Gabriel’s Journey, the complete trilogy with bonus Zero Point prequel, on sale 33% off while I’m away! Spread the word?

While I’m away, the price gremlins will play! Last week I ran some two-day sales on the individual books in the Gabriel series; starting today, the complete collection of Gabriel’s Journey (including the Gabriel: Zero Point prequel) will be on sale for 33% off. Hey, that’s almost one third!

The regular price is $8.99 (which is a steal, IMO, if you consider the combined costs of the three: $3.99 + $4.99 + $4.99 = $13.97). Through June 10th (when I get back from my woeful, terrible, difficult business trip to the Mediterranean), this sucker’s on sale for $5.99, or slightly more than a Taco Bell Five Buck Box (which might be gastronomy’s worst nightmare).

Gabriel’s Journey is now available for $5.99 for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. Sorry, I won’t be running this one through Smashwords for Sony/Kobo users (long story short – they take forever to push a price through to Sony/Kobo, meaning they’ll take forever to change it back).

If you could be so kind as to pass along the word, I’d greatly appreciate it (and I’ll reward!). Nothing would be more exciting than to return from the slog of two weeks of work on a cruise ship to a huge sales report. Well, perhaps there are a few more exciting things, but at the moment they escape me.

I’ve got some ready-made tweets if you want to use them. When I get back, I’ll randomly select TWO peeps that tweeted and give out a $10 Amazon gift card to each. If I do well in the on-board casino, I’ll make it THREE.

GABRIEL’S JOURNEY, complete scifi-adventure trilogy for #Kindle from @SteveUmstead, on sale for $5.99! #RT

GABRIEL’S JOURNEY, complete scifi-adventure trilogy for #Nook from @SteveUmstead, on sale for $5.99! #RT

GABRIEL’S JOURNEY, complete scifi-adventure trilogy for #iBooks from @SteveUmstead, on sale for $5.99! #RT

You can tweet ’em or Google+ ’em; as long as they’re tagged with my info I’ll see ’em. And feel free to Facebook ’em, but I won’t see ’em. I threw in the towel on FB long ago…


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How about a little book trivia? Prizes, I promise…but no cash.

Just for funsies (yes, that is a word – squiggly red underlined notwithstanding), I thought I’d do a little first line matching challenge. I currently have seven published works out there (not including Gabriel’s Journey, which is the compilation of four books), and each obviously has an opening line. Some may be obvious, some obscure, so give it a shot if you’re up for it.

Prize winners will receive e-copies of ALL SEVEN, via email.

How does one win? Below are my seven* first lines, each with a number. After that are the seven stories’ names, each with a letter. COMMENT with your matches (like 1-B, 3-E, etc.). Saturday night at 9PM ET I’ll end the commenting. I will award THREE sets of prizes, so there will be three winners. If more than three are completely 100% correct, the first three that commented get the prizes. If fewer than three are correct, I’ll give three prizes to the highest number correct. And if there are more than three with the same highest number correct, we go back to expediency. Make sense?

* Those of you with good math skills may notice there are actually eight first lines. One is NOT associated with a currently published work as a red herring, but IS the first line (as it stands) of my current scifi WIP, so you get a little sneak preview.

Ready? Set? GUESS:

1 – They say it’s the first thing that goes when you get old… or was it the second thing?

2 – “Which one is he?”

3 – The warship glided through the inky blackness of the Canaan system. 

4 – Maybe a second glass of wine will help my nerves.

5 – Louis Mullins knew he’d die one day; he just didn’t know until a few hours ago that today was that day.

6 – Evan dove into the clear blue water, leaving the safety of the catamaran behind, and swam deep, adjusting his goggles as he kicked.

7 – The first thing Tomas Katoa saw when he opened one blurry eye was a front tooth.

8 – My life changed on the way to the train station after work.

A – Gabriel’s Redemption

B – Gabriel’s Return

C – Gabriel’s Revenge

D – Gabriel: Zero Point

E – The Awakening

F – Special Delivery

G – Opt-Out


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The Taleist survey is out: “Half of self-pub authors earn less than $500”. I ask, so what?

