Tag Archives: comparison

KDP pricing vs IngramSpark pricing

I’ve just been speaking to IngramSpark [Australia] and discovered that Ingram only charge for the actual print cost of a paperback!!!!

-dance-

No idea why that’s such a big deal?

Allow me to explain. 🙂

When you print [and sell] your paperback through KDP, your royalty is calculated as the difference between the sale price of the book and two things:

  1. the print cost
  2. the cost of distributing [i.e. selling] through Amazon

Amazon’s distribution cost will always be 40% of the List Price [the sale price], but the print cost will vary depending on what, and how, you print. For example, black & white costs much less than colour.

To explain how distribution and print cost affect royalty, I’m cheating a bit and taking the next bit straight out of my KDP how-to book:

Royalty = (List Price – 40% [to Amazon]) – Printing

Or to put it another way, when your paperback sells on Amazon:

  1. Amazon takes its share – 40% – from the total sale price,
  2. This leaves 60% of the total sale price.
  3. From this 60%, Amazon takes the actual print costs.
  4. Whatever is left over is your royalty.

To illustrate this point, let’s say the List Price of a book is $10 and the print cost is $5.

  1. From that $10, Amazon takes $4 – i.e. 40%.
  2. That leaves $6.
  3. From that $6, Amazon takes $5 – i.e. the cost of the printing.
  4. That then leaves $1 as the royalty owed to the author.

 [10 – 4] – 5 = 1

Note: back when you had the option of selling your paperback directly through CreateSpace, the cost of selling through CS was 20% rather than the 40% owed to Amazon, but there was still a charge.

Knowing how Amazon and CreateSpace calculate royalties, I assumed that IngramSpark must have a distribution cost factored in there somewhere as well. But they don’t, and I couldn’t be happier! IngramSpark will distributre your paperback worldwide without charging for the distribution. All they charge is the print cost. Suddenly, the setup fee and the revision fee don’t feel so bad any more.

Until I see exactly how Amazon and IngramSpark function together, I won’t be completely sure of my figures, but I am now itching to try it and see. And of course, you’ll be the first to know what I’ve learned. 😀

cheers

Meeks

 


CreateSpace paperbacks – matte vs glossy

First up, I am amazed at how fast CreateSpace delivered my printed proofs of How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing. Seriously, from either the US or the UK to Australia in a week? Thank you!

Unfortunately, the proofs prove exactly why printed proofs of paperbacks are so necessary. This is what I see when I look at the cover on my computer screen:

Note: ignore the back cover text; was a quick and dirty scale down in Corel.

Now, have a look at what the cover looks like with a matte finish:

Note 2: that curly, golden looking thing in the background is the dog’s tail.

As you can see, the matte finish looks, well, awful. Not the fault of CreateSpace. My fault. All my previous covers have been printed with a glossy finish and [except for Vokhtah] they all turned out beautifully. This is one of my glossy how-to’s for comparison:

The black of the background is the same on both the matte and glossy covers. The difference between them, however, is stark.

I’m sure there are some covers that work perfectly with a matte finish, but none of mine do, and I’ll never make this mistake again. 😦

Another design mistake I made was in the choice of ‘tablet’ graphic I used. The outline of the tablet blends into the background way too much. That will have to be changed, tout suite. My only excuse is that it didn’t look that way on my screen. Not sure if that’s because of the calibration of the screen, my ageing eye-sight or just an inevitable outcome when you convert from RGB to CMYK colour modes. Actually, it’s probably a combination of all three.

And now to something that wasn’t my fault. These are smears of, I think, glossy ‘ink’ that have transferred to the matte print:

Not sure how POD technology works, but clearly it’s not quite as ‘clean’ as one would hope. As these books are just proof copies, and I’m going to change the cover slightly anyway, I’m not terribly fussed. But can you imagine how I’d be feeling right now if I’d approved this original cover for IngramSpark?…and now had to pay $25 to fix the problems with the cover?

