Thursday, February 24, 2011

Formatting Your POD Book for Amazon’s Kindle – Obtaining the Needed Skills

There are costs in self-publishing. An author can pay large sums of money to have a book typeset, edited, marketed, a unique cover and interior designed, cover scribing created among a few services available for a fee in the self-publishing world. Now the cost of converting the interior file from a print version to a Kindle ready version can be added to the list of cost considerations for authors.

As with nearly everything in the self-publishing world, an author can learn how to do almost any task involved in preparing a book for publication, if the author is willing to invest the time, and in some cases money, to acquire the skills necessary to do the job. I do believe editing one’s own manuscript is not the best approach to creating the best possible book, so plan to have someone else edit the manuscript.

Self-publishing is a business and costs are important. Saving money in the production of a book can cost money in the long run if the quality of the book’s design is poor, resulting in fewer sales than possible. Kindle readers can be quite harsh in their reviews on Amazon if they don’t like the quality of the interior of the book. Poor reviews can kill sales of an otherwise good book for sale on Amazon.

I currently have two titles available in Kindle versions. The first title I converted myself and loaded it on the Amazon Kindle Direct Platform. To my horror, when I opened the file to examine how the book would look on a Kindle, the results were disastrous. I quickly shelled out the money to pay CreateSpace to do the conversion work and the results were professional. My original effort is now where ever it is electrons go when they have been deleted on the internet.

As a matter of adapting to the ever changing world of self-publishing, my business model has been modified to plan for the costs of paying for professional conversions of my print files into Kindle ready files for all new titles I self-publish.

In looking at my backlist of nearly fourteen titles, some of which have not sold well in POD format, I am wondering which are worthy of the investment of limited funds to have a professional conversion done. I believe the content contained in each is worth what I charge for the book, but as anyone in the publishing industry will tell you if they are honest, some books will simply be duds in terms of sales.

It is my hope low priced Kindle versions will create sales where there have been few and some positive reviews will increase both Kindle and POD sales. Or course this is a gamble. The money invested in creating the Kindle version does not mean the title will sell, in any version.

My decision as the CEO of my little empire is I will invest money in my backlist titles that have sold enough POD copies to earn a profit. The rest, I will attempt to convert the files myself to create Kindle versions. 

All things technical cause me some stress. I readily admit to not being a techie and it takes this old dog a bit of time to learn new tricks on the computer. My youngest daughter could probably learn how to complete the conversion in a few hours (perhaps I should get her to learn how to do it!). So, I have set out to learn as much as I can about the conversion process in hopes of acquiring the needed skills.

Fortunately, there are several inexpensive books available in Kindle format on exactly how to do the needed conversion! I plan to read, review and share my thoughts on the three books on creating Kindle ready files I have obtained in the coming weeks and hope the readers of this blog find the reviews helpful.

The first book I plan to review is Morris Rosenthal’s Kindle Formatting in Word: Illustrated Kindle Tag Tips to Accompany a Blog Post.

The Changing Business Model of Self-publishing - eBooks and POD

Quite a bit has changed since I published my first book several years ago. I had no real business model planned for my fledgling publishing empire and that was a mistake. Now I find myself rethinking how my limited capital will be spent in the upcoming future for the two new titles I have in the works.

Upon realization self-publishing was an actual business and had to be treated as such, I quickly developed a business plan centered around the POD model as advocated by Morris Rosenthal and Aaron Shepards. Essentially this plan is to use either LSI or CreateSpace as my POD printer, drive all sales to Amazon who handles all the sales and collections and having my profits deposited in my account at the end of the month.  I will readily admit I do sell books directly and to retailers in my niche market, but the bulk of my sales come from Amazon.

This model has worked well for my tiny empire and while I still have more to learn, I do not plan to eliminate this successful model from my business plan. I have found however that the plan must be modified to include the production of ebooks, both as Kindle versions and ePub for the Nook.

