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What To Do When Your eBook Isn’t Selling

June 14th, 2012 . by Peggy

Here are some tips not just from me, but from other Authors or creators of information products.

1. Write a second eBook.

Yeah, I know, this sounds completely counter-intuitive, but this one really does work. Why? Think “inbound links”. In terms of discoverability, the effect can be magnified many times. (Think SEO benefits.) This is a great place to expand in greater detail or to focus on one particular topic area. Every sales book I’ve ever read talks about this in some way, and yes, it has personally worked for me. It’s given me credibility as a topical expert, and has gotten me speaking gigs, where I ultimately sold more books.

2. Check that you’re being really, truly visible.

If you’re not always on the move, producing more content, the market will know. It’s a wheel that takes a lot to get rolling, and if you stop pushing it, the momentum you’ve built can only take it so much farther without you. Are you blogging? It creates more traffic to your sales page. Using social media? Twitter is free and works on any smartphone. Talking about your eBook somehow, to someone, every single day? Are you doing speaking? All of this is what’s known as “working it”, and that’s the real job of an Author – not writing. Never underestimate the power of a t-shirt with your domain name on it. I’ve gotten at least a half-dozen clients a year from that alone.

3. Revise it.

I’ve had one book that’s had three titles and four covers. Admittedly, they were not all great, but when sales have not been as expected, I take it down, revise it, put on a new cover, or change the platform. (Ie., if it’s not selling well as a PDF, try moving it to the Kindle format. Fresh market, new links, etc.) This is exploiting the most advantageous aspect of an eBook: it’s not carved in stone. It’s a living document that you can re-upload at any time. (Watch your version tracking, in a hidden spot in each book’s copyright page that tags it v.1.0, v.1.1, etc.)

4. Create parallel content.

By parallel content, I mean creating content that is not exactly what is in your eBook, but that is very clearly and closely aligned to it. If your eBook is about weight loss, create a low-cal recipe blog. Make a few cooking videos for YouTube with links to buy the eBook. (Video is so simple now that it really is inexcusable to not do this for such a visually-oriented subject.) If you’re talking about how to be a great consultant, write a few articles about how to manage your billing and accounting. Thinking with empathy about the needs of your audience will clue you into topics of interest very quickly.

5. Solicit some reviews.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of review exchanges out there – just Google “book review exchange”. (The concept is, “I’ll review your eBook positively if you review mine.”) They are typically no cost, and can mean anything from an Amazon Kindle review to an actual interview or blog post. I’ve heard one very successful Author suggest that you should aim for a few more each month. Again, this is actually about creating more inbound links to your content, ie., SEO benefits.

6. Examine your metadata.

Metadata is all the stuff you don’t see, but your computer does. For example, when you upload your eBook to Kindle, you are asked for keywords related to your eBook, and to choose a category, name all the contributors, write a description, and more. Did you actually do all of that? Does it need refreshing? Did you add keywords and check the page title and so on when you built your blog or website? Did you max it out? Hidden stuff mixed with quality visible stuff is what attracts traffic.

7. Setup an affiliate marketing program.

This takes a little more effort, but once setup, can be a virtual money machine. (Again, I have an upcoming Cheat Sheet about this. Watch my announcement list or the Facebook Page for details.) Essentially, offering to pay other website owners or list owners for marketing your eBook can be extremely cost-effective, and can be done almost indefinitely. You can listen to an audio about this topic that I recorded here: http://funnygirlmarketing.com/ (Once you sign up, check out week 3′s recording. It’s free.)

8. Examine your consistency.

By this I mean not just consistency in how often you do certain actions, like a certain number of tweets per week or writing a blog post each Tuesday, but also consistency in your messaging. Have you been sending mixed messages to your audience? Are you known for certain catch phrases? Do you use them often enough? Do you clearly align your objectives for each chapter with the messaging for the entire eBook? Does your blog also reflect that same mission and attitude? Do you practice what you preach? Do you slip? (We all do – don’t knock yourself up over that. Just get back on track.)

9. Check the usability of your shopping cart.

This is one of those stupid things that we might assume is working, but perhaps isn’t working all that smoothly from the viewpoint of the buyer. It’s amazing what can cause a consumer to abandon a shopping cart. I’m not talking about system failure, but instead, how easy and obvious things are. I have a “filter” person that I ask to test all things like this for me – my Mother. If it passes the Mom Usability Test, it’s good enough for the general public. It has often surprised me what things can trip people up. Sometimes it’s the location of a button, or the words actually on the button, or the colour of the button. It’s crazy.

