Market The Book Self Publishing

Writing Organisations and Local Networking In New Zealand

I have two long and half-finished posts on how to self publish in 37 easy steps, or they  may in fact  be my next  book. Anyways they are a mess and not fit to be seen at the moment – maybe in a few days! 

Instead, today I want to talk about networking, in specific local networking. Most of the people I know and trust in my business I’ve never met in real-life. All live overseas, most a long-haul flight away. That’s all cool, but the reality is – that sometimes, it would be nice meet in person, real-time and have a drink. You know – like we used to do in the old days. It occurred to me a few months ago – that maybe, just maybe, there are people in my own country  interested in this whole self-publishing gig too.


A few months back I joined the New Zealand Society of Authors Why? To be honest I was looking to increase my authority on self publishing and it seemed like the logo would look cool in my sidebar. I was sold, when I realised I’d get a free listing on their site, so that I could knock a rather mediocre athlete’s ranking (Dancesport) from Google’s page 1 results for that uber-important Google search term “Elisabeth Sowerbutts” (now #9 – should bounce up a few spots with the link above). (Yup SEO does still work).

However apart from the personal branding and SEO benefits – NZAS – has actually turned out to be quite fascinating. They sent me a real life paper newsletter – with a stamp on it!  The first  newsletter contained incorrect factual information (on getting an US tax number for NZ authors) plus an opinion piece which I violently disagreed with. (There didn’t appear to be a functioning comments box though on the paper – how does this old-style stuff work again?)

A Pub, a drink, what could go wrong?
A Pub, a drink, what could go wrong?

So when I saw that the local branch was running a meeting in a pub I was immediately interested. In addition I wanted to put faces to this organisation that still offered advice on publishing contracts and which printed articles opining that 2013 brought Less Choice For Authors.

Did I learn anything – certainly. I learnt that apparently New Zealand authors can get paid for their books being borrowed from an NZ library – and to get your book listed on a booksite the libraries use to order books from ( I’ve seen self-published books in my local library – so this is interesting, but I haven’t put the pieces together yet. 

I also learnt something else – vanity presses have morphed – into something pitched as “small press publishers” – but the deal is still the same – the author is giving them rights to most of the profits from book sales while at the same time spending thousands in fees up front for cover design, editing and formatting (layout they call it). And in return how much marketing is the publisher doing? Little. How many distribution networks to bookshops does the publisher have – none. Writer beware as they say. 

Back To The Future, Down Under

The more I see the more intrigued I am, I feel a bit like I’ve been given a glance of the future, not by jumping in a De Lorean, but  by hanging out online in places like and I’ve seen what other tech and business savvy writers are doing in social media (have you joined my own Self-Publishing community on G+ yet?) And now I’ve returned to 2013 and the shamans and priests are still selling indulgences to the masses in return for the miracle of a printed book. (Yes I saw the books: they were high-quality printing – in fact the same quality as the books I have printed from Createspace).

I totally understand that every writer doesn’t want to do their own editing, cover design, eBook and print formatting and their own marketing. The reality is though, even if you are published with a mainstream traditional publisher, you will be doing your own marketing, and all the other items on the list can be bought from a competent freelancer on a fee-for-service basis. While retaining control of your book’s distribution, formats, pricing, discounts and everything else.

What are your thoughts – have any of you joined a local writers society?

Book Formatting

eBook Formatting Mistakes – Or Why Word Acts Weird (and It’s Not Microsoft’s Fault)

My ebook formatting business  is quietly growing, and as I experience how others do their formatting – I cringe – like seriously. I know I started typing on a typewriter, but in 2013 when carbon paper would be unrecognisable to many, and most people don’t know that we had to physically move the typewriter carriage back  to the start of  a line and the innovation of electricity and  a return key that did it AUTOMATICALLY was COOL it’s surprising how many still use Word Processors like the typewriters, they’ve never known.   

So just, don’t okay.  You know when you shout and swear at the Word Processor cause it does weird stuff when you don’t want it to? Actually, it’s not the computer, it’s you. You have so many odd, inconsistent , and plain wrong invisible formatting symbols, you gave the software a headache, so it’s passing that pain on to you. 

