Friday, November 25, 2016

Could Paper Books Make a Comeback? Two Reasons They Might

From a business perspective it makes sense to have your book available in as many formats as possible and distributed as widely as possible. While ebooks, especially Amazon's Kindle, have been a huge boon to self-published authors, it makes sense for several reasons to offer books in POD print editions as well.

First, it would seem the so-called "digital natives" prefer to read books in print over digital ebooks by a considerable margin, especially when reading for pleasure. Of course surveys that conclude this type of results are controversial, particularly among the serious adopters of technology. Reading the comments are sometimes as informative as the actual story.

Then there is the issue of whether or not we should be creating "digital natives" before their brains have matured physically. As a high school teacher for the past 30+ years, I can assure you the reading ability of the average student has made a serious decline.

Others simply argued any evidence I had was anecdotal and could not be validated. That is until brain researchers discovered all the digital usage by today's youth has in fact changed how their brains develop and not always for the better. One of those negative effects has been a serious deterioration in the brain's ability to process written language.

Given the fact school administrators have moved towards digital textbooks, and with good reason when you see the amount of money spent on textbooks, this is bound to be a controversial topic in the coming years.

As a school teacher and grandparent, this topic is of great interest to me. To read more, click here.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Association of Independent Authors

It doesn't matter if you are published traditionally or you choose to go the indie route and self-publish.  It can be lonely and frustrating as an author. Like any human endeavor, author's need encouragement and a source of help and information.

Joining local writing groups can certainly serve as one source of encouragement and information. Joining a larger regional or national group can serve the same purpose and often provides additional sources of aid and information.

One such group is the Association of Independent Authors. You can become an Affiliate Member for FREE or become a full member for a $69 membership fee.

The AIA offers a range of services and sources of support for authors, most of which will cost you some money. Like any other choice you have to make as an indie author that involves money, buyer beware and do your homework.

Still, an Affiliate membership is FREE and you can tool around the AIA's website and learn a few things. This is not an endorsement of the AIA, I'm simply pointing out the organization's existence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review of How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

If you're like me, you have to run your self-publishing business on a shoestring budget. With daughter Number One just out of college and daughter Number Two a freshman this year, every dime has to be accounted for and spent wisely. What could be reinvested often has to go to pay bills or for college.

All the more reason to invest what money you have budgeted for research and educational purposes in the "Frugal" series of books by writer and author Carolyn Howard-Johnson. These books are well worth the money you will spend and the time you will need to invest to read, take notes and digest all the information presented in the books.

The series includes:
  • The Frugal Editor: Do It Yourself Editing Secrets
  • The Frugal Book Promoter (in its second edition now)
  • How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically 
I'm planning my book launch for my first work of fiction, The Predator and The Prey, and I wish I had started reading CHJ's (Ms. Howard-Johnson refers to herself in the text of her book this way) treatise on obtaining reviews two months ago. Even when self-publishing, you need 12-16 weeks lead time for many reviewers. You also need a physical copy of the book to send to be reviewed!
The time saved in research in a single area of book promotion/reviews alone is worth the price of the book. For example, I was aware of only two bloggers who write in the genre my book is in. In less than two hours, using the information in the book, I now have a book blog tour mapped out for the entire month of March.
Book reviews are a scary topic for authors. I know I hate trying to solicit them. It some how feels like I've become a politician or a used care salesman. Ms. Howard-Johnson addresses all the reasons why authors need to get over this and do the work necessary to solicit reviews in the first section of the book.
The second section of the book deals with planning how to obtain reviews. Of particular emphasis is the need to start early and do your homework. Thus my wish I had started reading this book two months ago.
Section three deals with a wide range of ethical, and low cost methods of obtaining reviews. Many of these ideas would never occur to the average writer. Ms. Howard-Johnson's years of experience as an author and wide range of contacts in the industry have provided her with a wealth of information she thankfully is willing to share with other authors. Of particular help is the chapter dealing with the all important Amazon.

Section four deals with putting all those great reviews to work for you, helping as many readers as possible find out about your work. Section five covers the practice of writing reviews to broaden your author's platform and create credibility as an author.

Section six covers putting together a media kit and planning for the future of your book. The successful future of your book. It also covers using reviews for when the sales of your book began to slide.

I purchased the Kindle version of this book. I would like to point out Ms. Howard-Johnson went to the trouble to create a functioning index for the book, making it as easy to use as a traditional paperback version. This is no small feat. 

Also included in the book are examples which can be found in the appendices of the book.

