Monday, December 30, 2013

My Futile Predictions for 2014 and the Publishing Industry

I just read J.A. Konrath's Publishing Predictions 2014 and as always, Mr. Konrath has stirred the hornet's nest with his 10 predictions concerning the state of the publishing world for the coming year.

Some of his predictions I think will come to pass in some form. Other predictions I am not so sure about but I would like to see come to pass.

His first prediction, sadly, I think will come to pass. Perhaps not in 2014, but in the not too distant future. Barnes and Noble will file for bankruptcy, spin off the Nook and close most of its stores. I hope the Nook survives as there needs to be competition in the ebook retail market to keep Amazon honest in how it pays authors in its KDP program.

I also agree with Mr. Konrath's prediction visibility will become more difficult for authors as the number of authors publishing books increases due to the ability to successfully self-publish thanks to platforms like Amazon, Nook, iBookstore, etc.

His prediction that libraries will begin purchasing ebooks from self-published authors is another concept I think will come to pass. Largely because Konrath himself is working to start a company that sells self-published ebooks to libraries. Another market for us to tap into!

As for the rest of his predictions, well, we'll see what happens in 2014.

My own predictions for the coming year?

The competition is going to increase for visibility in the ebook market. This will be an issue unless the ebook retailers can find ways to continue the increase in the number of readers who prefer to read digital books and not print.

Self-published authors need to make sure their books are available as paperbacks for at least a few years yet. Print's not going away. Some books just don't lend themselves to the book format yet, particularly non-fiction of a technical nature. Until the technology catches up, and it will, lots of readers will be better served by a paperback book than an ebook.

Social media platforms will come and go and most of us will never completely figure out how to use them to promote our work. At least those of us over the age of 35.

Finally, authors who learn to diversify and are willing to adapt to the latest delivery technology for books will be those who have the most success in the coming year.

2014 will be an interesting year.

Five Books on the Self-Publishing Industry Worth Reading from 2013

I love to read and since I am trying to increase my success financially as a self-published/indie non-fiction author, I find myself reading a lot of books about the industry. Many of them are not worth the time and money I spent. Some of them are.

Here is the short list of books I found to be worth my time and money.  Be forewarned, not everyone will agree with the list, but hopefully I will save someone some time and money with this list.

Book Marketing is Dead by Derek Murphy

Writing the book is just part of the work involved in being an author. The act of marketing and promoting the book is probably harder than writing the book. It is also the most confusing part to many authors.

Technology and social media are changing so fast it is hard to keep pace with the changes let alone understand how all this works in the book marketing process. Combined with the fact that the publishing industry is undergoing massive change, and it is easy to get confused.

Derek Murphy makes his living self-publishing books and has done so for over a decade. He has been through it all, made plenty of mistakes, and has a good idea of how to promote and market indie/self-published books.

He cuts to the chase and tells you what he has found to work, what used to work but doesn't now and what is a waste of time. The price, at least as I write, is a mere .99 cents, so not much risk in taking a look at what Derek has to say.

Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant with David Wright

Their writing style might not be everyone's cup of tea. The authors have a podcast show about self-publishing, filled with inside jokes and their own version of humor. Write. Publish. Repeat. is written in the same style as they perform their podcast show.

Bad inside jokes and off-color humor aside, these three authors earn their living by being self-published authors and entrepreneurs. They love what they do and like so many others in this world who are passionate about something, they want to share their knowledge. 

Unlike many books that target authors who have hopes of succeeding as a self-published author, this manual is not short. In fact, the print version of the book is 479 pages long. You won't be able to read this book in one sitting.

The most important concept in this book is the idea that creative writing, as well as non-fiction, needs to be viewed as both art and business. Books need to be written in such a way as to create on going sales, to generate constant business. The authors share how they have done this so they can permanently give up their "day jobs" and live as writers.

75 Ebook Promotion Sites That Increase Amazon Sales by Greg Strandberg

Nothing earth shattering in this book. In fact, you could find all 75 of these sites on your own. But why spend the time and effort when Greg Strandberg has already done it for you and provided all of the information in a single location?

Make Your Book Work Harder by Nancy Hendrickson and Michelle Campbell-Scott

This book covers the topic of diversification and how to broaden your sales platform as well as ideas on marketing your books for each of these platforms. It also talks about the smart use of outsourcing and social media.

Sell Your Book With An Ecourse by Jeannette S. Cates, PhD.

Since I want to expand my reach as an entrepreneur, and my "day job" is that of being a high school teacher, it makes sense to convert my non-fiction books into e-courses for sale in an online format. The author, Dr. Cates, has been involved in online education since its inception and has much to say about how this process works. Having taught online myself, I learned some things and some new resources available to make money by creating courses myself.

I am sure there are more books worth reading and I will continue to wade through the ever increasing number of books telling me how to make more money. As they say, "a sucker is born every minute."
By the way, I counted 29 books on my Kindle that I read, or attempted to read, on the same subjects these books cover that did not make my short list.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Promoting Your Books in Apple's iBookstore (iBooks)

With Apple slowly becoming a player in the ebook retail business, self-published/indie authors need to take advantage of Apple's growing share of the ebook market.

While Amazon's Kindle will certainly continue to have the largest share of the book market, Apple has a legion of loyal device users and in time should command a bigger share of the market.

Amazon provides a significant number of tools to help authors sell their books. It can be confusing at times and you have to pay attention to the ever changing landscape of Amazon, but Amazon does want authors to be able to play a role in selling their own books.

Apple is now providing some simple tools to help authors promote their books from their own blogs and websites.

The first tool I tried was Amazon's "build a widget" tool. Once you on the page, you will see the image shown below:

Once you click on the Add/Edit Book List the pop-up shown below will appear. Simply type in the name of the book or the author and the book will appear. Click on add the title and it will move to the box at the bottom. The order the books are listed in can be changed by simply dragging and dropping.

The final widget looks like the one I created below. The image was taken from the blog on my authority site.

 The other tool Apple has made available is called iTunes Link Maker. As soon as you arrive on the page, simply fill in the title of your book and the appropriate drop boxes and hit search.

