPUB 3 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

DERELICT cover art

I spent about 6 hours last night working on the cover art for Derelict by LJ Cohen–Lisa. Here's it is!


Category: art, Books, ebook

On the Front Page!

SeabornCover150Seaborn is on the front page of Addicted to eBooks!


Category: Books, ebook

Saltwater Witch Graphic Novel Free at Amazon

And so far so good:


Licensing Options When You’re Giving Away Books

CcOr, promotional sharing, licensing your way to more readers, and other well-trodden paths that nevertheless may get you where you want to go.

I’m only here for readers—for the most part.  Of course there’s always a part of me that’s writing for myself.  (If you’re not in love with your own work—at least a little—then how can you expect others to fall for it?  That’s fall for it in a good way).  I love to get into stories, love to create characters and worlds, and writing a story is as exciting to me as reading one.  But without the ability to share my work—without readers—it suddenly becomes much less exciting. One thing I will not do is write books that collect dust for more than a year or two, or let a published book or short story fade away, especially if I have all the rights back.

Rights and sharing are very important to me.  The works I create are mine—the books, the short stories, the paintings and sketches.  I created them, and I do sell them—ebooks, limited edition illustrations, and occasionally the rights to art and stories.

I also share quite a bit of the work I create.  I have a blog and web site full of it (  and ).  Years full of it. I have a couple hundred pages of the Saltwater Witch graphic novel live on my site, and have published it online since 2008.  I have free mobile apps, art tutorials, writing observations.  Some of it I am sharing with all rights reserved, mainly because I want people to come back to my site.  Sometimes it’s because I don’t want them to use it without my approval (and that’s usually because I’m not done with it yet.  Works in evolution can be like bread dough rising, where the baker hasn’t decided if it’s going to become dinner rolls or sourdough pizza).

When I want to share my writing or art I post it, and when I want readers to share my work I use Creative Commons licensing.  I have a variety of work, including art, novels, and short stories licensed under several different Creative Commons licenses.

I love Creative Commons.  I love the idea of a free and uncomplicated method for stamping my creative work with clear, easy to understand, and explicit terms of use.  Creative Commons is a way to tell everyone in the world what can or cannot be done with my books and art. 

So much of the copyright world is not clear—by nature, by design, legal erosion, through cultural or technological change, or even ignorance.  Licensing is complex, there’s no denying it.  I have friends who are lawyers—even copyright attorneys, but I’m not one.  Even so Creative Commons allows me to be comfortable managing my own rights.  CC allows me to offer my work to the world without fear of contractual misunderstandings.  It allows others to re-use my work without wading through legal thickets and murky restrictions.  Most importantly Creative Commons allows me to promote my creative work by sharing it with the world. It works for me, and it clearly works for millions of other creators.

The question is why do I think it works? Because it means more books in the hands of readers.  This has worked for me and may work for you.  

I’ll give you some real numbers in a bit, but I want to take a quick look at my motives for releasing work under one of the Creative Commons licenses.   I don’t think there’s anything new here, but I’ll walk through it.  As part of the process of writing this article I went back through some of Cory Doctorow’s essays and posts around the web, in Locus, and other mags—on the subject of why, and I saw the recurring idea of using CC to expand reach beyond the channels already supplied by established print publishing, whether big six, indie, or anywhere in between.  For example, when Little Brother was released in hardcover by Tor, Cory also released the full text of the book on his web site ( in several formats (txt, html, pdf) under a Creative Commons license, which allowed his fans and fellow creators to reformat the book, translate it, build on it, create new book covers, make derivative works (e.g. movies) under similar licensing arrangements—attribution, non-commercial, share-alike.

But is this true for the new “indies”, the self-publishers, those DIY authors who are taking on most or all of the roles beyond the actual writing of the book?  I think it is.  Can today’s authors use Creative Commons licensing as a promotional tool? I think we can.  When I say things like I’m only in this for the readers, I’m talking about extending the awareness of me as an author and my books as something science fiction, thriller, and fantasy readers might like to read.  Making money off my work is certainly a good thing, and all creators should expect to be paid in some way for their work.  How we are paid can depend on circumstance, newness in the market, fanbase, access to sales channels, and many other factors.  Recognition is a high value for me.  Just getting onto the book shelves, devices, e-libraries of readers is important.  

Creative Commons licensing as a promotional tool works for me.  It’s one tool in the toolbox, along with turning off DRM, going to SF conventions, using Amazon’s KDP Select features, participating in ebook and indie pub forums, posting to my web site, entering art shows, offering my books in as many channels as I can reasonably get into, offering my books in as many formats as I can reasonably manage.

