Write a “how to” book
Articles about writing especially writing how to books.
Articles about writing especially writing how to books.
Wiley Canada has been a major figure in the Canadian book publishing world for as long as I can remember. I can remember back in Kindergarten reading Wiley books. In fact, it was established back in 1807, which makes it rather older than I am. Amongst other titles it sells the ubiquitous ‘Dummies” line of books and is the publisher for half of the top 20 bestselling retirement titles on Amazon Canada. (Canada is a big producer and consumer of business and finance books.)
Recently, it sold off its line of consumer books to other publishers in order to focus on the education for professionals market. Last year, its parent, John Wiley & Sons, sold off its Travel and Cookbook lines including the famous Frommer and Betty Crocker series. Today, The Toronto Star announced that it was closing and consolidating the remnants to its U.S. parent as of May 31. Several editors are now looking for work. (You can find the ‘Wiley closes’ news article here.)
Earlier this month, Oxford University Press also closed shop to focus on educational titles.
This is a problem that most publishers are facing. And most professional writers and agents, too. The dinosaurs are dying. They’re being killed by the eBook and self-publishing.
One of the changes that has occurred in the publishing market is that the large companies have become gun shy. They are no longer willing to buy books that haven’t already become best sellers. For example, I have a friend who is a major author of fantasy books. She recently lost her agent and so has been focusing on ‘agent search mode’. Despite a list of previously published books, she has been turned away. She doesn’t have a best seller currently so they have no interest in her.
The simple fact is that the business model that the major publishers have relied on for two centuries or more is obsolete. And the publishers (and agents) failed to recognize the change. Like the frog in the pot, they failed to recognize that their market had turned and that they needed to change the very concepts that supported their business model. They needed to innovate and they couldn’t do it.
The result is the slow toppling of these ancient examples of Victorian business. And for those of us who read (and write) it represents a time of uncertainty. Once we could rely on the quality enforced by these bureaucratic monsters. Our books were generally well-written because their editors corrected the mistakes of new writers (and sometimes the experienced). Not everyone could publish a book, and so having a published book meant that we were experts (or at least authorities) in our field. And of course, selling a book meant we would receive an advance on our royalties. We’d eat tonight (even if it was beans and cheesy-macaroni from a box) while our publishers waited on a return on their investment.
All that is gone now.
The bookshelves (or memory sticks) are filled with poorly written crap. Having a published book still has cache — but for how long? And we writers must spend our dreamt-of riches on bringing our hopes to market, while waiting for years to see any returns.
The good news in all this is that self-publishing has become easier than ever. Even if you don’t want to do it yourself (or are afraid to), there are now ‘publishing consultants’ (TrainingNOW.ca is an example). These companies provide the project management necessary to bring your book to market without taking most of the income from it. They can even provide an imprint for you if you want to maintain the fiction of dealing with a publication house.
But whether you believe the change to be good or bad … you must react. Or join Wiley behind the shutters.
The book industry has changed. Irrevocably.
It used to be such a simple industry. There were major publishers, small press publishers and vanity publishers. On the other side there were major writers (with a writing contract), minor writers (at least they had a publisher) and indie writers. When a writer found a publisher they left the indie lifestyle and became ‘Major’ (or ‘Minor’) writers. Indie writers were the go-it-alone types and were forced to deal with the vanity presses. Occasionally they could find a small press that would work with them or they created their own out of desperation.
Then came on-demand printing. And the book world changed. When the eBook took off the change was cemented and the whole pigeon-hole world came tumbling down.
The truth is that the only difference between the indie writer and the major writer is that major writers have an investor to fund their writing. That’s really what a modern major publisher does. They put up the cash (called an advance) and then collect the income as the book sells. When the book sells above the advance amount the publisher pays more royalties. When the book sells less, the publisher claws back the advance.
In today’s world, the lines are blurred.
An indie writer can publish a book under their own name without a publishing brand. They can do this by handling the entire process on their own. They can publish using outsourced specialists (book designers and cover designers). Or they can use a publishing consultant. These people can handle the process of converting the manuscript into a published book. They arrange any specialists needed.
An indie writer can create their own publishing brand. The options for publishing remain the same — in fact the only difference is in perception. Readers believe that the writer is published (even if it is a small press) and the perceived value increases.