Click on the blue Book Link and the pop-up box shown below will appear. I removed the HTML code for my book before taking the screen shot you see. 

You have the option of obtaining text only, a small button or a large button.

I plan to make good use of all of these tools in my efforts to let the readers of my authority site who prefer to use iBooks that my books are slowly becoming available in the iBookstore!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

iBookstore, eBooks, Competition and Self-Publishing

Three of my non-fiction books became available in the Apple iBookstore on Monday, December 23rd, 2013.  On Tuesday, December 24th, I sold two copies of one of the titles.  

By itself, the sale of two ebooks is not noteworthy, even for me. Then I looked at my sales records. It took a month before I sold an ebook copy of my best selling book in paperback and second best Kindle seller after it became available in Amazon's Kindle Store.  It took six weeks to sell the first Kindle edition of my best selling ebook, of which I have sold over 3,500 copies of in just slightly over two years. 

Nothing to scream and shout about, but considering the average book sells just under 200 copies (read that a few times somewhere) and that book paid for replacing the heating and air conditioning system in my house, a new roof and a few other things, I think that's pretty good for a non-fiction niche book.

So when this title sells two copies in just its second day of being available in the Apple iBookstore, I am excited! With Apple now supposedly the number two ebook retailer behind the mighty Amazon, this in encouraging.

I don't expect to ever match the numbers I achieved with this title on Amazon, but with sales slowing for this title on Amazon, it would be nice to generate some significant sales somewhere for this title.

There is little doubt in my mind that part of the success of this book was the limited number of Kindle books available in the niche I write for. When the Kindle adoption "craze" was taking off, I benefited from good search results ranking and limited competition. I sold 1700 of those 3500+ copies in the month of January, 2012!

A quick search in the book's niche in the iBookstore revealed even fewer titles to compete with than were available in the Kindle store roughly two years ago. Now, there are 31 pages of search results of competing Kindle titles.

I counted the total number of titles in the iBookstore search and they would fill a total of 5 pages of search results on Amazon! Clearly, the title has a much better chance in the iBookstore in regaining sales momentum than it does in the Kindle store.

What am I hoping for? It is a good book, with a track record of success and has limited competition for at least the time being. Hopefully, the results of January 2012, can be repeated to a limited degree before Apple finds a way to significantly increase the number of titles it has available in the iBookstore.

What does this mean for authors who self-publish? Several important things I believe, starting with the need to find a way to get your books distributed to the iBookstore. Alas, Apple does not openly embrace self-publishing authors like Amazon has. This means you must find an aggregator who accepts titles from indie or self-publishing authors and has a distribution relationship with iBookstore. 

I narrowed my short list down to a pair of companies, Bookbaby and Draft2Digital, before going with the later. I plan to use Bookbaby for one additional title just to see how they compare in total sales as they distribute to a larger number of ebook retailers than Draft2Digital. At this time though, my main concern was getting a few titles listed via iBookstore to see how things go.

While Smashwords has worked well for a lot of indie authors, I just could not bring myself to subject my books to the "meatgrinder" I have heard so many horror stories about (though I have read several times recently that Smashwords has improved the process). For those who can figure out how to deal with the meatgrinder, Smashwords does seem to have a good track record with self-published authors.

The other important thing for authors I think is a chance to "get in early" as Apple grows its share of the ebook market. Your book may have a better chance at selling when there is less competition in the iBookstore.

Here is why I think Apple will gain a significant amount of the ebook market:
  • Apple/Mac/iPad/iPhone users are fanatics when it comes to Apple products. My youngest daughter has an iPhone and regularly enters into debates with anyone who challenges "the superiority" of any version of the iPhone. 
  • My place of work converted to Mac laptops and that has made a believer out of me.
  • Apple is in much better financial shape than Amazon's nearest traditional competitor, Barnes and Noble.
  • My wife tossed her Kindle HD the instant she opened her iPad for Christmas and she is NOT a Mac user or a fan of Mac (Given the fact I gave her the Kindle HD but not the iPad, I was a little chagrined at her quick abandonment for the iPad).
  • Truth be told, you can do more with an iPad than you can a Kindle.
  • Last of all, Mac is becoming the computer of first choice in educational systems. Students are learning to read and access media on Macs or iPads. They tend to stick with these devices once they have been introduced to them.
I don't foresee Apple's iBookstore taking away Amazon's number one position in the world of ebook sales. I do see the company in time cutting into Amazon's market share. While Amazon has been very good to me, I want to get my foot in the door while I can with Apple and enjoy the benefits of an expanding, loyal customer base with a supplier (Apple) who has a more limited supply of product (books) at  the moment than its biggest competitor (Amazon).

Take the time to find your way into the iBookstore and check the competition out. It may very well be worth your while to jump through the hoops necessary to make your book available in the iBookstore.

Now I need to get busy letting the readers of my other blog and my newsletter know my books are now available in the iBookstore!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Consider Audio Books as Part of your Distribution Plan

Self-published authors have figured out they can maximize the earnings of their book by producing both a POD paperback version as well as an ebook version, usually Kindle at the very least. 

Many of us may be "leaving money on the table" by not offering an audio version as well. Just as Amazon entered the print-on-demand business with CreateSpace, Amazon also owns, or

This company allows authors to produce an audio version of their ebook or print edition. Once the audio version has been created and uploaded to, the audio version of the book will automatically be linked to the Kindle and paper version's listing on Amazon.

The audio book will be distributed to, and iTunes if the author grants exclusive distributor rights to

When I began investigating, I first thought this would be another endless task I had to learn how to perform. A little research indicated this is something I need to consider and make a decision about quickly.

It appears more and more people are using audiobooks yet only 5% of all published print and ebooks are ever converted into audiobooks. I like the idea of increasing demand combined with low competition!

So take a look at and see if this is a business option you need to act on.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Is it Time to Consider iBookstore as Essential as Amazon's Kindle?

