Publish The Book Self Publishing

DIY Self-Publishing: eBooks and Print Books

In answer to the most basic question I’ve been asked several times – how do you publish your own book. Plenty of people who are in the position to publish a book easily (e.g. those who already provide lots of information for free on topics on forums or their own blog), seem intimidated by the thought of going it alone with actually publishing a book. The unfortunate, or clueless fall for the many self-publishing scams out there. 

Plus there are a number of companies who would just LOVE to help you – for a small fee – of course. So here’s how you can do it yourself – for low or little cost. 

How To Write &  Publish A Book In Six Fairly Easy Steps 

Step 1: Write a “book”

Informational books are often about  8000-30,000 words. We are not talking War & Peace here. Answer the questions you know readers have about your area of expertise. It doesn’t have to be great literature,write clearly, use sub-headings and bullet points to make it easy to read. If it’s a factual book try to write your advertising “blurb” – the description on the back cover  first. Write  down 4-5 key points you want to explain to the reader for the blurb – there’s the start of your book outline! 

Step 2: Pay an editor

No one can pick up their own mistakes, there are some tricks:

  • leave the draft t for a few days before you review, 
  • uploading it to your Kindle to get it to read aloud to you really helps, 

but if there is one thing you spend money on – pay an editor. I generally pay around $50-$100 for editing a 20-30,000 word book. 

Step 3: Make or pay for a great cover design

I’m no designer – but I’ve generally done my cover designs myself with LOTS of help from designer friends. I pay for the stock photos (about $20) – paying for the design would cost maybe another $100. The trick it has to be eye catching in the very small size that book covers show on Amazon listings

Step 4: Format the book for Amazon ebooks (MOBI)

This requires learning a bit of HTML stuff – its a little tricky until you get used to it – I’ve actually written a book on Kindle formatting on how to do it. I also format books  for clients – about $50-$100 for a book depending on the complexity

Step 5:  Upload the eBook to Amazon

Amazon is about  60% of the eBook  market. If you ONLY have your eBook available on Amazon then you can enrol in a program called “Kindle Select” which allows you to set a book free for 5 days out of the 90 day exclusivity period. Also Americans who are members of the Amazon Prime program can borrow your book for free and you still get paid. Note you can publish a book via Createspace (or any other print publisher) while your eBook is in the Select program -the exclusivity agreement ONLY applies to eBooks. 

Step 6: Create the paperback via Createspace

Createspace is owned by Amazon. They allow your book to be made into a paperback which is them printed on demand when someone buys it.  Having both the paperback and ebook version means that you end up with a pretty listing on Amazon which emphasizes how much cheaper the eBook is, and also suggests that it’s a “real” book – you know – not self -published 🙂 

You have to now take that same file you had and make it into a PDF all pretty and laid out. It took me about a day to do it – I use OpenOffice which is a free wordprocessor (like Word) which will save-as pdf. You also have to get the book cover now extended to cover the back and spine. Load it all up to createspace, approve the proof, either digitally or pay for a copy to be shipped (about $10 to NZ). Details on publishing at createspace here 

Self Published Book for sale - Amazon

 In total I think costs for self-publishing 25,000 word book could be summarised as 

Cover ($40-$150) most author’s will need to pay for this
Editing ($60-$120) every author should pay for this
Formatting($60-$120) most author’s could do this themselves  but there is a learning curve (hint Word is not a good HTML editor) 

Paper Books 
Cover ($0-$40) if you have some skills with GIMP or photoshop you can probably take the eBook cover and make the paper back version yourself
Formatting($0-100) This is not hard but you need to add in a whole lot of front matter that you wouldn’t  have in an eBook plus you need to worry about
footers, headers,page numbers, fonts, page breaks
Proof copy ($5-$10) – depends on how much the postage will cost. I only got the proof copy for my first book – because I had no idea what to expect for the quality.  

Advanced Distribution 

The above six steps only cover getting your book into Amazon (com, uk and the European stores inclusive).
Distributing via
They will distribute your book via a long list of retailers the most important of which are: 

  • Barnes & Noble
  • Apple 
  • Sony
  • Kobo 

Kobo has recently (July 2012) started their own portal which allows you to upload your own books directly to them via Writing Life – it still seems buggy – but presumably will improve with time. 

Only American residents, can submit books to Barnes & Noble directly. 

Only Americans using Macs who have their own ISBN, can submit direct to Apple. 

All three of these sites, if you can load directly to them, will accept a file in ePub format. You can easily convert your Amazon eBook MOBI file using  free Calibre software

However to actually submit a file via Smashwords you need to submit a Word file. This is a problem because this severely limits the chances that your formatting will look any good.  It also means you have access to Microsoft Word. Creating a doc file using OpenOffice will not work in my experience. Watch this space for a solution! 

Publish The Book Self Publishing

Formatting for Self-Published Paper Books with Amazon – Not So Hard

This post was prompted by an online colleague who admitted that he has been  avoiding paper versions of their books because he was  scared of  the formatting.

The formatting is pretty darn easy actually, well at least for Amazon’s CreateSpace which is the service I’m using.  Much more straightforward than doing the e-version in my experience. 

What You Need To Get Started 

1. An account with createspace – sign up fill in the form – done. 

2. A formatted book. If you used my method for Formatting Non-Fiction books, then you will have an HTML file and some images. 

3. A cover image. 

At The End Of  The Process You Will Have 

1. A book cover which includes the back cover – I’ll probably do another post on this but basically you create the correct size (and it varies with the number of pages in your book) upload the jpg to Createspace and they will create a pdf of the cover for you. 

2. A PDF of the book. 

3. Once you upload these two, Createspace will send you back a PDF proof copy which will print on standard printer paper “2-up” so you can see the actual layout. Alternatively, and obviously at some cost, you can also order a print proof copy. It’s a good idea to do this for the first one. That way eventually you will notice the obvious typo on the cover! 

Self-Publishing A Print Book With  Amazon’s CreateSpace

1. Front Matter

Go find a a real book in your genre.  You’ll find these in a book shop, or a library. Look at all the extra pages there are at the front of the book. There are a surprisingly number of them. I flipped through quite a few and I ended up adding: 

  • half title page i.e. just he title;
  • More books in the series page (optional but you will need a blank page because the next page must be on the right);
  • full title page includes title, sub-title, author name and url of the “publisher”;
  • copyright page, including date, edition number and ISBN;
  • disclaimer;
  • blank page to ensure that the table of contents start on the right page. 

