Saturday, September 17, 2011

I wrote my first eBook, now what?

Congratulations on your accomplishment - that is no small feat and it is something you should be very proud of.  But now you are asking yourself, what comes next?
  To find success in writing you will have to let everyone know about it. If you had published your book through a traditional publisher you would have the expertise of a professional marketing department, but since you self-published your masterpiece it is all up to you to tell the world what a great eBook you have. 
  Prior to the advent of the eBook, the thought of trying to market your own book might have been enough to keep you from ever publishing your own book. The Old School way of doing things meant you were out hundreds or thousands of dollars having your book printed and bound, and you had boxes of books stored in your garage and house. You also carried around a box of books in your trunk so whenever you were near a bookstore you would stop by to see if the bookseller would be interested in carrying your book. 
  The New School way of doing things means that you are a one-person publishing business with a unique way of operating that was not possible just a few years ago.   Instead of going to bookstores trying to sell books out of your trunk, you can have your eBook sold through the major eBooksellers with just a few hours worth of computer work.
  So where do you start?  After you have published your eBook - hopefully to multiple eBooksellers - you will want to manage the multiple sites your book is available at and start promoting your work.  
  I originally published my first eBook - A Collection of Short Stories - written by robots - at and they made my work available at,,, and iTunes.  Additionally, I published my eBook on by myself rather than go through Smashwords - it made a lot of sense for me at the time, though there is nothing wrong with going through Smashwords.  I was so excited and proud of my accomplishment that I told everyone I knew about it - even a lady I ran in to at Starbucks that just happened to be using a Nook.  Every day I would check the stats to see how many people looked at it, downloaded it, or downloaded a sample chapter. 
  But once I got over the initial excitement my attention turned to finding ways to promote and market my eBook. Marketing and promotion are simply ways to let people know you offer a product for sale, and injecting some enthusiasm in to the process.  
  Here is how the promotion of my eBook evolved:
1.). Publish:  I published my eBook on Smashwords and within approximately 2 weeks it was available for purchase on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Diesel-books, Kobobooks, iTunes and Amazon.   Smashwords is free, and displays up to the minute statistics on the performance of my eBook across all eBooksellers, so I can see how many people look at my book, download a sample chapter, download the complete eBook, and how many sales I have.  Each time my eBook would appear at a new site I would see a spike in Viewers.
2.). Social Media and Word Of Mouth:   For the first couple of weeks, every time my eBook appeared for sale on one of the above-mentioned sites I would post a link from the eBookseller (,, etc.,) on Facebook.  I would also tell my family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and anyone else that was interested in listening to me.  A typical conversation would be:  “Hey, go to iTunes and type in my name.”  Nothing was more impressive than being able to tell someone that your book was on iTunes.  Or  Or Amazon.  Or...  
3.). New Avenues:  Google has a program - Google Books Partner Program - in which you upload your book to them and after they vet it they will make it available to anyone who searches keywords in your eBook. The neat thing about this program is that it is free, and whenever someone searches keywords that your eBook contains, Google will display a small portion of your the book with the selected keywords along with a link showing where it can be bought.  This is a simple way to market your book - all you have to do is make your book available to Google and potential customers are directed to your book.
4.)  Blogging:  I started a blog as another avenue to make people aware of my eBook.  This seemed like a natural way to promote my work, because I could also tie in everything I do as an artist.  You see, I love photography and I take tons of pictures.  I have tens of thousands of photographs on my computer.  A while back I started a website ( that was originally just a way to show everyone my photography portfolio.  The website has several hundred photographs and abstract artwork that is sold in a wide variety of sizes, prints, canvases and other media.  Now I have an eBook that I have written and published, so it seemed obvious that I needed to find a way to tie the two together - hopefully if you find my eBook you will also find my photography work, and vice versa.  So I created this blog as a way to connect all my work together.  On my blog I have a link for my published eBook on Amazon, links to my photography work, links for people to email me, links for people to share my blog on Facebook, and then links for advertising - a passive way of making money if someone clicks on any of the advertising.  So right now I just have two products to sell - my eBook and my photography - and the blog connects the two together.  The blog is a great way to connect with other writers, tell everyone how I published my eBook, how others can publish one too, offer advice, get advice, and connect with other writers who are aspiring to find their niche in the world.  In the future I plan to have an additional website - a hub - where this blog will be one tab, my photography work will be another tab, and then there will be a store tab where there will be links to buy my eBook.  The whole idea is to have my own little eBusiness, with my product being eBooks and photography.  This blog is operated via Google and like Smashwords, it offers up to the minute statistics on who is reading it, what country they are from (Hello to everyone from the Netherlands!), how many people per day read it, what type of internet browser they have, what site referred from, and so forth.  So in marketing my eBook, I am also marketing my blog, and in marketing one I can market the other.  In marketing my blog I came across, which gives viewers random sites they might be interested in, depending on their predetermined likes and dislikes.  By entering my information on that site I can have viewers on stumble upon my blog, my photography website, and the various sites my eBook is listed on.
