Tag Archives: Indie Writing

Formatting a book requires two different files

I am finishing up Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.  The text is finished, what I am finishing is the formatting of the paperback and the Kindle version.  This is the “publishing” part of the “self-publishing” or “indie-publishing” process.  I don’t know how others do it, I can only speak to the way I do it.  But there ends up being two different files, as I said above, one for the Kindle, one for the paperback.  I think this is the reason a lot of indie-publishing people only make a Kindle version.  It’s simply easier, and frankly for most indie-writers more copies will be sold as ebooks, and as time marches along that difference between paperbacks and ebooks will only grow.

I think that is a mistake, for a little bit of extra I can bring in more revenue on the same title.  If you’re new to this take the extra-time to learn both.

I use Indesign, because I subscribe to the Adobe Cloud.  You can use Word to format books as well, but I learned from Kevin and the Seven Lions that if I wanted a book that had a bleed, that is the images go all the way to the edge, I needed Indesign.  The template provided by Createspace didn’t allow for a bleed.  Plus Indesign CS6 has an export straight to Kindle option.

The main difference I have between my two versions is Back Matter.  Back matter is that stuff at the end of an ebook that allows readers to click through to a Facebook page and website.  Those things can change or may need to add more places to find me.  I’m not adding all of my social media stuff in the back of a paperback.

The table of contents is also different.  Can you guess why?

There are no “pages” in an ebook, thus making the pages in a paperback completely irrelevant.

The table of contents on my desktop Kindle previewer, note NO page numbers for chapters.

The table of contents on my desktop Kindle previewer, note NO page numbers for chapters.

The paperback Table of Contents as it currently is in Indesign, note Page numbers.

The paperback Table of Contents as it currently is in Indesign, note Page numbers.

For some writers, the focus is solely on the ebook version.  In the first three months of having a book out, about 50% of my revenue has come from the paperback.  I think it was worth the trouble to make two different versions.


In regards to Indesign you subscribe to Indesign only for $19.99 a month for a whole year.  That may or may not be worth it to you, but it could be something to consider if you don’t want the whole Adobe Cloud.

Staying exculsive with Amazon for the time being

I am new to this whole self publishing thing.  But I know few things seems to cause such debate as to the idea of staying exclusive with Amazon through their KDP select program.

For the time being I am keeping my work exclusive with Amazon.

Jeff and I have similar hairstyles.  Maybe that's why I am staying.

Jeff and I have similar hairstyles. Maybe that’s why I am staying.

Joe Konrath is going all in on KDP select.  But I don’t have his backlist.  Heck, I don’t have a backlist.

Here are the reasons why I am doing it:

1. It’s easy.  And I’m lazy.  Apparently I need a different file type to upload to the Nook.  I could set up a file with Smashwords and they could send my book everywhere but Amazon.  Two things with that.  One, they get a cut, and two they want me to upload in .doc format.  Word on the street is that Smashwords is very picking about the formatting of your file.  Formatting a paperback and Kindle book is enough trouble for me right now, thank you very much.  Sorry to my two Nook fans.  And don’t get me started on iTunes.  To upload to iTunes directly to iTunes I either need to buy a mac, or sacrifice a an iPod shuffle at Steve Jobs’ memorial.  Currently, I have no plans to do either.

2. I have GREATLY expanded my readership through Select.  I’ve done two different give aways of the first Kevin book.  Between the two giveaways the book has been downloaded over 7,000 times.  I consider that a success.  As a no name author my book is currently sitting in over 7,000 Kindles and devices with the Kindle plug-in.  And after each free promotion paid sales increased.  They increased a lot more and stayed selling longer the second time around this month in March.  Before January I had never published a book.  Now in March over 7,000 people have my book.  Thank you Amazon.

3. Kindle Lending Library.  Seriously, this thing is awesome.  People borrow my book for free on their Kindle, and then I get paid.  And in most cases, because the book is currently priced at $1.99, I get paid MORE for a borrow.  I even noticed that someone bought my book, then returned and borrowed it through the Kindle Lending Library.  Which means I get paid more for the borrow than for the sale.  Awesome.   That’s money I would not get if I left select.  And my borrows were a pretty high percentage in January and March, that I don’t see the borrows being made up by sales on a Nook.

