Jul
31
2011
12

Yes… Just Smile

Did you know that one smile equals the brain stimulation of 2,000 bars of chocolate?! According to the work and study of Ron Gutman, smiling helps you and everyone around you live a longer, healthier, and happier life.

They studied baseball players, and found that players with wide, beaming smiles lived an average of 79.9 years; non-smiling players lived 72.9 years, and slight-smiling players lived an average of 75 years.

Smiles predict marriage success: In a study of childhood pictures, 31% of non-smilers experienced divorce, while only 11% of smilers were divorced.

So of course I had to check my childhood pictures to see if I was smiling:

image

No! Wait! That doesn’t count. DO YOU SEE THE ELASTIC ON THAT DRESS? It was the TORTURE dress. I vividly remember how horrid and uncomfortable that dress was. Hopefully I was normally more like this:

 image

When I was a piano teacher, I wanted to make sure that if a student happened to glance at me, they’d see a wide, sincere, supportive smile that communicated enthusiasm and fun.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to smile like that for two freakin’ hours straight? By the time everyone left after the reception, the whole top and back of my head would be seizing up and I’d have a headache for hours.

Here’s the video of Ron Gutman’s talk, which is great:

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:
Jul
28
2011
14

Getting the Gears Rolling

Before I finish a story, I try to put the next story on simmer on the back burner. Right now I’m a chapter or two away from finishing a novel, and a couple chapters away from finishing a novelette.

So it’s time to set something on simmer.

I’ve been writing in my genre for ten years, and I need a little break. So I’m trying to decide what genre to write next. I’ve got a YA idea, a literary novel idea (*snorts* … I do love genre stuff, but… the keeps bugging me), a mystery idea, and a couple others batting around up there.

And I was wondering…

How do you pick?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft |
Jul
27
2011
3

Fear of a Letter

So when I can catch an hour, I’ve been learning Spanish. And I’ve developed the fear of a letter—of the letter R. I’m calling it R-phobia.

(According to Dumbledore, naming something takes some of the fear away. Or something like that.)

If you speak Spanish, you might be laughing now, because almost every freakin’ word in Spanish has an R in it—or worse, a double R. It’s so bad that the other day, when I was discussing Spanish words with someone, I realized I was spelling every word out letter by letter in order to avoid trying to pronounce words with the letter R in them.

*rolls eyes at self*

The bad thing about being an ex-teacher is that every single lecture I’ve given to my students haunts me. When I was a teacher, I knew when students took shortcuts because I’d taken the same shortcuts when I was younger. (And shortcuts almost never work!—as I told my students millions of times.)

But now that I’m learning again, I feel like all my old students will know if I take a shortcut—or if I don’t practice something the “magic three” (three times correctly in a row—actually seven is the magic number when we’re older than twelve or so). I feel like I’d be letting them down or something.

(Do you see how much anxiety I’m having over speaking a stupid letter? It’s ridiculous!!!)

I’m having a blast, though. I love how learning a new language compels you to examine the intricacies and subtleties of your native language more closely. It makes me choose more precise words in my own writing.

Speaking of which, I’d better get back to it.

How’s your writing going? How do you have fun with words? What inspires you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Languages | Tags:
Jul
20
2011
1

Harry Potter and Failure

So? Did you see it? The last Harry Potter movie? What did you think?

In celebration, I want to post my favorite speech ever: The Benefits of Failure, the 2008 Harvard commencement address by J.K. Rowling. (Follow the above link for a transcript, if you don’t feel like listening to the video.)

My favorite quote:

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People |
Jul
09
2011
6

How to Dress; Arizonans During a Cold Front

I have blogger’s block again. So for everyone who doesn’t do Facebook, this has been my week:

  • I wore my shorts inside-out to yoga. Not to be cool. Just because I forgot to double check that my clothes were right side on. Because, you know, I’ve only had 37 years of practice, so it’s easy to forget that small step.
  • Everybody who’s come in the coffee shop in the last half hour has ordered hot chocolate. Well, what do you expect? It’s Arizona. And it’s only 78 out.
  • Also, I’m so glad that this coffee shop allows me to dance and air-sing while I work on my computer at one of their counters. No, I don’t mind making a fool of myself in public. Not at all. Totally cool with it.
  • I had the heater on in my car. Yes, I did. Because it’s only 75 out. (Loving it, though!)
  • I am watching Notting Hill again. *sighhhhhhhhhhhs*
  • One of you said "pizza." *starts twitching* *starts drooling* *eyes go crazy* I want I want I want I want I want I want I want…
  • Working out in 100 degree room? You totally get 2 or 3 inches more flexible.
  • My one cat thinks she owns mommy. She happily rolls all submissive around me, but if another cat intrudes upon our space, she hisses. I hate to say it, but she’s right. I am wrapped around her little paw.

