Configure ScrapeAZon for WordPress

ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPressConfiguring the ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPress for the first time requires you to obtain an Amazon Affiliate ID and an Amazon Product Advertising API Access Key/Secret Key pair. This process can be confusing.

The following guide provides step-by-step instructions for establishing your Amazon Affiliate ID and API credentials. Additionally, this guide describes how to configure ScrapeAZon in WordPress after you have obtained your Amazon credentials.

This guide does not cover how to use the ScrapeAZon shortcode in a page or post. That topic will be covered in a separate post. Continue reading

Book Previewer Plugin for WordPress Now Available

Book Previewer Plugin

The Book Previewer Plugin for WordPress is now available for download from the WordPress Plugin Repository. Book Previewer enables you to use a shortcode to retrieve and display Google Books previews of titles you specify. The shortcode can be used on any WordPress page or post. Book Previewer supports all of the following book identifiers:

  • International Standard Book Number (ISBN)
  • Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)
  • Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
  • Google Play Generated Key (GGKEY)

A preview of your title must already exist in Google Books in order to use this plugin. You can obtain more information about the Google Books/Google Play Partner programs at Google.

Book Previewer supports the following three modes of operation:

  • embedded: allows you to embed the preview directly on a page or post
  • popup: allows you to display a Google Preview button that pops up a preview of your book
  • link: allows you to display a Google Preview button that links directly to the preview of your book on Google Play/Google Books

Installing the Book Previewer Plugin

Book Previewer version 1.0.0 can be downloaded and installed from within WordPress. You can also download Book Previewer directly from the WordPress repository.

Supporting the Book Previewer Plugin

If you would like to contribute to the development of future versions of Book Previewer, you can do so by purchasing an ebook from this publisher.

Seeing the Book Previewer Plugin In Action

Google Previewer

A demonstration of Book Previewer’s “embedded previewer” option is available on the plugin’s page.

GoodReviews 2.0.0 Plugin Released for WordPress 3.8 And Later

Version 2.0.0 of GoodReviews Plugin for WordPress is available for download from the WordPress plugin repository. This is the most current version of the plugin. This version of GoodReviews requires WordPress version 3.8 or later.

Version 2.0.0 is a complete rewrite of the plugin that enables it to better integrate with WordPress as a whole. New features include:

  • Plugin has been completely rewritten to better integrate with the WordPress Settings API.
  • Now shows ratings count for all editions of a title.
  • Added widgets for book buying links, book information, and book reviews.
  • Added support for styling the output in a more responsive way.
  • Added support for WordPress localization (i18n).
  • Added support for HTTP retries and an exponential backoff method of dealing with throttling problems.
  • Added support for context-sensitive help on the Settings page.
  • Added support for an uninstall process that removes all settings and plugin files.
  • Added support for a shortcut parameter that disables the reviews pane.

You must have a GoodReads developer API key in order to use this plugin. You only need the developer access key to use GoodReviews, not the secret key.

Installing GoodReviews

GoodReviews version 2.0.0 can be downloaded and installed from within WordPress. You can also download GoodReviews directly from the WordPress repository.

Upgrading GoodReviews

You can upgrade to version 2.0.0 from any previous version of GoodReviews by using the plugin updater built into WordPress. Your current settings should remain intact.

Supporting GoodReviews Development

If you would like to contribute to the development of future versions of GoodReviews, you can do so by purchasing an ebook from this publisher.

ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPress 2.0.0 Released

ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPress

Version 2.0.0 of ScrapeAZon Plugin for WordPress is available for download from the WordPress plugin repository. This is the most current version of the plugin.

Version 2.0.0 is a complete rewrite of the plugin that enables it to better integrate with WordPress as a whole. New features include:

  • An exponential backoff routine that enables ScrapeAZon to periodically retry connections to the Amazon Product Advertising API when HTTP errors or throttling occurs.
  • A new built-in style sheet that can be enabled on sites with responsive design; the style sheet attempts to scale ScrapeAZon’s output for responsive sites, even if the Amazon Product Advertising API content cannot be directly scaled
  • An “Amazon Reviews” widget that can be accessed from the Appearance > Widgets menu within WordPress; the widget can be used in addition to or in place of the classic ScrapeAZon shortcode

ScrapeAZon Prerequisites

You must be a participant in both the Amazon.com Affiliate Program and the Amazon.com Product Advertising API in order to use this plugin.

