Category: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions


Self Publishing Advice Busy Bees

The editors at Writer Beware Blogs have been busy bees gathering important information for us writers.

Every month or so, I take on this question again, because it is one of the most pressing issues in self publishing.

It can be very simple in some cases… do you have the skill and time to do it yourself?

If not, question answered. Set a budget and timeline and start to find a reputable self publishing company that will help you get your book out in the way you want it done. Check the “Writers Beware” site for scams, and make sure you get both a print and eBook .

If you do have the skill, and the time, I strongly encourage you to do it yourself. Software, if you don’t already have it, can be found on the Internet for free or very little money… you don’t have to have InDesign or Word. They make it easier but are not required.

My self publishing advice is slanted toward a specific way of Do It Your Self Publishing. Create your own publishing company, own your own ISBN, and create all the files (except for the cover) yourself. Hire out the editing and the cover, but forge ahead with your own hands otherwise.

And my advice is also skewed to eventually getting into traditional publishing by self publishing great books, building an audience, and continuing to submit to traditional publishers as your book sales grow.

Because doing the self publishing ourselves is a big job, and takes us away from the actual writing. But it gets our books out there, in readers hands, and I believe in that, with all my skill and all my time.

 

 

Updating Books In Print is like a stroll through a garden of lavender. Okay, no it isn't. But it is very satisfying.

Updating Books In Print is like a stroll through a garden of lavender. Okay, no it isn’t. But it is very satisfying.

Updating Books In Print is tops in excitement!

Okay, maybe not tops, but it is a useful and satisfying action celebrating your self published book. And it is free.

It is an important finishing touch as a self publisher.

Books In Print is a database managed by Bowker, the same agency that sold you your ISBN numbers. This step is where you assign your ISBN number to your title – letting the world know that it’s out there and how to find it. By the world, I mean libraries, bookstores, and distributors. And maybe traditional publishers who are madly trying to get in touch with you to offer you a mega book deal. Exciting!

You got to BowkerLink and sign in using the login and password you got when you got your ISBN numbers.

There is a place for a thumbnail image of your cover, in addition to the important publication details like title, author, publication date, etc.

This step is only available to, or required for, authors who have their own publishing company – and therefore own their ISBN numbers. And this step is one of the reasons a self published author should own their ISBN number. Your name goes into this important database along with your title.

After adding your title, cruise over to Publisher Information and make sure everything is current and correct.

There is a feature to this service called ISBN Logbook, which can give you a list of your ISBNs and what titles you have assigned to them. It costs $25. I suppose if you have lost your list of ISBN numbers and the titles you’ve assigned to them, this would be a good way to re-find them. But I have not shelled out the $25 to see how beautifully it is formatted.

Then you are done! Bravo!

 

 

Cuckoo Maran Chicks Love "When No One Else Would Fly" and "Just A Couple Of Chickens" but they wonder about the LCCN.

Cuckoo Maran Chicks Love “When No One Else Would Fly” and “Just A Couple Of Chickens” but they wonder about the LCCN.

The Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) is not legally required for a self published book, but it is a mark of professionalism and it does have meta data (and other) advantages.

The Preassigned Control Number (PCN) is the process through which you apply to get your LCCN, and all of this has to be done before you publish your book.

It can take several weeks to receive the LCCN for your book title, and so it should be part of your self publishing calendar as you plan.

The application process, and the assignment, is free. It is only available to self publishers who have created a business and the PCN office will determine if you are eligible for a LCCN.

Having a LCCN is one of the actions you take as a self publisher that makes you really more of an independent publisher or small press.

The entire point of having a LCCN is so that libraries can find, and therefore order, your book for their library collection.

On the one hand, there are @ 9,000 libraries in the USA and if they all ordered my book, I would be very pleased. On the other hand, if my book is in the library, then I am not selling more copies even though I am gaining more readers.

So why do I want the LCCN?  Because I absolutely love libraries and I want my book in the library because it’s part of my vision of being a writer. A vision of a print book on a library bookshelf – like all those thousands of books from the library shelves throughout my life, since the day I could read.

But besides visions and dreams, having my book in the Library of Congress database is part of the magic of SEO and keyword searchability that is an ongoing, slow process similar to the formation of a coral reef. One coral reeflet is lost in the wide ocean, but over time, the reef can grow until it gains the attention of everyone who passes. These small registry actions I take will accrete over time and make my name more findable, and my books more available.

Once you have your LCCN, it goes on the copyright page of your book. The formatting is described in the email or letter you get from the PCN office. There is a follow-up step required once you publish your book, and that is to send a copy of the book (a nice copy, not a proof or flawed one) to the Library of Congress. At the time of this writing, 2013, that address is below. Sending the copy for the LCCN is not the same as sending two copies for your copyright obligation.

          Library of Congress
          US & Publisher Liaison Division
          Cataloging in Publication Program
          101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
          Washington, DC 20540-4283

 

 

 

Trying to determine monthly book sales from the Amazon Best Seller Rank is not black and white.

