Gimme a pipe

One unresolved self-publishing issue is pipes. Browse an old copy of PC Magazine from 1993 and you’ll see that the pipe concept has been around for a long time. Basically, for those who don’t want to click-and-read, it’s a method of moving digital information from one place to another.

Whether you are self-publishing for someone else, or hiring someone to self-publish for you, pipes matter. How do you get your information into the cyber bookstore?

The person who will receive the royalties needs a self-publishing account. That person sets up their tax information, designates what account should receive the royalties, and a host of other bits of data.

The person who actually uploads the content of the book and the book cover needs access to that same account.

So if you hire someone to format your file for any kind of a book, they need to have access to your account. If you are an author, do you really want to give your Createspace or Lulu password to someone you hire? The author’s account contains credit card information, which is actually pipe in from

Once a client accesses an author’s Createspace account they have full access to edit the account so that all royalties are deposited in the client’s account, instead of the author’s.

Someone needs to invent a way for editors and layout personnel to access a self-publishing author’s account without giving them full credit card, and other payment, access.

As editors and design staff, we need to inform authors that they need to help us advocate to protect their payment data.

No client has ever asked if I am bonded before giving me their passworded information. They don’t ask for legal contract wording to protect them.

I am concerned about the liability on my part. How do I protect myself? If uploaded data is less than perfect, I need to see the online viewer only accessible via passworded access.

All self-publishing companies need to address this issue.

How do you handle this? As an author, do you give out your password to editors and layout providers?

As an editor or designer, do you log in with authors’ passwords?



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.



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.


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

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.


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.



Ready for help? Contact me at

Tags       book description, writing, lulu

Categories          writing, publishing



Write your own story

Continuation from 

We’ve been talking about what you need to write, after you finish writing. The third thing you need to pen is your autobiography.

No one can tell your story as well as you. But, I have discovered that the one thing a writer is least able to write is their own story. I have actually taught autobiography writing workshops devoted solely to helping writers craft their own writer’s page.

You will need an author’s page, when you upload your books to any distributor. And, yes, I meant to use the plural because I do expect you to write more books.

Authors depend on a revenue stream. You want to write more books and you want people to buy them. It helps if people remember your name. A customer who likes one book you wrote will likely like another book you write. And, they should.

hackStudy some author’s pages. Now, think about what you remembered about the authors. Your goal is not to write what they wrote. Your goal is to write your author’s page in a similar manner.

I want you to get comfortable finding and reading author’s pages, so I am going to give you an assignment. I want you to go to Amazon and find some authors I suggest. These are random, but very good examples. Let’s take a look at Nancy Tillman.

hack If you don’t have a good photo of yourself, have one taken. Think about your writing when you select what to wear, the setting, and so on. Nancy Tillman’s fun photos reflect her children’s book writing.

Nancy’s photo is great. But, more importantly, she explains that her goal “has always been to give parents words to say what they feel about their children.” Readers want to know things like that.

Holly Lisle is a writer and a writing instructor. She uses her author’s page to demonstrate her storytelling abilities. I especially love to see writers show off their writing skills as part of their author’s page. But, from a marketing point of view, it is clever to include a quotation.

When I worked in newsrooms, I saw editors rifle through press releases and literally toss those that did not contain quotable material. There were two reasons for that. The first was, a quote gives the story life. The second reason was that, when my editor handed me a press release, I had a conversation starter. I would call the person who was quoted, or their spokesperson, and repeat the quote. Then I would ask them to discuss that with me. It was my icebreaker. It was more of a challenge to write news coverage when there was no quote. A quote hones in on the message and a quote, complete with quotation marks, energizes a story.

A good quote is a great quote for a lead. I used to cover a city government beat that brought me into contact with a woman who was my favorite person for any news story. She always had a quote ready for me. To this day, I have visions of her sitting in her office memorizing her quote before every city council meeting. And, that was fine with me.