Reasons to leave.

1.  People who own a Nook. I’ve had a few people tell they it on the Nook.  Seriously, I love all four of you very dearly, but this is a business decision.

2.  The ability to give away free copies on my website. This actually the main I was considering leaving select. Due to the exclusivity of Select I can’t give away copies on my site.  But then I did the obvious math. No way could I have given away 7,000 copies on this site.  Not even remotely enough traffic to reach that.  (I know. You’re shocked.)

3.  Just generally against exclusivity. When I tried my hand at stock photography years ago I never signed an exclusivity agreement because I liked having different sites. The problem is Amazon is so good at getting your book seen no other site even comes close.  See David Gaughran’s take on Amazon’s superior search engine. I have yet to read about a writer who had had more sales on Nook or Apple then kindle. If you are such a writer, please leave a note in the comments.

For those that don’t know exclusivity for Amazon is only 90 days.  So I may change my mind later this summer.  If I had several books available I probably would send a few books free from Amazon, but I don’t have that right now.  Leave your opinion about Select in the comments.

Chapter 1 of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien

We’ve moved from the editing phase to the illustration phase of making Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.  Thanks to all my beta-editors and readers!

This next book is an early chapter book.  It’s around 10,600 words.  (For all you teachers out there.)

So I thought I would share the first chapter and beginning part of chapter 2.  This time around Kevin has a last name and friends.   The universe gets expanded here.

I’m eager to share and hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1 – The White Whale

“Ahoy! Man ye stations!  We’ve got a ship to board!” shouted Grey Beard, the dirtiest pirate that ever sailed the Seven Seas.

“Aye! A ship to board” squawked Dirty Melon, Grey Beard’s parrot.

Men ran back and forth across the swaying ship. Grey Beard, with Dirty Melon perched on his shoulder, walked slowly to the stern of his ship, the White Whale. 

There she was, the prize, the Falcon, the fastest ship on the high seas, with treasures to match inside.  Grey Beard had been pursuing her for months and here she was, right in front of the White Whale.

Cannons began to fire.  Smoke rose and billowed everywhere.  But Grey Beard just stood there staring at the Falcon. It was going to be his. He felt it. He knew it.

He pulled out his spyglass and held it up to his right eye.  There, looking back at him through his own pirate telescope was Captain Kurtz, the soon-to-be former skipper of the Falcon.

Although he stood 400 yards away, Grey Beard pulled his pistol from his belt, pointed it at the White Whale and pulled the trigger. BANG! 

Chapter 2 – Jared

“Kevin! What are you doing?” shouted Jared Thompson, Kevin’s next-door neighbor. Jared was also in Kevin’s class. “Get up! It’s your stop.”

Kevin Kershner looked up, put down his pencil, closed his notebook and got off the bus. He walked briskly to his house, hoping that Jared would just go home.  Kevin’s sandy brown hair bounced as he walked.


Jared wasn’t going to his house. Kevin kept walking. Jared ran to catch up, his backpack slung off his left shoulder. “Kevin, what’s with the notebook? Let me see.”

That’s all you get for right now.  We began work on illustrations this week.  So it is coming together.  Thanks again everyone!

Book is currently cheaper as an autographed version

I’m a newbie at this publishing on Amazon thing.  At times Amazon baffles me.  When I set up the paperback I had to set a minimum price of somewhere a little above $10.  But then for over a month Amazon lowered the price to $7.62.  I had absolutely no control over that.  In fact I wasn’t even notified of the price change, I just saw it one day.  But the very cool part was that my commission was based on the retail suggested price, so it was a win for everyone.

And then whoops, it went back to $11.95.  So I lowered the price to $10.95, and I can’t offer it much cheaper than that on Amazon.  (46 page color books are expensive to make apparently.)  But based on the price I get from Createspace, I can offer the book even less and then sign it for you.

Shockingly I got C's in elementary school in handwriting.  I

Shockingly, I got C’s in elementary school in handwriting.

The trade off is I can’t offer Amazon free Prime shipping, and I have a busy day job.  So I can’t promise two shipping.  Pretty certain I can get to the post office on Saturday.

