Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Observations On Using CreateSpace's New Kindle Conversion Service

After the success, well, my terms of success, of my first Kindle book, I have decided to have several more of my books converted to Kindle using CreateSpace's very economical $69 conversion service. In the process I have learned several things that might be of interest to others interested in this service.

First of all, I could not find a link anywhere on the CreateSpace website to purchase the service. In fact, there is only one location on the entire site where you can find anything about the Kindle conversion service. It is located in the Services section on the Design, Editing and Marketing page. This link will only take you to a page describing the service and other marketing information to entice you to use the service.

I simply could not recall how I managed to get my first book converted. I e-mailed my customer rep and low and behold, the answer was revealed. Why CreateSpace does not provide this information on its site page about the Kindle conversion service, I do not know, but here is the answer on how to purchase the service.  You have to e-mail your customer service rep and the rep will manually add the conversion service to your shopping cart for the title you want converted. You may then purchase the service.

I also learned that any title published using another POD service (LSI) or a traditional off-set press is not eligible for the CreateSpace conversion service. So, my one other title that is published using LSI as the POD printer is being converted by eBook Architects.

My first experience with the CreateSpace Kindle Conversion was not without its problems, as noted in an earlier post, but CreateSpace did a wonderful job of rectifying the situation and the finished eBook was well done and had the desired bells and whistles.

Given the cost of paying for Kindle conversions by other companies, why does CreateSpace charge such a low price? $69 is basically giving their service away when comparing what other reputable companies charge for the same level of conversion. Christy Pinheiro who hosts the blog Publishing Maven, commented elsewhere on this blog the pricing of the service might be part of a marketing strategy on the part of Amazon/CreateSpace to draw authors away from LSI since Lightning does not offer a Kindle conversion service, making CreateSpace a more desirable, or perhaps more honestly, a necessary choice since CreateSpace will only provide the service for books published through CreateSpace's POD service.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

eBook Opportunities to Self-Publish

Print-on-demand has been a huge boon for authors who self-publish. It gave so many authors a chance to get their book in print without needing a huge financial investment to do so. Amazon gave self-published authors a means to access customers without brick and mortar bookstores.

Like print-on-demand did for paper books, eBook readers have opened a new avenue for authors to self-publish and enjoy financial success, particularly authors of fiction. 

Does this mean any book sold as an eBook is guaranteed success? Of course not. Like any traditional paper book the most important component in a books success if the answer to the question "is the book any good?" A good book is THE essential first component to a book's success. For self-published authors, once the book is in print, the hard work of marketing the book starts and is also a key component to the success of the book as is the book's cover and interior design.

Listed below are just a few of the opportunities for self-publishing authors to publish their book in an eBook format. Please note, there are a total of 19 possible different eBook software formats and 23 different physical eBook reader devices available (that I have been able to count) so this is far from a complete list.

Amazon's Kindle
ePub - utilized by B&N Nook and many other eBook readers
Barnes & Noble Nook
Apple Book store
Google Books

While there is no single format for eBooks yet (time will tell), it appears this is an excellent opportunity for authors who self-publish and should not be overlooked. It means more still to learn for authors, but time never stands still and the march of technology moves ever forward. Take advantage of the new book format and make your book available in an eBook format.

Friday, December 24, 2010

eBook versus Print-on-demand - which is the future for self-publishing?

When I entered the field of self-publishing several years ago, I did so in large part because of the opportunity print-on-demand publishing allowed to self-publish without tying up large, to me at least, sums of money. POD, the internet and Amazon.com allowed a self-publishing author access to millions of potential customers. Technology allowed me, and countless other authors, to enter the business of self-publishing not out of vanity, but as an actual business enterprise.

I had a lot to learn, and enjoyed doing so. It was a change of pace for me after 20+ years of being a teacher and basketball coach and hopefully it will help pay for college for youngest daughter! It certainly has progressed beyond being a hobby in the spouse's eyes though it never was in mine.

Now the eBook revolution has arrived and it appears to be gathering momentum. I have one title available as a Kindle book, another two in line to be converted (one by CreateSpace and another by eBook Architects). My current project will be released in both a POD paperback version and a Kindle version at roughly the same time. I even have a project that will be so short in book form I might simply release it as a Kindle book and an ePub version only and spare myself the time, effort and expense, albeit minimal, of producing a POD version.