This is not set in stone, but I intend my books to be consistent. Often trad published books have heaps of reviews at the front, as a reader I find these incredibly annoying so I didn’t add them! 

Verso and Recto

What you have no idea what verso and recto pages are? Me neither, but if you write your language from left to right: verso is the page on the left, recto the page on the back, if you are writing Hebrew or Arabic, it will be the opposite (full explanation).  

To keep it simple – the important shit like the start of the book, the start of the table of contents, the start of chapters MUST go on the right side (recto) of the opened page – like this:


2 Back Matter 

I used the end of the book to advertise other books in the series by including a blurb. I already had an about the author page and a request for readers to leave a review and signup for updates. 

Re-Formatting From eBook to pBook

Workflow matters to traditional publishers and typesetters (that’s a formatter in the paper world). There’s a reason for that – it saves a lot of mistakes and re-work if you know exactly what file is at what stage.  I suggest that you set up draft and final version folders and have sub-folder for every version of your book (ePub, Kindle, Paper etc). 

Take your final HTML as used to create your eBook and import it into your word processor. Mine is OpenOffice which allows me to save PDF files directly, so that’s what I’m talking about from here on in. 

Go to Createspace and download the doc template for the book size that you’ve chosen. There is no right answer for this, I chose 8″x5″ because my book is quite short so I wanted it to not look too skinny. 

Now learn how to use “Page Styles” (F11 in Open Office). You need to use Page Styles, and know how to change from one to the other so that you can: 

  • ensure no  header/footer shows on blank pages, and title and other similar pages; 
  • pages numbers don’t usually start displaying until the actual text start – my first page with a number is a page 9. If you have a long introduction and table of contents you can number these with small roman numbers but I thought that looked a bit old-fashioned; 
  • you can use page styles to change the running head to reflect the current chapter, and you should for non-fiction. 

Fonts and Justification

I didn’t like the suggested CreateSpace font (Georgia) that much and changed to Palatino Linotype for the majority of text. You can use different fonts and sizes for the front matter and chapter headings, but keep it fairly simple. 

Note different fonts make a large difference to how many pages your book will consist of. More pages means more cost to the reader, but on the other hand using a minute font, is not going to win you friends and readers either.  Decide on your font before you fiddle with the page breaks. 

Books are fully justified. Yeah, I’d forgotten too. But they are – you don’t see ragged right alignment except maybe in a poetry book. You may find that you have some oddly spaced words because of it, usually means you need to add some extra spaces. 

Margins and Gutters

The Createspace template will give you the required margins. Note that books are “mirrored” because of the gutter at the spine – so pages will not look symmetrical – if they are symmetrical the book will look awful. It will also come with suggested fonts and sizes. 

Add in the front and back matter you’ve decide your book needs. 

The CreateSpace template has a number of pre setup page formats which I adapted for my own purposes. 

Now you need to add back in headers and footers including page numbers. Again the format is up to you, but most non-fiction books seems to have a the title on the right page and a running chapter or part heading on the right. 

Page Breaks 

With paper books page breaks are critical, the exact opposite of ebooks.  Your word-processor will have widow/orphan control (to prevent only a one line appearing on a new page), but got a better result by going through and doing this by hand.  As you do this you may end up needing to add blank pages if you want major sections to start on the right side page. 


Images cost money – and unless you have black and white images they will cost you a lot of money 


Final Steps To Printed Glory

Once you think you are getting close create a pdf (save as PDF in open office) and see what it looks like. If you think you are getting close, then upload it as your “interior file” to createspace. This will give you the chance to seee the interior pages in their online reviewer. Well worth clicking through this as it will find you lot’s of errors such as headers on the wrong side (well it did for me). 

You can do this any number of times and it only takes a few minutes to upload a new version. 

Once you are REALLY happy then work your way through the rest of the createspace process and hit submit, including adding the cover image. You will get a message saying that your book will approved (or not) within 48 hours (more like 24 in my experience). What you will get is either an email telling you what the problems are  that your book is ready for you to approve the proof. 

Accepting the Proof – It’s Your Choice 

Up until now it has cost exactly nothing to create your book now you have a choice: 

  • approve the PDF file they’ve sent to you (this is not the same as the one you submitted to them), or
  • order the proof copy

The second option will cost you the price of the book, plus P&P – in my case to New Zealand it cost around US$10 to get the book in my hands and 2 weeks of waiting. It should be quicker and cheaper for the rest of you. 

You don’t have to do that – you can just download the PDF proof and print it out. Yes you can also proof the PDF on screen, but I wouldn’t – you won’t see the errors! 

Printing the file will give you a two -up layout view with the verso and recto stuff sorted out correctly. Compared to the printed book proof, and despite having printed the 8″x5″ proof on metric equivalent paper, it’s a good representation. Won’t help you with the cover of course, but the rest of the book is a close as possible to the reality. 

Now you repeat the process a few more times and get the rest of the mistakes sorted out! 

Note until you approve your book it’s not available for general sale. 

Once you have approved it  – you can still change it, but you will need to go through the proof approval process – and if you opt to pay for extended distribution you will need to pay that fee again for each new “edition” you create, even if it’s just to fix typos. 

It’s really not that hard, because it’s easy to see exactly what your book will look like on paper. The tricky thing is that an awful lot of stuff that ignore with eBooks, become critical with printed books: fonts, margins, blank pages for starters. 

So what’s your story – have you produced a printed version of your self-published book?  How did it go? 

Indie Publishing Business Rants Self Publishing

Ryan Deiss’s Number One Book System: Scam Or Just Incompetent?

Now – fair disclosure – I haven’t seen Ryan Deiss’s Number One Book System, that’s because it’s not live yet. But I’ve seen his pre-launch hype machine in action all over Facebook – so I took a longer look. 

Who’s Ryan Deiss?

