The SB James Author and Artist Blog

The SB James Author and Artist Blog is the new, official blog of SB James

Dragon Taming: Can Dictation Be the Key to Massive Word Counts for Authors?

Dragon Taming: Can Dictation Be the Key to Massive Word Counts for Authors?

 

Dictation has become one of the topics among authors lately, ever since the Self Publishing Formula Podcast featured Scott Baker as a guest, and he extolled the virtues of Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.

I know I’ve contemplated using dictation before, but never believed that I was a good fit for it. I did not think that the software would work well with my accent. And, I also didn’t know if I could train my brain to dictate.

It turns out, dictation is really not that hard, especially for things like blog posts!

What do you need to get started? Glad you asked!

First and foremost, Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes in a few different flavors. There’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Home, Premium, Professional… It gets a little complicated figuring out which version to buy! Unfortunately, they don’t have trial software, like Scrivener did or some other programs do. So how do you know you should be making this kind of investment if you don’t know it will work?

Of course, you could wet your toes with dictation in one of two ways:

  • Experimenting with your smart phone. I have an Android phone, and I use the Swype+Dragon app. This cost me all of $.99 (and there is a trial version of this app as well, so you can see what I mean), and it does a rather good job of basic dictation. Mind you, it’s not going to perform some of the more advanced corrections, but for the purposes of dictating something on the road, it really isn’t bad. It also gets you used to dictating into something, and seeing your words come out. For iOS users, there is Dragon Dictate which I’ve heard works well with email and other smart phone apps. There is also a “Dragon Anywhere” app in both stores, but be warned! While it says it’s free, they mean there’s a free 1 week trial, and then it’s a $14.99 a month subscription!
  • Experiment on your computer. If you have a PC that runs Windows 7 and up, you can try out the Windows Speech Recognition, which comes free with Windows. You have to activate it by going to your Ease of Access settings in the Control Panel. (There’s more on this process here if you want to try it.) After it’s set up, you will then train using the dictation so that the computer can get accustomed to listening to your voice. I have to warn you, it can be a little frustrating. It does not work with any non-Microsoft applications. I’ve found it works best in an application like Word, but I’ve tried out a little dictation with Edge, too. It can also close and open applications for you, and there are some more advanced correction commands than the basic dictation you get with lower priced smart phone apps. It’s really designed for someone who is disabled and can’t use the keyboard for some reason and must use their voice.

Once you dabbled with some of these things, you may find that you want a more robust program. That is when Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes in.

Rather than buy the software first, I recommend buying a microphone. My laptop has a half decent mic built-in. It’s the kind of microphone that you would use with the built-in WebCam if you are using Skype or something like that. The problem is, you have to be one or two feet away from the mic or else it’s extremely sporadic with what it will pick up.

I followed Scott Baker’s advice and bought a headset microphone that is plugged in by USB cable, not by the 3.5 mm jack. When you use the microphone jack, it involves your sound card and I think a lot of people’s sound cards are not up to snuff. For some reason, USB microphones don’t have that issue. He also advised getting a wired headset rather than wireless, especially at first. Not only do they cost a little less, they work better. The headset I ended up buying was a Logitech H390 headset. As you can see, they do not have to be very costly to work well. In other words, you don’t need the badass wireless gaming headset that will cost you way more than you need to spend and is total overkill for dictation purposes!

Then I started the shopping for the software. Of the many versions available, Scott Baker’s advice was to go with Dragon NaturallySpeaking premium version 13 for PC. He feels that’s the best version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking for anyone, even people who own a Mac. If you’re running a Mac, he advises that you run Parallels and install the Windows version on your Mac, because the Dragon for Mac is notoriously bad as well as overpriced.

Why not the Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Home? Because, as you will see, there’s an essential feature missing from that version, and that is the ability to transcribe your recordings. And, as it turns out, it’s not worth the savings that you might get.

There is also a professional version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but this is overkill for our purposes as authors. Apparently, there are some that need the extra features that are included in the professional version, but they are not worth the extra money.

