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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blog to Book - How Did it Come Out?

Welcome everyone to this edition of Self-Publishing Central.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about converting your blog to an eBook. In that post, I told you all of the how's and whys concerning this process. Now I'm back to report the results of my blog-to-book ePublishing experience.

How did the conversion go?

When you last heard from me, I had turned the PDF of my eBook over to Bob Mehta at ebookconversion.com to complete the process of making my PDF book a Kindle Book and an ePub (Nook) Book. I ordered the regular speed service. I ended up receiving an email with the draft ePub conversion for my review about ten days after I sent it in.

I was really excited to see how this thing would work. Lacking a dedicated ePub reading device, I downloaded a free copy of Adobe Digital Editions to allow me to read the file. I opened the file and it looked pretty much as I had expected. The rather crude formatting of the PDF had been retained. But the Table of Contents now hyperlinked to each Chapter (blog post) in the book.

That was nice.

I continued through the book, checking each web link to make sure it worked. For the first 60 pages or so, all went well. When I clicked on a link in Adobe Editions, the corresponding link opened in FireFox. Of course, this would work with Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari just as well.

When I reached page 63, I started to find lots of web links that were not "live." Apparently, they had not been correctly converted to ePub. The remainder of the book had literally hundreds of such inactive links.

So . . . I sent the draft back to ebookconversions noting the numerous inactive links as "nearly all web links after page 63."

About a week later, I had a new ePub version of my blog. This time, ALL the web links worked great. I emailed back that the ePub version was a "Go," and they should proceed with the Kindle conversion.

A few days later, I had the Kindle version (a PRC) file in my email inbox. I immediately loaded this one onto my Kindle to check it out. This time, all of the web links and hyperlinks worked beautifully. Since my Kindle was connected to the web, clicking on a link on the Kindle book would open a browser window with a black and white version of the appropriate web page.

Success! The book's format worked out fine on the Kindle and the web links were all live.

Additional suggestions.

I could probably stop right there and declare the blog-to-book conversion a success. But there is more you should probably know.

Although I could, indeed, read the book and follow the web links on my Kindle, the display of the web pages was tiny and clumsy. Sure, I could "zoom in" to magnify parts of the web page at a time. But I found this less than optimal.

Therefore, when you buy a Kindle eBook with lots of web links like mine, I recommend reading the book on your computer using the FREE Kindle to PC or Kindle to Mac software. That way you can get clear and readily viewable web content without the limitations of the Kindle Device itself.

I'm going to be publishing this book on B&N's Pubit soon. So those of you who have a Nook can see whether you feel the same way about the limitations of that eReader. It's already available on Kindle.

Conclusion.

After initial hiccups, the conversion was a huge success. I designed my own cover (which you can see in the right hand column of this blog). And I'm quite pleased with the whole project.

I only wish I had all of the valuable information contained in the blog and in the hundreds of web links available to me when I first set off on my publishing journey. One self-pubber has already commented to me that he thought he would have saved at least $1500 if he had possessed even a portion of the book's storehouse of information.

So the book is done. The information is easily accessible. I hope someone decides it's worth nine bucks to take advantage of the tips and analysis the book contains.

That's it for today.

Shameless Plug: Please consider buying the Kindle version of the book (link above or on the right). I'll have the Nook version available on B&N online soon.

Cheers!

John

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tech Update for Authors















Hello everyone. And welcome to Self-Publishing Central. I've got something a bit different for you today. Here's what's up . . .

Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to attend the Minnesota High Technology Association's Spring Conference in Minneapolis. I came away with some pretty nifty stuff.

But the coolest think I got wasn't a thumb drive, a USB multiplexer or even a Microsoft T-shirt. In fact, it wasn't a thing at all. It was an idea.

Robert Stephens, founder of the "Geek Squad" and current Chief Technology Officer for Best Buy Company addressed the collection of IT gurus, infrastructure maintainers and tech devotees during the opening session of the conference. He is the reason for the picture of Ramen Noodles - which he called "the international sign for financial distress" - at the top of this post. He remembers the days around 1994 when the Geek Squad was still just an idea, and the number of his meals that consisted of "distress food."

He also remembers the great incentive the "Ramen Noodle effect" provided for him to be innovative and creative. His idea of forming the Geek Squad hadn't been tried before. But what did he have to lose? He was already at the bottom, right? So he pitched it until he got a taker, in Best Buy. Now the Geek Squad is a huge financial and personal success for Robert.

I think the idea of taking risks when you have nothing to lose is a great one. But how many of us truly have "nothing to lose"? Zero? But it can still be a way of thinking. Please read further.

He went on to tell us that it was time to let go of old ways of thinking about computers and communicating, and to embrace 21st century opportunities. One of the most important points he made to this group of tech developers, maintainers and users was to start thinking MOBILE FIRST.

By this, he meant that, instead of downsizing existing computer programs, interfaces, search engines, etc., developers need to start with a blank page - or a bag of Ramen noodles - and re-design everything from the ground up with mobile devices in mind. If you've every tried reading a web page on your SmartPhone, you know what he is talking about. Downsizing to fit mobile devices doesn't always work so well.

