How to Do an Automatic Tweet Campaign – Part 3

twitter-128Sorry for the delay on getting this last part posted. So much for marketing & timing! This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Here are the links to the other articles in the series:

Creating Your First Campaign

I’ll recap the 50,000 foot view mentioned in Part 1:
  1. Create a Hootsuite account (Hopefully, you’ve done this by now)
  2. Populate an MS Excel spreadsheet with your tweets (template below)
  3. Upload the spreadsheet into Hootsuite’s Bulk Scheduler
  4. Sit back and relax, feeling accomplished *sigh* Continue reading

Twitter Hashtags and How To Use Them

Twitter Expert? Hardly!

twitter-128(This is a republication of the article I posted on my reader blog.)

I’m going to state right up front…I am no Twitter expert. I will say, however, having just recently come to finally understand the concept of how Twitter works AND how other people use Twitter, I’m able to grasp the concept of how it can help me communicate with readers. With that said, if anyone else has anything they can add or correct me on, please leave comments. We can all be better at using this amazing social networking venue if we all pitch in.

Since I’m a fiction author, I’ll be sharing this information from the perspective of novels and that portion of the publishing industry, so this article is probably more geared toward the fiction author who wants to learn how to use Twitter to get the word out about their novels, but the concepts covered here can be applied to almost anything, so read on. This article is long, but covers the following topics (click topic to go straight to it, BUT click the MORE button below if you’re not in the actual article.):

  • The Purpose of Twitter
  • How to Use Twitter – The #Hashtag
  • Hashtags for Author, Readers, Writing and Publishing
  • Leveraging Mentions and Twitter Names
  • How to Run a Twitter Campaign (which mentions some Twitter Clients that make using Twitter easier) Continue reading

Self-Publishing Earns Authors More Money

Author Earnings
My friend and fellow author, Genella deGrey, shared a wonderful article called The 7k Report, written by Hugh Howey of Author Earnings. It’s a long read, but WELL worth it. Go ahead. Go read the report. I’ll wait. *Arial gets up and grabs a cup of coffee, peruses her e-mail and does a little marketing while she waits*

There! See? Very informative and pretty thorough = wonderful. There are two reasons I’m sharing this article, and I will thereby summarize the article for those who aren’t ready to spend the time to read the entire entry:

  1. Actual Data – Finally, we authors can see a fairly reliable source of information that lets us know whether or not writing for ourselves is worth the plunge.
  2. Prove a Point – I have always touted to my author friends that traditional publishing is not worth anyone’s time or effort unless the publisher is willing to do the work to sell your books for you. My explanation to follow.

Admittedly, today is a bit of a rant. Many representatives of the Big Five1 have been quoted as saying eBooks and self-publishing are killing the publishing industry2. At a minimum, many articles in general have been waving that colored banner rather vehemently. I will say such chatter has died down as of late, especially from the Big Five…but that’s because everyone has definitely called, “Bullshit” on their claims. Wasn’t it just last year that Amazon announced eBooks outsold print?? I’m just sayin’.

The article above illustrates just how much money publishers are making on the backs of authors. What has always burned me is how those publishers have complained like a whiny kids at a lemonade stand that their sales have dramatically declined and they blame eBooks and self-publishing. What specifically ticks me off is it’s completely UNTRUE!!! Well…in all fairness, it was a twisted truth. Their PRINT sales dramatically declined. But while they were whining and wailing to the world about their woes, tons of money was coming in through the back door of their digital sales. Self-publishing didn’t invent eBooks. It just made it more lucrative and accessible for the author. Publishers were already putting out their own eBooks. Self-publishing just made it a popular purchase.

Summary of Article

Like I said, the article is long but well worth the read. However, a quick summary of the post is the co-author of the article created an application that combs the internet (specifically Amazon.com) for rankings and sales figures. The article then goes in depth with charts and information generated from a sample of book data – the top 1000 or so bestselling books – then breaks it down into which of those books are ,”Indie Published, Small/Medium Publisher, Amazon Published (from imprints like 47North), Big Five published, and Uncategorized Single-Author.” Honestly, I’m not sure how they are defining “Indie Published” versus “Uncategorized Single-Author.” I’ve sent them a message to get clarification.

As it turns out, even though the Big Five publishers are getting the lion’s share of the sales, the amount of money the traditionally published authors actually pull in from the haul pales in comparison to the royalties gained from self-published/indie authors.

Amazon gives 70% of the sale price for self-published books priced at $2.99 – $9.99, and 35% outside of those price ranges. Whereas the average royalty an author gets from the Big Five is 25%. Howey says what I say…it’s worth it to self publish! And he even goes into three scenarios of the self-published author who…

  1. doesn’t make anything and their book(s) get lost in the plethora of books in Amazon’s catalogue.
  2. sells enough to at least pay their bills.
  3. is hugely successful.

All three scenarios – even #1 – sound better than a contract with the Big Five.

My Two Pence

To Traditionally Publish or Indie/Self-Publish? No Question for Me

I use indie and self-publishing as interchangeable terms, for the record.

So why I am all down on the Big Five? Would I ever turn down a contract from them? It depends on the situation, which I’ll ‘splain in a sec. Would I actively seek a contract with them? No. There’s no reason for me to do so…and many authors are in my boat. In all honesty, no publisher would approach me right now because my novels don’t have the kind of sales they’re looking for. So the only kind of contract I could hope to get from the Big Five is the no-money-down, 25% royalty rate AND I do all the marketing. As such, why would I want the contract?

I have many author friends I know personally who have Big Five contracts and they’re getting little-to-no advertising or marketing through their publisher – especially from the new digital imprints. For clarification: These are contracts where the author receives NO book advance and a 25% royalty rate. As mentioned above, any publicity for such contracts are usually through genre-related ads or blog posts on the publisher’s website.

Sheldon Butternut

That’s nice.

When was the last time any of you went to Random House’s blog – or the blog for Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan or Penguin – and checked out their latest releases. Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

Sorry, authors…you can’t count the times you went there to see if your own or your best friend’s announcement was posted. This is specifically if you went there because you find the blog entertaining and want to know the latest releases so you can run out and buy them, being an avid reader. TOR might qualify, though…it definitely has such an appeal.

I also have friends who have Big Five contracts, which included a cash advance and a sometimes better than 25% royalty rate. And each of them are definitely successful. Why? Because the publisher pushed their books.

Please note: Of those author friends of mine who are EXTREMELY successful, every one of them were successfully self-published first. Now, that’s just in my world, but it says a lot to me. The only advantage of a traditional contract these days is the book advance. If the advance was enough to cover my expenses for at least long enough to write the next book, then I would go for it! Otherwise, it’s not worth my time. I give the same advice to other authors. It’s not that we should reject the Big Five…we just need to be smart with our choices. Being an author is, after all, running a business.