Even when you decide to buy the PC version, there are still a lot of options, which doesn’t make much sense considering it’s all the same software. There is the version that you can find in the store, which tends to retail for $99.99. However, most of the time they will only give you that discounted price if you are a student or a teacher. Therefore, it is not worthwhile to buy it in a store like Best Buy or Staples.

I managed to buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking for PC premium version 13 at Amazon. Now, Amazon offers the software as a download for $79.99, however, I was able to get it for $39.90. How did I do that? It’s offered this way as an Amazon exclusive item. While it comes with McAfee total protection software, it is not necessary to install that software if you already have virus protection. In the box, they also include their own headset, but don’t be tempted to use it. It’ll probably be fine for listening to your music, but not for dictation because it’s not a USB connection, but the 3.5 mm jack :-(. It comes as a disk only, so you’ll need to fire up your DVD drive on your computer. And don’t get freaked out if it takes a long time to install! It will install, and it will run nicely once set up. Your computer should have an i5 Intel processor or faster, and at least 4 GB of RAM. I was concerned my old, rinky dink computer would not run it, but it does.

In another post, I will explain how Dragon works best, along with how the transcription works.

Have you tried dictation? Do you think it will work for you? Let me know in the comments!

 

Posted by SB James in Doing the Write Thing, For Authors, Technical Issues, 4 comments

The Last of the Instafreebie Promos (for now!)

Ending Very Soon!

Just a really quick heads up; this one is almost over! If you like YA books, and you like them FREE, then you’ll like this selection. But it’s only through May 31, 2017, so head on over there while they’re still available!

I’m making a few changes on the site, now that there are more people visiting, so I want it to be optimized. I want to caution that some of my links from external sources (like old social media posts) may be goofed up, but I’m working on getting that fixed and I will be posting new links in my social media to my most important posts. I believe the link problem only is going to affect blog posts, but I will make sure of that. I will also be trying out some redirects if I can’t weed out all the problems. This seems to be my month for technical difficulties, LOL!

I will be updating my progress bar for The Traitor’s Son’s progress. I’m also working on something that I should have had for quite a while: my ARC reader list. When I have all the details ironed out, I will be offering the option to people on my mailing list. What do you mean, you’re not on my mailing list? Remedy this unfortunate situation at once, and click the link for “A Free Book” in the menu!

Posted by SB James in The SB James Author and Artist Blog, 0 comments
Another Instafreebie Giveaway Promotion (this one’s pretty big)!

Another Instafreebie Giveaway Promotion (this one’s pretty big)!

 

 

This may be one of the final Instafreebie promotions I participate in for a while.

For a limited time, you can grab a FREE copy of The Inventor’s Son, along with a LOAD of other free books, by entering the SFF Book Bonanza Portal!

You’re probably wondering why I mentioned that this might be my last Instafreebie Giveaway for a while. This is because I am considering putting The Inventor’s Son Series into Kindle Unlimited. This is a program that Amazon has for people to subscribe and read all they want from a selection of Kindle books for one set monthly price. It seems like a great way to get more people to read my books, because Amazon would have them available to these readers.

If I enroll the books, however, I will need to make them exclusively available at Amazon, and I would not be able to put a full book into Instafreebie Giveaway Promotions like this one if enrolled. I cannot have the books anywhere else, either, aside from the paperback book still being available at Barnes & Noble. The Kindle versions would still be available for purchase as well as for borrowing, but no other stores can have an eBook version available.

I will have the eBooks still widely available through May 2017, and I may only have them in Kindle Unlimited for the summer.

What do you think of Kindle Unlimited? Do you think you’d like to see my books available to borrow from the program?

Posted by SB James in The SB James Author and Artist Blog, 0 comments
A Great Opportunity for FREE Books with Instafreebie!

A Great Opportunity for FREE Books with Instafreebie!

 

 

Book lovers might know about Instafreebie, where authors can post book previews or full length books for free. Readers just need to give their email address, and the books will be delivered right to them.