I think my blood would be boiling, there’d be steam coming out of my ears, and the house would be ringing with four-letter words at max volume… Ahem. Luckily, none of that is happening, thanks to CreateSpace.

Lessons learned:

  • setup paperbacks to be sold on Amazon with CreateSpace,
  • request printed proofs of paperbacks from CreateSpace,
  • do not approve any paperbacks for IngramSpark until you’re sure of the ultimate quality because you’ll be working sight unseen and mistakes are costly.

There is one more lesson I have to learn, and that is to see if the IngramSpark worldwide distribution is as good as it’s cracked up to be. But that’s for another day and another post.

cheers

Meeks

 


Elder Scrolls Online [ESO] — first impressions

This post first appeared on my Medium publication, Tikh Tokh.

Disclaimer: I’m an older gamer whose main interests are crafting, exploration, lore, game design and aesthetics. If you want to know if ESO has the best dungeons or the most exciting PVP, you’ve come to the wrong place.

So…first impressions:

“God, the characters are ugly.”

“Help! The camera is awful!”

“Bloody hell, how do you move around in this game?”

But then there came a moment when I saw my first ‘mansion’…

…and the graphics whore in me kicked in. Jaw agape, I wandered through this empty mansion and was transported back to my favourite game of all time – Vagrant Story. Created by Square Enix, Vagrant Story was probably the most beautiful game ever developed for the first PlayStation console, and the graphics had the same effect on me.

But this article isn’t about Vagrant Story, it’s about ESO, and the reason I bring the comparison up so early in the piece is because this was the moment when all my other first impressions faded into insignificance. I still hated the appearance of my character [and all the npcs]. I still found moving around difficult, and battling excruciatingly hit or miss, but…the beauty of the ‘world’ had me hooked.

The following is a watery vista just to the north of Balmora:

The next is a close-up view of the texture of a wall in Balmora. The dark shapes are shadows from a tree:

Before playing ESO, I honestly thought Final Fantasy XIV [FFXIV] was the most beautiful MMORPG currently available. I still think FFXIV is beautiful in that distinctly Asian, manga-esque way, but I no longer think it’s the best out there. ESO is.

The grass and bushes in ESO are thicker, richer, more real looking. The textures are a million times better, and the abundance of fauna, both large and small, make the environment feel alive. Plus the whole landscape is full of things to find, but more on that later. Time now for some negatives.

I began this article by saying that ESO characters are ugly. I stand by that. Nevertheless, I do acknowledge that my aesthetic may not appeal to everyone. I have played Western MMOs [WoW, GW2 and a couple of forgettables], but the bulk of my playing time has been on Japanese or Korean MMOs. Bear that in mind as you look at the following screenshots. The first is of a Dark Elf male and a Nord female:

I love character customisation, but I found it next to impossible to create attractive characters in ESO. The faces shown above are two of the most attractive ones, but I don’t think either is that attractive.

The two characters above are from Asian MMOs. The character on the left is from my brief foray into Blade and Soul. Loved the aesthetic of the characters, hated the game. The character on the right is from FFXIV. Both are gorgeous, and as a female player I make no apology for prefering them to the ESO offering.

I’m not impressed with the ESO body aesthetic either:

To me, the legs in ESO look too short for the bodies, but that could just be me. The monotony of the faces, however, is not my imagination. It is possible to create some differences between races, but within races, all the faces come out looking almost identical. As for the Cat and Lizard races…rolls eyes. Really? Stick an unmodified cat head on a human body and that’s it? Instant Cat race? The less said about those two races the better.

And now to the camera and movement settings in ESO. Having the camera locked to the head of the character may work in first person shooters, but for those of us who prefer a 3rd person perspective — i.e. seeing our characters from behind as they move about — the camera is nauseating, literally. You can’t just point to some ‘object’ with the mouse and look at it. You have to move the character until the cross hairs at head level pan over the object you want to check out.