When I format for non-fiction, particularly  I strip out almost all of this junk, but it’s no surprise at all to me if your file does weird stuff in the Word Processor from time-to-time.  

I learned to type on something like this - Photo credit: Alexkerhead
I learned to type on something like this – Photo credit: Alexkerhead via flickr

Or more specifically: 

  • don’t use multiple hits of the enter key to create spaces between headers or between paragraphs, or even -help us, to get a new page.  Instead use Styles (every word-processor has them).  If you want a paragraph indented (and you should ONLY want this if you are writing fiction) or a space after the paragraph, use a style. 
  • don’t use tabs to create indents or columns or tables. Really. Tables are just-about supported on Kindles these days, but keep it very, very simple folks. If you want a fancy table – make a screen shot of it and include it in your book as an image. 
  • want a heading? Use a heading style. Really no bold, italic, don’t add a special font, just use a style. That way, if you suddenly decide that your 29-chapter magnus opus requires a Palatino 33 as a chapter font – you can add it, in one place, not 29.  Actually don’t bother because an eReader won’t honour your fonts or character sizes, but if you want to make sure your chapters are centered or always start on a new page – modify the style, not each and every chapter. 

Now if you are formatting for an eReader (Kindle or otherwise) – make sure you don’t do the following: 

  • don’t include page numbers, anywhere. Page numbers don’t exist on an eReader. So no page numbers in the table of contents, in the text (as in see figure X on page Y – instead add a hyperlink to the figure)
  • do redo your “front matter” – it shouldn’t be the same as your print edition – because, well it’s not print! And remember that the first 10% or so is what the browser can see for free on Amazon – make it a good 10%,  i.e . make sure it covers your table of content (for non-fiction) or enough of your first chapter (for fiction) to hook the reader. Move the dedication to your cats, and the acknowledgement for the support of the Prisoner’s Rehabilitation league to the back.  I know a lot of people put in glowing “reviews” from “famous people”. Unless those are really famous people, I’d give that a miss to, let your writing stand on its merits, or at least give the customer a chance to read some of it! 

Front Matter For eBooks – My Recommendation

All of this is centered and on one page

  • Title – in H1 
  • Sub-title in H2 
  • several spaces (use  <br/> tag in HTML) 
  • author name (note no “by” ) 
  • author’s website (an active link so people can click through from the free sample…) 
  • Copyright 2013 author name all on a single line 
  • new page 
  • linked table of contents 
  • introduction to the book 

I fiddle a bit to get this all to fit on  single page in the Kindle Previewer for the Kindle Touch or PaperWhite. If they fit on that they will fit on the Fire. They won’t fit on a phone, but them’s the breaks for using such a small device IMHO. 

If I am formatting for distribution via Smashwords then I add the line “Smashwords Edition” under the copyright notice. If it’s an ePub being distributed to Apple you will also need to include an ISBN in which case I give up trying to fit it all on the one page and do something like this: 

  • after the author’s website force a  new page and add
  • Copyright 2013 author name all on a single line 
  • ISBN 
  • Disclaimer – something funny along the lines that although I’ve made every effort you’re still responsible for your own life (that’s for non-fiction). For fiction you could do the “this is a work of fiction and any similarity to any persons dead or alive is just a result of your own twisted narcissistic mind, and so not he author’s problem”. 

Back Matter for eBooks 

This is where you get to do a sale’s pitch. I don’t care whether you consider yourself a marketer or not –  you still need to do this. Basically if the buyer got to the end of your book, they must have actually read it (unlike a paper book is fairly hard to just flick to the end). Give them something there: suggestions include: 

  • Author bio and photo – they may actually want to meet you now! Include an email so they can contact you.  Link to social media and websites. 
  • More by you – if you have more books – now is a good time to promote them – I add a the cover image and the same blurb I use on Amazon plus a link to Amazon (note: if you are distributing this to Smashwords you can’t link to Amazon – just ask the reader to search for your titles at their favourite eBook retailer)
  • If you don’t have more books, and even if you do,  direct readers to a page on your website which consists of a welcome message and a sign up form for an email service like Aweber or MailChimp (A little like the one at the bottom of this post – but I keep it as a separate list as I know this person is actually a BUYER not just a web-site reader). 
  • A request for a review. Yup – most people don’t know that reviews are important to authors, so tell them, and ask, nicely.  
  • Oh  yeah the dedication and acknowledgement – you can add those here too. 