This is the first Instafreebie Promotion that I’m participating in, and it’s a great opportunity to pick up The Inventor’s Son, along with some other beautiful books. The giveaway runs from April 14th through May 14th. Enjoy!

Posted by SB James in The SB James Author and Artist Blog, 0 comments
An Experiment With Kobo

An Experiment With Kobo

 

As many of you who follow my blog may know, I use a distributor for my eBooks for many sales channels outside of Amazon. Draft2Digital is my key to getting into stores I know I’d never get into myself (like the Tolino dealers). However, I’ve been hearing a great deal about how much better it is to “go direct” with Kobo in particular. The reasons vary, but I hear that Kobo offers some good promotional opportunities. So, this morning I went ahead and delisted my boxed set from  Draft2Digital. That will be the first book I will take direct to Kobo.

This actually happened by accident. My boxed set (which consists of The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning, The Inventor’s Son, and The Scientist’s Son) is proving to become a really great promotional tool for me at Amazon. With the introduction of Amazon Marketing Services available to any book seller, not just people enrolled in Select, I had an opportunity to see what this set can do. Priced at $3.99, it’s not the bargain price of a Book Bub boxed set, but it’s making me money while getting a number of my books into readers’ hands, and I like where it’s going.

I recently did an author cross-promotion with a group of other Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors which promoted the permafree The Inventor’s Son. What was my follow up sales from Kobo? The boxed set. Even though the book they had downloaded is in the boxed set, they were still getting the prequel thrown in for the price of what The Scientist’s Son would have cost purchased on its own.

Apparently, there’s a boxed set culture at Kobo, more so than at Amazon. And I want to be a part of it. So, the ability to promote my boxed set directly on Kobo could be a big boon to me. I may never delist any of the other books from Draft2Digital, and who knows, I might go back to listing the boxed set with Draft2Digital if this doesn’t work out the way I hope. But I think this is a great thing to play around with and see what happens.

 

UPDATE: After delisting the boxed set and trying to start the process to upload my book to Kobo, two issues came up that stopped me, and frankly, I should have considered these things sooner. The first issue was the publisher name. Right now, when you go to Kobo and look at my book listings, there is no publisher name. This is because, presumably, Draft2Digital takes care of that field on my behalf. I will probably have a publisher name in the near future, but not just yet, so I didn’t know what to put in that field. They wouldn’t let you leave the field blank, so I just put in something that I know I’m wanting to name my company when I form it. The other thing that stopped me was the ISBN issue. Draft2Digital gives out free ISBN numbers, but they own them. I cannot use that ISBN for any edition other than the one distributed through them. While you don’t necessarily need an ISBN to publish through Kobo, they strongly recommend you get one. In the US, ISBN numbers are pretty costly, and not worth the money unless I was selling a lot of books. Then, I’d have to go direct with everybody I could, and buy my own ISBNs and start from scratch, basically.

My objective for getting Kobo readers for my boxed set hasn’t changed, but my strategy has. I think my best bet might be Facebook ads directed to Kobo readers in countries outside the US. This will be a worthwhile, do-able experiment!

(Don’t worry, I will have the epic AMS ads blog post soon. I’m still testing one or two more things.)

Posted by SB James in Doing the Write Thing, For Authors, 0 comments
For the New Year, 2017…

For the New Year, 2017…

 

I wish you all a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year! 

Posted by SB James in The SB James Author and Artist Blog, 0 comments
For the Holidays…

For the Holidays…

 

I wish you all a peaceful, joyous and healthy Holiday Season!

Posted by SB James in The SB James Author and Artist Blog, 0 comments
Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

I am grateful for all my readers, followers and fans! Thank you! 

Posted by SB James in The SB James Author and Artist Blog, 0 comments
Just in Time for Holiday Gift-Giving!

Just in Time for Holiday Gift-Giving!

 

All the books in this promotion are participating in the Kindle Matchbook program; if you buy the paperback, you can get the Kindle version at a special price. In this case, the Kindle versions are FREE! And you might just see a familiar book among the covers there…

Check it out here!

Posted by SB James in The SB James Author and Artist Blog, 0 comments