So in answer to the question - I published my first eBook, now what? - what comes next is exposure, advertising and marketing.  I have not paid for any advertising, and so far what I am doing is working the various forms of media available and finding a way to connect everything together.
Here is how everything is laid out:
1.)  A Collection of Short Stories - written by robots, was first published at for free.  The initial process of prepping my manuscript for publishing on their site took approximately 2 hours - I was in no hurry and took my time to avoid mistakes.  The upload process took approximately 5 minutes.  It took approximately 1 day for the uploaded manuscript to become available for purchase as an eBook on
2.)  eBooksellers: takes your manuscript and makes it available in the various eBook-Reader formats so your book can be read on all the electronic reading devices.  It creates several different formats and then uploads the correct format to each major eBookseller over the course of a few weeks.  Once the eBookseller receives the electronic version of your eBook they enter it in to their online catalog and within another week or so it will show up on their website.  Within a month of your eBook being published on, your eBook will have been sent to the major eBooksellers and be available for purchase at the following sites:,, iTunes,,, Sony and Scrollmotion.  All of this is free.
3.)  Blog:  My eBook sits alone, for sale, at 8 different eBooksellers.  This blog offers connectivity for all the sites it is sold, plus a way to connect with other writers.  
a.)  This website is essentially the Yellow Pages directory for blogs - if you have a blog, you want to have it listed here.  Anyone who is interested in finding a blog can go here and hopefully come across your blog in their search.  Many people come across my blog each day just because I took the time to register my blog with
b.)  Google and Amazon Advertising:  Look, if you do this right, people will come to your blog, look around, kick the tires, read what you have to say, and maybe when they leave your place of business they might stop by one of the ads.  If they do so, Google and Amazon might toss a few pennies your way.  If enough people do it, you will have enough for a cup of coffee at Starbucks in the year 2067 - at that age, coffee might be the only thing you can drink.  It is kind of like when I was a kid - across the street from my school was an auto shop, similar to NAPA or Auto Zone, and every day if I had a quarter or so I would stop by to get a handful of peanuts from their candy machine, and a Coke from the old-style Coke machine in which you had to pull out the Coke bottle (if you did not yank it out hard enough it would stay in the machine and you were out of luck, and if you yanked it out too hard you would lose several layers of skin).  This was a passive form of sales on their part - their business did not depend on me buying Cokes or peanuts from their store, but if enough people did, then the owner of the auto parts store could go live the dream in the Caribbean.  Or at least live the dream in Flour Bluff, Texas. 
4.)  Marketing:
a.)  Google Books Partner Program:  So far the jury is out on this effort.  I am convinced that the slowest people on Earth work at Google Books Partner Program.  The slowest creature on Earth, the Sloth, moves faster than the people at Google Books Partner Program.  Google tells you upfront that the process takes months.  Not days or weeks, but months.  I am not sure why, other than they must lack the staff.  If you have a hard-bound book you can mail it to Google and they will manually scan it in to their system.  If that is the case, imagine how many books they receive, how many people they have to do it, and how long something like that will take.  It is a passive way to market - enter the information in to their system once and you will never have to bother with it again, and in the meantime, anyone who Google searches a keyword you have written will be shown your eBook and shown where they can buy it.  I am 3-4 weeks in to this program and still waiting for Google to vet my eBook - time will tell if this is something worth your while.
b.)  Facebook:  This is a great way to let your circle of friends know about your eBook.  You can also set up a Facebook page for the book itself - one more avenue to market your book.  Ideally you would like every friend who reads your eBook to tell someone about it, that person reads it, and they tell someone about it, and so forth.  Facebook is the perfect place to start that type of marketing campaign.
c.)  This is just one more avenue to try - have your blog or eBookseller site show up randomly in someone’s internet search.