Catherine Bybee (left) &      HP Mallory (right) – Successfully Self-Published FIRST, then publishers offered a decent contract

My Publisher of Choice: ME

Self-publishing is a great testing ground for publishers and agents. If a self-published book is hugely successful, then the publisher has less to gamble in giving away a book advance with no guarantee they’re going to make that money back. And I get it…it’s business. They don’t want to fork over four to seven figures and not have some confidence they’ll get an ROI. IF a publisher gives an author an advance, they’d be stupid not create specific or focused ads for that book. They want to make their money back, so if an author is going to get a Big Five contract, my recommendation is, “Show me da money!” Their investment in an advance proves they’re going to push the sales of your book. And today, publishers are only going to give a large advance if they have a guarantee.

As such, there is absolutely no reason NOT to self-publish…period. If I’m the one who has to bust my tukass to get my books out there on blogs, go to conferences and peddle my POD (Print On Demand) books and throw ads all over the place – all at my expense and time, which takes away from my writing time – I’m going to want 70% of the cut because I’m doing 70% or more of the work. If the same efforts are going to get me the same sales, I’m going to want to make sure the money is coming to me. Make sense?

Let’s do the math and let the numbers speak for themselves:

Author A – Traditionally Published

This author has a Big Five contract with no advance and 25% royalties. As described above, the author has to do most, if not all, of the promoting. They have three books under their belt with said publisher and sell 25 copies each of their books – a total of 75 books by the end of the month. The sale price of each book is $3.99 (Big Five publishers usually price their books more than this – as noted in the aforementioned article – but let’s compare apples to apples for the sake of argument).

Also for sake of argument, we’re going to say the author gets 25% of the $3.99 shown here. They actually get it off the wholesale price which is less, but since publishers charge higher AND that elusive “wholesale” price is hard to nail down, the solid 25% should not only make up the difference, but even put the traditionally published author in a more favorable bracket of figures.25% of $3.99 = $0.99 ($0.9975 to be exact – ouch) x 75 books = $74.81

Author B – Self-Published

This author has created her own cover, has a reliable editor friend and the author knows how to do her own formatting (we’ll get into expenses in a minute). She also knows how to publish her books in the various formats and posts them on the various venues – Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc. (which means she has a more limited retail outreach than trad. publishers). She has 3 books under her belt priced at $3.99 each and has also sold 75 books at the end of the month.70% of $3.99 = $2.79 ($2.793 to be exact) x 75 books = $209.47

Wow! Quite the difference, no? That right there should have authors clamoring to get their books self-published. At least that’s how I felt once I saw this explained to me. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and my own income from my books has definitely been an enjoyable bowl of succulent pudding…comparatively speaking. And I look forward to enjoying more than just dessert as I continue to write and promote.

Self-Publishing Expenses

The biggest argument people have against self-publishing is the author doesn’t have to put any money into their books when they go through a traditional publisher, and self-publishing has expenses. Granted, those expenses are up-front, but authors most certainly pay for the editing, cover art and the publisher’s contacts with retail stores through the huge royalty cut they take, so don’t think traditional publishing doesn’t cost you anything. You do pay. It just comes out of your back end on the sales…uh…I mean your sales through the back end. (Heh…even that sounded bad.)

The more you can do on your own, the less expensive it is to publish your own book. All-in-all, I will say you can easily spend anywhere from $100 to $2000 per book if you pay people to edit, format, publish and design the cover for your book. Definitely shop around and if you have skill to offer inside or outside of publishing, you might be able to exchange services. Example: An author friend of mine needed some editing and we needed some construction work done on our house. He helped my husband and I tear down and put up drywall and I edited his short story collection. We both saved each other a lot of money and accomplished our goals.

Now, I will never be the one to advocate a book going out there without any editing. I’m a firm believer in getting your book edited before the public sees it. But don’t let that expense stop you. Fifty Shades of Grey was HORRIBLE in structure, grammar, storyline and character development and collectively the series has sold over 15 million copies. I’m just sayin’. I’ve seen plenty of grammar, spelling and typing mistakes in Big Five books, so they aren’t perfect either. If you can’t afford an editor now, afford one later. Get your stuff out there!  BUT a good cover is crucial! Spare no expense into a getting professional-looking, quality cover. THAT will be your primary point of sale. If your cover looks bad, you won’t sell books.

Read my article on To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish for more information on what it takes to self-publish.

Conclusion

I don’t know about you, but I can pay my car insurance and gas bill from that income mentioned above…and I do! Not only does self-publishing offer greater returns, the self-published author has more flexibility. The author can experiment with pricing, can give away as many copies of their books as their little heart desires and can even do the “loss leader” where at least one title is perma-free or at a discounted price (I’ll have to do another post on that one and other marketing strategies). Though some digital imprints are letting authors give away as many copies as they want, most publishers (even small presses) limit how much you can give away. And some do experiment with pricing, but you have to ask them. Call me a control freak, I want to price my book my way. It’s working for me so far.

Do you have a publishing success story you’d like to share? Traditionally published or self-published. Do you agree or disagree with self-published authors making more money? I’d love to hear your comments.
That’s my two pence…

Arial 😉

1 For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “Big Five”, be advised it used to be the “Big Six”. These terms refer to the largest players of the publishing industry. See Valerie Peterson’s article on About.com for a more extensive explanation.
2 Visit the article eBooks are Killing Publishers, and Other Post Facto Nonsense at the Digital Reader Blog

How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats – Part 4

This is part 4 in a series where I give step-by-step instructions on how to convert your novel into multiple eBook formats. Here are the other parts to the series:

