Tag Archive: self publishing advice


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!

 

 

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 Horned Lizard of Self Publishing, who is proud of her new tat, strongly recommends you read the Terms Of Service when you are self publishing a book.

The Horned Lizard of Self Publishing, who is proud of her new tat, strongly recommends you read the Terms Of Service when you are self publishing a book.

Any discussion regarding how to self publish a book has to encompass the world of ebooks. And King of the World of ebooks is the Amazon Kindle.

Kindle has it’s own format, so as I turn my books into ebooks, I have to include Kindle in my plan.

As with all of the business aspects of self publishing a book, there’s a Terms of Service agreement somewhere in the mix – and a button called “I Agree” to press.

I read these terms of service every time… perhaps accounting for some of my red wine consumption by the end of the day. I was planning to discuss the more interesting bits of one of these agreements until I saw the clause expressly preventing me from making any public disclosures of any bits of the agreement.
Well, that’s a bummer!

Because many of the questions I had regarding how my eBook would work with Amazon’s Kindle Program are answered in there. So instead of publicly disclosing things regarding the agreement, I will ask questions and make free association comments, like poetry, that are random. And I’ll offer a common sense piece of self publishing advice: read the contracts carefully as you use any service to self publish a book.

Apropros of Nothing, I Say:

  • Why are the eBooks I buy through the Amazon Kindle Program, especially the nonfiction how to eBooks, not packed chockfull of advertisements and promotions?  I really appreciate the fact that they are not, but I’m somewhat surprised that they are ad-free.
  • Who controls all that marketing and promotional stuff that happens on the Amazon site? Am I going to have to manage that? Because I can barely manage finding my car keys every day, and all that stuff looks complicated.
  • The Kindle Lending Program is a super great deal for me as a customer, because I have enrolled in Amazon Prime. Mostly to watch all the videos and TV, like with NetFlix, but also to get the free two day shipping and access to the once a month lending library. But whassup with that Lending Library where it concerns MY eBook?
  • If I could have three wishes from a genie, I would immediately wish for unlimited wishes… and then I would wish for access to the customer data and raw sales data for my book sales on Amazon.
  • I wonder if it takes a couple of months for sales data to post to an Amazon Kindle Account?
  • If it turns out that someone does not have the copyright to something they sell as an eBook, there are all kinds of dire things that can happen. Just sayin’.

Having read lots of terms of service agreements, I might say – if I were saying anything – which I am not… that one of them I recently read was pretty clearly written, and worth reading. And I appreciate that, because some of them, like anything related to Bank of America, for instance, are truly awful.

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

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.

A single rock in the sand isn't such a big deal. But if the rock is a post that missed schedule, and the beach is my blog... it's not very zen.

A single rock in the sand isn’t such a big deal. But if the rock is a post that missed schedule, and the beach is my blog… it’s not very zen.

My best blogging coping mechanism for posting regularly about how to self publish a book was my ability to schedule blogs in advance.

I could write ahead of time, have them post at a designated time and date, and keep a nice regular flow of self publishing advice.

Until I discovered “Missed Schedule” in WordPress.

My posts started to miss schedule. At first, I thought it was because the time I’d chosen for the post was conflicting with the time I’d chosen for backup. But it turns out that there’s a complicated conflict regarding hosts and posts and pieces of toast.

Not pieces of toast, I just said that because it sounds good, and the real reason, which is that somebody turned off my cron, just sounds weird.

It sounds like it could explain much more than my blog missing schedules. I think this explains my entire position in today’s economy!

The good news is that there’s a plug-in for that! (missed schedule, not my position in society.)

But the trouble is, I already have too many plug-ins. If I load any more, it could slow my site down. So while I’m pleased there’s a plug-in, I’d be more pleased if the posts would simply post on time.

While I am chewing on the fact that a WordPress post can be “missed schedule”, I am going to the site each posting evening and manually publishing the missed ones. Grrrrrrrr.

Once it started to miss, it missed a lot.

Once it started to miss a lot, it missed them all.

Installing plug-in now….

 

 

 

 

Now Available in Kindle Format

Now Available in Kindle Format

How do I self publish my eBook?

I asked that question of the Googoracle and found that the technology and methods are changing so quickly that all of the how to instructions and advice were mostly, but not entirely, useful.

In a similar-but-not-the-same way that PC and Mac are different, Kindle and Everything Else is different.

I needed a .mobi file for making my book available on Kindle, through Amazon.com – and I made that myself using calibre and about twenty hours of web research.