Don’t Bother With The Following Formatting for eBooks

  • font and size – neither of these are under your control, leave them alone and let the user choose what they want use the header styles (h1 through h6) to get larger and smaller sizes 
  • footnotes work fine and will flow to the end of the page, chapter or book as you decide
  • bold, italic, sub-script and super-scripts all work fine as well 
  • drop caps don’t work on older eReaders (try bold or all caps instead) 
  • most eReaders now default to full justification, if you are getting oddly spaced lines it’s usually because of a long URL – consider using a link shortner (eg. or put the url on its own line. 
  • remember the author pays for downloads by the MB so only include images that you NEED. 
Publish The Book Self Publishing

Tablet Publishing for Self-Publishers: iPad Edition

Are eBooks so last year? Are eReaders a tech dead-end which are about to be over-written (sic) by tablets? Short answer: I don’t know, neither does anyone else because none of the major players e.g. Amazon, release sales figures on their eReaders or even tell us publishers which devices our books are  downloaded to. I am beginning to wonder though.

tablet publishing - ipad apps
All images in this post were taken by the iPad mini


Should Self-Publishers be Publishing on Tablets?

I’m considering  updating my main laptop. New laptops come with Windows 8 which looks like an OS designed for a touch screen tablet. That had me researching the new operating system and in particular the practicality of the interface without a touch screen computer. I put the laptop upgrade on hold as I went down the rabbit hole of tablets and their imminent arrival in the mainstream. I mean really do most consumers even need a computer? Unless you run a business, or are a student or maybe a writer, you may no longer need a home computer.

If all you do is consume information on the Internet, why not just get a tablet? After all they are cheap, and more importantly easy. Although it may drive you  and me  insane not to know where our file location, but for most consumers of information? Not so much.

I’m no tech trend watcher but look at what the big players are doing.  Microsoft is  positioning Windows 8 as a  seamless user experience whether you are on a computer or a tablet.

Google is now  putting their own name on the new Nexus Tablet. The big players are betting large sums on tablets taking off big time.  Is 2013  the tipping point for tablets?

Tablets are taking off, laptop and desktop sales are plateauing and tablets are hot. And their prices are dropping, a lot. Before Xmas a local big-box retailer was advertising 7″ android tablets for around US$100, that’s cheap. Indeed it’s cheaper than most of the eBook readers here.

What has this got to do with you as a potential or actual online marketer or author?


If you are on a tablet, or indeed the Metro Interface of Windows 8 – the first place you go to find information or entertainment is not a web browser. You no longer “Google it”.

Instead you go to the AppStore (Apple) or Google Play (Android). If, like me a few weeks ago, you have no idea what an app that sells entertainment or content might look like, check out this video of the Rachelle Mead app(a successful YA vampire book series author) – free in the Appstore:

Now all that app is a sophisticated trailer for her books, with plenty of buying opportunities if you are not yet a fan, plus free sample downloads – all independent of Amazon or any other book store. Now Mead is a published by Penguin and this has all been done by them – but how hard can it be for self-publishers? (I don’t know but I’m looking for a cost-effective answer to that question). It seems like a no-brainer in some niches particularly fiction which evokes a universe readers want more off (SF, fantasy, historical) or even travel (with add-ons including images and videos – which are still problematic to cost-effectively present in eBooks and POD paper books). The app is the equivalent of what, until last week or so, I’d put on a website supporting a book or series. In fact I’d still do the book’s website, but I’m starting to think, I’d do an app as well.