In the search to determine if and where I need to expand the availability of my ebooks, combined with my decision to experiment with using Draft2Digital to distribute my ebooks, I have been searching for information concerning which ebook retailer could emerge as a competitor to industry giant Amazon's KDP Kindle ebookstore.

Finding information about market share in the ebook publishing world is difficult. Even one of the best trackers of sales information for dissemination to self-publishers, Morris Rosenthal, was unable to give me definitive information when I contacted him about the subject. 

Contacting different authors and simply asking for their numbers has given some anecdotal evidence, but nothing that could be considered as accurate and unquestionable numbers concerning market share in the ebook market.

While anecdotal, the percentage of sales by the author's who shared their information with me showed a marked increase in sales through Apple's iBookstore. Two authors were generating 20% of their sales through this retail platform.

Amazon was still by and far the most significant ebook retailer for self-published authors and in all likelihood remain that way for years to come.

Still, if iBookstore can truly capture 20% of the ebook market, it will be a player, one that self-published authors would do well to take advantage of. 

It should also be noted that uses of Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad or Macintosh computers are highly loyal customers when it comes to all things Apple. It makes sense that as time passes and ebooks become more commonplace that Apple's iBookstore would become a major player in the ebook industry if for no other reason than the loyalty factor is Apple users.

Using Draft2Digital, I have four titles now available in the iBookstore and plan to add more as time permits and if sales warrant. I certainly want to be one of "the early adopters" and benefit from making my titles available through iBookstore.

Below are some articles and posts I was able to find in my efforts to try to learn if iBookstore is worth the effort to add to my list of ebook retailers I distribute my books through.  Here is what I found if any of the authors who read this blog are interested:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Are Amazon and CreateSpace Winning the POD War With Lightning Source?

For some time now there have been rumors of a war on Lightning Source on the part of Amazon and its print-on-demand division, CreateSpace. Many indie and self-published authors have decried the sudden change in the status of their LSI distributed titles from "in stock" to "available in one to three weeks" which might as well be listed as out-of-stock.

This in turn led to what has been called "Plan B," an approach devised by Aaron Shepard, one of the foremost advocates of LSI in the past. Mr. Shepard now encourages authors to use CreateSpace for their POD services and distribution to Amazon.

Based on my own experience, I would advise everyone to go with CreateSpace and not LSI if the book you want to publish is your first. CreateSpace is much more user-friendly and it appears LSI now wants all self-publishing authors to use IngramSpark as the gateway to LSI.

In the past my suggestion that authors use CreateSpace was based on the ease of use. Now I would argue it is essential if you want your book to sell. All of my 30+ titles, save one, are printed and distributed by CreateSpace. They are always listed as in stock and available.

The line title, which also happens to be my best selling title in paperback, was also the first book I published. It is printed and distributed by LSI. 

The sales for the paperback edition of this title have collapsed in the last three months. Well, more than collapsed I should say, they have vanished. I have not sold a single copy.

The listing for the book ranges from "out of stock" to the equally dreaded "available in one to three weeks."

Please note, the book was also made available through CreateSpace and I did not authorize the Expanded Distribution feature. CreateSpace would be the lone supplier to Amazon. LSI would supply all other online retailers.

Up until three months ago, that was fine. Evidently, now it is not.

Recent correspondence with CreateSpace drew a response that since there were two possible suppliers, there had to be two listings. I suppose that makes sense. But guess which listing shows up first in the searches?

I guess I will have to break down and finally end my relationship with LSI in order to do something about restoring my sales ranking and sales for this book which had spent three years listed on the first page of results in its category before this sudden death spiral in sales.

Aaron Shepard has recently weighed in on this topic and has much more insight into the situation than I do. To read what Mr. Shepard has to say about the "Temporarily Out of Stock" issue regarding LSI and Amazon, please take the time to visit his post. It will be worth the read.

For those of us who broke in to self-publishing when POD was the way to do it, technology has once again changed the industry. Make sure you have a Kindle edition when you publish!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Should Amazon be an Author's Only Game in Town?

Amazon changed the game for authors. Not only did Amazon allow authors to bypass the "gatekeepers" of traditional publishing by making their retail book platform available to self-published and indie authors, with the advent of ebooks, Amazon changed how authors are paid with a more equitable share of the price of a book if the author follows Amazon's pricing guidelines. 

Amazon's CreateSpace and KDP allow authors to bring their works to the market and earn their fair share of the sale of each book while providing a lot of the services a traditional publishing house would provide.

Despite all of this, there are those who decry Amazon as destroying the publishing industry and are making a mimicry of the quality of books available to the public. Obviously, a lot of those crying foul are members of the traditional publishing industry or authors who have done well in that system. Yet, amazingly enough, there are plenty of self-published authors who have joined the ranks of Amazon haters. 

To me the question an author should be asking is not should I sell my books on Amazon, but is it worth it to make my books available for sale from other online book retailers, particularly ebooks? 

Who knows how long traditional paper books will continue to sell in large numbers? I do know I am glad print-on-demand technology allows me to make my books available in paperback without tying up in capital in a traditional press run of books and having to gamble they will sell as they sit gathering dust in my office.

While the overwhelming majority of my ebooks sold are from Amazon's Kindle ebook store, I do have some books available through Barnes and Noble and Kobo. As I experiment with a few titles using Draft2Digital's distribution services, I will also have titles available for sale through iBookstore. As Draft2Digital's retail partners grow in number, so will the number of ebook retailers my books will be available through.

Do I plan to make all of my books available to every ebook retailer? At the moment, no. I still believe Aaaron Shepard's argument in the self-publishing classic Aiming at Amazon, is the best way to go, steering the bulk of your sales to Amazon where the website's book promoting and sales software can go to work for you, the author. The more you sell on Amazon, the more Amazon will promote your books.

So why am I slowly adding other titles for sale through other ebook retail platforms? Because I am betting ebooks are going to continue to grow in popularity. If the other ebook retailers begin to gain market share, I want to be there when they do.

The books I am slowly making available through these other retailers are not my best selling titles on Amazon. Since these books are slow sellers on Amazon, they don't benefit from the "Amazon book selling machine." It makes sense to experiment with these books on the sites of other ebook retailers. What I learn will be helpful and any money earned is a bonus.

