Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Smashwords and ePub - Surprising Conversion Information

This post should probably have gone in the most recent round up post but I only discovered this story today.  Since I am searching for ways to economically, both in terms of time and financially, expand distribution of my non-fiction ebooks beyond Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I have been looking at a wide range of ebook distributors.

Smashwords is one of the better known distributors and one that I had considered until I learned you had to use Smashwords' "Meatgrinder" to convert your book. Having heard and read all the nightmare stories about the final product resulting from the Meatgrinder conversion process, I decided not to pursue Smashwords as a distributor.

Since I have my books converted professionally by eBook Architects and receive both a Mobi (Kindle) and ePub (Nook and others) file for the same title, it simply made no sense to me that Smashwords would not take my already converted files and distribute them for me. Less work for everyone and the files were already inspected for quality and any possible issues.

Well, it would turn out there is more to the story.

Smashwords did not create it's infamous Meatgrinder process. Read this story about how one publisher determined what is going on at Smashwords when it comes to converting files to ebooks.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Catching Up - Lots of News in Self-Publishing

I have been really busy this past week and it was not until today I sat down to do my self-mandated reading on the internet to continue to learn more about the state of self-publishing. Here are a few of the interesting posts I came across.

From Self-Publishing 2.0

I don't know how Morris Rosenthal obtains his information. I get the KDP newsletter and unless I just missed this item all I can guess is Morris has his connections at Amazon.

From Book Making

Michael Marcus provides a needed service for authors just getting started learning the self-publishing industry. This post covers common terms used in the industry.

From Kunz on Publishing

Great story for authors considering self-publishing. It is also of interest for authors who have made the jump into self-publishing.

From The Book Designer

Author Blogging 101: Top 10 Tasks to Get Your Blog Ready for Primetime

Joel Friedlander really hits it on the nail with this one. If you have a blog or are about to start one, you need to read this post. It would seem I have a few more items to take care of on my blogs.

The Holy Trinity of Abundant Blog Traffic

Blogging is one of the ways authors can reach out and create an audience for their books and writing. Joel Friedlander, who has a successful blog, gives some insight into making this process work successfully.

From CopyBlogger

Pamela Wilson provides useful tips on using the WordPress blogging platform. While I use Blogger for this blog, I use WordPress for my other two blogs.  WordPress is a great tool but one can always use help in learning how to use this blogging platform.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Scheduling as Part of Your Writing and Publishing Process

I can procrastinate with the best. There are tasks I just do not enjoy performing and I am more than happy to put off completing these chores for as long as I can.

I also take a great deal of pleasure in achieving the goals I have set for myself, regardless of how big or how small the goal may be. My graduate degree is in Sport Psychology and I spent a lot of time researching and studying the goal setting process.

Goal setting is not rocket science but there are some definite elements that must be included or applied for goal setting to be truly effective. A couple of these elements are:
  1. goals must be flexible
  2. goals must be realistic
  3. goals must be written down
  4. goals must have DEADLINES!
There is something about a reasonable deadline posted on your calendar staring you in the face that can create a sense of urgency to complete a task.

Please note, in the four elements listed above the goals must be flexible, things happen. Goals have to be realistic. I am not going to start a book on Monday and have it finished on Wednesday. Writing things down makes them tangible, visible and somehow real. This is important.

Deadlines is what makes us start the effort to complete the task.

Working from a schedule that is realistic, flexible, written down and has appropriate deadlines scheduled in proper sequence during the entire process will go a long way to keeping an author on task, working to complete key tasks and producing finished books in as timely a manner as possible.

The same is true for the publishing process. Establish reasonable, flexible deadlines for getting the editing done, the interior produced, cover designed and the entire book assembled ready for print and ebook publication.

Include your marketing strategy in your scheduling process. You can never start marketing your next book too soon and it needs to be included in the schedule.

Cost and availability of funds must be included in the planning of the schedule. There is no sense in rushing the editing process if you won't have the funds to have your interior produced for another two months. So take your time working with your editor.

Calendars are a good thing. Buy one. Put it where you have to look at it all the time. Record your writing/production/publishing/marketing schedule on it. Work your plan and meet your deadlines.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Technical Stuff and Business Opportunities for Self-Publishers

For those of you who are technical types!

From Aaron Shepard's Publishing Blog

Good-bye PDF/X-1a, Hello PDF/X-3

Aaron lost me just a few lines in to this post. For those who are into color, creating files yourself for publication and all the finer points of this process, well you need to read this post.

From The Book Designer

Why non-fiction authors should be speakers.

Joel Friedlander has some interesting things to say. This fits in line with my thinking that self-published authors must think of their efforts as a business and look for every possible source of income they can.

A much older post by Joel Friedlander, but still fitting in with the premise of self-publishing is a business. Authors need to look to re-purpose their material to generate income and this is an interesting look at this concept.

Morris Rosenthal likes to experiment and share the results of his efforts on his self-publishing blog. In this instance, Morris converted some of his how-to videos he made for YouTube as an experiment into a DVD using CreateSpace for the duplication service. I am very interested in this process as it will fit into my business model nicely when I can get around to "making a video."

Again, this blog post is in keeping with maximizing income possibilities for authors who self-publish.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

eBook Distributors Versus Self-Distribution

They say you get what you pay for. Who ever "they" are, is probably right. I have given up on trying to upload my ePub versions directly to Google Books myself. It is simply too confusing for me. Yes, I am fully aware it is probably quite easy to do and takes only minutes per book to upload.

