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Self-Publishing Stumbling Blocks (and 27 Tools to Get You Back on Your Feet)

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Today, you don’t need to work with an agent or ebooks publishing house to get your book published. In 2011 alone, writers self-published 211,269 books according to Publishing Perspective, and this isn’t counting all of the free ebooks bloggers and marketers offer on their blogs. So if everybody’s doing it, why aren’t you?

Self-publishing might be easy, but doing it well is anything but. If you’ve never self-published a book or even an ebook, you aren’t alone. Despite the benefits, there are several stumbling blocks that can make a self-published book or ebook unsuccessful. The following tools can help you jump these hurdles and publish a book or ebook that you’re proud to offer to your audience, whether you’re doing it for free to promote your blog or you’re selling it to make some money.

Stumbling Block #1: “I don’t have time to write a book right now.”

Here’s a little secret: No one has time to write a book right now. We’re all super busy people, yet somehow thousands of people do manage to write books every year. So it’s not a matter of not having time. It’s about whether or not you want to make time by optimizing your schedule. Here are some great tools that give you the time to write a book:

How are you spending your time? Toggl will tell you. There are lots of time tracking tools out there, but Toggl is one of my favorites. You can track your time on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Android with Toggl, as well as integrate into programs like Basecamp if you’re managing your writing project elsewhere. Toggl also allows you to budget time for different tasks so you can stay on track throughout the day.

Remember The Milk is an easy-to-use tool to help you manage your to-do list. You could use it to organize your life in general, but also consider making a book-specific list for the tasks you have to complete. “Write a book” sounds large and daunting, but if you chunk it out into smaller pieces, it doesn’t seem so bad after all. Ta-da Lists is a great alternative if you aren’t a fan of Remember The Milk.

Rescue Time is a handy little tool like Toggl that will help you track your time, but the premium version of this app is extremely useful if you want to take your time management a step farther. “Get focused mode” allows you to block distracting websites for a set period of time, you can set up alerts when you’ve spent too much time on a specific website (like Facebook), the tool will track your offline time, and more. All of this comes for a fee of $6 per month (or there is a free version as well).

If you need help staying accountable when it comes to large writing projects, 750 words is right for you. This makes the work into a sort-of game, where you try to accumulate as many points as possible every month. You get points for writing, points for writing more than 750 words (your target goal each day on this site), points for writing contiguous days, etc. It’s a great way to stay motivated. One Page Per Day is a similar tool to help you stay motivated to write every day.

Stumbling Block #2: “I don’t have the skills/talent to write a book.”

Do you have some kind of knowledge that other people might what to know? Or do you have an idea about something and the ability to do research and interviews? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you have the skills/talent it takes to write a book or ebook. Even if you aren’t a good writer, here are some tools to help you turn your thoughts into books:

Maybe your problem isn’t that you’re not a good writer, but rather that you’re trying to write using the wrong tool. If Microsoft Word just isn’t doing it for you, try Scrivener. This program is perfect for creating and editing longer documents, and while it isn’t free, there is a free trial that you can check out before purchasing. Features include a “cork board” for thoughts and reminders, an outlining tool, the ability to create document collections, and more. It even syncs with Dropbox.

If you want to find experts to interview for your stories, check out Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Founded by one of NMX’s speakers, Peter Shankman, this site allows you to put out a request in order to find people who are ready and willing to give you quotes and full interviews for your project. ProfNet is a similar tool.

If you truly don’t want to write your own book, you can use a site like Elance to hire someone to write it for you. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to several thousands of dollars to write a manuscript, depending on length and subject matter, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I like Elance because people will bid on your project and you can read profiles and exchange messages to find the best person for the job. Once you have a writer, present them with your notes and ideas (the more, the better), set up some interview time so they can talk to you about your ideas, and let them do their magic. Freelancer.com and oDesk.com are two good Elance alternatives – or just ask for writer recommendations via social media.

Stumbling Block #3: “I can write a book, but I have no idea how to turn a manuscript into a book.”

The very first thing you should do after you finish writing a perfect, polished, ready-to-print ebook is hire an editor. Trust me on this one. I constantly find typos even in books published traditionally, so don’t be so arrogant as to think there’s not a single flaw in your manuscript. Even if your draft is typo-free, a fresh set of eyes belonging to someone who is not close to the project will help pick out weird wording, confusing passages and other potential places to tighten your text. Elance and the other sites listed previously can help you find a great editor.

From there, it’s time to design and get your book out there. Here are some tools to help:

Booktype is a tool that helps you collaborate with your editor (or other authors), and then export your book so it’s ready to sell or give away. If you plan on publishing on multiple platforms, Booktype is a great option, since you can correct problems once and have each version update automatically. Booktype makes it easy to format for web, mobile, print, tablets, and e-readers, all at once.

If you like using Word or another format rather than Booktype, don’t worry – you can easily design and convert your book as well. After your manuscript really is ready to go, Calibre is one of the best tools out there to help you format the book correctly for all e-readers. Calibre is free to download and makes the process pretty painless.

Want professional looking graphics in your ebook, all formatted correctly? Learn how to use Adobe InDesign. This program isn’t free, nor is this something you’ll learn to use well in an afternoon, but it’s definitely a great design option for self-publishers. Alternatively, you can hire a graphic designer who knows how to use InDesign well.

Stumbling Block #4: “I have no idea where to sell my book or how to handle sales.”

Okay, so now you really do have the perfect book just waiting for buyers (or downloaders, if you’re giving it away for free). How do you reach the masses? The three major tools for getting your book out there are:

  1. Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon)
  2. Barnes & Noble PubIt
  3. iTunes Connect

If you want to offer print versions of your book as well, I recommend checking out Lulu.com, which allows you to print on demand with no upfront costs. Alternatives to Lulu include Blurb and CreateSpace. There are tons of print-on-demand options for authors beyond these three options, but make sure you do your research so you know exactly what percentage of the profits you’ll see.

