Slow down…you publish too fast

I am fully aware that this may sound contradictory but, seriously, slow down your process! Don’t leap at publishing. You are likely to regret it. You need a plan.

It’s true that you can literally upload your words and see your book listed on Amazon and other sites within minutes. Okay, maybe an hour, by the time you fill in all the information and setup your royalty payment system.

But, it’s fast. It’s real fast. It’s…too fast!

Coordinating publication is not always as precise as one might like, unfortunately. A book may not literally be available as an eBook the very moment that it is available as a print book. Those are two different delivery systems. You can come close. You might even make it happen. But, chances are you won’t flick a switch and both will go online simultaneously.

More importantly, it doesn’t matter.

Unless you are a world famous author, readers are probably not poised at their keyboards, ready to hit the buy button the moment your book appears like they are when concert tickets go on sale. If, they are, I’d like to hear about your experience.

But, seriously, slow down. Take a beat.

Before you upload anything, create a schedule. Yes, a schedule. You are going to need to coordinate your marketing efforts based on that schedule.

I currently have a client who has an August release date on a book we started working on in January. I admire that. It’s smart planning. He teaches, does public speaking and podcasts. He has set a realistic expectation.

There are issues that you need to deal with that take time. You need to test that your text appears the way you thought it would. You need to make sure your cover art looks good. If not, you need to revise and upload—maybe numerous times until you get things just perfect.

Did you think your book was going to have text on the spine? It has to have a minimum number of pages in order for that to happen.

hackIf your book is too slender for a spine, you need to add more pages. But, don’t just add blank pages. Get creative. Add a worksheet. Create a crossword puzzle using words from the book. Create pages for Notes. Add reviews. Add pages talking about other books or services you offer.

Createspace recommends that you take the time to buy a copy of your print book so that you can proof it. Lulu requires it. The process varies.

I highly recommend ordering a copy and looking it over meticulously. In my rush, I once spelled not one, but two, words wrong on the back cover of one of my own books. I’m always experimenting with decorative page number art. Sometimes it looks fabulous in print. Sometimes, not so much.

While you’re waiting for the book to arrive, you should have been writing press releases, planning your email campaign, organizing a social media blitz and creating landing pages. How many? Maybe 27. Maybe 4. As Jay Berkowitz, author of Ten Golden Rules of Online Marketing says, there is no magic number or perfect campaign. You have to constantly test to see what works with your customers for a given product. And, what works for one book may not work at all for the next one.

Then there are other time-sensitive issues like creating a pre-release campaign, or other distribution options that require a book be exclusive for a certain period of time. Read the fine print.

Your job is not done when you upload your book. You need to set up book-signings, rub elbows with other more experienced writers and connect, connect, connect.

My favorite book is not a current one. It is the Cluetrain Manifesto. I highly recommend reading it but I will give you the short version: business is a conversation. You need to be conversing with people. Some of them will become your customers. Some will become your Chief Enthusiasm Officer.

You need to build in time for executing your plan. Setting aside 45 minutes to upload your book is such a tiny part of what you need to be doing. As a writer, you have the advantage. A great deal of what needs to be done involves writing.

hackJust slow it down a bit. Create a spreadsheet. Use an Airtable Blog Editorial Calendar. Write like mad and schedule posts via a social media management tool. Create a Facebook Page. Your Wall where you post pictures of your kitten is not a Facebook Page. It is a Wall and serves a different purpose. You need a Page.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll start talking about being Serial. I’ve used the Serial concept in so many ways over the years. You may find it helpful, too.

cluetrainIn the meantime, I’ll give you a reading assignment. Talk about innovations in publishing, the Cluetrain Manifesto is available online for one penny.I bought the hardcopy back when it first came out, some 15 years ago.

 

 

 

#thinkfastwritefast

 

Formatting for dollars: Amazon and more

One common way to make money as a writer is by formatting other writers’ writing. Plenty of people are buffaloed by formatting a Word document for submission to self-publishing sites like Createspace or Lulu.

Writers, and the document formatters they hire, need to think about how they are going to login to upload data. As a formatter, you need to be aware that logging in as the writer who hired you also gives you access to the writer’s account. You have access to credit card payment information and private purchase information.