There are additional costs involved for producing a book in both a POD and ebook version and while these combined costs are still significantly lower than a press run using off-set printing, they begin to add up for a tiny enterprise such as mine.

Why would I change my model and incur the additional capital expenses? Simple profit motive. I have converted to of my POD titles to ebook titles as well. For one book the Kindle sales are essentially out numbering the POD sales by 10 to 1. The second title has seen a huge increase in the POD sales, in part I believe, due to the large number of Kindle sales. The Kindle sales are out numbering the POD sales at a 5 to 1 rate for this title. 

In the case of one title, the creation of the Kindle version led to sales when none were taking place. The second title, which was selling slowly as a POD version saw an explosion in sales when the Kindle version became available and the Kindle version is selling briskly by my standards.

Given the increase in sales due to making both versions available, it makes sense to offer most, if not all, of my titles in both versions. It also makes sense to slowly, as funds become available, convert all of my back list into ebook versions as well. I will pick the ones I think have the best chance to sell as ebooks and invest the money in those versions initially.

Authors who are considering making the leap into self-publishing need to plan for both POD and ebook versions of their titles. Some might even consider launching just an ebook version first depending on the type of book and its genre.

The times they are a changing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CreateSpace to Hold Webinar on Creative Sales Ideas for Authors

On February 17, 2011, at 6:00 PM ET/ 3:00 PM PT, CreateSpace will be hosting a webinar promoting create sales ideas. The following information was included in the release from CreateSpace about the webinar.

If you use the same promotional techniques, in the same way that everybody else does, you will not stand out and your sales will suffer. But if you can find new ways to reach people with a meaningful and creative message you will get positive attention, media buzz and more revenue. Discover how to break through the media clutter and reach more people with a persuasive message. This is not a webinar about new ways to write a press release, but new ways to build and hold a leadership position in your target markets through innovative, professional and effective promotion. 

To register for the webinar go to:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Writing is not real work! Or so some would say

I have reached a point of fatigue on a current project. I don't want to call it writer's block because it is not. This is not a creative work of fiction, it is simply another  non-fiction book designed to share information based on years of experience and research. I am just tired of working on the project. 

It is in all likelihood the best book I will produce and have the widest potential to help the most individuals who might be interested in the topic. I plan to release it in both a POD print version and a Kindle and Nook version at the same time, a first for me. I also plan to use everything I have learned about promoting my books to provide this title with the best possible send-off into the world of books for sale I can.

If I ever finish the book.

The wife has been preparing records to do our taxes and has noted with interest that 2010 was a good year for our tiny publishing empire, based on our financial goals for the business. Kindle sales have been a pleasant surprise and a couple of titles that had been duds have started selling.

So she takes a peek at the files for the aforementioned project and wants to know why the book is languishing. "I'm tired of working on it" was not the response she wanted to hear but it is the truth. I got a very nice, polite, yet firm reminder this was no longer a hobby (not that it was ever a hobby in my mind) and I needed to keep cranking out stuff to publish. Rather than descend into an argument I simply said sure, I'll get back to work on it.


I really want to finish it. I think it will be the best seller of any non-fiction book I could possibly write for the niche market I write for. I also think it will help a lot of the individuals who purchase the book in their careers and the young people they work with.

I am simply too tired to want to finish it. January and February are long months for me and I am always tired by March. Like many people, my beloved wife is not totally convinced that writing is real work. Explaining to her that writing non-fiction is a draining mental experience just gets me an odd look.

Part of the problem is how much writing I have been doing. I try to post on two blogs, this one and a coaching blog, each week and I find writing for this blog much more pleasant.  I also write a  free e-newsletter for the 2,000+ coaches who have subscribed to it every 10 days.

If that is not enough, I write a one or two page e-mail to every player in our program Monday through Friday call Hoop Thoughts which more often than not has little to do with basketball but a great deal to do with life lessons, dealing with adversity, goal setting and motivational material with a little basketball thrown in.

