Sunday, July 31, 2011

Drive by posting about the Indie Book Event

Hey all,
I still remain too busy to do much blogging but wanted to stop in for a quick drive by. This weekend I took a trip up to New York to attend the Indie Book Event. I'll write up several things I learned there but I wanted to mention two highlights.

First is the Indie Book Collective which did two presentations at the event both of which were very top notch. The speakers were: Amber Scott, Carolyn McCray, and Rachel Thompson. I've taken a quick first pass look at their site and I think there is a lot of good information there. I'm going to go through the whole thing and report more later - but in general it looks like they have Tutorials, Workshops, and they podcast on Blog Talk Radio. Just based off of their presentations I think there will be a lot of good information there.

They also have written a book: Dollars and Sense (The Definitive Guide to Self-publishing Success) It's just $2.99 for kindle so I downloaded it. I've only read a very small fraction of it while traveling back but what I saw there looked good.

The other was a "fan moment" I had when I met, in person, Lori of The Next Best Book Club (TNBBC). This my absolute favorite group on Goodreads and is a perfect example of a well run group on this fantastic site. I met so many great people through TNBBC but have not been able to spend much time there lately as I've been so busy with Michael and the other Ridan authors. If you are not involved at goodreads - you should be and be sure to join her group.

I was delighted to discover she does a blog that reviews self-published literary fiction. Michael wrote a great novel called A Burden to the Earth that I'm not sure what to do with. With the vast reading experience she has, I'd love to hear what she thinks about it and she agreed to do some Beta Reading of it.

Okay that's it for me I have to get back to editing. I'll try to get something more substantial up soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's quiet...too quiet....

Egads is July almost over already? I look at my anemic number of blog posts and feel really guilty but I'm determined to get some editing done on the following books:
  • Time Cavern II - Todd Fonseca
  • Cluck: Murder Most Fowl: Eric Knapp
  • Double Share - Nathan Lowell
  • Untitled (changed it a few times): Jackson Archer
And formatting for:
  • The Good Humor Man: Andrew Fox
In addition I'm sending out contracts today for 8 new acquisitions to the Ridan Catalog. I'll wait until the author's sign before I announce but I'm very excited about all the new titles coming in! for tips for writers - Sorry I'm going to continue to be scarce for a while. In the meantime - you can "catch up" with me via some interviews that are online. Today a skype discussion with Dan Blank from We Grow Media was posted. Here is the link:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Discoverability: Step #1 - A place to call home

Before I start to go into techniques to help your "online discovery" let's make sure we have our ducks in a row. To that end let's talk a bit about some of the basics for those just starting out.

Priority #1 - Your own site
You MUST have a site controlled by you that you that you can send people to. Period. Don't ever think author pages from: your publisher, Amazon, or Smashwords is "good enough". You must have a site exclusive to yourself that you are in complete and utter control of.

In the past this meant a web page and either learning how to create one or hiring a website designer. Nowadays you don't need any of that just use a blog. Blogs makes it so much easier to update your content and since they now offer static as well as dynamic pages you can still have tabs for things such as sample downloads, buying direct, author bios, contact pages, etc. etc. etc.

The other advantage of using a blog is that you get a SINGLE site. If you try to maintain both a blog and website one will usually be woefully neglected. (Usually the website) If you have only one to keep up to date your life gets a lot easier and you don't confuse your readers by giving them several different places to go to.

What's in a name
While a rose by any other name might small as sweet I want you to start on the right foot and that means thinking about your name (both for your site, and handles used by sites such as twitter and forums).

Writers are in an interesting position because they have their own name, their books name, and in some cases series names. We'll make this real simple because I want you to forget all the other things and focus on YOUR NAME. It's the only thing you can count on.

If you are traditionally published, there's not telling what the "final name" of your book will be. If you stated a blog with the name of that book, and they change the title - you're going to lose a bunch of momentum. Also keep in mind you'll probably have more than one book out there. If you try to make your sites books specific then you'll have to duplicate information on multiple sites with each new book. Also you'll loose cross-selling opportunities.

Some authors think they should divide sites between series. While this is a little better than doing it for books the same problems exist. You'll have to maintain several sites and one is always better. Again if you are using your name as your main site then you can have separate tabs for each series.

What if you write under multiple pen names? I still say you should have only one site. If one of the names is the "Real you" then that should be your site. If all of them are pen names then focus the site on the most popular of the authors then have separate tabs for each of the "writing as" names.

Pay the few dollars a year it takes to purchase your own URL you can even purchase several - for instance yours, your book titles, and your series titles as long as they land back to your one and only blog/website. Through redirection you can have several URL's land at the same place.

