Notes on Book Publishing

Some collected tips, hints, and tricks to get your book written & published.

I just published yet another book, this one a collection of interviews and writings on writing I had laying around, or had published earlier in some other format.

And it led me to a growing list of tips and tricks which I hadn't put in any book or told anyone in particular about writing, publishing, and marketing books. These are in note form and may or may not flow from one to the other. (They might even seem to repeat...) I'll post this when thing quit "bubbling up" - so you have the complete collection.

Tips:

Just stumbled on this recently - in LibreOffice, don't create an index (table of contents - or TOC) before you port to epub. This makes you do a lot of hand-editing in Sigil to get it up to snuff.

Sequence on that line up should be:

Just Publish! ebook creation for indie authors.
  1. Create the ebook version first.
    • ebook version has all the links necessary, always linking back to your main web page for other resources.
    • I write the ebook first, then create the web page. On occasion, I've gone ahead and published before I had the web page ready - in that case, it pointed to my root page. But it always pointed somewhere.
  2. Save As your print version, then add the header, footer, index, back ads. Keep the links for the PDF version.
    • Have a link on the footer for the PDF. It's something like "Visit http://midwestjournalpress.com/ for more material." But you see it actually goes to a specific page. So the print version gives them something to copy into their browser.
    • KISS tip - make the pages mirrored. Put .62 on the inner margin for binding - and .5 all around otherwise. (Unless your text is very, very short.)
    • I put the book title in the top along with the page number. 
    • Headers and footers are ads which keep repeating that same message.
  3. If you need a different print version, then save as a new version. Don't do the mistakes of having to re-edit versions back to where you had it before. (Ahem.) An example of needing a different version would be a "study guide" version which is printed on letter-sized paper with wide margins for notes.
    • Be sure to update your index every time you resize the pages or add/substract a footer/header. Page numbers will change. 
    • Ebooks don't need page numbers
I purposely threw out all the styles rules. Sure, it's great to have the page numbers start with the actual text. But mostly, you can throw out all those intro pages at the start - or combine them into a single copyright page. This is the evolution which ebooks have forced on the industry. Legally these days, you don't even have to have a copyright page - some have said to put it in the back of the book. However, you want people to immediately go to your site when they finish the last page. So I keep it short and in the front, along with any enforced disclaimer (which could be: see site for why this is needed.)

My PDF books are the hybrid between epub and print. They actually become the print book as a second incarnation. PDF's (on  Lulu) are also the preview for the ebook. And they'll eventually become your giveaway (or can be shortened into that.) So they have ads and so on.

I design at 6"x9". This is close to what a person will see on a tablet. And reads better than 8.5"x11" on a computer screen. (Put it two-up with facing pages.) So a first action in editing is to change your page format. If you have your last book and are happy with it, you can import the styles (over-write) from that book into your current one. Saves substantial time.

I don't ever consider that I need to reinvent the wheel, when I find a perfectly good one sitting there. And so it is with public domain and PLR (material which has publicly-licensed rights.)

Public domain - OK, here goes (should be a book, I imagine)
  • Lots of books are in the public domain and have fallen out of circulation. The more popular ones exist all over the place. 
  • Consult some legal beagles on this, but the key part is to add something new to the text so you can put your own copyright on it and charge money. 
  • One approach, if in doubt, is to simply link to where you found a free copy. (Hoping that they don't move the original on you. Find it via Internet Archives and link to it there.) Internet Archives Note: "open source" isn't public domain. Watch for creative commons licenses there as well.
  • Amazon, Smashwords, and Scribd don't like public domain. Amazon wants you to have a minimum of 10 images added to it. Smashwords simply won't accept it - or PLR. Scribd has what seems to be a duplicate content checker which kicks back your book (and keeps a tally, saying that you've just violated someone else's "copyright".) Lulu (which includes/ports to iTunes, B&N)  and Kobo don't mind if you do. Frankly, since my books sell better on iTunes/Nook, I don't care. If it's completely original, I'll ship it to Amazon as well. 
  • (There are some PLR books on public domain which I'll need to publish at some point...)
  • Fastest route for publishing public domain/PLR books (or anything) is through Lulu and Kobo. That gets you to 4 main distributors right off. Lulu is posted instantly, Kobo in a few days, iTunes/B&N can take weeks. The great part about Kobo/iTunes/B&N is that the sales will pick up right away if you've got something worth buying. 
Amazon is a crap shoot for unknown authors. From my own studies, they's shot their KDP-Select scene to hell. A recent book shows that it no longer works to bump sales once the "free" time is done - you're getting freebie seekers who are loading up their Kindle, not reading the stuff. The .99 specials which Locke and Hocking used still work (although Locke cheated with padded reviews). Using Coker's recommended "some free" strategy (and others have verified) will bring you some traffic. If I were trying to make my living from original content, I'd post most all my books to start with at .99 on Amazon and raise the price after a couple of months gradually. (Since I re-publish a lot of other author's material, and don't yet have time to slow down and drop in images, I skip Amazon for most of my books at this point - although I can come back and revise all my bestsellers later.)