She always had a quote that looked good on paper and sounded good when she said it aloud. Whether she rehearsed or not, I never discovered and soon no longer cared. She always got print and we always had a talking point.

Her quotes were not just words. They were keenly focused. They were on point. She was adept at identifying what I was likely to ask and she was at the ready. The questions were simple: who, what, when, where, how and why. It’s not that my questions were all that predictable. She understood media. She was always on point about any issue. She knew the heart of the issue. She never floundered for something to say. She anticipated what the public wanted and needed to know. She didn’t control me. She was at the ready with the key information that people needed to know about and she phrased it in quoteworthy ways.

You can learn to do the same thing. Anticipate what a reporter might ask, and have an answer ready. Use the answers as a quote on your author’s page and in press releases (which we will discuss later). Come up with a few quotes and swap them out on your author’s page, from time to time, to keep it fresh or to test what quotes motivate customers to buy.

hack Changing the content on your author’s page is important. The way to move up toward the top of search engine lists is to offer new content. If nothing changes on a page, it moves down until it is quickly lost among the vast number of pages with new content that are perpetually moving up. For more info, read 5 Reasons Why Fresh Content is Critical for Your Website and SEO.

I’m not especially fond of quirky author’s pages. But, if they work for you, go for it. You know your audience. It is your job to know your audience. That is who you are writing for.
It works well for Suzan Tisdale. I would not normally advise calling yourself a cheeky wench. Cheeky is not a term one easily applies to one’s self. That’s a term that needs to be earned. But, if that’s the name of your blog, you can certainly get away with it.
Susan does a couple of other things any author can do. She makes herself available to her readers.

She posts her website address, her blog address, her Twitter handle, her Facebook address and how to get text messages from her. Yet, she keeps it short.
Most of like to see a few paragraphs. A few paragraphs fit nicely on an Amazon author’s page.

Of course, we all like to break the rules. Some people can afford to. Dean Koontz keeps his author’s bio super short.

“Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever Anna, and the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.”

It is a mere 31 words long. On the other hand, he is so well-known he perhaps doesn’t need to set himself apart. Plus, he is so prolific that his page is littered with work that stands for itself. Not interested in one of Dean’s books? That’s okay. There are dozens more.

Stephen King follows suit, with a single paragraph. David Gerrold wasted no words on his nine-word bio. (Yes, my sentence is intentionally only nine words, as well.)

Make sure that you have author’s pages. Lulu calls them Author Spotlights. Amazon calls them Author Pages, created via Author Central. Create an page.

As a new author, you need to introduce yourself to the public. Open up. Share a little about what makes you unique and perhaps explains why you see the world differently enough that readers should be interested in you. Be sincere. Don’t try to invent a persona for yourself. Be your genuine self and share what you genuinely want readers to know about your writing.

Find what works. Write content for your author’s page. Add a good photo of yourself.
Ready for help? Email

So many choices

Envision your final product before you start writing. See the package. Imagine all the different formats. It could impact how you write.

Most people seem to be publishing a print version and an eBook version of their work. That sounds simple. But is it?

I have put together a chart of my two favorite print providers, Lulu and Createspace. This is not a legal-and-forever kind of description. I just pulled info together for my own benefit. The print choices are staggering.

Your words are unique. Make your format just as unique, but appropriate to your message and attractive to your customers. (Be sure to keep reading. Yes, I know it is a long list.)


The next thing I am excited about is Glass Tree Academic Publishing.

Glass Tree challenges the traditional academic publishing model by placing academics in complete control of their content, accelerating time to market and reversing an exploitative revenue model allowing academics to actually profit from sales of their work.

 Glass Tree will provide free tools for book publication, extensive subject matter taxonomies, complimentary promotional tools and free distribution to a global network of online bookstores. Additionally, authors will have access to an array of competitively priced supplementary services including book editing, translation, peer review and marketing assistance.

 Through the use of print-on-demand technology and Lulu’s global network of printers, Glass Tree minimizes production costs resulting in a high-quality, affordable product that can be printed and delivered anywhere in the world in a matter of days rather than months – regardless of the quantity needed.