His name rang vague bells in my head, I don’t think I’ve lost any money to him in the past, but it appears that he managed to annoy Aaron Wall (SEO Book) and of course the robot was not impressed either: the ‘Droid calls Ryan Deiss a Scammer

But hey maybe he’s found his calling, maybe he’s got really good at e-book publishing – or as he likes to call it the Kindle Publishing Revolution So I bought his book, it’s free on Amazon for 5 days,  and read it. The book is being promoted free to his list, and some VERY keen affiliates as a 5-day give away – during the 5 days before the Number One Book System going live. Clever idea – it means the book can give a very, very clear idea to potential customers about what they are going to get in the course. The book, is free, the course will not be, price not yet disclosed but I bet it’s four figures and ends in a “7”. 

Kindle Publishing Revolution Review

Unfortunately, by any objective measure, i.e. from someone who is not an affiliate looking for 40% or so of the price for signing you up on their review, the Kindle Publishing Revolution  fails at so many levels it’s hard to keep it short, but we could start with – the book doesn’t deliver on the title, subtitle or blurb. Deiss  points out that eBooks, particularly erotic fiction has exploded, and then spends a long time suggesting that writing a book is the perfect way to launch your public speaking or coaching career (what this has to do with the Kindle Revolution is beyond me – you’d be much better off with printed books to give away at live gigs).

However if you want to know how to use a free book on Kindle to promote an over-priced product costing a lot and probably under-delivering then I suggest you sign up for all his lists and watch what he DOES rather than listen to what he SAYS. 

In the Kindle Publishing Revolution we have a step by step how to upload your book via KDP without actually discussing formatting or cover design. Some of the information is plain wrong (cover image size, implying that uploaded public domain books is a good idea, suggesting that  DRM  is difficult to understand) 

The worst part is actually the section on marketing. There’s nothing new here: use keywords in your title/blurb, use authorcentral get a blog and start a facebook page (and this guy is supposed to be a marketer!).  He talks about free Kindle book sites without actually ever mentioning the decision of putting your book in Select or not! Never mind whether you should only use Amazon for distribution or whether you should go broader. 

And no point does he actually talk about finding your audience or connecting to them.  Nor does he mention that the best way to sell books is the have multiple books in a niche, nor, and this did surprise me, did he mention books as a way to grow your customer list. Maybe he’s leaving that for the Number One Book System course – after all you can’t give away the good ideas for free can you!  Particularly as you are not showing much evidence of having any. 

Number One Book System – Review Deiss’s Books Before You Buy 

The scary part though is the book is just part of a launch, a hook into his soon to be launched Number One Book System.  The other part of the hook is that Deiss is publicly disclosing how, he hopes, to give away 10,000 copies of another book. Now to me it’s obvious if you flash a book all over the Internet Marketing forums as a case study, plus prime all your affiliates, plus you’re a “name” in Internet Marketing, then obviously a lot of IMers are going to download your book out of curiosity. But maybe I need to say it, because it does seem that some people are fairly naive. 

So I’m not directly linking to the example book here, but you can find if you take 2 seconds, I’m just saying, think before you download. 

So let’s review this show-case book – this book which is supposed to persuade me that Ryan knows how to create a GOOD BOOK i.e good cover, well-written, good formatting.  – a point he emphasizes a lot. Because you know we wouldn’t want to spam Amazon – like an evil Internet Marketer would! 

So this is supposed to be the show case part that will make you really impressed by the guy’s track record and ability with eBook publishing. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

Cover Design 

So let’s talk about what  goes to make a great book, at least on Amazon. First you need an eye-catching cover – something that can be read as a tiny thumbnail . In fact his Kindle Publishing Revolution book has a great cover, the book he’s using as a case study – not so much. Hard to read, title doesn’t stand out, sub-title illegible, doesn’t stand out in the category listing at all. 

A Good Book 

What is a good book? Most marketers seem to think that a good book is a “long” book and most of those define long as 10,000 words. Most author’s would call a long book at 150,000 plus, a normal novel runs to around 80,000. A 10,000 word piece of fiction is called a short story. 

I actually don’t think the length is the issue – though if it’s less than about 50k words you better be making that clear to purchasers in the blurb. 

What’s critical though – is that you need to deliver on the promises made in the title/sub-title and blurb. In this book’s case something called: Vertical Gardening and Container Gardening Ideas for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Small Vertical Places Outdoors and Indoors should provide the following: 

  • specific information on vertical gardening
  • specific information on container gardening
  • information on growing vegetables and herbs in those settings 
  • information about both outdoor and indoor growing of vegetables and herbs in containers and vertical areas. 

What I don’t expect from a book delivering on those promises is: 

  • a long discussion about why home-grown vegetables are better than shop-bought
  • how to hoe (I’m no expert but you can’t hoe containers!) 
  • a discussion on general gardening techniques except where they pertain to verticals or containers and how.
  • absolutely nothing about container gardening or indoor gardening 
  • general introduction to garden gear which has nothing to do with vertical and container gardening including general soil testing.

Formatting Of The Book 

Okay, I have a simple check list to look for when I check a book’s formatting: table of contents available on menu bar? indents? bullets? 

Is there any formatting used that doesn’t work well on eBook readers – like tables? All of those are fails in this Ryan Deiss’s book as you can see below. 

Why the newspaper displaying today’s date- 23 August – you may ask? Well because Deiss claimed that my review of his book was a jack up or paid, nope you don’t need to pay me to get my honest opinion! He also says he’s corrected all the formatting issues. Well he hasn’t, and if there were even more formatting issues than this originally he needs to hire some better staff, or hell, learn how to do it himself! 

Is the Table of Contents live on the Kinde’s menu bar?


Are there inadvertent indents throughout the book making the sub-title look odd?


Are the bullets incorrectly indented?


Tables are illegible in Kindles- this is at maximum magnification, and there are pages of it

Summary Why I’m Ranting Again

Because I see every hallmark off an over-hyped launch of an over-priced light-weight product, which will do well for Deiss and his main affiliates because a lot of people are still looking for short-cuts and for for the moment, the mood is that Kindle books are that short cut.

 They are not. Can you make money with them, yes you can. Will the Number One Book System teach you how to – I sincerely doubt it. How can I possibly say that? How can I review a product and call it a scam without having seen it? Because some people’s track records speak for themselves.