Draft2Digital is the timesaver that has made me decide to take this approach. It costs me nothing to make my ebooks available for distribution through the company and I gain additional retail exposure for my books. The process of uploading has proven to be simple and not time consuming.

My books need to work hard for me and earn me as much income as possible. For the time being, this slow gradual approach, with little time and no money invested, seems like a sensible plan. 

In the mean time, I will be watching the ebook market carefully in hopes of learning the information needed to best determine which approach to take. I want to be there early when the market changes!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Draft2Digital: Update for Self-Publishers

I was so excited about learning of a new company that provided distribution and FREE file conversion for authors wishing to self-publish their books as ebooks, both in Kindle and ePub versions, I blogged about the company, Draft2Digital, in a recent post

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the company does not work totally for free, Draft2Digital take a very reasonable percentage of each sale for distributing your book. I was intrigued enough though to experiment with the company using several of my titles, two of which had been converted by eBook Architects, and two which had yet to be converted to ePub.

The previously converted books took me less than 15 minutes each to upload and "publish" using Draft2Digital's system. I previewed the two books and they looked perfect. Since these had been professionally done by eBook Architects, I expected this result.

Having heard nightmare stories about the "meatgrinder" conversion process used by Smashwords, I was more concerned with my two yet-to-be-converted files. Draft2Digital will convert manuscripts uploaded in Word, either .doc or .docx.

Fortunately, you are able to download the converted files and preview them prior to "publishing" your book. Both of my books had issues after the conversion process was finished.

Since my books are non-fiction and are often graphic intensive, most of my issues were with the graphics as well as a few cosmetic issues.

Wondering what needed to be done to rectify the issues, I contacted Draft2Digital using the e-mail address provided on their Contact Us page. To my surprise, I received a response in about three hours from their customer service, who had looked over the finished conversions and then sent me detailed, step-by-step instructions on the changes to make on my Word .doc so the conversions would be acceptable.

I thought this was not only good customer service, but very reasonable for me to make the changes to the original myself in order to get the finished product I wanted for FREE, except for my time. 

Granted, it would have been better if Draft2Digital's converter had worked without any work on my part, but the step-by-step directions have been saved and all my files in the future will be created using those directions, so I have no issues with this. A little time spent learning now will save me a lot of time and money in the future.

I will work on the needed changes during the coming week and then upload the files again. Hopefully, the suggested changes in my original file will do the trick and I will have two more books available for distribution.

Good customer service provided quickly goes a long way with me. So far my experience with Draft2Digital has been a good one. The Dashboard is easier to use than CreateSpace's Member Dashboard, which so far has been the easiest of all self-publishing sites to use based on my experience. 

I saved a good deal of time in the process of uploading the files for all four books because due to all four being in print in paperback. I simply used the book descriptions I had already provided Amazon. The two previously converted books were already on sale as Kindle and Nook books so I only requested distribution to iBookstore and Kobo, a simple process only requiring I check those two companies.

As I continue working my way through getting these four books published and distributed using Draft2Digital I will continue report about my experiences. So far, so good!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Draft2Digital: A New eBook Distributor for Authors!

I always get excited when I find what an opportunity to improve my tiny publishing empire when it does two important things for me:
  • saves money while earning money
  • saves time and effort on my part
Today,  I had made one of those discoveries that not only peaked my interest, but got me excited. By complete accident I stumbled across Draft2Digital.

What was it that peaked my interest and got me excited?

Draft2Digital will convert my Word document into an ebook for FREE! Then Draft2Digital will distribute my ebook to the following ebook retailers:
  • Amazon's KDP
  • iBookstore
  • Nook
  • Kobo
While nothing is truly free, this appears to be a pretty good deal. Draft2Digital charges no upfront costs for authors for the company's services and only takes a percentage of a sale when actual sales take place.

The author:
  • sets the list price
  • retains all publishing rights
  • has the right to use the converted file on other retail platforms
  • can select which retailers to use, or not use
Draft2Digital's FAQ page does a good job of answering most questions authors will have about the company's services and is worth a quick look to see if this company is worth checking into.

Since no company can provide their services for free and survive, Draft2Digital makes its money by taking a piece of each sale. Given you are paying for the conversion over an extended period of time as well as the distribution, collection and payment services, I think Draft2Digital's pricing structure  is very fair. The examples shown below come from the Draft2Digital website.

Since my latest book is currently available in paperback at the moment, I see no reason not to sign-up for an account and give Draft2Digital a try. This book has a lot of graphics, which is common for my books, and if the company does a good job, this could be a huge money and time saver for me.

As soon as I have some feedback to provide to the readers of this blog, I will share how my experiment with this one book worked out, good, bad or in between.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recent, or Not So Recent, Changes and CreateSpace

CreateSpace has made two changes in recent months. The first is matte covers are now offered.  To add a matte finish to an existing title, or a new one, simply visit your Member Dashboard and go to the Distribute section of your Dashboard.

Once there, simply click on Cover Finish and you will be provided with a choice of Glossy or Matte Finish. I am tempted to order a single copy of one of my books just to see how it turns out.

The other change in recent times is Expanded Distribution is now FREE for all titles. You will have to grant the mandatory higher discount but it allows all of your book to be sold by other online retailers such as Barnes and Noble.

CreateSpace is always updating its offerings and it pays to be alert to what is new.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Self-Publishing Blog Summary

It has been awhile sense I posted a summary of blog posts I have read and found helpful. To save you some time, here are the latest posts I have found interesting or helpful that relate to self-publishing.

From The Book Designer

Why Writers Must Self-Publish Their Books

From Your Writer Platform

Powerful Pictures Perform: How to Create Images That Grab Attention

To Blog or Not to Blog: Is It Really Necessary?

From Self-Publishing 2.0

Will Amazon Deliver Coal in the Stocking for Kindle Publishers?
Morris Rosenthal's monthly examination of KDP KOLL payouts.

From The Creative Penn

Writing Fast, Funnels And Calls To Action. My Lessons Learned From Write, Publish, Repeat.