It’s also important to track your sales, even if you don’t have to do any work to ship your product. Here are some tools to help you with that task:

This tracking tool for self-published authors allows you to track sales on all major sites. You can compare your sales from month to month or from site to site. This tool is $49.95, but if you’re a blogger and do a review, you can get it for free.

The BookBaby team will actually help you with any number of self-publishing tasks, but the best and most useful, perhaps, is their tracking system. They’ll distribute your book (in ePub format) for you and then you can log in to see your sales across multiple sites and even download reports. Their one-time fee is $99, and then you’ll pay $19 per year after the first year for continued access.

Stumbling Block #5: “Why would anyone care about my book? I’m not a popular best-selling author.”

You don’t have to be a best-selling author to sell lots of copies of your next ebook. You just have to be smart about distribution and promotion. Remember, all best selling authors were once beginners too.

First, it helps if your book has been reviewed, especially on sites like Amazon. You can send your book to your friends to review, but even better is to put your book out there for others to review. Here are some places to find reviewers:

They receive a ton of books for review, and they don’t choose to read all of them. So, it’s the luck of the draw. But if your book is reviewed on this site, you receive a lot of exposure. You can also enter your book for consideration in their contest called Discovery Awards, but be warned that there is an entry fee.

On Ning, the group Book Blogs is home to over 19,000 members, and many of them are extremely active and looking for books to review on their blog. Often, you can work out a deal for them to also leave an honest review on Amazon, especially if you’re willing to send them an extra copy to give away.

You can also leverage others’ audiences, even if you’re not hugely popular yet. You can do this through affiliate programs. If your product is high quality and you offer a generous commission, others will do the selling for you. My favorite affiliate tool for ebooks is E-junkie, with ClickBank being a close second.

No Excuses!

Hopefully, all of these tools will help you resist the urge to make excuses and start writing your next book for self-publishing! If I didn’t cover your biggest self-publishing stumbling block, leave a comment below with your problem. I’ll do my best to recommend some great tools to help you get over that hurdle.

And don’t forget to check out Publishing 101 For Content Creators: From Decision To Market – an upcoming panel at NMX Las Vegas 2013 featuring publishing pros from Grand Central Publishing and Wiley who can answer all of your publishing questions!

Could You Write with the World Looking Over Your Shoulder? One Novelist is Giving It a Try

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Fantasy author Silvia Hartmann is writing a novel via Google docs. Read about her public novel writing project and why this might be a very good—or very bad—idea.

Writing is a pretty personal endeavor for most people. More and more, however, authors are using social media and other online tools not only to connect with fans and drive sales, but also to create their actual content and allow readers to interact with characters.

One author is taking it to the extreme, though. Silvia Hartmann (aka Nick StarFields) isn’t just crowdsourcing for her next novel. She’s allowing fans to read her content every step of the way, giving feedback and suggestions as she goes. Silvia is writing her novel in a public Google doc, so you can see the entire process from first draft to finished product. She’s calling it “The Naked Writing Project” and announcing writing sessions via her social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter. (Read more at The Guardian.)

The Advantages of Crowdsourcing

Although she says that she’ll ultimate go with her gut, even if readers don’t agree, Silvia will ultimately get tons of suggestions and opinions from her fans and curious bystanders. With readers involved in every step of the writing process, she’s creating a brand new crowdsourcing experience with readers watching her write in real time. While the prospect might be a scary one for most writers, this type of crowdsourcing also has its advantages:

  • Fans feel like they helped write the novel, which may make them more likely to purchase the book after it is published.
  • Allowing fans open access to this novel helps promote anything else she’s written or will write in the future. If people like this one, they’ll probably check out her other work too.
  • Fans can be extremely creative and intuitive. They aren’t as close to the work as the writer, so they can more easily spot plot holes and come up with ideas the author herself may have never imagined.
  • This kind of project, to my knowledge at least, has not been done before. So she’s going to get people checking it out just because they’re curious and people (like me) writing about her because it’s a unique way to write a novel. It’s a great way to find new readers.
  • It holds her accountable. Raise your hand if you have a half-finished novel or book somewhere on your computer. You can’t see it, but both of my hands and a foot are raised right now and I bet most of you out there are “someday novelists” too. By writing in such a public way, the author is committing herself to this novel. If she doesn’t log online and write, fans will get cranky.

Potential Public Writing Problems

Of course, any writing process is not without its problems. Putting your first draft online for the public to watch you write has several issues:

  • Silvia already said that she’s not going to listen to fans when her instincts don’t agree. This could potentially lead to angry readers who stop participating or refuse to purchase the book because she didn’t listen.
  • Whenever you put your writing online, you’re going to have to deal with trolls, not just valid comments. Along with trolls, she’ll also have to deal with negative criticism and even if it is constructive, some people are pretty rude online. All of this negativity can really weigh on a person trying to do something creative online.
  • If fans are reading the novel every step of the way, they may have no motivation to actually purchase the book when it is finished.
  • Most writers jump around during the writing process. If Silvia writes scenes out of order, readers won’t be surprised by plot twists. Even if there are no big reveals in this novel, it can really affect a plot to read it out of order. You see the complete picture, but you don’t have the experience of reading the story as it is meant to be read.
  • Having drafts of your book online can affect the publishing deal you get in the future. Publishers typically want certain rights, and having your novel online in draft form, even if it is later removed, can affect this contract, potentially scaring some companies away.

Would You Ever Write a Book Publicly?

Despite the disadvantages, I think this is a really cool experiment and I’ll be watching it to see her progress and how it affects her writing progress. It’s a brave new media world we’re living in, and it’s interesting to see people using online tools in innovative ways.