An indie writer can also use a publishing consultant’s brand. This is similar to using a small press. But the relationship is different. The publishing consultant, naturally enough, will require a basic level of quality. They also take a small percentage of the royalties for the use of their name. However, they don’t fund the writer and can provide a mix of services from full production to none. There are two big advantage with this method. The first is that the indie writer will increase the perceived value in the same way as using their own publishing brand does. However, it will appear that they are using a larger brand and so will gain more perceived value. More importantly, they will share promotion with other writers. As we all know, the more books you have, the more books you sell. By cross promoting, you can use others’ books to sell your own. Plus it is more likely that the publishing consultant will have a book in major promotion in any given month. Something that is hard to do for an indie writer.
And of course, the old methods still exist. And indie writer can still deal with a vanity press.
Making a choice between the three methods requires the indie writer to take a long term view. Do you want to remain an indie writer or do you wish to write for one of the major publishers? Do you want to publish multiple books or only one or two? Does it matter to you if your readers value your opinions more or less? Will sharing promotion with other indie writers help your book achieve your goals?
Whatever method you choose, prepare for a wild ride.
Probably the most asked question that any writer gets is, “Where do you get your ideas?” People simply can’t get over the idea that a writer can generate ideas so frequently.
Most writers I’ve known hate that question with a passion. Why? Because they can’t answer it.
Ideas are everywhere. John Steinbeck called them rabbits. I prefer to think of them as fecal pellets. Anyone who has raised rabbits knows that rabbits leave them all over the place. And that’s what ideas do. (Fecal pellets by the way are not rabbit s**t … they are a partially digested mix of food and enzymes which are critical to the rabbit’s digestive process. In other words, they are meant to be reingested. Unlike the other stuff.)
The truth is that most writers never need to be creative. If they were there would be far fewer books in the world. Instead they use analytical thought to extend the ideas into a book=length piece.
They use “if … and … then …” to build up their ideas. (This is true even if the writer isn’t aware that is what they are doing. It’s why a good writer’s books hold together and make sense.)
As for the source of the ideas … they are everywhere. They are in the libraries, they are in the bookstores, they are on the news, they are in the daily comics.
The problem isn’t the ideas. It’s opening up your mind to the ideas. It’s the necessity to become a sponge when our survival as a species was based on ignoring the unimportant. You need to overcome millions of years of evolution which has trained us to ignore the unimportant. You need to become a child again … open to the ideas around you.
And of course, finishing your book so people can actually read your ideas.
Do that and people will start asking “How do you come up with such great ideas?”. And then you can look at them blankly and wonder what they’re talking about.
Hey, I had over 800 downloads of my new book “Writer’s Block Demolition” on Friday and Saturday!
But tell you what I’m going to do …
It’s almost Christmas and we’re all suffering from sticker shock so to make the jump just a little easier, rather than a quick return to full price, I’m going to slowly increase the price to normal.
I’m going to start off at $2.99 (as soon as Amazon makes the change) and then increase the price roughly every day by $1 until it reaches the regular price of $8.97 U.S.
So hurry out and pick up the book … cause the price is rising as we speak!
It appears that Amazon doesn’t like this technique (so much for advice from marketing gurus! ) They are refusing to change the price.
Check it out by Friday … you never know they may change their mind. If not the price is back to normal by then anyway.
Sorry about that.
Okay it’s Live and Free!!!!
That’s right my latest book is now live and free on the Amazon Kindle but only for my birthday (Friday the 14th) and Saturday the 15th).
It’s also available in print.
To get your copy go to http://www.learningcreators.com/products/writers-block-book. You’ll find a direct link to Amazon there.
To support the book’s release, I’ve also uploaded a series of 20 videos that answer the most asked questions about writer’s block and finding the time to write. You can find it at http://www.learningcreators.com/time
Akk … I can’t believe it’s been a whole month since I last posted. It’s been busy so I’ve totally lost track of the time.
Ahh … what have I been busy at?
I’ve just released a new book “Writer’s Block Demolition: Finding the Time to Write, Keeping Writing, and Finish Your Book” which has hit Amazon (in print last week, on the Kindle on Sunday).
To support that book, I’ve been putting together a new FREE product.
Plus I’ll be giving away copies of the Kindle book.
So keep an eye out on this spot for announcements this week!
I don’t claim to be a marketer. I’m a learning content creator aka course designer and presenter and a book author. That’s why you don’t see me jumping on the latest “How to sell on Amazon Kindle without being able to spell or string a sentence together” craze. However, I do write for the Kindle on several different topics. So I need to market my books. And I do listen to the marketers who have jumped on the “How to sell on Amazon Kindle …” craze. So naturally, I decided to try those techniques for myself.
Now my free Kindle book promotion is over and done. At least the one for “How to Blog for Money: 9 Strategies to Get Your Blog Earning Money Online and Off”. Now it’s time for lessons learned, evaluation and crying into my beer.