Market The Book Self Publishing

Kindle Free Strategy For Nonfiction Books

The other weekend I ran my 3-day free promotion of one of my travel books. As I’ve discussed previously I did a fair bit of work promoting my free giveaway which was 3 days running from the 8-10 August.  BTW this coincided with the London Olympics – which may have been significant… 

Rankings v. Sales 

I’m mainly talking about rankings in order to determine whether going free is worthwhile. Why not absolute sales ? Because I’m never ever going to sell 5,000 copies of  this book. It’s a niche subject. I’ll never hit the top 100 best-sellers either, instead my aim is quite simple, to be #1 in the relevant travel categories. 

Prior To Going Free 

Published: 26 July 2012 

Not New Releases on 4 August in Travel Tips
Hot New Releases on 4 August in Travel Tips

Prior to going free:

  • 3 reviews – 5-star rating
  • ranking #89,595 overall, #27 in speciality travel/tips 
  • price 99c

I’d managed to show up in the “hot new releases” in travel tips – this was the 4 August, just after I’d upped the price to $2.99 prior to going free, so the higher price would show during the free period (“you save 2.99” )

Screen shots are from my author central statistics. Note the statistics have been a little slow to update all of August, but I suspect that they are close enough for comparison purposes. 

What Happened When The Book Was Free

During 3 days of going free I gave away: 

  • 589 first day 
  • 340 the second day 
  • 79 the third day (stopped early about 7pm Pacific time) 

I ranked as high as #464 in the free bestsellers on amazon and #259 on 

Effect On Sales Rankings - After Going Free
Effect On Sales Rankings – After Going Free

Those are the statistics: I also gave away: 

  • 986
  • 203
  • 16
  • 3
  • 1
  • 2

Lesson learned: I had a lot more interest in the UK than I’d anticipated, remember this was in the middle of the Olympics being held in London so therefore wall-to-wall media coverage, and far more TV viewing happening than normal.

What I really saw though was a marked increase in sales for my existing Vacation Packing book which still at it’s regular price of $2.99. This had been on sale for a year, and had had a new cover which improved sales for a while. The week before the promo it was selling about 1 book every couple of days. On the first day of the promo I sold 5 copies, (in the US , like I say I wasn’t watching the UK as closely) followed by 2 the second day. 

Lesson learned: there is probably no point going free with only one book in the same genre. I suspect that the “halo” effect would have worked better if I’d had more books in the genre: I’m now aiming for five or six travel books in the next couple of months. 

Sales of not free related book during free promo period
Sales of not free related book during free promo period

What Happened When The Book Comes Off Free

 After being free for 3 days and allowing 24 hours for paid rankings to return: 

  • I picked up 5 more reviews, which surprised me, I think this is somewhat biased by online friends helping out, as I rather  suspect that many people who download free books never get around to reading them, never mind reviewing! 
  • ranking #71340 overall and #19 for travel tips, which promptly dropped over the next few days. 
  • I’ve left the price at $2.99 as I don’t think it’s a reasonable price for the book. 

So was it worth giving away the book for three days, free? If you just look at the book in isolation, no. Initially a book coming off free, plummets in the paid rankings, all the way to #238,164 in this case). After about 24 hours I suspect the algo adds in the free “sales” and I ended up at 71,340. As I was around #89,000 before the giveaway period this doesn’t amount to much.  Since then it’s pretty much averaged 1 to 2 sales a day, possibly slightly up from before the giveaway, though the rankings are very similar.

The book where I can see increased sales is the Vacation Packing one. Since then it’s sold between 1 and 3 copies every day for the week after the free promotion. 

Lesson learned: Some people report amazing results from promos, some not so much. I rather suspect that it purely depends on how much your promo gets picked up and promoted in social media and blogs. The free Kindle books sites that I used are generic and mainly focussed towards fiction. I rather think I’d be better off promoting on travel blogs and will probably try that next time. 

Is Going Free Worth It on Kindle Select?

There is an awful lot of angst in authorly circles about how going free is destroying Indies writers in general, devaluing authors, and will quite possibly see the end of literary works  as we know them, very soon. Seriously, I’m not making this up! On the contrary, going free probably has little to no effect on actual book sales, in fact I am fairly confident on the limited data I have is that it boosted sales, but of my other book, not the one on promo.Why? Because the other book(s) show up in the “Customers who bought this book also bought” line. Given the size of the thumbnails I’d suggest that you make sure all your books have a distinctive and consistent covers so at a glance the reader can see that they are related. 

The only way to do a free promo like this is to have the book enrolled in Amazon’s Select program, has two benefits for authors: 

  • your book can be borrowed;
  • your book can be made free for 5 days out of 90. 

The price you pay – is exclusivity. 

That’s a fairly high price, particularly if your book is likely to appeal outside of the US of A.  Outside of the US, Kindles don’t rule, Kobo is a lot more popular and common in NZ for example, purely because it’s sold through the country’s leading chain of booksellers. In addition if your readers are outside of certain “core” Amazon countries e.g. Western Europe, Australia, NZ, Canada they pay an extra $2 per a book on the “usual” price from Amazon. This annoys me hugely because it’s utterly unfair, it doesn’t go to the author, that’s for sure. I could avoid this charge for my readers by directing them to an alternative download site like Smashwords or even just sell the book direct from my own site, but I can’t while it’s in Select. 

It’s been an interesting exercise and I’d do it again, but I’m not rushing to enrol all my books in Select, particularly as, between the three books, I’ve had precisely one borrow. As Amazon Prime members can only borrow one book a month, I would imagine most will use that borrow for something a little more expensive and longer than my books. 

Publish The Book Self Publishing

Kindle Formatting – Hire Me Or Buy The Book!

The initial reason I got into travel eBooks is I could see a gap in the market. The travel industry is dominated by the big guide book publishers: Lonely Planet, Frommers and similar. And none of them do eBooks well. In fact the eBooks I’ve seen from Lonely Planet are virtually unusable. But for a traveller an eBook reader is the best invention since cheap international airfares. So there was a bit of a supply, demand disconnect, and decided to fill it. 

So I published one book, and then I got distracted. Frankly, I found writing something longer, and better organised, than a rambling 800-word blog post quite intimidating. Like hard work or something. 

However as I said recently – Google managed  to focus my attention back to Amazon. So I wrote a second travel book, as was my Editorial Plan, which I now actually wrote down (that helps with plans!). 