Given the direction of the self-publishing industry, it makes sense, when possible to produce both a POD and an eBook version of all of my new titles. Time will tell which form will come to dominate or will both the POD and eBook co-exist for some time, greatly reducing off-set publishing as the most common means of book production.

My self-appointed learning tasks to move forward in the self-publishing industry is the mastery of first InDesign so I can produce high quality interiors for my books myself (I am enrolled in a class to learn InDesign starting this March when the basketball season is over). Once that task is completed, the next hurdle I have placed in my way is to learn as much about the rapidly developing eBook industry as possible. Who knows, perhaps there might be a book in the offing as a result!

To not move forward with eBooks I have realized, with the prompting of several others in the self-publishing field, is foolish and will cost me both sales and profits as time passes by. It will require more time and investment on my part, but then any profitable business requires both and this, after all, a business. It has been reported in numerous media outlets Amazon now sells more Kindle books than hardcovers.

My venture into Kindle books so far has been slow by the standards of some successful authors. Having stated that, I have sold more copies of my Kindle version of The Game of Basketball than I have print copies.  The POD version has been available since last March and the Kindle version has only been available since mid-November. Granted, I make significantly less per sale because of the low introductory price I set for the title, but all of those sales were sales I would not have realized otherwise.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blogs versus Social Media - More Change for Self-Publishers?

Things change quickly these days as a result of technology. Sometimes I think changes happens too fast and those who bring about the changes often don't stop to ask the question "should I/we" but rather only as the question "can I do this?" I am fairly certain I am not the first, nor will I be the last individual in history to ponder this seeming need for incessant change.

My daughters don't use their cell phones to make phone calls. When I call them on their cell phones, they get annoyed and suggest I send them a text message instead. My daughters created a Facebook account for me. Not that I use it a lot, they just like to use it to their advantage when playing the various games on Facebook. Still, a lot of old friends, students and teammates have contacted me as a result.

Blogs were supposed to be the media of communicating and one of the best ways to build an author platform. Now its Facebook, Twitter and who knows what tomorrow.

The problem with Facebook, Twitter and the other social media as far as I am concerned is I have to learn to use it. Well, that and I find it almost impossible to learn anything of real value or that requires in depth information to understand unless it is on a blog.

Blogs seem like a much better method of sharing information. So do websites that provide detailed content. Yet the ever present need for instant gratification seems to be heading us towards social media such as Twitter. Time will tell. I may even learn to speak and read "text" and other new languages in my ever increasing efforts to promote my books, share information and just communicate with my daughters. Fortunately, my son is even more resistant to learning the new social media than I am so I will always have one person I can communicate with. My wife, she can communicate fluently with our daughters.

What has this new media to do with self-publishing? The internet has been a huge boon for authors who self-publish. It allows authors to market their books, build an audience for their book and to sell more books than ever before via on-line book retailers such as Amazon. If there was not enough for an author to do as a self-publisher, it seems it is now necessary to keep up with the latest method of instant internet communication as well.

Monday, December 20, 2010

To Use An Author Services Company Or Not?

The following is an excerpt from 301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing.

42. What is an author services company?
An author services company is a business that accepts payment from an author to help the author publish a book. Author services companies are also known as self-publishing companies, a misnomer, or sometimes as a vanity press, a derogatory term for self-publishing.

The services offered by an author services company include editing, proofreading, interior design, cover design, and typesetting. Marketing services are also a common offering now as well. Some author services, for a fee, will also apply for a copyright for the author and obtain a Library of Congress Number as well, all services an author can do without the help of an author services company, thereby avoiding extra fees for services rendered.

43. Are there advantages to using an author services company?
For a first time author, an author services company can offer several advantages, if the author takes the time to find a reputable, quality author services company. These advantages include providing editing, interior design, cover design services for a fee instead of the author having to search for and contract with freelancers to provide these same services.

44. Are there disadvantages to using an author services company?
The two biggest disadvantages are cost and the time involved in getting a book to press. The charge for the services involved may be higher than if an author hired freelancers to do the work and the cost per copy could be inflated as many author services companies sell copies to the author at an inflated price per copy.

Author services companies have many clients and work on a first-come, first-serve basis. Author services companies usually want to produce work in a reasonably timely manner, but due to the number of titles the company is working on at a given time, this is often not possible. Author services companies (and vanity presses) commonly tack on a surcharge per copy sold, decreasing the amount of profit per copy of the author.

