Publish The Book Self Publishing

How To Write and Self Publish a Book – Formatting, Violence and Hard Liquor

OK I’ve done it I’ve published a book! I was beaten to the chase my good friends Tracey, Terry and Dave all got over the line first – but we all know that line is just the start of the race!

But bloody hell could someone at least mentioned that the formatting step was going to steal 2 days of my life, and awful lot of coffee, 1/2 a bottle of gin, and the odd flounce! I mean FUCK ME how hard is it to get the formatting right!!!!

I need a holiday!

(3 weeks and counting!)

But its OK – I am – almost – over it. Deep breath.

Its been a learning experience – and I need to write some of this stuff down so that I can get it right for the next book.

What You Need to Start 

  1. A nice cover design Sybille Yates did mine and I’m very happy with it. If you use photos you didn’t take make sure you have the right license for those to – hint you will have to pay!
  2. Unless you are very good – you will need an editor. My editor, Debi Willis, took some time out from California vacation planning from her Kauai beach condo, to do mine – awesome job.

Formatting and Publishing an eBook

Two places to start with Amazon and Smashwords – at least as a non-American. There are LOTS of formats for ebooks – there is a huge fight going on about formats – its all politics and patch protection.  You can totally ignore it quite happily. But basically it appears that most ebooks sell like this:

  • Amazon sells Kindles and they read a format called mobi which is what you buy from the Kindle eBook store. But you can also read Kindle formatted books ;
  • Barnes&Noble sell nooks, other major stores sell Kobes in Australia, NZ and I assume elsewhere – they use a format call ePub;
  • anyone with a PC or Mac can download free software (for Kindle/mobi)  or Adobe Digital Editions (for ePub) to read these formats.
  • people can read both of the above using apps on their iPad or iPhone – or they can buy books straight out of the Apple bookstore;
  • Blackberries have their own proprietary format called PalmDoc.
  • Most people already have the software to read a pdf.

How To Use a WordProcessor Initial Formatting Steps

Now I started typing on a typewriter – so I’ve only been using wordprocessors for over 30 years – I have used everything from Display Write, to WordPerfect – I was an expert on Word Processing before Microsoft even produced a WordProcessor.

I thought most people younger than me would know the follow two golden rules – apparently not:

  • do not EVER create indents by using tabs or spaces;
  • do not EVER create spaces between paragraphs by putting in extra carriage returns – use paragraph styles instead.

Phase 1 Getting a Clean Manuscript 

Time Taken: About 2 hours

Required: Coffee (about 2)

Also Required: a text editor and a word processor

  1. Get all your editing done and get an absolutely final version of the actual words – congrats you are about 10% there!
  2. If you’ve been using page numbers and a auto-generated table of contents for editing ease – delete both.
  3. If your copy has been through a few versions, or back and forth from different software – get a clean copy as recommended by the Smashwords Style Guide: copy and paste all the contents into a text editor; cut and paste it back as plain text into a new document. Yes really – it saves time – trust me it does – I’ve done it both ways!
  4. Decide whether you are using indents between paragraph OR a space between paragraphs – YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH if you want Smashwords to distribute your book (and you do).
  5. Add in as few as possible paragraph styles – I used just one, add the spacing or indents that you want in this paragraph style. Add heading styles to anything you want in your table of contents.

Phase 2: Formatting and Submitting to Amazon

Time Taken: 2 -4 hours depending on whether you used bullets

Required: Coffee (about 4),  gin (but not too much): optional dog (to kick), sound proof room (for the screaming).

Also Required MobiPocket Creator (free), notepad++(free, or your favourite html editor)

Amazon has its own formatting tool – but its a command line piece of software which absolutely no one uses (well unless they are a publishing house with an IT department). You can however upload any of html, doc or prc files.  Trust me this is not too bad compared to Smashwords.