It winds up being quite a bit of writing. Yes, I know you can take material written for blogs and convert it to a book. I may in fact do just that in the future.

I find the constant writing to promote the books I have and help the young individuals under my supervision to transition into adulthood is draining me of the energy I need to focus on finishing the book that I will actually be able to sell!

The season will end soon and the need to produce the regular e-newsletter and daily e-mails to players will end. Perhaps after some time the energy needed to set and meet a deadline to get the manuscript done and off to an editor will appear this spring.  

Hopefully while the editor is working I will be able to muster up the needed energy to generate the needed promotional effort to send the new title on its way both as a POD print title and an ebook title.

In the meantime, I need to think of new and more creative ways to keep my loving wife off my back about the unfinished manuscript.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Create Space Expands Opportunities For Its Expanded Distribution Channel

For authors interested in using CreateSpace's Expanded Distribution Channel, CreateSpace has expanded the options for books that qualify for this service.  The short excerpt below is announcement from CreateSpace.

We have some great news to share about the eligibility requirements for enrollment in the Expanded Distribution Channel (EDC). We've introduced additional trim sizes and a lower page count to expand the Bookstores & Online Retailers outlet in the EDC to even more book types. Here's what's new:

  • Full-Color books are now eligible with a 6" x 9" and a 6.14" x 9.21" trim size
  • Black-and-white books with cream paper are now eligible with a 5" x 8" trim size
  • Black-and-white books are now eligible with a minimum of 24 pages

If you have a book with either of these trim sizes or page count, you can now log in to your Member Account and enable the Bookstores & Online Retailers outlet within the Expanded Distribution Channel. Learn more about the Expanded Distribution Channel, and explore the details of our Book Sizes options.

JA Konrath Shares His Self-publishing Success Story With CreateSpace

I have not read a JA Konrath book all though his Shots of Tequila looks like it might be worth $2.99 for a Kindle version. I write non-fiction and Mr. Konrath is a successful fiction author. I doubt I will ever earn what Mr. Konrath doe as an author.

However, I do find his experience, and success, as a self-publishing author interesting. There is a brief story about Mr. Konrath's success as a self-publishing novelist in the CreateSpace Community. 

I was not surprised to learn he had previously been a traditional author, he obviously has talent as a story teller. I was surprised to read how his venture into self-publishing started.  His initial venture into self-publishing was not via print-on-demand as many self-publishing authors get their start. Mr. Konrath self-published unreleased novels on Kindle and found success. 

Building on that success, Mr. Konrath abandoned traditional publishing and wrote his latest works directly for sale on the Amazon Kindle. Requests from fans for traditional paper copies led Mr. Konrath to introduce paper copies of his latest work as POD versions produced by CreateSpace. 

Konrath praised his relationship with CreateSpace and Amazon in the short article and talked briefly about how these two companies allow him to be independent a an author and earn a living.

Included in the article is further information about Konrath's success and includes having a website to interact with his fans, the use of professionals to edit his manuscripts and ideas on pricing effectively for books made available in both Kindle and POD editions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is The eReader Device War Relevant To Self-Publishers?

After getting some e-mail about my post concerning the battle between Amazon's Kindle and the Apple iPad and considering the differing views, I still believe the outcome of the various eReader device wars are important for self-publishing authors.

To sum up the viewpoints of the readers who contacted me, the advantage of the iPad is it can be used for multiple uses besides reading ebooks. The Kindle is a dedicated reading tool. The multifunctional capability of the iPad is a valid point.

Competing ereader devices such as the Nook or the Sony eReader are also relevant to the equation. Self-publishing authors have limited time to write their next book, market current books and handle the other countless tasks self-publishing authors have to perform.

So far the only ebook conversions I have had done of my POD books have been to convert several titles to Kindle. While I wound up paying to have the Kindle editions of my books done, I spend time trying to learn how to do the conversion myself. I ended up with a mess I would not want a customer paying for. 