Getting Maximum “Bang” for Your Book Description Buck: an SEO/ Author’s Perspective

The Newbie's Guide to Self-Publishing 

Death and the Self-Pubbed Writer



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Changes at BookBaby

BookBaby, the ebook publishing and distribution company, has made some changes in its options for authors. The first new option is a FREE global distribution option if the author provides publish ready ebook files. The author receives 85% of the net sales. Note, this option is not completely free unless you have your own ISBN for your book. Otherwise, BookBaby will charge you $19 for an ISBN and will be listed as the Publisher.

The second option is a change in the royalty payment feature for the $99 Standard Distribution option. In the past, this option included conversion to Kindle and ePub formats and global distribution, all with the author receiving 100% of the net sales. This has changed. Authors will now receive 85% of the royalties.

The $249 Premium Distribution option still provides authors with 100% of the net sales and includes as well as quite a few other benefits to the author.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Participate in Read Tuesday!

This is a great promotion for authors and small publishers! It takes place on December 10th and is a great holiday promotion for those of us who self-publish.

Rather than try to explain all the details, it would be simpler to send you to the website! I will be participating with two books this year and see how it goes!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Kindle eBook Promotion Sites - Marketing Your Indie Book

If readers do not know your book exists, they can neither purchase it nor read it. Thus, marketing becomes part of the job of a self-published or indie author. Even traditionally published authors must work at marketing their books in today's publishing world.

Advertising is expensive and while it can be very effective, you need to know what you are doing in order to obtain a return on your money. It is also difficult to determine how effective your advertising dollars have been spent. Many authors who self-published have spent large sums of money to no avail.

Since most of authors who self-publish are on shoestring budgets, taking advantage of marketing tools that are free or low cost is an approach worth examining.

While KDP Select free ebook marketing is not what it used to be, it is an effective approach if readers know your book is available for free. The key is to get the word out and not just rely on readers who go to Amazon alone to search for your book.

Using your author platform tools (blog, social media or newsletter), you can make readers who are already fans aware of your promotion. 

The goal though, is to get your book in front of as many NEW readers as possible. This is where ebook promotion sites can be a big help.

There are dozens of ebook promotion sites on the internet, requiring you to be careful about which ones you select to use for spreading the word about your book promotion. Time is valuable and you will want to only use sites that can truly get the word about your book promotion in front of as many potential readers as possible.

To make sure the sites you select will do the job, use Alexa to check their traffic. Use sites that pull good numbers. It is a simple game of math. The more visitors a site has, the more likely readers will see your promotion.

If you are willing to spend money, the best pay site on the internet is BookBub. Be forewarned, this site is choosey and your book may not make the cut for one to be listed. This is a big part of why the readers who visit this site do so. The books listed are better than average, must be free or deeply discounted and the promotion must be a limited time only offer. With over 1 million subscribers, you can see the value of getting your promotion listed.

A couple of free sites worth investigating are Frugal Freebies and Pixel of Ink.  

Frugal Freebies deals with more than books but does have a good listing of free ebooks. It's broader coverage of free items increases the number of visitors to the site. 

Pixel of Ink deals with free and bargain Kindle books and allows readers to search by category or genre.

There are plenty of sites to choose from. In addition to doing an Alexa check, check the sites for their social media numbers, size of their newsletter list, etc.

One final suggestion. Make sure you check the timelines involved in dealing with each site. Some require considerable advance notice before listing your promotion. You don't want to have your promotion not listed because you did not give sufficient notice to the site.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Using BookBaby for eBook Distribution

As the adoption of digital media continues to become more widespread and common, it makes sense for authors to use as many platforms as possible to distribute their ebooks. The two earliest big players in the ebook market were, and still are, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook.

As the ebook and digital content market continues to grow, other players are beginning to emerge. With the decline in the effectiveness of the KDP Select program to promote ebooks, it now makes sense to move beyond KDP Select, which has an exclusivity clause stating the title cannot be sold on any other ebook platform.

Reports seem to indicate the iBookstore is starting to gradually increase its market share as well as several other ebook retailers. 

For self-published indie authors who wish to take advantage of these opportunities, the biggest hurdles are the time involved to upload titles and in the case of some ebook retailers, only publishing companies can list and sell titles, a practice that excludes indie and self-published authors.

Some authors have worked around these two drawbacks by using Smashwords. The issue with this was Smashword's "meatgrinder" produced files that were unattractive to read after going through the conversion process.

An alternative approach that I think might be better is to use BookBaby for ebook distribution. The basic package, priced at $99, allows me to upload my publishing-ready files to BookBaby who will then distribute my books to the following ebook retailers:
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Barnes and Noble Nook
  • Scribd.
  • Pagepusher
  • iBookstore
  • eSentral - SE Asia ebook retailer
  • eBookPie
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Kobo
  • Reader
  • Copia
For the price, increasing the distribution of one of my books to an additional nine retailers is worth experimenting with. To not have to open nine new accounts, learn to use nine new systems and to gain access to iBookstore, I think it might well be worth the $99.

The added benefit is I receive 100% of my royalties. Bookbaby allows me to set the dollar threshold for when I get paid. Once my royalties hit that threshold, I am paid the following Monday.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ingram Spark and Barnes and Noble - A Different Perspective

As the self-publishing industry has evolved, print-on-demand, POD, what was once largely the domain of Lightning Source, LSI. Amazon moved into the POD business with its purchase of Booksurge which became CreateSpace, CS.  LSI's parent company, Ingram, is hoping to reshape the POD market to some degree with the creation of Ingram Spark (Spark).

LSI is a more difficult platform for self-publishing authors to use while CreateSpace was designed to be highly user-friendly for authors. LSI's platform was intended for publishers who desired to keep slow selling backlists in print and as a venue for small publishers to gain distribution.

CreateSpace's advantage for authors, and some small publishers, is its direct access to Amazon. Since most self-published authors realize there is little to no market for their books in traditional brick and mortar bookstores, the ability to distribute directly to Amazon was not only essential, it was a game changer as it allows authors to have access to both customers and Amazon's amazing marketing software.