So what happened?
In point form the results were:
- Project run time — 1 week (decision to promotion) plus promotion 5 days.
- Released – Friday 2012.08.30 12:01am PST (day before labour day holiday)
- End date - Tuesday 2012.09.04 11:59 pm PST (day after labour day holiday)
- Marketing – 1 Twitter feed on time, 5 on Saturday/Sunday including websites all free Kindle book related
- Marketing – Tweets 3 times/day average plus auto feeds
- Marketing – Emails to my lists – Monday (different reason), Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Tuesday
- Marketing – Emails to my lists – 2 spam complaints, 2 unsubscribes, 10? subscribes (estimates)
- Amazon did not link print version and Kindle version
- Total books given away - 209 on Friday, 351- Sat/Sun/Mon/Tues. Total 560.
- Total reviews: 1 on Friday, 1 on Saturday, 1 on Tuesday. All 5 star. by end of week.
- High position: 915 2 in Business & Investing > Small Business & Entrepreneurship > Home Based
- Low position 1319 5 in Business & Investing > Small Business & Entrepreneurship > Home Based
- Same position in Business & Investing > Small Business & Entrepreneurship
- Final position 8 (quick drop)
- Constant position 21 in Business & Investing with lowest at 41 (final)
- Position after promotion — not ranked (#395,391 at 11:00 am) 1 week later #263,652 (not ranked)
- Post Book Sales 2 (1st day) 3 sales 1 select (1st Week)
- Other book sales increased
- This was not a brand new book it had 2 sales between 2012.06.20 and 08.30 but had not been promoted and wasn’t performing to the level I expected.
- This book had a list of my other books with links (last page)
- One of the books that kept degrading my rank was on how to find a job (Home based business — Job ???? Huh???)
- 90+% of competing books were 0.99, 1.99 or 2.99 (several appear to be permanently free)
- Many of the books were of (let’s be gentle) inferior quality (i.e. starts with s and ends with t). (i.e. below Clicbank quality … ie I-regularly-delete-these-when-I-get-them-free type quality)
- Many of the books were meant to be traffic generators. (wouldn’t even qualify as Free giveaways)
- Data disappears when flipping between free and paid so you need to capture before changing. (Specifically sales rank in AuthorCentral )
- I kept finding and buying free books (i.e. competition) This boosted my competition and negatively impacted my book (New Toy?)
This was a book that wasn’t doing anything so I wasn’t going to lose anything by promoting it. Admittedly I did not promote this as hard as I should have but I did manage to promote it reasonably well. It had a good number of free downloads and produced 4 reviews which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. (Like most people, unless I chase reviews I don’t get them. This is why the paid review market has arisen.)
I believe that my promotion faced four major hurdles.
The first is that it ran too long. 2 days would appear to have been the proper length of time. That would have also left me with a few days to use over the next 90. Many of my “free kindle book” promoters tweeted and otherwise promoted my book — but only for the first day or two. By day 3, I was looking for new places to promote the book.
Second and more importantly that my book had been on the market too long before I gave it away. This technique is based on the gambit that you can get a carry over from the free to the paid. This carryover would be sufficient to drive your book up the rankings to the point that Amazon places you highly in their search results (and the top 100 and featured items etc.) The higher the position the more likely you are to be able to sell enough to retain your position (thems whats gots keeps, as it were).
The problem is that the ranking system is based on the number of sales over the number of days that the book has been available — in other words the average. So let’s say you have 15 sales in one day. If your book is only a day old, that would give you 5 sales per day. The result would be a placement of say #1 in your category. (And between 3600 – 7000 overall — a very good ranking) But let’s say you waited 15 days before you sold those 15 sales. The result would be 1 sale per day. And that would more likely put you on the second page. Or even further down. (Estimated position somewhere over #50,000). There’s a big difference between 15 sales and 1 sale. In many categories, it’s enough to dump you right out of the rankings.
The third hurdle is related to both Amazon and time. You do need to allow enough time to find the promotion sites, connect with them and then get your book into their stream. For most of the Kindle people, that means at least one week. For Goodreads, that’s somewhere in the 3 month range — but they aren’t interested in Kindle anyway. The next issue is that you need to give Amazon enough time to fix its listings. Its two weeks after the publication of the print version of my book and they still haven’t linked the two editions. Of course, if you don’t publish both a physical and electronic version then you don’t have a problem. You also won’t have one version supporting the sale of the other.