45. How can I determine if a self-publishing author services company is reputable or not?
It takes careful research to find a reputable author services company. There are several steps an author can take to determine if a company is reputable. A good starting point is Mark Levine’s book The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. This book does not review a wide range of author services companies, but provides a considerable amount of information about contracts and the obligations of all parties involved in the contracts.
The Better Business Bureau has records and ratings for many author services companies. This information is all available via the internet and the information included in the ratings can be telling about a company.
Word-of-mouth recommendations, or reviews, are also an excellent source of information but be sure to obtain more than one review or opinion about a company. Post a request for opinions on a message board site for self-publishers and considerable feedback will be made available by the members of the group using the message board. Don’t rely on the customer references provided by the company. These may be perfectly legitimate but companies with a bad reputation want to control the feedback given about the company and the quality of its service and work and will select the few authors who are happy with the company’s services to act as references.

Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers

CreateSpace Affiliate Program

I have sold out completely to being a shill for Amazon. I was given the opportunity to join the CreateSpace affiliate program and I jumped on it! You can see the banner above this post as well as a small square advertisement for CreateSpace further down on the blog on the right.

You have to give Amazon/CreateSpace some credit. They may want to dominate the book and publishing markets, but they are willing to share some of the spoils for those who help them build the Amazon Empire.

So, if you are interested in using CreateSpace, or learning more about CreateSpace, please click on one of the banners on this blog.

Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Self-Publishing Business Models - A Basic Overview

Self-publishing is a business. Many authors fail to recognize this fact when making the decision to self-publish their book. A solid business plan is essential for the books success, even if the author is not overly interested in financial success but desires the greatest number of possible readers to obtain the book and its contents. Part of the process of developing a successful business plan for a self-published book is to understand the common business models in the publishing world.

The information below has been excerpted from 301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing.

117. Can you provide some examples of different business models for a self-published author?

Traditional publishing as a business is centered around distributing books through brick and mortar stores. The advent of the internet and the growth of Amazon into the largest book retailer in the world has changed the book industry forever.

For the self-publishing author several business models now exist. The advent of POD printing and distribution has created the POD business model. Another business model that relies heavily on the POD model is to steer sales toAmazon. Niche marketing to non-traditional points of sale is also a viable business model.

118. What is the traditional self-publishing business model?
The traditional model of self-publishing relied on the technology of the times, requiring large press runs of books using an off-set printing press and the warehousing of the books until they could be sold. This approach required a fair amount of capital to be invested by the author in order to self-publish.

119. What is the “Print-on-Demand” business model?
Unlike the traditional method of publishing using off-set printing and then warehousing the printed press run of books, the POD business model allows the author to sell and print books only when a copy has been ordered or purchased. Multiple or single copies of a book can be printed on demand. The cost per copy can be higher than using off-set printing, but there is no warehousing cost, no inventory, no capital outlay and no inventory to pay taxes on. Books are only printed when ordered and if LSI or CreateSpace is used as the POD printer, distribution is also handled for the self-publisher by either of these two companies.

120. What is the primary advantage of the POD business model?
This business model allows for self-publishers to enter the business with a very low capital investment and to lower operating costs to an absolute minimum.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

CreateSpace Kindle Conversion Service for CreateSpace Titles Only

My best selling book happens to be the first book I published. I used Dog Ear Publishing, an author services company to produce the book Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball. I learned a great deal about the entire process of publishing a book and while I have no complaints at all about Dog Ear and the job the company did in getting my book published, I decided to strike out on my own and use CreateSpace.

I recently used CreateSpace's new Kindle conversion service for another of my titles, The Game of Basketball, and was happy with the result and the service I received during the process of getting the book published in the Kindle format.

After some thought about the possible impact a Kindle conversion might have on my paper book sales of Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball I decided to take the plunge and offer a Kindle version as well.

To my dismay I discovered CreateSpace will not provide their conversion service for titles not published through CreateSpace.  The polite, but to the point, e-mail I received informing me of this is posted below.

Hello Kevin,

Thanks for the e-mail.

The Kindle File Conversion service that we offer is only available to titles published through our system. The only way we can perform the Kindle File help for your second book is if you upload your paperback PDF files in our system and make the book available for sale through us. Once the book is available, we could move forward with the Kindle Service after payment is made.