Having control over an exclusive place to send people to once you are "discovered" is essential. We'll spend one more blog post on this subject tomorrow indicating what you should have on your site.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Discoverability: The new challenge to authors

The one thing you can always count on in the world of publishing is there will always be challenges. The second thing you an count on is that what was your greatest challenge yesterday may not be your greatest challenge today - and that's why the most agile amongst us will survive.

I've said for a long time that this the best time to be a writer...and I still believe this. One of the reasons why it's so good now is the "old challenge" was one that the author had little control over. The "old challenge" was getting published. The traditional process had very few slots and too many talented authors vying for them. The author was at the mercy of agents and a few big publishing companies and there was little they could to effect the outcome.

But now authors have many options for getting published. Many factors are contributing to this:

  • The shift away from large retail bookstores (breaking down a barrier to entry)

  • The emergence and dominance of ebooks (level playing field regardless of publisher)

  • Lessening of stigma of self-publishing (as more and more authors become successful)

  • The growth of successful small presses (providing more "slots")
So, now the ability to get our books published is easier than ever, what's more, if the author chooses to take sole responsibility for doing that they can take their fate in their own hands and their own talent and sweat can give the book a viable chance at earning well. Congratulations that challenge has been subdued.

So, what then is the new challenge? One word - discoverability (okay, so it's a made up word but it will soon reach "real word" status just as muggle did). By fixing the "old challenge" we now have many more authors out there and being found amongst them is our new challenge. No, I'm not one of these people that says, "Woe to all of us...we'll drown by the influx of too many writers." I think more choice is a good thing. But it does mean that as authors you have to work harder so that people can discover your fine work.

The big winners in this new environment will be Amazon, Google, and Apple. Why? Because they control discoverability. So as authors you need to makes sure you are maximizing your exposure with these places. Think about the following things:

  • Have you selected your categories wisely?

  • Are you making use of the Amazon Author's Central features?

  • Have you considered making an app version of your book?

  • Are you tagging and asking others to tag your books for maximum discoverability
And while these players are going to dominate discoverability - don't abdicate your own role in this. You need to establish a DIRECT connection between your the author and your reader. The more that is under your control the less dependent you'll be on others. (Think Pottermore). What this means is building your blog/website (so that there is an exclusive place for people to connect with you) and drive traffic to this exclusive space with your social networking.

I'll be talking more about both these topics in the coming weeks. But if you haven't read my guest post at Michael Hyatt's site entitled Five Steps to Building a Platform When You Hate Selling Yourself. I suggest you start there.

I've never said that publishing was "easy," but it is very "rewarding." I love a challenge. I thrive on it so I'm glad to have a new thing to turn my talent and intellect to. I hope that together we'll give you some ammunition to vanquish as well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Layout Help for Print on Demand Books

While it is true that most sales for a self-published author will come from ebook sales, I think having print books as well is a great idea as there are many people who still prefer to have a book in their hands (and you probably want books for yourself to sit on the shelf). While formatting of ebooks is incredibly easy, laying out a print book to look professional is a bit more challenging.

For Ridan, we do our book layout in a program made by Adobe called In Design. This software is rather expensive and takes quite a bit of time to master, but does produce incredibly beautiful results. I recently ran across an alternative that I found so worthwhile that I thought I would share it here.

Below are three very quick and easy videos showing you how to get a professional looking layout using As the name implies, this is free software but as I'm an ex-programmer and know just how much work producing such a product entails, I highly recommend you donate a little if you do use this program and find it useful. Here is where you can download the software.

The following videos take you step by step through the process of setting up a professional looking layout. They take just a few minutes to watch and I highly recommend them.

Part I

Part II

Part III

See, that's not so hard is it? Once you have your interior layout and know your page count you can calculate the spine width that will allow you to do your cover (which will be in separate pdf file).

Armed with these two things, you're all set to choose a printer/distribution partner. The two I recommend the most are Create Space and Lightning Source. In February I did a comparison of these two and proclaimed Create Space the winner. Since that time some information has come to light that has made we re-work this post so if you've not read it recently it's worth a revisit. Here is the link.

I hope this helps!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Still lurking about...

Hey guys,

I've not been hit by another car, just incredibly busy with some project for Ridan and that of course is taking priority. In the meantime...there are a few podcasts that I've done recently that you might want to tune in to.
I also did a podcast with Irreverent Muse on Contracts - not sure yet what the air date will be but I'll post it as soon as it goes live.

I should be back on my usual blog routine soon. And for those in the DC area - I'll be doing a free lecture at the Arlington Public Library tomorrow (Saturday 7/9/2011 at 2:00 pm) - this is the Central Branch - just off the Orange line between Balston and Virginia Square stops. Hope to see some of you there! Topic is Marketing.