Trying to determine monthly book sales from the Amazon Best Seller Rank is not black and white.

How does Amazon sales ranking relate to monthly book sales?

Nobody knows. Except maybe Amazon, and they aren’t telling.

But some very determined, diligent, and intelligent people have taken on the challenge of trying to find an answer – and they’ve posted some tools and guides.

They are mostly authors who have self published books for sale on Amazon.com and have found, as I have found, that there is no way to independently verify how many of our books have sold on Amazon.com. We have to settle for Amazon’s report each month… and be patient with the fact that some kinds of sales have several weeks delay in posting on that report.  (I should say here that this whole situation isn’t much different from having to rely on a traditional publisher for a report of monthly sales – and in those cases, the delay can be much longer… but still… inquiring authors want to know.)

At first I wanted to know because I was concerned that maybe I was selling hundreds of thousands of books but only getting paid for about ten. But once I cruised the reports and sites and saw the general overviews of Amazon book ranking translated to estimated overall monthly sales, I accepted reality, (not really, but I pretended to)… and Amazon’s reporting.

Then I wanted to know how many books other authors were selling, particularly my favorite authors or some of the successful self published authors I’ve been following.

Amazon.com shows a book sales ranking as Amazon Best Seller Rank, under Product Details” on the book’s Amazon.com listing – you scroll down past “Description,” past “Customers Viewed This Item Also Viewed,” past “Editorial Reivews,” and you are there.

The rank changes every day, depending on your own book sales, and other people’s book sales. It is a complex algorithm (or a bingo cage at Amazon headquarters) and it can be very volatile.

The most interesting thing about the ranking is the general number range; like less than 100,000 or more than one million. All the info I’ve gathered about this number range is from people observing on their own, not from Amazon.com’s CFO, but I’ve done enough of my own double checking (on my own numbers and through other sources) that I think it is somewhat accurate.

In general, if your ranking is less than 100,000, you are probably selling several books every month. If your ranking is more than one million – meaning that there are at least one million better selling books on Amazon.com than your book… you are probably only selling a couple of books a month (or less), or haven’t sold a book in a couple of weeks (or more) – and you should probably stop checking your ranking and start doing more marketing.

But sell two books in two weeks and watch that ranking climb!  For one day.

Another resource, which is far more iffy, is a site that offers you a chance to enter your actual sales ranking and see what you actually might be selling monthly or daily. I found this calculator a little buggy – make sure you zero it all out and try it several times with slightly variable numbers. But it did show me numbers that made sense on my own ranking, and some test rankings where I already knew the monthly sales of other books.

There are also sites that helpfully offer, for free, to track your Amazon.com sales ranking; presumably so that you can have an average to plug into the calculator.

For me, having yet another numerical measure in my life is unappealing, especially because it does not generally make it under 100,000 on any given day, so I am satisfied with the occasional overview.

I could toss it into my goal pile, but instead, I’m going to get ready to release my grandfather’s aviation biography and see what happens to THAT sales ranking… wahOOOOOO!

 

 

It is Tulip Time here in Portland, and my bulbs of do it your self publishing are getting ready to bloom.

It is Tulip Time here in Portland, and my bulbs of do it your self publishing are getting ready to bloom.

I’ve blogged about this issue of definitions within the term “self publishing” before, but I am doing it again because I think it is so important…

This new publishing landscape is driving the need for new publishing terminology,

Self publishing versus Do It Your Self Publishing

Self publishing generally refers to hiring a company – or a series of professionals, to turn your manuscript or project into a book . You pay for it your self, and that makes it self publishing. I don’t think it is a misnomer for self publishing, because you are hiring services same as you would if you were the CEO of a traditional publishing company.

Do It Your Self Publishing is doing all of the work yourself – hiring pieces out if you can afford it, or taking on the whole process personally. Sometimes including the cover production.

This is important (at least to me) because I am focused on Do It Your Self Publishing… intending to pursue it to get my books out until I can lure a traditional publisher to get them out with me.

The fundamental issues are quality and cost. Do It Your Self Publishing is definitely lower cost than Self Publishing, but the challenge is to match the quality. By doing everything myself, I am more likely to make back my costs through book sales (at all, or quickly)… but not if I do a bad job of the editing, layout, ebook programming, cover, and promotion.

Another reason I’m re-blogging about definitions is because I’m SO CLOSE to releasing my second book, “When No On Else Would Fly” the biography and memoir of my grandfather, Colonel C. J. Tippett, aviation pioneer, and handsome glamorous guy. But instead of announcing the release, I’m waiting for my copyproofer to finish proofing the copy.

My copyproofer is a teenager and although she can finish a twilight novel – or anything related to dragons or vampires – in about 15 minutes, it seems to be taking her longer to read MY book.

Which does NOT mean it is boring or flawed. It means that it has no vampires in it. None at all. And maybe also has something to do with the fact that I’m paying her …. not much. I offered to tell her her birth story again.

We use what resources we have, here in DIY Self Publishing – but our products are excellent. Our books are compelling.  And ALMOST ready for release!