 I apologize I could not be of more help. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Why CreateSpace has taken this stance, I don't know. Perhaps they don't want to be flooded with authors who use Lightning Source for their POD service using the affordable $69 Kindle conversion service. Or, a bit more Machiavellian thought, is CreateSpace using this approach to have titles shifted from LSI to CreateSpace? What do I know. Still, it is disappointing. Now I have to find someone to do the conversion work.

CreateSpace Continues To Add New Services - Interior Design Templates Now Available - More Competition For Author Services Companies!

Amazon and CreateSpace appear to be serious about making inroads in the self-publishing industry as CreateSpace continues to offer an ever expanding array of new services for authors who desire to self-publish.  The latest addition to the services offered by CreateSpace are interior design templates.

For authors who are just entering the field of self-publishing, funds are often limited, making it difficult for an author to afford professional interior design and layout for their book. CreateSpace templates make it possible for self-publishing authors to improve their interior design, creating a more professional appearing book.

This new feature could be a major boon to the industry as one of the complaints often voiced about self-published books is the poor design of the cover and interior. The greater the number of self-published books that have quality design, the better for all self-publishing authors.

The new feature will introduce competition in the market for other author services companies who often charge significant sums of money to layout the interior of a book. This move would seem to indicate CreateSpace wants to challenge the competition in the author services industry.

Below is the information from CreateSpace announcing the new service.

New Interior Book Templates
Need some help preparing your book's interior as a PDF to meet our submission guidelines? We recently introduced new interior book templates in Microsoft Word to help make the interior file creation process easier for you. Templates are available in a variety of standard trim sizes.
Here's a quick overview of how you can use these templates to create your book's interior:
1.     Select the template that fits your manuscript's needs and trim size
2.     Copy and paste your content into the template
3.     Proof each page
4.     Convert your document into PDF format - get specific instructions here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Which Version Should I Publish First, Kindle or Paperback?

In late February or early March my next book, as yet to be titled, will be done and hopefully edited. Funds are tight with the oldest daughter in her final semester of college and while income needs to be generated, the available funds must be spent wisely. Does this scenario sound familiar to most self-publishing authors?

This will be the first of my books released in two versions, Kindle and paperback, by design from day one. The question for me, is which edition should I release first? Does it make a difference? Until someone can provide me with valid data proving people will by both a Kindle version and a paperback, I refuse to believe the idea that e-book sales will generate duplicate paperback sales.

With careful pricing I can make the same amount of profit per sale of either the Kindle version or the paperback. The question is, which will generate the most revenue the quickest and does it matter which version hits the market first or do they need to be introduced at the same time?

After my experience of introducing my first Kindle edition of a book already available as a paperback, I am fairly certain it will take me a bit longer to have the Kindle edition available for sale. Much of the work for either edition will be the same.  The manuscript has to be written and edited and a cover has to be designed. The interior of the paperback will have to be formatted as will the Kindle version. The $69 fee CreateSpace charged was worth it to me. I do not need to learn how to complete the process and $69 was a more than fair fee for the completed version of the book I had converted to Kindle. 

The version that is ready in its final form first will probably be the version released first. Once again, I will have to learn the hard way, through trial and error, if there is an answer to the question of which version I should publish first, Kindle or paperback.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in Self-publishing Services

I love movies. So does my wife. We would rather go see a movie in the theater than have an expensive night on the town. I like Clint Eastwood's films and find his spaghetti Western's are particularly entertaining for a variety of reasons. Thus, I am borrowing the title of one of those films for today's blog post.

Much has been written about what truly makes one a self-published author but that is not the point I wish to write about today. For a wide range of reasons, self-publishing authors may want to contract out the production of all or parts of their book. This may include editing, interior design, cover design and other elements of book production. The choice of print-on-demand service or a traditional press run is also important.

The metaphor might be stretched a bit today, but I want to share my experiences with The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of the industry as I have either experienced myself or had the good fortune of avoiding by doing my homework.

The Good include Dog Ear Publishing, CreateSpace, Lightning Source and Deanna Riddle.  My best selling book is Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball. Editing, interior design and cover design was done by Dog Ear Publishing and Lightning Source is the POD service responsible for printing and distribution. Some would argue the book was not truly self-published due to Dog Ear Publishing's involvement. So be it, but it was my first book and I needed the help, learned a tremendous amount and it was money well spent.