So why did authors want to self-publish with LSI? Simple, the ability to control the discount of the list price. Distribution to bookstores requires a 55% discount. LSI allowed authors to decline returns and set a discount as low as 20%, increasing the profit margin for authors.

CreateSpace does not allow authors this luxury. The discount to Amazon is a pre-set 40% and the discount for expanded distribution is 60%.

While initial views of Ingram Spark by such traditional POD gurus as Aaron Shepard have not been particularly positive, largely because Ingram Spark requires the 55% discount, there is another reason to consider Spark.

If you really think your book has a chance to sell in traditional bookstores, Spark will provide that access. Additionally, if the 5% difference in discount for sales via Barnes and Noble is worth it to you, then Spark might be worth looking into, particularly if your titles sell as well, or better, than on Amazon.

Where Spark seems to miss the boat is the mandatory 40% discount required on ebooks. I am willing to experiment with my next paperback, due to come out in July or August of 2014, by using Spark instead of CS. I am not going to bother with Spark for ebook distribution when I can load my ebook versions directly to Amazon's KDP and Barnes and Nobles Nook Press directly for 70% and 65% royalties respectively.

If Ingram Books wants Spark to grow and compete with CS and even Lulu, it will have to adjust some of its policies and make certain the user interface provided for authors and small publishers is every bit as easy to use as that of its prime competitor, CS.

For authors interested in learning more about Spark, check out Spark's site, and the initial review of Spark by Aaron Shepard and Joel Friedlander, The Book Maker.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A New Method of Proofreading Your Manusript?

Proofreading, like editing, is best done by someone else. Yet, if you're like me, money is an issue. Morris Rosenthal might have come to the rescue to those of us who wish to both dramatically improve our self-editing and proofreading! 

Best of all, it's an inexpensive and easy approach to the task!

Here is Morris' suggested proofreading  method on his Foner Books blog.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Print-on-Demand for Self-Publishers: Is CreateSpace the Only Viable Option Now Available?

Lightning Source Inc, LSI, was the first print-on-demand printer that allowed self-published authors access to book distribution and Amazon. Before the advent of ebooks (Kindle and Nook) it was the way to go for authors who wanted to self-publish.

One of the founding fathers of today's self-publishing industry, Aaron Shepard, wrote two books that were essential reading if you planned to make a go self-publishing as a business, Aiming at Amazon and POD for Profit. Morris Rosenthal, another of the self-publishing industries early leaders in using POD to self-publish wrote another essential book explaining the business model of using POD, Print-on-Demand Book Publishing.

CreateSpace, CS, appeared on the scene and after some bumps upon starting, soon became a viable alternative to LSI. I have written about choosing between the two companies on numerous times on this blog. The decision to use CS for all of my books since my first efforts centered around the ease of simply creating an account with CS, ease of just about anything with CS versus LSI, and my last blog post on the subject took one final look at the two companies.

For many, myself included, the quandary over which company to choose was ease of use versus the ability set the discount offered to retailers. For me ease of use won out every time, meaning I published with CS instead of LSI.

That may all be a moot point now. Ingram, who owns LSI, has started a new division called IngramSpark and is now insisting authors who wish to self-publish must deal with IngramSpark, who will control the discounts set and is, from what I understand, not overly user-friendly in setting up a new title.

The biggest supporter of LSI for self-publishing, Aaron Shepard, now directs new authors to CreateSpace, due in large part to the behavior of IngramSpark.

This combined with changes in Amazon's stocking of some LSI titles, which led to the now defunct Plan B approach,  largely limits the choice of a viable POD service for authors who desire to self-publish to just CreateSpace.

In the grand scheme of things, perhaps authors should still be thankful there is access to Amazon and other retailers using a POD business model via CreateSpace.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Design - Making the DIY as a Self-Publisher Easier

DIY as a self-publisher comes with the trade. You're simply going to have to learn to "do it yourself." Paying someone else to do the work for you becomes very expensive in a very short period of time.

Book design is something we are all aware of as readers, but is not something we are necessarily conscious of. It can be an eye opening experience to most self-published authors when their first proof copy arrives and they see their beloved book printed with a poorly designed interior and cover.

While covers are an entirely separate, and perhaps more important issue, the design of a books interior is more than just aesthetics. The book design can have a major impact, both good or bad, on the readability of a book. The interior can also impact the all important Amazon reviews, again for both good or bad. I have read many negative reviews where the reviewer stated clearly the content was good but the design was so poor it made the book difficult to read.

With so many tasks to learn, when something comes along to make one of the many Do-It-Yourself projects easier AND turn out better, it is worth taking the time to examine.

In this case, I want to discuss the book templates, both for POD paperbacks and ebooks, available from The Book Designer. For a reasonable price, you are able to purchase Word templates that create handsome book interiors as well as ebook designs.

Yes, you have to learn how to use the templates. But here's the good news! If you already know how to use Word and can read, the time involved to master using most of the features of the template is about 30 minutes. Then there is the issue of customer service. It is outstanding. I had repeated issues getting the Table of Contents working on several ebook editions I released this summer and the good people at The Book Designer stood behind their templates and provided feedback till the issue was resolved.

What benefits are there to be had for self-publishing authors? Here are the benefits I gained from purchasing templates:
  • Interiors that looked professionally produced
  • Huge time savings in creating a quality finished product
  • Significant savings in cost compared to paying a professional to design and create the interior files
  • Significant savings in cost in creation of the ebook files for both Kindle and Nook editions
  • A learning curve that was simple to master
Saving time and money are important and so is having a book that looks great. I will be using these templates, of which there is a great variety of choices to select from, for all of my future projects.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is There Trouble in Paradise With CreateSpace?

I have used CreateSpace and been very happy with the company as my POD service and distributor. I have lots of good things to say about the company. But my sales have been slumping and one title in particular title has had zero sales through CreateSpace, yet has had considerable sales through LSI. Since I was using a variation of Aaron Shepard's Plan B, the title was available through both CS and LSI.