I read a very interesting article this morning (OK, most of an interesting article) in regards to the recent Taleist survey of self-published authors. I was one of the 1,007 respondents and received my comp copy of the survey results yesterday, but haven’t had a chance to read through it yet. However, the Guardian has, and posted this article, with the somewhat-negative headline of:

Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500

The article starts off as a bit of a wet blanket, though not the sky-is-falling doomsaying one might expect from that headline, so I’m here in defense of the poor, downtrodden self-published heathen.

Disclaimer: I have been very fortunate over the past year and am on the other side of that half, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Three things I take out of this article – one is an assumption, one is my thought on the self-pub/traditional income subject, and closing with a stat Taleist came up with.

Those who want to do best at self-publishing, they found, would be well advised to focus on romantic fiction. Romance authors earned 170% more than their peers, while authors in other genres fared much worse: science-fiction writers earned 38% of the $10,000 average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20% of the $10,000 average.

I don’t like this one bit. Whether it’s The Guardian or the Taleist survey conclusions, this paragraph screams at me in a shrill tone. Apparently this is saying if you want to be successful, write into a successful genre.

Phooey. Write what YOU want, write what YOU enjoy reading, and above all, DON’T write for what is successful NOW. Ten years ago it was boy wizards. Two years ago, it was sparkly vampires. Ten years from now? It may be literary fiction featuring trolls and light sabers. Who cares. Write because you want to, don’t try to fit into a preconceived box that will make you ‘more successful’. That may work when choosing between jobs, but not when it comes to pouring one’s heart out onto paper.

Half the respondents failed to reach $500 in royalties in 2011, and a quarter of the books are unlikely to cover the direct costs of production. “Sobering” news, wrote Cornford and Lewis. “Who’d come back for more?”

So 503.5 respondents earned less than $500 last year. If every one of those had submitted their work to an agent, then on to the publisher, then on to… (you get the point), how much would they have earned? About as much as I earned for writing this post. Squadoosh. Those authors took a leap of faith and sent their work out into the world, and a handful (or several handfuls) bought it and read it. In that same time, going traditional, their book most likely wouldn’t even have been in pre-production by the end of 2011. And that’s assuming they would be accepted through the slushpile. What’s the percentage who get published traditional? Very low – let’s call it 5%. So of those 503.5 authors, 25.175 (okay, I’ll round off – 25) get the “deal.” The other 478 continue to lick stamps, send emails, and so on, without a dime to show for it. And those 25? If the stars align correctly, they may see a portion of their small debut-author advance before the year is over. This is always a frustration of mine when I see traditionally published bring up the ‘low income by self-publishing’ subject.

Which brings me to a much better 5% subject:

But money isn’t always the primary goal for self-published writers, they discovered, with only 5% considering themselves “unsuccessful”. The respondents were also still keen to continue self-publishing: nearly half plan to release more titles this year than they did last, and 24% have a whopping five or more works due for publication this year.

Of 1,007 respondents, over 950 consider themselves successful – by extrapolation, 478 of the authors who didn’t “cover the direct costs of production” finished 2011 with a smile on their face, toasted loved ones with champagne on January 1st, and considered themselves successful. And they’re still writing and publishing.

I consider anyone who takes that leap of faith incredibly successful, covering costs or not. Let’s keep this amazing ball rolling, friends.

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Interview with Karen Smith, author of Dark Dealings (launches today)

In my year-plus in the writing ‘industry’, I’ve been privileged enough to have met some fantastic people, including countless authors and authors-to-be. In today’s day and age, the opportunities for an author have never been better or more accessible. But there are still, it seems, two camps – the traditionally published (or working on being traditionally published), and the self-published. Those of you who know me are well aware of which side of the fence I fall on, but I have many friends in either yard (is that enough clichés for an opening paragraph yet?)

Honestly I don’t care which camp an author is in, as at the end of the day the goal is to get a story into the hands of a reader by any means necessary. And I have no animosity towards the “other side” whatsoever (it still bugs me that such animosity is still out there). I have several friends who have dipped their toes into both waters (damn, another lousy cliché), one of whom is Karen Victoria Smith. I am happy to say Karen stopped by Paginations to tell a little of her story, both about her new release Dark Dealings, and her experience on both sides of the fence.


Dark Dealings launches May 23rd

S: Karen, welcome – I appreciate your time in answering a few interview questions. I know it’s a busy time for you, as Dark Dealings has just been released. Before I ask a bit about your publishing experience, can you tell us about the book itself? Feel free to go past 140 characters…plenty of space here.