All of my other books have been published with CreateSpace and I have nothing but good things to say about CreateSpace and the service I have received. The lone drawback is the mandatory 40% discount Amazon commands if CreateSpace is the POD responsible for printing and distribution. Unlike Lightning Source which allows the short discount pricing and distribution model, CreateSpace is not flexible in its discounts.

What more can I say about Lightning Source? If you have not heard of LSI and want to learn more, I strongly suggest reading Aaron Shepard's POD for Profit which details the ins and outs and advantages of using LSI as your POD printer and distributor through Ingram. 

Deanna Riddle was the cover designer for another of my books, The Game of Basketball, and she did a superb job. She provided me with a range of cover concepts to select from and then honed the final cover until I was happy with it.

There are some good people in the self-publishing industry who willingly share information and provide advice based on years of experience and trial and error. While these individuals often do not have the time to provide individual coaching in the field of self-publishing, they have blogs, have published books and if time permits do answer e-mails. The Good in this category include Aason Shepard, author of Aiming at Amazon, Perfect Pages and POD for Profit, all of which are must reads for any aspiring author considering self-publishing. Morris Rosenthal is another self-publisher who has shared much of his knowledge via his books Print-on-Demand Book Publishing and Internet Book Marketing and his blog Self-publishing 2.0.

Christy Pinheiro has been helpful to me personally. Christy owns her own publishing company and blogs about self-publishing on The Publishing Maven, an interesting and helpful blog on self-publishing. She writes about a wide range of topics related to self-publishing and as a CPA often has insights into the business side of publishing many of us would otherwise never be aware of.

Some might argue about my inclusion of the next individual on The Good list, but if you have a sense of humor that is a bit off, you'll love the blog Book Making written by Michael Marcus. It's irreverent at times and Mr. Marcus has little to no tolerance for incompetent companies in the self-publishing industry who take advantage of aspiring authors who are in the early stages of their learning curve. Having said that, regular reading of his blog allows one to learn a great deal. Michael has a wide range of life and career experiences that provide him with different insights into self-publishing successfully and profitably, much of which he will share, in time, on his blog.

The Bad and The Ugly - I learned long ago through some negative experiences sleeping on a decision before spending money is a good thing. It helps to eliminate the impulse purchase. That's not to say I have never made a bad decision with my money, but that one practice has helped me to lessen the total number of those bad decisions. So far, I have not had many bad or ugly experiences as a self-publisher that were not of my own making.

Having said that, I purchased Brent Sampson's book Sell Your Book On Amazon and wish I had not. Mr. Sampson is the owner and president of Outskirts Press, a self-publishing services company. I admit I did learn about the existence of some marketing features available to self-publisher's on Amazon from the book, I did not learn that many of the suggested practices are frowned upon or a waste of time. You make take my statement for what it is worth. 

If you would like to "learn more" about Mr. Sampson and Outskirts Press, visit Michael Marcus' blog Book Making on a regular basis as Outskirts and Mr. Sampson are a regular subject on his blog.

Another company I have learned about through doing my homework, but not from direct experience is Lulu. To be fair, there are some positives about the company I have learned about, namely the low cost of proof copies. For authors who need a large number of review copies, this might be a good route to take to save money while actually using LSI or CreateSpace as the POD service of record to print and distribute the actual book. Again, I will point you to Michael's blog Book Making for more on Lulu.

Regardless of what you read on this blog or others, always do your due diligence and homework before spending a dime. Make the best decision you can before spending money. When things do not go as planned or as you hoped, simply learn from your mistake and move forward. Mistakes, if not fatal, are many times the best teacher.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Design and Amazon Sales

I really like going to a B&N brick and mortar bookstore. I used to purchase all of my books from B&N. Now, like many readers, I still enjoy visiting a B&N and finding books I would like to read and then go home and purchase the book for less, even with shipping & handling costs, from Amazon. Granted, the books I buy now are almost always used, but still, I save huge amounts of money.

There is no doubt the cover impacts my decision when I can physically examine a book. Depending on the type of book, fiction or non-fiction, the interior design can impact my purchase decision as well. Non-fiction books meant to be used as reference manuals need to have a very user friendly design or I will not purchase the book. Photo books of topics I am interested in need to have a well thought out method of displaying the photos and the content accompanying the photos. I am not too picky about fiction when it comes to interior design, but the print does have to be large enough for me to read with ease.