Step 4: Using Calibre

Calibre (pronounced cal-eh-ber) is a FREE eBook management program, which allows you to import eBook files, convert them to a different eBook format, and then transfer them to your eReader. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re looking to convert the PRC file you created in the previous post into the various formats you may need to promote your books. See the end of this tutorial for ideas on how to use these files for promotion.
If you don’t already have the software installed on your computer, please visit their website and download the program suitable for your computer’s operating system (e.g., Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.): http://calibre-ebook.com/
Once you’ve installed the software, follow these steps:
  1. Open Calibre
  2. In the top-left corner, click on the red book icon “Add books” (see Figure 1)
    Figure 1
  3. Navigate to the folder where you’re new PRC file is located and select that PRC file.
  4. Once you’ve added the PRC, it should now show up on the list of books and will probably either be at the top or at least highlighted. Of course, if this is your first book you’re adding to your new Calibre library…it will be the only one. PLEASE NOTE: In Figure 2, I’ve underlined in red some of the information regarding my book Midnight Hunt, which I used in the previous tutorial screenshots. All those fields I instructed you to complete when you entered the metadata on your PRC file. Now you can see those fields at work!
    Figure 2
  5. Click the “Convert Books” button (circled above in Figure 2).
  6. In the window that appears, there are a number of settings to become familiar with and may need changing or updating:
    • Input Format: (top-left of window) This should already have PRC selected. This is the original file format you imported when you selected Add Books. No need to change this, just be aware of it.
    • Output Format: (top-right) Use this drop-down box to select the file format you want to convert the PRC file to. The most common file formats are EPUB (used on Nook and iTunes’ iBooks), MOBI (Kindle and MobiPocket Reader app) & PDF. However, I do not recommend you create a PDF from here. The formatting gets all wonky. So for this first time converting, go ahead and keep the default of MOBI.
    • Tags: (2nd check mark on right) This was taken from the “Main Subject” field entered in the metadata when you created the PRC. Remember when I said you don’t really have many options? Well HERE you can add more. So for my example, I would also add “vampires” and “paranormal”, with commas in between.
    • Series: (3rd check mark on right) If your novel is part of a series, you can enter the series name here.
    • Book Number: (4th check mark on right) This will default to “Book 1.00” so just leave it if it is a stand-alone or the first book in your series. Change it by clicking on the arrows. Also some people have started using decimals for those in-between novellas and short stories in a series. So a short story that takes place between Books 1 & 2 of a series might be numbered 1.1, for example.
  7. Once you’ve made the changes or additions to the fields mentioned above, click the OK button. The window will close and you should see, in the bottom-right corner, a grey arrow pointing at the jobs it’s processing (right now 1). Once the eBook has been converted, you should now see that file version listed under “Formats” below the book cover (see Figure 3)
    Figure 3
  8. Rinse & Repeat! To convert your eBook to other formats, just follow 5-7, but instead of selecting “MOBI” from the drop-down menu on the right, select EPUB or whatever format you want to convert to. Each version will appear under “Formats” below the cover as pictured in Figure 3.
CONGRATULATIONS!! You’ve just now converted your PRC to one or more other eBook formats, which you can use for marketing purposes.

Now…where are those files??

It’s great you’ve converted the PRC file, but where the heck are they now? They’re located in the Calibre eBook Library folder, which can be found by doing the following:
  1. At the top of your Calibre window, click on the Calibre Library button (see Figure 4).
    Figure 4
  2. A small dialogue box will appear (also Figure 4). Click on the small computer-like icon next to the “New Location” text box. This will open another dialogue box. At the top of this box, you should see the path to where your eBook files are located. Make note of that location. Then cancel this dialogue box and the one pictured in Figure 4.
  3. Now go to your “My Computer” folder, or the window that will allow you to access your computer files, and navigate to that folder you took note of in the previous step.
  4. Calibre automatically creates an author folder every time you add a book. Within that folder, it also creates a folder of the book title. THIS is the folder where your eBook files are located. You can keep those files in your Calibre Library, but you might also want to COPY those files and then PASTE them into the folder where you created your PRC file (which is also where you put your MS Word Document and book cover image).
There you have it! Whew!

Promotional Ideas

So now you have your files. What do you do with them? Reproducing your eBooks (as long as you own the rights) costs NOTHING and it’s a great way to get your books into the hands of readers. I know many authors balk at giving their books away, but when you’re first starting out, your main focus should be to gain a following of readers who will talk about your books and get your name out there. If they enjoyed your book, they’ll recommend it to a friend. The more people who know about you, the more chance you have of increasing your sales. So don’t let giving your books away for free scare you when you’re just starting out.

Here are some suggestions on how to promote yourself by free eBook copies:

  • Guest Blog Giveaways – If you’re guesting on someone’s blog, you can offer to give away a few copies of your eBooks to those who comment on the post. This is a GREAT way to engage with readers. And if readers leave comments, please be sure to visit that blog and respond to every one of their comments (if you’re just starting out). Readers love to engage with authors.
  • Blog Tour Prizes – Team up with a bunch of author friends and have a huge giveaway of your books as an eBook bundle.
  • Book Clubs – Contact some book clubs and let them know you’ll give them free eBook copies of your novel.
  • Libraries – Contact your local libraries to see if they have an eBook loaning program and donate copies of your eBooks.
  • Charity Causes – Many charitable organizations are looking for prizes to auction off or reward people for giving of their time and money. Offer to give some copies of your eBooks to help out!
I hope these tutorials and suggestions were helpful. If you have any questions on any of the steps, do not hesitate to contact me! You can send me a message at the following locations:
That’s my two pence…

How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats – Part 3

This is part 3 in a series where I give step-by-step instructions on how to convert your novel into multiple eBook formats. Here are the other parts to the series:

In the previous post, we covered how to prepare your novel to be converted into a PRC file. Below are the step-by-steps instructions on how to use Mobipocket eBook Creator. If you don’t have this FREE program, be sure to visit the previous post for a link on where you can download it. On to the tutorial!

Step 3: Using Mobipocket eBook Creator

Be sure you’ve done the prep work in the previous post and installed Mobipocket eBook Creator before executing the following steps:

  1. Open Mobipocket Creator
  2. In the window that appears, go to the “Import From Existing File” section and click on “MS Word document
    Figure 2
  3. Click the “Browse…” button for “Choose a file:” and navigate to the folder where you placed your final MS Word document for your novel (mentioned in Step 2: #1)
  4. Then click the “Browse…” button for “Create publication in folder:“. This is where you want to save your final eBook files, which should be in the same folder as pictured above in Figure 1.
  5. Just leave the defaults for “Language” and “Encoding” (unless you have your own preferences to change this) and then click “Import” (see Figure 3).
    Figure 3
  6. In the left-hand navigation that appears in the new window, it should already be selected on “Publication Files” and you’ll notice in the right-hand area of the window, the MS Word document you’ve imported has been converted to an HTML file (Figure 4).
    Figure 4
  7. Now we’ll add your cover art. Click on “Cover Image” in the left-hand navigation area, and then click on the “Add a cover image” button and navigate to your cover image. If you did the prep work above, it should be in the same folder where your MS Word document was located. It should import your book cover once you’ve selected it. (Figure 5) At this point, you may need to maximize the program window since the “Update” button we’re looking for won’t be visible. (Remember, if your book cover image is too small, you will receive an error when you finally build your eBook. See Step 2: #2 above for details).
    Figure 5
  8. Now click “Update” (Figure 5) and it should take you back to the Publication Files view.
  9. Tagging your file is important for proper indexing on eReaders, so click on “Metadata” in the left-hand navigation area to do this tagging.
  10. Remember that optional information I mentioned above? This is where you’ll be using it. The fields are explained below. Mandatory fields are marked with a red asterisk, but like they are in the program. Though some fields are optional (like the author name) you’ll probably want to complete as much as you can (see Figures 6 & 7).
    Figure 6
    • eBook Title*: Type in the title how you want it to appear in an eReader. If you have a series, you might want to include the number of the book in the series (e.g., MIDNIGHT HUNT: Book 3 of the Bonded By Blood Vampire Chronicles).
    • Author: Your pen name or whatever name you’re using for writing.
    • Publisher: I personally have created my own publishing cover for my self-published novels. Doing so prevents your book from screaming “I’m self-published!” Or you could leave it blank.
    • ISBN: For the eBook version of your book. Do not use the print ISBN. There is a difference.
    • Language*: The default is Enlgish (United States), so change as applicable for your novel.
    • Main subject*: Pretty self-explanatory, but keep in mind this list is pretty limited. I cannot, for instance, specify that my novel is a paranormal romance. Choose the genre that BEST represents your book. Technically, my novel is fantasy fiction, so I could choose “Fantasy”. But Midnight Hunt (and my series) has very strong romantic elements and romance novels sell more than fantasy novels do…so I choose “Romance” as my main subject. Think about how you want readers to find you.
    • Description: This is your back of the book blurb.
    • Review: This is where you’ll paste those snippets of reviews you’re proud of (if you have any at this point).
    • Publishing Date: Must be in the mm/dd/yyyy format
    • Adult Only checkbox: Be sure to check this if you have content that isn’t suitable for readers under age 18.
      Figure 7
    • Demo PRC file: Scroll down past your book cover and you’ll see this and the rest of the fields to complete (Figure 7). This isn’t really necessary since most websites already provide a way to give readers a sneak peak or sample of your book, so just leave this blank.
    • Suggested Retail Price*: You only have two currencies available – US Dollars and Euros. Just enter the number of your book price (e.g., 5.99) in the text box and select the appropriate currency (US Dollars is the default).
    • Territory Restriction: Complete this field only if you cannot distribute your book worldwide. You’ll type in the country/countries your book is restricted. I usually leave this blank.
  11. Click the “Update button and you should return to the Publication Files view.
  12. Woot!! You’ve prepped your file. Now to create your PRC. Click the “Build” button at the top of the screen (Figure 8).
    Figure 8
  13. You will come to the Build Publication page. Choose your “Compression Options” (I usually select “No Compression“) and I recommend “No encryption” under “Encryption options” (Figure 9). Please keep in mind that any encryption you do limits your readers. I, personally, have several eReaders on various devices. If I want to switch from one reader to another, encryption prevents that from happening. Just food for thought.
    Figure 9
  14. Click the “Build” button. (See Figure 9). This should take you to a screen that says, “Your eBook is now ready. What do you want to do with it?” I usually like to “Open folder containing eBook” by clicking the OK button. It will do exactly what it indicates and you’ll get to see your eBook files you’ve just created. CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Whew! Now that we have an eBook file we can work with, we’ll need to use Calibre to convert it. If you already have Calibre, then you probably already know how to convert an eBook and can take it from here. However, for those who have no idea what Calibre is, go on to the next article – How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats – Part 4. (Sorry this is so long, but as you can see…it’s not easy to self-publish.)

Thanks for your patience as I walked you through all the steps! One day I’ll do a video (*sighs*).
CLICK HERE to read the next post.
That’s my two pence…

How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats – Part 2

This is part 2 in a series where I give step-by-step instructions on how to convert your novel into multiple eBook formats. Here are the other parts to the series:

In the previous article, I gave an overview of formatting your eBook, then step-by-step instructions on how to convert your formatted MS Word document into a PRC file (used by the Kindle) with Mobipocket Creator.

As promised, I’ll go over how to take that PRC file (or just about any unprotected/non-DRM file) into multiple eBook formats with the assistance of Calibre.

Formatting Your Book: Overview

In the self-publishing process, converting my novel into various eBook formats is usually one of the last steps I take. Prior to reaching this point, I’ve done the following:

  1. Formatted my MS Word document so it’s ready to become an eBook and I usually create three versions: One for Amazon with Amazon hyperlinks; one for Smashwords with no hyperlinks (it will be rejected by their meat-grinder otherwise); and one to sell on my own website AND use for my personal marketing purposes.
  2. Created my eBook cover.
  3. Uploaded my formatted MS Word document and cover directly to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and it’s sitting in the queue waiting to be approved by Amazon.
  4. Uploaded my formatted MS Word document and cover directly to Smashwords and it’s ready to be downloaded by readers, but probably still waiting to be approved for their Premium Catalogue so it can be distributed to the other vendors (i.e., B&N, iTunes, Sony Reader, Diesel, Kobo, etc.).

Although Smashwords does create the various eBook format and I do have the option of downloading their versions, I like to create my own files for my personal marketing efforts because I can put whatever links I want to inside my eBook and I don’t have a vendor balking that I’m linking to a competitor. The Smashwords file versions (if you read item #1 above) doesn’t have any buy links, although it might tell users how to get to my website (e.g., “Go to www.ArialBurnz.com” versus “Go to www.ArialBurnz.com“).

Step 2: Convert the MS Word Document to a PRC file

Getting Ready to Convert to PRC

To make this process easier on yourself, I recommend you do the following:

Create or designate a folder on your computer where you have your novel. This will also be the folder where you’ll save your eBook files. Like most authors, I have a folder specifically for each of my novels, as I go through several revisions and I save many documents along the way. When I create my final file ready to publish to eBook, I will create a folder titled “eBooks”. Within that folder, I’ll put the two following files (see Figure 1):

  1. My formatted MS Word Document – this is the final version I’m going to convert to an eBook
  2. My eBook cover – you should use the largest resolution you have. As Amazon says in their image guidelines: “For best quality, your image would be 1563 pixels on the shortest side and 2500 pixels on the longest.” These are  minimum requirements. My covers are a standard size of 1700 x 2550 (used by Lightning Source).
Figure 1 (click to enlarge)
You should also have the following optional information handy:
  • ISBN – If you’ve already published to Smashwords, you should have an ISBN assigned, so go ahead and grab that. From your Smashwords Dashboard, click on ISBN Manager in the left-hand navigation area, and scroll down until you see your book(s) listed in a table. Your ISBN should be there. (NOTE: The ISBN for your eBook will always be different for your print book, so do not use the ISBN from your Print On Demand book.)
  • Back of the Book Blurb – Again, if you’ve already published to Smashwords and/or Amazon/KDP, you should have this written. You’ll be using this in the “Description” field when we create your PRC.
  • Reviews – If you’ve already farmed your book out to some reviewers and have the text from their reviews, you will have the opportunity to put it into the “Review” field.