I wrote the next travel book, got a a great cover, paid an editor, and then I started formatting … Several days later I finished formatting. And I was mad, it had taken far longer than it should have. I wrote notes so I could replicate the process more efficiently next time.  The notes were quite long, (about 10,000 words in the end). Seemed like a potential book really. After all I’d bought several books on the subject of Kindle formatting – and they had varied from dire, to out-of-date, from misleading, to plain annoying. Really. So I, out of genre, I needed to  write another  book the one I couldn’t buy!  

I wanted some reviews so I priced it at 99c and mentioned it to my mailing list and on a couple of forums and Facebook groups I’m a member of. I sold some copies: 

#1 Hot New Release in Editing/Writing

We are not talking hundreds here – but selling 35-odd at 99c within 24 hours pushed me up the best-seller lists in the niche and I even, briefly, ranking in the7000’s overall. 

So now I have a side business! If you want to either buy my book on Kindle formatting or get help with your book’s formatting check out: 

Also, some time in the next few days I’m going to redesign the site – so if it looks funky for a while – stay with me – it will get sorted, probably!

Marketing Self Publishing

Promoting Your Free Book

When I published my first book, way back in 2011, the only way to have a book free on was to make it free on Smashwords and wait for Amazon to price match (or get your mates to tell Amazon to price match). Being  fairly lazy, I never bothered. 

Going Free 8/9/10 August
Going Free 8/9/10 August

However the KDP Select program changed things up. And I’ve enrolled both my two most recent books in it to see how it works. If the book is in Select I can set it free for 5 days out of the 90 days that the Select contract runs for. 

My initial thought was to set a new book free immediately, in order to get reviews. The resounding response on forums was that this doesn’t work as people who download free books rarely read them, never mind review them. Sounds true, after all I have quite a lot of unread books on my Kindle! 

Also who’s going to take the risk on a book with no reviews from an unknown author – even if it is free? 

So instead I decided to price low – as in my Kindle Launch and Pricing Strategy. This worked, I now have nice reviews and a 5-star ranking. 

Choosing Free Days

So then I started looking at the “when” question. When to go free and for how long? I could go free for anywhere between one to all five days. Initially I was going to do one day, but then I realised there are lots of sites that promote free books, so it seemed that I was likely to miss being promoted by them. 

Then I discovered that most (many?), Americans are paid on a Friday (who knew). So I’ve taken an educated guess and decided my book would go free 8/9/10 August (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday). 

The theory is that if you get some downloads, that should push my book up the bestseller lists for free, so that when it goes back to paid, 

Oh and when I decided on the days I was going free, I put the price back to $2.99, so it shows as a bigger discount when free, plus will go straight back to that price (which is my standard pricing for this series for the moment). 

Promoting Free Days

There are HEAPS of places to promote free books, some require some notice, so I spent a busy day yesterday submitting my book to a list of sites. Not all accept nonfiction, but this is the list I have that do. 

First this Group You Can Submit To A Few Days In Advance useful site developed by Jim Kurkal who knows what he’s talking about in respect to marketing.  The forums are a bit quite but their videos are worth watching. 

Editorial Submissions 

Plus This List To Submit To On the Day

Lucky for me middnight in Amazon-land is about 7pm my time -so I’m going to have a busy evening: 

Latest Books – quite a nice forum this, looks like it could be more useful than just for book promotion.

Adding Tags To The Listing 

Also suggested was that you add tags like “free kindle book”, “free kindle nonfiction book”, “kindle free nonfiction”,”kindle freebies” ,”kindle free books” to your listing so those site that build automatic “free book” lists will find it. 

Apparently I can spam Twitter as well, but as I don’t really do much on Twitter I’m not sure whether that will be worthwhile or not. 

So my calculation my book will be free in about an 1.5 hours – that’s if they are prompt at price changes? I have no idea! EDIT – apparently not still paid at 1:30am there time :-< 

Oh yeah the links

Market The Book Self Publishing

A Book Launch – But Not As We Know It

Covers Sell Indie Nonfiction

Around the middle of  the month I changed the cover and title of my existing book – I talked about it previously. Well I know it’s been said before but – covers sell books. 

Because you know something, my first book, used to sit in the 20’s for a ranking under the travel tips category, then I talked about it, changed the cover, and it bounced up to first page of tips hitting #8, and the sales have stayed up. In fact I’ve just had the best month EVER for sales for the first book, and I didn’t publish the new book until the 25th – so it’s not the multiple book effect!  The figures aren’t big, but the percentage is – I’ve sold 50% more copies of The Non-Boring Vacation Packing Guide in July, than I have in any other month (sales figures here). 

A Boat Launch, Savaii, Samoa

Launching Indie Books – Doing It Differently

There’s an awful lot written about and discussed on how to launch an Indie book.  Almost all the time the discussion is around fiction, and  somewhat flawed I think. 

In the old days e.g. 2010, paper books had a limited shelf life. If you book didn’t have good sales within a few weeks, it was pulled off the shelves and remaindered or pulped. I book had about 12 weeks to make it or die. After all, shelf space was a valuable and limited commodity. 

Hence the tradition of the “book launch” – a big splash over a whole lot of media, writer doing interviews all around the place, and hopefully enough sales to keep the book in print.  It was a concept that Indie writers have taken and developed into the online equivalent e.g. blog tours, social media love-in’s etc. All the same work as a traditional launch, without the booze and nibbles – that’s got to be wrong! 

Fortunately, these days we all know that whatever you write on the Internet is there forever, equally Amazon may have over 1.2 million books in the Kindle eBook Store – but it’s not running out of shelf space any time soon.  So the need to make a big splash, is less compelling. 

My priority was to get my book live on Amazon. While it was still on my hard drive it was definitely not earning any money! So instead of a lot of promotion I focussed on two things: 

  • a quality book;
  • a backend to build my buyer’s list

To Do List For A Nonfiction Book Launch 

Here’s a short list of the stuff I’ve found that you need to do to launch a book: 

  • sort out your typos get the final copy,
  • get cool cover done,
  • find more typos, this is definitely the final copy,
  • format the book, while finding more typos,
  • format the book some more, work out how to format books correctly (save that thought for later),
  • publish book,
  • notice more typos, fix them up and re-publish,
  • leave the price at 99c for a few days to get some reviews,
  • update your book’s sales page or in the case of re-branding the entire series, launch a new website,
  • re-do formatting for existing book to match the new one
  • update the old book to promote the new book at the end
  • setup an email capture page for each book.

