Monday, July 30, 2012

Designing Your Book's Title With Amazon In Mind

You only have a few seconds to grab a potential book buyer's attention in a book store with your cover. The cover is also important in attempting to obtain a book buyer's attention on Amazon. It has long been established that the cover is important and it must look good not only when enlarged to book store size when viewed on Amazon, the cover must look good in its thumbnail version.

Not only must the cover be well thought out, but so must the title. Amazon's computers use proprietary logarithms to produce books Amazon thinks best suit the customer's search query, increasing the likelihood of a sale.

This makes the title even more important. The main title must be catchy, informative and make the appeal to the potential buyer that the book will either be entertaining if a work of fiction or solve a problem for the buyer if it is a non-fiction work. Long titles are usually to be avoided.

It is the sub-title that can make a difference in the world of selling books on Amazon. Let's take one of the best known books in the field of self-publishing, Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon. A common sub-title using traditional methods of creating a title would be as follows: Aiming at Amazon: How to Sell Your Book on Amazon.

Let's compare the title Mr. Shepard actually uses in the book's Amazon listing: Aiming at Amazon: The NEW Business of Self-Publishing, or How to Publish Your Books with Print on Demand and Online Book Marketing on

Wow! That's a mouthful and hardly fits the traditional model for crafting a book title. It does however, fit the model for crafting a title for a book sold on Amazon. Because Amazon's site is essential a search engine, the use of keywords in the title can go a long way in helping the book rise in the search results.

Let's look at the keywords used in the sub-title: self-publishing, publish, print on demand, online book marketing, business (of self-publishing) and finally Marketing on

All of these keywords are common words used in searches related to numerous aspects of the business of self-publishing. An author interested in learning more about print-on-demand would find this book useful as would an author interested in learning about book marketing, both online and on Amazon.

The carefully crafted subtitle has increased the possible number of ways the book can come up in search results, increasing the chances Mr. Shepard has of grabbing the potential buyer's attention.

Note, the subtitle that appears on Amazon does not have to be the actual sub-title printed inside the book. Amazon allows the author to enter the sub-title in the product description when entering title information. This allows for the opportunity to craft a search friendly sub-title.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Self-Publishing As Your Real Job? You Are Not Alone If This Is Your Dream!

There are days when I really don't want to go to my "real" job. I would rather earn my living by sharing the knowledge I have acquired in my nearly 30 years as a coach and teacher. Mainly, I just want to coach a basketball team and not have to deal with all the endless, mindless stuff teachers have to deal with today. 

I still love history (what I teach) and the students themselves. There is nothing like the look on a student's face when the light bulb of understanding lights up or the fun of interacting with your students over an interesting topic. It's just all the other stuff that has robbed the joy of the profession.

My part-time job, self-publishing, has become engaging, interesting and fun. It is even helping to pay a few of the family's bills, something that was not even on the radar when I started this venture.

The thought now goes through my mind at least once a week, "can I make a living as an author selling non-fiction to a niche market?" Should I give up the security of a profession I have performed for nearly 30 years and have learned a great deal about how to perform for one I have just taken up in the last few years?

Scary question.

I don't know what I will do in the future. What I do know is this is something worth investigating.

Can I develop a business model that will allow me to not only pull off being a self-supporting author but be successful enough that I can honestly say I was as good at being an author as I was a teacher and coach? Satisfaction is a big part of the equation to me at this stage of my life.

I look at individuals in the field of self-publishing who have shared the benefit of their trials and tribulations as they made a living via self-publishing and take heart. These individuals have done it and were willing to share their hard earned knowledge with the rest of us who would like to make it as self-publishing authors as well.

Time will tell whether or not I make the decision to take the big chance.

In the mean time, I am writing more books to sell, researching and learning everything I can about the business of self-publishing and anything related to that business endeavor.

So long as I am learning, even if it is by the time honored method of learning from my mistakes, I will share what I learn here on The Self-Publisher's Notebook.

If you are considering making this life-change, let's call it a career change to make it sound safer, please share your comments about this post in the comments section!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Developing a Business Plan for Your Self-Publishing Empire - Part I Three Questions To Ask

If you are like me, when you decided to self-publish your book, you did not stop to think self-publishing is a business. You just wanted to see your book in print. Hopefully you would sell enough copies to at least break even. Secretly you hoped your book would become an international best seller and make you rich and famous!