About Mobipocket Creator

Here’s the funny thing…the Mobipocket eBook Creator doesn’t actually create a MOBI file, as the title of the software seems to indicate. It actually creates a PRC file. Don’t ask me why…talk to the developers.
The Mobipocket eBook Creator is a FREE program you can download to create the PRC file and then that can be converted to whatever format you need with the help of Calibre. Since I had a dickens of a time finding a YouTube tutorial or even a comprehensible guide by Mobipocket on how to do this, I decided to create my own. (Sheesh! You want something done right…) It’s simple…you just need to know what to do.
Please Note: the following instructions DO NOT include an automatically generated Table of Contest (TOC). This will produce an eBook without one. If you’d like to generate an eBook that DOES have a TOC, you’ll need to do that in MS Word. Here’s the link that shows you how to do that: http://youtu.be/OkyisWIE3kQ (E-mail me if you have questions or problems creating your TOC.)
For some reason, many people think you need to have the HTML version of your file in order to use Mobipocket eBook Creator. Mobipocket eBook Creator automatically converts your document into HTML. I NEVER start with an HTML version. I always convert directly from an MS Word file.
Be sure to download and install the program by following the Mobipocket eBook Creator link above. Once you’ve installed it, you can follow these steps outlined in the tutorial, which is in the next blog post – How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats – Part 3.
That’s my two pence…

How to Do an Automatic Tweet Campaign – Part 2

This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Here are the links to the other articles in the series:

How to Schedule a Tweet with Hootsuite

Even though you can schedule messages for the other social networking platforms, I’m just going to cover how to work with tweets for the purposes of this article. Most of this will apply to the other social network accounts.

Why would you schedule a single tweet? Or perhaps just a small handful? Perhaps your readers are in a different time zone and they’re awaken when you’re sleeping or driving home in rush-hour traffic. Perhaps you want a few timely messages to go out while you’re at an event or at work. You could set up a small group of tweets to remind people of a seminar you’ll be teaching and you want to be sure they’re on time. Telling them to watch for a certain hashtag could alert them on their phones while you’re getting ready to teach. Be creative! Here’s how you would schedule a single message through Hootsuite:

  1. Login to your free Hootsuite account.
  2. In the top‐left corner of the home screen, there should be a text box containing the words “Compose message…”. Click inside that text box (see Figure 1).
    Figure 1
  3. When you do, it will expand to look like Figure 2. Go ahead and type the message you wish to tweet in the expanded text box.
    Figure 2
  4. Notice as you type, a counter appears at the bottom with the Twitter logo (See Figure 3). This lets you know how many characters you have remaining for your message. Also note there’s a text box that says “Add a link…” You guessed it! This is where you can put a link, should you wish to include one. The benefit of using their link option is 1) they’ll shrink it for you and 2) their “owl” links will create click statistics for you. Yes, you will be able to see how many people actually click on your links. GREAT for figuring out how to improve your marketing approach. Let’s go ahead and add a link to see how it works.
    Figure 3
  5. When you click into that text box, it will also expand and a new “SHRINK” button will appear (as you see in Figure 4).
    Figure 4
  6. Type or paste your link into the text box and click the SHRINK button (see Figure 5).
    Figure 5
  7. When you click the SHRINK button, it will not only make the link a shorter link, but it will also insert it at the end of your message (see Figure 6). At this point, you can just hit the “Send Now” button and it will be posted onto Twitter as if you’d posted it live at Twitter.com. This is how you use Hootsuite as a social media management tool. You can send live messages on all your accounts within a single application. However, for this tutorial, we want to schedule this tweet.
    Figure 6
  8. Just above and to the left of the “Send Now” button, there’s a little calendar icon (labeled with the dark-grey “Scheduling” balloon in Figure 7 below). When you click on that calendar or Scheduling icon, the window will expand and show a mini calendar with other options. Using the mini calendar, you can click through the months and click on a day and it will automatically update the date text box to the right of the calendar (see Figure 7, #1).
    Figure 7
  9. Set the time by clicking on the drop-down boxes (Figure 7, #2) and AM or PM by clicking on the corresponding buttons (Figure 7, #3). NOTE: If you’re scheduling a tweet/message and you want to be notified when it goes out so you can be online to answer questions, tick the “Email me when message is sent” check box.
  10. Once you’ve composed your message, shortened your link and scheduled a date/time, click on the “Schedule” button in the bottom right-hand corner of the window (see bottom-right of Figure 7). The scheduling/message box should shrink back to the small text box we saw at the beginning and you should get a confirmation the message was scheduled (See Figure 8).
    Figure 8

The Rules of Bulk Scheduling in Hootsuite

In general, a tweet campaign can be anywhere from 10-100 tweets sent out in one day, or thousands spread over several days. Due to the limits of Hootsuite, you can only schedule up to 350 tweets in your queue at once. If you took advantage of that max number, to have several campaigns scheduled over a few weeks (a couple of days here and there, let’s say), you can imagine how long it would take to schedule each and every tweet for a campaign if you followed the above instructions. What a nightmare! Remember, to best utilize your valuable time, use the above method for those one/few messages you need to schedule. If you need/want to schedule more than 10, I recommend the Bulk Scheduler.
Bulk scheduling does take some time to initially set up, but once you’ve created your first campaign, you can repeat that campaign just by making some subtle changes. Hootsuite has a list of rules and formatting restrictions that aren’t really necessary to go over here because the spreadsheet I’ve provided here will handle most of the formatting and some of the other things are “fixed” automatically in the scheduler. However, those rules are in the Bulk Schedule Updates window, so the first time you go through this, you might was to read them to educate yourself.
However, there are a few rules the should be addressed or you’ll get errors when you try to upload your spreadsheet:
  1. Duplicate Messages Not Allowed – You cannot use the same exact wording, character for character, in more than one tweet in your campaign. Not sure if Twitter/Hootsuite has some kind of timer (perhaps 24 hours), but this doesn’t mean you can’t send the same exact message tomorrow. The purpose of this rule is to prevent people from spamming the same message multiple times. However, you can change your message by at least one character (even a space) and the tweet will not be rejected (e.g., using “&” instead of “and” will change the tweet; even “Click here!” and “Click here!!” are different just because of the extra exclamation point).
  2. 10-Minute Restriction – You cannot schedule the first tweet in your campaign within 10 minutes of uploading your spreadsheet. So if it’s 7:00 am and my spreadsheet has my first tweet firing off at 7:10 am, by the time I login to Hootsuite and upload my spreadsheet I’ll have run into that 10-minute window. I don’t recommend doing a last-minute campaign, but I’ve woken up many-a-morning, gasping into an upright position in my bed, exclaiming, “@#$%?*@! I forgot to schedule my campaign last night!” and staggering bleary-eyed to my computer in my pajamas. NOTE: Although it isn’t a rule, I don’t recommend scheduling your tweets less than 10 minutes apart, either. It’s just plain obnoxious.
  3. 115 Characters ONLY – Hootsuite has a CSV template you can download, but they don’t tell you that even though you are allowed 140 characters in a tweet, you actually cannot have more than 115 characters in your message PLUS your link. The spreadsheet I’ve included here will solve that problem.
Okay, we’re getting really long here again for a single post, so I’m going to take this over to Part 3!
CLICK HERE to read the next post.
Cheers!
Self-Publishing Earns Authors More Money

How to Do an Automatic Tweet Campaign – Part 1

Sorry! Taking a quick break from converting eBooks to multiple formats in favor of the upcoming Black Friday shopping event. Marketing is timing and I thought this would give people enough time to get their Tweet Campaigns ready for the biggest shopping day of the year! GO TEAM!