Building a List With A Book

Look I was late to the party in terms of building a list of interested peeps from my websites, but I got there eventually. And now I notice, with amazement, that hardly any of the books that peeps are selling, have a signup at the back! WTF? It can’t be a BAD idea to have readers emails can it? Hey maybe everybody tried this already and readers don’t sign up. Maybe. But hell it costs nothing to try does it? 

Using AWeber I’m setting up a signup to the The Non-Boring Travel Newsletter, so that I can communicate updates and new promos to the people I know who have bought the book.  How do I know they bought the book, or stole it I guess, because the signup page is not indexed and not linked to from front page of the site, so you will only find it at the back of the book.  I’m curious to see just what percentage of readers will go to this trouble.

I’d My Like Books To Be Self-Promoting

I have a vision.

What if everytime I released a book that was in the same niche I could email a list of buyers, people who’d already bought my previous book, and offer them the limited-time opportunity to purchase a book for a discounted price? I wonder what that would do to my book’s rankings? I’d immediately get reviews and buys from people who were buying other travel books, so my book would show with relevant “also boughts” showing at the bottom of the page. 

Maybe it’s a pipe-dream, but it just seems that I have so much more control over a mailing list than I do social media sites that now want to charge me to have my updates show in subscribers news feeds (Facebook).  Does anyone else think I’m on to something? 

Market The Book Self Publishing

Kindle Launch and Pricing Strategy

OK, book number two is up, and its only a year after the first one LOL!  The pricing and promotion strategy has been interesting. The decisions went something like this: 

Shall I put it in Select?

Non-Boring Safe Travel GuideMain advantages of Select: Americans in the Prime program can borrow your book, at the moment borrows pay about $2 0o that’s similar to the commission I get for a $2.99 book.  In addition I can set the book to free for up to 5 days in a 90 day period. 

Why would I do that? Visibility, plain and simple. Downloads count towards sales rank, and sales rank makes your book more visible within Amazon. 

The downside – the book has to be exclusive to Amazon while its in Select, and that’s a 90-day period. I signed up, I don’t make huge sales on non-Amazon sites, what did I have to lose? 

Pricing Model

But then the next question is, pricing. Most of the books in the category are more expensive than mine, but they are longer too, and most are traditionally published.  Frankly I can’t imagine paying more than $4.99 for a book by an unknown author.  

For those are not aware of how Amazon does it’s pricing you have to options: 

  • 70% revenue
  • 35% revenue 

Yeah it’s a tough choice, there are some gotchas though. To get the 70% revenue option you must price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 . Plus, you will only get the the 70% if your buyers live in the “right” countries.  And at 70% Amazon has the right to price match and drop your price. Plus you pay for the download by the MB. 

Introductory Pricing At 99c

So why on earth do I have my book for sale at 99c? Particularly as I rather suspect that many readers skip 99c non-fiction eBooks because they have been previously burnt by slightly re-written outsourced fluff. That will be because I actually have …. 

A Marketing Plan For Indie Non-Fiction

There is precious little written about how to promote non-fiction on Amazon. Oh yeah I know Facebook, Twitter, blog blah blah. Well I must say having down quite a lot of that for the last year, and I rather agree with the approach described Make A Killing On Kindle by Michael Alvear, Amazon sells book far more effectively than all the social media in the world, unless you are already a world-famous blogger. The book makes the point that you need reviews to get buys. Initially I was going to go free first to get the reviews, but now I’m trying plan B, get reviews first. Why? So I can then got free with legit reviews, which gives me  a, hopefully, good star-rating. With that rating I can then get promotion on a number of sites which will promote free books but only if they already have stars. 

Why would I promote so that people can download my  book for free. Rankings, pure and simple, the idea is to give lots away free for a couple of days, and then hit payday when the book comes off free and reverts to its regular price. 

It’s an approach that’s worked for others so I am going to give it a go and see what happens. 

Can You Help Me?

LOL you know I was working up to this didn’t you? I would love you greatly if you would like my book’s page and agree with “all 13 tags” at the bottom of the page.

If you like Don’s review “Anything but boring!”  it would be cool if you’d click “YES” to the question “did you find this review helpful”. 

If you have an actual interest in travel, and can afford, it I’d really appreciate a buy, and particularly a review.

The idea at this moment is to get five or six honest reviews. Don’t have to be all 5-star, in fact I think it looks a little dodgy when books ONLY have 5-star reviews. 

As I said – the book will go free either this week (if I have time to get the promo in place), or more likely the following week, so really,  wait if the money is tight! 

And here’s that useful link to Safe Travel Guide buy on and Safe Travel Guide: on (Interesting note – reviews on eventually display on the UK site, but not vice-versa. 

Lis Recommmends Rants

Self Help Guru Scams Revealed! Really

Are you looking for a way to improve your life, make money, or get your ex-back? Then I really think that you should immediately buy Secrets, Lies and Manifestations The Truth About Self Help by Katharine Kershaw!

Seriously I mean it.

Secrets Lies and Manifestations If you are reading this blog you are possibly looking for the simple answer to how to make money. And I’ve always tried to tell the truth – tell you I don’t have the answers, that I’m just bumbling along like the rest of you. Secrets, Lies and Manifestations does much more than that, it explains why you keep buying into books and online products. Buy the book.

I’ve evolved this blog over the years ago. When it started I seriously believed that I could make Passive Income Online. Over the years I’ve come to realise that the truth is much more complex, and getting more so. Many in my little corner of “make money online” Internet, have gone quiet, taken down their blogs, and moved on.

Some of us are focusing more on building our own products and less on ranking sites. Its tricky out there, and getting more and more difficult. One of the things I’m doing is writing more of my Indie Non-Fiction books, and to get into the spirit of things, knowing I would be asking for some reviews soon, I thought I’d get my kharma points up by doing some Amazon reviews on other books while I had quite a number of hours to kill in airports. (In case you are not familiar with how Amazon works, for Indie authors, its really important to get reviews, it helps hugely with sales, so please if you read a self-published book on Amazon, do leave a review, it doesn’t have to be glowing, just honest).