The problem is, what is simple and intuitive for many people is not for me. As I work to expand the "infrastructure" of my business to increase sources of revenue, I have to make decisions about the best way to use the limited time I have to work for myself.

I have a full time job as a high school history teacher and coach. If any of you are or have been teachers, you know teaching is not a job for clock watchers. Neither is coaching.

The predicament I currently find myself facing is I have to spend all my time working on my website, my other blogs, my newsletters, etc, in order to expand my potential customer base. In other words, I am no different from any other self-published author.

So it made sense to me to try to find an ebook distributor. I thought about what my requirements for an ebook distributor would be. This is the list I came up with:

1) Must be extremely easy to use.

2) Must allow me to deal with both Amazon and Barnes & Noble directly myself. Since I "Aim at Amazon" all of my marketing efforts direct my customers to Amazon. I already have most of my Kindle books available as Nook editions at Barnes and Noble. All of the additional retailers are simply extra sources of sales I would not be able to generate otherwise.

3) Must distribute ebooks to as large a number of retail outlets as possible.

4) If there are costs involved on my part, those costs must be as low as possible.

5) I set the retail price.

6) I receive as large a piece of the pie for each sale as possible.

7) There must be no hidden costs or surprises.

8) Everything is transparent. I must have the ability to track all of my sales and royalties owed with ease. I like the Member Dashboards of CreateSpace for my POD titles, Amazon's KDP reports for Kindle sales and the set-up Barnes and Noble has for Nook sales.

9) Payment needs to be on a regular, predictable basis.

10) I want good customer service that is available to help me with my inevitable goof-ups in uploading my files or any other seemingly impossible mistake I will be able to make.

Jane Friedman wrote an excellent blog post titled 10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service. If you are searching for an ebook distributor I suggest reading this post.

My initial research led me to create a short list of three companies to consider: Smashwords, BookBaby and Pigeonlab. Smashwords is a pretty well known name and one of the first ebook distributors. BookBaby is another familiar company. I had never heard of Pigeonlab but that particular ebook distributor is recommended by the company I use to do my ebook conversions, eBook Architects.

I ruled Smashwords out nearly immediately. The more I read about their "meatgrinder" process of conversion and the problems associated with it, the more certain I was I would not use their service. A lot of my books have photographs and detailed diagrams. These have to be as high quality as possible as the ebook medium is not the best to begin with for this type of display with the current levels of ereader technology.

This left BookBaby and Pigeonlab. After visiting the two company's sites here is the side-by-side comparison of the two distributors.

My plan is to start with one book using BookBaby. Once that book earns out the $99 investment I may, or may not, list a second book with PigeonLab just to have an actual comparison. Whichever company I finally select, my plan is to only add one book at a time as the cost of listing a new book earns out from previous books distributed by one or both of these companies.

I just simply do not have the time and it might be worth the money to use this source of distributing my e-books. So I will start slow with one or two of my best selling titles and slowly expand as I learn.

As always, I will keep the readers of The Self-Publisher's Notebook informed of what I learn.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More Fallout on Amazon Removing Book Reviews

The saga of the Amazon review removal debacle continues. J.A. Konrath posted about it on his blog and generated quite a few comments from the authors who read his blog.

TechDirt posted an interesting article about the subject as well. Zachary Knight, the author of the post opens his article with this statement:

"For a while now, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle at Amazon over so called "sock puppet reviews" or reviews purchased by an author to help pad their books' rankings. We hadn't been covering any of it because, frankly, it was a non-story. There never was a threat to the publishing industry and it was always questionable how widespread the problem really was. Additionally, the idea that a writer would have to pay to get reviews was just a sign that those writers held no real confidence in their work."

Amazon works very hard to be customer centered. Removing false reviews of the books and products Amazon sells is probably the right thing to do. But removing only positive reviews while leaving false negative reviews is not fair to authors and publishers. There has to be balance of some sort.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Amazon Strips Books of Positive Reviews

I regularly visit J.A. Konrath's blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Mr Konrath's most recent post concerns Amazon's removal of positive book reviews from books listed on its retail site.

After reading the post and some of its comments, I quickly went to Amazon and checked several of my books. To my horror a large number of perfectly legitimate 5-star reviews had been removed. Of the few negative reviews I had, they all remained!

I have contacted Amazon to voice my concern, particularly if they are going to leave negative reviews alone. I fully realize Amazon can do whatever it wants and there is nothing I can do about it.

However, removing positive, and legitimate reviews but leaving negative reviews, one of which I can prove was written in spite by an individual I know and another in which the author of the review point blank states he has not read the book, is troubling.

As authors we spend a good amount of money sending copies of our books out for free to individuals we believe, and hope, will like our books and be willing to write positive reviews of our books on Amazon. To simply strip books of positive reviews with no recourse for authors somehow smacks of injustice.

This apparently is in response to some authors who complained about "fake reviews." Amazon's reaction to these complaints is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. 

The individuals who gamed the review system will figure out a way to do so in the future. This destruction of huge numbers of legitimate and positive reviews is, in my humble opinion not only unfair, but causes a degree of harm disproportionate to the initial problem.

If Amazon will agree to remove the fraudulent negative reviews, I will be happy and in the case of the book in question, the actual star average will be close to what it was before all of this started. In this one example, everything would have evened out.

But if Amazon is removing fraudulent positive reviews using an algorithm, why can't the coding geniuses figure out a way to remove fraudulent negative reviews? That would be an acceptable and just solution to the situation.