  1. Take your current doc or odt format book and SAVE IT – in several places – be very, very sure to do this!
  2. Export your book to html.
  3. Fire up MobiPocket Creator. Import your html document, add your cover (kindly supplied by the talented Sybille Yates), add you content, tell it to make a table of contents and tell it to use h1, h2 (to whatever level) for the TOC (you did use header styles didn’t) you?
  4. Hit compile (don’t do the submit thingy – that’s all out of date you just submit using the kdp dashboard).
  5. Celebrate – you now have a prc file, do happy dance, open up file in Kindle for PC – see it all looks great – drink gin.
  6. Get happy and download the prc file to your Kindle to show off your cool new eBook. Notice that the bullets are fucked, notice other weird format stuff (drink more gin, kick dog, scream etc).
  7. Remember that this is all in html – open up the file in some html editor like notepad++ Notice that withing <li> tags of bullets you have <p> marks – delete all of the same. Get rid of other miscellaneous formatting crap and realise that you shouldn’t have skipped Phase 1 #3
  8. Repeat steps 3-7 until happy, pissed off, successful, drunk, taken in by the SPCA.
  9. Submit to Amazon.
  10. Go to bed – trust me don’t skip this step…

Phase 3: Formatting and Submitting to Smashwords

Time Taken: 8 hours++

Required Option 1: Hard Liquor (bottle or 2), partner to abuse, padded room (for flouncing), rugged laptop (for throwing)

Required Option 2: $25-$50 to pay someone

Required Option 3: Son-of-Satan, piece-of-crap, over-priced, bloated, piece-of-shite (aka Microsoft Word)

Smashwords does have an adventurous scheme – they have a piece of software that converts your single file to multiple formats – now that is hard thing to do. But all that said I am still genuinely bemused that they chose to use Word as their input format.  I don’t own Word (see note above) – but I’ve used OpenOffice on doc files for years and its never failed me – until now.

After at least eight hours – were I totally followed the Smashwords Formatting Guide – my files passed the meatgrinder – I got no error messages from them.

But the results were crap. Specifically

  • the bullets were off i.e. the bullet was the line about the content;
  • the TOC was not clickable at all (pdf) or partially (ePub, Kindle);
  • my non-indented content got indented (Kindle)

After I finally I had given up before I did serious damage to my fairly fragile laptop – I finally had someone offer for free to run my file through Word – after that everything was good – except for the third point – at which point I decided I didn’t give a shite whether I had indents or not (it was consistent after all).  After all that I needed to curl up with some easy reading so I bought Danielle Blanchard Benson’s cool chick lit eBook (yup it was Danielle who helped when I flounced on Facebook!).

So I am the stupid one – did no one else have serious formatting issues? Or do you all own Word???

Market The Book Self Publishing

How To Promote a Non-Fiction Self-Published Book

Yeah I know adding “non fiction” to my title probably cut down my potential search traffic by 9o% but what the heck – I really do think fiction is a whole other beast. Also I am only talking about eBooks – not dead-tree books (dtBooks) – though so a lot of  what I have to say is probably relevant for them too.

OK so you did some keyword research before you decided on your book’s title (you did, didn’t you?) – so if for example you don’t have a book titled “Packing Secrets of the Not So Famous” – rather you have one called “Vacation Packing List: How to save your back, time and money”. You also have a series of books planned so that you can get the most bang for your buck in terms of cross-promotion.

County Down, near Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

The Key To Promotion – Promote to Customers NOT Writers!

When I started getting into this writing a book gig I went searching I found a bunch of forums and an even bigger bunch of blogs about publishing your book – usually written by writers who had – yup self-published their book!

This all felt very, very familiar – yup its like Internet Marketing – complete with a Warrior Forum analogue! Gorgeous self-promotional signatures, heaps of experts, everyone selling to each other  – yeah been there done that got the T-shirt!  Of course times have moved on and there is an active Facebook group to (this one isn’t too bad) – but again its pretty much about selling to your peers.

You don’t want to sell to your peers – you want to find where people who are interested in your niche hang out. 

So where do my customers hang out. Stepping back – who are my customers:

  • they are holiday-makers/vacationers/travelers/tourists;
  • they are probably first-timers or first time overseas visitors or first time solo travelers;
  • they may be just looking for something to read about their favourite topic without actually doing anything about it – yes I do own guidebooks to places I’ve never been to or got around to going to!
  • they aren’t terrified of technology (they are going to buy an ebook) – but they may not be that confident online (haven’t found that any question will find an answer if asked on the popular travel forums).