Would you ever consider such a public writing project? Leave a comment to tell us what you think about Silvia’s project!

18 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Writing eBooks

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Ebooks

It seems like every big-name blogger has written at least one ebook, and many bloggers are offering them for free. The first NMX ebook is about Pinterest available for free here, but ebooks can be sold as well. If you’ve been thinking about producing your own ebook, today’s Brilliant Bloggers is for you! In edition to all of the resources available in our publishing category, check out the links below to find more about ebook writing.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

You Already Know How to Write an Ebook … So What’s Stopping You? by Ali Luke

Ali is the author of The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks, and she’s written quite a few successful ebooks herself, so she know what’s up when it comes to writing ebooks. In this post for Copyblogger, Ali talks about how writing an ebook isn’t different from the content writing you probably already do on  your blog. To call her a brilliant blogger on the topic of ebooks is an understatement!

After checking out the post, I also recommend checking out her own blog, Aliventures, and following her on Twitter at @aliventures for more great tips.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 5 Tips For Writing An Ebook They Can’t Put Down by Jesse Schmitt
  2. 10 Tips on Writing an E-Book by Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra)
  3. 14 Successful Ebook Authors Reveal How to Write Ebooks that Sell by HectorCuevas (@HectorCuevas)
  4. Boost Your Business By Writing an eBook by Chris Robley (@chrisrobley)
  5. The Charles Darwin Guide to Writing and Selling an Effective Ebook by Pamela Wilson (@pamelaiwilson)
  6. eBook Writing Tips – How you Can Avoid Writers Block! by the eBook Author Academy
  7. Ebooks Store – Ebook Writing Tips by Mary Kitt-Neel (@MaryKittNeel)
  8. The Essential Guide to Writing an eBook & Sharing It with the World by Jeff Goins (@jeffgoins)
  9. How to Write an Ebook by Amy Lynn Andrews (@AmyLynnAndrews)
  10. How to Write an Ebook that Doesn’t Suck by Michael Martine (@remarkablogger)
  11. How to Write Ebooks that Sell by Brian Clark (@copyblogger)
  12. How to Write an eBook that People Will Actually Read by Ryan Taft (@ryantaft)
  13. Introduction to writing eBooks: How is it different than traditional book publishing? by Chris-Rachael Oseland (@ChrisRachael)
  14. So you want to write an ebook? 30 tips for success by David Meerman Scott (@dmscott)
  15. Tips for Writing a Great Ebook by Blog Oh Blog
  16. Top 5 Tips to Write a Successful EBook by Arjun Singh (@arjunchauhan24)
  17. Writing an eBook: How to Get Started (and Finish!) by Cara Stein (@cara_stein)

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about ebooks? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Controversial Posts

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

New Media News Break: Pinterest Spammers, Teen Opera Stars, Hunger Game Racists, and More

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It’s Wednesday afternoon, and I think we all need a little break to get through the work week. Here are some of the top new media news stories you may have missed this week:

Daily Dot runs a Tell-All Interview with a Self-Proclaimed Pinterest Spammer

Pinterest is quickly become a hot spot for content creators of all kinds – but there’s a dark side too. In an interview with Daily Dot, a Pinterest user going by the name Steve admits to making $1000+ a day by filling the boards with affiliate links.. Steve’s operation is massive, but the interview raises questions for all Pinterest users about when self-promotion and affiliate links become spam.

Teens’ Stunning Performance Goes Viral

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this video where teens Charlotte and Jonathan surprise the audience on Britain’s Got Talent. The video’s gone viral because it is so emotional, which is a lesson to all content creators out there who have hopes of going viral. You don’t always have to be funny or cute. You just have to elicit some strong emotion.

I’ve seen a little buzz on Facebook that his schlumpy look is a marketing ploy to make him the underdog, the type of person people want to like. He has definitely been seen in finer duds in other homemade videos of him performing, which are on YouTube. Perhaps that’s another lesson for all of us, though – good content is only half the battle. You also have to market yourself well.

Google to Get into the Comment Game

Online publishers will soon have another comment system choice – Google is reportedly building a new platform. Reports say it will be similar to the Facebook commenting system, as well as rival Disqus, LiveFyre, and Intense Debate. Do we really need another commenting system? Probably not. But I think this will up the Google+ game, and it’s also going to be interesting to see how this will factor into search. If your SEO improves ten folds by using Google’s system, I can see a lot of bloggers making the switch.

Racist Fans Hate the Hunger Games Movie

Twitter has be buzzing with tweets about The Hunger Games, and not all of them have been applauding the movie. As Jezebel reports, there’s a group of fans upset that the characters on screen didn’t look like the characters they pictured in their heads when reading the book…mostly surrounding the fact that a few of the important characters were portrayed by black actors. In a few instances, the author even described the characters as black, but fans still glazed over when reading those sections and pictured them as white instead.

It’s an interesting conversation, but what’s even more interesting is seeing how the Hunger Games community is dealing with trolls. A lot of fans are fiercely protective of the books and the movie, so I’ve yet to see the author or any of the actors speak out on the topic. Moral of the story: Moderate, but create such good content that your fans go to bat for you.

Live Tweeting Banned by the U.S. Supreme Court

Lawyers may want to live tweet the healthcare hearings going on in the Supreme Court right now, but releasing information to the public has been banned. This ban is actually upholding a current rule that electronic devices aren’t allowed in the courtroom (or the overflow “lawyers lounge”), though this didn’t stop senior counselor Casey Mattox from trying, according to Reuters. He was eventually stopped, even though he was actually leaving the room and sending emails to his staff who were then updating Twitter from their offices in Arizona.

The ban does make sense in some respect – it’s not only to decrease distractions but also to limit media and public influence over what lawyers are saying while court is in session. Traditionally, audio is released – but only after arguments are over. On the other hand, this perfect demonstrates the “need it now” attitude that people have about information. Are you filling that need with timely updates?