I needed an .ePub file for making my book available on Barnes and Noble and Apple iBooks, and I tried to use Smashwords.com helpful program to do it from a MS Word file, but the navigation – always the navigation – wouldn’t work in a way I considered professional.

So I used Calibre again, and that previous twenty hours of web research, to create an .ePub file, and uploaded it to Smashwords.com – and through them, will see it manifest on B&N and Apple iBooks.

I could upload the .ePub file directly to B&N and Apple iBooks but if I use Smashwords.com, I don’t have to manage them all myself. And the royalty rates are in my favor.

The magic of all this is complicated by the ingredients we authors are using at the time we attempt to cast our eBook spell.

Depending on the author’s computer, operating system, update level, internet browser, skill level, document complexity, origination software, and book style – the process is either straightforward or convoluted. And I wizarded up a pond full of toads before I was able to create my shining pretty ebook.

But now it is done!  And with great fanfare, I am happy to announce that “Just A Couple Of Chickens” is available on Kindle, and on Smashwords, and at Barnes and Noble, and at the Apple iBook Store!

My next step as a self publisher is to go write about a dozen more books and put them out in all these different places as well!

 

just a couple of chickens on kindle

Just A Couple Of Chickens is now available on Amazon Kindle… high five for Do It Your Self Publishing!

When I enter the phrase “self publish a book” into Google, I get pages of hits that are actually vanity presses: companies that I can pay to do the publishing for me.

I suppose that is one interpretation of self publishing, but it isn’t what I mean.

I mean “do it your SELF publishing”.

Of the growing number of authors who are self publishing, there are a smaller (but growing) number who are coming up to an intersection called Print Book or eBook. They are discovering that the same materials required for the print book will not automatically translate straight to an ebook.

Yes, a file has to be saved as a PDF for upload to a print-on-demand service for the print book, but very rarely is that same PDF file going to work as-is for an ebook. I’d say never, but I’m supposed to never say never.

I set out, three weeks ago, to produce a Kindle version of “Just A Couple Of Chickens”, which has been for sale on Amazon.com since December 2010.

At first, I was delighted to see that Createspace had a button on my book dashboard saying “Publish On Kindle,” along with a download button for two files: the cover and the interior of my book – for Kindle!

I hopped merrily along to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), with my files, and while the cover file worked well – the interior did not. Not not not. At. All.
And that was the file that Amazon offered me to use on Amazon – for my cooliorageous new ebook.

I learned that it is very easy to publish a messy looking ebook with no navigation, but it is not easy to publish a good looking ebook with standard navigation.

sigh.

For those of you who know something about ebooks, which I did not three weeks ago, you will understand my journey when I admit that my first question was “What is an NCX file?”

And for those of you who don’t know… get ready to climb that learning curve. Pack a lunch.

BUT!  I did it. Myself.

These bullet points were earned in metaphysical sweat and tears, and they are a beautiful thing for anyone interested in “do it your self publishing of a kindle ebook”:

  • You will make a separate file for your kindle ebook. It will not be the same file for the same book in the different ereader formats. 
  • KDP is publisher for Kindle, and many people use Smashwords as the publisher for everything else.
  • The technology behind this process, and therefore all of the how-to directions, are changing so fast that you will probably discover something new and buggy during your process. You must use The Force.
  • eBooks have no page numbers. You do not control the font. You are at risk of not controlling the page breaks. Navigation is important and you are better-off setting that up in MS Word, using styles, headings, and bookmarks.
  • I don’t know if the InDesign kindle plugin works or not because it only works on CS5 or later and I have an earlier version of Adobe Creative Suite.
  • The Word document must be super clean and simple – see the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. Most Word documents are not super clean and simple.
  • KDP will let you upload a word docx but it will look crappy. Use  a Word doc – but unless you did something htmlantizing, you won’t have a nice looking Go To,
  • For that, I used Calibre because I’m on a Mac. 
  • If you are on a PC, good luck using mobipocket – I couldn’t resolve Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8. And I really tried.
  • If you really can find someone who really will Kindle your book for less than $100, pay the money. Make super sure that the offer includes Go To navigation with the chapters listed. Tell them up front if you have images in your book and read the fine print on the offer to be sure your price is still going to be less than $100 after they get started.

To all of the tech-heads who posted how-tos on forums, chats, article sites, blogs, comments, and free ebooks… thank you.

Oh, and I almost forgot… “Just A Couple Of Chickens” is now available on Kindle!!!  WahOOOOOOOOOO!

 

 

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