The fourth hurdle had to do with the competition and Amazon. And frankly, there is no way to prevent it as an author. If you are producing a quality book, much of the competition that you are going up against will be at the other end of the spectrum. They are simply there to scam the system. You should not find them to be any form of competition at all. However, Amazon does not distinguish between promotion books and price matched books. It also doesn’t give the reader any way to judge the quality of new releases. The result is that the reader isn’t going to know that your book is high quality while the book beside yours is a piece of post-ingested foodstuff. Making matters worse is that the category system is open to misuse — and the category system is critical to your success.
Many of the books you will be competing against are freemiums. That is they are intended to drive traffic to higher priced items. I strongly recommend that you include links in the books you use for this promotion. In this way, you will get subsequent sales even if this book doesn’t sell as well as you wish.
So will I try this again? Yes — but with a new book and for a shorter period. (I may also try it with an old book that isn’t selling but also for a shorter period).
And as usual, I will share my successes and failures with you.
(P.S. This article was typed directly into WordPress in fits, starts and pieces without proper editing. So if you find a grammatical or spelling error — Sorry but I’m not at all surprised).
Fiction writers have long had writers groups. Or as Napoleon Hill called them “Masterminds”. These groups of like-minded people provide advice, editing and general comaradarie to poor lonely writers.
Traditionally, non-fiction writers haven’t had much success or practice using collective wisdom. After all, the subject has to be understood by the participants — a problem not experienced by our fiction writing colleagues. Making matters worse, my target market is really business people that are looking to write a book either as a product or as a marketing tool. So writing group as social forum isn’t really a great selling feature.
Nonetheless, I’ve decided to give it a try with non-fiction writers.
With the increasing importance of Kindle and Kobo and the other eBook readers — and of course, Createspace — the importance of a support group has become obvious. Frankly, there’s so much nonsense about marketing books and eBooks out there that we need to be able to share information — if only to avoid making serious mistakes.
I’m looking for a group of “how to” and non-fiction writers to form a mastermind or writers’ group. This is not a revenue generator — although hopefully it will help each of us to earn more from our book sales. There is no cost beyond the willingness to ask questions, share and participate. TrainingNOW and LearningCreators will provide the forum. I anticipate the group will use a mix of website, facebook and collaboration tools to share information but the actual mix and tools will be decided by the group.
I visualize this group helping each other in three areas — editing/critiquing, reviewing and marketing. And I’m sure we’ll end up helping with writing too. And although I’m calling this a writers’ group, I anticipate that we’ll deal with any media. After all, we’re all selling learning content no matter what the media.
HOWEVER, to make this work will require your participation — you won’t be able to just sit back and watch. You will have to be active in the group and it will involve some of your time.
So if you are willing to participate let me know. Just send me a quick note here or on the “About>Contact Us” menu above (goes to the TrainingNOW site) telling me you are interested and let’s get this mastermind going.
I am not the world’s best marketer. I admit that. I am a writer and a trainer. That’s what I teach. How to write training materials in book, video or audio form (or any other media for that matter). I am good at what I do. But marketing? Let’s say that I don’t teach it and leave it at that.
However, for some time now, I’ve been busy writing books and publishing them on the Amazon Kindle (eBook) and Amazon Createspace (print) platforms. For a look at all the books I’ve written and/or published check out the list of our books and eBooks.
And that means I have had to learn how to market my books. It has been a bit of an adventure — not the least because I picked a cusp to begin learning to market my own books.
As I’ve been publishing I’ve learned a number of things about marketing and publishing. And quite frankly, I recently read a blog from an internet marketer that listed some of his ideas (you can find the article here). Some of which were great ideas and some of which … well, not so much. However, to each his own.
In any case, I wanted to capture some of the ideas and make sure that I don’t forget them. And the easiest way is to share those ideas.
So in no particular order:
- If you write multiple books, put links inside each book that link to the other books. Someone buying one book may enjoy it and buy all the rest.
- Offer people a bonus for buying your book. Send them to a squeeze page to get the bonus. When you build a list this way, you can promote future books and similar books to that list. (I’ve used this with the VProz.ca book on Project Management documentation. It works great.)
- As you build that list, ask the subscribers to go back and leave reviews. Reviews spur sales. (yup)
- When you publish a new book send a notice to your existing email list. (Works great)
- Consider offering your existing email list a discount (or better still free) if they write two reviews (one on Amazon and one to be mailed to you).
- Amazon considers reviews on their site to be their property (legally ? but it doesn’t matter) so always get a seperate review sent to you for your site.