10. Check your Klout.

Klout.com is an impartial way to know and gauge how you’re doing in the world of social media. Examine your rating, the details and explanation, and compare yourself to others in your business. For those lower on the scale than yourself, watch for the up-and-comers. For those higher on the scale than yourself, what can you learn from them? What can you emulate?

In my experience, for my own books and those of my clients, it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. This list is a starting point that may lead you down side roads that you had not considered. Testing things scientifically is important: make one change at a time, and watch the results. And of course, everything is worth testing.

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18 Book Promotion Tips

April 24th, 2012 . by Peggy

Check out this list of 18 ways to promote your self-published (or traditionally-published) book or ebook.

1. Create a blog.

If you still don’t believe in the power of blogs for book marketing, check out this article by Nancy Hendrickson: http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-Authors-Need-to-Blog,-Even-If-No-One-Is-Reading&id=797505. Remember that the blog is not in addition to your website, it IS your website.

2. Write on the blog.

It sounds like 3+ times per week is the magic number to build traffic. Although, some Authors disagree, such as John Locke, who says that blogging more than once per month is a bad idea. Read his book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! to find out why.

3. Build your list.

I use 1shoppingcart.com and MailChimp.com to do this, but you can also use aWeber.com and any number of other services. Build a list of people interested in your product up to a year before it’s released, and you’ve got pre-sales, my friend. Hint: all the social media stuff you hear about is really about building your list. Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.

4. Use podcasts.

I have a face made for radio, and I work it: check out the OLD podcasts I’ve created at BlogTalkRadio.com. Download ‘em, trade ‘em with your friends. I also do mobile interviews with two headsets on my laptop, and record them as .mp3′s for regular release on this blog. Use Audacity (it’s free!) to record, edit, and output high-quality .mp3′s. As easy as a VCR.

5. Offer a free downloadable sample chapter of your book.

When people sign up for your email list, give them something nice in return, such as a free chapter in .PDF form. Ask the Artist who typeset your print book to deliver this as part of their package of services to you, so that you can be sure to deliver the download in the same attractive layout. Or, be sure that you offer a sample chapter of your eBooks on Kindle. One way or another, let them try out your stuff.

6. Create a simple and clear landing page.

The idea here is to create a special page on your blog that is designed only to sell the book – that’s it. Make sure that people can easily and quickly “get” who you are, even if this is their first taste of what you have to offer. Place attractive “buy it now” buttons that leap directly to your shopping cart in highly visible locations. If they want to know more, give them links back to your regular blog, which also has easy “buy it now” buttons in highly-visible locations.

7. Use affiliate marketing.

It was Dan Poynter, self-publishing guru and author of over 100 books who said rightly, “A bookstore is a lousy place to sell a book.” Make online selling your primary sales venue, and the way to do that is with an affiliate program organized through 1shoppingcart.com. (For additional info on how to actually implement this, see my other blog posts or forthcoming Cheat Sheet on the subject.)

8. Read John Kremer’s book, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, Sixth Edition.

I just love this guy.

9. Setup an email signature.

Mine is linked to my RSS feed, so that whenever I send out an email, people can click on a cute little headline bar and read my latest blog posts. At the very least, setup one that links back to your landing page.

10. Tell your Mother about the book.

My Mom is great about bragging about her kids – yours could be your greatest marketing asset. But don’t stop there – the idea is to work your personal connections. It’s amazing who knows who in this world.

11. Expect to give away about 10% of your printed copies, or about 200 copies of your security-protected ebook as promotional copies.

Send these to reviewers in magazines, radio hosts you admire, other authors you admire, industry leaders, teachers, trainers, favourite Bloggers, etc. Just be sure that all promo copies are being given to someone appropriate in your niche – don’t give a cookbook to a political talk show host. Biggest thing to remember here is to empower your promo recipients: give them tools to help you sell, such as a link to leave a review on Amazon, your website, the link to purchase the eBook, and a link where they can signup as your affiliate.

12. Create 3 short talks of 20 minutes or less that concern your book’s topic, and present at local service club meetings.

Find these groups in your local directory, Chamber of Commerce, etc., and ask to speak to the person who organizes speakers for the group. When you present, don’t be too “salesey”, and be sure to give away a free somethingorother, which may not necessarily be your book. (I always give away chocolate, and tactfully leave the book on a nearby table offered for sale.)