The more ereader versions of each individual title means more time and potentially more money out of my limited funds for my self-publishing empire. Spreading my already limited time and funds out over several versions might not be the best use of either. 

At the moment, Kindle appears to be winning the ebook/ereader wars. Given Amazon has the biggest share of the ebook market at the moment, it makes sense to focus my current efforts on ebooks sales at the Amazon Kindle Store. Splitting my sales and time over several different ebook versions robs me of time I need to spend on current projects and marketing and promoting my current books.

I do plan to introduce an ePub version of one title for the B&N Nook. The conversion service that is going to be completing the conversion does both a Kindle and ePub version for one price so I will be taking advantage of this opportunity. If sales of the Nook version of that particular title are good I may in time convert other titles as well but have no immediate plans to do so now.

As the ebook revolution in the publishing industry continues self-publishing authors should pay close attention to which ereader devices are being used the most and earning the most sales.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Seasonal Book Sales and Your Business Plan

As fascinating as self-publishing is for me, my primary area of interest is coaching basketball. Yes, it is true, not all coaches are dumb jocks (I'll have you know I graduated from college with a 3.72 gpa and a double major). As I grow older, I find learning to be much more fun and interesting than it ever was in school. Self-publishing just happens to be one of the subjects I have taken an interest in.

As well as my book on using CreateSpace sells each month, and it accounts for a good percentage of my monthly sales, the majority of income for the year comes from the sale of books about coaching basketball. Since I have entered the self-publishing business and realized I could make a decent second income, I have taken much more of an interest in not only how, but when, my sales take place.

December has always been my best month for sales. No doubt part of this is due to the annual Christmas season buying binge Americans engage in. March is a peak month and I attribute this to the annual arrival of state tournaments and the NCAA's March Madness National Championship Tournament. October and November are the next best months for sales and this is due the start of practice in the fall. The other eight months of the year are steady with sales numbers being much lower but consistent.

January sales are usually abysmal. I attribute this to the post-Christmas halt to spending and the fact that basketball coaches are in the midst of league play and not interested in learning anything new. This January was different. In fact, it was the single most profitable month since I self-published my first book. I attribute this dramatic change to my introduction of Kindle editions of two books and while I hope not, I feel fairly certain this past January was an aberration.

How does all of this impact my business plan? Since I have been tracking sales volume by month, I have a good idea when to release a new title for optimal initial sales. I also have a better idea of when my marketing efforts need to be coordinated and targeted to specific titles and events.

Surely there are optimal months for the release of new titles. Those optimal months may vary based on overall consumer buying habits and the niche topic of the title. In my case, coaches buy books just prior to the start of a new season in an effort to learn more and do a better job coaching. March is a time of year when coaches are still really excited about their sport and want to plan for the coming season next school year.

Since the majority of my sales take place on Amazon, anything that boosts a new titles initial sales will help the long tail effect on Amazon kick in sooner, boosting more sales overall for the long term. It makes sense for me to finish a project so it can be on sale on Amazon in September. I then target my marketing and promotional efforts so a considerable portion is directed at promoting the newest title. When coaches start buying in October and November, the new title's sales will take off quicker than if I had released the book in June or July.

It also makes sense financially to track sales by month so a reasonably reliable idea of cash flow can be generated. New titles and other business projects take money to get them off the ground and it is helpful to know what time of the year money will be available for a new project.

The bulk of my business expenses fall into four categories, not all of which are directly related to the publishing arm of KCS Basketball Enterprises. I host a coaching clinic each fall and a summer basketball camp. Each of these are once a year events, require a fair amount of money to put the event on and in the case of the camp, is a good income generator. The coaching clinic breaks even but is a great marketing tool and is held the first weekend in October. I have monthly expenses for my website and e-newsletter as well. Finally there is the cost of getting the next title into production and available for sale. All of this takes a little bit of financial juggling and planning and knowing when money will come in helps in the planning process.

