Thursday, August 30, 2012

eBooks and Libraries

I wish I had received a phone call from a huge public library system like JA Konrath recently did from the Harris County Public Library. I live in Harris County (Greater Houston Area) and it is a huge library system.

Mr. Konrath is one of the foremost advocates of self-publishing, particular in the area of ebooks, and has a lot to say about subject from time to time on his blog.

Today he posted a guest post from two librarians from the Harris County Public Library with his comments. It is an interesting summary of the situation libraries face with the advent of ebooks and the solution Mr. Konrath suggests.

Well worth the read so click here to read this informative post on the possible future of ebooks in libraries and the opportunity for authors to sell directly to library systems.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To Pay for a Book Review or Not To Pay for a Book Review? That is the question!

Joel Friedlander takes on this controversial topic on his blog The Book Designer. Book Reviews are part of how readers decide to buy a book and as such it is a topic of importance for authors, self-published or not.

Not only is the blog post worth reading, but I encourage you to read the comments as well. This post stirred up some passion from Joel's readers!

Click here to read the post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Value of a Setting Goals and Deadlines for Authors

Several of the principles of successful goal setting include having a written plan, breaking the larger goal into small, progressive goals and establishing a deadline to achieve the goal.

Like many individuals, I am capable of procrastination, particularly if the task is a tedious one I dislike. This is where goals and deadlines are of great importance to me if I am to actually finish anything.

I have specific long range goals concerning my self-publishing empire. If these goals are to be met, I have to set and achieve short and medium range goals. I write these down and keep them where I have to look at the goals on a daily basis.

These goals don't mean a thing if I don't work towards meeting them. This is where the deadline comes in. Deadlines are a pain, but they produce a sense of urgency that you must accomplish a task.

So, sit down and think about your long term publishing goals. Write them down, edit them and evaluate if the goals are realistic. Then craft a series of sequential short and medium range goals designed to move you towards the achievement of the long range goal. Write these goals down as well.

Establish realistic deadlines for all of these goals. Be flexible as you work to achieve your goals. Sometimes deadlines cannot be met for reasons other than your own procrastination. Don't beat yourself up when that happens (though you can give yourself a metaphorical paddling if procrastination is the cause for failure to meet a deadline).

Rework your timeline and establish new and realistic deadlines. Reward yourself when you do achieve a deadline.

Goals and deadlines (combined with lots of hard work) are how we make our dreams come true.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Evaluate the Need for Your Book - Developing a Business Plan Part III

Will anyone other than your mother want to read your book? You love your book. Your friends will even encourage you to write your book if it is still in the idea stage. But will anyone actually want to read the finished book?

Before you self-publish your book, you need to ask, and try to learn, the answer to that question. If nobody will buy the book, there simply is no market for the book.

While you can self-publish at a very low cost (if you do everything your self at no cost), I have learned the hard way to pay to have my book edited by a pro as well as the interior and cover design. You can forget getting me to try to convert anything on my own to Kindle ever again.

I can't speak to the fiction market but I have learned a bit about judging the niche in the non-fiction market I write for. Even then, I am surprised at what sells and what doesn't.

Every book I have self-published has eventually earned back the money I invested (except for my three latest books but they have not had time to earn out yet). Three of the titles not only returned my investment quickly, they have earned quite well since they have been published.

Several of my other titles just crawl along, selling a few copies a month while others will peak suddenly and then not sell at all again for a few months. I have learned my niche is seasonal and this is to be expected.

Why have I not been able to write more books that sell really well?

To be honest, I only recently learned the answer to that question and consider myself lucky that my uneducated approach to deciding which books to write and publish has not left me holding the bag financially for a lot of my titles.

What is the question to ask? What do your potential readers want?

Since I write non-fiction, the answer to what my readers want is:
  1. "how to" information
  2. information that eliminates a problem
  3. information that eliminates "pain"
I had been writing what I wanted to write about, not what the market is interested in. Since my motivation now is less about becoming an author and writing about things that interest me and more about making my tiny self-publishing business grow and become more financially viable, I find myself much more willing to take the time to find out what my audience wants.

Not only do I want to share what I know that fills the needs of my potential readers, I am willing to do extensive research in order to obtain the necessary knowledge to fill those needs if I do not already possess the required knowledge.

My approach is a bit more business oriented now. I have a good idea of the financial investment necessary to write, publish and launch a new book. Experience has taught me how much time and effort will be required to market and promote the book and I have an exact idea of how many copies I have to sell in order to at least recoup the financial investment.

