Humanus Feed
Obsessed with books, eBooks, marketing, & chocolate.

Top Kindle Indie Authors Worth Following

July 31st, 2012 . by Peggy

As a followup to my blog post for VivMag.com, about why women over 30 write better eBooks, here’s a list of the top female indie Authors worth following on Twitter, and definitely worth reading.

I was fascinated with how each of these women market themselves. Some have many books, others have very few. Some are wild about Twitter, and some are not. They use tools like video and podcasting to help get their eBooks out there. Their pricing is all over the map. And if you follow each of them carefully, you’ll learn more about their writing style, their attitudes about their business, and how that plays into their success.

In no particular order…

EL James

( https://twitter.com/E_L_James/)

- Fifty Shades of Grey

- Fifty Shades Darker

- Fifty Shades Freed

Karen McQuestion

(https://twitter.com/KarenMcQuestion)

- The Long Way Home

- A Scattered Life

- Easily Amused

Click here to see all of Karen McQuestion’s Kindle eBooks

Ruth Cardello

 (https://twitter.com/ruthiecardello)

- Maid for the Billionaire

- For Love or Legacy

- Bedding the Billionaire

Jamie McGuire

(https://twitter.com/jamiemcguire_)

- Beautiful Disaster

- Providence

- Requiem

Click here to see all of Jamie McGuire’s Kindle eBooks.

 

Tammara Webber

(https://twitter.com/TammaraWebber)

- Easy

- Where You Are

- Good For You

 

Colleen Hoover

 (https://twitter.com/colleenhoover)

- Slammed

- Point of Retreat

 

Zoe Winters

 (https://twitter.com/zoewinters)

- Blood Lust

- Save My Soul

- The Catalyst

 

Erin Kern

 (https://twitter.com/erinkern04)

- Here Comes Trouble

- Looking For Trouble

 

CJ Lyons

 (https://twitter.com/cjlyonswriter)

- Nerves of Steel

- Sleight of Hand

- Face to Face

Click here to see all of CJ Lyons’ Kindle eBooks.

 

join the discussion

When eBook Choices Seem Overwhelming

June 11th, 2012 . by Peggy

Stuck in a revolving door of confusion about eBooks?Stuck in a revolving door of confusion when it comes to various technologies around eBooks? You’re not the only one.

Knowing your options may seem like you’re opening a can of worms, but actually, I find that most of the choices in eBooks really boil down to just a few questions.

The problem is that these few choices have been inflated and repackaged a million ways. When various companies start inventing their own words to use for the same things, nobody knows what the heck is going on.

Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to pigeonhole options when they present themselves, and know if a new choice is something you really need to consider, or if it’s overrated or unneccessary.

Here are the questions I hear about the most in my presentations and workshops.

1) Do I need to create a PDF or an ePub?

This is really the biggie. Everything else falls into place based on this. For more information on each of the platforms, and how to make the choice based on your content type, read this previous blog post from me.

2) Do I need to hire an “eBook Publishing Company”?

This category of company invented itself a couple of years ago. Are they capitalizing on the confusion by charging outrageous prices for stuff that most people can do themselves? In most cases, absolutely. (However, there are some that I’m testing and that I may recommend in future.)  The built-in systems inside Amazon Kindle, for example, enable any non-techie to do it all by themselves. Anybody who can type an MS Word document can publish on Kindle. For more information about how to actually do this stuff yourself, sign up for my mailing list. I’ve got new video classes coming online very soon.

3) Do I need an Editor?

A resounding YES. For me this is not negotiable. In almost 170 eBooks, I’ve met exactly two writers who did not require the services of an editor. Two. Neither you nor I are one of those two. Find someone qualified you can work with, and just make the best deal you can. Try this database of freelance editors to start.

4) Do I need to hire someone to typeset my eBook?

If you are creating something that you want people to buy and read on Amazon Kindle, no, you certainly do not, as that’s not how Kindle works. (If you don’t know this already, it means you need to buy an eBook on Kindle and read it, to familiarize yourself with the platform. You can read an Amazon Kindle eBook for free using your computer, your phone, or your iPad or other tablet – you do not need to buy a Kindle device, or even pay money for an eBook for that matter.)