Then I hear rumors about issues with CS's reporting of sales. Rumors are usually just that, rumors. Hard to pay attention to rumors when I have had a really good experience with CS.

However, my sales are seasonal and really pick up at the start of the school year and peak in January before falling off. As I have explained, my best selling title has sold well through LSI, but not one sale from CS. Then I stumbled on this blog post on Jeannette Vaughan's blog.

I will let you draw your own conclusions from this article written as a guest post by John. R. Clark, Managing Editor at AgeView Press.

Vigilance is always necessary I suppose. I know I will be paying much closer attention to my sales figures the next few months.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

SEO and Self-Publishing Author Platforms - Two Helpful Sites

Just what do self-publishing and SEO have to do with each other? A lot it would seem. With the discovery that my author platform website had fallen off the charts in page ranking and had seen a decline in traffic, with a slump in sales to boot, I have recently been spending time researching yet another skill it seems the jack-of-all-trades self-publishing author must master, or at least develop some skill at.

Just what is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and why does it matter for my blog/website/author platform? The purpose of an author platform is to connect with readers, to build an audience for your work. If readers never find your author platform, the time and energy you have invested has been wasted and your books may never develop the readership they deserve.

SEO, according to Wikipedia's definition, is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic") search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users. 

In other words, it is the computer stuff that helps search engines find and rank your site. The higher the ranking, the better!
To make matters more challenging, the rules of SEO constantly seem to be changing. I even discovered it takes special computer tools to determine what the SEO of your site is.

There are lots of free tools available as SEO companies are willing to provide these tools in order for potential customers to learn their sites are in desperate need of SEO. Of course, these companies are willing to provide this service for a fee! 

Because SEO is forever changing and nobody but Google truly knows how Google and other search engines determine SEO, it is all a bit of a guess. 

I have found two tools though that have been more helpful than most because of the huge amount of information the results contain, providing you with a decent idea of what the search engines are looking for and how good, or bad, your SEO is.

The first tool, or site, I have found to be more helpful than most is  This site provides a lot of interesting information, including where the physical location of the server hosting your site is located to the dollar amount your site is worth. It also provides a lot of information about factors search engines are interested in and displays the information in a variety of ways including over the life of your site.

The second tool I found that has been the most helpful is only free for 30 days. However, it gives an extremely detailed SEO analysis of the single page you enter to be analyzed and the information is so specific you can easily go back and edit the page or blog post according to the feedback and see your SEO score rise the next time you run the analysis. In fact, it even generates a "to do list" of all the SEO items you need to address to improve the results for the page or blog post you did the analysis for.  This has been extremely helpful! The site is

Finally, if you have not already done so, you will need to install Google Analytics to your site. This tool takes a little bit of learning to be of value because you will have to learn what all the data being measured is, what it means, and how it can be used to improve your site, but it will be time well spent.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Summary of Interesting and Relevent Posts on Self-Publishing

It's about that time again to take a look at what other bloggers and experts have to say about self-publishing.

Discouraging Words
From Aaron Shepard's Publishing Blog
Aaron's take on the rumors and facts about Lightning Source not taking on new self-published authors and small publishers.

From Search Engine Land
Not a normal place to look for self-publishing information, but since most of us rely heavily on sales from Amazon, worth a look.

From Self-Publishing 2.0
Morris Rosenthal's thoughts on the subject.

From How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks
Jason  Matthew's advice on this all important topic.

From The Book Designer
Joel Friedlander's advice on this topic. Worth reading.

Short post with a 35 minute podcast.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Author Platforms, Blogging and Other Necessary Tools

By no means am I any kind of a computer expert, internet guru or expert on SEO. What I have learned has been through, as usual, lots of reading and trying to sort out, to me, confusing terminology and ideas.

With a recent decline in my sales that has taken place over the last month, something made me decide to do an SEO audit on my primary website for my business. Two years ago, before the Panda and other Google updates, I had a page rank of 3, which is not too bad.

To my horror, when I did the audit using a free online tool, I had a page rank of 0! Yes, zero. I quickly checked my Google Analytics, something I don't do very often, and to my surprise, found a steady decline in the number of visits to my site.

It would appear I have neglected two things, my author platform and the SEO of said platform. Of course, one can never be totally sure of why book sales decline (in this case a decline over sales during the past month compared to the previous two years of the same month), but I have to consider there might be a real connection.

In viewing the audit results, it would appear I have a lot more to learn. There are quite a few new items that are now part of the SEO process. At least they are new to me.

I had planned on taking a break from writing new books for an extended period of time. It looks like that break from writing will now be spent working on rebuilding my author platform. At least it will be new and different and as they say change is as good as a vacation.

If you have a blog, website, or other successful online author platform, don't make the mistake I did and fail to monitor your SEO. It takes so much hard work to build a presence and develop a following that you don't want to waste the time and effort through neglect.

Anyone who has any similar experiences and has managed to bounce back, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share your experiences with the readers of this blog by commenting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Using Keywords to Make Your Kindle Book Easier for Readers to Find

Amazon's store is also a search engine. It makes sense then to practice good SEO like you would for your own website or blog and this includes the best possible use of keywords in the book's description.

In the most recent issue of the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter, Amazon has provided some excellent suggestions on how to provide the best possible book description using keywords. The first suggestions provided include the best practices listed below.