I wish when made the decision to self-publish my first book I had realized, and accepted the fact, self-publishing is a business and must be approached that way. I would have invested a lot more time and effort in planning to develop my business than I did in writing my first book. I would be much further along than I am now and much closer to my business goals as a self-published author.

As part of my learning curve, I have been researching how to develop a strategic business plan for a small business. There is lots of conflicting advice from the experts wielding MBA's who write about this sort of thing. Still, I have been able to find there are three questions most of these experts agree must be asked and researched, if not actually definitively answered, before launching a small business. These questions are:
  • Where am I/we now?
  • Where do I/we want to go?
  • How do I/we get there?
These simple questions actually are the ones you need to ask yourself. As simple as these questions are, the answers are essential in order to create a road map to lead you to success as a self-publishing author.

As you work through each of these questions, you will unearth more questions, requiring more research, learning and planning. Undoubtedly you will go down the wrong path from time to time. Better to make that mistake now where the price you pay is some time lost and the cost of a used paperback or a Kindle ebook. Trust me, the time and money saved will be considerable.

You want your book to succeed. Part of that success means people have to know about your book so they can buy it and read it. As simple as that sounds, it won't happen with out marketing on your part. How do you plan to go from where you are right now? All you might have is an idea for a book or a finished manuscript.

How will you get the book into print, either paper or ebook, and get it to market? 

Who do you want to sell the book to? Do you even have a potential audience/market for the book?

What is my goal for my book one year from now? Two years? Three years?

What do I have to do to arrive at my hoped for destination three years from now?

Am I going to publish just one book, or several?

Do I hope to make this a full time career and support myself and my family with writing and self-publishing?

You can see how the three simple questions spawn more questions and in the process of answer each question, you ask more and more questions as you unearth the answers.

Take notes. Lots of notes. After time, take a break from brainstorming and researching and organize the information you have collected so far. By now, you should have learned enough to realize self-publishing is indeed a business and you are the company and all the employees! 

At this stage it should be obvious an organized plan is essential to keep costs manageable, to know how you plan to bring your book to market and what work you will do yourself and what work you will hire out. This is all just the tip of the iceberg too!

Don't let all of this discourage you. Learning new things is fun with the right outlook and when it is all said and done, it is a great feeling when you sell the first copy of your book!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sites for New and Veteran Self-Publishers to Visit

I really appreciate every author, or individual considering taking the leap and becoming an author, who visit this blog. It has been an uphill struggle to learn everything I need to know to make this a successful business and like any endeavor worth engaging in, you can never afford to stop learning.

Many individuals have taken the time to share their experiences, both good and bad, in the field of self-publishing with the intent of helping me along and to shorten the learning curve for me. I feel an obligation to do the same.

There are certainly readers of this blog who probably get a chuckle out of my mistakes as they are more experienced in the field of self-publishing. Then there are the authors who are new to the game and I hope they learn information of value from reading this blog. The third group are probably authors who are at about the same state I am in the learning process.

So, in an effort to share sources of information, here are a few sites I visit regularly and I have learned a great deal from.

Aaron is the author of Aiming at Amazon and the guru of self-publishing when it comes to the business model of selling self-published books via Amazon. He is also the author of POD for Profit and the creator of "Plan B" since Amazon has revised its dealings with Lightning Source. Aaron is just a treasure trove of information and views it as both a creative endeavor and a business.

Aaron has a realistic view of Amazon, how it works and what truly drives this company. In other words, he sees Amazon's good and bad points, of which there are both.

Morris is another of the leaders of the self-publishing movement and the use of print-on-demand as a business model for self-publishing. His book Print-on-Demand Book Publishing is another book self-publishing authors should read, even with the rise of the ebook. It describes the business model of POD for self-publishing. Remember, self-publishing is a business!

Morris writes about a lot of things on his self-publishing blog, ranging from understanding Amazon Sales Rankings, dealing with copyright violations, building an author platform and some just off the wall stuff that is really funny if you get his sense of humor. I have learned a lot by reading his blog and the archived posts.