However, if you’re creating something that should be printed out and written in, or that contains many illustrations or tables or charts, or that must be seen in colour to make sense, then yes, you may want to consider hiring a designer to lay it out as a PDF for you. This means it’s more likely that you’re going to sell it off your own website, rather than on a platform like Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and etc. (Please, I beg of you, don’t simply type up an MS Word document and use that to create your PDF for download. It looks like crap.)

5) Do I need to hire a cover designer?

Unless you have some reasonable graphic design skills, yes, a professionally-designed eBook cover is totally worth the money. Don’t try to buy software and learn it as you create a homemade-looking cover design – too frustrating. You can certainly get a really attractive cover designed for you for about $200 – $500 USD. There are some great people overseas. (Or, hire me. It doesn’t matter – just be sure it looks slick.) I’ve written about eBook cover design guidelines here. You can share that previous link with your graphic designer.

6) Do I need a website devoted entirely to this eBook?

Perhaps not. What every book does need, however, is a landing page. If you already have a WordPress site, that means just adding another page to your current site, one that is totally devoted to selling your eBook, without distraction, alternative navigation, or outbound links. This page is where you’ll direct web traffic to “land” when they respond to things like your social media links, any ads you have to sell your eBook, or from other websites and blogs.

Let us say that you are a chef, and you’ve written a cookbook. The cookbook is a PDF, which means that it’s loaded with colour photos, lists of ingredients, and indented instructions. You want to sell this off your own website, and use it to build your profile. The best way to accomplish this would be to devote one landing page on your site to just selling the eBook. From that page, create a really HUGE and obvious link in the top right corner that says “Order my copy NOW!”, and make that button go directly into the shopping cart experience.

That sales page does NOT need to be independent of your website. In fact, it will work better if it’s not, as it reduces maintenance for you, as well as being able to easily capture traffic from the rest of your website.

7) How do I start writing? What should I use to type it?

Just use whatever you are most comfortable using. These days, everything can be exported and imported. Most people still write in MS Word, which is just fine, no matter how you plan to ultimately output your eBook. (I happen to prefer the free software Open Office over Microsoft products, but as I say, it doesn’t matter.) It helps a great deal to reduce the amount of formatting you use, and keep it as simple as possible, to avoid having to make adjustments to the manuscript later on. Whether you plan to release it as a PDF or as an ePub, as in, Kindle, etc., MS Word (or Open Office) is still a perfectly good way to start out.
Don’t worry at all at this stage about things like spacing, designing the layout of things on the page, or especially fonts. This seems to get asked all the time, and yet, at the first stage, this is absolutely the wrong thing on which to focus. Instead, worry about your marketing plan, your outline, and finding any images you wish to include, again, no matter which type of eBook you plan to create.

While this is not an exhaustive list, this certainly covers the most common questions I hear. The key is to simply not worry about the details too early in the process. The bigger question of things like your marketing plan and your keyword research are still the most important first steps.

join the discussion

Choosing A Platform For Your eBook

May 31st, 2012 . by Peggy

Kindle reader on the iPadThe Kindle platform is great for many types of content, but not for all. When I offer my presentations and classes, I have a few slides that help walk Authors through the following choices. Your content might work for all platforms, or not.

For the sake of simplicity, I break eBook platforms into two major categories: PDF, and ePub. Both of these are compatible with Mac and PC platforms, and both can be sold off your own website. And, both can be used for the same content. But they will look quite different.

We all know what a PDF is. Static, colourful, suitable for things like charts, diagrams, fill-in-the-blanks, and of course, easily printable. Designers LOVE a PDF, because they know, without a doubt, that what they see on their screen is precisely what the consumer will see when they purchase it and open it. There is no fluidity to the content. It stays where you put it. This reliability is what caused the explosion of the PDF format in the first place. It can also be distributed and created more easily, and for most people wanting to sell a self-help or business book from their blog or website, the PDF option provides a very smooth experience for the consumer. The creator can use the simplest possible sales mechanism: the PayPal shopping button, which has virtually no maintenance, and is extraordinarily easy to setup, even for non-techies.

Plus, there really isn’t much to worry about in terms of things like tech support for the user. Once the consumer has downloaded the PDF, they can even use their Kindle device or software to open the file, as well as Acrobat Reader, Adobe Digital Editions, or various other software, making it extremely user-friendly.