KVS:  In short… Murder. Monsters, Magic and Money.   

Dark Dealings was born of my Irish heritage, love of the paranormal and years on Wall Street. It is the beginning of Micaela O’Brien’s journey. At 13, she had a vision of her parents’ death which she dismissed. After it really happened, she spent her time running from her metaphysical gifts and the Irish Druid community she was raised in. Years later, she has built an extremely successful life as a Wall Street investment banker. That is until she becomes involved in an international deal with some very unusual clients…ones with fangs and claws. The story also takes us from the Massachusetts to New York to Brussels and Ireland. It will give a whole new meaning to power play. 

S: I was one of your original beta readers way back when, and really enjoyed the settings, intrigue, and perhaps most of all the characters. I love a character-driven story. Besides the main protagonist Micaela, who was the most fun or interesting to write?

KVS: Wow, that’s a tough one. I’m a character-driven writer. I like writing bad guys and women. Kat, the shapeshifter assistant to the main protagonist has gathered more than a few among the early readers fans for her sultry bad-girl style. Of course, like Micaela, I’m conflicted over Liam, the hot Irish Druid and Ethan, the moody Boston Brahmin with a secret. 

The best part of writing is getting to hear each character’s distinct voice in my head. Before you say anything Steve, I have I never done anything the voices tell me to…well maybe once.  But seriously, the international cast was fun with so many accents rattleing around in my brain and trying to get that on the page.But sometimes it can be a secondary character that grabs your attention. In fact, while I work on a first draft of the next Micaela story, I am editing a novel based on Aine, Devlin and Nora of Ogham Court, a fictitious street in Tribeca. They are minor players in Dark Dealings, but Nora started whispering to me that there was more to her story. Besides, Nora is a Jersey girl.

S: Speaking of way back when, let’s jump into the experiences you had and decisions you made when Dark Dealings was “complete.” I, along with several other authors, were with you at Readercon in July when you received word of a potential book contract for your story. Tell us about your submission process and time frame leading up to that.

KVS: Wow that was a crazy night!

I started studying the craft of writing over three years ago with an amazing teacher/mentor, Barbara Rogan. In fact, Dark Dealings is dedicated to her because it began as my homework/project.  The world of publishing was a different place three or four years ago. So, I honed by skills, went to conferences (which I still do) and worked up the nerve to pitch to agents and editors. I had lots of nibbles but no bites—pun intended. On that fateful night in the pub with lots of my writer friends knocking back a few, I received an email from a small press house wanting to publish Dark Dealings. I was wisely advised to close loops with any agents or publishers with which I had outstanding queries. I was offered representation by an agent to manage the offer and my future.

S: Not long after, you made a decision to self-publish Dark Dealings. Why was that?

KVS: Let’s just say that my agent and I had different opinions about what representing my best interests were. I came to realize that the ball had been dropped when the publishing house approached me about where things stood because they had not heard from my representative. The time seemingly wasted actually worked to my advantage. The publishing world was evolving so rapidly that I realized I could not see, or get the traditional gatekeepers to explain to me, what they brought to the table that warranted me turning over the majority of my revenue.  Now that said, there are many agents and publishers who can make a difference in an authors career, the problem is they do think they have to sell themselves to the author. It is about transparency.

I worked on Wall Street for nearly a decade and despite the glamour and the money, I expected to prove to every potential client why I was worth the fees they would pay me and then deliver on that or there would be no second deal.

S: What was it about self-publishing that drew you in that direction?

KVS: Besides being a control freak? Truth in humor. 

For me, I think that in a changing environment I like the idea of being able to be light on my feet. On top of the “value-added” question I had about the traditional structure, I was leery of giving away control of my work to another party for years when none of us can know what the world would look like in 6-12 months. I would not be adverse to working partnership with the right agent or publisher under the right conditions and environment. 

S: What was it originally about traditional publishing that prompted you to submit Dark Dealings to agents/publishers?