As a writer, you need to hire someone you trust. The document designer you hire will have access to every purchase you have made, regardless of how personal. They will have full access to your wish lists, including those that other people shared with them.

hackAmazon offers an Amazon Business Account. Document designers should insist that writers add them as business associates to the writer’s business account. The writer creates the Amazon Business Account and adds the designer. When the designer logs in that way, they can only access their own account plus whatever access the writer grants them. They each continue to use their own accounts to access Amazon and they each retain privacy for personal items.

#thinkfastwritefast

 

Amazon: the double-edged sword of marketing

a/k/a Lulu’s secret advantage

Everyone wants to see their book on Amazon. It’s a good thing. But it isn’t everything.

There is a popular myth that, if you want to sell your book, it has to be on Amazon. There is a good deal of truth to that. Being on Amazon is like a badge of honor.

Who doesn’t have an Amazon Prime account, these days, especially if you buy books? And, if you buy books at all, you probably have some flavor of an Amazon account.

And, authors do sell books on Amazon. Obvi.

I promised to share with you how to use Lulu to your best advantage. So, here goes the tip of the iceberg.

First of all, everything is pretty even between Amazon and Lulu, except for Lulu offering a few more printing options.

The biggest difference is that you earn higher royalties on Lulu books, when readers buy directly from Lulu. But, the same books can (usually) be simultaneously distributed through Amazon.

So, you’re adding to your distribution, by publishing through Lulu and distributing through other sources as well–from Lulu. You’re not eliminating Amazon or other outlets.

Possibly the most effective way to guide customers to buying through Lulu is to send them emails or to use landing pages. The biggest drawback of Lulu is that they do not offer free shipping.

But, you’re also not paying $99/year to get “free” shipping that you enjoy with Amazon. Free is never actually free.

Since Lulu is going to net you higher royalties anyway, adjust the list price to be competitive with Amazon prices by setting your Lulu list price (with shipping) to the Amazon price with free shipping. Play around with it.

Ultimately, you need to decide which is better for you.

  • Is it better to have your book listed exclusively on Amazon, where you are buried so deep that no ever finds you? Free shipping doesn’t matter much if you are selling ZERO books, right?
  • Is it better to publish on a site like Lulu where you can also distribute on Amazon but earn a little more of a royalty on each book from those who buy directly through Lulu?

It doesn’t make much sense to write a book no one is ever going to find. It could be the best book in the world but if no one knows about it, why did you write it?

If no one buys it, why are you writing another?

The logical thing to do is find the book format that best meets the needs of the individual book you are about to publish. This book. Right now.

That may not be the case for your next book. And, that’s okay.

Publish it any way you want. Distribute any way you want, but don’t forget you can sell directly from most publishers—plus still sell through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The important thing to know is that you still have lots of work to do after “The End.” It’s just a different kind of work.

You need to find your readers. You need to communicate with them. You need to sell through their favorite store—unless you can match price, shipping, convenience, or whatever deep need is going to turn them into a paying customer.

You need reviews. But, how do you get a book review?

You send a free copy of your book to a reviewer who looks at every aspect of the book: the content, the writing style, the presentation, everything that goes into making a book into a book.

hack There are professional review sites that accept self-published works. Publishers Weekly has a separate site just for self-published books. It is called Booklife and you can find submission information online at Booklife. They will even review e-books.

If you have to ask whether you should include return postage or an invoice, you probably are not mature enough as a writer to consider requesting reviews. Perhaps you need to learn more about marketing books before leaping in.

As Jay Berkowitz said in The Golden Rules of Online Marketing, “If you build it — they won’t just come.”

My sage advise is not to avoid Amazon. It’s to add to Amazon.

So get out your sword. Marketing can be a battle.

 

Drones? Really?

Yes, #dronesaregood. And, yes, I wrote a book about drones.

What does that have to do with you? Everything.

A couple of years ago, I bought my husband a nano drone and a remote control helicopter. A nano drone is an itsy bitsy little drone that literally fits in the palm of your hand.

Both have been sitting on a shelf, collecting dust. In a quandary over what to do with them, it occurred to me that I could try flying them. What a novel notion!

Ever the researcher, I Googled everything I could find about drones. It was fascinating.

I soon realized that I did not, in fact, need to register the little nano drone. But, before I even got it out of the box, I also realized I was going to want a bigger, better drone. Soon. With a camera.