Great so this is who I’m doing to promote – pretty much its a blend of sound SEO with a bit branding thrown in without getting into the dark, dark time-sink of social networking.

Yes I do have my book in my sig link on some forums – on TRAVEL forums – not writing ones – get it?

Direct Promotion 

Now this stuff I can’t do until the book is live and this is the bit which is going to be fun.  Amazon listing are loved by Google – you’ll see Amazon listings at the top of Google all the time.  My little book’s Amazon listing is going to be linked to from every website and hubpage that I own that have anything to do with travel or vacation. I will of course use my affiliate ID so I get the extra 4-8% commission when someone buys.  I am picking that this will be enough to get my Amazon listing #1 for my main keyword – watch this space!

My book will also be published at Smashwords.  This gives me access to other distribution channels (Apple, Barnes&Noble, Whitcoulls) – which I can’t get to otherwise so why not? And again it should be a listing that I can rank – though its not nearly as keyword rich -as

So with some, hmmm, luck links,  I aiming at controlling the first three listing for my favourite keywords – before it even gets hard…

Note you will get three Amazon listings:, and Really though I see no reason why I can’t just send some links to the dot com version – if you land on the uk Amazon site when you are supposed to buy from the dot com Amazon will send you on to the right place.

Oh and I have done a profit-sharing deal to get a German language version of my book to, I know Germans travel a lot – and it must get tedious reading about it in a foreign language!

Building Your Online Home(s) 

  1. Author you, or your pseudonym, needs an identified home – for many this would be your own dot com – or As MY online home is already occupied and not really associated with travel – I needed a new one – which was branded for the new niche – hence (made with my favourite theme Catalyst).
  2. Next your book needs a home – you may have noticed that many movies now use a domain like e.g. – well books are starting to do the same thing – so we get Vacation Packing List – Book – this isn’t a blog in the sense that it will ever get updated – its a static mini-site, developed in WordPress – which is basically an exercise in getting the person who arrives there to buy the book and linking them back to the overall “author home” site – this is a set and forget it website (all done with pages for the technically minded, and I again I use Catalyst theme because I’m too lazy to use anything else now).
  3. On your author website add the compulsory social media buttons – now one of the reasons I decided against yet another persona for the books is that I already have a (genuine) FB profile and an (entirely automated) twitter one . People who buy eBooks don’t necessarily read blogs – so for once I find a genuine reason to use social media.
  4. Decide what the aim of all this is for. My aim is to a) build a list (I can’t believe I just wrote that down LOL) and b) sell my books to my list.
  5. Link to your author home from both your Smashwords profile  and your Amazon author’s page (which will take an RSS feed) using either your brand or your name.

Well that’s a start! One thing I’d say about the author home – you need to keep it focused on the niche – not on how to write about your niche and publish a book about it!

My Lis’s Travel Tips site won’t be getting updated at all regularly – I threw some content up – note how you can’t tell which dates the updates were posted? But really this is more like a once a month event not once a week! After all I want most of my content on SALE not being given away on my blog!

Research The Market Self Publishing

Finding the Right Subject For Indie Non-Fiction

Will anyone buy my eBook? Well people will buy stuff if it solves a problem for them – at the right price. I know this because I make a living from it from affiliate marketing and advertising. Would someone buy something I wrote? Well I don’t know for sure, but I know that when my hub ranked well it got about 50,000 unique page views last year.

Is There Demand?

What if, instead of finding a hub at the top of the serps, the searcher found a cheap little Amazon eBook.  Say a book for $2.99 – would they buy that?

If someone bought my book on Amazon for $2.99 – I’d get about $2 (if they were from the US, UK and some other places I can’t recall, otherwise about $1). But the topic is an American term, not a UK English usage. So lets assume $2.

So if all 50,000 visitors bought the book – that would be …

But they won’t maybe only 10% of them will buy – still $10,000/year – who around here has made that off a website yet?

Maybe only 5% of them will buy… bummer only $5,000 – its still not bad for a 20,000 word book which has taken me a couple of weeks to write because I am still trying to work out how to do this.