How’s your week been? Do you have any suggestions for topics for me to write about?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures |
Jul
05
2011
5

Dancing Makes Me Happy

So I’ve been cheating on Borders. I feel terrible, but the other coffee shop I go to has these bar-type counters where you can put your computer and work. I slip off the bar stool thing and end up half-dancing. It’s almost like my dancing desk at home.

And then the air-singing starts.

Luckily, the baristas tend to stay in the back, and it’s usually deserted. And the people who sometimes stay and work on their computer here smile at me, so they don’t seem to mind me making a fool of myself in public.

Borders has way cooler people. I love my friends there a ton and miss them when I stay away, but sometimes I get too social, so it’s good to go to my other coffee shop and work and dance and air-sing sometimes.

I feel like I’m making all these little pockets of home in Tucson. I have two coffee shops, a belly dancing studio, and a yoga studio. It’s nice. It takes a while to settle into a new city. I’ve never moved before, so I think the next time I move (if), I’ll do it better and settle in more quickly.

Where are your pockets of home in your city?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures | Tags:
Jul
02
2011
8

Language and Words

I’ve been trying to learn Spanish, and it’s made me notice the little oddities of phrasing we use in English that go against all the grammar rules. And that’s made me realize that correctly learning to use a language incorrectly is a difficult but important thing.

And I’m not just speaking of idioms.

We all have speaking quirks. Sometimes I slip into LOLcat grammar when trying to make light of an emotion I’m feeling. Sometimes I make up words, just for the fun of it. Sometimes I purposely use words incorrectly or turn nouns into verbs (I love doing that.).

It’s as if we each have a language personality, with specific little incorrectnesses (or correctnesses) that make up our writing and speaking personality.

(Do you like how I slipped in two made-up words there?)

I’ve always thought of language as a living, breathing thing. It’s beautiful, really. Every word has a history—sometimes you can almost see the bloodshed behind the formation of a word. Even now, the words of our language are being infused with today’s culture, events, and politics.

It’s like in music… there are these things called overtones. When you play one note, there are actually other, different notes singing too. Unless we’re trained to hear them, we tend not to notice them, but they infuse the notes with a special flavor.

Learning other languages has always made me notice and love the subtleties of English all the more. It makes writing more fun, too.

I have to admit that sometimes the incorrect use of English can bother me. “Ain’t” never fails to make me cringe. So there’s a fine line between the incorrect use of English as personality and the incorrect use of English as ignorance.

Or maybe there’s not. I suppose the “Ain’t” language is an expression of personality, too, and I’m just too judgmental. I don’t know.

What do you think of language? Of learning other languages? What languages do you speak? Or write?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags:
Jul
01
2011
81

Ebook Cover Design and Optimum Size Specifications for Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Nook, iBookstore, and iPad Formats

Please note the following updates to this post on 5/19/2012:

  • Barnes & Noble Embedded Cover: 600px x 730px
  • iBooks Embedded Cover: 600px x 860px
  • Amazon Embedded Cover: 600px x 800px
  • Amazon Catalog Cover: 1562px x 2500px

 

If you self-publish, you should read this post before hiring a cover designer. I get a lot of covers from authors whose designer made a standard cover without knowing what size is best. I’m not sure how they decide on the image size, because it’s never optimized for anything. Also, I’ve seen cover designers give clients the wrong size, and then charge more when their client asks for the right one.

SPECIAL NOTE: This is a long, detailed post. If you’re not interested in all the whys and wherefores, I suggest reading this first section, then reading the last section: the Quick and Handy Guide.

Designers tend to rely on their customers to tell them what they want, so if you self-publish, you need to know what to ask for.

Let’s do simple first.

If you only get one size for ebook formatting, go with these specifications:

  1. 600px x 800px
  2. Jpeg

I think most ebook formatters and developers can and will optimize it as best as possible from that… or at least I do, by rule. I can’t change proportions, though… and each format calls for a different proportion. So if your designer can give you covers in various proportions and sizes without resizing it out-of-whack, then please send them to the handy guide at the bottom of this post.

600px x 800px is the best choice if you pick one. At the eBook Artisans, our digital cover + epub + Kindle special includes a 600px x 800px cover.

NOTE: By optimum size, I mean the size at which the cover image fills the screen perfectly without extra white space on the top, bottom, or sides.

Ebook Cover Design

I’m no graphic designer, obviously. The only important thing I can say about cover art for ebooks, is that the cover will be automatically resized to a thumbnail on the device library and, most importantly, in the retail catalog/website—which is usually the first place your customer sees your cover.

Because of this, the cover should look good when the large Catalog Cover image is automatically resized to about 150px high, give or take some, depending. Large fonts for the title generally look good, as well as not-too-busy covers.

And, of course, the cover should look good full-sized. LOL!

