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?

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.