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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing

Today we welcome my good friend, and experienced author, blogger and book reviewer, William R. Potter for a guest post.

What have you got for us today, William?

Big Name Pay-for-Publishing VS True Self-Publishing

I wish I had known more about the Self-Publishing/Print-On-Demand Industry before I chose to self-publish my first book with a big name vanity publisher back in 2008. Many authors are now choosing to publish with do-it-yourself publishers like CreateSpace and Lulu. I went for a full service POD publisher for my first book. This was a mistake and here is why.

The big pay-for-publishing companies (iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse etc.) don't make their money selling their authors' books. Their income stems from selling expensive publishing packages and marketing/publicity campaigns to their authors.

The suggested retail price for many books published by these companies is preset by the publisher with no author control. It is often way above market standards. Imagine $19.99-$24.99 for a 250 page trade paperback book and $9.99 for a Kindle ebook. Compare this to the 10 bucks for best sellers by world famous authors. A 250 page book POD published should retail for $15.00 or less and the ebook for no more than half the print retail.

On average, these overpriced books sell 5 copies or less (not including to family or friends). One big name publisher admits to many titles not selling a single copy at on-line stores like Amazon.com. (In rare instances, some self-published authors have sold hundreds, even thousands of copies from these same online stores.) Learn as much about self promotion as you can online and be prepared to work hard to build your reputation.

Books from these companies often have a terrible reputation. The books themselves are believed to be of poor quality and the writing is thought to be weak and in need of professional editing. (Printing quality has improved greatly over the years but the stigma remains.) Hire a professional editor to make sure your manuscript is at its best. Also, don’t cheap out on cover design as readers do judge books by their covers.

Some interested readers might shy away from your book when they realize it is published by one of these companies because of the industry reputation. My recommendation: Mail a print copy of your book to reviewers and run contest giveaways at your website or blog to get your book out to the reading public.

The marketing packages these companies push on their authors are overpriced and often ineffective. An opt-in e-mail campaign sent an ad for my book to one million prospective readers for $600. Only 1500 people opened the e-mail and none made a purchase. This service is available direct from Opt-in e-mail companies for about $100. Avoid these marketing schemes. My "big name" calls me about every three months with some new angle to sell my book.

Proofreading done by staff editors is often little better than the Spell Check on most word processing software. I purchased copy editing from my publisher for over $1100.00 and still found more than 120 simple spelling and grammar mistakes in my manuscript. Don’t use staff editors at any SP firms. Research and hire a highly regarded proof reader.

My overall recommendation is to avoid these companies. Free do-it-yourself print publishing through CreateSpace and Lulu is much more cost effective. E-publishing direct to Kindle or B&N NOOK is also free. Smashwords.com is a great way to get your work out to many ebook readers at the Sony bookstore and the Apple iBook store.

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Thanks for stopping in with this informative post, William.

To the rest of you guys, I have to tell you that I have read William's Crime Thriller, DEAD OF KNIGHT, and it is a terrific book. Well-edited and authentic action. See my review on Amazon for more details.
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William's Biography:

William Potter attempted his first novel at age eleven when he scribbled a few lines about a giant rampaging crab. The teen years kept his imagination in a state of unrest and he used poetry to journal personal thoughts, achievements and events of those times. He returned to his love of storytelling in his twenties, writing numerous short stories; and now in his forties, has published two books.

Lighting the Dark Side-Six Modern Tales represents his short story work from the past several years and is his first published book. Won the 2009 Best Short Story Collection at Allbooks Review International.

DEAD of KNIGHT The first book in the "Jack Staal" thriller series. A Hard boiled detective/police procedural. Available at Amazon, B&N. Book two Dead to Rights will be released Fall 2011.

Falling Down The Hole. Peter cox had it all. A wonderful wife, beautiful intelligent daughter and a successful career. A freak kitchen accident would rob him of his sight and his will to live. Falling Down The Hole. Spring 2011.

William resides in New Westminster, Canada with his wife and two children.

Find William on The Independent Author Network (IAN), Twitter, and his home page at WilliamRPotter.com.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Guest Bloggers

Hello all.

I'm back from a few days spent north of the 48 40 parallel on Lake of the Woods, Minnesota ice fishing. Here are a few sample pics for your viewing pleasure.


Cleaning fish on the ice. Four guys lived in that green,
10 x 20 foot shack for three days & 3 nights.







A couple of the guys with the green Bombardier that shuttles us out to the ice house at the beginning and end of our fishing trips. Think antique snowmobile on steroids.





We have fishing holes augered into the three-foot-thick ice and fish from the indoor warmth of the shack. There are a propane-fueled heater, lights and stove. Pretty deluxe . . . as you can clearly see. :)

Okay. Enough fishing. Back to the blog.

Today's post is about Guest Bloggers. What are they? Where do you get them? and Why would you want them?

What are "Guest Bloggers"?

I'm sure many of you already know what a Guest Blogger is. But for the rest of you kind folks, here's a quick and dirty rundown. A "Guest Blogger" is someone who writes a post for someone else's blog. Simple enough?