13. Partner with another Author.

Don’t think of them as competition. (There is no such thing anymore, anyway.) Instead, if they offer a compatible product or service, you can target new markets together. Perhaps even form a small group of Authors – the more, the merrier!

14. Approach your local independent bookstore.

Small bookshops, rather than large corporate sellers, always appreciate an opener something like, “I’d love to create an event at your store that would draw in more foot traffic…”)

15. Get vinyl letters cut for your car.

Put your domain name (which is exactly the same as your book’s title, right?) on the back or side (or both) of your car. This is so cheap now that everybody should do it for almost any business.

16. Keep the car (above) clean!

17. Don’t hand out business cards – hand out postcards.

This was a great tip given to me years ago by a beloved business mentor. People toss business cards, but they keep attractive postcards that have content of real benefit to them. In addition, you have more space to tell your message, make a special offer, etc.

18. Write articles for eZineArticles.com.

These don’t have to be deep or complicated, but they do have to be good quality. Cap them at about 500 words for greatest readbility, and keep it tight. Read their submission guidelines here: http://ezinearticles.com/editorial-guidelines.html

Want more of these tips? Subscribe to my newsletter and you’ll get this stuff all the time. Click here to subscribe: http://eepurl.com/jQ-lf

 

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Why I tell writers not to get too excited about copyright.

November 7th, 2011 . by Peggy

There are reasonable privacy precautions to take when you start a publishing project. But don’t obsess over the stuff that doesn’t matter.

Almost every Author comes to me with a lot of fear (read: baggage from bad stories they’ve heard or imagined) about “copyright” and the possibility of people stealing their stuff. In all 12+ years I’ve worked as an editor, I’ve only seen two Authors who have lost anything because they didn’t sign the proper contracts. Neither were clients of mine, but they came to me for advice after such a thing happened. One was a case involving a divorce, (yeah, like I’m going to get involved in *that*!) and the second was a business partner that wasn’t happy and split, taking the IP (Intellectual Property) with her to market on her own. I’ve seen many, many more people throw around their IP without any protection at all, and never had anything happen. From what I’ve witnessed in my own businesses and those of my husband, disputes over ownership of content are very rare and usually involve something much more complicated, like an ugly divorce or the breakup of a business. It seems to become less common as technology advances, as it’s easier than ever to simply show a date stamp on a document and prove that we thought of it first.

All written works are protected by default copyright laws in Canada, the USA, and most of Europe, as per the Berne Convention. As it states on Wikipedia,

In all countries where the Berne Convention standards apply, copyright is automatic, and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights.

In other words, as long as you can prove that you were the originator of the work (old files, notes, printouts with your edit marks, etc.) then you’re pretty safe in a general sense. The thing is, if you catch someone stealing your stuff, you would still need to prove it, and take it to court to be compensated in any way. (Although usually the threat to sue is enough to make people hold off.) The only benefit of actual copyright registration is that if you sue, you can sue for more money, and in different ways. But you’d still have to decide if it was worth it to fork out money for a lawyer in the first place.

When should you worry about copyright? In the music community, it’s a popular theme and debate. I’m not saying that theft doesn’t happen, because of course it does. And nothing I say here on this website replaces the advice of a good lawyer. But if worrying about this is stopping from creatively progressing with your work, I think you need to pause and consider if there’s a real issue, or an imagined one.

Now on the other hand, a smart and cheap way to give everyone a little more comfort is to sign an NDA, or non-disclosure agreement. I paid a lawyer to write mine, which you can now download by clicking the linked image at the top of this article. (Feel free to steal this and re-work it for your own evil purposes.)

What does this NDA do?

- It says that you promise not to steal my ideas about editing / technology / marketing, and I promise not to steal your ideas about your content.

- It says that you can’t circumvent me and go to one of my suppliers without paying me, nor I to your suppliers.

- It says that we’re both bound to do this equally. This contract doesn’t make a distinction between you or I, and so it doesn’t favour any one party.

- It says that we both agree to do this for 5 years, for a variety of projects in that time. (You don’t need to sign one for each of the 5 books on which you’re working.)

- It says that this NDA does not constitute a contract to do work, and that we’re just agreeing not to steal from each other.

So, to whom should you send this document? Certainly your editor, because we know all your secrets. And possibly any consultants that you hire to work on the project, and your graphic designer. And anybody that you ask for input as you develop your ideas. But that’s about it. You would not ask early reviewers and potential distributors, for example. In the first place, you want to be really nice to those people, and in the second place, they’re not interested in stealing anything anyway. Not that asking people to sign an NDA isn’t nice, but it can put some people on the defensive.