This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Here are the links to the other articles in the series:

twitter-128Twitter Works!

There is no doubt about it! Twitter is a great tool to help market your books by word of mouth. My friend Catherine Bybee SWEARS by Twitter because that’s how her books gained recognition. Go check out her Amazon rankings and see how ultra successful she is!

She stated in a recent Twitter workshop, “People need to see your name 7 – 10 times before they’ll buy your stuff!” And Twitter will help you do that! (*Arial clears her throat…* “Arial Burnz…Arial Burnz…”)

I would also recommend you get Kristen Lamb’s book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World where she shows authors how to leverage social media as a whole. What I show you here is only a part of what she touches upon in her bestselling book.

I hear some of you protesting, “I’ve already tried Twitter and it didn’t work!” (Or you know a few authors who have and failed.)

Well, it depends on how you measure success. Read Kristen’s book and she’ll tell you how to do it right. But also take a closer look at what you/your author friends did. First, let’s look at who is following you. Most authors have authors following them. We want READERS following us. Authors are great emotional and professional support, but let’s face it…the vast majority of us don’t buy or read other authors’ books. We can’t! We have our own books to write and we have TONS of author friends. Just how many books can we buy to support our multitude of friends before we go broke? Authors are not the pond in which you should be fishing. (More on finding and properly fishing in the Readers ponds in another article.)

Secondly, did you have a constant stream of BUY MY BOOK tweets? That can be a sure-fire way to cause many eye-rolling gestures with massive unfollows in your wake or many people ignoring you. It’s just annoying, and you’ll know what I mean if you watch the Twitter feeds.

In this series of articles, I’ll not only show you how Tweet a little more personally, but do it more effectively without spending all day at the computer or on your smart phone. You’ll be too busy checking your stats!

The Personal Touch

Using Twitter with a genuine flair is the best approach to an organic response. What does that mean for us authors? Be yourself and stop sounding like a ticker-tape stream of adverts.

Here’s a general rule I learned from an author friend (Thanks, Heather Lyons!) and her publicist: For every 1 BUY MY BOOK (BMB) tweet you send, send 5 that are more personal or reflect who you are as a person/author. I call it the 1:5 TMR (Tweet Marketing Ratio). We’re not recommending ultra personal information, like posting pictures of your unmentionables or stalker-worthy details. Instead, let your personality come through. Here are some ideas for personal filler tweets:

  • Favorite and inspirational quotes by other authors, public figures or people you admire.
  • Jokes or humorous quotes. People LOVE to laugh and it’s a great way to win favor with others.
  • Share information about OTHER authors and help them promote their books by exchanging tweets. And swapping tweets with authors of the same genre is great cross-promotion, too. IDEA: Get a group of authors together to exchange tweets and you can save some time in composing about 50% of those personal filler tweets by promoting your friends using their tweets.
  • Share links to useful, funny or tear-jerking articles, videos or pictures. And it’s even better if they’re related to what you write. For example: My main character is a hot Scottish vampire named Broderick MacDougal, so I retweeted this picture with the tweet, “Broderick MacDougal needs 2 get one of these!” and mentioned several of my rabid fans…
Get creative and see what you can come up with! Even adding humor, drama or teasers to your buy-my-book tweets can be personal. These are some of the tweets on which I’ve received favorable comments or they’re retweeted often:
  • Woo hoo! My book MIDNIGHT CONQUEST is perma #FREE on #Amazon now!! *Does the Snoopy dance* http://ow.ly/qNOX4
  • Want a hunky Scottish #vampire in your hands? Download MIDNIGHT CONQUEST #FREE at #Amazon! http://ow.ly/qNOX4
  • “I want the taste of you on my soul.” Favorite #quote by #vampire Broderick MacDougal in MIDNIGHT CAPTIVE *sigh* http://ow.ly/qNTiN
  • OMG! I got an AMAZING #5Star review at #Amazon!! *falls off office chair* http://ow.ly/qNTGh #vampires #witches #werewolves Oh yeah!!
I wrote an article about Twitter Hashtags & How To Use Them, where I cover #hashtags and how to leverage Twitter. Be sure to check that post out if some of the above tweets looked strange to you OR if you haven’t quite figured out how to use Twitter.

What’s a Tweet Campaign?

In short, a tweet campaign is a stream of tweets you send out over a period of time for a promotional purpose, like a book release day, a free book day, spreading the news for a blog tour stops, or the like. You can do a campaign that spans an hour or even days.

“How the HECK am I supposed to do a campaign for DAYS?? My books aren’t going to write themselves!” I hear many of you screeching out there.

No worries!! Remember, at the beginning of this article when I said you won’t have to be sitting at the computer all day? Well, I meant it!

Hootsuite is Your Friend!

I’m a gal who likes to share a good thing, ergo why I have this blog. Now I can say to all my author friends, “Go to this article I posted!” And one great tool I discovered earlier this year (I know…I’m slow) is HOOTSUITE!

Hootsuite is a web-based social media interface that allows you to post on various social media networks, like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, foursquare, WordPress and mixi. AND you can even connect with multiple accounts (e.g., I’ve connected my Arial Burnz Twitter and Facebook accounts and my Mystical Press Twitter account). Very convenient, as you can literally post one message and have it posted to all those networks with one click! I kid you not! LOVE this tool! There is a free account and a premium account. More on that later.

What I like BEST about Hootsuite is you can schedule your tweets (or whatever other messages you’d like to blast). And I don’t just mean typing in your tweet, scheduling it on the calendar for a date and time in the future and then rinse and repeat fifty times, like you have to do with TweetDeck. I mean BULK SCHEDULE!! Like up to 350 tweets at once! No joke!

More screeches echo across cyberspace. “OMG! Who would send out 350 tweets in a day!?” Well, very obnoxious people, to be sure. But I am not advocating you do that. That’s just how many messages can be queued/scheduled at once in Hootsuite.

How to Bulk Schedule a Tweet Campaign Using Hootsuite

I can almost hear those wheels turning and tumblers clicking into place. I think you know where I’m going with this. If you spend a little time up front planning and preparing, you can schedule several days’ worth of social networking posts – days and even weeks ahead of the event!

Here’s our 50,000-foot view:

  1. Create a Hootsuite account (WAIT! Don’t do it now! I have some money-saving tips for you, so keep your shirt on and stay here!)
  2. Populate an MS Excel spreadsheet with your tweets (template provided)
  3. Upload the spreadsheet into Hootsuite’s Bulk Scheduler
  4. Sit back and relax, feeling accomplished *sigh*

Create a Hootsuite Account

Hootsuite is free to join and it allows you to set up to 5 social networking accounts. However, there are several wonderful features that are only available to paid, premium subscribers – and the Bulk Scheduler is one of those delightful features. The fee is only $9.99 a month if you pay monthly and you can cancel anytime. $8.99/mo if you pay for the year at once – but that’ll be to the tune of just under $108. Ouch! Click here to see what each of their plans has to offer and all the nifty features.