- Only use high quality content. Avoid outsourced content from people that don’t speak English as a first language. Never ever EVER use PLR content. This will get you banned from selling Kindle books. (In my how to blog site I talk about the use of subpar quality content (and the other 3 types). Never, ever use subpar content.Never. ever sell anything other than premium quality content. ‘Nuff said. )
- A 40 page minimum book seems to be the sweet spot. Anything shorter seems to die for (Matt Wolfe). ( I always write executive length books — 150 to 200 pages — because I believe in providing value. I’m tempted to try a 50 pager just to see if I’m overdelivering. We shall see. )
- Make the title of the book as descriptive as possible. People don’t want to guess what the books going to be about. (I prefer to start by looking at Google to find out what they are searching for and then building a title around that phrase. I also use Amazon’s search to identify keywords to include in the title. In any case, you want the title to help your book get found and to sell your book.)
- Submit .doc or .docx (better) files to Kindle and .pdf to Createspace.
- Use the slow entry program because it gives you the ability to review your book before submitting it. I still keep finding problems but I’m convinced it has eliminated a number of correction cycles.
- Bullet points and number lists are a problem for the Amazon Kindle. KDP suggests that you avoid them. In fact, you can use them but they will require careful (and special) formatting. If you know Word very well, you can get Word to correctly format lists so they work on the Kindle.
- Inside images are a problem for Word and Kindle publication. The trick is to avoid Word reformating the picture. Unfortunately, Word will resize to an unacceptable DPI. This may mean that your Kindle version needs to have it’s page size adjusted so pictures appear full sized.
- With pictures, remember that most Kindles are black and white only. So always check colour pictures to ensure they work as a black and white picture.
- Your title, your description and your cover are what sells the book. You need to spend time (and/or money) to get them right.
- Take a look at Amazon’s top reviewers list. Send people that have reviewed books in your niche an email and ask for a review. In exchange, “gift” the book to them through Amazon. It will cost you the cost of your book but you’ll get most of that back in royalties and it will help your sales ranking move up.
- Allow enough time. It always takes longer than you think. Many of the marketing sites require 3 months lead time on publication date in order to process your book. This is nuts and shows that they are still thinking old style publication rules. But that’s life. If you want to get the most out of your books, they set the rules for marketing/publicity.
- Look for sites that talk to your audience. Then offer free books on the publication date. Kindle now allows you to do this.
- Keep your Kindle price below $9.95 US … this allows you to get 70% royalty (vs. 35%). If you go above $9.95 you’ll have to charge at least $19.90 to get the same amount. (But keep an eye on non-Amazon sales as the amount through other channels (including Amazon.ca) are at 35%).
- Make use of Kindle Select — their lending library — the payment for a lending is usually around 2.30 per lending — roughly what you would make by selling a $3.30 book. The trick is that many people then turn around and buy the book. Downside is that your book needs to be exclusive to Amazon.
- Consider running a promotion of free books for the first 20 people to order your book on the day of publication. Then step up the price by 1/3 for each of the next 3 days. (e.g. $0, $2.99, $5.99, $8.99). Note that you need to highly publicize this. And you may find that you want to use it for your first few books only.
Okay, I think that’s enough for now. As I think of other things I’ll write another article in this category.
Okay, a bit of writing as a business for you today …
My guess is that it couldn’t be more appropriate … Europe rejected the new copyright treaty on Independence Day (July 4, 2012). In many ways, this represents Europe declaring its independence from U.S. influence on copyright law.
So what does this mean for writers?
The ACTA copyright treaties represent the latest agreement between the countries of the world as to what their own copyright legislation is supposed to be. In effect, it is the target that each will attempt to force their own legislation into.
For writers this means that this treaty represents the rights and protections that they will have around the world. Of course, local legislation takes time to catch up and laws are often broken but that’s the theory in any case.
So this is bad, right?
Well, no. You see the main problem is that the ACTA proposal was negotiated in secret and was heavily influenced by U.S. interests. This is frightening, given that even the U.S. judicial system has begun to push back on those self-same interests.
Like much of the recent U.S. copyright legislation, it is heavily slanted in favour of the large corporate publisher. Content creators and small publishers (admittedly such as TrainingNOW) are the losers. Perhaps not as much as the users and purchasers of our courses and writings, but any gains are the result of targeting overkill (aka collateral damage) rather than intent.
For the writer and self/small publisher, this treaty represents a distinct problem in the areas of research and in product ownership.
However, as in any change in legislation, you have a responsibility to yourself to read the legislation and come to your own conclusions. And since this is a treaty (rather than legislation), it is also incumbent on you to ensure that you are familiar with legislation in your own country.
As for me — I’m glad the EEC voted it down. I only wish Canada had shown the same wisdom.