However. (Ahem.) Let’s suppose that the user doesn’t shop that way for their eBooks. If they do a search on Amazon.com for your keywords, they will miss you entirely. And further, let us also suppose that you want to take advantage of the DRM support provided by ePub-based platforms like Amazon Kindle. And even further, let’s suppose that you just don’t want to be the one managing the shopping cart – you’d rather leave that to Amazon. And after all that, let’s just say you want it on Kindle so that you can win the bet with your know-it-all brother. (Matt, you lose.)

The big dividing line between PDF’s and ePubs is that ePubs are really all about text – not design. While they continue to evolve, and yes, images and so on can work beautifully, you’re really never quite sure what the consumer is going to see when it gets to their end.The Kindle platform is very user-friendly, virtually eliminates piracy, and allows the reader to conveniently carry their library in their mobile phone. All of that works the way it does because content for Kindle is really just text, and therefore, a very small file size. It’s about the raw, flowable text: not charts, not diagrams, not comparison tables, and certainly not large or complicated images.

Upon dissecting an ePub, which is the base of the proprietary Kindle format, you’ll find yourself looking at an html file – essentially, a web page. That’s right. Tags, text, and image files. Does your content rely on images to explain concepts? Do you have not a piece of prose, but a workbook in which users must perform exercises or fill in blanks? Do you rely on dramatic spacing and a series of complicated indents to set apart portions of your content,  such as in poetry?Do you have sidebars or flyouts? Do you rely on colour to make distinctions in the text? If so, you may wish to reconsider the use of the Kindle platform, and instead, stick to PDF’s.

While ePubs have evolved dramatically, and continue to do so, the reality is that there is just too much out of your control as the creator of an ePub with a lot of graphics, colour, or special text placement on the page. The content may not look like you expect it to on all devices and all platforms. (And in fact, I can virtually guarantee you that it will not.) If that’s the case, will it still make sense? Be readable?

Understanding the nature of the ePub or Kindle platform before we start to write allows us to create content that exploits its benefits, rather than getting caught its traps. For example, novels and non-fiction prose are very well suited to the ePub – Kindle platforms. That is exactly the sort of content for which the platform was invented, and, using even the most basic marketing will virtually guarantee some sales. Creating content that relies on rich descriptions and high-impact language will do best in this situation.

This is why regardless of recent advancements in ePubs, I still caution users to rely on only the most simple formatting when creating content that they intend publish via Kindle, or a multi-platform ePub uploader such as Smashwords. When content is uploaded into useful systems like this, the interface to the creator forces the content to be reduced to its very bones, thereby ensuring compatibility to multiple retail platforms. For ePubs, simpler source content guarantees better results, and that’s why the PDF isn’t going anywhere: we still need it for its reliability of design and function.

join the discussion

Jill Exler Is My Hero

December 7th, 2010 . by Peggy

Jill Exler is a Mum, Author, and Entrepreneur who is really hitting the streets with her tool for self-published Authors, Jexbo.com.

Jill’s smile isn’t the only bright thing about her. Jexbo only takes 5% for any self-pubs that list their books on her site, as compared to (ultimately) over 50%, depending on the variety of services available for Authors. Jill created the site herself after stuggling with her own self-publishing issues.

I love that Jill took things into her own hands, and that she’s kept her business model so simple. Her service is complemented by an interview series (Hey Jill! I’m available!) and a newsletter aimed at self-pubs. It’s all about helping self-pubs advance their businesses.

Jill takes things seriously, and she doesn’t mess around. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jexbo. What a clever cookie.

join the discussion

NaNoWriMo Nanaimo!

October 31st, 2010 . by Peggy

I’m proud to be sponsoring several events in Nanaimo, BC throughout November, and into December, for the international NaNoWriMo competition.

If you’re in the Nanaimo, BC area, please come out and join us for one of the events listed here, at Meetup.com.

We’d love to meet you!

join the discussion

BookCamp and Social Media Camp Weekend

October 4th, 2010 . by Peggy

This past weekend, I attended two events. Friday was #bcvan10, or BookCamp Vancouver, and Sunday was #smcv10, or Social Media Camp Victoria. Both events made quite an impression on me.

Here’s a bulleted list of what I learned at Social Media Camp and BookCamp. (I’m too tired to turn my notes into prose.)