The camera setting also means that the character has to be pointed at and looking at any enemy it needs to fight. Getting that ‘head camera angle’ just right in 3rd person view is tricky, very tricky. Again, I imagine that the camera setting would make fighting in PVP easier as you wouldn’t have to worry about lining up the crosshair, it would just be ‘there’. Pity I don’t do PVP.

You can change the key bindings for actions and weapon skills, but after much effort I finally gave up and learned to use the default setup, more or less. These settings include:

  • left mouse button for ‘Attack’ [with your weapon]
  • right mouse button for block, and
  • left & right mouse buttons together to interrupt

Actual weapon skills are handled by the number keys, 1–5. This means you can only ever have five of the total available weapon skills active at the one time. [I haven’t reached the level at which I get weapon swap which will effectively give me another 5 weapon skills to work with and I’m ignoring Ultimates for now].

Do I enjoy the battling? Not particularly, but I’m now able to hold my own. In time I may actually become reasonably proficient at fighting. -sigh-

Still on the subject of fighting, I have to say that the solo ‘dungeons’ [delves?] are fast becoming my favourite parts of the game. Most of these instanced, solo events are part of a quest chain and occur underground, or in some dungeon-like area.

This is the map of the Vassir-Didanat Mine dungeon:

These instanced dungeons can be completed on your own or by casually joining other players who are in the same place at the same time. No need to join a party, just tag along helping each other as needed. Great fun.

Returning to the camera settings, another problem is that you can’t just sweep the mouse over the environment when you’re looking for something. This can make gathering tricky as collectables aren’t marked in any way. You have to get up close and personal, and touch the object with the crosshair before you can see its label.

In the following screenshot, the object circled in red is a maple log:

If you love gathering and crafting, you will eventually learn to recognize the appearance of collectables from a distance, but as you can see from the above screenshot, collectables don’t exactly leap out of the environment at you. Yet despite this, or perhaps because of it, each rune, flower, or lump of wood I discover feels like an achievement.

This sense of accomplishment is in stark contrast to FFXIV where gathering is ‘easy’ but horribly boring. Sadly, crafting in ESO is the exact reverse. You rock up to a crafting station, choose the item you want to craft and hit a button. If you have the required materials, the item is crafted without any further input from the crafter. Boring….

By contrast, crafting in FFXIV is a mini-game and actually requires both strategy and skill.

In an attempt to make crafting in ESO a little more substantial, higher levels require ‘traits’ that must be researched. Researching a trait involves the destruction of an ‘item’ [weapon, gear, whatever] in order to learn the trait it contains. Researching a trait takes 6 hours and again, requires no further input from the crafter.

There are other bits and pieces involved in crafting, but at this point I haven’t discovered anything in ESO that makes my heart go pitter pat. I’m still at a very low level though so I’ll reserve my final judgement until I learn more.

Before I finish this preliminary overview of ESO, there are two further positives I really have to point out. Despite the fact that my character is only level 12, the quest lines have already given me a mount and a room at the inn which I can furnish as I wish.

None of the MMOs I’ve played have ever been this generous to a newbie player. It’s almost as if ESO believes players should be enjoying themselves right from the beginning instead of having to level up for weeks before being rewarded with something ‘nice’. I’m not saying ESO is perfect, far from it, but I will say that I’ve never enjoyed these low levels in an MMO before. That has to mean something. Oh, and it’s free to play. That means something too.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I write like H.G.Wells?

I’m normally a skeptic when it comes to apps that purport to analyse this, that or the other but…this tool is spot on. It’s spooky how accurate it is…

Okay so ‘what’ is it?

‘It’ is an online app that analyses your writing based on a sample that you cut and paste onto the webiste. This is the sample I used from the Prologue of Vokhtah [and yes, I rewrote it some time ago to make it less drawn-out-prologue and more succinct intro.].