KVS: When I started my writing journey, it was just the way things were done. Back in the Dark Ages before Kindle and Nook, I went to an all-girl Catholic high school. There girls with “careers” became teachers and nurses. They didn’t go to Ivy League schools and get MBAs and become Vice Presidents on Wall Street.  In fact my high school guidance counselor told me not to waste my time and money applying to the University of Pennsylvania, because after all it was an Ivy League school.  Bachelors and Master—Class of 19xx. 

But, (my contribution to clichés) the only thing certain is change and the times they are a changin’.


S: Any regrets about not going traditional? Anything you feel like you may miss out on by self-publishing?

KVS: Sometimes I wish I had someone to handle some of the promotion, marketing and operational stuff, so I could just write, especially since there is that day job thing., At midnight, when I an reviewing book formats or cover art galleys, and a plot solution comes to me, I have to choose how to spend my time in the wee hours.  It would be nice to be able to delegate more.  I suppose my some of my family and friends might have an opinion on that, too.  

Also, like it or not, the bulk of the reader market is still lodged in print. So how to reach them, especially as the big book chain disappear or re-tool. One of the frontiers for Indie Publishers to conquer is the print market. I know your opinion on the future of print, but for the foreseeable future print is still a large part of the market. The beauty of Indie Publishing is that it is a marathon. We get to build a base one bookstore, one reader at a time without the pressure of the quick trip to the bargain bin. 

S: What has been the most difficult or challenging part of self-publishing for you?

KVS: That there are only 24 hours in a day and I have to go to the day job and get at least a few hours of sleep. Time management.

S: Dark Dealings left off with strong potential for more stories in the same settings with many of the same characters. Do you have plans for a sequel or spinoff? And if so, will you self-publish or submit traditionally?

KVS: There are so many interesting and fun characters in Dark Dealings, I can go on forever. They are also rather vocal characters and have already started demanding more page time.  I told them to have their people call my people.  As to setting, I love the fact that I can travel anywhere in the world and, if I use that as a setting, it might be tax deductible. Hey, Steve, any recommendations on travel agents?

My current plan is to publish Ogham Court, a Dark Dealings paraquel, later this year and an official, as-yet untitled, sequel to Dark Dealings in early 2013. As to how I will proceed, I plan on publishing on my own, but history has taught me that all doors to the future must remain open.

S: I know it’s very early in the process and there’s a long road ahead with many ups and downs self-publishing-wise, but how has your experience been so far? Is it something you think is worthwhile and will continue to do?

KVS:  I’m loving it. 

Of course, I hope that everyone will go to their favorite e-reader site (print coming soon on Amazon) buy Dark Dealings and enjoy it. If they enjoy it, I hope thye will “like” , review and tag it. Most of all I hope they tell friends. 

I have lived my life taking on new challenges and, as those who know can tell you, I don’t do boredom well. In addition to my own work, I want to expand on my work with other authors in the editing and publishing process. I hope to expand my infant publishing company, Three Worlds Productions, to a full-fledged company for indie authors who want to leverage the power of a large bookshelf.

I want say how much I appreciate  the great questions and the trip down memory lane, Steve.  Most especially, I want to thank you for the chance to meet your fans and share Dark Dealings with them.

S: Karen, thanks so much for sharing. Always nice to see perspective from both camps, positive and negative. Best of luck with the release and future stories!

I’m not a paranormal reader by any stretch, but Dark Dealings had an excellent writing style, well drawn characters, and excellent business intrigue, and I really enjoyed the story. If you’re looking for reading material, take a look.

Dark Dealings is available on KINDLE and NOOK, plus Smashwords for online reading and other devices.

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And the writing begins again, in earnest – so my reading will suffer.

The title of the post says it all. After a couple months off from actively writing stories (with the exception of a short), I’m jumping back in, feet first, to a full length novel in an all new universe. I’ve got the full idea (have for a few months now, itching to get out) and have started outlining a few chapters, but last night I realized some of my best work was less outlined/more pantsed, so I decided to start writing without a complete outline. Again I have the overall storyline, I know where it’s supposed to end and a general idea of how it will get there, and I’ve got the first 3-4 chapters all visually done in my Mindseye (wish I had that system…), ready to go. I’ll let the characters and the situation dictate how I get to the end.