It’s not that your stuff isn’t worth stealing – I’m sure it is. But it seems we’re all too worried about our own ideas being stolen to worry about stealing anyone else’s.

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Great Example: Pre-Release Book Marketing

January 26th, 2011 . by Peggy

Blood Work, by Holly TuckerAuthor Holly Tucker is about to release her book “Blood Work” on March 21st. Check out her pre-release activities to help market her book.

Holly has great cover artwork, and she uses it. She also happens to be adorable herself, so she has her photo in her newsletter. She has created regular and clearly-written contact with her potential reader base, and she’s quick to remark on things like positive reviews (in Publisher’s Weekly – congrats, Holly!) in her neatly crafted newsletter.

But here’s the thing I like the most about this newsletter: the opening line. “My amazing agent, Faith Hamlin, wrote something today in response to a bunch of questions that I had sent her. ‘You’re doing. Fine. Don’t worry.’ ” The periods are what caught my eye. It’s subtle, reassuring, and you want to know the answer to the implied question. It’s like a promise stating, this will not bore you. It slows down the reader and forces them to pause and pay attention.

A good subject line or opening line is tough to write. It must convey excitement, create good feelings in the reader’s brain, and encourage them to read the rest of it. I rarely read an entire newsletter, I confess. So many of them are poorly-written, contain no useful information, etc. But Holly’s style is very readable, and even though she’s not giving me anything scientific I can use in my business, I want to know about her journey as a Writer, as the creator of the “second baby” as she refers to it. I feel her excitement. I want her to succeed.

Good luck Holly! You can learn more about the book here: http://www.holly-tucker.com/blood-work/#about and follow her on Twitter as @history_geek.

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The Word On The Street – Here I Come!

September 14th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’m super proud to be speaking at this year’s The Word On The Street Festival in Vancouver, BC. On Sunday, September 26th, the other two Book Broads and I will be hosting a FREE panel titled “Build it and they will come – NAH!” It’s all about book marketing, publicity, and generally being in people’s faces.

The description of our talk goes something like this: “Many writers assume once the book is complete, it will sell itself, right? Wrong. No matter the method of publication — traditionally published, entrepreneurially published, or electronically published — the onus of promotion falls on the author. The Book Broads offer practical advice for writers (published or not) to raise their profiles, extend their reach and build their fan base.
Join Angela Crocker, Kimberly Plumley, and Peggy Richardson as they take the sting out of the overwhelming prospect of media interviews, blog posts, Facebook updates, podcasting, and so much more.”

Queue up early! We start at 1:45pm downstairs in the Peter Kaye room of the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. (Yeah, that building that looks like the Roman Colloseum.)

See you there!

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7 Essential Viral Video Marketing Tips

February 3rd, 2010 . by Peggy

Don’t spend valuable time creating your viral marketing video until you examine these simple-but-important tips. All of them are FREE, but essential.

If you’ve heard about video marketing, but are unsure how to really hit the streets with it, all that we’re talking about is creating a small video that helps to generate awareness and enthusiasm around your book, ebook, or other product. You can easily create videos yourself, or hire the pros to do it for you. The video is then distributed through social media channels like YouTube (and other video outlets), FaceBook, Twitter, on blogs, etc. The idea is to use the video as an automated sales device, driving buyers back directly to you or your retailers. You can read an earlier article I wrote about this subject by clicking here.

1. Display the URL on every single frame. Any simple video editing software (yes, including Windows Movie Maker) will allow you to do this in one way or another such as a simple band across the bottom of every frame that displays the URL where people can go to purchase the book.

2.Be sure you have a landing page in place before you release the video. It’s no use inviting traffic unless you have a place to drive that traffic. Simply driving traffic to your standard website is not enough – be sure that you create a page or mini-site especially designed to sell your book.

3. Keep it short and sweet. Videos with long, useless intros or dragging scenes that frustrate the viewer are wasted screen time. Chop them out. The entire video should be less than 90 seconds, and 30 seconds is ideal.

4. Include the techy stuff. In the book universe, people need to know stuff like page count, ISBN, distributors, etc. A teeny splash page at the end is enough to convey this clearly. All products have some sort of techy details, like pricing, style and size choices, etc. Be sure to give the basics for interested potential buyers.

5. Take into account multiple audiences. Authors need to direct the video at not just readers, but also booksellers, reviewers, librarians, etc. These may have many of the same needs, but including a few different details to address each of these viewers is important. This can be done carefully without diversifying too much.

