Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TUESDAY TIP Entering a Cast of Characters in Your #Shelfari #BookExtras #pubtip #selfpub #howto #indie #WLCAuthor

Welcome back to my little miniseries on Amazon/Shelfari's "Book Extras" feature for Kindle books. These little enhancements are only available for Kindle books (not other formats) through the Amazon Kindle Store web site, the Shelfari web site and of course, from inside the Kindle eBooks themselves. That's the bad news.

The good news is anyone can create them--you, your readers, your fans, your enemies (haha, scratch that last one). And don't worry, the Shelfari Author account has absolute power over the content. If you want to delete what some random person put onto your book you can--and only you can do that!

You must be an Amazon/Shelfari Author to control your book(s), so click here if you need to review how to create your Amazon Author Central account (a prerequisite to setting up a Shelfari Author account) or check out last week's discussion on how to log into your Shelfari Author account and edit a Description field. Once you're all caught up, click through the jump-break to see how to create a Character field for the people in your book.

3 Flavors of Description - A Review
Before I move onto the Characters/People field, I should note that Shelfari has 3 fields for descriptions of your book. The first one (actually titled "Description") is the one that appears on your book's page in the Kindle Store. Any text you put here will propagate through to your book page.

The second one, titled "Ridiculously Simplified Synopsis," cannot be more than 115 characters (that's not words but characters) long. That's shorter than a tweet! This field does not propagate through to anywhere.

The third one, titled "Summary," is not limited in length and Shelfari's prompt advises you can put a full, detailed summary of the plot and every little thing that happens in the book into this field. Don't. Just...don't. Not only do you not need to give away spoilers on a public page, but you won't sell anything that way. If you feel you "must" use the "Summary" field, put Editorial Review quotes into it. They will not end up in the field of the same name on your book page, but if you'll feel better filling in that field of the Shelfari page, do it with review quotes.

The next field on the Shelfari page of Book Extras for your book is called "Characters" and can hold a fairly large cast of characters. I don't know if there's an upper limit to the number. I haven't found it yet. I'm going to use Dicky's Story for the example here, just for continuity's sake.

Think carefully about what you want to put here. You may not want to write up a full biography for each character the way you might write for yourself. These are not biographies to "sell" the characters either. These should be similar to the data you might see in the library catalog when you click "Fiction/Biography" links.

For instance, when I looked up one of Nora Roberts's recent releases (The Next Always) at my local library, I got this:

Name:Beckett Montgomery
Attributes:Giving the historic hotel his mother, his brothers, and he own a major facelift; has been in love with Clara since he was 15
Name:Clara Brewster
Occupation:Bookstore owner
Has returned to her hometown after the death of her husband; has three young sons; drawn to Beckett's transformation of the inn

Notice that these are concise, standardized descriptions, not rambling paragraphs describing plot activity or a character's role in the plot, or not until the final "attributes" remarks.

I tried to make multiple lines on the Shelfari book page section and unfortunately, the web site does not allow for carriage returns, only one long, rambling paragraph.  How ironic, eh?  (LeSigh, Amazon gets it wrong again) Instead, I just put hyphens between the sections and described Dicky, the Hero and protagonist of Coming Home (Dicky's Story), thusly:

Dicky, The Lost One: Name: Dicky - Gender: Male - Age: 32 - Occupation: Master Thief - Summary: Dicky is the Hero and narrator of this book. He used to be a lot sweeter before I edited the book for release into the wild in 2011. He's still a sweet guy but his Alpha-ness is a spillover from the UberAlpha character "Rainey" in my Banbha Series, which I was also working on at the same time I was editing this. Oops.) I don't think Leah (the Heroine here) really minded Dicky's extra dose of testosterone ((grin))

I just did this to the description this morning so it might take a few hours to propagate through. Last week, I'd entered just the text paragraph description so that's all that shows up in my screen shot here; but today, the section as it is given above should appear on the book's page on the Amazon Kindle Store web site--or it will within a few hours. It'll be at the bottom of the book page, just above the About the Author section, as shown here:

Magic, huh? I entered data on Shelfari, and Amazon automagically pulled it and put it onto my web page in the Kindle Store. How did I do it?  I did this much the same way I did the Description field last week, so if you need screen shots for getting to your Book Extras sections, click here to see how to edit a field. All the fields on the Book Extras page will operate the same way.

1) Click the "EDIT" button next to the section you want to edit to get a text box in which you enter your new data.

2) Enter your new data.

3) Tick the "Notify me when this page changes." checkbox

4) Click "save"

In the case of Characters, since you can have many of them, for the first one, you'll need to click the "add a new character" link. Notice that the first character you enter will be assigned a "1" in the little box to the left of his or her description field. When you create a second character, they'll be assigned a "2" and so forth. You can change those numbers if you want to change the order in which the characters appear on the web page in the Kindle Store.

Although I'm only entering one character (Dicky) in my example here, under my SciFi pen name, I entered 5 for Conditioned Response. You can click here to see that book page on the Kindle Store and scroll down to see how multiple characters are shown. As far as I know, this feature will not be propagated through to the Kindle UK Store. That is, if you click here, you can see the page for Conditioned Response in the Kindle UK Store. No Book Extras at all. The fact Amazon does not connect its ".com" store in the US with any of its non-US Kindle Stores is pretty sad. It's as simple as connecting Shelfari to the US Kindle Store and they managed that, right? Ah well, this is Amazon.

Regardless of how inconsistently Amazon shows books on their collection of web sites, the books should carry the same information in the Kindle files, on Kindle devices or apps, regardless of what country you're in. Hopefully, the same book is delivered everywhere!

As I type this, it occurs to me, it's possible Amazon is censoring and filtering books for distribution outside the US. I have no idea. Someone in the UK will have to tell me if the characters in Dicky's Story and/or Conditioned Response show up in your Kindle.

Checking for Changes
Now some of you might be a little wary of the fact that anyone can enter data into these Book Extras fields. I was until I saw what kind of notice I'll get via email by simply ticking the checkbox marked "Notify me when this page changes." When I changed the character description of Dicky last week or the week before, I got an email that looked like this:

As you can see, initially, I input the character with my own name, then I realized it was supposed to be the character's name and I changed it. Shelfari notified me of the change. Today, I changed the content of the description of the character (to make it like the library list) and I'll be notified via email of that, too. The red highlights what was taken out; the green, what was put in. If someone else changes this and I disagree with what they've done, I'll have received a "change record" in my email so I can put it back. Now that is a nice safeguard for this "community" activity! Thank you, Amazon for doing that "right."

What's Next....
Next Tuesday I'll go over how to change your book's cover art or add an alternate image file. Hope to see you then!

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