But don’t fret too much about the money right now! Hootsuite gives you the chance to try their services for free in two ways, giving you 37 FREE days you can do campaigns! And I recommend taking advantage of both:

  1. 7 Days FREE – Join for free and, when you’re ready to use the Bulk Scheduler, they’ll tell you it’s a premium feature. But at the bottom of the window that pops up, it has a link to try it free for 7 days. I would recommend you plan a couple of campaigns first before you start your 7-day free trial.
    Note the link UNDER the big, green button!
  2. 30 Days FREE – Did you like your 7-day trial? GREAT! After your 7 days are over, you can plan your next few campaigns and then sign up for the premium account. You’ll automatically get get the first 30 days for free.

You will have to enter a credit card, though, but they won’t charge you during that 30-day trial. You cancel anytime before the 30 days is up, so if you can’t afford the $9.99 per month…put a reminder on your calendar. If I remember correctly, Hootsuite will send you several e-mails reminding you…but it doesn’t hurt to have your own reminder as a back-up.

I am confident, though, once you try the Bulk Scheduler, you’ll see how valuable this tool can be for your marketing campaign and forego that one night a month you go to a movie or take a sack lunch to work instead of going out to lunch. And remember, that $9.99 per month (which is the plan I use) is a tax write-off because it’s business related. 😉
So…visit www.hootsuite.com and sign up for your free account. But don’t trigger that 7-day trial until you’re ready to do a campaign! Right now, I encourage you to explore and set up your accounts and feeds. Hootsuite has a lot of useful walk-through steps that will show you how to add a social networking account and other functions in the web application. I encourage you to explore everything to see some of the amazing free features and what the premium account has to offer – like click reports, retweet statistics, Google Analytics, Facebook and LinkedIn Insights, Twitter and Facebook Aggregates and more! You can even see all your followers AND who they follow in a single glance by look at your contacts. Obviously, I’m in love with this tool.

To be continued…

This post is getting a little long, so I’m going to split this up. I’ll cover how to schedule a tweet and then show you how to bulk schedule a campaign in the next article. However, if you’re too impatient, I give a smaller version of using Hootsuite in that article I linked above to my reader blog, which I’ll probably be moving to this blog once I’ve finished this series. Here’s the link again: Twitter Hashtags & How To Use Them
In the meantime, go create your free Hootsuite account and do some exploring.
CLICK HERE to read the next post.
That’s my two pence…
Arial 😉

How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats – Part 1

Now that I’ve addressed the issue of To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish in the previous article, I’ll tackle how to convert a novel to multiple eBook formats.

This is part 1 in a series where I give step-by-step instructions on how to convert your novel into multiple eBook formats. Here are the other parts to the series:

This series will cover how to convert an MS Word document to a PRC file, which is used by the Kindle. I will then show you how to convert that into multiple eBook formats, and even provide a few suggestions on how to use those files for promotion. For the author who already has an eBook file, skip to Part 2.

The article below is for the author who wishes to convert their MS Word Document to an eBook format for self-publishing purposes. OR how to convert any file to an eBook format. Click here to read a tip for promoting a series.

Here are the four “big picture” steps I take to convert an MS Word document to multiple eBook formats.

  1. Prep your MS Word Document for eBook consumption
  2. Convert the MS Word Document to a PRC file
  3. Import the PRC or other file into Calibre (actually pronounced cal-i-ber)
  4. Convert to any eBook format using Calibre

Disclaimer

I am absolutely not advocating piracy or a method to take advantage of your publisher. You are responsible for the agreement you have with your publisher, so know this doesn’t give you carte blanche to make as many formats of your book as you want and give them out free to the world if your publisher has specifically stated you can only give out 10 or whatever your contract says. Nor is this permission to take what eBooks you have written by other authors, convert them and e-mail them to your friends and family. PLEASE respect the rights and hard work of the authors and publishers who produce these eBooks for your reading pleasure. Piracy SUCKS!

Step 1: Prep your MS Word Document for eBook Consumption

I will not be going into great detail on this step for a few reasons. First, I’m assuming every author has a working knowledge of MS Word and since there are so many versions of MS Word out there, I can’t possibly illustrate every step for every version. If you’re writing a book fresh (meaning starting a new document), I recommend writing your novel in the Smashwords template (either theirs or the one I modified – links to both are below). If you have a book already written, then you can copy and paste your book into the template…but you’ll have quite a mess to clean up. This is why it is to important to know how to use Styles in MS Word.

There are three resources I’ll provide to help you achieve the goal of formatting your own book for eBook:

  1. Smashwords – Smashwords is how I learned to self-publish. They already have a slew of advice, templates and information that will teach you about what you need to know to self-publish your book – including giving you a distribution platform. I know it’s a lot of reading, but if you want self-publish your own novels OR learn to do everything yourself instead of hiring out, thereby saving money, then you must read it all. This is part of being a self-published author. Also, try some of these YouTube.com tutorials.
  2. Modified Smashwords Template – Because I’m not crazy about the way they did their template – meaning, they didn’t have enough guides and placeholder text for my taste – I decided to modify the template for my own use. It also has a Table of Content (TOC) included, with instructions on how to update it. Clicking on the heading for this topic will download a zip file with the template I use, and this template, so far, has never been rejected when it goes through the Smashwords “meat grinder” as they so affectionately call it. You can also use this same template for uploading your MS Word Document to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). The comments I’ve included will guide you how to change the document for those purposes and the content is that Latin filler text.
  3. Styles in MS Word – To properly use the templates, one should have a familiarity with Styles in MS Word, as I mentioned in my previous article. The heading link for this topic should take you to the search results for “How to Use Styles in MS Word” on YouTube.com. Lynda.com has a lot of very useful and informative tutorials. You can also search YouTube.com for tutorials on “how to format your MS Word document for ebook” and explore those videos.
We have some prep work to do before you can create your PRC file, so let’s go onto that post – How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats – Part 2.
That’s my two pence…
Self-Publishing Earns Authors More Money

To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish

I said I was going to post an article on how to convert your MS Word Document to any eBook format. However, as I started writing it, I thought some self-publishing topics deserved some facetime. “Should I self-publish?” is a question authors should answered first. If you’re only here to learn how to convert a file your publisher gave you, then go ahead and skip to the next article: How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats

What it Takes to Self-Publish

Self-publishing is NOT easy and anyone who has done it can testify how much hard work goes into publishing your own book. If you have all the technical skills and resources to do it, you can publish your book with little-to-no upfront costs. However, keep in mind that the less you know technically, the more it will cost you because you’ll have to pay someone to do what you cannot. If you’re really good at bartering and have other skills to trade, you might work this in your favor to save money.