No longer do I simply write, and publish, a book because I came up with what I think is a good idea. I do my homework and try to determine if there is enough potential interest for me to recoup my financial investment within 18 months, preferably less.

If I believe I can sell enough copies to recoup the cost of editing, cover and interior design, promotion and marketing and conversion to Kindle, I move forward. If not, the idea is shelved.

Self-publishing is a business. As painful and non-creative as it may sound, an author needs to determine if there is a market for the book before launching it into the world.

News in the World of Self-Publishing: Some Blog Posts Worth Reading

Sometimes other people can say what I have been thinking about about much better than I can, have already written about the topic or have knowledge and information I don't have that the readers of this blog need or want to know about.

So here are a few blog posts worth reading from other sites.

From Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer:

Alan Shepard's review of the new Lightning Source POD color printing service:

From Michael Marcus' Book Making - a post about a different way to proof your book:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

CreateSpace versus Lulu for Print-on-Demand Service

I had an individual take me to task, politely, because the only two POD services I ever mention here are CreateSpace and Lightning Source. To be honest, I have never considered Lulu, the other player in the POD industry.

So, I decided to do a quick comparison of Lulu and CreateSpace. Let me say up front Lulu appears to offer some service or options CreateSpace does not, mainly in terms of binding options and books can be converted to ePub eBooks, something CreateSpace will not do considering CS is owned by Amazon who is not going to offer authors a chance to compete with its Kindle platform by offering ePub conversions for the rival Nook.

The first thing I compared was the two websites. Lulu's site is pretty easy to navigate and I was able to find what I was looking for with ease, except for one major item but more on that later. CreateSpace's site is also easy to navigate and is constantly being improved, particularly in the area of ease of use. Let's call this a tie.

Without using Lulu to print a book or provide authors services so I could have a physical copy of a book to compare to one from CreateSpace, the only means I have used to evaluate the two companies in terms of services is price comparison.

The first service I compared was editing. I could only find one editing service listed on the Lulu site. There could be more, but this is what I found: Copy Editing 7,500 words or less for $225. I am not quite sure what to make of that. Is 7,500 words the most Lulu will edit (I doubt it) or is the fee $225 per 7,500 words?

CreateSpace offers several levels of fee based editing so lets compare the mid-level. CreateSpace charges for $160 for 10,000 words for its mid-level package. Much better price and having used this service I can say the editor who worked on my last book did a great job. Score one for CreateSpace.

The second service I compared was the basic interior formatting. Lulu offered a basic level at $299. The same level package from CS was $249. Score one for CreateSpace. 

The most basic cover design (designs done from standard templates) goes to Lulu. Lulu's price is $130 and CS charges $149. Score one for Lulu.

I started to compare entire publishing packages but stopped. Instead I decided to cut to the chase and fine out what the cost per copy to purchase a copy of my own book directly from Lulu. I used Lulu's own online calculator to get an estimate of, as Lulu calls it, "manufacturing cost." The information I fed the calculator was as follows: 200 pages, 8.5 x 11 trim, black and white interior and white paper. The price per copy was a jaw dropping $9.40!

The exact same specifications, for an actual book I have published with CreateSpace, costs me $3.25 per copy to have it printed. Game, set and match for CreateSpace.

As far as I am concerned, there is no further need for comparison. 

Now to be fair, though I am not going to do any further research on the subject, the link that takes you to the calculator is labeled "wholesale pricing calculator." Yet Lulu labels the final price the calculator determines as the manufacturing cost. Nowhere in the equation did it allow me to set a list price from which I could determine what I want to sell the book for wholesale to a niche retailer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Develop a Plan for How Your Self-Publishing Empire Will Function - Developing a Business Plan Part II

You have made the big decision to self-publish. The process of researching the industry has begun and you are diligently gathering ideas and information for a business plan to insure the success of your fledgling empire.

As you engage in this process, ask yourself how will your self-publishing business function? Is it meant to drive sales and derive income by:
  • serving strictly as a source of entertainment for your readers? (fiction)
  • serving as a "how to" source of information for your readers? (non-fiction)
  • providing a platform for other sales opportunities?
  • provide a platform to create other revenue streams?
The answer to this question will determine how you market your book, interact with your readers, how many books you may need/want to write, determine the form in which the book is published and countless other business decisions that you will have to make as a self-publishing author.

Authors often view the book as the sole means of income in the publishing business. A book can actually be just the tip of the iceberg.

Merchandising can be huge for fiction authors, and in come cases this is true for non-fiction as well.
Speaking opportunities can result from a book which often earns an author more than the book itself.