This book appealed because of the title, but I didn’t really expect to be so inspired by it that I would be furiously writing up a review in transit so I could publish it at midnight when I get home for a few hours. I was too brain dead – so here it is several weeks later! 

Katharine ruthlessly exposes the whole rotten core of the entire self help industry. From The Bible, to The Secret, Katherine uses her rather vicious wit, combined with a firm grasp on reality, to explain just why you keep buying and buying more and more products, self-help guides, and why, rather than giving you the key as promised, they doom you to repeat the cycle of failure. Her message is direct. She points out that self-help screws you, dreams aren’t enough, and how ever many times you manifest the desire to win Wimbledon or make a million dollars, your time, money and effort would be much better focused on actually taking some tennis lessons, or developing a product to serve a market that people will pay for. Which is of course the book’s failing. Katharine tells it as it is, and in doing so shatters the illusion.

There is no simple way to make money in your sleep, or to lose weight, and in so doing so she, removes the market for her follow up sequel. I hope not, because personally I’d buy it, just for her writing style and her clear-eyed worldview. So do your self a favour – buy the bloody book.

What’s not to like? Nothing really, her editing is pretty good, and she covered all the pain sacred cows in the industry. I’d probably have liked to learn more about the author, because she’s certainly one I’d buy another book from. And the final joke? The automated list of “customers who bought this book also bought …” Total Law of Attraction: Unleash Your Secret Creative Power To Get What You Want! Dr David Che Please don’t be one of those people – stop buying self-help guides/books/courses about how to live your life. Just. Live. It. Really – it is that simple!  

Although I’m pleasantly pleased to have read Katharine’s book – I’ve got to say, that she’s not going to make a fortune promoting it. Calling “scam” on self-deluded cons such as Empower Network, or Site Build It!, doesn’t exactly rake in the millions. It does, however, make some of us feel good inside.

Katharine should feel very proud of this book. So do her a favour and if you read the book and like it – write her a review on Amazon, and tell your friends.

Self Publishing

Uping My Game on Kindle

Hi – remember me? I used to blog here? Yeah sorry, its been nearly 2 months, but my mother always told me, if you have nothing positive to say keep your mouth shut!  Its been a brutal few months. And yes newsletter subscribers – I’ve not published my income either. Too low to mention. Really. 

So I gave up this making money online lark and got a real job. 


OK – just kidding. 

But on a recent trip out of the country I wrote something different on the arrival/departure cards under “Occupation”. Normally I write something like “web developer” or “business owner” or “entrepreneur” or even “project manager” (a previous life). This time I wrote “writer”. It seems to fit with what I’m doing at the moment, and it kinda made me smile. A little. Unfortunately I am still at the starving writer phase. Fortunately, I have a fairly clear plan as to how to get past the starving phase. 

I noticed that Tracey has a specific goal of making $42,000 self publishing this year. Personally I’m not quite at that stage of making specific goals, but I will be getting to that. 

For the moment I’ve been focussed on getting several more books published. Yeah I’m doing it the hard way, writing them myself, I have some ideas about leveraging this in the future and using other writers, but I need to bootstrap this for the moment. I also need a much better idea of my potential cash flow than I have at the moment. 

Why Is Kindle Publishing So Hot With The MMO Crowd?

New Book Cover – with legit photo and everything

Well I can tell you what’s motivating me. Why when given the choice of trying to get my sites (or new ones) ranking for their previous keywords, or focussing on Kindle, I walked away from my sites. 

And no this is not a new  bandwagon for me – I published my first book just on a year ago. I’ve been tracking its earnings over the year – and its made me just on a grand total of $400.  

Lis, you might say, $400 in ONE YEAR. No I didn’t miss a zero. 

But its the best potential I see across all my efforts. 

Because its – and here’s a word not often used about online income – consistent. Now the book is targetted to the US market (the rest of us don’t go on vacation, we holiday), so I truly expected it to be highly seasonal, and yet its been a pretty consistent earner over the year – here’s the month by month breakdown.  

And you know the most interesting thing? I really haven’t promoted it very much. Sure I built a related website and promoted it on that plus some other sites such as HubPages. But really the book appears to sell itself. 

And then in April, Google knocked almost all my sites, plus hubpages, down to the depths of the SERPS. I lost the rankings for both old and new sites. But guess what? My sales staying consistent, if anything slightly higher. All that effort with the websites? Not selling the books. The ranking of the book Vacation Packing in Amazon (#23 in Travel Tips and #38 in Budget Travel at the time of writing) plus it showing up in the “people who bought this book also bought…” seems to be doing that all by itself.  


Let me clarify that – I can make money from my book on Amazon – without Google loving me. 

THAT’s why so many MMO crowd is jumping on board. 

Because I know, I at least, am very, very tired of being at war with Google.  I’m tired of getting knocked down everytime I make some 1/2 decent money. I’m tired of living in fear of waking up to THAT email “your Adsense account has been closed …” 

Kindle Publishing Will Go The Way Of Niche Sites 

Say the naysayers. Its just another fad. Its not a real business. All eBooks are spam. I’ve heard all of that in the last month or so. Sorry you are not getting it.

Can you publish crap eBooks on Amazon?

Yes you can.

Will they sell?


Why? Because once you piss off a reader enough they will leave a one star (the lowest rating) review. Much more readily than anyone will give you a 5-star review.  You see people who pay money for a book are called consumers, and consumers will complain long and loud if they feel ripped off. 

Amazon Will Kill Indie Publishers

Oh yeah this is a good one. Once Amazon makes lots of money with Kindle they will kill off Indie publishers. Yeah right. Suggest that you spend sometime reading up about Amazon’s business model. Every time I sell a book on Amazon, Amazon makes money. But more than that I help Amazon by taking the publishing houses out of the loop. The gatekeepers are dying, quickly, and all because of Amazon’s war on them. Basically Amazon is providing a platform which connects readers (consumers) with writers (producers) without the middleman. Instead of author’s getting a 10% royalty (which is common in traditional publishing) they are now getting 35-70%. So @ 70% a book that sells for $2.99 gives the author the same royalty as a trad published book at $20 – so who’s the loser here? 