If you are just dying to have an autographed copy then by all means click on the pic below.

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"

Click on the book cover to purchase a signed copy of Kevin and the Seven Lions.

Are there any other writers noticing something similar?  Leave a comment if you are.

On another note, I will be writing soon about the new Kevin book coming soon.

Click here to sign-up for the new release mailing list

Apps, Books, and Education

My daughter is 1.  We recently read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish on my Kindle, an app by Oceanhouse Media.  Or more accurately the book was read to us by the app.
Right then an entire world opened up or more accurately worlds opened up.

This app let's readers choose between reading the text themselves and having it read to them.

This app let’s readers choose between reading the text themselves and having it read to them.

1.  Education

This app makes me happy as a teacher.  The ability to have the words highlighted as they were read, and then they can tap a particular word and have it read back to them.  What an amazing tool for early or struggling readers.  I found my self just tapping on different parts of the screen to see what it would say.  I stayed on several pages just exploring the text.  How many young readers do that as well, thus spending more time in the text.  I imagine kids with their tablets exploring a text by reading it and clicking on the illustrations to see more.  Great opportunities here.

2. Indie book publishing

Dr. Seuss wrote One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish in 1960.  His family still owns the copyright to it, and unless they sell it, they will own it for another 48 years.  (Dr. Seuss died in 1991.)

When you you write a book it begins as just a book.  But in reality it is an intellectual property that can be sold as hardback, paperback, or ebook.  It can also be packaged as an audio book.  Several different ways to bring income with the same property.  And if handled correctly it isn’t just income for you, it is income for your children and grandchildren.  Think about that.

3. Apps

If you write children’s books, like I do, you can also turn them into apps that students can explore.  I guess in theory you could turn an adult book into an app.  I’ll leave that up to other people.  Imagine though making a book, and then turning it into an app where students may interact with it even more than a paper book.  I’m seriously going to be looking into how this is done.  If you know how to do it, leave a note in the comments.

But turning your book into an app is a great exercise in intellectual property, you make one intellectual property sold several different ways, and you own that property for the rest of your life, and then your descendants own it for 70 years after your death.  The possibilities are amazing here, who knows what, in the future, digital ways we can sell an intellectual property.  Simply Awesome.


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Hire what you are not

The hiring process part of the next Kevin book is over.  Now the real work begins.

I’ve written before about the importance of hiring someone to help you in some way, be it in editing, illustration, making the book cover, book design, ebook formatting, or all of the above, odds are you are going to need some help with something.  It is okay to not be able to do everything.

Everyone needs help, even The Beatles.

Everyone needs help, even The Beatles.

I am currently in final editing process for the next Kevin book.  The manuscript should be in it’s final edited phase by next Thursday.  I need help with proofing and editing, as does every writer.  But I’m really terrible at proofing, not my strength.  I’ve also read that writers are too close to their own writing anyway to edit it. That is very true for me.

Hire for what you are not 

I’m also not an illustrator.  I am a photographer, but not an illustrator.  Consequently I needed to hire an illustrator.  And my illustrator will also do the book cover as well.  I can get two birds with one stone there.

Do what you are

I won’t use anyone to help me design the book or the Kindle version.  Looking at the first Kevin book, the only thing that I might change would be the font.  But that is a personal taste I guess.  And formatting a Kindle book isn’t much different from formatting a website, which I’ve done plenty of over the last 15 years.

Where do you hire?

I’ve used Elance over the last several years for various projects.  But there are other places to use as well.  I’m just comfortable with Elance.

Of course if you know someone that can do what you need, such as illustration or editing that may work as well.  I have not had that happen yet, I really like hiring people I don’t know personally, it allows more of an ability to say “no” when needed.

Hiring someone can raise the level of your book, and keep it from that “self-published” look.

I put the last period on the next Kevin book in February   In the traditional publishing world, as I understand it, I would pretty much be done.  The publisher would take the manuscript edit it, get an illustrator and book cover artist.

In this new world, I am in charge of those added elements.  Which is why independent publishing gives you higher royalties than traditional contracts.  Makes sense, I do more, I need to get paid more.  I like that.