 You control your work. You own your copyrighted material and choose the license under which it is published. You determine the publication date, set the retail price and earn 70% of profits from the sale of your work. When discoveries are made in your field that warrant a new edition, you choose when to update, revise and republish ensuring your content is always up-to-date in the ever-changing academic environment.

Why is that exciting? Years and years and years ago, I taught workshops for faculty and staff at a large university. Many instructors, or their staff, took the PageMaker classes. I can tell how young you are if you don’t recognize that name. It has evolved into InDesign.

They were there because faculty wanted to produce their own classroom materials. Many of them were creating lab workbooks–but certainly not all. What they all were was visionaries. They wanted to create their own learning materials.

I still laud that. Just as I laud the kindergarten teacher who opts to hand-craft the materials for her classroom bulletin boards, rather than buy mass-produced materials.

Back when I was teaching PageMaker, the issue became print production. There was a printing plant on campus where instructors could print…most things. But, that meant the instructor had to be involved in the vending process. Some tenacious folks figured out that they could pay for the printing, especially if they had discretionary grant money. Then they could sell their texts to the campus bookstore, who would then sell them to students.

No faculty member ever wanted to become a bookstore.

With Glass Tree, they can produce and print higher quality textbooks and the students (or the campus bookstore) can buy the printed copies directly from Glass Tree. It solves so many issues for faculty and their staff.

If I were a professor today, I would love this. It means no longer waiting for a traditional publishing house to hire textbook writers, go through the editing process en masse, and then printing and distributing and so on.

It does not mean the quality of content will be less. It means it can be more current. It means texts that more accurately mirror the professor’s message. It means an entire course can be based more on a textbook based on the course lectures, and vice versa.

Students should really get on board with this. The text can now be fully, or more fully, used. Everyone has taken classes where only certain chapters of a very pricey textbook were used. Then, after all that money students spent, they had to traipse to the library to read an endless list of selected readings that say what the professor wished the textbook said. But, didn’t. Often, again, because the textbook was out of date or did not fully cover the topic of the course.

It wasn’t a bad textbook. The faculty did not choose the wrong textbook. It’s just that a textbook doesn’t always fit a course perfectly.

The worst possible class is one where the instructor teaches to the textbook. Is it a class based on a topic, or is it just a semester-long book review?

I have seen new/inexperienced instructors opt to use the previous instructor’s textbook or, worse yet, use the textbook their own professor used for the class a decade ago.

Then, they numbly took their class through the book, chapter by chapter. It was a book review. That is not teaching.

Teachers love teaching. They don’t necessarily love book clubs which is what that kind of class quickly becomes.

Lively teaching encourages students to think. It brings together different viewpoints. It sparkles. Like Glass.

I can’t wait to see Glass Tree. I ghost write textbooks. (Yes, I am perhaps part of the problem.) I know there will be exciting formatting to be done.

I admit that I do not read books that do not have an index. It is not always easy to format an index. It takes work. It takes a keen understanding of the subject. Creating index for someone else’s book means envisioning what the instructor and student will need in order to quickly locate content.

So, put on your Styling Hat. There is fun stuff coming down the pike.

Glass Tree. From Lulu. Did I mention that I am a big fan of Lulu?

Where to begin writing

Before writing even the first sentence, a writer should consider what the final version will look like. What size and kind of book do you plan to publish? Are you going to print an eBook, a printed book, an audio book or all three?

In graduate school, I took a class on evaluation in education where the professor lectured week after week and assigned reading and reading. The goal of the class was to keep a journal as we worked through answering one question: is there a single tool for evaluation or is there a toolbox full of different tools?

The correct answer was the toolbox apparently, since I earned an A for the course. The publishing possibilities are a toolbox. But the key to using the toolbox is to determine what solution is best for a given situation.

A novel does not necessarily need chapters. But chapters do make a book easier to read. For one thing, many readers will read to the end of the current chapter before taking a break. Chapters can also serve as a roadmap if segues are not obvious.