Amazon has ENABLED indie publishers – for very good business reasons of their own. 

I’m happy to have a part of the that.  

And if Amazon pisses me off in the future, I’ll take me book elsewhere. 

 Crap eBooks Will Flood Amazon and Amazon Will Ban Their Authors! 

Already happening. In the last year  they have  banned books that are reprints of existing resources: in my niche all the guides which were reproductions of wikitravel are gone.  PLR was banned before my time, and its hard to get an out-of-copyright book published there now too. 


You see, because I’m not actually gaming the system. I’m writing useful books. Sure I’m not writing blind. I’m using keywords and intend to use every legal trick in the book to promote my books. But my books are not crap. Most importantly, they are professionally edited. Oh and I know what I’m writing about. Amazon won’t ban my books, because my readers like them. My return rate is minimal. My reviews are genuine. 

Most former niche marketers will fail at eBooks. Its hard to write a coherent book. Well harder than writing a 500 or even 1000 word blog post. But given that I now have a whole lot of time freed up from building links to websites, I now have the time to write books. If you are using a writer – you probably need to spending more than 1c/word. 

Yes you can look for the gaps in Amazon’s categories, find the search volumes for keywords using Google’s tools, and then order up a book that provides the answer to the question.  But most will do it poorly and cheaply. And fail. 

That’s why I’m happy to be open about my books here. I have 30 year’s experience behind my writing. That’s hard to copy. I also have fair idea on how to market. 

So come along for the ride. I’ll be writing a series of posts on the subject. 

But if you want to get ahead of the game: check out Make A Killing On Kindle (Without Blogging, Facebook Or Twitter).  I only found it because some “real” authors over at were complaining about it as a particularly evil marketing book. It is. I like it. A lot. And I will implementing mos of his suggestions over the next few weeks. 

Authority Site Videos Websites

Why Do Most Travel Bloggers Suck At Video? And How To Fake A Good Travel Video

OK – so I’m being fighting the video monster for the last few days – with some success – and quite a steep learning curve – but at least now I can create videos! 

And I don’t even own a video camera. 

Nor am I pretty on video! 

If I can do it, anyone can. 

It goes like this. I’ve been studying the travel niche. And frankly, there is some very, very good content out there, frightening good writers with awesome stories to tell, seem to abound. But the video side of things – hmmm – a bit average to be honest. 

Now call me a chancer, but I see an opportunity. Lets face it, who doesn’t like watching travel videos? Isn’t there a whole Travel Channel on US cable TV? Don’t I watch trash like Vacation, Vacation, Vacation and Travel Gettaway – just because I want to see pretty beaches, tasty looking food, and, rarely, an idea about a new travel destination.  Its Travel Porn basically – and travel addicts want to dream.  

There is definitely an audience for travel videos. 

So why do travel bloggers, in gross generalisation, suck at video? 

Several reasons. Real video – the stuff you see on TV takes not just talent, it takes gear.  It takes more than one person. Yes you can get a thingy to attach to your camera so you can shoot picture of yourself – how silly would that look? On a beach in Thailand? Or a street in Europe. Tripods are a bulky to carry. Oh and then there’s the problem with sound. Most cameras seem to pick up sound even if you are just breathing. Great in one niche I can think off, but heavy breathing travel vids – hmmm not so much.  So you need a separate mike as well. Its starting to get heavy, and complicated. 

On the other hand pointing a 1/2 decent camera and taking a photo is something many of us can do. 

I’d already found a solution for the talking heads/screen shot video ( free up to 15minutes or $15/year) 

Now I mus admit sometimes I just get confused (is that because I’m old? … don’t answer that). I noticed people talking about product videos using something called – and I assumed that it was the funny talking cartoon thingy – wasn’t sure why that would work – but I wasn’t doing product videos anyways). Then I thought I’d just click on this animoto thing – and I was like WOW. Oh and the funny talking cartoons – they are here.

That was so easy to do – even I could do it! And the whole sound thing was got around by using music – included in the software – COOL 

But then I had a problem – I got a copyright notice from Youtube and the video started displaying Adsense – weird, and annoying. It got be looking. And I found some other issues with animoto – and some alternatives

What’s Good: 

  • lots of nice background themes available 
  • the easiest to use. 

What’s Not Good: 

  • can’t overlay text 
  • can’t control duration of slides 
  • not many themes – may get repetative 
  • can’t do voice overs 
  • can’t do HD without paying extra – or paying for the expensive $250/yr option
  • you have to use a credit card rather than paypal 
  • I had some issues with the software hanging on me – but it may have been using the Facebook login was the problem. 
  • free for up to 30sec videos 
  • $5/month ($30/year) 
  • $39 month ($249) year for white label aka ProShowWeb 

What’s Nice: 

  • there is a desktop version as well as the online version – this was initially attractive as I was having problems online with animoto – but that version included no free licensed music 
  • nice range of themes and great collection of transitions
  • creates DVD quality downloads (this wasn’t important to me) 
  • add your own watermark (white label version only). 
What’s Not To Like 
  • can’t control slide timing except at an overall level 
  • no text to voice or simple voice overs
  • no easy maps
  • quite slow to render the video – no “quick preview” option
  • some transitions and effects require extra payment
  • Free – restricted to less than 15 photos, watermarked 
  • $30/year for up to 500 photos (12 minutes)
  • $150/year whitelabel

What’s Nice: 

  • can add voice overs – does text to speech YES 
  • can add Google maps – really easy to do 
  • can add text as an overlay 
  • can change duration for everything including text slides – so I can focus on the call to action at the end of the video for long enough for someone to write the website’s name down 
  • does HD for $8/month 
  • I found this the easiest editor to get to work consistently of the three 
  • has a quick preview which means you can see what you have before you do a proper render

What’s Not: 

  • still have an issue with copyright with some of  the music with Youtube showing iTunes – but at least the Adsense ads seem to have gone. 
  • most expensive of the options 
  • Free very limited, from $5 month, $8/month HD ($49/year)
  • $299/year white label 
  • $499 reseller 

Really I like the Google maps and text to speech with Stupeflix – but I may go to ProshowWeb for the much cheaper whitelabel options.