Online Business

Self Publishing Update: This Week: Tools For Writing, Self-Publishing Scams

Yo – see I’m back – this could get become  regular you know! – Watch the above video to see just how good the NZ weather is this week – seriously this is HEADLINE NEWS – the likely 7-day stretch of fine, calm weather for Wellington led the national “soft news” program a few days ago! Yup – it’s a small country – but if this is global warming bring it on I say!

I’ve thought long and hard about my business and I’ve come to some fairly startling decisions: 

  • I need to get comfortable with “brand Lis”. I’ve always really, really disliked selling me , unfortunately that’s the game I’m in – people buy online, usually because they have a rapport with the seller. It’s really that simple. which doesn’t mean to say it’s going to be high-pressure  buy, buy, buy – in fact nothing much will change around here – I think the change is more in my attitude. To the writers among you who don’t want to market. I say – do you want to sell books? In that case you need to market,  end of story. It does not mean you have to ban obnoxious, in-you-face, grade A asshole and extrovert.  
  • I need to get over the terror of public speaking – hence the crappy amateur videos, feel free to skip – I’m much better with words. In fact I probably need to get with the whole networking in person thing anyways. 
  • SEO is not dead but it’s only a small part of the bigger picture. I’m watching with interest what Court Tuttle is doing over at his new site and applying his approach to my own sites, including this one. 
  • I’m looking at more “quick wins” in terms of the cash flow stakes, recurring income (affiliates, royalties) are all amazing – but at the moment I need a quick cash injection. 
Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Is Lis an A-List Blogger Now?

No not at all. What did and still does annoy me with A-list bloggers is that they essentially make money by teaching  others to make money with little or not experience of using those techniques to make money – ie 100% of their income from the teaching side of things and not the doing side of things. They also tend to obfuscate their earnings, or just plain lie. Quick which headline is more appealing: “Make $1.997,776.31 in the next year” or “Make just over the unemployment rate next year” – yes exactly! 

Unfortunately, my instinctive dislike for them meant I threw the baby out with the proverbial. It’s not so much the “money being in the list” – but really the singularly most important thing to build as an author, entrepreneur, online marketer, whatever, is your list. Why? Because it gives you independence.  Independence from Facebook not notifying your followers,  Independence from Google algo updates , independence from  future changes in Amazon rankings. If I have a list of people interested in me and/or my books and services  I can communicate with them  without involving a third-party who has a different agenda than I. (No I don’t host my own mail list and you shouldn’t either, I use and recommend Aweber, others like MailChimp – the point is they are in the business of providing email services – nothing else, they are on your side  so long as you keep paying them). I suggest that those of you who focus exclusively on twitter or Facebook followers think about that. 

What I’m Reading Now 

I’m liking Guy Kawasaki’s APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book

The good bits: 

  • his summary of traditional and self-publishing is spot on  – if you still think being picked up by a publisher is a your goal – read this book, Kawasaki has had several books traditionally published so he knows what he’s talking about;
  • given that he’s been senior management at Apple not once but twice – his review of the rise of the eBook technology is worth paying attention to;
  • his writing advice outline/rough draft/then polish i.e. don’t edit as you go – is spot on.
  • I find his ideas about crowd-sourcing and company sponsorship  intriguing  – watch this space;
  • He has a very well written guide of all the options for self-publishers in terms of using author-service companies or not and the pros/cons of each;
  • there is good information on how to get genuine reader reviews for your book

The bad bits: 

  • it’s regular price is $9.99 – on the high side for an eBook;
  • he recommends Word to write books in – but that doesn’t actually fit with the writing process he describes, plus he recommends a Macbook Air – which is even more irrelevant. 
  • he advises using affiliate links within an eBook –  to clarify you can’t use Amazon affiliate links within a Kindle eBook – this is against the Amazon affiliate TOS. You can use other affiliates though, or you can direct to a resource page at your website. 
  • he recommends social media as a substitute for having your own website/blog – it’s not. 

In his book though he suggests a couple of things I think are wrong InDesign is not the right tool for eBook formatting (and not just because it costs about US $600, or a lot more than that if you don’t live in the US) and I think every author should have their own blog – relying on g+ is not a good policy , because Google can change the rules any day (and probably will) .

Also check out Cathy Presland’s Becoming a Writer course over at Udemy – it’s free. If you’re not familiar with Udemy – it’s a way for independent writers to present their own courses using a mixture of media (videos and pdf seem the most popular). Cathy’s course is about improving your writing – particularly for non-fiction authors – worth checking out. 