Many types of books are organized, using chapters and sections to define how the information will be presented. It is the logic behind the work. And, if the reader is keenly aware of information in a chapter, they can skip it and move on through the book.

When it comes to self-publishing, or publishing on demand, the type of book matters whether the book will be digital or print. There is a fairly large range of book sizes and types that every publishing service makes available.

There are also some that set services apart. Lulu is one, perhaps the only one, that offers books with dust jackets in a variety of sizes and shapes. On the other hand, Lulu currently recommends customers avoid including charts, text boxes, and scientific or mathematic formulas in smaller paperbacks. Lulu does offer a coil-bound 6” x 9” inch option that would be ideal for workbooks, which is rare in the publish on demand world.

Amazon has the largest market share. That means they have more potential customers. It also means you will have more competition for those readers’ eyes.

But, whatever service you choose, it is wise to choose a size and shape of your book before you start writing. If you choose to use chapters, they need to be formatted a special way. But, they also need a name. You can use something as basic as the chapter number but it is more helpful to the reader if you give each chapter a name that reflects what that chapter is about.

It’s perfectly fine to jump right in and start writing. But, eventually, your book will need to be formatted even if you publish it as an eBook. Keep that in mind while you write.

Doing it with Styles

I may the only person on the planet who actually loves Word’s Styles. Learn to love Styles, and eBook formatting becomes easier.

People hire me just to format their dissertations. An eBook would probably put them into a coma.

Styles are actually quite simply, and extremely powerful. When we look at a page in Word, it looks rather simple. We know there are little icons and buttons and menus that we will never use in a lifetime. But, someone will. Or someone wanted to when Word was designed. In spite of that, Word looks quite simple. Clean. Austere, even.

But, behind the scenes, there is a lot of power. That’s where the creative part comes in. That’s where I, as an author, get excited.

I absolutely believe that books should be attractive. I realize attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder. But ugly text hovering above a distant white background does not inspire me to read.

We seem to forget the original efforts at printing were beautiful and they also were not on paper. They were woodblock imprints of colored flowers printed on silk. Woodblock printing was standard for a long time. Granted, there was no other option. But, for centuries, printing was beautiful.

Words important enough to share were beautiful. They were works of art.

The Styles palette in Word is what makes that happen for an eBook. Any time you use Word, you are using a Style. There are 16 styles built into Word when you open it up.

You won’t use any of those styles when formatting an eBook. Eventually, that will change. But, for now, suffice it to say, you will not use them.

Instead, download the template from the vendor of your choice. The Styles you will use are embedded in that template. A book consists of 14 sections. Each section has its own Styles.

And, yes, Styles, plural, is correct. A Style consist of a font, a size, alignment instructions and things like whether it should be in all caps. A single Style can consist of a myriad of formatting instructions.

Mystified by what those magical Styles are in a CreateSpace template? By default, they are as follows.

Tune in next time when I tell you how to customize them.

Book Sections CreateSpace
1. Book Title Page Times New Roman 14, centered, all caps
2. Author on Title Page Garamond 18, centered, all capitals
3. Dedication Title (optional) Garamond 12, centered, all capitals
4. Dedication Content

(optional; usually one or two paragraphs)

Garamond 11, centered
5. Acknowledgement Title (optional) Garamond 12, centered, all capitals
6. Acknowledgement content (can be just a sentence) Garamond 11, centered
7. Table of Contents (optional) Garamond
8. Chapters Titles Garamond 14, centered, all caps
9. Body Text First Paragraph Garamond 11, no indention on first line
10. Body Text Garamond 11

Indent the first line of each paragraph

11. About the Author (can include Author’s Photo) Garamond 14, centered, all caps
12. About the Author content Garamond 11, centered
13. Index  (optional) Calibri 11, double-column
14. Glossary (option list of defined terms) Nirmala UI Semilight 10, with terms in bold followed by a colon