When that day comes, I’ll need to be registered. So I went ahead and began the registration process only to discover that you actually register yourself—and then attach the registration to your drone.

That was just the beginning of my education. As I learned, I realized that novices like myself need a place to record that information.

I found some fabulous online databases where you can record such info along with tracking your flight experiences and skills. I signed up for a couple of them. But, they really are more than I needed, considering I still hadn’t taken the nano or the copter out of the box.

So, practical person that I am, I created a sort of manual for recording that information, with the intention of publishing it. My background is Instructional Systems Technology so the first thing I usually think about is what kind of package my book needs to be.

This manual has basic information in it. But, it also identifies information you need to know. Things like what kind of drone you have and what kind of battery it uses.

It is designed so that you can carry it with you and write in information. Did you learn to turn left? Seriously, it’s a pretty big deal. Now, how about right?

Don’t worry. It’s simple. It’s just like taking care of anything else. Simple, but necessary.

But, the real reason I am posting about here is the self-publishing aspect. This book cried out for a format that lays flat so you can write in it.

Lulu does that. Createspace, everyone’s go to, does not.The book is called, “The Care And Feeding of My Drone.” It is woman-written for girls and women, and others.

hack

Visit http://www.lulu.com/create/books to see the Lulu options. Not all of them are available for distribution to certain outlets…but I will tell you all about that later.

 

Learn more about Lulu from their blog.

Next time? I will tell you more about the marketing secret behind how to use Lulu to a writer’s best advantage. Intrigued?

#thinkfastwritefast

Self-publishing: Who’s watching the store?

Growing up, we went to my aunt’s house for every holiday dinner. She loved hosting and every holiday was the same. Great food, gentle jibes, funny reminiscences and invariably my uncle would wait for the inevitable lull in the conversation.

Then here it would come. “Ramblers are the best car ever made.”

There it was. Every holiday dinner. I believe the last Rambler rolled off the assembly-line in 1969 so chances are pretty good that you have never even heard of the Rambler. It had its heyday. There was a time when only Ford and Chevrolet were more popular.

Today, when I think about holidays, I think of Ramblers. They are charming memories right up there with the 8-track player in my first car or the curb feelers my friend’s dad put on her car when she went off to college. Yes, she was humiliated but dad was helping pay her tuition.

It has mystified me for quite some time that writers find it so difficult to consider an alternative to Createspace for their publishing needs. It would be like talking about a Rambler when everyone is driving a Prius or a Tesla.

Yes, there was a time when the Rambler was cutting edge. And, there was a time when Createspace was the only game in town.

Today—just today–I had a conversation with a writer about the advantages of publishing books through Lulu when I finally understood the confusion. It’s about the store.

As consumers and producers, we can’t see the store for the publisher.

…we can’t see the store for the publisher.

Traditionally, if you wrote a book, you sent the typewritten pages to a very large company where someone decided whether your words would ever see the light of day. Oh, a typewriter was a machine that was just a keyboard that printed characters directly onto paper. And, you used these little bottles of white paint to correct mistakes.

There were a limited number of publishing companies and they could only create a limited number of titles. The vast majority were discarded and hearts were broken.

That’s not to say they were bad books. Partly, there was a limit to how many books editors had time to read and were willing to take a chance on publishing.

I worked for a very, very, very brief time for a major bookstore. I was mortified that there was a special dumpster out back where, every single day, it was our job to dump books that weren’t selling. It would cost too much to even sell them on eBay. Obviously, traditional publishing has its issues.

The old-fashioned solution was vanity publishing. A writer—any writer–could pay a vanity publisher to print books. Yes, they paid to have their words published. Vanity publishing was very popular with family histories. If you wanted to print out 17 copies of your family’s genealogy, you could do that.

You paid. You paid to have them printed. You paid to have them shipped to you. Then, you schlepped the books to the family reunion and handed them out or, again, paid to have them shipped to Uncle Bob and Aunt Margie.

You can still pay to have your books printed. It’s a charming method, kind of like the Rambler sitting in my uncle’s driveway.

Paying to print still exists. You can actually pay to print through Createspace and even Lulu. You can hire someone to do the layout. You can hire someone to create a cover. You can hire someone to edit.

But, you don’t need to. And, you shouldn’t have to.