Pottermore Break the Mold

Harry Potter can now be enjoyed in all sorts of digital-y goodness thanks to Pottermore, a new ebook store controlled by Team Rowling. This marks the first time a writer and her publishing team have essentially given retailers the middle finger and instead taken control of their own digital publishing. Amazon and Barnes & Nobel have both bent knee and actually send users away from their own sites to buy Rowling’s books directly for her. Apple, however, is still holding out. How will this affect other authors wanting to get in on the digital game? Is anyone else popular enough to do what Rowling is doing? Wired has a great feature story posted on their site all about Pottermore’s rule breaking model.

Teen Expelled Over Tweet

Indiana high school senior Austin Carroll was recently expelled and will have to finish out his final year at an alternative school thanks to a tweet that he says was posted on his own computer from home outside of school hours. The tweet used the f-word several times and school officials say that their system shows that the tweet was made during school. Regardless, should a student’s Twitter account be reason for expulsion? Big brother is watching, apparently. In any case, it is a reminder to all of us to be careful that our tweets represent us well. You may not have to worry about being expelled, but you do have to worry about losing readers/listeners/viewers.

In Case You Missed It

Here’s what you might have missed on the BlogWorld blog in the past week:

Awesome from the Archives

There are some golden posts in the post hidden in the BlogWorld archives. Here are three of my favorites that I think you should check out:

Self-Publishing Secrets: Exclusive BlogWorld Interview with Rachel Thompson

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Today, I have a special treat for you all! I got the chance to sit down with Rachel Thompson to talk about her digital publishing success – and she has some awesome advice for anyone considering the self-publishing route. Let’s take a look at what she had to say about finding success on with Kindle publishing and personal branding for authors.

Allison: For readers who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about you and your content creation experience, especially with self-publishing.

Rachel: I started out as many of your readers have – a blogger, back in ’08. I still blog regularly, every Monday. As my posts became more popular as did my presence on social media, I pulled together many of my more popular essays, wrote original material never seen before, and published my first book, a collection of primarily humorous essays titled A Walk In The Snark in January 2011 which reached #1 on the Kindle Motherhood list in September 2011. I released my second original collection titled The Mancode: Exposed and that book hit the Amazon Overall Top 100 within one month as well as #1 on several key lists including Parenting and Families, Marriage, and Relationships.

It sounds like self-publishing has been good to you! Why did you initially decide to go the self-publishing route rather than the traditional route?

To be honest, I was so excited about the thought of putting together my own work with the fabulous help of experienced people in the field of publishing: my editor, a formatter, a graphic designer, another writer who’d helped many other writers go this route – it simply felt the right way to go. I encourage anyone who wants to indie publish to find others who know the way – there are tons of great resources out there now.

So, do you think digital publishing works better in some genres than others or is this something all authors should be exploring?

I think it can work for any genre. I’ve worked with a few authors who are hesitant due to the full-color graphics of their material, but in the end, the work looks amazing. The medium works better than print in most cases from what I’ve seen. I certainly can’t speak for everyone. It’s taken awhile to bring graphic novels to eBook format but many people are thrilled by it.

A lot of authors are intimidated by the digital self-publishing process. What advice can you give for those not technologically savvy?

To me, formatting an eBook is like math. And ‘Hello, writer here!’ So I hire someone amazing to format my books for me. It’s not that expensive and it’s always done correctly. Other authors I know are deeply involved in the formatting of their books and know every symbol and code (again, math). If it’s worth learning to you, learn it. If it’s not, pay someone. Bottom line: make sure your product looks the best it possibly can or you will hear about it.

You have a very strong personal brand. Can you talk a little bit about how that developed and why having such a definitive identity online is important for authors?

Yes, the Queen of Snark, BadRedhead, et al. Branding is key for any author. When I first started writing my Mancode pieces, there seemed to be, oh I don’t know, a somewhat snarky tone to them? People really responded to that and someone (I honestly don’t remember who) nicknamed me the Queen of Snark and it stuck. As anyone in social media or personal branding will tell you, if it ain’t broke…yea, that.

How has social media and blogging played a role in your success on Amazon?

I initially used Facebook like many do, to connect with family and friends. It was in 2010 that I discovered Twitter and learned the ins and outs and how it can be used to promote your brand effectively that I realized the impact it could have on my author platform. I really got into learning Twitter – all the different applications, analytics, ratios – and became the Collective’s resident expert, teaching free webinars monthly and helping thousands of tweeps online every month. Tip: remember content (no links). Twitter is social, social media is social. Link after link? #notsocial

The connection of Twitter to your blog is critical. Always have your Twitter button prominently displayed. People read left to right, top to bottom, so make it visible! Top right placement is best. If we have to search, we won’t find it, give up and you’ve just lost us as a follower. If we can’t RT (retweet) your posts, we become frustrated. You’ve written great content and now we can’t share it? Ack. And join Triberr! It’s the ultimate connection between Twitter and blogging. Your reach will increase dramatically.

As for my personal success, I participating in numerous blog tours, promotions, and did multiple guest posts connected to my blog and others where the sell links always lead back to Amazon. I’ve also been an early adapter of the Amazon KDP Select program. Absolutely, for me, the best move I’ve ever made, career-wise.

Your books have ranked #1 on Amazon in multiple categories. What’s your top tip for an author who wants to replicate that success but are brand new to digital publishing?

Realize your first book isn’t going to be your moneymaker. It’s your name maker. Pricing it above $2.99 will only upset readers and it won’t sell. If you’re in this to make money, think again. If you want to put out a quality product, make your name, and hopefully have people read your story, great. Pay for ads, pulse price at 99cents, do blog tours, work your social media constantly, be nice to people, give away without expectation to receive, and if you don’t know how to do something, hire someone who does.

