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 CyberSource.com.

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?

#pipesmatter

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Lulu self-publishing: splitting the difference

Academic publishing is innately different from all other publishing, just as the academic world, in general, is different. The primary difference is the sharing of information. Or, not.

I have worked in both the private business sector and for universities. In the private sector, business is all about competition. Business competes for customers and employees alike. Innovations are protected. Ideas become an employer’s property. Instead of information becoming power, the ability to hide information becomes power.

The academic world is a different culture. Faculty often collaborate with their peers at other universities in a way that would prompt a meeting with corporate attorneys in the business world for one simple reason. Generally speaking, faculty own their information. They own their research. They also know what the next step is and how to get there. Sometimes it requires collaborating with another mind on another campus. It often involves sharing information with grad students who will move on in a year or two.

That just doesn’t happen in the business world. One of the few and early exceptions was the Power PC. But, for the most part, business is about division and protecting trade secrets rather than sharing and evolving them.

Except at Lulu. But, then, business is a little different at Lulu.

One of the features Lulu offers is a revenue split. A revenue split is the perfect way for creators to each receive their share of royalties. When a book project is created, an author can add accounts for others who worked on the same project.

split

As books sell, Lulu handles the paperwork and pays royalties via PayPal or check to each coauthor. I hope that, when Glass Tree Academic Publishing, goes live they will include this feature.

But, who do you share creator revenues with? Anyone you want. If you want to split a portion of the royalties with an illustrator, just set them up with an account. Or, it can be one or more coauthors.

I’ve looked closely at Createspace and Amazon Business and don’t see a way to split revenues automatically. But, then, they follow a different model. One that doesn’t cater to the academic world.

As always, think outside the box.

#thinkfastwritefast

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Serially, folks

Lists. They are everywhere on the internet. 7 Ways to Do This and 15 Ways Not To Do That. Are they effective?

I have created several series. The first was a few titles in Holly Lisle’s 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About… series.

I revisited the series concept when I wrote for Genealogy Today. My first series for GT was about databases. I happen to love a good database. But, I discovered that most people leave a lot of the fields blank when they use a database software program like Live Roots™ and so on.

Those fields are important. Let’s say you find two different people with the same name as your grandfather in one of the census enumerations. If you know that grandpa was a jeweler, then he probably wasn’t a coal miner or a chimney sweep. So, it can be really wise to fill in all the blanks.

As databases are shared more online, I found the issue even more frustrating. I would find really good data—but some piece of information would be missing. I really wanted to see a complete profile for every single person.

I wrote a dozen articles about databases, in serial format. Even as you read this, dear readers, I see some of your eyes glassing over.

Yes, I needed to generate some enthusiasm for reading the series. So I came up with “The Compleat Genealogical Database” and wrote a separate article on the 12 most common fields that really should contain data.

The Compleat Genealogical Database: Legal Events
The Compleat Genealogical Database: Property Ownership
The Compleat Genealogical Database: Death Data
The Compleat Database: Life Events
The Compleat Database: Education
The Compleat Database: Cultural Affinities
The Compleat Database: Citizenship Matters
The Compleat Database: DNA and Health
The Compleat Database: Non-traditional Relationships
The Compleat Genealogy Database: Compleat Names
The Compleat Genealogy Database: Names
The Compleat Genealogy Database: Religious Affiliations

Later, I wrote another series on The Genealogy of Communities. The focus there was on different groups of society, like logging camps. Yes, really. You can find the names of people who lived and worked in logging camps. That just might explain why 20-year-old Bobby was missing from the census that year. He was off in the wilderness felling trees.

The Genealogy of Communities
Genealogy of Communities: Logging Camps
Genealogy of Communities: Fishing Camps
Genealogy of Communities: Seminaries and Other Educational Communities
Genealogy of Communities: Indian Reservations
Genealogy of Communities: Prisons
Genealogy of Communities: Asylums, Hospitals, and Sanitariums
Genealogy of Communities: Prostitution
Genealogy of Communities: Faith-Based Communities
Genealogy of Communities: The Utopias
Genealogy of Communities: Intentional Community in the Next Century

So, what’s the point of a serial?

Serial readers. You want to keep your readers reading.

Tell me more.

In the articles I wrote, I had a process. I would list my topics ahead of time, before I ever started writing.