6. Use humour. Who wants to watch a boring, dry, video? Unless your video is about the stress of bankruptcy or the death of a loved one, there’s always a way to use a gentle hand with a bit of a smile. Your goal is to keep them watching until the end. (And in the case of death or bankruptcy, the smile comes from the relief you provide.)

7. Don’t neglect the metadata fields. In YouTube (98% of all viral web videos are distributed by YouTube*) there are fields that you can add a description, keywords, and other behind-the-scenes stuff that gets picked up by the search engines. This is what makes the video viral – it gets found when people search. Do your keyword research and get that stuff nailed down before you even start creating the video.

See a future article very soon about keyword research, which should be the first thing you do before you even think about creating your video.

* See this additional article for similar stats and info.

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Your Self-Publishing Timeline

September 10th, 2009 . by Peggy

Here’s a checklist to help you create a project timeline for your self-published book or ebook, and understand how long to allocate for each stage of the process.

There are two philosophies about when to release your book. One dictates that you should pre-determine a particular event or time of year with which to coincide the release of the book for best effect. This means picking a release date well in advance, and then counting backwards on your calendar in order to determine when you need to have certain milestones completed.

The second philosophy suggests that if your book is “timeless”, you can simply release the book on your own self-determined timeline, and take a more long-term, big-picture approach, because you’re in this for the long haul.

I suggest a compromise between the two: rather than just working along as in the second philosophy, pick a date that is practical for you to achieve, because otherwise, the book won’t ever happen. After all, every book project is for the long haul. Then follow this checklist to get the book ready in time. Rushing it rarely offers a concrete advantage, but dawdling doesn’t make you any money, either.

For a print book, the timeline must include printing, which frighteningly, relies heavily on someone other than you and your core team: Your Printer. Your printer will be your best friend on this project, so be certain that you call them as early in the project as possible (see #3 below for the best time to call them) and see what their press schedule is like. Press time can be booked over a year in advance for some large companies, but for small jobs, many companies adopt a “we’ll fit you in” sort of attitude. The print timeline is also determined by the style of book you choose, including options like hardcover vs. perfect-bound, paper choices, and so on. Your printer should prepare a clearly laid out quote with all of these options and discuss them with you in detail.

I love my printer so much that I feel I should tell you about Friesens, based in Manitoba, Canada. They have grown to become one of the largest book printers in North America, (the world?) and frequently print for the big publishing houses and many other American companies as well as their native Canadian market. My rep is an amazing guy named Gerhard Aichelberger, on Vancouver Island. (Reps are determined by where you live.) He’d love to talk to you about your print needs, and no, I’m not being compensated in any way for saying that. He’s just an extraordinarily nice guy who has repeatedly bent over backwards to make my Authors happy. All of the Friesens reps are great, and the company is made up of people that are more like a huge family than employees. There is no style of book that they cannot print, stock, and ship, and their quality controls are ISO certified.

Here are the basic timeline elements, with a sample time frame below in [brackets], based on an imaginary project where; there is only one Author, the subject is one with which they are already familiar, there is a marginal amount of additional research to be done, a simple design will be chosen, the book will be simultaneously paper and ebook published, and the Author intends to perform a combination of self-marketing and traditional print book marketing through retail channels.

1. Market Research

The most important thing in the entire project. This might take minutes, or it might take months. Don’t over-do it, but you should have a clear idea as to the size and viability of the market, how they are currently receiving information in this topic area (ebook vs. book, styles of either…) and what niches are still available for you in the market. Be sure to include keyword research in this section, and purchasing of appropriate domain names. (See my earlier post for choosing a domain name, which tightly steers your book titling process.) Secure your social media outlets, like your Twitter account and YouTube channel, along with your Facebook fan page. Brainstorm about more stuff like this day and night.
[2 weeks, including time to bounce the idea off a few people in your network. Future posts will tell you a bit about how I do this with my clients.]

2. Outlining

This feels like a grade school nightmare, but it is essential. Don’t skip it. It is almost as important as #1, because this is how you will know how many pages your book will be, how you can modularize it, how you will format/design it, what associated products you will create, how large a team you will need to help you, how much research help you will need, and much more. I can often complete an outline in a day-long marathon session, with the Author’s core team involved if necessary. This is also the time to secure things like your ISBN number, your UPC code, and so on. Get the technical and legal crap out of the way so you can get to the fun stuff. Set up your initial website, and start blogging. Make a video for YouTube – you’ll make more specific ones later, but start to build your audience.
[3 days, including adjustments to the marathon plan.]