This site is a great source of information about the design end of self-publishing as well as a wide range of topics that deal with self-publishing and publishing. Joel constantly provides new blog postings addressing topics both of interest and importance to authors who self-publish. Like Aaron and Morris, Joel views self-publishing as a both a creative and a business endeavor.

Joel also provides courses designed to teach new authors and veteran authors venturing into self-publishing learn the process and business of self-publishing. Joel also designs books as a service to self-publishing authors.

Konrath is a leader among the fiction authors who have become successful financially through self-publishing, primarily via Kindle ebook sales.

I don't always agree with his worldview on a range of topics, but I always come away from visiting his blog having learned something about the publishing industry. I write non-fiction and doubt I could ever write anything fictional worth publishing.

I have learned a great deal about the ebook explosion from his blog. Like the other three bloggers I have listed, Konrath views self-publishing as a business, and this from a very creative author. I have read many of his thrillers, particularly the Jack Daniels detective thrillers, and can attest Mr. Konrath knows how to spin a thrilling tale.

I don't quite know how to describe this blog.  Sometimes I visit and exit the blog with my blood pressure about to come out my ears telling myself I will never visit again. I always do though and I am pretty sure if Marcus could see me turn red in the face he would get a good chuckle out of it. If you already read this blog, you know exactly what I mean. Marcus loves to yank a chain, anyone's chain.

Why do I go back time after time? Because as mad as Marcus can make me, he also makes me laugh and often he writes about issues that are both important and informative for authors who self-publish.  Perhaps I just need thicker skin.

Like the other sites, I learn from the information Marcus shares and that is what makes the site worth putting on your list of self-publishing blogs to read.

In all fairness, if you wind up on the sharp end of Marcus' wit, you might have done something to deserve it. Just as quickly has he can take a poke at you, if you have done something praiseworthy, Marcus will be one of the first to point it out. He will also take a poke at himself from time-to-time.

Also, Marcus likes The Rolling Stones, The World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band. So do I.

All things Kindle. If you plan on making ebooks, Kindle in particular, part of your business plan, this site needs to be on your list of blogs and sites to visit. 

The focus of late is largely on books selling well on Kindle and the technology itself. While I am not trying to compete with best selling authors, it is a way to track what is going on with different topics and niches as well as changes in the technology. Something we all need to be aware of as authors who sell Kindle books.

If anyone knows of a site or blog that would be a good addition to this short list, please share it via the comment sections for this post.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Aiming at Amazon versus Social Media?

Social Media seems to be the latest buzzword in business for marketing. I have read no less than a dozen Kindle books on how to use Facebook, Twitter and Social Media in general to sell books. I am fully aware some authors have had huge success in using Twitter or Facebook to promote their books. 

John Locke, one of the best selling authors in the Kindle world, is a big advocate of this approach and details his system for marketing and selling his books in the book How I Sold a Million eBooks in 5 Months.

I have both a Facebook page and a Twitter account. I don't think I have sold a single book as a result. I can't prove it, but I am pretty sure that is a reasonable statement. I have reconnected with a lot of my old students and players through Facebook, which is great! I have a decent sized network of fellow coaches on Twitter which is also great. But no sales.

I can say following the advice of Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon has generated a lot of sales for me and I need to get back to working harder at that approach to selling my books.

Amazon (and Barnes and Noble) are where we sell books as self-publishing authors. Not Facebook and Twitter. Focusing our sales and marketing efforts at Amazon will pay-off.

Then why have the seemingly mandatory Social Media sites as part of an author's platform? 

I have come to believe the value of Social Media for a self-publishing author is not in building a base of fans to buy books, but to create a positive brand the author's niche, or broad, market can identify.

Social Media is not what sells your books. It is part of the branding process. There is where the value of using Facebook and Twitter lies.

Once you have developed a brand and sold enough books to create a market for your work, Social Media sites will help with sales when a new book is announced. Not before you have created a market and a brand, afterwards.

Heresy I am sure to many who will read this.

I still plan to work hard at my Facebook page (I really need to find a way to get the youngest daughter to take that over) and to try to "tweet" on a regular basis. I certainly do not have as large a market as I would like (back to working at aiming and Amazon again) and I certainly need to further my efforts in creating an identifiable brand (more to learn about).