Basically even if only 1% of searchers buy my book its worthwhile. That’s an annual income, this is not a topic that grows old or out of date…

Who Reads eBooks 

Some stuff does brilliantly well on a Kindle.  A books on a Kindle is anonymous – no one can see what you are reading. What is the most profitable part of the book market that no one talks about in critical circles but makes huge amounts of money? Romance, Mills&Boom, Harlequin – no one admits to reading it or writing it, it sells like hot cakes.  Amazon has a HUGE erotica selection.

Old people buy Kindles – why – because they can’t see well – you can change the font size to any size you want – you can create your own large print book. You can even have the Kindle read to you.  Have you ever walked around a town or a museum with a really good guide or a really boring audio guide?  You probably paid more than $2.99 too…

Travelers buy eBooks – I can fit 3500 books on my Kindle (apparently) – you have no idea how much my back loves the thought of that – the only real question is whether my partner will need to buy his own or whether we can share …

Commuters buy eBooks – have you ever tried to read while standing up on a bus or train  for 40 minutes on the London tube? Even with a seat its difficult to read a broadsheet paper, its heavy to carry a book, a Kindle is neither.

People who can buy eBooks from the Amazon for a lot less than “real” books in their own country: that’s New Zealand and Australia to start with, and I thinking of any non-English speaking country with a sizeable expat English-reading population…

Will the Punters Pay?

Yes I think they will. I took a walk downtown today. I checked out the bookshops. They may be struggling – but they still have their big popular sections: displayed prominantly – near the front. Cookbooks, celebs, travel. Lots and lots of travel.

I checked Amazon – to find there were were two other  proper traditionally published books which had eBook versions priced at $9.99 – presumably these were published because people would pay three times as much as I would charge.

Its no guarantee of course – but its a start.

What’s the Upsell? 

But you know the drill in Internet Marketing  – you hook the suckers in with the cheap $7 product and then they spend another $77 for the one-time off of the video course plus 33 bonuses they never knew they needed.

Amazon doesn’t upsell. It cross-sells. I have sold stuff on Amazon that I didn’t even know WTF it was until I looked at the product listing! People click through on Amazon and go on a bloody buying spry.

I bought my Kindle about a month ago. in that time I have bought about 10 books, my partner another 5 – neither of us had ever bought a book to read online. I hadn’t bought a fiction book for years – I’ve bought at least three this month.  Everytime a read a book on the Kindle Amazon tells me right on the Kindle what other books previous purchasers of this title bought – and I can buy them too, with one click.

John Locke – who I mentioned before – didn’t sell a million books by having one title – he sold a million books over 9 fiction titles (I imagine his how-I-did-it book won’t do too bad either).

You Need More Books To Sell 

If you are familiar with the terms used in the Keyword Academy – you need to build authority you can’t be a one-book wonder.  You need to focus on a bunch of related keywords – or don’t mix your travel guides with erotic cowboy stories (use a different pen-name if that’s where you are at).

The trick is blindingly simple – at the end of your book you add an offer: you suggest to your reader that they might want to go on they might want to check out your website where they can sign up for the newsletter that will let them know the very moment you release another title. 

You write a good book, a book that solves a problem.  You get a decent cover for it so it looks appealing. You triple check it for typos. You hire an editor. You get some reviews – from people who have actually read it.

Now your book shows up if anyone searches in Amazon for your topic, and also shows that it has good customer reviews and it may even show in the best-sellers list of your category.

When you publish the next book – you revise the first book to include the cross-sell to the second book – maybe the first chapter or so .. and you let the list on your website know.

Now you have traffic from your website,  from your email list, from showing up inside Amazon’s search engine -oh yeah and Google may rank the book listing and your book’s website too.

Once you have some momentum happening though – it doesn’t really matter WTF Google thinks of it all though does it?

Once Amazon gets old, of course there is – they distribute to

Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Borders Australia and Angus & Robertson Australia (both powered by Kobo), Whitcoulls (New Zealand, powered by Kobo), the Diesel eBook Store and other distribution outlets coming soon… all Premium Catalog titles available as single-book apps for sale in the major mobile app marketplaces including Apple, Android, Windows Phone 7 and HP’s WebOS.

So who even cares which eBook reader is best (apparently lots of people use the Kindle free software to read Kindle books on iPads).

