New Sci-Fi Omnibus

Yesterday I sold a copy of The Dragons of Westermere omnibus on Amazon. This omnibus edition combines books 1 to 3 of the fantasy trilogy I wrote, and is pretty good value. Seeing it sell put a smile on my face because I am also a fan of omnibus editions of book series.

Wikipedia says: An omnibus edition or omnibus is a work containing one or more works by the same or, more rarely, different authors. Commonly two or more components have been previously published as books but a collection of shorter works, or shorter works collected with one previous book, may be an omnibus. Omnibus editions help consolidate longer series into fewer books. The prices are usually equal to or less than the price of buying each individual edition separately.

As a kid I was a big fan of fantasy and sci-fi series, and I was always pleased to spot an omnibus edition. An omnibus meant I could binge on all that lovely content, and the price worked out a little cheaper. It was even better if I happened to find an omnibus edition at a second-hand book store or market stall.

For example, a lot of Michael Moorcock’s prolific output has been collected into omnibus editions at one time or another. I remember that my local library had a couple of them, and I remember in particular the cover of The Dancers at the End of Time, which has a magician riding on the back of a swan drawn in a vaguely Art Nouveau style. I would like to claim that this cool book was the first fantasy omnibus I ever read, but sadly that is not the case.

The omnibus I actually read first was a Conan collection. Conan stories, which tend to be short novellas, are usually bound together and sold in batches of four or five, and back in the 1970s and 80s they had cool covers, painted by the master himself, Frank Frazetta. I have a vivid memory of gazing in wonder at the cover of Conan and reading the stories within. It was in a caravan in the rain, on a British holiday where books were an absolute essential because there was no electricity in our caravan and it never stopped raining... ever.

I was pleased at the sale, but it made me realize that I hadn’t yet gotten round to putting the first three books of my sci-fi series together in the same way. There is an omnibus collection of the first three books as a Kindle e-book, but not as a real, physical book. The sci-fi series is called Dark Galaxy, and it is my best selling series of books by far but anyone wanting to read the first three books together in an omnibus edition would have to download the Kindle version. Yikes! That, as they say, is leaving money on the table. I instantly set about formatting the existing file used in the Kindle omnibus edition so that it can be used to create a book on demand. I was expecting it to be quite a simple operation, but it was not.

The problems I had with formatting might, I suspect, have something to do with the fact that I use Libre Office to do my word processing, and big companies like Amazon seem to assume that everyone uses Word. If I had used Word instead, maybe none of these niggling technical difficulties would have happened, or maybe not, who can say.There is one big reason why I will never be switching to Word, or Office 360 as it now has been bundled in with, and that is the price. It costs sixty dollars per year. Libre Office pricing is very different - it costs zero dollars. To me that purchasing decision is a no brainer, even if I have to fight a little with interfaces designed for Microsoft's "product".

This upload was a real fight. I had all kinds of trouble uploading the massive file of three books for print on demand. The Amazon book uploader kept throwing errors. For example, it said my book was above the maximum number of pages. The maximum number was around 770, and my book came in at 720, a whopper of a book, but within the number they said was okay. It turned out that the problem wasn't the page count, it was because I had stupidly saved the file with the docx extension rather than doc. I just changed the extension and the book uploaded.

Then, when I managed to get the file to even upload, the previewer added drop caps to the start of every single paragraph, even though I had not put any drop caps in the document at all, anywhere. I fixed the drop caps issue by changing the text formatting over and over again until the drop caps, for no reason I can put my finger on, just “went away”.

Next I had a weird issue where the text didn’t go to the bottom of the page on every page. Some pages would just stop half way, leaving a big blank area, right in the middle of the chapter. Weird. Looking through the options in the text formatting that was applied to my text body style I found that “do not split paragraph” was switched on by default. So big paragraphs were spirited onto the next page automatically, leaving a big space behind where they used to be, but the fix was easy. I just unclicked the "do not split paragraph" option, and all was right. Amazon says it will be around 72 hours before the book is live, so expect another blog post then, with even more of the hard sell. 

To end, just a reminder that the best way to support this blog is to buy one of my books. Simply go over to Amazon, or Kobo and get one.