But this means my pleasure reading is done. Yes yes, I know a good writer must continue to read, to hone his or her craft, but I’ve found when I’m reading a book at the same time I’m writing one, the other book leaks into my work. Same with watching television and trying to write. I find the dialogue, settings, even plot ideas jump into what I’m doing…and that’s bad. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but if I write a book with the same plot line as an episode of CSI:Miami (I chose that because that’s one I DON’T watch), or the same space travel tech as Old Man’s War, I’m in trouble.

I just completed a beta read for a good friend, a little mix of urban fantasy and high fantasy, and instead of jumping into Michael Hicks’ In Her Name: First Contact, which is next on the TBR, my reading will consist of viewing my own words. At least until the first draft is finished.

Anyone have that same focus issue when writing?

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Gabriel: Zero Point is now in paperback (hey, why not?)

Just a quick post about another very cool delivery from the UPS guy (I really should start tipping him). Over the weekend, the first shipment* of the prequel novella to the Gabriel trilogy arrived, and even though it’s obviously smaller (22k word count) than the others, the thrill was still as intense.

* Shipment implies I stock and sell thousands, but I couldn’t think of another word…

Without further ado, my expensive photo shoot of GABRIEL: ZERO POINT:

I’ve got them listed at the low-low price of $5.99, and I convinced Amazon to allow free shipping on them. Well, convinced is probably a strong word. More like hoped. And they did, for Prime Members, plus they’re part of that always-popular (and potentially confusing) 4 for 3 promo.

Jump over to Amazon to pick one up. Or two. Or a full case. I do need some new sneakers.

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The wonders of a seatbelt…and the anxiety of a father of a soon-to-be-driver

So I’m sitting at my writing nook (dining room table) today. It’s overcast, a little drizzly. I hear a screech of tires – usually no big deal, there’s an intersection behind our house and someone’s always slamming on their brakes. However, this screech was longer than usual, so I look up to see a Toyota pickup sliding sideways down the street behind my house, and before I could even say “holy %&$*”, the truck hit the curb, popped into the air, and flipped onto its roof, just like you’d see in a movie.

Here’s the end result, sitting on my berm:

Two sisters, 18 & 15, were crawling out the side window as my sons and I ran up, not a scratch on them. Both were wearing seatbelts – without them, flailing limbs (and heads) could have been sticking out of a window, with nasty possibilities.

So these girls were unlucky, then lucky, but at least they were smart. I had a long talk with my kids, the oldest less than two years away from getting his license. Seatbelts were mentioned more than once.

Any of you with teens, feel free to pass on these pics. This could have been a whole lot worse.

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Book Review: Fighting Gravity by Leah Petersen

Click for full res


Science fiction, fantasy, romance, oh my! Fantastic read. Such a combination of genres, I’m not even sure where to start!

How about science fiction? Fighting Gravity is, in my opinion, much less sci than fi. Very little of the standard tech of scifi is present, and the same with interstellar travel and other worlds, except almost in passing (such as an unscheduled stop at a nebula to sightsee). Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a complaint, but as a lifelong scifi fan I do look for that ‘definition’ of traditional scifi (to paraphrase, if the science is taken out of the story it would collapse). Fighting Gravity has scifi elements, but is not necessarily scifi. The story could have easily taken place in Elizabethan England with horse-drawn carriages without missing a beat.

Which brings me to fantasy. Again several elements of fantasy, even high fantasy, are contained within Fighting Gravity. You have emperors and empires, children taken away from their homes for bigger and better things, other worlds and time frames, and so on. But again, no elves, no magic spells, no flying carpets.

Romance? Now we’re getting closer. Fighting Gravity is at its heart a romance between a royal and a commoner; a privileged one surrounded by wealth, opulence, and advisers, in love with an ‘unclass’ nobody. Now we’ve got the elements: forbidden, hidden love with the empire in the balance. But that’s still not Fighting Gravity as a whole.

So what is the story? To paraphrase James Carville, “it’s about the characters, stupid.” From page one, I was captivated by Jacob Dawes’ story and couldn’t stop turning the pages. I’m normally a reader looking for things blowing up and bullets flying, but the story was that good I didn’t miss them. Some have called the early parts of the story a little slow going, and I can see that, but it’s such a great look at a character developing, becoming who he is later in the story, that one doesn’t need cliffhangers and fire-breathing dragons.