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Great Resources for Indie Publishing

I’ve talked to a few people in the last 48 hours who have mentioned they are reading this blog for ideas on how to publish their book.  I figured a better way maybe instead of me doing all the writing, but instead share what I have read and am currently reading.


APE, Author-Publisher-Entrepreneur came out after I was well on my way finishing the first Kevin book.  It covers the whole process from the writing, to the publishing, to the marketing part.  It is written by Guy Kawasaki, who a major tech player, having once been a Chief Apple Evangelist and himself has over 1 million twitter followers.

One thing I disagree with him on is a social media presence.  He suggests getting that started before anything.  I wouldn’t agree with that.  Write your book, but also work on developing your audience, which could include a large social media following.

But still the best book on the whole process from beginning to end.

This is another entry in how to publish.  David Gaughran is an Irish writer who has a great blog on the subject.  His book doesn’t have as much on the promotion end as the Kawasaki book does, but still tells you step by step what to do.

Be the Monkey, doesn’t really tell you how to publish, but it does the best job explaining about what is going on in the publishing world.  Both writers are best-selling authors with traditional contracts who have gone the indie route.  That alone speaks volumes of the publishing industry.

Websites and Blogs

Here is a list of some great blogs by writers who are doing the indie publishing thing.

James Altucher’s writing is what got me to thinking about self-publishing.  He has books published both traditionally and self-published.  This post from 2011 is probably what got the ball rolling for me.  His blog is wonderful for things beyond writing.  It was his blog where I discovered the phrase “choose yourself.”  But that’s for another post.

Let’s Go Digital is David Gaughran’s blog who wrote the above Let’s Get Digital.  Great info about the industry and how to get your name out.

Failure Ahoy is the blog of Edward Robertson who has several self published scifi books out.  He does an unbelievable job digging into the nitty-gritty of the Amazon store’s algorithm.

Dean Wesley Smith is a former traditionally published author who now indie publishes.  (Noticing a pattern?)  He does online workshops for people, which I have not done, but his experience that he passes on is great.

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing is written by Joe Konrath who helped write the above Be the Monkey.  See this post on his blog about a writer who used to publish thrillers through Harlequin but now does them on her own.  See where I am going with this?

Barry Eisler apparently used to be an actual James Bond, expect that he is an American.  And has been writing spy novels for years, now he has taken back the rights to his books and published them on his own.  Great resources here.

Hugh Howley is the writer of the Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga)
.  His self published series has been bought by 20th century fox to make into a movie with Ridley Scott directing.  So there you go.

Anyway that is what I currently reading about this new world.  The online community is very helpful.  I am also a part of the A.P.E. community on Google+.  Great community.

I am making this whole thing up as I go, and the more we share together the better.  We are all in this together.

P.S. yes the above Amazon links are affiliates, I make a little money if you buy through those links.  That doesn’t make a bad person, other things do.

Yet Another Selfish Reason to Write and Publish

There are many reasons to write and publish.  Many writers will suggest magnanimous reasons, high and mighty reasons.  There are plenty of selfish reasons to do so as well, nothing wrong with that.

I will suggest one selfish reason here.

Have a kid tell you they checked out your book from the library.

That’s an incredible reason to write and publish.

Write a book just to see it here.  Trust me.  (P.S. image not from  my school library)

Write a book just to see it here. Trust me. (P.S. image not from my school library)

For those that don’t know, I teach.  I teach first grade.  Yes, men, from time to time teach the younger grades, but that’s another post.

My school announced yesterday that my book was now available to be checked out from the library.  I had students ask if they could check it out.  I reminded them they already had a class copy and that others should be able to read it if they wanted to.

When going to lunch, a student from another class told me they had checked out my book.  That is a cool feeling, no way to describe it.

If you are teacher write your book, and then see what I am talking about.

Go do it now.

Step 3 Tell People You’ve Written a Book.

The next step I took was telling people I wrote book.  I didn’t tell anyone at first because I had never done this before.  I mean who am I to think I can write a book?  No one from New York or London had ordained me a writer.  Who am I?

The simple math is that you will sell zero copies if you never tell people.

There is more than gaining sales when you tell people, you also earn respect.