Maybe I am just tired and want to be like our oldest Italian Greyhound Al, a grumpy, but loveable, mature dog and resist change.

Feel free to disagree and comment. Just remember, whether I am right or wrong, self-publishing is a business.

Kindle Books and the QED Logo - Making Sure Your Self-published Kindle Book is Quaity

Self-publishing has come a long way in a short time. One of the ways self-publishing authors can overcome the stigma of self-publishing is to offer the best possible quality books.

Professional editing of our work is just one way we as authors can make sure the book we launch into the market is the best quality possible. You can read countless "how to" guides about selling lots of books.  The steps always seem to include at least the following:
  • write a great book
  • hire a professional editor
  • use a professional interior designer
  • hire a professional cover designer
I want to add a fifth step. Make sure the company who does your Kindle and ePub conversions provides a Quality Excellence Design guarantee.

This logo, which you as the author will be entitled to use on your cover, book product details and in promoting your book, is proof that your Kindle and ePub files have passed a 13-point quality inspection test. 

Your book may not be well written, but it will work as it should with no problems on any ebook reading device. 

There will be no fears of the dreaded one-star reviews on Amazon due to the quality of production of your ebook. There are no guarantees about the quality of your writing.

The QED Seal is the result of the efforts of the Publishing Innovation Awards. Below is the list of the 13-points the book must pass in order to receive the QED seal (taken from the PIA website).

Having had some issues with the conversion process with a couple of my Kindle books, I am now a fan of this process. My future Kindle and Nook books will all go through this and I hope to be able to integrate the seal into my cover artwork somehow so knowledgeable readers on Amazon and Barnes and Noble will have more confidence in the quality of my ebooks before purchasing.

The company I use for my conversions is ebook Architects. Christi Pinheiro, who used to run the Self-publishing Maven blog was kind enough to provide a very positive recommendation to use this company and I have not regretted it once.

It costs money to self-publish. For authors who are struggling or self-publishing as a second job, the funds needed to pay for services to improve their book can be hard to come by. Remember, self-publishing is a business. The hardest book to a reader is the first one. If they like (love) the book, they will purchase more of your books. Quality sells itself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I need help with an experiment on Amazon!

In my ongoing efforts to learn how to make my tiny publishing empire more profitable (so I can quit my "real job" if the wife will let me), I plan on conducting an experiment with the Amazon internal computer marketing machine that nobody outside the employ of Amazon understands.

Why conduct an experiment? The more I read about promoting books, marketing books and finding the exact best price point to maximize revenue, I read the phrase "experiment by..." So, it would seem an experiment is in order.

The experiment is simple enough but I will need help to achieve it.  I want to see what happens when a book receives a reasonable number of "likes" from visitors to the books product page.  I am not really looking to increase sales immediately, I just want to see what will, or might, happen with the different Amazon promotional/marketing tools that promote books and authors seem to have no ability to propel their books into these magical tools.

The image above shows the little Like button. I have picked three of my books that I want to experiment with. Two have just been published in their POD and Kindle versions and the other has been out in both versions for awhile.

If you are willing to participate in the experiment, please click on the links to the three books that are listed below and "Like" the book. I am not asking anyone to buy anything. Just take a minute to click on some links and then "like" a book.

I plan to track the three books and record data on a daily basis for 30 days starting on July 19th and stopping on August 18th.  I will be looking at total likes, total recommended by others, Customers Bought and any other item that I come across that I think might be associated with or influenced by the total number of "likes" a book has.

The choice of July and early August as the time frame is because for my niche topic, this is the slowest time period of the year for sales. I am not looking to boost sales. I want to see what happens with the internal Amazon marketing machine.

Shortly after August 18th I will share what I have learned here. Hopefully there will be something positive that happens and the results will be of use to all the readers of this blog.

Here are the three book links:

Let me thank in advance everyone who takes the time to participate in this experiment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Need an answer from CreateSpace?

Since the world of self-publishing is changing so quickly, be it POD or eBook, sometimes even the most stubborn and prideful of us (I am referring to myself) must resort to actually asking someone for help or an answer.

