Tag Archive: self publishing questions


Beautiful Hybrid

Beautiful Hybrid

When I started with self publishing in 2009, I did it because I had a book I knew would sell if I could get it to market quickly. And it did, because I did.

There were a lot of traditionally published authors at that time telling us aspiring authors that self publishing was a “kiss of death” action. Do it and risk never being taken seriously by the traditional world.

I did it anyway, largely because I couldn’t get the attention of the traditional publishing world and again, I really believed in my book.

I had hoped that my book sales would later attract a traditional publisher, as has happened for some self-published authors. What I didn’t expect was for many of the traditionally-published authors to start coming over to self publishing, attracted by not only the book sales some self publishers are scoring, but also by the money.

Hear for yourself what these authors are saying – and what exactly the new word “Hybrid Author” means to them on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast by Simon Whistler. Episode 36 is particularly interesting as Beverly Kendall talks about the survey she completed last year studying what self publishers are earning.

We need new language for this new world of self publishing.

For one thing, we need to figure out if it is self publishing or self-publishing. I say it needs a hyphen when it describes, and otherwise should stand as two words.

There needs to be a different word for an author who owns her own ISBN and does it herself versus someone who accepts the ISBN from the upload site (do not accept the ISBN from the upload site), versus someone who buys a package from a “vanity” press site.

There are indie publishers, (independent publisher) which my kind of self-publishing business actually is, but if I don’t intend to publish work by other authors, I don’t feel that indie publisher is a fit – though I’ll use it anyway.

And I’d like a nice, encouraging piece of language to describe authors who are truly self published, and own their ISBN and have print and ebooks available – but aren’t yet doing it full-time because it isn’t yet earning full-time. Not a penalizing piece of language – an “on the way there” piece of language.

My wish list wouldn’t be complete with wanting a piece of language – preferably colorful – for the kind of author who self publishes crap – and another similar word for traditional publishers who publish crap. And a place to apply for a refund.

 

corinne tippett and the westchester press

This picture would be ideal if it were a pile of vintage tools – or a typewriter.

The tools of our trade are important to us since tool-using defines us on some of the charts in biology classrooms across the globe.

These are the tools I currently use:

Writing & Research

  •  MS Word – but not for more than the first drafts. When I finished my first 100,000 word manuscript I learned why real writers don’t finish manuscripts in word. The program promptly froze, like all the gurus back then warned it would at 100,000 words, which is why they suggested leaving it in chapters instead of one big document. Maybe that doesn’t happen anymore, I wouldn’t know because I moved on to better things.
  •  InDesign –for the finishing steps. InDesign works well enough but only an expertly expert von-experto could rapidly turn out all the different output formats I needed for print book and multi-formats of ebook. Or a bunch of paid plug-ins which only work with paid subscriptions, etc. So I still use it but I am slow.
  •  Scrivener – (still testing it) Scrivener redefines flexibility. I suspect that if I make an effort to learn it thoroughly, it will cut my software struggling time into itty-bitty fractions and fuel my productivity.
  •  Filemaker Pro – to organize research and publishing business info, but mostly because I know it very well so I can quickly build custom databases.
  •  Evernote – for database functionality in a more user-friendly environment that is truly portable. I can update via mobile, which I can’t do to my Filemaker Pro files as easily.
  •  Excel – for all the things excel can do that nothing else can do as well in the business of writing, but also for organizing information and ideas.
  • Snowflake – a beautiful piece of software created by a writer for writing which helps structure my characters, scenes, and story structure. It is also a writing guide as well as a writing tool.

 Website & Blogging:

  • WordPress – self-hosted on Bluehost, using only free themes until I find a paid theme that I can’t live without.
  •  GoDaddy & Bluehost & iPower & DomainIt – for domain purchases. I wish I’d stuck with just one domain site instead of buying from all over the place. I was trying to see how different the pricing and customer service was between providers and there is no real difference. I could transfer them all to one but don’t want to spend the time.
  •  Chrome – because Google knows where I live. I liked Firefox but liked Chrome better. I won’t even mention Microsoft Exploder. And Safari is lovely except that nobody will talk to it.
  •  HootSuite – easy to use and will cross-post to Facebook and LinkedIn, where Tweetdeck will only post to twitter. At least for me. It used to cross-post but I think I offended it by not tailoring each post to the specific platform.
  • Flipboard – an app for iphone and ipad that makes watching my social media streams like reading a magazine. Flipboard enabled me to finally understand what twitter could do for my mission to self-educate.

 Book Production:

  • Createspace – because it’s Amazon, and has so much background support. I am looking at going to Lightning Source to see if Ingram will then pay attention to me, but we’ll see.
  • Worzala – a book printer in the midwest USA who was willing to stray into short-run printing while the economy was still slow. They were very patient with my inexperienced self and I got a very nice short print run.