All while writing your next book.

You are your own boss in digital publishing. Work hard, work smart. It won’t happen quickly (it took me nine months to hit #1 with my first book remember) but only a month with my second. My favorite quote is from my quietly brilliant genius writer friend who came up with the title A Walk In the Snark:

What is the best way to promote your book? Write another.
~ Ryne Douglas Pearson, screenwriter of KNOWING

If you could do it again – go back in time and self-publish your first book again – what would you do differently?

Well, the dreaded deadlines of course. Yea, yea, I know. (Hey, you asked.)

Many people think that just because you’re self-publishing you don’t have deadlines to meet but that’s completely untrue. I had a high-exposure blog tour to enter, my editor had another project to finish, and my formatter was about to throw my job out the window. So if I could have taken another month to add or remove an essay, would I? Perhaps. I did take greater care with the second book, removing those time constraints, other people’s desires and pressures to “get the book done already!” and it was a much more pleasant process.

I’m working on my next book in a similar manner – I don’t believe I need to publish a book every month or so which seems to be popular among many indie writers. I’m not criticizing in any way – it’s important to build up their backlist, absolutely. I’m simply not that prolific!

My next book will be out before summer and I’m quite comfortable with that schedule. I still have a social media consulting business to run, and I’m a wife and mom. My brain is always on, but at some point, even the redhead needs to rest!

I’ve been writing since age ten, and blogging helped me find my way back to my calling. I don’t think I ever could have dreamed people would be reading my books or interviews. I’m grateful for the help people have given me and inspired every day by ideas and words I can’t wait to write.

As long as I have coffee. And Nutella is nice, too.

Thanks for such great advice and information about self-publishing, Rachel! Readers, in addition to checking out her blog and the books listed above, you can also check out Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide To Self-Publishing Success, which Rachel cowrote with Carolyn McCray and Amber Scott.

The 12 New Media Days of Christmas: 6 Publishers a-Publishing

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During the 12 New Media Days of Christmas, we’re counting down the days until Santa comes by featuring some of the best blog posts of 2011 from awesome writers within the BlogWorld community! Skip to the end to read more posts in this holiday series and don’t forget to leave a comment if you’ve written a post about today’s topic!

One of the things I love about the new media industry is watching the publishing industry grow and change. Today, I’ve gathered some interesting blog posts about this topic, and I’d encourage you to read them all if you’re a book publisher, writer, online content creator, marketer…basically, if you all should be reading these posts!

Post too long? Head to the Quick Links section for just a list of the links included in this post without all the analysis and quotes!

1. The Future of Books and Publishing by Mitch Joel at Six Pixels of Separation

I don’t have time to listen to many podcasts, but Mitch Joel’s is one I really enjoy. In this episode, Mitch talks with Hugh McGuire about some really cool new tools in the publishing world. The publishing world is going through a lot of changes right now, but those changes don’t have to be bad. In fact, I think they’re pretty exciting. During the podcast, Mitch and Hugh talk about this exciting future.

Writes Mitch,

The book publishing industry is going through dramatic change and digitization. With that comes some fascinating lessons for marketers and marketing. Enjoy the conversation…

After listening to his podcast, you can find Mitch on Twitter @MitchJoel. He’d the author of the Six Pixels of Separation book and also writes for The Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun.

BONUS: I featured Chris Brogan earlier in this 12 New Media Days series, but he also have a great interview with Hugh published on his blog that is totally worth checking out!


 

2. The Economics of Self-Publishing an Ebook by Simon Owens at The Next Web

Self publishing is a hot topic. At one time, you weren’t really considered a legitimate author if you self published. Sure you could do it, but it was hard to sell copies of your book, since retailers didn’t (and still don’t) want to stock self-published books. That’s not to mention the out-of-pocket costs for the author. But now, publishing an ebook is pretty simple, and not only can you sell your book on your own blog, but you can also upload it to the Kindle and Nook marketplaces. And authors? Well, some of them are making a killing. In this post, Simon writes about some of the authors who have found success with self-publishing, along with topics like pricing, where the big publishing houses are going from here, and more. From the post:

Recent figures released by Amazon indicate that its ebooks are now outselling their print counterparts. Most the top sellers in the Kindle store also have print editions, but there are dozens of “indie” authors who are selling thousands of ebooks a month without a print version.

Simon also blogs at his own site, Bloggasm, and you can find him on Twitter @simonowens. He’s also the Director of Editorial & Outreach at JESS3.


 

3. How to Publish Your First Book by Donny Gamble at DonnyGamble.com (guest post for ZacJohnson.com)

If you’re brand new to the idea of self-publishing an ebook, this post is a good place to start. It all starts with a good idea, which is the same thing you need before starting the traditional publishing process as well! If you have a great idea that will really help people, self-publishing is pretty easy. Donny talks about his experiences in this post, and you can easy replicate these ideas to publish your own posts. He writes,

Do you have a book swimming around in your head? Maybe you’ve got one already written but have never known how to offer it or where. Now you do. If you make the decision now, you can realistically see your dream come to fruition before the end of the year.

Okay, it might be a little too close to the end of the year for this still to be true, but you can definitely have a book published by this time next year! After reading Donny’s post, check out his book, #Code Bytes – Conversations with Internet Entrepreneurs, and follow him on Twitter @donnygamblejr.


 

4. Self-Publishing versus e-Publishing by Suzanne Fyhrie Parrott at Unruly Guides

While we often equate self-publishing with ebook pushing, as Suzanne points out in this point, it isn’t your only option. If you want to build your business, print versions might make sense for you as well, depending on your goals and target market. Check out this post to learn about your options, including both traditional print self-publishing and print on demand. From the post:

Self-publishing means you take on all the responsibility of getting noticed. You have to set aside time to market yourself. I like to do all my connective work (facebook, blog) in the morning – even before I am dressed. I spend about an hour, sometimes less, and then I take a small break, preparing myself for my writing.