For example, I had the privilege of having my friend, Clay Rivers (@TuffyPants on Twitter), guest posting about writing memoirs here on Self-Publishing Central last week. So if you want to see a sample guest post, just click on the link.

Usually, a guest blogger writes a post and provides their Bio and pic so the host blog Followers know something about the poster.

Where Do You Get Guest Bloggers?

Guest bloggers can be found anywhere that others have expertise in an area of interest to your blog. Writer friends on Twitter or FaceBook, writers' groups like The Independent Author Network, or The Association of Independent Authors, or other writer blogs are all places you could find excellent guest bloggers.

Many writers and/or bloggers are more than happy to write a guest post for your blog, provided they have a message of interest to your audience. Usually, an email, or a Message to them will suffice to start a discussion on the topic. Of course, no one owes you a guest blog. So if a contact declines to write one, you shouldn't be offended. Just move on to another candidate.

Why Would You Want Guest Bloggers?

There are a whole bunch of reasons why guest bloggers are good for you, for your blog and for your blog Followers. Here are just a few:

-- You and your Followers benefit from your guest blogger's knowledge. No single blogger has the corner on useful information related to the blog's topic. Why not share the opinions of other "experts" with as many interested people as possible?

-- You get a break from the work of composing an interesting and informative blog post for a few days while your guest carries the load. Everyone goes through periods when they just can't think of something good to say to their blog's Followers. I struggle all the time. But I refuse to write a post just for the sake of posting something. I want to have a topic that I believe to be worthy of hearing before I make a post. I know that may result in fewer posts and lower blog traffic . . . but I hope I write fewer boring and/or unhelpful posts that way.

-- Both you and your guest get an opportunity to spread messages to a larger audience. For instance, Clay picked up at least a dozen new followers for his blog when he posted here last week. Self-Publishing Central picked up three new Followers. More Followers means that more people can benefit from what you have to say. And isn't that what blogging is about . . . sharing knowledge?

-- If you share your blog with a guest, some of your Followers may realize that you are open to guest posters and may contact you to ask if they can write a guest post for your blog. Or, your Followers may invite you to be a guest on their blog. Either one simply multiplies the guest blogging benefits I've already listed.

Conclusion.

I know that these aren't the only benefits of guest blogging . . . but they're the ones that came to my mind today. If you'd like to share other benefits of guest blogging, please feel free to do so by leaving a comment below.

Well . . . that's enough for now. Hope you enjoyed the post.

Thanks for stopping in.

Cheers!

John

Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Write a Memoir

Hi there. Thanks for stopping in.

Today, I've invited my good friend, Clay Rivers, to submit a guest post on writing a memoir. Turns out he knows quite a lot about it.

Take it away, Clay
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So You Want To Write Your Memoir.

Writing a memoir can be an exhilarating and exhausting experience. It requires not only taking a look at your life in retrospect, but making sense of it. Readers want to know what obstacles you faced and how you overcame them. Before writing the first paragraph of your memoir, check out this list of the top five things I think you should consider that could make the actual process of writing your life story go a lot smoother.

1. The Message
What do you want to say in your memoir? Is there one thing you want your readers to take with them after reading your tome? Memoirs aren't laundry lists of events. "First I did this. And then I went there. Next we..." Snooze.

Good memoirs give readers insight into personal struggles as well as lessons learned. Picking a central message will help you in choosing which anecdotes to include.

2. The Content
When friends found out I was writing a memoir, the number one question was "how do you remember everything that happened?" The answer: I didn't.

Before I wrote the first word of the manuscript, I made a time line of my life and included the major events that supported my theme. I didn't get hung up on exact dates. I jotted things down as they occurred to me for the first few days; funny stories, sad events, accomplishments, cultural events, and the like. When I felt I had enough events I checked them against my theme. If the events didn't fit into my theme they were cut. Why spend all that time writing about an event that doesn't serve your theme?

The next step involved checking dates and events for accuracy. I dug out old pictures and documents to ensure things happened the way they did, not as I remembered. I talked with friends to compare recollections and fill in details.

Periodicals, TV shows, pop music, sporting events, and general history are also great resources that will help you sharpen your memories.

3. The Voice
Choose how you'll tell your story. How will you relate to your reader? Perhaps your style will be conversational and intimate as if speaking to a good friend. Or will your tone be that of an insider spilling hard facts in a cut and dried manner? Whichever you choose, make sure the style is one that reflects who you are and serves your content well.

4. The Plan
Put yourself on a reasonable writing schedule. Two pages a day is a good start. The goal isn't to write it perfectly the first time, the goal is to get it committed to paper, be it real or virtual. Don't edit yourself on your first draft. There'll be plenty of time to go back and edit your manuscript. If you get to a point where you're stuck or the subject matter is something you still need to process or it's of a sensitive nature, take the time to work through what you're writing about. Eventually, the direction you should take will become apparent.

There are desk drawers and hard drives all over the world harboring thousands of unfinished memoirs. Don't let your memoir become a casualty of perfection.

5. Have fun
Go easy on yourself. If you don't have fun telling your story, your readers won't have fun reading it. And remember writing is rewriting.