When you sign up for the Product Advertising API, you will be able to create an Access Key and a Secret Key for your account. It is very important that you download these keys and store them in a safe place after creation because Amazon will only allow you to view the Secret Key once. You will need both the Access Key and the Secret Key in order to use ScrapeAZon.

Installing ScrapeAZon

ScrapeAZon version 2.0.0 can be downloaded and installed from within WordPress. You can also download ScrapeAZon directly from the WordPress repository.

Upgrading ScrapeAZon

You can upgrade to version 2.0.0 from any previous version of ScrapeAZon by using the plugin updater built into WordPress. Your current settings should remain intact.

Supporting ScrapeAZon Development

If you would like to contribute to the development of future versions of ScrapeAZon, you can do so by purchasing an ebook from this publisher.

Soundtracks In Your Head

Do you pick out a “soundtrack” to listen to while you write a specific type of scene? What about when you read? Would a soundtrack in an eBook be distracting? I share my thoughts on reading and writing to music in a new blog post over at amwriting.org. Here’s an excerpt.

I read an article about a New York company, BookTrack, that is developing eBooks with soundtracks. The principle is essentially the same as that of watching a movie or playing a video game: the soundtrack enhances the emotion you feel as the scene plays out in your head. Given the Web-like capabilities of eBook technology, it is perhaps a natural evolution of the platform as long as you’re not too ADD to become distracted by it.

Read the rest at amwriting.org.

Shorts: They’re Not Just for Warm Weather Anymore

The humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst. –Mark Twain

I once asked a Southern gothic luminary (who is no longer among the living but shall yet remain nameless) about the publishing process. It was the early 90s. I was barely an adult. I naively intimated that I had a burgeoning collection of short stories that I wanted to submit for publication somewhere. I wanted his advice on how to go about it.

The tall fellow at first smiled, then laughed out loud. He was not laughing with me.

"Write a novel," he said. "Sorry."

I was also sorry. Because he was right.

Collections of fictional shorts have been traditionally frowned upon as a means of breaking into the business of represented, renowned, and respectable book authorship. If your work was first published and critically raved about in the world of magazines, you might have a shot at publishing a collection. Otherwise, you’d better get cranking on your 100,000-word Great American Novel and leave the shorts to the side until people are willing to plunk down cash for anything that has your name on it.

Now comes the eBook. It has no physical heft, for it is comprised of data bits. It requires no name recognition to publish, although such recognition does help sales. It is typically low cost to produce and, depending on the author/publisher, can be low cost for a reader to obtain. So why should a story published as an eBook require a word count greater than 75,000 to be a popular, enjoyable read?

It shouldn’t. More, I don’t think it does.

The most wonderful thing I’ve discovered about eBooks is the diversity of style and length. I can escape for a short time from the daily grind by downloading and reading a satisfying work of short fiction. Or, I can completely engross myself in a long-haul novel. There’s no reason to choose a novel over a shorter work–novella, novelette, or short story–other than my own interest in the story that unfolds within.

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know that I am currently working on the second draft of my own novel. Therefore, I am not going to claim that the novel has no place in the eBook revolution. It most certainly does. I have no evidence, but I would venture a guess that the majority of indie author literature being released in eBook form is of novel length.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if the eBook revolution might also bring about a resurgence of interest in shorter literary forms. Why not? Some of the greatest works of literature have been less than novel length. For example, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is approximately 26,000 words long, a third of what is considered modern novel length. Likewise, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue clocks in around 120 pages.

The fact that the eBook format is less restrictive about the length of a work is one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and put my time travel novelette, Timecast, out there. I’m glad I did. The feedback so far has been encouraging, and that gives me further incentive to finish the novel. I also plan to release other shorter works in the coming months.

Maybe I’ll even do a collection.

And not be sorry.

How Do You Work This Thing?

TimecastWomen crawl all over me
I’m as smooth as a millionaire
Preacher always calls on me
I got a soothing way with a prayer

–Jeff Holmes/The Floating Men, "Long-winded Prayer"

A fortune teller in the French Quarter once told me that I would never make a good politician. "You’re too honest, brother," he said.