But why apps? The iPad comes with a browser – why wouldn’t I just use that? Because, as I observed myself as a new iPad user, I found some very, very cool functionality in apps that I don’t find in websites. Even for simple stuff, like the weather, the app was easier to see, with a  design optimized for the screen I was holding.

Why I Bought An iPad-mini Not An Android Tablet

Because most tablet users are on iPads – and the mini is the cheapest one (by a lot). Basically because I’m trying to understand my audience I needed to go with what they are using. (iPad apps run on the mini, but not all iPhone apps. yes this is an issue, a big one). Apple is a walled-garden  iPad/iPhone apps don’t run on Android or any other tablet or phone. 

My point though is that – the iPad changed my way of working and it will change yours too.

Photos and Videos

On a netbook:

  • I wanted to  upload photos from my camera and manage manipulate them and save them in Picasa.

On the iPad

  • it’s hard to upload photos to the iPad and there is very little storage space with only a 16GB hard drive
  • instead I discovered that the inbuilt camera was OK and the video (the video in my previous post was from the iPad and all the images in this post are from it too). Not as good as my camera, but acceptable in good lighting conditions and very convenient as I can share photos immediately on social media.
Useful as a camera when you don't have a proper one with you
Useful as a camera when you don’t have a proper one with you

Taking Seminar Notes

On a netbook

  •  I’d take notes in Evernote or another text editor

On the iPad

  •  I used an app called AudioNote (this is the only app I’ve paid for – it’s about $5 (seriously annoyingly the app store insists on translating prices to NZ$) )which automatically cross references your notes with the sound file it records – that’s cool – I would buy the device just for that if I were studying. it will even record an online seminar pretty well.

Using Maps

On the netbook

  • I don’t pull the netbook out on the street, far too dorky. I don’t allow the smart phone to connect with data overseas because of the outrageous roaming rates. I use paper maps.

On the iPad

  •  I downloaded a map of Sydney using CityMaps2Go – and to my continual amazement, and tech doesn’t amaze me very often, it plotted my location on the map even though the iPad was in no way connected to the Interwebs (no cellular, and I wasn’t on WIFI) If any one can figure this out please drop me a note in the comments! It wasn’t super accurate – it sometimes had me on the wrong side of the road, but it was  usable as a walker. Oh it was free too. So long as you download the maps you’ll need in advance this appears to be GPS tracking without data charges – awesome.

Now for me it’s not perfect. I had to learn a new operating system – there were plenty of willing helpers, but it’s a learning curve just like any new OS. It’s a bit heavy to be used as an eBook reader. I haven’t found a good keyboard for it yet.

On the other hand the battery life: over 8 hours of reading and recording on my first day in Sydney, was pretty amazing. it certainly leaves my phone for dead, (also the iPhone 5 curiously!).

Tablets in Use - Sydney YHA
Tablets in Use – Sydney YHA

The Way We Travel Is Changing

As I look around me in airports I see more and more people using phones and tablets and fewer and fewer netbooks and laptops. And those laptops are generally be used by blokes (and ladies) in suits – corporate users. The rest of us are increasingly using tablets and phones. Also as I travel I see fewer and fewer Internet shops. Where just a few years ago it was amazing that you could go to a dedicated place with computers and fast connections to the world. Now, even in developing nations like Thailand, they are disappearing while every airport, café, hotel, and museum offers free WIFI. I’d not be surprised to find beaches with free WIFI in Thailand. The point is that travellers have a device with them to connect, I think that nice will often be a tablet in the future.

If your audience are travellers then you should be thinking about how you can get your content to them.

If your audience are earlier adopters of mobile tech (young adult readers for example), then you need to think about it too.

Self Publishing and Tablets

It’s not easy to self publish cost effectively on tablets, yet. There are very few technical standards, meaning it’s hard to get an app to run on both iPad and iPhone, Android and Windows 8. It’s also hard to create an app without some serious programming skills, or deep pockets. I’ve been looking for some options for the DIYer to build your own app – so far I haven’t found anything particularly compelling, and nothing cheap.