A Quick Glossary

Keith Snyder had a great post about the distinguishing and naming the different type of covers. It’s better, funnier, and more in-depth. :-) In a nutshell, your cover will serve the following functions:

  1. Embedded Ebook Cover: The cover embedded inside your ebook that displays as the first page. This can (and probably should) be separately sized for each different store.
  2. Catalog Cover: The cover that shows up in the ebook store on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and other retailers. Generally uploaded separately.
  3. Print Cover: For the print edition. Unlike an ebook cover which is only a front, a print cover also needs a spine and a back cover… and higher-resolution graphics.
  4. Publicity Cover: I’m no expert on the best sizes for this, but this includes your website, blog headers, ads, postcards, business cards, etc. Your designer probably does know!

Underlying Philosophy

Choosing a size for a digital cover, when it will automatically be resized depending on what device the reader views it on, is difficult. I generally operate under the following priorities:

  1. Majority Rules, Minority Protected: I like the cover to look good on all devices, but I like the cover to look best on the most-used device. Each of the retailers allow their ebooks to be read on a wide variety of devices, and none of them publish statistics on where there books are most read. So it’s difficult to determine.
  2. Big to Small: In general, a big cover automatically resized to be smaller usually looks better than a small cover automatically resized to be bigger. Small to big usually results in ugly blurriness, while big to small generally results in not-so-great but readable font.
  3. The Retailer’s Guidelines

Color vs. Grayscale

Color. For Kindle formatting, it used to be better to sharpen and convert your cover image to grayscale. Times change quickly, though. Now that Kindle books are read on PCs, Macs, iPads, Androids, Tablets, and iPhones, color is the way to go. It’s predicted that Amazon will be coming out with a tablet in the next year, and a color e-reader will probably be coming out at some point, too.

Kindle Covers

Kindle is the largest ebook retailer. The Catalog Cover has exact specifications released in the Amazon Publishing Guide. It should be:

  1. A “minimum” of 500px wide and a “maximum” of 1280px tall.
  2. 72 dpi
  3. JPEG or TIFF

For the Embedded Cover, this is more difficult. The published guidelines are as follows:

  1. 600px x 800px
  2. JPEG
  3. 300 dpi
  4. Under 127 KB

Getting an image both at 300 dpi AND under 127 KB is very difficult. The Kindle displays are actually 167 ppi… so I’d suggest altering the resolution to 167 ppi – 300 dpi, or as high a resolution that you can get while staying under 127 KB. Many say 72 dpi is just fine.

Barnes & Noble Covers

The Nook Store is the second largest retailer of ebooks. According to the B&N Publishing Guide, the Catalog Cover can be between 500px x 600px and 600px x 730px.

Here are the exact specifications they suggest in their guidelines for the Embedded Cover:

  1. 600px x 730px
  2. JPG, PNG, or GIF. As they say, “The choice of format is optional and should be based on a compromise of image quality and file size.”
  3. Under 300 kb.

BUT.

The Nook Color.

The Nook Color has a screen resolution of 1024px x 600px, and as far as I can tell, it’s their bestselling device by far. (Please correct me if you find statistics that prove me wrong.) So going with both the Majority Rules, Minority Protected and the Big to Small priorities, I suggest the following guidelines, if you’re looking to fill the screen perfectly:

  1. 600px x 1024px
  2. JPG, PNG, or GIF
  3. Under 300 kb.
  4. 170 ppi

iPad Covers

The iPad is doing some great things for ebooks, like fixed-layouts. If you want an iPad-optimized ebook that takes advantage of the fixed-layout, it’ll cost more and probably won’t work for other retailers, but it can be well worth it, depending on your project.

For the purpose of this post, let’s stick with cover size for general iPad epub books. Liz Castro explains in detail why 600px x 860 px is the best size.

These are the optimum specifications for the Embedded Cover:

  1. 600px x 860px
  2. JPG, PNG, GIF
  3. 132 ppi
  4. Under 200kb

 

A Note About Smashwords

Smashwords randomly suggests 500px x 800px as a good cover size. I don’t know why, because that’s optimized for… nothing. At least with a 600px x 800px cover size, you’re optimized for the largest retailer: Amazon. But perhaps they have their reasons that work with their Meatgrinder Software.

 

Quick and Handy Guide

All images should be RGB and not CMYK. Lulu will reject sRGB, if you want to use them to get into the iBookstore, but other retailers accept it.

Again, always go for the correct file size first, at the cost of resolution if necessary; not the other way around.

  • EC = Embedded Cover (give to ebook formatter to embed)
  • CC = Catalog Cover (you’ll upload separate from ebook)
  • n/s = Not Specified
Format Size in px Resolution File Size
Kindle CC JPG, TIFF 1562 x 2500 72 dpi n/s
Kindle EC JPG 600 x 800 167ppi – 300dpi 127kb
B&N/Nook CC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 730 n/s n/s
B&N/Nook EC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 730 170 ppi 300kb
iPad EC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 860 132 ppi 200kb

Again, 600px x 800px will pretty much cover your bases, so if you choose one size, I suggest that one.

And if you ever need a cover, the eBook Artisans teams up with Ink Slinger Designs to offer ebook formatting and cover art. (I had to put in a plug!) You can view some sample covers here.

Any questions? Any new info to add? Any corrections?

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