‘Tohoh was always a desperate time of year. The shimmering heat of the dry season tested every living thing on the planet, but with the red sun drawing ever closer, the winnowing of the weakest was accelerating.

Out on the plains, the scorched grass trembled in the heat haze, and the heavy seed heads hung limp on brittle stalks. Nothing moved, not even the herds of hungry akaht. They, like all the other beasts, knew when to shelter from the suns’ ill-temper.

Only on the very fringes of the grassland, where rock met soil, was there any movement. There, the black shapes of iVokh foragers trudged slowly through the waist-high grass, their long, leathery wings tucked into their sides as they harvested the seeds the akaht had missed.

As the day wore on, and the heat intensified, the eyes of the Foragers lingered ever longer on the patches of deep shade. They longed for the day to end so they could return to the cool of the Settlement, but the approach of true dark brought its own dangers, for that was when the to’pak awoke, and they were always hungry.’

In less that half a second, the app. came back with this:

‘About H. G. Wells

Picture of H. G. Wells

Herbert George “H.G.” Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was a British author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction”.

Wells’s earliest specialized training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as the beginning of the First World War) sympathizing with pacifist views.

Whilst I did read H.G.Wells in my late teens, I swear on a stack of bibles that I knew nothing about his background, especially the bits highlighted in blue. More importantly, I’ve never seen him as a major influence in my work. Ursula K. LeGuin, yes. Frank Herbert, yes. H.G.Wells? Um…

I have absolutely no idea how the app. does what it does but I’m about to try it on Miira. And then, just for giggles, I’ll try it on one of the How-to books.

If you’re a writer and you want to see what your own writing style is like, go here:

https://iwl.me/s/a85d5606

cheers

Meeks

 


#Whatsapp – oh, so that’s what it is!

meeka-thinksWhat a difference a name makes. Believe it or not, until today, I really didn’t know what Whatsapp was.

So for all those other dinosaurs out there, here’s my definition of Whatsapp and messaging in general:

It’s instant messaging, but for your phone!

-blush- I know, I know. I feel so dumb, don’t rub it in… But you see, all the hype made me think messaging was something new. It’s not. IM, or instant messaging has been around on the computer for a very long time.

“But what is it?” you say.

On the computer, instant messaging is like making a phone call with your eyes instead of your ears. You and the person you are ‘talking’ to are connected in real time, and you type messages back and forth, also in real time. So you are having an ‘instant’ conversation using text instead of voice.

Compare this to email which is like sending a letter that the recipient receives instantly, but may not read [or reply] to until some time later.

I can’t remember when I first started using instant messaging, but I know I was using it daily by 2001. I stopped using it daily when I started receiving massive phone bills [I didn’t know that I would be slugged with a massive data surcharge].

Fast forward to the mobile era and ‘lo, smartphones have apps [a sexy word for a program] which can do instant messaging like computers but on the go. Instead of talking to someone on your contact list, or sending them a text [which is like a teeny tiny email that may or may not be read straight away], messaging apps allow smartphone users to text back and forth in real time.

“But why message when you can talk?”

Okay, I’m not completely sure of the answer to this one, but I think it has something to do with cost. Voice calls cost a certain amount of money. SMS text messages also cost money but less than voice calls, so my guess is that messaging costs less again.

The reason I’m so hesitant about the cost is because Australia is very different to the US. I believe that in the US, data [i.e. SMS and messaging etc] is practically unlimited so messaging is a satisfying and cheap alternative to voice calls.

Here in Australia, however, we have to pay for our data. I’m with Virgin Mobile and from memory I have 1.5 GB of free data included [per month]. Any usage above that incurs a cost. As I know how easy it is to use up 1.5 GB of data, I try not to use data at all – hence my lack of knowledge about messaging. And yes, I could upgrade to a better plan, but that would be an added cost on top of the money I already spend getting internet access for the computers in our house.