The content is still key – but I think more and more we should make sure we separate out the content from the delivery mechanism. Basically the same content can, and possibly should be, delivered as:

  •  a website
  •  a paper book
  •  an eBook
  •  an app

Write once, distribute many times is  a sensible approach for the future. What do you guys think? Have you ever used apps to read books, rather than an eBook?

Self Publishing Writing The Book

Self-Publishing Update – Writing Course Sydney

It’s only recently I’ve started putting “writer” under the profession question on travel cards. It’s a better term to use than web developer because i involves less writing – who wants to waste more effort than required on the useless paperwork of travel. (Note however it’s a very BAD term to use if you happen to be travelling to repressive countries like China or Myanmar – then the old fall-back of teacher should cover it in a nice generic way.)

I have a dark secret. I want to write a vampire-ridden, erotic trilogy.

Nah – not really, I wouldn’t mind the cash but I don’t do creative, I was the leader of a small group of girls who in the last year of school appealed to our Principal (an ex-English teacher), to remove the school ruling that we all had to do English Lit in 7th form. We won and I haven’t graced the door of an English class since.

But I do want to venture into an odd cross-over between fiction and non-fiction, called travel memoir. However there was a problem.

The Trouble With Travel Writing

As I’ve read my fellow self-published authors in the genre, I came to a rather non-PC conclusion.

Most of their  books suck.

I struggled or failed to finish many of them. I don’t mean they have the odd typo or what-not, frankly I skim read far too fast to notice 99% of the time. Nope I mean their stories were, not to be subtle about it, boring. Dull. Failed-to-finish-the-book tedious.

 However I just couldn’t work out why.

I hadn’t noticed the same problem with self-published non-fiction, generally. Usually  if there was a  problem,  it was over-promising on the title and under-delivered on the content. (Hint: don’t use terms like “complete” and “comprehensive” in the title when Amazon says your eBook is 48 pages long).

So then I started reading “real” books, traditionally published books. Specifically I read travel memoir because that’s what I’m interested in. I started at the top of the best-sellers list: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Couldn’t finish it, it was beyond awful, nothing to do with travel, all to do with her own inability to function as a woman without a man in tow. Made me despair for what womens’ lib has achieved.

Then I re-read the rather excellent Down Under (Sun Burnt Country in the US) by Bill Bryson. Funny, clever, entertaining – and I finished the book still not knowing or caring about the author’s sex life, whether he had a family or anything more personal than his age (middle-ish) , shape (roundish) and fitness levels (hmm not so good).

Hmmm so even some of the popular trad-published stuff sucked, IMHO anyway. So how to write a travel memoir which I would actually like to read, seemed to be the issue. I’ve tried writing my memoir before, every time I tried it descended into a blow-by-blow, re-written version of my journal. That was a problem, because basically it was boring even for me. Finding similar books self-published didn’t inspire confidence. So I did something a bit radical to me – I spent some money and enrolled in:

Sydney Writing Course
Sydney Harbour Bridge from the north side

Sydney Writers Centre: Travel Memoir Course

I know it sounds odd to those of you who live in bigger countries – but really there aren’t that many options in New Zealand – and this was just a quick trip to Sydney and two nights accommodation for a weekend intensive course. 

And I came away having learnt some cool things: 

  • I don’t completely suck at writing;
  • I now know what my memoir lacked – a plot;
  • You  can  make stuff up and leave stuff up (duh!);
  • Writing plots hasn’t changed since Homer and it’s not that hard;
  • it was cool to meet Tracey Edwards in real life
  • My new writing tool – the iPad mini is pretty cool for taking notes on. 

I’ve been nervous of doing a course. As I’m an entirely self-taught writer, I had developed what I like to think of on a good day as a”unique voice”, (on bad days I am just rude, crude and in desperate need of an editor).  As I wasn’t quite sure how this strange voice thing had happened (if like me you have no idea what an authorial voice might be – read this ).  So I worried about jinxing it. 

But this course was about the nuts and bolts of what makes a good story, and why, nothing at all about split-infinitives and the other stuff I vaguely remember from English. 