My own tests have shown that iTunes, B&N, and Kobo produce the best for unknown authors with great covers and descriptions. Your alternative with Amazon is to spend a great deal of time begging for reviews to be part of their inbred system of algorithms. See my Storify articles in this area.

Most PLR stinks to high heaven. Occasionally, you'll find a well-written piece which is also still factual. As some sort of reserve, I will float some of these as "from the research files of..." so I have a back-door excuse if I ever need it. Otherwise, you are practically going to re-write the whole thing, using their outline and content as a springboard to phrase the text just how you would. It's faster than writing and researching from scratch, but not by much - since you will be researching their facts before you put your name on it. However, as giveaways, it's not a bad scene - particularly if you can point to an in-print version which costs money to buy.

A little research will show you whether it's worth anything to publish that PLR as your own with that title. Note that Amazon accepts print versions of books when they will block PLR ebook versions. (Guess they don't want to have to scan those pages to do their dup-content checking.) Which means you could have a short ebook which points to the Amazon print version that has PLR filler material (to be blunt.)

This year, I finally realized my job is more an editor and publisher than it is a writer. This brought about a few changes in marketing. What helped that realization was that the bulk of my various researches are now complete - culminating in the Thrivelearning System (TLS). That doesn't mean I don't have a great deal to do. Publishing is a means to an end. I've categorized it under the Online Millionaire Plan as a way to add more value. (Again, the TLS has Mind-Body-Value-Purpose as the four key elements.)

Any author is at least a part-time publisher and has to think and work like one. Probably a third of your day is in marketing your own work. (Other two-thirds are writing and reading. Writing is in the most productive period. Your email and social networking is done during your publishing/marketing time. Reading is to fuel your muse and your native talents - see Stephen King's "On Writing".)

All blogging is done with some social bookmarking, status updates, etc. There have been a lot of tools in this area, most of which went belly-up (or were bought up and shut down.) Second-best tool I know of now is Onlywire. Frankly, you I don't particularly care for a lot of these social networks. I mostly stick with Google+ (though if I were seriously marketing, I'd invest more time in Goodreads - and will.) First-best tool is Synnd, even though it can seem pricey and the GRQ (Get Rich Quick) fools have done their best to criticize it for lack of instant results - it's a long process, but one which has proved itself over where I've used it. Part of your Content-SEO work.

Zemanta - time/life saver. Mainly because you can enter in all the various blogs you have and have ever used, then pull content from these to give you backlinks/crosslinks on your blogging. I wouldn't use their images, as it's a crap-shoot (plus you can't easily control what they put on as a caption.) Tags are great, though, as well as in-text links.  Used to use Storify, but recently they changed their on-page content so it's near impossible to scrape your own pages into something usable. Embeds also don't work like they used to (sigh.) Zemanta's plug-in's work better under Chrome/Chromium.

Another fascinating tool to use, while we're on that subject, is Market Samurai. You'll see just below the "related articles" a set of "related sites". MS has the capability to find track-back blogs, which are able to link back to you when you link to them. It's an old method of getting in-bound links, one which is harder to exploit. As far as backlinks as an SEO strategy works, anyway...

Apps - I'm currently looking into this as a publishing platform for books. As you can embed a PDF into an app, and also give them RSS feeds from your blog so they are always up to date. This would work well for something which is integrated such as "Duct-tape Marketing" by Jantsch. Give the app away to devoted fans. Lots of work, but can be promoted on your site and blog, as well as via Synnd above - since it has its own web page on the Android App store. (Apps also fit in if you have a unique public domain book everyone else has forgotten about. Keyword search can be done to check for "competition". You'll see that the cover again sells the app, as well as the description - just like books.

Links on your book page - should always be monetized. Everywhere you send someone should help you in some way. Now, sending people to Wikipedia just helps your reputation - and people will come back to finish reading your stuff (as long as you have their interest, most times.) Same for sending them to locations, or download links. But if you send them to another site, it ought to be via an affiliate link. Same for Amazon, even though their "advertising fees" are pretty lousy. Otherwise, links, as I covered above, should be ones which give you track-backs. And make sure you cross-link to specific pages of your other sites and mini-net. (More of that over at An Online Sunshine Plan - or my recent book series just released about earning extra income with your home business...)

Lulu pricing tips. When you port to iTunes or B&N via Lulu, getting your price changed is difficult - if not impossible. You should be able to do a new revision, and then they adjust those prices. Hasn't happened for me. The reverse of this is to have your book at a regular price to begin with and when these two other stores finally pick up and publish the book, you can change your price on Lulu easily - which is how you can give people a limited-time discount price. (Or use Kobo for that.) iTunes is for MAC users, who may or may not be savvy about epubs. Amazon is for Kindle users.

An old tip is to get Amazon to give away your book for free by setting your prices everywhere else to zero. (My book was .99 there at first - when the algorithm kicked in to lower the price, I then went back to "raise" it - which makes it look like a greater value.) Having both the paperback and hardback edition available on Amazon (you can print through Lulu for very little cost) will then show your "free" download to be even a better deal.

- - - - 

That's all for now. Talked myself out. Hopefully this has caught us up. It wasn't enough for an update of "Just Publish!" and with any luck, you've made some sense of this.

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