Coming later this week:


Online Business Rebooted

Hi – remember me? 

I started this blog in April 2008  on blogspot-  it moved to WordPress and this url in November 2008. I’d had the odd month-long break over the years but the 3 months  since I last posted here is a  personal record, and not in a good way! 

Well to be honest I never intended to blog in November as I was away in Burma for the entire month, and I was a bit busy before I went away – but the whole of December and half of January is a bit unacceptable. 

So, to all of you, and particularly those who got in contact to say variations of  “are you dead/got a job/decided to start a pyramid scheme” – sorry. 

I’m still working out the future for this site – but it does have a future – don’t worry!  I feel like I’m straddling two worlds at the moment: 

  • SEO 
  • writing 

Which is not to say I’m an expert in either: but I think I probably better in both than most i.e. I write better than the average SEO and I know more SEO than the average author. 

There may be a niche between the two – I’m going to find out. 

Cultural Highlights of Myanmar
Cultural Highlights of Myanmar

What Have I Been Doing 


I still struggle with writing, there is still far too much time-wasting. But I did get the third book out for my Non-Boring Travel Guides  series live before I went to Myanmar. It’s  not selling well  yet, but to be fair I’ve done little promotion, except for a few free days recently, which has given me a few sales. 

I also put together a picture book of some of my best Myanmar photos – to encourage people to signup for my mailing list on – pictures don’t look so good in black and white – so  I went with pdf for this one. 

I have a number of 1/2 finished projects including how-to guides for travel in Myanmar (parts of which will be posted on ) and a travel memoir from an earlier trip around Australia. I’m starting to get quite angry at how the success of Eat, Pray, Love now means that no trad published travel book  has much  travel content on the places visited, rather just a little window-dressing before we get to the internal angst, and insecurities of the author/friend/partner/dog  plus their love-life (or lack thereof).  I’d like to put the travel back in Travel Memoir … 


I’m getting a consistent stream of formatting jobs, from a mix of people I know and people who found me either from my formatting book or via random searches they’ve found this site. 

The biggest change in the last year or so is – that, finally, as of 31 December, Smashwords is accepted ePubs direct, so you no longer have to go via the awful Word formatting step. I’m still playing with this – so I will be writing more about it shortly. 

I’m also beginning to wonder about the continuum of eBooks to web apps. I don’t actually see much difference, apart from the technology, and I see a way to get more mileage from my content. As Windows 8 rolls out I see apps stopping being just a toy for iPad users, and  are on the way to  becoming  mainstream. EBook formats aren’t great for a lot of travel content, better than paper, but not great, it could be that the app space is where I should be. Anyone doing this already? 


Yup I’m still making less money than this time last year, and lot’s less than the previous year, but onwards and upwards.  I’m not about to get a JOB or anything defeatist like that, and frankly, I’m enjoying doing more client work. It’s good to hear about other people’s ways of working and ideas, and I have a several of my own. 

Frankly when I started on-line I really didn’t see why anyone would ever buy anything that I created. I’ve changed my ideas on that, the more I look at what’s available in the travel niche, the more I think I can add value! Plus, and this is a surprise, my Kindle Formatting guide sells steadily, predominantly by world-of-mouth, so  I will be considering writing some more books that help out the technically terrified author. 

And This Blog?

I made my “reputation” here for calling it as I saw it and bad language and grammar. I’m working on the grammar and the proof-reading – the rest of it probably won’t change much. I know the “A-listers” still say you shouldn’t rock the boat – and I still disagree. There are plenty of scams in publishing, just as in Internet Marketing. Buyer beware – but I’m happy to help 🙂 

I see a niche of where writers meet marketers ,  I’ve seen absolutely awful books do well because they are well promoted, and I’ve seen great books die because no one can find them. I’d like to get the two sides talking to each other. 

I’ve seen plenty of people start blogs talking about their often multi-year journey to publish (self or trad) a fiction book. This is my journey to publish and make money from a range of non-fiction books. 

Plus I’m not American – so there are some quirks about doing the ebook thing – starting with getting an ITIN (coming soon). 

So yes I will be posting more often,  stick around 2013 is going to be an awesome year, both for me and for anyone else who is willing to put the work in to being a successful entrepreneur online (that’s shorthand for a writer who markets, or a marketer who who writes).