Highly recommended – the course is from Sydney Writers’ Centre – now the Australian Writers’ Centre and the presenter Claire Scobie did a really good job making sure that 12 very disparate women all got something out of the course. 

I came away with my head buzzing with good ideas. 

Later this week – well it’s half-way through the week already but I do want to write about how I used my new toy – the iPad mini on this trip – and whether it’s good enough to replace a notebook for a traveller. 

Have you ever done a writing course? Was it useful? I’m also considering  doing an on-line humour (sorry humor) writing course at Gotham Writers

Self Publishing Writing The Book

Writing Tools For Self-Publishing: Free & Paid – Pros and Cons

I’ve used word processors and writing tools since vi and WordStar (ask someone over 40, kids) but this is not a history of software piece so lets look at what options you have for writing and why the answer is not always, or even often, Microsoft Word .  Word is everyone’s goto answer for any typing – but frankly –  I find it a poor choice for most of my writing, but most particularly for anything longer than about 5000 words. 

Word Processor or Text Editor

A text editor is software that edits text (duh) – so it’s simple – although most will rise to a bold or italic – that is about it. Tables, footnotes, automatic table of contents, pretty headers and footers – no way. Just you and the words. Word is not a text editor – although it can save as text – most of the pretty formatting will of course be lost.

So why on earth would you use a text editor. Lot’s of reasons but my top five are:

  1. Portability – I don’t need to know if you run Linux or MacOS, are on an Android Tablet, or are running a cray super-computer. They will all read a text file.
  2. Quick and small. A text editor program is very, very small which means it runs on ancient hardware, and you carry it around on an USB stick.
  3. Distraction free. I am the Queen of Procrastination, playing with button and formatting will win over actually writing ever time – so writing full-screen, distraction free mode works for me.
  4. The first rule of writing efficiently is to split writing from editing and formatting.  Pretty much every prolific author agrees on this – so  it’s worth doing too.  So less is more in terms of formatting – I generally stick with bold and italic and sometimes some mark-up for headings and lists. 

Best Text Editors:

Write Monkey

  • free
  • tiny download 6MB – run it from a USB stick if you want to
  • full-screen, distraction free
  • download from:

WriteMonkey I use all the time, it’s old school just a blank screen (everything is on f1) full screen it’s about as simple as you can get. I think making it sound like a typewriter is funky (but you can turn that off), and it shows word and character counts, quietly on the bottom bar. You can do quite sophisticated tracking of your writing speed including a countdown timer for sprint writing and partial counts for that session.

You add simple mark up for bold and italic, and headings if that’s what you want. It does automatic backups YEAH. It’s actively updated and works on all forms of Windows including the latest Windows 8.

Best Used For

Good for short articles, including blog posts – because it’s just text it’s easy to cut and paste into WordPress without any weird formatting (try doing that with Word!) . Once I’m writing something longer than an article I prefer other options – see below


I’ve previously used Q10 – and reviewed it here – honestly I can’t recall why I swapped – they both have very similar features. Note I don’t use WordPad (included with Windows) – no word-count and no auto-backup.

The bad news? Windows only – the most often suggested for Mac option is DarkRoom

Better Than A Text Editor? 

There are some issues with text editors.  It’s not easy to organise your chapters into a coherent whole, the lack of some form of outline can be a deal breaker. Ideally I want to be able tag chapters differently (“2nd draft”, “reference check”), see word counts for both parts of the manuscript and the whole. 

Best Long Manuscript Software 


Buy Scrivener for Windows (Regular Licence)

I’ve used Scrivener for at least a year now and it’s very good. There are two distinctly different versions: one for MacOS and one for Windows. There is a version scheduled for iOS “late 2012” . It’s a full-featured package which pretty much does all you want. The Windows version misses some key features, like flexible formatting for eBooks and exporting to shared drives. However for writing I like it because of: 

  • nice mix of outlining tools including both a traditional outline and a corkboard of file cards both of which are good for outlining;
  • flexible tagging with colour coding so you can keep track of at what stage  each part is; 
  • a little formatting – but not too much
  • separates writing from compiling to an output format

It’s not free – it costs around $45 from LIterature & Latte (evil affiliate link click back to the front page for the free trial download (yes their affiliate system is crap)). However download the free version and you have 30 days of usage (not elapsed) to try it out before deciding if it works for you. 