3. Specification

This is the stage where you determine how long your book / ebook will be , how it will be printed (if at all), how it will be graphically designed (work with the designer to get a quote at this stage), how it will be marketed, how it will be sold (that is, the technical or real-world logistics), and many other items. Now that you know how long it’s going to be, you can calculate how many pages it will take up, based on a calculation involving page size, number of words designated or estimated per section, and how many words / illustrations / diagrams fit on the chosen page size. This means that you can now get a quote from your printer, and book your press time well in advance.
[1 day to 2 weeks, including a small amount of additional sales research. Our sample will be 2 weeks.]

4. Initial Content Development

Here’s where you start actually writing. Most clients who work through my process are extremely frustrated by the fact that they don’t get to start writing until now. My answer is: do you want to write, or do you want to make money?
[Time varies widely based on the working speed of the Author. Some people can write an entire book in a long weekend - I once wrote a 30-page ebook overnight, but I don't recommend that! For some, it can take months, but let's hope for something in-between. For our sample project, let's call it 6 weeks.]

5. Editorial Stage

There’s a lot of back-and-forth at this stage. Do not let this frustrate you. Your Editor’s job is to preserve your voice, but to make the data as saleable as possible. They should remain objective and be representative of your designated market. Usually, the book will be shorter when you get it back from your Editor, and you may have up to about 6 revisions on some areas, though more than 3 is not typically efficient. Do not indulge in dangerous emotional attachment to your content – it is only a product.
[7-10 days is often enough for a medium-length book that is essentially well-written to start with.]

6. Design

Once the content has been completely, 1000% revised, there are no more changes or spelling errors, no bits that you forgot, and your diagrams or tables have been laid out for the designer to re-create, you hand the manuscript over to your typesetter/designer. See other posts for tips for working with designers, but just be sure that there are no more changes to the content before you hand it to them, as changes after the design has started can be costly both in terms of money and lost time. Be sure to include time to design an appropriate website, hopefully in tune with your book’s design, to create wholistic and congruent communication with your reader base.
[1 to 3 weeks and up, depending on the length of the book and how clear you were in stage 3 with your design choices. Our example project will be 2 weeks.]

Tip: If you feel qualified to perform your own typesetting and design, it is often a good idea to actually write the book in the design template. Adobe InDesign and InCopy is especially good for this, but I have also successfully used open-source applications like OpenOffice.org. Writing in the design template allows you to see how words flow, gives insight into subtle things like aligning style and content, allows you to create flyouts and featured content more easily, and may help you spot trouble before you’ve gone too far.

7. Pre-Press

Some might say that this stage is not really worthy of a numbered point by itself, except that if there are any problems with the file that is uploaded to your printer, it can mess up a lot of other time frames. Ideally, this should be an invisible part of the process that takes minutes, but I’m adding this in as part of my “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” philosophy.
[Ideally, minutes. Possibly, a couple of days to figure it out and correct the problem. Keep in good contact with your printer during this time to ensure that you don't lose your press booking and that they are still on schedule. Our example project will not include any time for this.]

8. Printing

The day you send the book to the printer, you will not sleep that night, and will instead spend the night staring at the ceiling, wondering what you forgot, misspelled, left out, etc. I advise you to have a glass of wine or go to a movie and just try to get through it.
But remember, this is *not* the time to sit on your hands! If you have an ebook that was created at the same time as your print book, get that sucker out there are start hawking it – hard. Call the book distributors and retailers that you’ve been talking up and give them an update. Plan events. Create downloads for your website. Blog till your fingers bleed. Start doing interviews. Tweet like a songbird. Just keep building the momentum until it comes back from the printer and lands on your doorstep.
[2-3 weeks including freight, but this depends heavily on your printer's press schedule. The earlier you book, the less time you need to budget. Our example project will be 3 weeks.]

9. Safety Margin

It’s rare, but print errors happen. Freight gets lost, snowstorms tie up deliveries, and sometimes people just catch the flu. This time is your margin for error that ensures if you have promised delivery of the books to someone, you can deliver them early and look like a genius, or you have time to fix the mistake / wait for the snow to melt. Planning this time into your calendar at the outset will reduce a lot of stress, but if you end up with the books without delay, consider it bonus marketing time. Send out more review copies, get more last-minute interviews, do a few more talks or lectures, and just work it baby, work it.
[2 weeks in summer, 3 weeks if in winter, not because of weather, but because if you are printing at a busy time of year, you will need more time to get back on track. Our example project will be 2 weeks.]