Other products can be introduced and marketed as the result of the success of the book, particularly a how to book or one aimed at a particular niche market where information is valuable.

When you are crafting your business plan, keep all of these issues in mind. Always look for alternate viable sources of income that can be derived from self-publishing your book.

Protecting Your Copyright - Free Book Available for a Few Days

Morris Rosenthal has done a lot for self-publishing authors. He has pioneered the way and shared his experiences with us. He has helped many an author develop an author platform, answered questions beyond number and fought many a battle for us all.

One of his current struggles is with internet piracy and copyright infringement. This is an issue all authors must take serious.

I cannot speak for an author of fiction, but as a writer of non-fiction, my book sales are directly connected to the potential buyer's need for my information. If someone pirates that information and makes it available for free or at a lower price on the internet, that person is stealing money from me!

Morris has also researched the negative impact piracy has on internet search results. Since so many self-published authors need their web site for a wide range of reasons to be found easily by potential readers, Google's rewarding the pirates with higher search result rankings hurts.

Morris has posted an interesting piece about fighting copyright infringement, internet piracy and Google on his self-publishing blog.

He is also offering for free, for five days, his Kindle book on how to fight internet copyright piracy and copyright infringement.

Take him up on his offer. This is something all authors need to be concerned about.  Click here to read his article and take advantage of his free Kindle book offer.

Revising a Book: CreateSpace versus Lightning Source

Books can become dated to some extent, errors can crop up or you simply want to put out a new edition of the same title. For authors who know revising their books will be an ongoing task, this should be taken into consideration when selecting a print-on-demand service to fulfill your printing needs.

I have chosen to revise several editions of my titles that I use CreateSpace for my POD service. The transition was flawless, or so it would seem. I simply uploaded the new interior file and waited for notification on my Member Dashboard that the title in question required action and approved the new proof immediately without ordering a proof copy.

The availability status on Amazon never changed.

Since I have only one title on Lightning Source, and it has not needed revision since its publication, I have not tackled the process of revising a title with LSI.

Self-publishing expert Aaron Shepard has undertaken this task and written about it on his blog. Click here to read what Aaron has to say about the process.

It seems daunting enough to make me glad I use CreateSpace for all but one of my titles. It is enough work to create the revised file. I don't need to deal with the stress of changing files of a book that sells well in order to meet LSI's requirements to do so.

I am glad Aaron is so diligent in sharing what he knows about not only revising titles at LSI but self-publishing in general.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Meeting Your Reader's Needs and Wants: Yet another part of an author's business plan

If you want to sell books, you are going to have to market your book in such a way that the reader will want to buy the book.

Well, of course! That's just common sense.

If that's true, why is it so hard to do?

Lately I have been spending a lot of time reading everything I can about marketing and sales. It has has been pretty confusing for me at times.

I have come to the conclusion though that the general concepts of what you have to do can be boiled down to a single concept for most non-fiction and a single concept for the rest of the non-fiction books and all fiction books.

For non-fiction informational books, eliminate the potential buyer's pain.

For all the other non-fiction and fiction books, meet the potential buyer's emotional wants.

The reader will then use logic to justify the purchase.

Let's take a look at how this has worked ON me as an author trying to make more money via self-publishing. In the last month I have spent about $100 on Kindle books, used paperbacks and did not count the hours I spent reading and taking notes on this very subject of increasing sales and marketing my books.

Why did I do this?

I need more money in order to pay-off what we owe on daughter number one's college so we can send daughter number two to college (and eventually pay for their weddings). My wife would like to stop working so she can spend more time in community service through our church. I would like to just be an author so I can retire from teaching history. You get the point. 

My wife and I want to eliminate some pain from our lives. To do this, we need to make more money through our small business. I was "motivated" to purchase these books, search the internet and spend hours reading and taking notes in order to find information that would help eliminate the pain.

I justified this to myself because this investment of time and money will help me move towards my goal of eliminating my pain and allowing me to do what I think I want to do.

During that same time period, I purchased a couple of novels for my Kindle and read them. Why? I needed a mental break from what I was working on and I wanted to be entertained.

The news is so depressing nowadays I don't watch it anymore. I force myself to read the newspaper for 15 minutes a day.

I am tired of watching and experiencing all the crap other people do that negatively impacts the lives of others and how they seem to get away with it. Whether or not they do is besides the point, it seems like they do.