Do I make the same choices when I look at books on Amazon without first vetting the book at a physical bookstore? I am not sure.  I know I rely heavily on the product information about the books content and I always read several of the customer reviews if any are available. But does the cover still have an impact on my decision to purchase or not? What about the interior design?

As I have become more knowledgeable about book production, I have started paying more attention as a consumer. I do look at the cover image and if the option is available, I use the search inside feature on Amazon to check out the interior design, especially if the book is a reference manual or photo book.

Aaron Shepard argues simple covers are the best and his are certainly simple. But if Mr. Shepard were not one of the foremost authorities on self-publishing, using Lightning Source for POD service and marketing on Amazon, would his books sell at the rate they do?

I agree simple is often good. But some covers shout self-published and the same can be said for the interior design of the book. One of my early efforts certainly fits that description. My two best selling books have professionally produced covers and interiors. I wonder if that has anything to do with the sales totals of those books?

As more and more books are self-published and sold on Amazon and as more people turn to Amazon to purchase books, the reading public will become more savvy about the books available on-line for purchase. Self-publishing authors will have to make sure their books are well designed and produced. For many of us, this may mean hiring professionals to do the work for us. I don't have a creative bone in my body when it comes to design or artistic flair.

UPDATE: As luck would have it, I found this instructive and helpful interview with Joel Friedlander about cover design for the self-publisher. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Amazon Sales Rankings Information Now Available At Amazon's Author Central!

The secretive Amazon has opened up some about its Amazon Sales Rankings! Amazon authors may now log-in to their account on Author Central and access Nielsen sales data and Amazon Sales Rank data. Each Friday the entire set of data points will be updated, allowing authors to collect information about their books sales. 

Authors will still have to check with their POD printing service for actual numbers at the end of any given recording period as the Nielsen data the Amazon rankings is based on claims to only account for 75% of all retail book sales in the United States.

One of the most fascinating data sets author's now have access to is sales by geography! I found this fascinating to examine and was surprised to see where my books actually sell. The data for geographical sales is presented on a map of the United States with a color coded system of depicting book sales by area. By moving your computer's cursor over the map sales information will be provided for each area.

Included in the information is a bar graph depicting sales by week based on information from BookScan. The graph is color coded for each book and depicts four weeks of sales with a bar to represent each week of sales. User information provided Amazon about this data states that the information represents 75% of all book sales and encourages the author to again check with his or her POD service for actual total sales figures as the information becomes available.

Alas, Kindle books sales figures and Amazon Sales Rankings are not available through the information provided in an author's Author Central account. Kindle authors can track their sales data through the Amazon DTP by checking the Reports in the DTP. The information that can be found in the Reports section includes sales to date figures for the current months and royalty figures for the last six weeks.  All time sales figures by month are available as well.

Perhaps of more help for self-publishing authors is the FAQ section provided with the sales information explaining how the data is collected and providing explanations of how "to read" the Amazon Sales Rankings (I must confess, even after reading the official explanation of how Amazon Sales Rankings work, there are a few things I still don't understand).

It will certainly take time for authors to learn how to use and interpret all of the information Amazon now makes available concerning book sales. I for one am particularly interested in the geographical sales information since some of my books are not only a niche topic, but should be of more interest to potential customers in certain states. I will be able to evaluate my marketing efforts better now and be able to better ascertain if my promotional efforts are reaching the targeted reading audience.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

CreateSpace and Kindle Conversion Update - Part II

Several weeks ago I received my converted file from CreateSpace for upload to Amazon's DTP to sell this particular book in a Kindle conversion, for which I paid the grand sum of $69. All went well and the Kindle version has sold some copies, though I have yet to recoup my $69 though I am sure I will in a fairly short time frame.

I have both horrible news and good news to report. Just to test things out and see how the reporting of sales works, I purchased the first copy of my book in Kindle format, downloaded it onto my Mac laptop, opened up my Kindle reader software, selected my book and began "flipping" the pages. Everything looked great! Then to my horror, the Kindle app simply shut down and I received one of those annoying error messages asking me to send an e-mail to Apple.

Knowing the poison pen is often poised in the hands of Kindle book readers and not wanting the book destroyed before it could even get started as a Kindle book, I fired off an e-mail to CreateSpace informing them of my horror, dismay and concern.