CreateSpace has made this easy with the Call Me feature. Every time I have used this feature I have had my question answered. If the person on the other end of the phone did not know the answer, they found someone who did.

By the way, when they mean right now, they call the minute you click your mouse!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Do You Have a Business Plan and Marketing Strategy? Self-publishing is a Business!

I was so happy when the proof copy of my first book arrived in the mail. Excited when it appeared on Amazon and even more excited the first time I got paid! My tiny publishing empire has come a long way since then. I have actually paid for things around the house such as a completely new central air conditioning and heating system, a new water heater and family vacation. All of my new projects are funded out of revenue from the business.

One of the really painful lessons I have learned is the amount of time, effort, money and opportunities I have squandered as a result of not fully realizing from the start that being an author, fiction or non-fiction, it does not matter, is a business.

Fortunately, I like to learn about things that interest me. Self-publishing can be so overwhelming and confusing that I felt compelled to learn as much as I could in order to achieve the one business goal I had at the time - to make some extra money for the family.

After reading two books early in the process, Aiming at Amazon and Print-on-Demand Book Publishing, I came to the conclusion that this was a business and I had better start learning about the business end of things. I am not there yet by any stretch of the imagination, but I am slowly learning and at least correcting a few of my worst mistakes in the process.

For authors visiting this blog who are considering self-publishing I have compiled a short list of subjects you will need to learn something about. I would love it if veteran self-publishers who have been success would comment and add to the list so the rest of us, myself included, could benefit from your experience and success. Here's the list:
  • book design
  • book marketing
  • campaign launches
  • author platforms
  • editing
  • sales
  • marketing in general
  • website/blog (this is worth several posts alone)
  • accounting
  • copyright
  • print-on-demand service
  • print-on-demand business model
  • ebooks
  • Kindle
  • Nook
  • business planning
  • taxes and publishing
  • taxes and small business 
  • branding
  • social media
There's more, but that is a good start for list of this type.

The two biggest mistakes I feel I have made was launching into my self-publishing efforts without:

a) a business plan
b) a marketing plan

These two items alone would have been well worth the time, money and effort invested in planning my tiny empire and its growth and development. Things would have gone much smoother and with fewer setbacks.

Based on my own experience, I urge any author who has not done so to develop both a business plan and a marketing plan.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Not All eBook Conversion Companies Are Equal

When I self-published my first book using the print-on-demand (POD) business model advocated by Aaron Shepard and Morris Rosenthal, I had never even heard of ebooks as we now know them. I was excited just to have a book in print and to have someone actually buy a copy from Amazon!

Now, 65% of my book sales come from Kindle books. Needless to say, having as many of my titles available in the Kindle format as possible is important to me from a business perspective for a variety of reasons.

I have used iPages to do some of my own conversions. I was able to live with the ePub versions produced this way for the Nook, which I have negligible sales in anyway, but it took far too much work to produce something I could live with in Kindle format. And these books were short and had no graphics or photographs to deal with. 

I have paid CreateSpace to convert some books. These conversions looked great and work great. So long as they are used only on a Kindle and not another device utilizing a Kindle app to read the book. There have been a few problems with several of my titles done by CreateSpace in this area. To CreateSpace's credit, they reconverted all the titles at no charge. Still, it caused some ill will, not between CreateSpace and me, but with some of my readers, who probably will never purchase another one of my books. Bad business no matter how you look at it.

Then there is my experience with eBook Architects. I have nothing but good things to say about these folks from Austin, Texas. They cost more than CreateSpace and some other companies I have investigated. To be honest, it is not a good selling point when I call to ask questions and the person on the other end of the phone cannot speak English or Spanish well enough for me to communicate (I live in Texas so my Spanish is, out of necessity, passable).

But, their turnaround time is excellent, they do immaculate work, and most importantly to me, an outside part verifies the quality of their work on every ebook reading device. You book comes with a seal of quality when they complete the job and you are allowed to use this seal in your marketing for the book.

Finally, every Kindle conversion eBook Architects does comes with an ePub version for the Nook as well. You essentially pay for two conversions for the price of one. Of course, you can hardly expect CreateSpace to hand you a conversion for their competition!