All of this takes a lot of time, effort and dedication, but I am serious about finding success with my writing - hopefully you are serious about finding success too.  So now that you published your first eBook, where do you start?  Letting people know it exists.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Old School vs the New School

The Old School way of doing things for most writers meant finding representation and spending a lot of time waiting for results.  The creative process was the easy part, and making money from the creation was the hard part.  You created the work of art, yet you were dependent on others to  present your work so you could make money.  You had to find an agent, the agent had to find a publisher, the book was edited, designed, proofed, printed, shipped - it was an exhausting process for a work of art that may have taken a fraction of that time to create.
The New School way of doing things now is that you can literally write a book on Monday, publish the book on Tuesday, and by Friday you can be making your first dollar.
My original expectation was to shop around my horror manuscript for an agent, but after months and months of sending out query letters, rewriting the query letters, and receiving nothing but rejection letters in return, my dream of having my manuscript published began to fade.  I began to doubt the worth of my work - maybe the plot was not as good as I thought, maybe the writing was amateurish, and maybe the whole thought of publishing a book was silly to begin with.  
Looking back, I am sure the rejection I received was no different than any other aspiring writer, and I am sure my reaction and the blow to my self-esteem was not much different than other writers.  But I believed strongly in my creation and despite the stack of rejection letters, I felt that the fate of my work did not have to rest on the decision of an over-worked agent - I could take a hands on approach and publish it myself if necessary.
Therein lies the Old School approach - who wants to go to a lot of expense of publishing hardcopy books and selling them out of the trunk of their car?  That was the Old School way.  I felt like I could write a good story, but I had no allusions about myself being a great book salesperson.  Especially trying to sell books out of my car.
At one time in my life I hung up my own shingle and operated my own business.  I was in the graphic design, advertising and marketing business.  One thing that I learned early on was that it was one thing to have an ability to do something - in my case, creating advertising, logos and marketing material - and it was another to operate a business to where you were the creative talent, you were the bookkeeper, you were the salesperson, and you were the gopher.  So actually, talent only accounted for a quarter of operating a business, and all the non-talent work accounted for the vast majority of the business.  So the Old School way is much like that - writing a book is only a part of what it takes to publish a book - you still have to find someone to represent your work, publish your work, market your work and do all the non-talent aspects of producing books for people to enjoy.  By the way, go click on the small lime-green ad for my book, A Collection of Short Stories - written by robots - located at the upper-right corner of this blog - it will make me happy, I might make enough to send my little boy to college if enough people do it, and it will make you happy reading it.  Plus, it is a simple, no-pressure form of advertising.
Then one day the Old School met the New School - I crossed paths with someone who managed to write a book and sell it via Amazon.  At the time I met that person, my book was just an old file on my dino-Mac in Pagemaker, with a hardcopy version consisting of a ream of paper in a dusty box in my attic.  I met this person while they were attempting to find a job, and while talking to this person I became fascinated with the fact that he managed to publish a book of poetry on Amazon.  I was not familiar with an eBook, and even the term sounded kind of silly at the time, but I was familiar with Amazon, and if your book was on Amazon, then you must be a successful writer - that was all there was to it.
I was too embarrassed to tell him that I had written a 70K word horror manuscript and several short stories, and it all sat on my computer gathering e-dust.  So rather than telling him about my lack of success, I asked him questions about his new found success.  He explained to me how he had written the poetry after the death of his father as a way of grieving, and his family had encouraged him to publish the work.  He found his way to Amazon, created an eBook, and then each day he would check out his stats to see how it ranked.
Afterwards I became energized and inspired to try to publish my book again, and see if going the route of an eBook was the way to go or not.  I scoured the web for info, googling key words, reading blogs, checking out the publishing sites, researching on Google, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  The main questions I had were, which site do I publish on, how do I distribute it, and what are the royalties.
I was tempted to go with and Amazon so that I could produce both a print-on-demand (POD) hardcopy book, along with an eBook.  In the end, however,  I decided to just try publishing an eBook and worry about producing a hardcopy book later.  It is such an involved process that I did not want to spend my time trying to do this and that, and not doing either well - I just wanted to focus on doing one thing - publishing a book electronically.