Evernote running on ipad mini
My Preeeeciooous running Evernote

I’m not quite sure why I’ve only just discovered Evernote – it’s now indispensable to me for all sorts of things like notes, to-do lists, journals, and stuff I may read later. However it’s also not a bad drafting tool and because of it’s truly flexible tagging system you can build an entire structure of a book in notes if that’s what you want to do. Plus there is a whole community of fanatics so if you Google you will find how to write a 90,000 word book in Evernote . 

It’s syncing across devices is particularly awesome – so if  you use a number of difference machines to write on this could well be worth looking at.  

Oh and Evernote can capture audio and images as well – in fact even though I may not write an entire book in it I’m seriously considering using it in the research phase 

Price: free, or $5/month for the pro version (which I have) 


If you are running a blog you’ll already be very familiar with WordPress. In many ways it’s a reasonable place to write a book. You can either publish “chapters” as posts as you go – or just leave them all in draft. Hell you can even share them with selected collaborators using WP security. And there are tags and categories to manage the process. Their are even plugins that will help: I played with Anthologize and liked it. 

WordPress is of course free. 

Before you commit to any of these solutions consider how you are going to manage the entire workflow from draft to beat readers to editors to formatting and publishing. 

Indie Publishing Business Self Publishing

Self-Publishing Scams: Old and New

I’ve been around Internet Marketing for a several years – so I am very familiar with scams.  What I’ve seen in the last 12-18 months is that some of  the  spammier Internet marketers have moved on to self-publishing scams. That’s not a surprise, given the huge growth in self-publishing,  it was  as predictable as a beer on a hot day. 
What does surprise  me though, is that publishing has had self-publishing scams for longer than Internet Marketing has even existed. Vanity Presses, who charge would-be authors thousands of dollars for the chance to see their book in print with the vague promise of the chance of future sales, are not new.
It’s not really that surprising though when you think about. The psychology and the business opportunity, for the ethically challenged, are very similar. 

Internet Marketing Scams 

 The details vary but this usually involves ranking a website(s) in the search engine results and making money from a combination of affiliate sales, pay-per-click and pay-per-impression advertisers. It is a legitimate, even after last year’s changes with Google’s ranking algorithm, way to make money. The problem is the hype and over-promising of the marketers involved. 

 The Dream: 

  • people who can’t get a job or have lost a job and a have no idea how to start a business
  • low start-up costs to online businesses; 
  • the idea of working from home is a huge draw from many;
  • the idea of not having to deal with customers/bosses/colleagues on a regular basis is also very appealing; 
  • being able  to run a business from a beach in Mexico or Thailand has its appeal 

The Reality: 

  • the technology is  made to look harder than it is;
  • the art of ranking in the search engines is  made to seem very magical, only the inner circle know the secretes 
  • people want to believe and they want to  have people telling them they will do alright; 
  • it’s so cheap to build websites online (about $10/year for a domain name plus the under $10/month hosting ) – paying “only” $300 or more a month for the same is crazy; 

The Scam: 

  • consistent income – membership courses provide a much more stable income to theA-list bloggers  than doing what is actually being taught; 
  • over the last 4-5 years many of the loop-holes exploited by these approaches have been closed by Google, you are up against one of the  world’s largest employers of bright PhD’s. 
  • if you look at the track record of the “guru” – you will see very little believable disclosure of their own income, and little evidence of a track record in selling anything except Internet Marketing programs. 
  • there is often a high-pressure, closing-soon, rah-rah-rah, approach, which minimizes the chance for prospects to ask sensible questions or consider the implications of what is on offer before they sign up. 
  • much of the information come from other beginners in the same forum – rather than the “expert”. This results in a lot of mis-information and myths. 
  • almost none of these memberships sites actually run experiments to see what does work in a changing environment
Koh Chang - Thailand Beach
Thai Beaches Have a Lot toAnswer For