 Other Stuff:

  • Time versus Money – I do it myself whenever I can and still put out a professional product. If I don’t know how to do something, I take the time to learn. Except for cover creation and editing, there I spend real money.
  •  Living within my means – My goal of earning enough to cover my rent is going to be more achievable if my rent is low. I became debt-free due to disaster, but I’ve stayed debt-free due to personal choice. If my lifestyle is reasonable, then my day-job time can also be reasonable, leaving me room to write.
  •  Listening – to my readers, to industry gurus, to my family, to the heartbeat of popular culture, to podcasts, to Billy Idol (cuz he is so LOVELY – even now!)

And those are the tools that I use – missing only those that I’ve forgotten to list.

Two books is great... ten books would be better!  But where does a not-full-time author find the time to write ten books?

Two books is great… ten books would be better! But where does a not-full-time author find the time to write ten books?

This is my favorite question to hear from people. No, wait a minute, actually my favorite is “Have you lost weight?” only I don’t hear that one very often.

But I do hear “Where do you find the time?”

I used to answer “from ditching my TV-watching evenings” but then Breaking Bad came to Netflix and I lost the time I used to find there.

And then I used to answer “from all the time I’m not spending at the gym” but then people stopped asking if I’d lost weight… back to the gym.

So then I was left with some possibly controversial truths; that I find the time by not doing many of the things that other women are doing. Like driving the kids to soccer practice, or volunteering at the school, or separating whites from colors before (or after) washing, or decorating for the seasons, or keeping up with people’s birthdays. And that my children have daily chore lists that are at least as long as my own. And that I’ve never run, or even walked, a marathon.

Along with that admission, I have to emphasize that even with the time found by not participating in portions of the American Family Lifestyle – I still have to rely on My System:

Methodical organization, regular up-skilling in software and technology, relentless list checking, and constant time-management efforts – which are constant because I get regularly derailed like everyone else does.

I’ve had to build good habits for working because they didn’t come naturally. If there is a productivity how-to out there on tape, DVD, YouTube, Podcast, print, brochure, TV, or under my windshield wiper then I’ve adopted a piece of it. Rarely all of it because I burn out half way through and go back to writing, but every little bit helps.

And the most effective systems that I’ve set up for myself are carefully thought out procedure sheets that help me step through big projects with small tasks, organized for efficiency and increased productivity via layering.

This is the system that I am building for the How To Self Publish A Book series.

Because I really need it in order to Write, Publish, Repeat (these authors host one of the BEST podcasts that I’ve got loaded for my dishwashing, commuting, treadmilling 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!

 

 

Unlimited numbers of copies of When No One Else Would Fly, by Corinne Tippett are available on Amazon.com... and if it says out of stock, just check back the next day.

Unlimited numbers of copies of When No One Else Would Fly, by Corinne Tippett are available on Amazon.com… and if it says out of stock, just check back the next day.

There’s a new aviation pioneering biography in town, and it’s really good. Worth ordering on Amazon.com!

And when you order, you can get the book in about three days!  Which is quite incredible considering everything going on in the background.

It is a symphony of electronic publishing, distribution, and delivery that has changed hugely in just the last three years – since I published my first good book, titled  Just A Couple Of Chickens.

One reason the book has recently been going in and out of stock – although never out of stock for more than 48 hours – is because I am mucking about with the cover.

One reason I am mucking about with the cover is that this Print On Demand super-fast-mega-cool print system has a small amount of fluctuation in the cover placement on the book. It’s less than a quarter of an inch, but that can mean a line gets out of place, or a forehead gets stretched.

It all started with my correction to the back matter on the book. I wanted to say that Tip piloted more than ninety-eight different aircraft models, (instead of types of aircraft) and when I made that change, things started to color outside the lines in very minor ways.

The overall print quality, however, is way way way better than it was three years ago. My latest stack of author copies had NO flaws…and three years ago, it was 2 in 10.

My book does not sit in a warehouse, or garage, waiting for orders. It exists as an electronic file within Amazon’s extensive distribution network and when you order a copy, it prints at the nearest facility near you, and ships out fast.

There is no waste. No stacks of remaindered books going into the landfill or shredder. No trucking heavy books over miles of interstate. No packing material wrapping pallets of books in cardboard, binding, plastic, and more cardboard.

It looks to me like some of the early bugs in the Print On Demand system have been solved, and more. Big changes, big improvements – just in time for a Tip’s big story.

If you go online to get When No One Else Would Fly and it ‘s out of stock, check back the next day.

 

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!

 

Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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