One thing every author needs to ingrain in their mind – you are a business and the commodity is you. Not your books, but you.

You can find Suzanne on Twitter @unrulyguides and also like her Facebook page. If you sign up for her newsletter on her sidebar, you can download her guide, 10 Tools for Finding Author Success for free!


 

5. Self-Publishing: A Game Changer for the Publishing Industry by Abby Johnson at WebProNews (with Jim Kukral)

A lot of what Jim is saying in this video with WebProNews is echoing what others are saying as well about the publishing industry. He also talks his experiences publishing, both traditionally and in this new online world. I love his ideas about pre-selling or pledging, which is how he’s marketing his new three-book series. Traditional publishing might not be totally dead, but Jim makes some really good points about how it is evolving. Says Jim,

“[Traditional publishing techniques] are not going to die…they’re just changing. The model of having a thousand books put out by a big publisher every six months is going to change simply from the fact that bookstores can’t support that anymore….they’re gong to scale back and handpick books they know are going to sell.”

You can add Abby to your circles on Google+ and follow WebProNews on Twitter @webpronews. Jim is on Twitter @jimkukral. He’s the author of Internet Marketing for Business Answers and a number of other books, which you can find on his website, JimKukral.com.


 

6. 6 Reasons Why I Chose to Self-Publish my Novel by Ali Luke at Aliventures

Whether you are publishing an informational book/guide in conjunction with your blog or are publishing a novel, as Ali is doing, there are some clear advantages to self-publishing for some people.

Is self-publishing the right option for you? The answer it’s “yes” for everyone, but Ali’s post will help you decide. For her, it was the best option! Writes Ali,

Seven months ago, I wrote a rather provocatively-titled post here on Aliventures: Why I’m Giving Up on My Dream.

I explained why the writing dream of “get an agent” then “land a book deal” wasn’t looking so great to me anymore. And I outlined my plan to publish Lycopolis myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I went ahead and did it.

Read about Ali’s experiences, and then follow her on Twitter @aliventures. You can also check out her online shop, where you find ebooks such as The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks, The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing, and The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing. And definitely check out her new novel, Lycopolis!


Quick Links

For those of you short on time, here’s a list of the links covered in this post:

  1. The Future of Books and Publishing by Mitch Joel (@MitchJoel)
  2. The Economics of Self-Publishing an Ebook by Simon Owens (@simonowens)
  3. How to Publish Your First Book by Donny Gamble (@donnygamblejr)
  4. Self-Publishing versus e-Publishing by Suzanne Fyhrie Parrott (@unrulyguides)
  5. Self-Publishing: A Game Changer for the Publishing Industry by Abby Johnson at WebProNews (@webpronews) with Jim Kukral (@jimkukral)
  6. 6 Reasons Why I Chose to Self-Publish my Novel by Ali Luke (@aliventures)

Other posts in the 12 New Media Days of Christmas series will be linked here as they go live:

12 Bloggers Monetizing
11 Emailers List Building
10 Google+ Users a-Sharing
9 Vloggers Recording
8 Links a-Baiting
7 Community Managers a-Managing
6 Publishers a-Publishing (this post)
5 Traffic Tips
4 New Media Case Studies
3 Must-Read New Media Interviews
2 Top New Media News Stories of 2011
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

You can also check out the all the posts from 2010 and 2011 here, and don’t forget: If you wrote a post in 2011 about today’s topic (digital publishing), PLEASE leave the link in a comment below to share with the community!

Six Simple Ways to Market Your EBook – After the Launch

Author:

Session: How to Write EBooks That Practically Sell Themselves
Speaker: Ali Luke

There’s tons of great advice out there about launching an eBook – and for good reason: you’ll get rapid sales in the first week or two. But unless your eBook is incredibly topical, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t keep on selling well, long after the launch is over.
And this isn’t just good for you … it’s also good for your audience. Chances are, new folks are stopping by your site (or following you on Twitter, or liking your page on Facebook) every day. Your new readers might love to get their hands on your eBook – but they need to know it exists.
I’ll start off with the easiest, quickest tips and work up to more time-consuming ones.

#1: Add a Link to Email/Forum Signatures

This will only take you a couple of minutes – and could get your eBook in front of hundreds of people. Just add a line to your email signature. It can be as simple as this:

Author of EBOOK TITLE, available from LINK

You might also want to include a brief quote from a testimonial, or a note about who the book is for.
If you use any forums, check whether it’s okay to link to your eBook sales page in your signature – different sites will have different rules about this. On private forums, such as the Third Tribe, you might want to include a custom discount code.

#2: Mention it on Your About Page

If you take a quick look at your blog’s analytics, then you’ll probably see that the most popular static page is the About page. New readers want to see who you are and what your blog is all about. The About page is a great place to mention any products or services – including eBooks.

Since you’ve got a lot more space on an About page than in an email signature, you’ll want to give enough information to draw readers in. Add your eBook’s cover image, plus a short description of key benefits (perhaps in bullet-point format). Encourage readers to “click here to find out more” rather than “click here to buy now” – it’s not such a big commitment.

#3: Send a Sample to Everyone on Your Email List

Your newsletter or mailing list is a great marketing tool – assuming you use it right. That means avoiding overloading your readers with offers and promotions … whilst ensuring that you’re not completely silent about your eBook.

One great way to promote your eBook is to provide an exclusive free sample to your email list. Your readers will be thrilled – and you may well make some new sales. Make your sample genuinely useful (perhaps a quarter to a third of your full eBook) and use the last page of it to tell readers how to get the full eBook.

If you don’t have an email list yet, or if your list is very small, a free sample of your eBook makes a great sign-up incentive.