The established sellers are just as valuable. Amazon does a fair amount promotion for KDP authors, unlike the current state of things at Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBooks store.  My impression of Apple is that, being a solid, powerful, latecomer to the ebook party, they are still progressing rapidly, adding features, and already offer pricing aspects (free, timed sales campaigns) and territorial reach beyond anyone else.  My impression of Barnes & Noble is that they are trying very hard to do everything they can to push the books coming through PubIt into a second or third class position behind print books and the ebooks from the big six publishers—sort of a literary caste system.  “Indie” ebooks aren’t categorized as any old books but are specifically separated out as “pubit”, unlike say The Hunger Games, which B&N appears to grant a higher status.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.  For Barnes and the author, it’s the typical balance of the hand that feeds you on one side and looking a gift horse in the mouth on the other. I certainly wouldn’t cut off any channel to readers because they don’t seem to care about a nobody author like me.  I just wanted to point out that my experience with B&N and Apple is that you have to do far more in outside promotion if you want to do well there, while Amazon appears to do more for authors without a big pub contract.

What does doing well mean?  For me, it means that I’m selling 400 – 500 books per month.  I had rights revert on my first novel Seaborn early last year, and toward the end of March I released it along with the other two books in the Seaborn Trilogy, Saltwater Witch and Sea Throne. Over the course of the next nine months of 2011 I released a book per month—either a novel, graphic novel chapter, or short story collection.  Some of them had been published before, some of them hadn’t.  Sales since April gradually increased and I ended 2011 selling more than 4,200 books, mostly through and, but I also did quite well at Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBooks store.  So, what does doing well mean?  The answer for me is forty-two…hundred.

What does doing well mean in regard to Creative Commons?  Here’s my own experience: I released my SF thriller Nanowhere under a Creative Commons license in the spring of 2006, downloadable and sharable from my web site. I had hundreds of downloads, which is all I could have asked for. Cory Doctorow was nice enough to blog about it on BoingBoing, and things really took off. I stopped keeping track after 10,000 downloads.

I was good with hundreds because that’s better than zero.  I’m even better with thousands.  And what does all of this add up to? People finding my books who may like them and come back for more.  Like I said, that’s pretty much why I’m here.

But wait, there’s more…

If you’re ready to choose a Creative Commons license for one of your creative works here’s the CC home,  Click the Choose a License button.

If you’re new to CC I want to point you to the very thorough and helpful Creative Commons FAQ here: –especially the section for licensors (the rightsholder or those authorized to license a creative work).

You really should check out the FAQ, but here are four points I think anyone looking into Creative Commons licensing should understand:

1. You have to own the rights to the work and have the authorization to apply a Creative Commons license to it.  You might think those mean the same thing, but some countries have statutory licensing restrictions on works created by their own citizens, while others have voluntary membership in collective licensing which may contain some level of exclusivity. See the point on collecting agencies in the FAQ to see if this applies to you.

2. Creative Commons licenses are non-revocable, which means once you publish a work under a CC license and release it to the world you cannot take the license back from the copies already shared or used.  You can certainly remove the links and copies from your web site, but the copies you shared with the world under the CC license you specified will remain with those copies.   Again, this may seem obvious.  You can’t allow someone to use your creative work—possibly in their own work—and then take it back when you feel like it.  I think the main concern here is commercial use.  My answer to this is if you’re really worried about someone else profiting off your work, then specify non-commercial use and even share-alike, which means that anyone using your work can only share it under the same licensing terms you’ve placed on your own work.

3. There’s helpful code behind the Creative Commons image.  When you generate a license at you will get a block of HTML with links back to the license terms and other clearly defined rules for use, but you will also get details in that block of HTML—“machine readable” details, which means there are standard codes and definitions that search engines like Google can identify and present to users. This helps everyone find your stuff.

4. And finally you should be explicit about what you mean by the Creative Commons license you apply to your work.  Tell your readers, your fans, and the world the rules, and even better let them know what you would like to see—new formats, an audio version, illustrations to go along with your story, anything. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but you should make things clear.  It might give someone a good idea.

Here’s an example for my book Nanowhere:

This edition of Nanowhere, including the cover art and illustrations, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, which means you can share it, remix it (for example, you can reformat it or translate it), and you can share the works you make from this one, but you cannot make money from the things you do with Nanowhere, and everything you derive from it has to be sharable and usable in a non-commercial way that observes everything that’s allowed or not allowed under this license.  Details on this Creative Commons license here:

Go create something!

Creative Commons License
"Licensing Options When You’re Giving Away Books" by Chris Howard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at