10. Book Release Date

This date is not the end of your book journey, but the beginning. A well-designed book should have an active life span of 2-5 years, and perhaps a great deal more for an ebook, as it is a living document and can be revised to a new version any time, replacing the previous version on your website. You now have a full-time job of being an Author, and should continue to perform all of the marketing activities that you’ve been ramping up before this time, adjusting for market fluctuations and actively marketing your personal services alongside the book.

All of these time blocks, including the Safety Margin add up to: 19 weeks, or about 5 months. That sounds like a lot of time, and it is. I’ve seen Authors who work solo do it in less than 3 weeks plus press time, and it is of course possible to produce an elemental ebook overnight. 2-3 months is still practical for a paper book all in, assuming that there are no problems, and that the Author is decisive and well-prepared.

It’s up to you to process each of these stages and design a timeline of your own, but just be sure that you give yourself enough time to include proper market research up front, and a margin for error. The market research will guide you for the length of the project and steer every decision from content to design to printing to marketing. It’s first on the list because it is most important.

This was a long article, but I hope it’s encouraged you to think of your project in terms of the big picture – the picture where you are a successful, independent, and slightly wacky Self-Published Author.

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Tips for Painless Indexing

May 19th, 2009 . by Peggy


Indexing a book is often ignored because it seems like an “extra step”. But it could be a fast and easy way to add incredible value for book buyers.

Think about the last time you were in a bookstore, either browsing aimlessly, or looking for something specific. How many books did you pick up to give a second glance? Did you flip to the back cover? The flaps? Did you check the index to see what topics the book covered? I’d bet you did, just like I do each and every time.

A well-created index makes the book “a keeper”. Users only want to buy and keep books that do something for them, such as give them fast answers. Think about the books you consider your “regulars”, the ones you keep close at hand. An index allows the reader to maximize their investment in your book by increasing the book’s usability factor. Libraries, reviewers and distributors will all demerit you if no index is present in a book that should clearly have one.

For all the things you do as part of your publishing project, an index has a very low cost in terms of additional overhead. There is typically no additional print cost, or if so, it is virtually nil. Flagging items for indexing as you write takes no calculable time. Planning items for indexing can actually help you during your outlining process, before you write a word, making your book more organized.

In regards to the technicalities of typesetting, there is (like many things in publishing) no “right” or “wrong” way to do it, and it is up to the typesetter to create their own formatting, unless a template is being used that they can rely on. Unlike the rest of your book, here is not the place to get creative. Follow current conventions, and perhaps use a handful of other books you like as a format reference. Give the Searcher what they are already used to.

I always prefer two columns per page, in a simple serif-style typeface, regardless of the formatting elsewhere in your book. Readers have been trained to look for those trademark double columns as they thumb through in a hurry, such as when they are making a decision whether or not to purchase. A serif typeface increases readability, especially at high speed and in smaller font sizes. Your book should have one serif typeface anyway, so re-using it here will ensure continuity. Use italics to bring attention to alternate forms of the word, even if you are duplicating a reference. Readers of a topic rarely think the way the writer does – ask your sample readers for feedback about other terms they feel should be indexed, or alternate ways of saying the same thing, perhaps in “layman’s terms”.

These days, automated indexing tools such as those in Adobe InDesign or even Open Office are remarkably easy to use and accurate. They allow you to ensure accurate referencing to page numbers, even if whole sections of your book are dramatically altered. Searches will guarantee that all flagged words are referenced to the same root word, or to related words and references if you prefer. Even so, be sure to proof all entries, or if that’s not practical, check a broad sampling, to ensure that page references are all accurate before going to press.

As a teaching tool, an index is invaluable. If you plan to use your book as a guide or text, or as a pre-requisite for any sort of coursework or other material, an index is simply a must. Doing some competitive research on other books in your category can also help you to highlight terms that should be flagged for your own index, or bring to light terms that have been ignored elsewhere and deserve greater attention.

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Self-Publishing Debate

May 11th, 2009 . by Peggy

I find this blog post from the Society of Authors in France interesting because it’s what many of us perceive as the main points of debate on self-publishing.