Best practices with keywords:
  • Combine keywords in the most logical order: Customers will search for military science fiction but not for fiction science military.
  • Use up to seven keywords or short phrases. Separate them with commas, and keep an eye on the character limit in the text field.
  • Experiment. Before you publish, search for your book's title and keywords on Amazon. If you get irrelevant results, or results you dislike, consider making some changes—your book will ultimately appear among similar results. When you search, look at the suggestions that appear in the Search field drop down.
  • Think like your customer. Think about how you would search for your book if you were a customer, and ask others to suggest keywords they'd search on.
More suggestions for good keyword use include specific use and types of keywords:

Useful keyword types
  • ● Setting (Colonial America)
  • ● Character types (single dad, veteran)
  • ● Character roles (strong female lead)
  • ● Plot themes (coming of age, forgiveness)
  • ● Story tone (dystopian, feel-good)
Amazon even provided suggestions of what NOT to include in keywords:

  • ● Information covered elsewhere in your book's metadata—title, contributor(s),  category, etc.
  • ● Subjective claims about quality (e.g. "best")
  • ● Statements that are only temporarily true ("new," "on sale," "available now")
  • ● Information common to most  items in the category ("book")
  • ● Common misspellings
  • ● Variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and pluralization (both "80GB" and "80 GB", "computer" and "computers", etc.). The only exception is for words translated in more than one way, like "Mao Zedong" and "Mao Tse-tung," or "Hanukkah" and "Chanukah."
  • ● Anything misrepresentative, such as the name of an author that is not associated with your book. This type of information can create a confusing customer experience and Kindle Direct Publishing has a zero tolerance policy for metadata that is meant to advertise, promote, or mislead.
Don't use quotation marks in search terms: Single words work better than phrases—and specific words work better than general words. If you enter "complex suspenseful whodunit," only people who type all of those words will find your book. You'll get better results if you enter this: complex suspenseful whodunit. Customers can search on any of those words and find your book.

Other metadata tips
● Customers are more likely to skim past long titles (over 60 characters).
● Focus your book's description on the book's content
● Your keywords can capture useful, relevant information that won't fit in your title and description (setting, character, plot, theme, etc.)
● You can change keywords and descriptions as often as you like
● If your book is available in different formats (physical, audio) keep your keywords and description consistent across formats

All of this information is helpful and making me take a look at all of my book descriptions.  I am glad I took the time to read all of this month's newsletter from KDP!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jeff Bezos Explains Why Amazon Does Not Worry About Its Competitors

Since so many self-published authors rely heavily on internet giant Amazon, it is always worth learning more about the company and its CEO, Jeff Bezos.

Here is a link to an interesting article about why Amazon does not worry about its competition.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Technology Offers New Opportunities for Non-Fiction Authors - Online "Mash-ups" - A New Kind of Book?

I have spent a lot of time learning as much as possible about the industry of publishing in general and self-publishing specifically. I am certain I have barely scratched the surface of what there is to learn and the target seems to keep moving.

The first big boon for self-publishers was the advent of the internet along with Amazon, opening the door for self-published authors to have access to customers. Print-on-demand technology combined with a business model relying on POD made self-publishing financially viable for authors.

eReaders were the next big technological shift. It took a while for the device and concept to catch on but Amazon's Kindle has changed things in a big way, making it even easier for authors to publish and sell their work.

More changes are in store, of that I have no doubt. The future will be interesting in the field of self-publishing.

One of the challenges I currently face, and I am not alone, is I am selling more books than ever before, both paperback (POD) and ebook (95% of which are Kindle sales). Yet I am not earning the income I need to earn.

Even with a 70% royalty, I earn less for a Kindle edition than I do for the same title as a paperback. The pricing structure required by Amazon to receive the 70% royalty puts a cap on what I can set as the list price for the book. I am not complaining mind you, just stating a fact.

The pricing structure combined with the fact customers are not willing to pay nearly what the information is worth for in a Kindle book edition, forces lower list prices to generate sales. Again, I am not complaining, just stating the market forces at work for MY BOOKS. I do not want to speculate how market forces are impacting list prices of other authors.

The challenge as I see it, is how do I provide enough perceived value for the information I am selling for the customer to decide the price is in fact a reasonable one for the value received by the customer.

Technology has been the driving, and disruptive, force behind the changes in publishing and self-publishing. It make sense to look to technology for a solution and I believe I have found one, at least for me and possibly other non-fiction authors. It might even be a possible solution for the right fiction author who has the creative vision and technical skill required to pull it off.

On-line "mash-ups." 

Mash-ups are a combination of video with on-screen print information. Think You-Tube with printed information embedded in the screen along with the visual content.

School teachers who teach via distance learning or a lap top schools have been doing this for awhile. Since I teach at a lap top school that offers its summer school classes as "blended courses" (three days on campus and two days via distance) I have some experience in dealing with mash-ups.

It occurred to me this is the approach I need to earn what my non-fiction books are worth. Writing the book is the time consuming part. It can still be sold as a stand alone item or given away as a marketing item in the case of an ebook.

The real value is in the author's knowledge. The online mash-up allows the author to create online "class sessions" while offering downloadable print information at the same time. Even better, the author can offer "action steps" or guided projects to help readers/students through the process of taking the information presented and actually using it.

This is a lot more work than just writing the book. But, it gives the reader/customer much greater access to the author's knowledge base and provides a guided means to actually utilizing the information. 

Yes, it is more work for the author, but this approach dramatically increases the perceived value of the information to the reader/customer, allowing the author sell the information for a much higher price.

How does one go about doing this? You'll have to stay tuned in for a future post on how I am going to do this!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Another Use for The Book Designer's Book Design Templates

I really value my time these days. I am more than willing to learn new technologies if they are helpful and of value to my business and writing efforts. But if they are going to be huge consumers of my time and may or may not be worth the effort to master on my part, I am no longer willing to go the extra mile.

I have been trying to motivate myself to learn how to use some of the writing software packages available such as Jutoh or Scrivener. I have come to the conclusion these are certainly good products and the people who like using them have valid reasons to do so.

It is just not a wise use of my time to learn to use these products. I have been using Joel Friedlander's Book Design Templates for the last few months. I successfully completed several short e-books/Kindle books as well as two large POD projects.

To teach myself how to use these templates, I decided to actually write a book using the template as a time saver. I would learn to use the templates at the same time I finished the project. What I learned was with a single Word document open for a variety of uses ranging from making notes to test writing passages, it was much easier for me to write the book directly into the template.

I was able to see the book as it would actually appear form before my eyes. Since I write non-fiction and my books involve graphics and photos, this made the writing process much easier for me. I am not certain if the same would be true for fiction authors, but these templates have been a wonderful tool for me, both in terms of producing a professional book interior in terms of appearance and a time saving writing tool.