Wow writing this down – having been thinking it through (and writing) for the lost month still does my head in!

Oh the book – well its not out yet – but you check out my Lis’s Travel Tips website – and make sure you sign up for the email list – so you’ll be the first to know – but only if you are interested in travel!


Self Publishing

Indie Non-Fiction v. InfoProducts

For nearly as long as I’ve been in Internet Marketing I’ve heard the old “you must have your own product” to really make it in this industry. The “product” most commonly cited was , of course – an “infoproduct” – a pdf of your real or perceived wisdom typically retailing for around $27 to $97 or $147 – didn’t really seem to matter so long as the price a) ended in a 7 and b) did not exceed your ability to keep a  straight face when promoting the price.

I couldn’t buy into it  – it sounded like a border-line con to be, and what is worse it was a favoured technique for some of my least favourite people in the game.

But it niggled – how hard could it be to write a book? I’d read books almost all my life, and like any vociferous reader I’d started writing my own book, several times, I never got past Chapter 2.  Was it actually possible to produce a “info product” at a fair price, that someone might want to pay me for and read.

I kept on making money with Adsense, and affiliate sales, eBay and Amazon.  Panda happened, trashed hubpages, and made me look at a long-ignored hub  that was getting good traffic  for a keyword that paid very little in Adsense. And which I was an expert on.

Bags packed for another trip...

And for which there must be a market because a) I knew what the search volumes were and b) there was a new book coming out on the same topic, at $9.99, and there was a real dead-tree version of it to. Publishers only publish books that have a market right? (Well quite possibly arguable – but WTF sometimes they get it right).

So I did some research. I’m good at research – closet academic if not for the students – I figured that someone must have figured out this untapped gold mine of unlimiteless wealth already.

Had The Marketers Figured Out How to Put InfoProducts on Amazon?

Maybe I was late to the party – I’d been spending all my time working, and not keeping up with the latest scams business opportunities. Was writing and promoting eBooks on Amazon – the bloody site that kept out-ranking my little affiliate niche sites – yesterday’s news?

I went to the font of all knowledge – I went to the WarriorForum – nope I’m not helping you by linking to it – lets put it this way its like swimming with sharks, without a shark cage, and with an open bleeding wound …

And naturally enough there was some Kindle Killer Kash Katastrophies (or similar names) for offer at the very reasonable price of $??7.87 – but only for the next 5 minutes.  In fact the one I found and bought wasn’t too awful – standard promotion stuff: blog, video, social media, oh and keywords, oh and buy some reviews (are Amazon that stupid?).

But there was a little bit missing – how to write the actual (or virtual) flipping book. I mean I can ramble on this blog until the bovines get bored – but how to write the book?

Oh I didn’t need to write a book – I just needed to add some pictures to some public domain content and then I could charge for a book already available on Amazon for free The Holy Bible yeah right, not feeling like such a good idea anymore.

Or string some PLR together – well most of the reading public wouldn’t know public label rights if they fell over them – but interesting every book I found on Amazon which was PLR had awful reviews – funny that.

The marketers knew how to promote the book, they thought they knew how to find the topics that would sell (I disagree we will come to that), but they were bloody terrified about writing.

But There Are Heaps of Self-Published Writers on Amazon 

The joke of course is that there are thousands of self-published writers on Amazon. Check out the popular listings which have anything to do with “twilight” “vampires” “erotica” and quite a lot of sci-fi – check for the 99c and $2.99c prices  – yup you found them.

I had met the Indies.  Yeah I had to Google it too – Indie=independent NOT Indian (though I imagine some are), as in independently publishing not waiting to get signed by an agent and the agent getting them a book deal. Traditionally (like before 2007 which was when Amazon launched the Kindle) as a would-be author you could either:

  • get a deal with a Publisher (preferably one of the “big 6”);
  • self-publish

Self- publishing is basically print on demand ie a fancy photocopy of your book bound  and which you pay for. Good for publishing your family’s local history – but frankly I’m more interested in making money than spending it.