I predict that, as time passes, we will see fewer and fewer people paying for publishing. It’s a dying tradition. You will even see fewer instances of writers paying for layout services.

Right now we are in a mystifying time. It is overwhelming to many writers attempting to get their words into reader’s hands.

Part of the issue will solve itself. Part of the issue is age. (Let me just mention here that I am 59 years old, as of this writing.)

I used to be a software trainer. There was a time when I could literally not remember the last time I saw anyone under the age of 30 show up for a computer class. Even the youngest thirty-somethings already knew most of what was covered. Sometimes they would actually tell me they were only there to give moral support to someone who was really intimidated by Microsoft Word. Someone older.

The world had changed. You couldn’t give away a manual typewriter. Everyone was growing up with the opportunity to learn ever more sophisticated uses for computers and learning to do amazing things easier and faster than we expected.

Enter Amazon.

Where is the store?

If you knew the basic Styles process, you were lightyears ahead. Suddenly, you could create and sell your own books and it cost you nothing. In fact, you got paid just for doing it.

That’s where the confusion first arose. Where was the store? The store was inside your computer.

But, where?

Amazon is not a publisher. Nor are they a printer.

Amazon sells books. That’s are a store. They sell things. They don’t produce things. They sell things. There are a number of stores. Just like any store, they sell products from various producers.

They do own Createspace. But, they carry books from a myriad of both traditional and self-publishing sources.

Where is the printer?

The printer is not the store. But, the printer can sell books.

The printer is Createspace or Lulu or a handful of others. I just Googled “Self-publishing.” The top four hits were paid advertisements for companied that will print anything you want—if you pay them enough money. The first unpaid entry is the Wikipedia definition of self-publishing.

Lulu is the top hit for any self-publishing company. So why do so many writers not know that?

It’s a dizzying world and it moves fast. So, let me help you understand it.

Lulu prints books. You pay nothing. You earn royalties when readers buy your books. They assign a free ISBN. It is a legitimate ISBN required by brick-and-mortar and other stores and libraries.

Createspace prints books. You pay nothing. You earn (lower) royalties when readers buy your books. They assign a free ISBN. It is a legitimate ISBN required by brick-and-mortar and other stores and libraries.

Then there are the printers who, for a fee, will print books. Royalties? It’s all a little foggy.

Again, where is the store?

Createspace is a store. Createspace sells books, film and music directly from the artists to the public. Go to http://tinyurl.com/BuyCreatespace and you can chose from 518,980 books, 2,730 videos or 1,385 works of music. Createspace has existed since 2007 and actually dates back to a conglomeration of companies dating back to 2002. That’s almost 15 years. And you didn’t know? Yes, they are a printer. But, they are also a direct-to-the-public store. But don’t worry about that for now.

Amazon is a store. Amazon owns Createspace. You can buy Createspace books, videos and music through Amazon. Or, you can buy from Createspace.

Think of Amazon like this. Walmart is a store. But, Walmart is also Sam’s Club. They are just different flavors of the same company. Amazon is a store and so is Amazon’s Createspace.

Barnes & Noble is a store. They may publish your book, if you send it to them in the right format and leap nimbly over hurdle after hurdle. You have to buy your own ISBN number. According to their website, you will be competing with 100,000 submissions annually just to be considered. B&N prefers that you sell your book to them through a wholesaler. “Wholesalers normally expect a 50-55% discount, pay in 60-90 days, and expect books to be returnable. Some expect free freight.” But, primarily, B&N is a store.

Lulu is a store. We already said that Lulu is a printer. But, they also sell books. You can go to Lulu.com and buy books. Since, they are a printer, as well, they also offer volume discounts.

And, Lulu distributes their books to—Amazon. And, Barnes & Noble. And, more.

So what does this all mean to a writer?

As a writer and a self-publishing guru, I recommend printing through Lulu and distributing, from there, to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, in addition to Lulu. And more.

Lulu offers free print and eBook distribution options that will get your book into the global marketplace. This network reaches online print book retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and retailers in the Ingram catalog network. Lulu also provides eBooks distribution (English content only) for Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and all online eBooks distributors associated with the Ingram network.

There really is no competition. Literally.

Lulu is your best self-publishing option precisely because it is  not in competition with that list of distribution sites.

Lulu charges you nothing to print your book.