  1. I need to leave the house more often. (So much for the glamorous benefits of being self-employed.)
  2. Book publishers are trying really hard to succeed in the area of eBooks. Some are fighting the ePub revolution tooth and nail, but many houses are working to convert entire back catalogues to ePub format. The problem is, they’re spending far, far too much money to do it. Their methodology for this needs serious re-examination.
  3. Social media ROI is measurable after all – it’s not just about karma. Correlating the relationship between tweets and visits to my blog is easy. Visits to my blog has a direct relationship to new client intake. (But don’t mess with karma, regardless.)
  4. I’m not the only one who wants to know the real people behind my social media connections. People can build a certain amount of trust online, and that’s accomplished best with video (I know that from personal experience – nobody said it this weekend) but meeting people in the real world is what closes the deal.
  5. My personal understanding of the way SEO and social media work together was not fantasy – it was bang on. (Blog post or white paper forthcoming.)
  6. I think I’m going to re-issue a number of the eBooks I’ve created under various pseudonyms with my real name slapped on the front. Re-brand, re-market.
  7. People trying to self-publish fiction need a whole new way of connecting and doing business. I hope that some of the people I met on Friday at BookCamp have a chance soon to attend Social Media Camp. Everyone in that business is either lost, frustrated, or slowly going broke. It’s crazy. Non-fiction has it much easier, but there’s a reason I don’t do fiction. It’s just sooooo hard.
  8. It was very encouraging on Friday to hear that so many people are on the eBook bandwagon. I had serious concerns about being the naughty eBook girl in a room full of hardcover lovers. (Which I still am, by the way.) But instead, I felt encouraged and optimistic about the relationship between eBooks and traditional publishing houses, for the very first time. Many companies might survive, including ones that only a year ago had self-prophesied their doom.
  9. I need to be much more consistent about my own application of social media. My Klout rating had dropped to *6* from 24. But, after today, it’s now up to 35. @meganberry was right – it’s not about the number of followers.
  10. This is going to be a crazy next three months.

And one more thing: #11. Affiliate marketing is still the big pothole that I see missing from both the book marketing picture and the social media picture. (Document of some sort forthcoming.)

Cool people I met, connected with, or otherwise admire from this weekend:

- http://twitter.com/unmarketing (Scott Stratten, Keynote at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/julien (Julien Smith, Keynote at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/jmaxsfu (John Maxwell, Professor at SFU, co-organizer of #bcvan10, eBook advocate)
- http://twitter.com/justyn (Justyn Howard, Speaker at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/brendonjwilson (Speaker at #bcvan10)
- http://twitter.com/raincoaster (Lorraine Murphy, Speaker at #SMCV10)
-  http://twitter.com/Kathleen_Fraser (Speaker at #bcvan10 and Mpubber)
- http://twitter.com/stitchtowhere (Cynara Geissler, Speaker with Kathleen at #bcvan10)
- http://twitter.com/seancranbury (Host of Books on the Radio, guy with camera, co-organizer of #bcvan10, Mpubber)
- http://twitter.com/daveohoots (Marketing Dude for Hootsuite.com and Speaker at #smcv10)
http://twitter.com/tpholmes (co-organizer of #smcv10)
- http://twitter.com/meganberry (Marketing Manager for Klout.com and Speaker at #smcv10)
- http://twitter.com/somisguided (Monique Trottier, Social Media chick and consultant, co-organizer of #bcvan10)

join the discussion

Why Amelia Peabody Keeps Me Interested

April 6th, 2010 . by Peggy

Today was the release of “A River in the Sky“*, the 19th book in the Amelia Peabody novels by Elizabeth Peters. There’s a reason readers keep coming back.

The multiple NY Times bestselling Author Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters, and aka Barbara Michaels) was a housewife and mother when she wrote her first novel, The Master of Blacktower, (now available on your Kindle in under a minute) in 1966. Mertz’ numerous pseudonymns make it easy to miss what a prolific writer she really is, with a total of 69 books to her solo credit. She holds a Ph. D in Egyptology from the University of Chicago’s famed Oriental Institute, and many of her books have something to do with archeology or Egypt. The Amelia Peabody series of novels focus almost exclusively in this area, and so far are all set between the years of 1884 and 1923.

