Thursday, January 22, 2015

Query Question: beta readers using Kindle

I have a nearly-completed novel that I'd like to distribute to beta readers. They've all asked for a Kindle version, which I can do by generating a .mobi file which they can manually upload onto their Kindles.

I've heard horror stories about publishers declining a work because in their eyes it was published electronically. Can you explain what a publisher's definition of 'electronically published' is?

Though I'd be interested in that fuller explanation, alternatively, I would be happy for you to tell me I'm being way too paranoid and that something innocent like manually distributing Kindle-formatted files isn't going to be treated as a form of publishing.

Either answer would be greatly appreciated.

Generally "published" in book form means it has an ISBN number and was available for sale. Thus, sending a .mobi file to your beta readers is not published.  You'd be smart to mark the file "draft version-not for sale, or distribution" just to be clear to the people getting the file.

My ONLY hesitation here is that Kindle is an Amazon device. You might want to read the terms of service for Kindle to make sure they don't claim you've licensed us of anything uploaded on the device. I'm not saying they do, I haven't read the TOS with this kind of question in mind, but you'd be smart to do so. My limited experience with contracts offered by companies owned by Amazon is you DO want to read the fine print.

And book publishers don't always see "previously published" as a problem. Lots of books have second, even third, lives in book publishing.  Where you run in to the most problems with "previously published" are contests and submissions to anthologies.


John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Under the circumstances you describe, .mobi file manually generated and uploaded, I don't see how either Amazon or any publisher would ever know, unless you offered the information – which would be silly. But yeah, reading the fine print is always a good idea.

french sojourn said...

I would use dropbox as it allows you to share by invitation. Your beta readers can add comments that are copy specific to their copy. Then you could have as many beta readers input as you like.

I wouldn't go Kindle. Unless formatted correctly for Kindle, it could turn into pea-soup. (My father in-law attempted this with one of my w.i.p.)

good luck.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I’ve always wondered HOW to get my book on Kindle and now I wonder IF I should.
Hell yeah, why not.
Let the lawyers fight it out, considering Janet is going to make me so famous, I’ll have my own plane to transport flocks of writers to NYC, to kiss her ring and get my autograph.
I’ll buy the ring. Do they still have gumball machines with rings in them because that’s all I can afford?

Annette T. Dodd said...

I recently sent my sister a Word document of my (currently querying) ms so she could read it on her Kindle (the PDF version I previously sent wasn't working to her liking).

Yikes, now I'm wondering if I should worry about having done this! (Not totally serious - I trust her, and she's only reading it for her pleasure. It's nice when a member of my family takes such an interest!)

Still, it was a very thought-provoking question. :o)

Lizzie said...

Why can the beta readers send a Word doc to their kindle app or device? Their unique kindle email is found in the kindle app by clicking on the spoke device. I've found the formatting is pretty good. If they have iPads there are niftier apps where they can make notes and track changes. All from a Word doc.

Colin Smith said...

I was wondering exactly the thing that others have commented on: surely Kindle can read formats other than .mobi? I think a Word doc or a pdf would be preferable for sending to beta readers. I don't own a Kindle, so I wouldn't know, but it seems there are other options that maybe the questioner should employ.

"And book publishers don't always see 'previously published' as a problem."

Does this mean I could use my flash story from yesterday as, say, Chapter 1 of a novel that I could write and maybe find a agent for and maybe get published? *raises hopeful eyebrow* *"hopeful eyebrow" brings back memories of "sentient" thingies* *fluffy bunnies cute kitties fluffy bunnies cute kitties...*

Anonymous said...

Boy. Don't I feel like the old rusty clunker this morning? What with my 8 yr old hand me down Dell Lat D830, and my only knowledge of ms formatting being MS Word.
No iPhone, (or cell of any kind at the moment), no iPad, Notebook, or spiffy Kindle.

I do know what Dropbox is, we have that. That makes me feel better. Sort of.

Patchi said...

I use an Amazon software called Send to Kindle, which automatically converts word documents, PDF, and web pages to Kindle format and delivers them to my Kindle. As far as I can tell, these files cannot be downloaded or shared, and are only for personal use.

Natalie said...

You can definitely send word .docs to Kindle. I've done that for my CPs manuscripts, and my mentor did that with my MS during a writing contest I did last year. You just email it to the Kindle email address, and they can't share it with anyone else.

Laina said...

Yeah, one of my friends uses their Kindle to read .docs, totally works. I didn't even have to email it to her Kindle address or anything, I just sent it to her and she did the rest. The only thing is, commenting can be hard.

I prefer .docs myself, 'cause I like the comment feature in there.

Kitty said...

I can relate, donnaeverhart. I feel like a Luddite in this discussion--an old Luddite--and I'm not, not really. I can accept needing to understand the business of writing, but whatever happened to just write well?

Whenever I needed a few extra pairs of critical eyes, I sent hard copies, which they preferred, because they could write their comments on the ms.

Unknown said...

This makes me want to query some agents about some novels I self-published a while back. They didn't sell too well, but it's more due to my inexperience and poor marketing than it is quality.

I wonder if literary agents views on previously published works have changed at all? I would very much like to try and get an agent for those books.

S.E. Dee said...

No matter what format writers send me, I always copy and paste it onto a word.doc then send it to my kindle e-mail address, making sure to type the word "convert" in the subject line, then wallah! I can read it on my kindle. Even if it's PDF, I just send it to my kindle email an convert it in the same fashion. However, these all come up as personal documents and although they are all readable on my kindle, the format isn't always perfect. In other words, I wouldn't consider it publishable quality, just readable.