To be brutally honest, I’d rather play FFXIV and have access to the internet on my computer with its lovely big screen and decent speakers than ‘chat’ with you on my smartphone.

And that is why I didn’t know that Whatsapp is just an instant messaging program – because it’s designed for phones not computers.

So there you have it, a dinosaur’s eye view of Whatsapp.:)

cheers

Meeks


FFXIV and the #Heavensward expansion – too much stick and not enough carrot?

Costa del Sol at dawn

Costa del Sol at dawn

When Final Fantasy 14 came out in version 1, it was vilified by the majority of players because it worked so badly. There was no auction house, no bank, no end-game content – all pretty much standard fare on MMOs. And the servers simply could not cope with the demands of the game. You could wait for seconds for a menu to open, and lag was endemic on all but the most powerful computers.

Nevertheless, as someone who played it from start to finish, I have to say that version 1 did at least try to be innovative. One of the good things it did was to break with its predecessor’s mold when it came to solo play. In FF11 [the first Final Fantasy MMO], even ordinary mobs were so hard, only a competent group could take them down, hence a group was needed for all progress beyond level 10.

By contrast, Final Fantasy 14 Version 1 allowed casual players to progress by themselves! It also allowed players to progress via battling, crafting or gathering – i.e. if you liked crafting better than fighting, you could do your crafts and level up your character without ever having to fight.

For those who did like to fight, anything was possible. You could customize your character’s skillset by taking cross-class skills from other melee and casting classes – i.e. your warrior could use a ranged skill or cast a spell if that was how you wanted to play it. The choice was yours.

And finally, although Version 1 did have a very interesting storyline, it was an added ‘extra’, meaning you could spend time on it or not. There were a few things you ‘had’ to do, but mostly the choice was yours. In this sense, it was more like what we now call a ‘sandbox’ than a standard MMO.

For those who don’t know, the term ‘sandbox‘ refers to:

‘… a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will.’

Too much choice? Too much freedom? Or simply a case of throwing the good out with the bad?

I don’t know, but a very vocal segment of the Version 1 players hated the game and felt ‘cheated’. As a result, the version 1 team was dumped and a different team took over. They rebuilt FF14 from the ground up, and when version 2.0 finally launched, it was as bright and shiny as a newly minted gold coin. Everything worked [except the payment system], and everything was beautiful.

The world was graphically stunning and did not require bleeding edge computer hardware to run. There was no lag. Everything ran like clockwork and crafting was once again an exciting mini-game where ‘luck’ was balanced with skill.

But to counter all these goodies, some of the most desirable early features – ‘carrots’ – could only be unlocked via the main storyline, and the main storyline required that you complete a number of low level dungeons [the ‘stick’].So, for example, you could not unlock retainers [a kind of ‘bank’ mechanism] without completing the first three dungeons. To unlock the ability to ride a mount, you had to complete a 4th dungeon.

Now I know that 98% of gamers will not find the running of dungeons a hardship. In fact, I know that most would be devastated to find that a game did not have dungeons, so these gamers would not even see the carrot-and-stick mechanism at play. They are the norm, not old ladies like me. But even young gamers can resent the lack of choice.

The linear straitjacket of the main storyline came into sharp focus with the advent of version 3, Heavensward. Not only would gamers have to be at level cap – i.e. at level 50 – to play the new content, they would also have to complete every last bit of the main storyline from the previous version.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the main storyline comprises scores and scores of quests, dungeons and trials. Skip any part of the storyline and you can’t even see what the new Heavensward areas look like.

So let me recap. To play the Heavensward expansion, players need to:

  • buy the expansion
  • reach level 50
  • AND complete the entire version 2.xx storyline

As someone who hates dungeons, it literally took me months to complete the storyline requirement, but even a ‘normal’ player would need at least a week. That is a lot of delayed gratification for someone who’s already at level cap.

Like me, a lot of returning players did slog through the storyline to get to the carrot, but I wonder whether they thought the effort was worth it?