If you're frugal, out of necessity or by nature, this book is well worth the price of purchase.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Indie Arthor Skills - Using Book Design Templates Part II

The good folks at are the creators of a product called Book Design Templates. In my last post I encouraged authors to consider learning how to create their own interiors for their books. Specifically to use this product created by Joel Friedlander and his partners.

As mentioned in my previous post, this product is Word based. If you can use Word, you can master creating your own book interiors. Tracy Atkins, the software genius behind these templates, can easily do the interior of a book in an hour.

I will confess, it took me longer than an hour to do the POD interior of my first work of fiction, The Predator and The Prey.

Here is what I can say about using the template I purchased. It was the easiest book interior I have ever done. It took me just over two hours, the fault of which must be placed on me. I got smart and formatted my original Word document in an effort to speed up the process of loading it into the template. All I did was create a good 45 minutes of work for myself. The template would have handled the features I was trying to create.

My absolute favorite feature, the template set up the page numbers and headings on the pages automatically! Talk about a tedious task made easy.

Even better, my ebook version was created by using the Save As feature on Word. A few changes and the creation of a functional table of contents and the file will be ready to upload to my Kindle Direct Publishing account. Since I hate dealing with ebook table of contents, I am going to happily pay the $47 to have The Book Designer folks create my TOC for me.

I purchased a multi-use license, enabling me to ensure every book in my Inspector Thomas Sullivan Thriller series will have identical interiors, both the print and ebook versions.

For authors who need to save money producing their own books, this is a way to save money, produce a quality interior, and you won't have to learn how to write code or study design in the process.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Consider Developing These Skills as an Indie Author - Part I: Simple Interior Design

Being an indie, or self-published, author has meant learning skills I never thought were a necessary component of an author's skill set. Like the vast majority of self-publishing authors, my budget to produce my books is very limited. In fact, once my books began to gain traction on Amazon and sell, I needed the money to pay bills for the family. 

Lesson learned. This is not a hobby, at least for me. There are skills authors today need that extend beyond craft. Without a doubt, the most important element of any book's success is a well written manuscript. Without a topnotch manuscript, no book will succeed despite all the other bells and whistles being topnotch.

Traditional publishing provides skills most authors don't have. Skills such as editing, interior design, cover design and for some lucky authors, marketing. Editing your manuscript yourself is not wise, thought it can be done.

Designing your interior is another skill that is best left to creative professionals. Having said that, there is an easy way to go about producing the files necessary to have your finished manuscript published in paperback and ebook formats. You don't have to learn the first thing about coding for ebooks or actual design elements for paper and ebook interiors.

Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer, and his partners at Book Design Templates have done the hard work for you. You simply have to select, and yes, pay for the template that features the interior design you believe best fits your manuscript. 

I have used these for multiple editions of my non-fiction books and successfully saved hundreds of dollars while producing quality book interiors! Yes, there is a learning curve. But, the good folks at Book Design Templates have provided the means to teach yourself how to use these Microsoft Word based templates.

You select the type of license you want to purchase, single or multi-edition. A commercial option is available as well. When finished, hit save and make a duplicate copy. I have found there are a few things I want to change for the two versions, one for paper and one for ebook. When finished, you are ready to upload your interiors for publication.

Once you master the process, you can format a 60,000 word book in a couple of hours. Books with images, graphs, etc, take longer.

If you hit a snag, for a reasonable fee, you can pay for help to either tutor you in the process or actually fix the problem for you. In one of my first efforts, I managed to mess things up so badly it took them awhile to repair the damage I had done. They did it with a smile and sent me my finished file ready to upload.

Please note! If you use these templates correctly, there is NO NEED to have your interior file converted to upload to Amazon's KDP or Nook's ePub. Your book, minus the cover, is ready to go! I have successfully used my files for Kindle, Nook and Draft2Digital who distributed my ebooks to iBook, Kobo and other ebook retailers.

Yes, this approach does cost some money and you have to invest the time to learn to use the templates. The positive is your book file is ready much quicker than if you paid someone else to do the work. Purchasing a multi-use license is still cheaper than paying to have a professional to design and produce your interior file and it is a one time fixed cost. You also do not have to pay for having the files converted for either POD or ebook editions.

I'm sold on this product/service produced and sold by Joel Friedlander and his partners. It is a skill indie/self-publishing authors should consider mastering.

For More Information

How the Business of Self-Publishing Has Changed - Authors Have to Embrace the Business Side of Self-Publishing

When I bravely ventured into self-publishing some eight years ago, I read Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon. This self-publishing classic still has a lot of valid advice for authors considering taking the plunge into the world of Indie publishing. Print-on-demand publishing through first Lightning Source and then Amazon's own CreateSpace made it possible for authors to publish their work and make money. Morris Rosenthal's Print-on-Demand Book Publishing was also required reading back in those days. Aiming at Amazon provided authors with a detailed marketing strategy using POD to publish and print books and selling them on Amazon. 