For authors of non-fiction books, it is well worth your time to look at publishing release dates as a way to maximize sales. Some topics are so time sensitive it might not matter when the title is released, it will sell right away. Other topics might need to be released at a specific time of the year to maximize both initial sales and long term sales.

The timed release date will of course impact your writing schedule and the time available for editing, design and production. This entire publishing thing has turned out to be just a little more complicated than I thought when I first started this adventure - but it certainly has been a fun learning experience!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kindle versus iPad - Who will win the ebook reader wars?

Morris Rosenthal posted correspondence between himself and Aaron Shepherd today on his self-publishing blog. The gist of the conversation was the two discussing which ebook reader device, Amazon's Kindle or Apple's iPad, will win the ebook reader wars. Since these two gentlemen are two of the best experts on the POD industry in particular and self-publishing in general, anything they have to say about the matter is worth taking note of. The following is the comment I posted on Morris' blog:

This will be an interesting situation to see which device wins, much like VHS versus Beta when VCRs first became available. The best format does not always win.

Part of the equation, I believe, is the competitive nature of the two biggest competitors in the market, Apple and Amazon. Both are highly competitive. Which is willing to do the most to win the war of the e-reader? Somewhere in this mix, Barnes & Noble is fighting for its survival and the Nook needs to be factored in.

Bezos has shown a willingness, as I read it, to lose money to gain a dominant market share and then earn a profit. Are the other e-book competitors willing to do the same?

I also have to wonder about the issue of “core business.” Amazon, at its core, is a book seller. Has the addition of other merchandise watered down its core business? The Kindle and the Kindle bookstore are extensions of what should be Amazon’s core business – selling books via the internet.

How much of Apple’s business is selling books? Information is certainly a major component of Apple’s business, but at its heart, is Apple in the business of selling books/information or is the core of its business selling technology? If Apple places too many of its eggs in the “book basket,” will it allow another competitor to creep up on it in the hardware/technology side of the business?

I shall watch with great interest as the outcome will impact my bottom line as a self-publishing author.

The ebook reader wars are something self-publishing authors must pay attention to. Ebooks are here to stay and while I am not about to give up on the POD arm of my tiny self-publishing empire, I am working slowly, and as funds permit, to convert the titles I deem worthy of converting to ebooks.  Winding up on the wrong side of the ebook reader war could spell disaster for an author in terms of lost sales.

My personal take on the situation is to lean slightly towards the Amazon Kindle. Amazon's core business is selling books. In addition, Amazon is vested in the POD industry as the owner of CreateSpace. Amazon understands the book market in ways Apple will struggle to learn. The learning curve for Apple to master the book industry may be the edge Amazon needs. Neither company can afford to blink in the contest though. Authors and self-publishers live in an interesting time.

CreateSpace Waives Pro-Plan Renewal Fee for 2011

For those of you who are current users of CreateSpace for your POD printer and distributor, this is probably old news. For those authors looking for a POD service, this might be news. CreateSpace has announced it is waiving the annual Pro Plan renewal fees for the year 2011.

The annual $5 Pro Plan renewal fees have been waived through 2011. What does this mean for you? All CreateSpace members who currently have book titles enrolled in Pro Plan will continue to benefit from increased royalties per sale and lower costs with respect to those book titles for member orders through December of 2011. You don't have to do anything to have the renewal fees waived - your books will automatically be renewed.

Five dollars seems like it is not a big deal and it is always nice to not pay fees. For authors who have a fair number of titles (I have 16 currently) a $5 fee per title can add up. Authors who publish the work of other authors as well can have a large back list and at $5 per title, the cost can run into hundreds of dollars.

CreateSpace charges, at the time of upload for publishing, $39 for authors who desire to use the ProPlan to publish their books. The advantages of paying the $39 are numerous, the most advantageous being the significantly lower cost per copy printing charge.