I am not that particular about the number of topics. There may be something magic to the number 7 or 13. But, I don’t actually do a count. I have read some research on this subject and have yet to read anything that says a specific number guarantees readers. I am more concerned with being thorough.

The Genealogy of Communities, had a nice flow. It began with an article that introduced the series. The name of that article became part of the title for every individual article. That way, if anyone remembered the words Genealogy of Communities and wanted to find my articles again, they could Google Genealogy of Communities.

As I wrote each article, I created a link to the previous one. That way, I could guide any reader to the previous article, just in case they started in the middle of the serial.

It’s possible to mention what your next topic is, as you are writing. But, you don’t usually have a live link to add yet. But, you can add a live link to the previous article.

When I finished the series, I went back to every single article and added live links to every article in the series. I was just being thorough.

Other Articles In This Series: 

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2009.

 

I am a practical writer. I wanted to link to the article before and the article after each one. But, I also wanted readers to know the entire list of articles and how to find them.

The value of a serial is to keep readers reading. Not only do you need to add new material, you need to make sure your readers can find it.

Binge-watching

Binge-watching has had an impact on society. It is a new way of presenting the serial concept in one big dose. Instead of waiting for a weekly edition—and maybe missing it—now we can watch at our leisure. A new innovation is the release of an entire season all at one time. Order up the pizza and send all calls to voicemail.

A lot of writers create series. Readers like the characters or the story or the topic, and they want more.

Generally, writers release one book, make a big splash, go back to writing, release another…. But, recently, as a guest at a meeting of Writers on the River, in East Peoria, Illinois, I was surprised to hear author Amanda Meredith say that she prefers to wait until all of the books in a series are complete before she releases the series.

I think Amanda may be ahead of the curve. What’s good for Netflix is good for… writers?

wotrPhoto from Facebook. Writers on the River. Jessica Ann Clements, Amanda Meredith, Mandee Wallace Shanklin, Melinda Huff Bones,Anya Breton, Aly Grady and Judy Rosella Edwards ( a/k/a Think::Fast::Write::Fast).

 

hackAnother idea for a series is to repackage several monographs, like Amazon Short Reads, into a single volume as a collector’s edition. Maybe even sell it as a hardcover (yes, I’m talking about Lulu.com again).

Serial writing can be a good thing. It keeps readers on board. It can help you organize your writing. You have options: publish individually, or publish all at once for your binge-readers. And, you can still order out for pizza.

#thinkfastwritefast

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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

 

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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.

 

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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.

imIt

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You wrote a book. Now what?

Completing the writing of your book feels like a big accomplishment. But, not only is the work not done.The end of writing a book is just the beginning.

Writing doesn’t put money in your checking account. Selling your writing does. But, it doesn’t have to be a chore.

Let me show you how to make it an effort that you, as a writer, will enjoy. You get to write!
Getting noticed requires writing. First of all, you need to format your book, regardless of whether you decide to publish a print version or an eBook. For most people, it is probably worth the money to hire someone to format for you. Your time is better spent on what you do best: writing.

Beyond that, you need to write a description of your book. You need to write metadata so that your book is found by the customers most likely to want to read and buy your book. You need to pen your autobiography. You need to write and respond to social media posts. You need to write a press release or two. You should at least consider creating a giveaway, giving away a free copy of your book. The writing never ends, even after you write “The End.”

Every book needs a description. Who better to write it than you? If you are self-publishing, there may not be anyone but you. You can hire someone but—you’re a writer! Write it yourself.

If you are self-publishing through Amazon, you are not required to write any description. But, why wouldn’t you? You can write as much as  4000 characters to convince an Amazon reader that your book is one they should own. Lulu requires a minimum of 50 characters and a maximum of 1,000 characters.

Smashwords eBook publishing does not require any description and, like Amazon, they allow you to write a 4,000 character description for distribution of your book to Apple’s iBook store, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo, Yuzu, Blio and Inktera plus it includes library distribution via OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners (Askews & Holts and Browns Books for Students), and Odilo.

hack

In an earlier post, I discussed writer’s block. One thing to do rather than giving in to the malady is to work on your book description. It may evolve as you write, but sooner or later you are going to need to write it. That little bit of a break can help you achieve a little progress even if your story is on hiatus.

If your head is swimming already, then you should hire help. We are just getting started. Next time, I will talk about the next thing you need to write. Oh, yes, there is much more to come.

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

#thinkfastwritefast

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