The focus of Aiming at Amazon was marketing, particularly the idea of driving all print sales to Amazon and ignoring brick and mortar bookstores, and provides still valuable insight into how Amazon works as a means to promote and sell books..  Print-on-Demand Book Publishing provided authors with a detailed understanding of how the entire POD model worked.

Of course, this was all before the ebook revolution, in particular Amazon's Kindle. With the bar to publish lowered, thousands of authors took advantage of the opportunities provided by Amazon and other ebook publishers. The result, to the dismay of many, was a dramatic increase in competition as the number of new books being published has mushroomed with the advent of ebooks.

I was able to compete quite effectively when POD was the only option available to authors who self-published. Following the advice and strategy provided in Aiming at Amazon, it was possible to drive your book up the all important sales rankings and generate a reasonable return on your efforts as an author.

Today, the process of entering the business is quite a bit more complicated. Simply writing the best possible book, editing it, getting a great cover with a well designed interior and publishing it are no longer enough to produce sales. Truth be told, it was never that simple, but it certainly seemed that way.

For a book to succeed financially, meaning sales, an author must delve into the business side, or at least the marketing side, of publishing. Regardless of how your book is published, traditional or indie, today's authors are responsible for marketing their own book. Only proven best selling authors receive any marketing help from traditional publishing houses.

Marketing a book has to start long before it is ready to be published. As I am in the process of having my first work of fiction edited (The Predator and The Prey: Book I of the Thomas Sullivan Chronicles), I have been focusing on what has come to be called building my Author Platform. In theory, this process will allow me to provide my book with the best possible launch.

In order to meet my self-imposed deadline of publishing The Predator and The Prey in February of 2017, I sat down and made up a list of tasks that have to be accomplished. For the benefit of authors new to this process I have included this list below:
  • Obtain domain name 
  • Register with hosting company
  • Website/Author platform
  • Obtain custom e-mail for domain name
  • Register with e-mail service - find a free one to start
  • Rewrite after receiving manuscript back from editor
  • Finish first chapter of next book in series for inclusion in The Predator and The Prey
  • Interior design - POD
  • Interior design/conversion - ebook (mobi, ePub and Smashwords)
  • Back cover copy for POD edition
  • Cover design - POD and ebook
  • Amazon Author Central Page
  • Kindle Keyword research
  • Write book synopsis for Amazon and other online book retailers product page
  • Research ebook promotion sites
  • Obtain ARC POD copies to send out to potential reviewers
  • Research generating ebook edition reviews (behind on this)
  • Have ebook file for uploading on Smashwords professionally formatted - upload after KDP exclusive period ends.
This is not a complete list and I have done a reasonable amount of items on the list. I have also already made my decisions on an editor and cover designer.  

All of this takes time, and in my case involves a learning curve. In order to save money to invest it where it will do the most good (editing and cover design) I am going to really stretch myself and build my own website using WordPress. Supposedly, it's easy. I've heard that before.

I am quite certain I have left tasks I don't yet know I need to accomplish off my list. When I first started in 2008, I only wrote my manuscript, made the corrections asked for by the editor and approved the cover design. I uploaded my files to CreateSpace, wrote the book description and waited for the 24 hours for the book to go on sale.

Things have changed.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Chronicles of Inspector Thomas Sullivan

Trial and error takes time and it can prove to be a costly way to learn. Fear of making mistakes and the need to be perfect on the first attempt is paralyzing and leads failure more often than not. Trying my hand as a fiction author has certainly proven trial and error is unavoidable.

Still, I am hoping many of the lessons I learned as a self-published author of non-fiction will reduce the number of errors to be made as I prepare to launch my first novel. Hopefully, in February of 2017 The Predator and The Prey: An Inspector Thomas Sullivan Thriller will be available.

Until then, the learning curve continues. For the readers of this blog who might be considering testing the waters of the fiction world, please visit the blog for my new series. The Chronicles of Inspector Thomas Sullivan is the blog I will be using to support my new fiction series.

In my efforts to build an authors platform for my plans for a multi-volume series, I plan to use this site to provide additional background for readers interested in learning more about Capital City and the planet of Beta Prime. Also to be included will be backstory for the governing structure known as the Interplanetary Alliance and the Space Marines, the branch of military service my protagonist Thomas Sullivan served in as a member of the Shore Patrol, the military police arm of the Space Marines.

Please visit and if you have suggestions I love to hear from you.