Publishing Scam – Traditional Version 

 The Dream 

  • to see your book on the shelves of your local bookshop 
  • to be recognised as An Author 
  • rack in millions, quit day job, write more, possibly from a beach in Mexico or Thailand

The Reality: 

  • it’s always been hard to get published – there have always been more authors wanting toe publishing than books publishers can afford to publish. 
  • there is often a mis-match between what an author wants to write and what a publisher can sell in sufficient quantity to make a profit 
  • as Amazon re-creates the publishing industry more and more physical bookshops are closing and fewer books are published by traditional publishers. 

The Scam:

  • you will pay many thousands of dollars for an often all-inclusive package with will include book design,editing, formatting, printing and publicity. In reality what you get will be cheap out-sourced services from second-rate service providers, and a few print-on-demand books with a couple of press releases thrown in to sweeten the deal. You could do it all yourself for maybe 10% of the cost. 
  • In the worst case you may also have difficultly removing your book from the company, un-authorized charges to your credit cards and non-payment of any royalties due to you. 
  • You are highly unlikely to see the subsidiary press sell any copies for you. 

Self-Publishing Scams – 2013 Version 

 Self-publishing is definitely a gold rush industry at the moment, plus traditional publishing is going through very hard times.  Even before the Kindle eReader, Amazon was a disruptive force in the industry, with Kindle, and eBook sales in general booming, the landscape is being re-written. 
It’s not a surprise then to find some of the biggest names in publishing are getting onto this particular scam – possibly as a desperate act to save their under-threat business model. Simon Schuster launching a new self-publishing arm called Archways Publishing. The unwary may be tempted to hand over the up to $22,000 they are charging in the belief they will be in S&S’s catalogue and bookshops will stock them. No and no. 

Here’s The Reality – For the Wannabe-Authors

 If you want to “just write” and not bother with the whole marketing thing – then make sure you have a well-paying career, or a generous partner. Even trad published authors need to be involved in publicity and marketing campaigns. They do book signings, media interviews. Increasingly they are expected to be active in social media. 
If you self-publish – then it’s all up to you: you have total control.  Don’t therefore sign an incomprehensible contract and hire a “self-publishing company” – because – let’s face it – that’s kinda a contradiction. YOU are self-publishing. You can’t delegate that over-all control to someone else. You get to take responsibility. 
Which doesn’t mean that you have to do it all yourself. In particular I think most would agree that we don’t have the skills to: 
  • design covers;
  • edit our own work (even if you can edit others). 
Many others will choose to outsource book formatting, and may hire a virtual assistant to help with the admin and the social media. Most of us who are in business don’t do it without a book-keeper or an account and many have access to a lawyer. 

Here’s The Reality – For the Internet Marketers 

 Your product is key. All the promotional skills in the world won’t get you very far if your book is rubbish. For all its flaws, the Amazon review system still works. You can pay for or get your mates to provide all the 5-star reviews for the launch, but once the real punters leave their 1-star reviews it will go awfully wrong. 
 Which is not to say you have to be an awesome writer, or even prepared to become one. Ghostwriting has long been a legitimate profession and there is nothing wrong with paying someone for their words and then putting your name on it. But if you are paying 0.01c/word for an English-as-a-second-language writer – then see my comment above about quality. 
Gaming Amazon in terms of getting fake reviews, or even genuine reviews, from mates, is a short-term game, which Amazon has already started closing down. It’s now against the Kindle Publishing Terms of Service for authors to review other writer’s books. Joining a paid forum or other online group and then reviewing each other’s books just makes it even easier for Amazon to find and remove the reviews in question. And yes they have banned people before for abusing their platform – look to see that increasing in the future. 

 Last Words 

 Basically self-publishing a book and making money from it is entirely possible the success stories are true. They are also the minority. It’s not easy to do this successfully. I’m certainly not selling enough to retire that Thai beach yet. It is however, in my not-so-humble opinion, one of the most exciting times in all of history to be either a writer or an online entrepreneur.