There was much to learn - what format do I want to publish in (html, mobi, pdf, rtf, epub), which aggregator to use (an aggregator is a company that will distribute your eBook to publishing websites, such a Barnes and Noble, Amazon and iTunes), and what aggregator will deliver the best product and the best royalty payments.
There are several aggregators that are well-known in the eBook world:  Amazon DTP, Smashwords, Lulu, and Barnes and Noble  They all have advantages over one another, but I settled upon as being the aggregator I wanted to go with. has the best set-up, in my opinion - a How To Guide telling you everything you need to know in an easy to understand format, a thorough Troubleshooting Guide if/when you have problems, they will send your eBook to all the main publishing sites, and it is free - they make their money off of a small cut in the action whenever your book sells.  If I did not go with Smashwords, then I would have to publish my book on each individual site, such as trying to publish my book on Amazon, per their instructions, then trying to publish on Barnes and Noble per their instructions, and then trying to publish on iTunes per their instructions.  Plus I would have to hassle with obtaining an ISBN number, not using the same number on different books, and registering with each individual site... it can be a real hassle.
The simplest and most-efficient site to use, therefore, was Smashwords.  They do not have the greatest layout - the information could be presented much better than what it is, but it gets the job done and after a while you get used to their layout.  If you go with Smashwords, be sure to spend some time and read their guides:  How to Publish on Smashwords, How to Publish on iPad and iTunes, and their Style Guide.  Read them thoroughly and read them several times to really understand how everything works.  Yes, I know you are really excited about publishing your eBook, and yes, I understand it looks simple, but you have gone this far in writing your eBook, so go the extra mile and do it right the first time to avoid problems down the road.  I read everything very thoroughly, step by step, and I was able to upload my book in about 3 minutes without any problems or corrections.
Smashwords will give you some very good advice that you might want to follow in your writing from here on out.  Probably the most useful is to use Word, and to set up an automatic indent for each paragraph, rather than the Old School way of manually hitting the spacebar 2-5 times for the indent on each paragraph.  The New School way is to have an automatic indent, so each time you hit return you are ready to start a new paragraph.  It takes a little getting used to, but that is the way you need to start formating your writing.
Microsoft Word is the program you want to type all your work in, however I am a Mac guy and I had to do things differently.  I considered typing my work in Word on a PC, however Apple makes their version of Word, called Pages, and it is essentially identical.  It takes a lot of getting used to, but once you get the hang of Pages, it will do everything Word can do - indenting is simple, and connecting all the hyperlinks for your table of contents is a breeze.  When using Pages, you will want to keep the Inspector window open, as all the settings you will access are located there.
Here are the steps that you should have followed so far to produce your eBook in Smashwords:
1.) You have finished your manuscript in Word and it is saved as a Word document.  Your manuscript has been thoroughly edited and proofed - it is as perfect as you can make it.
2.) You have decided which aggregator to publish your work through.  The aggregator will take your work and electronically convert it and format it for all the various e-reader devices that a book can be read on - from an iPhone, to an iPad, to a Kindle, to a Nook, to a computer.
3.) If you decided to go with Smashwords then you are in luck, because I can tell you how it worked for me.
4.) You have read the available guides on Smashwords including, How to Publish on Smashwords, How to Publish on iPad and iTunes, and their Style Guide.  You really want to do a perfect job the first time, so you have reread the guides several times and you understand everything very well.
5.) You have formatted your manuscript per the Smashwords Style Guide.  You have properly formatted the paragraphs, you do not have any goofy text in the manuscript, you have added the SMASHWORDS EDITION to the first page, you have added a copyright notice, you have added a Table of Contents, and you have gone through the manuscript at least twice to manually check each link in the Table of Contents so that the links do take you to the correct part of the book.  One you have done this, the manuscript is finished and you can cross that off your list.
6.) You have designed a professional cover and it fits the proper dimensions that Smashwords asks for - 500 pixels wide by 700 pixels tall, jpeg.  Actually, designing the cover is probably the most challenging part of publishing your own book.  My background is in art, and even with that it took a lot of work to design something eye-catching, unique, colorful, and something that fit the title of my book.  Plus, it needs to look like a professional book you would see in a bookstore - if your cover does not meet the criteria, your book may not do well.  So if you have the ability to design a cover and know Photoshop well, then try to do a great job yourself, and if not, then google search for a bookcover designer.  But either way, do yourself and all other eBook writers a favor by having a professional-looking cover.  Your do everyone a disservice by coming up with something amateurish - it makes the manuscript you worked so hard at look bad, and it gives eBooks in general a bad name by being unprofessional.  Remember, in an e-bookstore you will just have a a few seconds at most for a prospective reader to decide whether they want to purchase your book.  A reader will typically base their decision to check out your book based on the title, the cover and the synopsis - do not handicap yourself by having a cover that looks like it was designed by an 8th grader (no offense to any 8th graders reading this.  But if you are an 8th grader, go do your homework).