Colin Smith said...

@Donna/Kitty: Don't be so hard on yourselves. When it comes to technology, most people learn what they need to know. From my observation, the number of kids that actually understand the technology they use is far smaller than the ones that use it. They might know how to take a picture and send it to their Tumblr page, but ask them how that works, about networking, packets, data storage, and you'll get blank stares. They don't need to know *how* it works, just how to do stuff and look impressive.

Until a year ago, I was pretty clueless about cell phones (and I work in IT). I didn't own one, and would defer questions about them to my oldest daughter who did. Last September, I got a smartphone. The process of researching phones and plans and then using the thing, has, I think, at least made me as cell phone savvy as my kids.

Don't sell yourselves short. You're smart people. If you felt like you needed to learn, you'd learn. Case in point: embedding HTML links into comments. Eh, Donna? :)

Matt Adams said...

i'll just reiterate the Send to Kindle program is the best way. You send your readers a .doc or PDF, and the program converts it to Kindle format and sends it to them. Kindle can read PDFs if you move them over from the computer, but the formatting can be wonky.

I think actually putting it up on Amazon for them to download might require self-publishing through them.

And you might warn them that Send to Kindle is good, but it can get a bit goofy with the formatting and sometime's there's some character drift -- my 's sometimes turns into 'e at random times, and it tends to overexagerate tabs. But it's how I do most of my content-proofreading, so I think it's a great program.

Anonymous said...

Kitty, ha! Maybe there should be a Technical Luddite club? (call it TLC - how's that?)

Actually, after I put my comment "out there," I had to remind myself I DID work in IT for decades (shhh!), and DID run technical projects, and I loved that. I'm definitely not opposed to new technology, it just changes so fast. I look at it like this, if I need to know it, I can and will learn it. (right Colin?)

Anonymous said...

Geez Colin, we were on the same wavelength. I was typing out my answer as you were typing yours. :)

Anonymous said...

Just use a pseudonym and a different title for the book (like an acronym). Problem solved.

Kitty said...

Colin, it's not that I don't know and/or can't learn the technology. I've used my daughter's iPhone. However, I prefer my non-smart cell phone because it costs me $100/year, and I have a Kindle, although it's now a dead Kindle RIP-ing in a drawer. I prefer real books to e-readers.

I wasn't being hard on myself; I was lamenting how much technology seems to interfere with just plain writing.

Karen McCoy said...

A year or two ago, my Kindle was stolen from the library bathroom. Adding insult to injury, it had a very rough version of my previous novel on it, and I couldn't delete it.

I hated the idea of that novel floating around, so I registered it with the WGA as a precaution.

If I do decide to publish it (it got a few partial requests, but no bites--including a rejection that same day), I will definitely have to look into Kindle's terms of service. (Side note: My cat, also named Amazon, had kidney failure and was put down later that week.)

For critique partners, Word works well--I've also exchanged Google docs with people, but perhaps I'll check their terms of service too.

Colin Smith said...

Kitty: Understood! And I get what you say about "dumb" phones (though paying through the nose for features you wouldn't ever use doesn't sound very "smart" to me). I could probably do with a non-smartphone most of the time, but I have to say, I like being able to check personal email and Twitter at work (such things are blocked on work's network for security reasons), and I like being able to look things up online when I'm reading paper books (which I also prefer over digital).

And being very directionally challenged, I find the GPS maps very useful. :)

Rochelle said...

I send my WIPs to my Kindle for a read-through, after a CP mentioned she read my book on one. While I don't like the idea of CPs reading there when they might have comments specific to different sections, I love having a copy I can't mark up when I'm doing a read-through.

I do it by using a Word version, formatting to email standard (single spaced, line between paragraphs), and then emailing it to my Kindle-specific email address. The formatting has never been terrible that way, so instead of converting to .mobi, you could do it that way for each of them. If your betas are just looking for giving you overall/general comments, I don't think Kindle is a terrible way to go.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

This discussion makes me wonder what agents use to read requested fulls and partials.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Karen McCoy, my condolences to you. It's hard losing a pet.
My dog Harley, he's been around quite a while and is having a hard time, (old age issues), so we will walking your path soon I fear.

Karen McCoy said...

Carolynn, so sorry to hear about your dog! Condolences to you too.

Amazon was a stray whose owners had abandoned her. Animals know and understand the love we give them, and I'm sure Harley feels yours.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ha, I emailed my book to my Kindle. Hey, it's like I'm a real author. Oh wait, I am, aren't I?
Sure looks like I am now. This is just SO MUCH FUN.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

But getting back to the original question, no this doesn't count as publishing your work, no publisher will ever know you shared it with beta readers this way, and wouldn't care if she/he did know.

Stephanie said...

I've had agents ask for my ms to be send in word 93-98 instead of the newer .doc versions, because apparently it doesn't format with their kindles very well. But as far as I know from my self published writer friends, in order to be considered published through Amazon, you have to go through a series of complicated steps, including formatting your book, having a cover page and ISBN number. Just sending a doc in your Kindle does not make it "published," because it is not public access. Only the person that you sent it to can read it and it's not available on amazon because it's not an actual book.

Jenz said...

The idea that "the kids know technology" is utter crap. A lot of them come into my class knowing how to use Facebook and not much past that. It's more accurate to say that younger people don't tend to be afraid of technology, and even that isn't universal.

What I find more common is people believe their ignorance is unique, that almost everyone around them knows more or is better at it. And they beat themselves up for it. But rest assured, guys, you're far from alone, whatever level of tech knowledge you're at.