Mertz’ character of Amelia Peabody is so involving, so enticing, and so electric that I’ve re-read all 18 of the previously-published books in that series* up to 14 times. They are murder mysteries, with a feel that might resemble the bastard child of Agatha Christie and Indiana Jones. (Having not yet read today’s release, I can still say that “The Last Camel Died At Noon” is her best from the series.) There are no other books that I’ve read with that much enthusiasm since I practically lived in the school library’s Nancy Drew section at age 10.

While many could comment on the literary devices and other romantic reasons that Amelia keeps me coming back, I can reduce it to a few simple points that one might also try to include in a non-fiction work.

1. Higher Purpose

Amelia always has something bigger than herself happening, and while it’s not always life or death, Amelia interacts with a wide variety of famous characters in history, plays a part in incidents of the first world war, and is even present when the tomb of King Tut is first opened. While I’m not talking about creating a grand mythology around non-fiction content, Readers want to know that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone’s work has a higher purpose of some sort, so it’s important to tap into that and involve Readers in that same sense of purpose. Amelia’s missions are much like many that we all have in our own real lives.

2. Constant Movement

Amelia is in many ways typical of the ladies of her class and era, and yet in many more ways, extremely atypical. She is of course self-disciplined, and extremely British in her general outlook, but she constantly bucks trends and acts very modern. She is an adventurer and discoverer, and she needs little sleep. Her mind is so quick that it blindsides not just other characters in the books, but occasionally, the books include various bits of narration to piece together certain puzzles for the Reader as well. She climbs mountains, both literally and figuratively, and she does so on a daily basis. It is not just important to maintain pace of story, but also to maintain pace of information, and that it is dished out in bite-sized pieces that the Reader is ready for, right when they need it. When creating non-fiction materials, the voice of the Author is often that of a Teacher, and the pace of that teaching is extremely important.

3. Level of Detail

Mertz’ descriptions of tombs, methods, how archeological finds are treated or cared for, and descriptions of tools, Victorian clothing, medicine and medical treatment, and even buildings and transportation are rich and full of detail. Her details of locations paint a clear image of what the area must have looked like, and make the reader feel as though they are walking on the same street. She describes the people of her era in Egypt with respect and deference to their glorious heritage, and the racial prejudice of many of the British people present as loathsome and narrow-minded. Her crime scene descriptions rival that of any modern homicide detective. Readers want to hear about the guts and the glory, and to put themselves in the position of the problem, and then of course, in the solution. And importantly, the content that augments the books adds additional enrichment, including maps and timelines to further clarify things like excavation areas and pre-historic locations. Things like tip sheets, checklists and web links augment any type of non-fiction material.

4. Heroes and Archetypes

I’ve talked (at least, verbally, if not here on this blog) about this concept many times in relationship to the Archetype (versus Stereotype) concept as described by screenwriting trainer Robert McKee*. Mertz does an excellent job of creating heroes and villains, and uses a variety of archetypal-characters, including a number of cats, which form an additional family of personas that many of us can relate to. She has masterfully used many elements of the classic archetype in creating her Sethos character, who is my favourite literary villain of all time. Sethos is Amelia’s dark-ish nemesis, and even though he waits until the third book in the series to appear, he plays a strong role from that point onward. Again, pacing is important here, as more and more details about Sethos are revealed so very very slowly, keeping the reader in suspense. (While the objective in non-fiction is not typically to create a sense of suspense, the importance of deciding on an appropriate pace is the same.) Sethos eventually becomes a hero in his own fashion, and anchors the story in a classic way that cannot be accomplished through any other method. The hero in non-fiction might be a concept rather than a character in that same sense, but the effect is the same.

5. Letting the Reader Think For Themselves

I admit that I have rarely been able to anticipate who the murderer is in any mystery novel, but Mertz doesn’t force the Reader into any sort of conclusions – false or real – too early. She merely presents all the (fictional) facts of the case, and the Reader is encouraged to try to figure it out. Not too coincidentally, this is an essential component in adult education. Since most non-fiction is about educating your Reader (in some way), letting the Reader/Student take ownership of the story or problem/solution combination is essential to getting them on-side, and making them loyal to your point of view. Just look at how I’m evangelizing about Amelia here – I’m one of her peeps because I’ve “helped” her with so many adventures.

As you can see, fiction and non-fiction both rely on classic tools and devices, and in surprisingly similar ways.

*Affiliate link.

join the discussion