7.) You have a nice professional-looking cover and you have your manuscript ready to be uploaded to Smashwords - you are all set.  When you start the upload process you will have the opportunity to upload your manuscript Word document as one file, and your cover design jpeg as another file.  Smashwords will tell you that this process will take either 5 minutes or 5 hours.  Mine took 3 minutes and I think it was only because I was lucky and God was smiling upon me.
8.) After uploading your cover jpeg and manuscript Word document, Smashwords will either tell you it was successful and your did everything right, or it will tell you there was a problem and you need to fix it.  I was lucky and did not have any problems, so I am not of much help on fixing problems, other than read over the directions again.
Once you have successfully published to Smashwords you can officially be called an eBook author and publisher, so relax, take a breath, and pat yourself on the back for an e-job well done.
Next up:  I am a Published eBook Author, Now What?

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Traditional Route

Midway through writing my first horror novel it hit me that I had something really special on my hands.  I know it is easy to think your own writing is great, but I felt an enormous sense of confidence that my work had some merit.  It was dark and creepy, yet fresh and original.
Writing had just been a hobby of mine over the years - writing, cartooning and drawing had always been creative pursuits that I found a lot of self-satisfaction with.  But after printing out half a ream of copy paper and exhausting an inkjet cartridge on my first novel, I really felt like I had climbed a mountain.  
And at some unknown date, my hobby went from writing stories with lots of twists and turns, to researching how to publish a book.  It was not enough to be able to string together words to make an interesting story.  The real challenge seemed to be in finding someone who would help share my manuscript with the masses.  Writing seemed to be the easy part, and finding an agent seemed to be the real mountain to climb.
It was a lot of fun at first to research and study how to publish a book and how to find an agent.  I went to bookstores in search of information, I researched on the web, and I even joined the local writing group.  I came up with a sharp synopsis, a very personable cover letter, and had lists of agents to sent my query letters to.
The local writing group was very useful in that I had joined just in time to attend the annual writer’s conference.  I volunteered to help with the judging for the main writing contest, and that gave me the opportunity to read the first ten pages of manuscripts submitted by other writers.  It was an educational experience to see how my writing stacked up against everyone else, as I had submitted my own manuscript and was excited at the opportunity to get some professional critiquing.  
My story was immediately disqualified from the contest for the unforgiving sin of double-spacing, instead of single-spacing.  Ouch.  I will not say that I am bitter about that experience, but I will say that I do single-space to this day.  I was unable to get the feedback I wanted with the contest, so I moved on to mingling with the various agents and attending writing classes and seminars.
Standing in line for half an hour to meet a New York literary agent appeared to be my big break.  She was well-known in the book world and incredibly kind and patient to meet with me.  She listened intently to my well-rehearsed pitch and was interested enough to give me her address and ask me to send her the first 50 pages of my manuscript.  Everything after that was a blur.
Wanting to make the most of my opportunity, I massaged and edited the manuscript til I had the best 50 pages possible.  I ended up taking out an entire chapter, because I felt that without the chapter the 50th page ended with a bang, instead of a whimper.  
I was realistic in my expectations, so the resulting rejection letter found company with all the other rejection letters in my appropriately-colored black three-ring binder.  She said that the market for horror was not good and that I should wait for the market to return.  Whatever year that might be.  
I will not say I gave up, but it was a long time before finding an agent crossed my mind again.
Then one day the most interesting thing happened.  During the course of my job one day, I interviewed a professional young man who told me he had written a book.  He said that his father had passed away and his way of dealing with the grief was to write poetry.  He had compiled the poetry in to a book and published it as an ebook on Amazon.
The old school way of self-publishing your own book was to drive around with a trunk full of books and sell them one at a time to people you met or bookstores you visited.  But selling an ebook on the internet was a completely new way of doing business.
And suddenly I developed a new hobby - how to publish an ebook.