 

I can't give blookup.com a good review, but I can post a pretty picture of this butterfly.

I can’t give blookup.com a good review, but I can post a pretty picture of this butterfly.

Being able to turn a blog into a book is a great way to self publish a book. Not that every blog, in its natural form, would make a great book.

But being able to pull the posts and pictures into an ebook, or a fantastically expensive color print book, or a pdf, can be great.

Being able to pull it into a format that can be opened, and therefore managed, in MS Word can be even better.

I previously reviewed:

And so far, anthologize and fastpencil are the best – with anthologize being the only one to give a format use-able in MS Word.

I found some other sites that didn’t meet my requirments, and they are:

  • Blookup.com: I found blookup.com during my search, and decided to give it a try. It is a French site, so I had google translate it for me, and that was entertaining… but I gave up my effort as soon as I saw that I would have to enter my login and password for my WordPress blog. There was no other option, like pull a feed or upload a file. Some of the other methods also asked for my login and password, but they always offered another route. Blookup.com did not, so I didn’t continue. For me, it isn’t worth the risk. Blookup.com is also ONLY for WordPress blogs, either on wordpress.com or self hosted.
  • Feedfabrik.com went offline last year.
  • Blogbooker.com also seems to be offline.
  • Papyruseditor.com only lets me bring the latest post from my blog in. It’s a nice simple interface, but ….
  • Zinepal.com was simple, and can pull in posts from just a URL. It creates a simple ebook and offers to update it and keep sending it on schedule. It costs $5 and up.
  • ePubBud.com couldn’t digest my files, and is intended for children’s books, but it may be a good tool for other purposes.
  • eBookGlue.com was super fast and easy, but only picks up the first 29 or so posts. No login, no cost, just makes an ebook out of whatever URL I entered. Whether it was my own work or not. Yipers! (the ebook is ePub)
  • LeanPub.com can import blog posts. It involves dropbox, and a little time to learn. It was able to pull ALL my posts, from my feed, which was good, and the formats were ePub, Mobi, or PDF.

Somewhere in all these methods, there is your way.

Turning your blog into a book is a really good idea, and opens up new markets for your work. At the very least, it can collect your work and images into a portable, dependable, secured archive you can control.

 

 

 

The anthologize plugin for wordpress allows me to pull my blog posts into a project and export them in a format I can use in MS Word... bingo!

The anthologize plugin for wordpress allows me to pull my blog posts into a project and export them in a format I can use in MS Word… bingo!

A blog is an important topic is any discussion of how to self publish a book. In Do It Your Self publishing, it is a primary place to build an audience for your topic, and so being able to pull the posts and turn your blog into a book is important.

I recently worked with the anthologize plugin for WordPress… and it has given me a lot of what I am looking for –

but…. I still have to do a bit of work.

But… it gets me a Word file!

I’ve been looking for a method that produces a nice looking book without a lot of formatting time on my part. And I’ve found services that can do that, but don’t give me a format I can then work with in MS Word or InDesign – which would allow me to use my blog posts to write a whole new book (without laborious copying and pasting or retyping.)

  • In past posts, I investigated blurb.com, which gave me limited results.
  • I gave Blog2Print.com a whirl, and it was better, but still somewhat limited,
  • And I took a run through FastPencil.com, and was pretty delighted … but….

None of them let me work with my material in MS Word.  Until now….  (drumroll)

Anthologize is a plugin for WordPress. In an ironic twist – it is not available for blogs hosted at WordPress.com, which is the free place where people can have WordPress blogs, much like Blogger.com or Typepad.com. This is ironic because most of the other services will work ONLY on those sites, and we who self-host are out of luck. Until now….

When I install the anthologize plugin on my WordPress site, I immediately have access to all of the posts on that site and can pull them into a “project” and export them in pdf, rtf, ePub, html, or Anthologize TEI format.

RTF is the format that catches my attention, because I can open that export directly into Word, and therefore use my blog posts in any way I choose. High Five!

If I want to pull posts from another blog, I import content based on the URL feed. This is great, because I can catch the feed of any of my other blogs and use anthologize to create a project using them. But I have to know the feed address, and I had some difficulty pulling feeds from non-wordpress sites, so I’m not entirely sure about that feature. (This issue appears on the Known Issues list, so someone is working on it – someday?)

At this time, I can’t upload an xml file – I can only pull in a feed. And not every blogging method allows me to create a download xml file of my posts, but most of them have some form of feed.

I have to load the posts one by one into the parts of my project. If there is an “all in chronological order” button, I haven’t found it. For very long-standing blogs, this can be tedious, but since it is the first method I’ve found to give me a Word file, I’m willing to put in my time.  (this issue is also on the Known Issues list)

Anthologize is an extremely useful tool, and easy to use. The plugin was created using funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The way it was created is pretty interesting – it was a workshop thing, accomplished in one week. And it breaks open the world of possibilities of using blog posts to create other things – like a self published book.

While I plan to keep searching for tools that enable me to easily turn my blog into a book, I am very happy with Anthologize, and highly recommend it, even with the bugs.

Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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