Here’s the honest truth I didn’t even tell my wife at first.  I mean she had read an early draft of the book when I first wrote it several years ago.  But didn’t even tell my wife that I had hired an illustrator and was finishing a book.  Yeah, that’s the kind of husband I am.
But after I got around to telling her, I used Facebook to publish a few illustrations from the book to tell everyone.  Carla’s illustrations made it look like a legitimate book.
By publishing the pictures people actually began to be interested in the book.  It took me by surprise.

As if by some divine intervention Disney bought Star Wars, and the news covered my Facebook feed for the evening.  So I decided to jump on the wave and post the pictures the same evening.

My first press release.  A full 10-12 weeks before it was ready.

My first press release. A full 10-12 weeks before it was ready.

In some ways it would seem that telling people that you’ve written a book would be obvious. But telling people about a new project, especially something you’ve never done before, is a learning experience.
Telling people that you’ve made a book changes your life. And it changes it in ways you didn’t expect.
I received various questions from “where did you get the idea”, “who published you?”, “how did you do it?”
I was unprepared for the questions, in many ways I still am. But I realized if you not only write a book, but also format it, get a cover, and put it out there then you’ve done more than most people, and that separates you from the rest of the crowd.  They will want to know how you got there.

Okay, you’ve finished a book, and put it out there.  You have done what thousands of people have wanted to do, but never got around to doing it.

So go ahead and tell people, you’ve earned it.

Step 2 Hiring Someone to help you

You’re not just an author, you’re a publisher

There is more to making a book than just writing it. You will need an editor, a cover designer, and possibly an illustrator.

In this new world you are not just the author, you are also the publisher. So all of these decisions fall on your shoulders. Don’t worry that is a good thing.

With the first Kevin book I didn’t hire an editor.  That was a mistake.

Consequently there are a handful of copies of my book in existence that have two typos in them. My fantasy is that those copies will be worth millions some day. Until then they are just books with mistakes. But the wonderful thing about the 21st century is that when they were discovered it was fixed very quickly. As in, less than 24 hours kind of quick.

I did hire an illustrator to illustrate the book and design the cover. I did that right.

You will need an editor and a cover designer to make your book look professional.  In other words, that it doesn’t look “self-published” or pathetic. If you publish, remember you are competing against millions of other books. Do everything you can to make yourself standout.

You're competing against millions of books.

You’re competing against millions of books.

Even with just an ebook you will need an exceptional cover. Yes, your mom always taught you to never judge a book by its cover. Ironically that saying doesn’t work in a bookstore. Your cover is exactly how potential customers may decide to give your book a try. In the Kindle store or iBookstore your cover is competing against tons of other book covers. Make it look professional.

Sorry mom, people do judge a book by its cover.

You will need to hire someone to help you, yes it is an expense, get over it you’re a publisher.

So where do I hire someone?

I used Elance, and probably will for the foreseeable future.  I found Carla there, and she did an amazing job.

I am in Virginia, and she is in the UK.  That is a great example of how the 21st century is different, and how business is different.  Carla and I never had to meet face to face to work together and make wonderful illustrations.  I love that.

What I did was post a job posting on Elance.  I wrote that I was a teacher who attempted to write a children’s book and that I wanted an illustrator.  Because the book is only around 1000 words, I attached the text of the story to the job posting.  That was something I did right by accident.

By posting the text several illustrators differentiated themselves from the group by posting illustrations from the story as they saw.

On a side note trust me when I say that you see someone interpret your work, it will blow your mind like nothing else.

47 illustrators applied for the job.  Only a handful took the time to draw the character or a scene from the story.  Others would just say, I can do it for X amount of money.  No effort, no nothing.

What those that did it right is very closely related to Ramit Sethi’s Brief Case Technique.  There’s a lesson and another full post here in interviewing for any job.  Maybe I’ll write that at another time.

Hiring someone online is a 21st century skill that everyone will need to learn at some point. Plus being the person that is ultimately in charge is a nice change from always being an employee. But hiring someone to work with you is just the beginning of the process. I will write more about how Carla and I worked together in an upcoming post.

In this new world you are not just the author, you are also the publisher of your work.  That is a great thing.