He explained that in order to politick, you must be able to spin. In order to spin, you must be able to put yourself out in front of people, smile in their faces, and convince them to buy what you’re selling without sounding like you’re trying to convince them to buy what you’re selling. I assume the same abilities are required for sales and marketing folks, who make a living convincing us consumers to plunk down money for things we don’t really need and reasons we never entirely understand.

I’m not criticizing the practice. In fact, I’m rather envious. When I worked in newspaper, I sometimes made a point of expressing my appreciation to the sales and marketing folks for the jobs they do. Anyone who can beat the drum for the product day after day and not want to go home and crawl under the bed at night has my utmost, undying respect.

Last week, I finally released my time travel novelette Timecast (which I wrote about in my last post) to the world via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google eBooks, iTunes, and Goodreads. My confidence was boosted almost immediately when my first sale and first customer review appeared on Amazon.com. It was an unsolicited 5-star rave: "really enjoyable, well written, and nicely paced" the reviewer wrote. It was music to my ears.

That said, I can tell you that I’ll never expect sales of Timecast to reach stellar heights. Not because of any fault with the story or its crafting. It’s a unique short work of time travel fiction, if I do say so myself. The problem is that I’m an introvert, awkward at socializing in both real life and online. I can tweet about Timecast all I want, but unless I can sell you on it (establish it as something you want or need to read) you’ll easily pass on it no matter how great I think it is.

What to do, then?

The only thing I can figure is that I need to find some way to play the extraverts’ marketing game without creating undue stress and risk to my introverted nature. Although extraverts might think differently, introverts are most of the time quite happy being introverts. We are not broken extraverts. However, there are times such as these–when you’re trying to market a book– that being an introvert is darned inconvenient.

For now, I’m still figuring things out. Meanwhile, if you happen across this post, look me up on Twitter or Goodreads. Friend/follow/fan me and I’ll friend/follow/fan you back if I can or should. Purchase a copy of Timecast for your favorite reading device (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPhone/iPad, PC, Mac) and provide a review, if you’re moved to do so. I’ll do my best to support your work as well.

I know there are many of us introverted, reclusive storytellers out there struggling to be heard. And the only way we’ll get heard is if we stick together and learn the promotional ropes because most of us will never, ever get a book deal that comes with successful marketing all gift-wrapped in a pretty box with a bow.

About Time

Five years ago, I set out to publish an eBook. The so-called eBook revolution was still a distant speck on the horizon. At the time, the Kindle had barely sparked. There was no Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, or iRiver. I’m not entirely sure why I embarked on the journey, except that I had the idea for the story and it was burning a hole in my head.

I wrote and copyrighted the 10,000-word story. Upon completion, I discovered that I was uncertain of the exact type of work I had created. I originally called it a novella. Then I decided that it was much too short to be called a novella, so I called it a short story. Now I’m calling it a novelette based on the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) guidelines for manuscript sizes.

With great anticipation, I "designed" the eBook (only to find out much later that what I created was an absolute abomination in terms of the true meaning of the word "design"). I generated a PDF and circulated it among a few close friends. Then I let it die undistributed.

Why?

At the time, self-publishing and distributing an eBook didn’t really seem all that easy to me. I researched it a little and gave up, choosing instead to submit the manuscript to a variety of traditionally published science fiction magazines. Inevitably, the manuscript either didn’t fit into the publication’s guidelines or was simply not what the editor was "looking for."

This Christmas, I was gifted with my first e-reader device (unless you count the e-Reader apps I had previously installed on my laptop and my phone). I love it. It caused me to immediately purchase and download the newest Stephen King work. Additionally, it inspired me to revisit my long dormant novelette. 

The process of self-publishing an eBook as been much simplified recently. It is as simple as uploading the book to the various eBook distribution channels (or using a service that does that for you). You can even upload your book if it is a design abomination. However, I chose to have my original manuscript professionally designed instead. Although an eBook is not the same as a print book, I still think it should be pleasing to and easy on the eyes.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce that my novelette will soon be available for download in Kindle and ePub formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, and the Google eBookstore. I am also pleased to announce that the process (plus a little prodding from some friends and loved ones) has inspired me to renew my efforts to finish the second draft of my novel.

So, Happy New Year to all you budding authors out there. I’m going to spend 2012 writing. I hope you do as well.