The good news is CreateSpace promptly CALLED me by phone and the individual "assigned" to resolve the problem gave me her name (can you imagine that!) so I could stay in contact with her. She informed me CreateSpace was horrified as well! The next day she informed me they could not crash a Kindle reader with my book and I told them what page it crashed on and that it crashed on the Mac app. A short time later another call - she had crashed the Mac app! Turns out the problem is with the software for the Mac. Now really concerned.

This morning I received an e-mail informing me I would be sent a reformatted file to replace the other file on the DTP. My Kindle programmer had found the glitch in the software and while she could not fix the app, she had figured out how to make my book read just fine on every Kindle app.

Am I happy this happened? No! Am I pleased with the response to my problem? An unqualified yes! CreateSpace resolved my issue to my satisfaction and showed initiative in doing so. My Kindle programmer kept me up to speed on what was going on and resolved the problem in a reasonable period of time. 

Will I use the CreateSpace Kindle conversion service again? Probably, particularly the  more I read how you prepare a file for upload to the DTP. I just keep getting more and more confused the more I read and have almost come to the conclusion $69 is cheap compared to the time it would take me to learn how to do it correctly myself.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos - Can Self-publisher's Learn From His Business Planning?

I read a great article about Jeff Bezos today. Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, the friend of the self-publishing author. Bezos is one of the driving forces in our industry today and his openness to allowing self-publishing authors to use Amazon's logistical system to market and sell our books has been a great boon. Amazon's Kindle may change the publishing landscape forever as we know it and many of us use Amazon's CreateSpace for POD printing and distribution via Amazon.

Some have been critical of Bezos and that probably goes with the territory. All leaders open themselves up to criticism as do innovators and Bezos is certainly both. Through in the fact Bezos is playing with investor's money when he takes his daring business gambles and you have yet another reason to be critical of his management and leadership style.

Yet Bezos has built Amazon into a major financial success and it is viewed as one of the best run corporations in the United States. The company is innovative and forward thinking, something many U.S. companies no longer seem to be capable of.

I found two of Bezo's core principles intriguing. The first is his obsession with customer satisfaction and the second is the vision to think long term and not short term when planning.

Authors should adopt his obsession with customer satisfaction. Write books that are good stories or in the case of non-fiction, not only filled with content that is pertinent to the topic, but organized in such a manner allowing for ease of use for the reader when desiring to access specific information. In other words, make the customer glad he or she bought the book!

The other principle I found interesting was the desire for long term planning. I have long held many of the mistakes made by American corporations was thinking and planning for next quarter success and not long term success and profitability. The legendary basketball coach John Wooden was oft quoted as saying "anything of true value took time to build or achieve, and that it should take time."

How many of us create a business plan for self-publishing that is based on the idea of successfully selling books and making a profit over the long haul? A plan designed to create maximum success over an extended period of time instead of a quick buck.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Book Shepherd

If you check the list of blogs about self-publishing listed on the right side of the page of this blog, you will note a new one, The Book Shepherd. This blog is part of the site for a publishing service company, not an author services company such as the infamous Outskirts Press, Lulu, etc, but just what the name implies, the company helps authors shepherd their books to success.

The blog is interesting and discusses things often not found on blogs or websites about self-publishing and I have learned several new perspectives about some ideas from the blog.  At the risk of losing some readers of this blog, I strongly suggest you visit The Book Shepherd. It will be time well spent.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Competing with your own title - Do Kindle sales rob POD sales?

After much agonizing and probably unnecessary staring at a computer screen to track my book sales, I have three titles that are selling well. I also have a 4th title that should be selling well. The book, The Game of Basketball: Basketball Fundamentals, Intangibles and Finer Points of the Game for Coaches, Players and Fans, is actually a much better book in terms of content, design and has a very functional structure for how it is written to make it easy for the reader/user to access specific content. 

Alas, this particular title's sales are dismal. It has been the prescribed year since it was published and according to Aaron Shepard, it should be selling. If it is going to sell that is.  It is distressing. I have done the same promotional and marketing activities I did with my other three titles that are selling well and there has been no to little impact as a result.

Despite the fact that most books that sell well on Kindle are fiction, I took the plunge, paid CreateSpace their fee and the title in question is now a Kindle book and available from the Amazon Kindle store for and introductory price of $2.99. The 230 page paperback sells for $17.95 and is priced lower than comparable competing books which range in price from $19.95 to $24.95.