So I wanted to read a couple of thriller novels where the good guy kills the bad guys. Yes, kills the bad guys. Emotionally it is some how reassuring when this happens. That good can triumph over evil in this life. It's even better when the good guy wipes out a large contingent of bad guys on his (or her) own in a really cool way that involves explosions, car wrecks and the use of cool, hi-tech weapons (I am a guy - what do you expect?).

An momentary break from the grim reality of the world we live in. I really need the break mentally and emotionally sometime from all the stuff I see or have to deal with.

So it all boils down to finding a way to convince the potential reader you will either eliminate their pain or meet an emotional need in order to get them to purchase your book.

If you have an exact, proven method that works every single time and is inexpensive, let me know. I need to sell a bunch of books this fall.

That seems to be the problem with so many common sense things. The concept might be simple, but never confuse simple with easy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lightning Source Announces the Arrival of New Color Presses

If you have books that require interior color, you might be interested to know that Lightning Source now offers a more affordable color printing service LSI calls "Standard" color printing. It also offers "Premium" color printing which of course implies it is more expensive.

For those of you who are interested in this new development, you need to check out the post on Aaron Shepard's blog describe this development in more technical detail than I could ever provide you.

I have given up on printing any additional books using LSI due to the technical skills required and the problems of keeping your book listed as "in stock" on Amazon. Using CreateSpace is just too easy for me in all regards and the difference in discount lost by not being able to use the "short discount" model has stopped even being an issue for me.

I hope CreateSpace will follow suit and obtain similar color presses so it can compete with LSI in the market for books using interior color.

To read Aaron's post click on the link provided below.

Monday, August 6, 2012

POD or Kindle? Which version to release first for the self-publishing author?

There is something so pleasant about hold the newly arrived proof copy of your book! It is physical, tangible proof your hard work has paid off. Your book is now a reality and ready to be unleashed on your reading public!

I do not get the same feeling when I see the file appear on my Kindle. It just isn't the same. Perhaps it would be if I had grown up with all the electronic devices my children did. They view digital content much differently than I do. Except for my son, our oldest child, vinyl records just take up space!

With the rapidly changing world of publishing, there are so many decisions a self-publishing author must make. Just one, and it is an important one, is whether to publish a Kindle edition first or the POD paperback edition first?

Actually, for some authors, depending on the niche or genre, the question to consider is should a POD version be published at all? That is another topic for another blog post.

Given the wide range of tools and methods available to promote Kindle books as compared to a POD, the most important of which is the ability to offer free versions for a period of time and a lower price point at any time, it makes sense to release the Kindle version first!

Building an audience for a book, regardless of whether it is a Kindle edition or a POD edition, is essential to generating sales. In this current state of the industry, it is easier to launch a Kindle edition than a POD edition.

So why do I always launch my POD version first? Because the final version of my books is always ready to launch sooner on Amazon in the POD form than in Kindle! I just don't have the patience to wait for the Kindle conversion to be done and then launch the book!

If I could develop some self-discipline, it makes sense to launch the Kindle version first and then release the POD version a week later.

Please disagree with me and comment if you have a better approach to dealing with this issue! I would love to hear what has worked for other authors in this regard, both for my own benefit and the authors who read this blog.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just what is a Business Model? Do I need one to self-publish?

When I self-published my first book, I would have answered the question what is a business model with the response of a plan for running a business. Not the best answer.

A much better definition comes from Ostewalder and Pigneur's book Business Model Generation. Their definition is a business model describes the rational of how an organization creates, delivers and captures value.

That's a much better definition than what I came up with. Substitute the word "author" for the word "organization" and you have a good working definition for an author who has made the decision to self-publish.

Two questions Ostewalder and Pigneur advocate being asked early in the process of generating a business plan are:
  • For whom are we (I) creating value?
  • Who are our (my) most important customers?(Italic words are mine)
Great questions for an author to ask. It does not matter if you write fiction or non-fiction. Who is your audience? For whom are you writing? What value can you provide via your writing?

Who are my most important customers? My potential readers is the obvious first answer. Perhaps a better answer after some thought are readers who buy all of my books!

Time and time again during all my reading about the publishing and self-publishing industries the advice of do your market research first as been promulgated. Why write a book and bring it to market if there is no market who wishes or needs to read your book?

Asking the two questions put forth by Ostewalder and Pigneur are key foundational questions for an author. By determining the answer to these questions, key parameters and boundaries will be set for the author's writing. Or, as the case may be, boundaries and limits may be lifted for a writer.


Osterwald, Alexander and Pigneur, Yves. (2010). Business Model Generation. Wiley and Sons, Inc, Hoboken, New Jersey, pages 14-23.