I’m about half way through the expansion, and I have to say, I am disappointed. Heavensward was promoted as this new, shiny thing with lots of yummy toys, but the reality falls short of the hype, at least for me.

One of the pretties we all looked forward to was flying mounts, and sure enough, once I slogged through yet more of the storyline, I was given a rather elegant black choco – the first of the flying mounts on offer. But, of course, the damn chocobo wouldn’t fly, would it?

In Heavensward, you may get a flying mount, but the ability to make it actually fly requires that you unlock all the aether currents in an ‘area’ [or zone]. You are given a kind of aether current compass and told to go exploring…on foot. No problem. But then you discover that there are two kinds of aether currents:

  • those you can discover via exploration and
  • those you can only unlock by doing quests

I should point out that these are sidequests, not part of the main storyline. Yet, lo and behold, one of the aether current quests in the very first area sends you to…a dungeon. And you have to unlock ALL the currents before you can fly.

Did I mention I hate dungeons? Not only do they stress me out, they also eat into my life because on my server, the only time I can realistically expect to get a group is in the morning [timezone disparity between Australia and the rest of the world]. But I work. I have a life. Bah…

Suffice it to say that it’s taken me weeks to get around to running that stupid dungeon. I can now fly, but only in one area. This means that all the gathering I need to do in the next [higher level area] is on foot, again, because of course flying in that area is not yet unlocked.

And this brings me to more of the Heavensward straitjacket. The new map is huge, yet I can only access three areas of it:

  • Cloud Top
  • Western Coerthas
  • Dravanian Forelands

Why? Because the higher areas can only be unlocked via the main storyline. And you guessed it, the next part of the main storyline requires that I do a dungeon, one that even experienced dungeon runners describe as ‘tricky’.

I can understand how connecting up all the content would make sense, from a game developer’s point of view. If you force gamers to complete the majority of the content in order to progress, you are getting the most bang for your buck from that content. But that does not necessarily make for a great gaming experience…for the gamer.

To me, a great gaming experience is one in which there are independent content streams that allow me to control how and when I play. If I want to do nothing but crafting, I should be able to do that. If I want to play solo, I should be able to do that. If I want to chat to people and develop in-game friendships, I should be allowed to do that without being forced into some artificial model of ‘community’.

In other words, I should be treated like an adult and given the right to choose. It can be done. In fact it has been done, very successfully, by MMOs like Guild Wars 2 [GW2].

I played GW2 for quite some time in between Final Fantasy 14 versions 1 and 2, and I really enjoyed it. Fun and innovative are two things that immediately spring to mind. It was also a free-to-play MMO. But there were things it lacked – like player housing, and mounts. And although much more attractive graphically than say, World of Warcraft, GW2 has never been as beautiful as Final Fantasy 14.

It may sound a bit twee to talk about beauty in an MMO, but there are times in Final Fantasy 14 when I literally catch my breath in wonder at how lovely a scene is. The game has weather, and a day/night cycle, and lighting that shifts subtly with the time of day and the weather pattern. It feels as real as a 2 dimensional world can get, and I love it…

But as an adult, I feel as if Final Fantasy 14 is squeezing me through one of those sausage making machines, and I don’t like it.

Will I leave? I don’t know. I’ve been subscribed to FF14 for over 720 days. That’s a long time, and I have a lot invested in the game, including my house. If I unsubscribe, my characters will probably remain in storage on some server somewhere, but I know that my house will be ‘repossessed’ to allow other gamers the privilege of owning a house. Because, of course, there is not enough housing to go around.

So there are consequences with leaving, even just for a few months.

For now I’m going to trudge my way through Heavensward, but with Christmas approaching, I may start hinting to the Daughter that I wouldn’t mind being given the new Guild Wars 2 expansion. She has been playing it and loves it. And many of the things she tells me about the game sound innovative and fresh and new…

cheers

Meeks

 

 


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