Writers are waking up to the fact that eBooks give them a way to publish without getting past the gatekeepers of the publishers. And they make more than 10% of the profits, and they don’t have to wait years for their book to get published. Amazon allows anyone to self-publish at Kindle Direct Publishing

There is not just demand from readers for cheap books on Amazon’s best selling product – the Kindle – but there is supply – as writers realise that 70% of lots of $2.99 books is much better than 10% of $14.99 in about 2 years, maybe.

Marketers want to make money – they know how to promote any old crap to make it sell – and a surprising amount of it will. But a considerable number of them are terrified of writing. Writers (may) know how to write – but are mostly are clueless about promotion – particularly online.

I’ve found one guy who managed to combine the two skills sets.  I found out about him because Amazon’s newsletter was promoting him (killer promotion tactic that one):  How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months by John Locke – even if you don’t write fiction – you should read this, if you don’t think there is money in fiction, you should read it, if you think you have to be a Pultzer Award Nominee to publish a book, you should read this, oh and the fiction is his hobby he’s a successful marketer and entrepreneur. No prizes for supposing that he had decided to hit a nice round number like 1,000,000 before he put pen to paper.

But I was still wondering: was there a market for Indie non fiction?

to be continued ….


HubPages Self Publishing

HubPages is a Train Wreck – And The Next Big Thing

Hey no one can accuse me of always having keyword-optimized titles OK! Oops sorry missed June, left you hanging about the next big thing – me bad.

First the train wreck – if you are thinking about joining hubpages to make money – don’t. If you are thinking about using them for backlinks – maybe. Basically the problem with hubpages is not Panda – if they’d had competent management they could have come through that, in fact the hubs I’ve promoted are pretty much back to where they were pre-Panda. The issue is the unpredictableness of what will happen to the company. They’ve lost their Amazon affiliate status, being a California based company, and they are now experimenting with moving hubs to sub-domains. Titanic and the deck chairs spring to mind, too much stuff not in my control  so I can’t recommend them anymore.

Boat leaving, Boy in Water, Kaiteriteri Beach, Nelson, NZ

But there may be a good side to the loss of hundreds of dollars of hubpages income – while I was resurrecting my vacation packing hub I actually looked at where the traffic was coming from. It was from a slightly different keyword.

At around the same time I bought a Kindle – I like the Kindle, a lot – its not just at a nice price point if you want to give me the commission – but the books are so bloody cheap its unbelievable! In fact I now have about 100 books downloaded inside a month, at least half were free, quite a few others were 99c.

You see its really easy to buy a book on a Kindle – you can browse right from the device, or you can download a preview, and then after reading that the preview says: would you like to buy it now and you click YES. No “are you sure?” no “fill in 25 forms and sign up for a newsletter” – just “YES” and a pre-approved credit card.

Its amazing – and even at full-price the books are a fraction of what I pay for

  • real softback-paper-dead-tree books, and
  • infoproducts – the all-singing dancing pdf of 119 pages of 24 pitch font with 25 additional videos plus bonuses worth at least $997.77 all for $27 – today only – last 5 left.

As I got excited about my new toy – the news broke that Amazon’s ebook sales were higher than their hardbacks. Hmm what does this sound like? Remember how once you could only buy music from record shops, now you download the track you want from iTunes – does anyone else see an industry dying?

In fact it could  already be  on life-support in Australia  with Angus&Robertson and Borders both looking for a buyer, and the major chain bookstore in NZ – Whitcoulls – will only survive by selling cards and wrapping paper, which is pretty much all they sell now.  The trashy novels you can buy in The Warehouse (our local version of Walmart), the odd specialist, high-quality bookseller may survive. The chains not so much.

Which has got precisely what to do with the business of making money online? Well think about it.  Do you know how much a writer makes from a published book, well apparently its an appalling low 10%, in fact sometimes your Amazon affiliate commission may be higher than what the actual author gets!

What does an author get for an ebook on Amazon? If the price is between $2.99 and $9.99 and some other conditions are met – 70%, otherwise 35%.  Plus your affiliate commission.  This has not escaped the attention of smart published authors like Tracey Edwards.

Who can publish on Amazon?  Anyone.

Did you just hear ka-ching?

Do I need to point out that Google does NOT control the best-selling lists on Amazon…

To be continued …