Jacob Dawes is fascinating. I absolutely loved watching him grow up and mature, fall in love, get in trouble (no spoilers here) by continually running his unclass mouth in front of the privileged, and seeing his emotions run the full gamut. And the emperor is no less fascinating, as are the secondary characters (like Kirti, his childhood sweetheart he leaves behind).

The writing style is truly flawless and was a joy to read. I’m a HUGE stickler for the mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure) and Fighting Gravity was one of the best I’ve seen from any author. The writing style itself made me continue on reading well into the night, and the inter-character dialogue was spot on.

Oh wait, did I forget something? Right…the emperor’s name is Peter. Yes, Jacob and Peter fall in love. In today’s day and age, this is such a hot button topic for many, but Leah Petersen has written such an incredible story around a gay romance that it’s immaterial. It could be Jacob and Petunia, or Jane and Peter – didn’t matter. It’s a testament to Petersen’s writing style and her story that a controversial subject is secondary and accepted as just part of the overall plot.

Very well done. Ms. Petersen, I’m looking forward to the next one. Especially because you hinted at some very intriguing possibilities at the end of this one.

Pick up Fighting Gravity for Kindle here.

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Gabriel: Zero Point hits the iBookstore…from an unexpected angle

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen some of my rants (some may call them bitch sessions…understandable) Perhaps most notably my Facebook tirades, but also from time to time, my going-off-on-Smashwords ones. I’m not a big fan of Smashwords for several reasons. I could do an entire post about them, but that would just be annoying – therapeutic to me maybe, but annoying nonetheless. One reason stands out: TIME.

Smashwords has opened up an entire new world for self-published authors, and Mark Coker (founder) deserves piles of praise for putting together such an easy-to-enter-market method. The ONLY reason I use Smashwords is to get my books into non-Amazon/Barnes & Noble outlets, such as Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and most importantly, iBooks.

The iBookstore is, at the time of this writing, a disaster of epic proportions for both authors and readers. Apple treats it like Steve Jobs once described the Apple TV – as a hobby. Hard to search, impossible to upload, somewhat clunky apps, and absolutely zero marketing efforts. You’d think with the advent of the iPad, Apple would throw their considerable weight behind iBooks, but as of yet, nada. I DO still believe one day some VP in Cupertino will bring a plan to the table that will go on an all-out attack on Amazon for book market share, but nothing yet. They have the platforms (iPad, iPhone, rumors of a 7″ iPad mini), the infrastructure (over 100 million US customers in iTunes with credit card information), and dollars to spend on marketing and fixing the system. So I’ll be patient.

What I can’t be patient with is Smashwords’ time frame. I uploaded Gabriel: Zero Point on April 2nd (actually 7 days before official release and 6 days before I uploaded to Amazon/BN) knowing they take a while to push through to Premium status (which is a manually-vetted status that allows Smashwords to then send the book through to other channels, like iBooks). A while was an understatement – THIRTY FIVE DAYS. On May 7th, it hit Premium. But I know that it takes still another couple of weeks sometimes for the channels to receive it, so on a lark, I went to my iTunes Connect* app, put together the file, and uploaded, thinking it would be just like the process was for Gabriel’s Redemption, which was over 30 days then Apple returns a mysterious error I couldn’t track down so I threw in the towel.

* Apple does allow direct uploads of books by self-published authors, it’s just a much more complicated process and requires a specific program, Mac-only, and an ISBN. And from what I and Michael Hicks found a couple of months ago, is even slower than Smashwords, believe it or not.

The file uploaded, I didn’t get any errors, and less than 24 hours later, this is available:

Yes, 24 hours and it’s there. Now THAT is how it’s supposed to work, boys and girls. Perhaps Apple is putting some additional effort into iBooks. We’ll see. But in the meantime, I now will CANCEL my Smashwords distro for GZP. And because iTunes will pay slightly more than Smashwords for royalties, plus the descriptions look SO much better (not to mention my other Smashwords pet peeve – I can upload my clean ePub file to iTunes, not rely on a Word doc conversion), and it appears new/changes are being done much faster, I’ll be working on redoing my other books direct.

Oh, and if you notice above, Gabriel: Zero Point is FREE on iTunes. Free as in beer…

Has anyone else had success or problems with iTunes direct? Anyone feel the same about Smashwords as I do? 🙂

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