CreateSpace does reasonable work at a very reasonable price if your book has no bells or whistles and it not too long. Until they get the bugs worked out, just beware there could be a few problems with some Kindle apps.

You won't have any problems with eBook Architects and they stand behind their work.

Regardless, you will need an ebook version of your book to go with the POD version. With more and more people using Kindles and Nooks to read, if you want your book to have as wide an audience as possible, you need to have both types of versions available.

Do you homework before you select a conversion service. I would start with the two I just wrote about with a nod towards eBook Architects.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sell Your Book Using CreateSpace International in Europe!

I did not think too much about this new feature when CreateSpace announced the new option of having your books distributed in Europe. I should have given it more than the passing thought that I did. I should have known better since I sell about a dozen Kindle editions of my books to readers in Europe, particularly in Germany and the UK.

I signed my books up and forgot about it.

Then I started seeing numbers listed on my Member Dashboard page with funny signs before the numbers. I realized those were symbols for the Euro and the Pound! My POD paperbacks are selling in Europe at numbers just below my Kindle sales!

Now, to be honest I am more excited about the fact this is sort of neat and not about the amount of money I am earning. But still, it is pretty cool to just click the mouse on your computer and now your books are available to readers who are Amazon customers in Europe.

The promo for this new distribution option is shown below, taken from the CreateSpace website.

If you want to take advantage of distribution in Europe, just click on the icon in the image shown below on the CreateSpace page.

Clicking on the Enable Now icon will take you to your Member Dashboard. You will see the yellow banner below near the top of your Dashboard page.

I selected one of my new books as an example. After clicking on the Channels page this is what you will see after you have enabled your distribution options.

It will only take a few minutes to do this. It is worth it just to see that someone in Europe thought your book was interesting enough to purchase! Besides, self-publishing is a business. European distribution is FREE! These are sales you would never have otherwise, and every sale adds up on the bottom line.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Amazon Author Central

It pays to check things once in awhile. 

I recently found several errors that had creeped in to the product details of several of my books such as incorrect page number or something similar.

These issues have to be addressed. Can you imagine purchasing a non-fiction book listed as being 274 pages long and receiving a copy with just 171 pages? I would think I had been cheated or my copy was faulty. Either way, I would not be a happy customer.

I recently published a Kindle version of a paperback that had been out for about three months. The cover image was hideous! The image for the paperback looked fine, simply a small version of the actual cover. I wish the same could be true for the Kindle cover! It was pink and green!

Thank goodness I had not started the "product launch" with that cover image waiting to turn off any perspective buyers.

A quick trip to the Amazon Author Central provided me with instructions on how to correct the problems.  Unfortunately, the items to do so were missing from the product page of the new Kindle book.

In this instance I simply used the contact link at the bottom of the page and sent a message to the good folks at Amazon.

While Amazon would prefer we sort out our own problems as much as possible, using the Amazon Author Central contact feature has always worked and gotten the needed results.

Just be sure to check your books periodically and make sure all the information on your book's product information page is correct.

Book Cover Pro - What's Going On?

Sometime ago I gave a thumbs up to the cover creating software Book Cover Pro. I still think it is a user friendly option, particularly for authors who are creative and understand design.

That is if you can gain access to the software once you purchase it. 

The software is web based. You log-in to use it. It's quite simple to do and probably helps the company keep its prices more affordable.

Then I received an e-mail stating the sign in system had been updated to make it more secure. It's more secure all right. I can no longer access the software I paid hard earned money to use. And I have a couple of short books that need covers!

After a dozen e-mails requesting help and providing my old username and password to prove who I was and was entitled to access to the software, the only response I have received is an autoresponder generated thank you for contacting BookCoverPro by e-mail.

I have called the phone number repeatedly and never talked to a human. I left messages. Still no return phone call to help me solve my problem.

It's a shame. I like the company's product. I used it and obtained results that for my purposes were perfectly acceptable. Then this happened.

I can understand upgrading your system and making it safer and more reliable for you the business owner and your customers.

I cannot understand preventing paying customers who use your product from having access to the service for which the customer paid.

So, if you were thinking about using BookCoverPro, a product I previously said good things about, beware. I still think it is a good product, I am just appalled at the service I have received after the fact when the change in login procedure took place.