Bio
Clay Rivers is a working actor (TV, film , and stage), screenwriter, and print art director. He is currently finishing his memoir "Walking Tall." Feel free to chat with him on Twitter (@TuffyPants) or read his posts at http://TuffyPants.wordpress.com.
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Leave a comment for Clay here, or contact him at the above Twitter address.

Thanks, Clay, for providing this great post. And thanks readers for visiting once again.

Cheers!

John

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

Hello all.

I've just returned from an ice fishing trip to northern Minnesota. Had a great time. Not so many fish caught, though. Oh, well.

Anyway, I'm back. And true to form, I have something to say.

I've been on this self-pub marketing adventure for about nine months now. And I'm starting to see some unexpected turns in my marketing road -- turns that mean new and unanticipated opportunities.

Let me give you some details.

Writers' Groups

I belong to several online writers' groups in which I participate to varying degrees, as time allows. I always knew that networking with other writers was important from both a writing and a marketing standpoint. But I hadn't realized some of the many doors these connections would open.

As a member of The Independent Author Network (IAN), I have experienced unprecedented peer support for my books. Even though this group is very new (just started up in December), it has already had BIG impacts on: 1) The number of hits I get on my website; 2) The number of writers who have emailed or messaged me about my writing; and 3) The number of potential reviewers -- and actual reviews written -- for my novels.

Beyond these benefits, several members of IAN have actually purchased and read my books! This is most certainly above and beyond the call of membership. But when a community forms, one learns more about the various members' writing endeavors, and you can't help but want to know more. (I've bought several books from the IAN crowd myself -- and have enjoyed them very much.)

As a member of The Definitive Serious Writers Group on LinkedIn, I've broadened my connections even further. Terrence Brejla put this group together to form a small, informed, cordial collection of writers to share ideas and information. It's a private group. But if you want "in," please contact me (betcherjl@q.com) and I will pass along your interest to Terrence. In this group, I've not only sold books and obtained reviews, but made some telephone connections and established topnotch editorial contacts as well.

As a member of the Association of Independent Authors, I've gotten great coverage of new book "events." The AiA is happy to publish, email and tweet all sorts of accomplishments, including reviews, awards won, honors received, milestones achieved, etc. Membership is $50 a year; but imho, it's well worth it.

Twitter

In addition to circulating in writers groups, I also spend a good deal of time connecting with other writers on Twitter. My Twitter name is @JohnBetcher.

I have identified most of my Twitter followers -- or they have identified me -- through tweets with a writing or publishing emphasis. Hashtags I use a lot include #amwriting #authors #writer and #IAN. Searching for #amwriting on Twitter is a great way to find fellow authors.

When you connect with folks on Twitter, the discussion often includes more than just writing. In one case, I connected with an Egyptian poet who wanted to read my, at the time, soon-to-be-released book about a trial to determine God's existence, entitled A HIGHER COURT - One Man's Search for the Truth of God's Existence. I sent her a PDF of the nearly final version.

That interchange on Twitter got me into a discussion with my new Egyptian friend, May, about Islam, Christianity and her poetry, among other subjects. When the Egyptian protests began, May's well-being became a matter of my concern. Here was a person I had never met, seen or spoken to (other than on the web), and I felt very connected to her as another human being.

Initially, I asked May if she would like to communicate her message of freedom for Egypt through a regional TV station in my area. She was agreeable. So I contacted several by email with an offer of a telephone connection to an Egyptian protester "on the ground" in Egypt. By the time one station followed up on my email, the Egyptian government had terminated all communication between the U.S. and Egypt. I told them I was sorry, but I could no longer connect them to May.

To my complete surprise, the reporter asked if I would be willing to do an interview on the Egyptian situation. Other than May, I have never (to my knowledge) even MET an Egyptian--at least not a live one less than a couple thousand years old. But I agreed to do the interview, nevertheless. The TV crew came to my home and we spoke for over half an hour on camera. The interview resulted in the news story shown here.

There I was, on a news show with over a million viewers, and I WASN'T even talking about my books! (You can bet I gave the reporter copies though.)

The TV interview has led to new connections for me on FaceBook and Twitter -- some Egyptians, some writers, some publishers, some simply concerned citizens of the world. And the Editor of Onislam.net news service has invited me to write an Op Ed piece for their publication. You can bet I will do so.

Are you starting to see the possibilities here? I was just tweeting with a friend about poetry, when all of a sudden, I was on the evening news. Was it Ferris Bueller who said, "Sometimes life moves pretty fast. If you're not careful, you might miss it"?

My head is still spinning.

Conclusion

The possibilities for the unexpected to occur in our social media lives are greater today than ever before. In fact, they are so great that I believe we should begin to EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED and be ready to embrace it.

Opportunities abound. They "come at you fast." Will you miss yours? Or are you ready?

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping in.

All the best.

John

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing

Hello all. And welcome.

For today's post, I'm going to refer you to a writing that "Sierra" was kind enough to allow me to guest post on her blog, Sierra's Writing Adventure.

It's all new material. So please check out Sierra's blog for this week's post.

All the best!

Stop back soon.

John