#4: Guest Post on a Relevant Blog

Perhaps your own blog doesn’t have many readers yet – a few dozen, or a few hundred. You could keep promoting your eBook to them, but chances are, they’re going to get a bit bored of hearing about something they’ve already bought (or already dismissed).
Luckily, it’s not too hard to get your eBook in front of an audience of thousands – or ten of thousands – of readers. How? Write a guest post, and promote your eBook in the bio.

For maximum effect, look for a blog that:

  • Has readers who are used to buying eBooks (e.g. ProBlogger or Copyblogger).
  • Hasn’t done any large promotions recently.
  • Allows a link in the body of your post, as well as in the bio.
  • Is on-topic: you’ll want to write a guest post that’s related to your eBook.

You might even want to give a special discount code for that blog’s readers: this offers an extra incentive to buy, and also helps you track where sales are coming from.

#5: Hold an EBook Sale

We all love a bargain – so putting your eBook on sale for a week or two will help undecided buyers to make up their minds! Sales are more powerful if you don’t hold them too often, and if you offer a significant discount.

It’s a good idea to have a reason for a sale (and “I need to pay my taxes” isn’t ideal). You might try:

  • A charity sale: all or some of the money will go to a specific charity.
  • Your birthday, or your blog’s birthday.
  • A summer, Thanksgiving or January sale (though bear in mind that lots of other bloggers might be doing the same).
  • A “secret” sale for a specific group of people – e.g. your Facebook page, email list or Twitter followers.

A sale is a great time to revamp your promotional copy: do you have new testimonials to add to your eBook’s sales page, or case studies that you can include?

#6: Write a Related EBook

Writing a second eBook isn’t a short-term option – but it can be a hugely effective marketing technique (as well as a new source of revenue in itself).

If you’ve got two eBooks on related topics – for instance, “How to Get Started With Your Digital Camera” and “How to Take Great Portraits With Your Digital Camera” – then you can easily create an up-sell, or give a discount code to buyers so that they can get the other eBook. That way, the new eBook will boost sales of the first.

And you don’t have to stop at two. I’ve got three eBooks (so far!) in The Blogger’s Guide series, and this has meant that I can provide all three as a bundle, offering readers a significant discount. Plenty of other eBook authors use the same technique: check out Holly Lisle’s “writing clinics bundle” for another example.

So … if your eBook is gathering dust on the virtual shelves, pick two ideas from above (one shorter-term, one longer-term) to get sales going again. And if you’ve got a tip to add to the list, please share it with us in the comments below.

Hear what else Ali has to say:

Watch more videos and see why other speakers are attending BlogWorld LA. See all Speakers here.

Learn more about BlogWorld LA and register Here!

Ali Luke is speaking at BlogWorld on “How to Write EBooks That Practically Sell Themselves” (Saturday 5th Nov, 3.30pm). She’s also the author of The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible EBooks, currently just $29, and blogs about writing at Aliventures.

13 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Kindle Publishing

Author:

Brilliant Bloggers is a weekly series here at BlogWorld where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Kindle Publishing

With the announcement of the new Kindle Fire and the price drop on other Kindles, this e-reader is only going to continue to grow in popularity. While I don’t think it’s an iPad killer by any stretch of the imagination, since more and more consumers are purchasing Kindles, bloggers need to be aware of this platform when they self-publish. Today, some brilliant bloggers are talking about Kindle publishing and how this can effect your publishing plans in the future.

The list is small but mighty today! Don’t forget to add your own links in the comments!

Advice from Brilliant Bloggers:

A Radical New Way to Tap the Kindle Economy by Jonathan Fields and Sean Platt

This is like cheating because you’re getting two brilliant bloggers for the price of one! In this video, Jonathan talks to Sean about publishing fiction in a new way on Kindle by using an episodic model rather than a more traditional way of publishing. I seriously love this idea and might need to modify it to use for nonfiction. Check out the video on JonathanFields.com, then follow Jonathan and Sean on Twitter at @jonathanfields and @writerdad respectively.

Amanda Hocking and the 99-Cent Kindle Millionaires by Nathan Bransford

Of all the posts out there about Kindle publishing, I think this one is the best that I’ve seen that is essentially an explanation of the costs associated with publishing and why (or why not) there’s millions to be made on Kindle. It’s a really informative post that can definitely help you determine whether or not you should publish on Kindle and what your pricing should be, even if you’re going a more traditional publishing route. You can find Nathan on Twitter @NathanBransford.

How to Self-Publish on Amazon, Kindle and iBookStore by Dragos Roua

In this post, Dragos goes over everything you need to know as a self-publisher who wants to make their work available on e-readers. He talks about the difference between digital and print so you can make the best decision, along with the process you’ll need to follow to get your work up and going online. Dragos is on Twitter @dragosroua.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about publishing on Kindle? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link!

Next Week’s Topic: Interviews

I’d love to include a link to your post next week – and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

When an Article Can Start a Revolution #YAsaves

Author:

In this world of social media and vocal proponents of various topics, it still amazes me how something can go viral so quickly … how people can rally around a cause, share their stories, and become proponents for something. All in a matter of hours.

As I’ve said before, I’m entrenched in the world of books and young adult literature. As an aspiring author I’ve surrounded myself with amazing critique partners, contacts, and experts in writing. This last week I’ve been keeping an eye on the topic of #YAsaves – which became huge on Twitter this week. It all stemmed from an article written by Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal. It attacks violence and dystopian concepts in young adult literature, saying readers are now surrounded by images of “damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.”

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

The article goes on to cite various recent, popular works and the issues they contain – rape, torture, abduction, self-injury, drugs – and says that it is possible that by speaking to these subjects, authors are normalizing them and spreading their plausibility.