This article ONLY covers the technical aspect of publishing a book. Whether or not you sell your self-published novel depends on writing a good book to begin with, writing MORE books (never stop writing) and then marketing those books.

But how do you know if you CAN do at least do the technical part? I ask you the following questions:

eBook Publishing Questions

  1. Do you have the money to pay for an editor OR the ability to trade services? Is it necessary to have an editor? In my professional opinion, ABSOLUTELY! So many authors are putting their work out their without being edited and it is the primary reason why many readers/reviewers/bloggers won’t touch a self-published book with a ten-meter cattle prod. If you want to be successful at publishing your book AND stand out in the sea of bad self-published novels, an editor is the first step to producing a quality product. NO author can edit their own book. We’re just too close to the material. Even Stephen King said, “To edit is divine.” At a later date, I will publish a list of editors that are recommended by authors who are also inexpensive/affordable.
  2. Do you know how to use MS Word? Most authors will answer “yes” to this question, and I know it seems like a no-brainer. This is the most common word processor used by authors for writing their manuscripts. Though OpenOffice.org does indeed create a free word processing tool, you still have to save your files in the *.doc file format. However, you should probably feel very comfortable enough with your word processor to know how to use Track Changes, page breaks and section breaks, modify page layout options, and change the metadata of your file.
  3. Do you know how to use Styles in MS Word? Styles will not only save you time, but they’ll help you keep your document free of clutter, from a technical perspective. In short, any formatting you apply to your words (e.g., italics, centering, bolding, font size, etc.) has a default MS Word Style attached to it. Styles will help keep that formatting uniform and if you need to make changes to the font, for example, ALL of your text will reflect that change if you do so in Styles instead of having to comb through the document to change all those instances. If you’re still submitting to publishers, editors will LOVE you if you know how to use MS Styles. A lot of this might sound like Greek, so I recommend visiting the YouTube.com tutorials to learn how to work with Styles in MS Word. If your file has a lot of clutter in the background (technically speaking), it will be rejected by KDP, Lulu and Smashwords and you can’t publish your book.
  4. Do you know how to create a professional looking eBook and/or Print Cover? All books have to have a cover and, whether we like it or not, readers usually buy your book based on the appeal of your cover. Good content is not enough. Your cover should look like your genre, be professional and capsulize your story. Gimp.org has a Photoshop-like graphic editing application for FREE. If you have some experience at graphics but don’t have the money to buy Photoshop, you should try Gimp. Incidentally, Adobe has a new service called Adobe Creative Cloud. For $49.99 per month, you can get MOST of the Adobe products. If you just need a graphics editor and PDF converter/printer, it’s probably not worth it. However, if you’re like me and use many of the Adobe tools (e.g., Photoshop for graphics, Acrobat XI Pro to create PDFs, Audition to create audiobooks, Premier to create trailers, Dreamweaver for web design), then the fifty bucks a month is a steal! (More on producing your own audiobooks and your cover in other posts.)
  5. Are you familiar enough with the Internet to upload files and fill out forms? One would think most people are, but one would be surprised to learn how many people are not. As an ex-software instructor, I’ve come to understand that most people actually know just enough to get by and do their daily tasks. If I ask the question, “What browser do you use to get on the the Internet?” MOST people answer, “Google.” Google is not a browser…it’s a search engine. My experience has taught me that the people who don’t know the difference will probably have a difficult time self-publishing their books due to a lack of familiarity with the Internet and understanding programs as a whole.

Print Publishing Questions

You should answer “yes” to all the above questions in order to delve into print publishing (e.g., CreateSpace or Lulu). Although you might not sell any print books, I highly recommend having your novella or larger in print so you have something to sign at conventions and book signings and for giveaways. Here are some additional questions pertaining to print:
  1. Do you have the ability to convert your book to PDF format? Let me clarify this question by asking, “Do you know how to format your eBook to print?” CreateSpace and Lulu have templates, but there is a slew of information to learn regarding how to get your book ready for print. Just visit this CreatSpace.com page as an example of the choices you need to make (e.g., trim size, full bleed, how many pages, the type of paper, glossy or matte for your cover, etc.).
  2. Do you know how to convert a PDF template into a working graphics file to create your cover? As an example, CreateSpace has an online tool to help you create a template for your book cover. You specify the type of interior, your trim size, how many pages and the color of your paper, and it spits out a ZIP file for you to download so you can create a cover that will have the proper trim size and spine width for your book. You then have to take one of the templates in the ZIP file and convert that in your graphics program to use it as a guide. You have to answer “yes” to question 1 in order to get the information to create your template. THEN you need to convert that graphic back into a flattened PDF file to be uploaded for publication. Whew!
If you answered “no” to most of the questions above, then you should ask yourself one more question to determine if self-publishing is right for you: Do you have the money to pay someone to do all the above? This can get very expensive.
 
Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. It takes technical skills, patience, resources and/or money to accomplish the goal of getting your baby into print. It’s one of the reasons why publishers were created. Everyone self-published prior to the eBook age.

What if Self-Publishing isn’t for Me?

If you still want to get your book published, you still have the wonderful option of going independent with small presses, ebook and independent publishers. And there is a plethora of publishers to choose from. This Directory of ePublishers is a great place to start looking for the right publisher for you. In another post, I’ll cover some guidelines on what to look for in a publisher and why you can afford to be picky. I’ll also provide links to some publishers with whom I’m familiar.
The small and independent publishers are easier to approach than the Big Six. Though they may not offer an advance, you will have an editor and they will format your book, give it a cover and distribute the book for you. But you’ll have less creative control. Not only will you NOT have to pay up front for their services as you would for self-publishing (more on that in a second), but you’ll have the invaluable experience of being edited. THAT is an education in your craft all by itself without having to pay for it up front.
By the way, ALL publishers charge you to publish your novels and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Even the Big Six charge you. Of course, they’ve been telling us for decades that they publish your book for free. NOTHING in the publishing world is for free!
The publisher does all the work to get your book produced. Then they sell your book. You get royalties. They get the rest. The money they get minus your royalties is how they get paid. Your royalties are only a small portion of the money your publisher receives for doing all the work, so don’t let anyone tell you publishers don’t charge you to publish your books. ALL publishers charge authors to publish a book, although they do take the chance that your book won’t sell. But then neither of you will be paid.
Self-publishing venues do the same. For example: If you publish through KDP, they pay you 35% if you price your book from 99 cents to $2.98 or $10.00 or more. If you price your book at $2.99 – $9.99, then you’ll get 70%. What happens to the difference? Obviously, it goes into Amazon’s pockets. Ergo, ALL publishing costs money…you just don’t feel it because it doesn’t drain your bank account.
I know this was a long article, so thanks for hanging in there and reading to the end. I hope this was helpful and put self-publishing in perspective. PLEASE let me know if you have questions by leaving a comment below.
That’s my two pence…
Self-Publishing Earns Authors More Money