Here’s what I agree with in this post:

- Every Author needs help. It’s real work – you can’t do it all yourself.
- Every Author is afraid of selling. We all get over it, and the faster you do, the more you’ll sell.
- Hire an Editor. I don’t care if it’s me or not, but almost nobody can edit their own work. (I should know – I’ve tried for years and it always sucks when I edit my own stuff.)
- It’s true that more people are reading eBooks, and for some, that’s definitely the way to go. (BUT: see note below.)
- Write because you have something new, groundbreaking or truly useful to say, not because you think you can make money writing about a particular topic. It is twisted but true that writing just to make money will make you poor.
- Finding alternative or unusual markets for your self-published material can be your greatest success. In fact, any truly great self-publishing success that I’ve personally experienced or witnessed has happened in this way. Don’t think bookstores – they are rarely profitable.
- A new breed of professional is definitely developing (ahem – such as Yours Truly) who is all about helping self-published Authors get their stuff out there.
- All self-published Authors need to get serious about selling from a quality website which includes an affiliate marketing plan.

Here’s what I don’t agree with:

- You don’t lose out on anything such as editing, graphic design, or quality printing if you self-publish. Anything is available to anybody these days.
- eBooks are not a direct alternative to printed book publishing. They are a different market altogether, and anyone considering the eBook route should perform market research to see if an eBook is appropriate for their market and materials. (See a future post for details.)
- You do not lose out on marketing, publicity, distribution, or reviews in the press if you self-publish. (Who ever said a traditional publisher got you all that stuff, anyway? All Authors end up doing tons of work in this area whether self-published or not. You may need help, but it’s no harder than for a traditionally-published Author.)
- Being self-published does not mean that you are not going to be of interest to agents. It means that you are going to have to approach them differently, but they will probably be just as interested if not more, because they know they’re working with an Author who is committed and hungry.
- Shipping your own books is rarely practical. There are plenty of fulfillment providers that will do this for you, and I can recommend a great guy who ships for me worldwide if you need one.
- Self-publishing does not rule out any opportunities to sell foreign rights. I don’t know where anybody got that idea, actually.
- I don’t know why an Author would want to sell their eBook to a publisher. The bulk of the cost of self-publishing is in the printing, so once that is out of the picture, why wouldn’t you self-publish?
- Here I go again, but print-on-demand is not usually the way for most Authors to publish their books. (For my reasons, just read some of my old posts.)

Every Author wants to produce the best book that they can. For some of us, self-publishing seems difficult to navigate, and we’re worried about being forced to accept sub-standard results. We worry about things like learning to sell and how we can afford to launch a national marketing campaign. The reality is that if we are treating our books as a business, we won’t have any trouble selling it. This means doing proper market research, writing very well (ie. saying something really valuable), and performing due diligence on things like quality graphic design and product creation.

In conversations with plenty of authors, self-published or otherwise, I have heard many of the same concerns over and over again. But with help, anything is possible. Always remember that another Author has been there before you, and if they did it, so can you.

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Why Your Book Needs an Index

January 2nd, 2009 . by Peggy

What is an index worth to your book? As an article from the American Society of Indexers reminds us, an index is not just a cool add-on, it’s a sales tool.

Every author I’ve ever worked with has given me that same funny look when I mention the idea of having an index for their book. I can understand why they don’t think of it – they’re really focused on getting the content created, as they should be. But what value is great content if it’s not made easy to use and access?

As a teaching tool, the use of an index is obvious. It’s the key that unlocks the door to your non-fiction book as a reference, and for reviewers who want to refer directly to certain portions of the work. (Many reviewers, like myself, use it as a direct criteria for rating a book.)

Buyers in a bookstore will check the index to see if a book talks about the exact topic that they are interested in. Think about it – you’ve done it yourself. If the index was not well written, or comprehensive enough, did you still buy the book?

Like a good cover design and professional typesetting, the index is a measure of credibility of you and your content. What is the reason that you’re publishing? If peer credibility and building your business has anything at all to do with it, your index may be the make-or-break of the entire project.

For direct sales benefits, remember that many online retailers like Amazon will use the index to refer new potential buyers to your book. Buyers may even be able to see screen shots of it using Amazon’s “look inside” feature.

As said by the Society, “Creating a good index takes understanding of the reader as well as the subject. It takes objectivity, perspective, a sense of proportion and priority, patience, speed, technical training, and experience. If you have all these qualities, if you can apply them under deadline pressure, and if you would rather index your current book than start writing your next one, you, the author, are the best indexer for your book. Otherwise: Entrust Your Index to a Professional.”

Oh yeah – it’s that important.

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