A significant amount of people disagree. And disagree strongly. Shortly after the WSJ post came out, a backlash from YA authors and readers hit Twitter using the hashtag #YASaves. People expressed their views and many readers opened up to ways that their favorite young adult books helped them cope, or even saved their life. There have been over 33k tweets (and it climbs with each passing minute) containing the hashtag – and it topped at #3 as a trending topic in the US earlier this week. Tweets included:

Books are, at their heart, dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Because they challenge us: our prejudices, our blind spots. #yasaves -@libbabray

Honestly, @wsj, do you think we just make this stuff up? The darkest parts of many of my books came directly from my teenage life. #yasaves -@HollyBlack

Yeah. Go on. Tell teenagers that they shouldn’t read books. Know what you’ll get? Guaranteed literacy. #YAsaves -@AletheaKontis

Just curious, @wsj, do you have some kind of WRITTEN POLICY that you will only let idiots write about YA? Is it, like, a THING? -@maureenjohnson

And they didn’t stop at Twitter. Book bloggers, authors, and readers began taking the topic to their blogs – where they discussed in longer detail what reading YA means to them.

Other websites jumped on board with their view on the subject. NPR, The New Yorker, and The Guardian even weighed in.

And while I agree with most of the comments, most of the tweets – the social media analyst in me is waiting for the response. If there will even be one. While many companies with social media “fails” come out with explanations and apologies, I’m not sure that Ms. Gurdon will respond to the attacks. Because, for the most part, this was an opinion piece. It wasn’t a customer service fail. It wasn’t a PR pitch gone wrong fail.

Do you think that all Twitter campaigns need a formal response? Or is it better to sometimes let an upheaval die out altogether?

Image Source: SXC

Self-Pub Author Tells Readers To “F*** Off!” (or, How NOT to Respond to Reviews)

Author:

With the ease and relatively low cost of today’s self-publishing tools, many authors are going this route rather than going through the much longer process of finding an agent and traditional publisher. It can be extremely lucrative, and even if you don’t make tons of sales, at least you gave it a shot, right?

While lots of awesome authors choose to self-publish, it sometimes gets a bad rap because for every amazing find, there are dozens or maybe even hundreds of books that were…well…self-published for a reason. Sometimes, you can’t find a publisher to take you on because the market is flooded or they just aren’t willing to take a chance on you for whatever reason. But often, publishers turn down proposals because the writing is bad. So, if you’re going to take a chance and purchase a self-published book, it makes sense to read as many reviews as  possible.

A lot of self-published authors are finding success because they go on virtual book tours or offer up their books to be reviewed on book blogs. When you send out your book to reviewers, it’s nerve-wracking. I know; I’ve done it. Thankfully, I didn’t have any scathing reviews of my ebook, but I did get some criticism. No matter how awesome your book, few reviews are 100% sunshine and unicorns. The same is true of even a blog post – not everyone who reads is going to be a fan.

You deal with it. You cry, maybe, if you have to. You learn from it and move on.

What you don’t do is respond like Jacqueline Howett, author of The Greek Seaman. After getting a luke-warm review from BigAl’s Books and Pals, she freaked out. It wasn’t even a bad review – the writer had both good and bad things to say. The bad comments he had were mostly about the fact that he found several grammatical errors, along with a number of confusingly-structured sentences.

I invite you to click on that link now to read the comments. Seriously, I couldn’t believe them. It all starts with this gem:

“You obviously didn’t read the second clean copy I requested you download that was also reformatted, so this is a very unfair review. My Amazon readers/reviewers give it 5 stars and 4 stars and they say they really enjoyed The Greek Seaman and thought it was well written. Maybe its just my style and being English is what you don’t get. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea, but I think I will stick to my five star and four star reviews thanks.”

Let’s not even talk about the grammatical errors in the comment itself. She then proceeds to copy and paste a few good reviews from Amazon as individual comments.

It gets better. In subsequent comments, she accuses the reviewer of not downloading the correct copy, being “discusting [sic] and unprofessional,” and leaving anonymous negative comments about the book. She goes on to tell other commenters “stay out of it” and then, my favorite part, she leaves a few comments that simply say, “F*** off!” (Without the stars, on Al’s site, it’s uncensored).

Woah.

The sad part is, without her rants, this review might very well disappeared into the chasm of the Internet. I checked a few of the other posts on this site at random, and it looks like he averages two or three comments per review. Maybe ten at most. On the review of Jacqueline Howett’s book? Over 300 (and counting). He actually gave the plot a good review, so without her crazy comments, some people might have actually bought it on his recommendation. After all, we all make errors when writing, and if you self-publish you might not be able to afford a good editor. To me, it’s more important that the plot is good, and I think a lot of other readers feel similarly. But Jacqueline’s response? No way will I ever read this book.

The reviewer, in my opinion, has handled this with grace. He responded to her accusations and then said that he would not be commenting on the matter any further. I found that overall, he was extremely fair in allowing people with a variety of opinions to post comments.

You’ll notice that I haven’t posted a link to Jacqueline’s website or book on Amazon in this post. That’s by design. While I do think that this is an interesting new media case study and we can all learn from it, I personally do not want to in any way support this author’s work. I’m sure that she is seeing some sales because people are curious as to just how bad her book is, but I don’t want to encourage that. Even if her book is amazing, there are a lot of great authors out there who treat their readers with respect. Use your buying power to support them instead.

Without the community’s support, a writer is nothing. Remember that. It’s something that I think all of us should keep in mind, whether we’re writing ebooks, traditional books, or even blog posts. Community is everything.

For the record, I checked out the reviews on Amazon as well, just because I was curious as to whether or not Al’s review really was unfair. Of the 92 reviews posted, 10 are 5-star…and 72 are one-star. Of the 5-star reviews, a number of them are making fun of the double entendre title and several comment on the fact that the grammar/spelling is bad even though the story is good.

Also, hat tip to my roommate, who told me this was going on.

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