Lulu distributes your books to the stores.

Lulu is not an alternative to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Lulu is a supplier to them (and more) and actually offer you a better chance of getting into B&N and Ingram than if you submit your manuscript directly to them.

So…what was your question again?

The answer is Lulu.

#thinkfastwritefast

P.S. Your blog host, Judy Rosella Edwards, is likely to appear as a top hit if you Google “Self-publishing.” See below.

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Give it away

Continued from…

You need to give away a free copy of your book. It’s just good karma. And it works.

It may seem counterintuitive but it works. Large companies have been doing it for years.

Give away a free copy of your book.

I just felt a shudder from self-publishers around the world. You worked hard to finish that book. You managed to either figure out how to publish it, or how to hire someone to do it for you. It feels like you can’t afford to give away even a single copy.

Here is the magic of the giveaway. It gets attention. Everyone wants something (good) for free. And, and least some of the people who enter your giveaway contest, but don’t win, will buy your book.

One of the easiest ways to create a giveaway is via Goodreads.

I currently have a giveaway posted for Volume 1 of Underground at Springdale. I have a whole series of these books about Springdale in the pre-publishing phase, including one that is being fact-checked, and will likely publish a revised version of volume 1.

Writers need to write more than their books. A giveaway is another example. You want to convince readers to enter your giveaway. Keep in mind that many people are just looking for something free, and that’s okay. Most people who enter a giveaway have never read your book. That’s the point of a giveaway. You buy a copy of your book at cost, sign it, and send it to the winner. Hopefully, they will exercise good netiquette and post a review of your book. Everyone else buys a copy. You have just created a following for just a few dollars.

Goodreads says, “Be the first to read new books! Prerelease books are listed for giveaway by publishers and authors, and members can enter to win. Winners are picked randomly at the end of the giveaway.”

But, browse through the giveaways and you’ll see that they are not all pre-releases. Releasing a published book prior to publishing your next book can also garner attention.

Let’s take a look at how to do it. If you want to learn how it works, go to https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/terms.

In fact, let’s go on a fieldtrip. I like digital fieldtrips and hope you do, too.

hack To create a Goodreads giveaway, you need to go to List a Giveaway on the Goodreads site. All giveaways are subject to review, so plan ahead. Your giveaway won’t happen the day you create the giveaway. You have to schedule a Goodread giveaway 7 days in advance.

grLIST

You choose a date when you want your giveaway to begin, and a date when you want it to end. Your giveaway has to last at least one week but can last three months! You can also give away multiple copies.

This is one more instance where your book needs to have an ISBN. You will be asked to enter either the 10 or 13 digit ISBN.

You can select the country, or countries, you want to be eligible. If your book is about a specific country, you can select that. Authors can select countries where their language is spoken. Keep in mind that you will be shipping your book to one or more of the countries you select. You can give away multiple copies. Calculate the shipping costs before agreeing to ship overseas.

Now, use your writing skills to create enthusiasm. Convince readers they want to receive a free copy. Remember, many readers will not have heard of you. So, you get to introduce yourself or your work. You get 1,500 characters for a description.

Identify your book’s genre. You can even choose a secondary genre. Then provide your contact info.

You’ll receive an email letting you know when your giveaway has been approved, along with information about how to post the giveaway information with a live button to enter the contest.

I had difficulty posting the code. Here’s a top secret hack. My solution? I took a screen shot of the giveaway description and add a hyperlink.

At the end, you sign and send your book. Thank everyone for participating.

 

Then get back to work on your next book.

#thinkfastwritefast

 

Ready for help? Contact me at contact@thinkfastwritefast.com.

Tags       book description, writing, lulu

Categories          writing, publishing

 

 

Let me take you underground

Deadline is May 9!! Win a free signed copy of my book, “Underground At Springdale: Volume 1.” You’ve got some competition! 69 people have entered to win!

Underground@Springdale, Volume One, will keep you engaged with the true stories of 38 individuals buried in Historic Springdale Cemetery, in Peoria, Illinois.

Includes color photos and grave locations. Most of this collection originally appeared on the blog springdale.blogpeoria.com. This publication contains expanded stories along with the previously unpublished “Leslie Don Puterbaugh: Springdale’s largest funeral.”

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/184825-underground-at-springdale-volume-i

#thinkfastwritefast

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