My book has better content, more content and is priced less than the competition. The competition sells and my book does not. What is wrong?

The book has been available from the Kindle store now since December 2, 2010, and has sold six copies in four days. I have done nothing to promote the Kindle version of the book and in fact the e-newsletter going out to my e-mail newsletter list to announce the fact the book is available as a Kindle book won't be sent out by the e-mail server for another hour or so.

I am making $2+ per sale of the book versus nearly $7 per sale of a paperback version of the book. While the profit margin is much better for the paperback book, it hasn't been selling well. In fact, during the four days the Kindle version has been available for sale, not a single paperback copy has sold.

As the days of December role by, it will be interesting to see how sales for the two versions progress. Will the Kindle version sell well and in doing so, will it strip the title of any paperback sales? I am not naive enough to think for a second Kindle sales will drive paperback sales.

While releasing the Kindle version may drive sales of the low priced ebook version and create a revenue stream, will it eliminate or kill sales of the paperback book? Will the books serve two different buyer markets? Will positive sales of the Kindle book help the ranking of the paperback and increase sales that way?

The traditionalist in me would prefer my POD version sell better than the Kindle version just because I prefer traditional paper books to an ebook. My wife would prefer something sell and if it has to be the ebook version, so be it. Her view is 70% of something is better than 100% of nothing. She is right of course to take this view and I should be happy I sold so many copies in such short a period of time with no book promotion to drive readers to Amazon to purchase the book. It will be interesting to compare total sales a year from now after the long tail of Amazon has had a chance to kick in for the Kindle version of the book, providing me with a clearer picture of the impact of a Kindle version on a paperback version.

I would love to hear from other authors concerning their experiences with both POD and Kindle versions of the same book and be able to share their feedback with the readers of this blog.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Selecting the topic for your non-fiction book

I love old movies. So do a lot of other people in the United States. Americans love entertainment. During the Great Depression the only industry that "did well" was entertainment, particularly movies. People needed to forget their woes for a few hours and do so without spending a lot of money in the process. Hollywood made that possible. A non-fiction book about classic films in the United States, if well researched, well written, designed, produced and marketed correctly should sell well.

I also have a fascination with obscure American industrial railroads. I find the stories of the equipment, uses of these unique railroads and the people who designed and operated them fascinating. So do others and books about these railroads exist.

Which of the two non-fiction titles will sell better? It seems pretty obvious the book about classic films should for the simple reason there are so many more potential customers interested in the topic of classic films than industrial railroads.

But would a book on classic films really sell more copies?

The answer to this question lies in doing the necessary homework before writing the book, at least if one of your major goals is to make money by self-publishing the book.

What kinds of market research needs to be done?  The first area I would research would be the competition. How many books on this topic are in the market? What is the level of quality of the competing book titles? How well do these books sell? Do the classic movie fans actually buy books about these films or do they just enjoy watching the films?

While the niche market for industrial railroads might be significantly smaller, it is possible the competition is significantly less in terms of books available for this market. Suppose the hobbyists in this niche are known to purchase every single book on this topic as soon as it hits the market. Would it be possible that even with a much smaller total number of potential readers, the buying habits of those readers are such they make up for their small numbers through the fact such a large percentage of them invest their money in books about their interest?

In addition to the level of competition, size and spending habits of the niche market, there are other factors to consider. Does the would-be author have the expertise to write a book good enough to publish and attract buyers?

With the internet and the ability of customers to create viral word of mouth about a book, if the author does not know the non-fiction topic, it won't take long for the passionate readers in that niche market to publicly call the author's factual mistakes to the attention of other potential buyers. Just as good word of mouth can go viral and boost sales for a book, bad word of mouth can go viral and kill sales for a book.

Another serious consideration for the would-be author is can a viable author platform to market the book be created. Since self-publishing authors must generate almost all of their marketing for their books, it is essential the author have the ability and the information needed to create an appropriate author platform.

What are the goals of the author for the book? Is it to make money, serve as a business tool to promote the author's real business or is the book a labor of love and the real desire is just to see it in print?

Perhaps, for me at least, the last question is the most important. Do I have enough passion about the subject to actually commit to the level of work needed to self-publish the book?