So why should self-pubbers care?

If you apply Robert's thinking to books, there are some interesting possibilities/challenges that emerge for the future.

Text. How will book text fit comfortably on a phone-size screen? The answer? It probably never will. Sure, you can read on a SmartPhone for short periods. But you're not going to read your whole library that way. Thinking from the bottom up, what are some possible solutions to this situation?

Audio/Video. Converting text books to audio books, or even hybrid-video books, is certainly one possibility. New technologies are emerging that improve text-to-speech and speech-to-text conversions. Many tech-savvy folks already respond to their emails while they're in the car on the way to work. Their phone reads them their emails and they dictate responses -- all hands-free.

The technology also exists to embed audio or video inside text-based eBooks. This technology isn't a complete fix for tiny text on tiny screens. But it at least offers the "reader" some respite from all-text eye strain.

eCommerce on your phone. Another interesting ramification of the transformation to a mobile-device-centered reading world is the ability to pay for, and to sell, eBooks using just your phone. With "cloud-based" applications beginning to dominate the Mobile App (MoApp) landscape, it becomes necessary to store less and less information and programs on our individual devices. This means that we'll be able to sell - and buyers will be able to buy - our books through our own cloud-based web stores, accessible by SmartPhone.

Sure, Amazon and Nook stores are already cloud-based sales tools. But imagine the ability to conduct business a whole new way, with no Amazon in the middle taking a bite. How might that private cloud look for an author?

It's hard to predict. But it would probably involve much more video marketing than is currently used. Your cloud would be able to tap into other clouds holding databases of helpful customer information so you can more precisely target marketing and promotional efforts. If you and the buyer have the right phones and apps, you can already show the buyer your book on your phone and then sell him/her a copy by just tapping your phones together. Is that cool or what! The possibilities are endless.

What should I do now? For now, I think the key for authors is to remain vigilant for these new MoApp breakthroughs when they happen . . . and that will be soon. When new tech becomes available at reasonable prices (or more likely, for free), be an early adopter. Don't wait for others to try it out first. Become the recognized "expert" in applying to the writing world whatever new tech has become available. Write about it. Use it in your publications. Get a leg up on the other publishers out there. Take advantage of one of the greatest strengths of self- and indie-publishing -be nimble! By the time the Big Six are on board, it's too late for you to take a leadership role.

Here's one other thing you can do right now - BE EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING!

Like 'em or not, eBooks are here to stay. You've already adopted that trend ahead of the Big Boys. Now stay ahead by watching for the MoApp opportunities as they arise, and daring to adopt early.

I love the possibilities, even though no one can yet articulate their exact nature. Think "blank slate." Do more with less. Eat your Ramen Noodles and conquer!

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

Cheers!

John

Friday, April 8, 2011

Combating Writer's Block

Hello and welcome to Self-publishing Central. Today's post is on the subject of combating the dreaded "Writer's Block." Many writers experience Writer's Block at one time or another. Whether you are a self-pubber, or you prefer the traditional route to publication, there should be something in this post for you.

Exactly what is Writer's Block?

According to most definitions, Writer's Block is a "psychological condition" in which a writer finds it difficult or impossible to continue writing on a given work. Writer's Block is usually temporary. (Well . . . that's good news, at least.)

How does one combat Writer's Block?

David Taylor, long time editor of national magazines such as Prevention, Men's Health and Runner's World, doesn't believe there is such a thing as Writer's Block. Nevertheless, he has written a wonderful article identifying four causes of the condition and seven ways to fight Writer's Block. I recommend that you review his insightful suggestions before reading further here.

Waiting for you to read David's article . . .

Okay. To summarize, David says you can try:

1) Free-writing. Write anything you please, as fast as you can, for a set period of time. Don't stop for anything.
2) Copy and Write. Read a sentence or paragraph from a favorite writer's work and try to recreate it on the page.
3) Re-Read and Notate. Review your research materials and make notes.
4) Write to Someone. Write a letter to a friend.
5) Write Dialogue. Set up a conversation between yourself and someone who wants to learn about your topic. Write out that dialogue.
6) Write Invisibly. Turn off your monitor and write without seeing your writing. (Or write with an empty pen and carbon paper.)
7) Write About Writing. How do you feel about writing? Who influenced you and how?

Please read David's Post completely. It's really creative.

What do I do to Combat Writer's Block?

Like David, I don't believe in Writer's Block (at least I don't believe I will experience it). It's one of those psychological phenomena that is very real if you believe in it, and doesn't exist at all if you don't. It's like an irrational fear that becomes very real. Or like an irrational belief that one will fail, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For these reasons, I'm not saying Writer's Block isn't real for YOU. Psychological conditions are every bit as real to those experiencing them as are objective real world conditions. So please don't think I don't understand. That's why I'm writing this post, after all. :)

My strategy for combating Writer's Block is pretty straight-forward . . . maybe too straightforward for it to work for everybody. When I struggle to write well, I write poorly. I just keep on writing my story, whether I think it's any good or not. I don't wait for a good idea to write about. I write about whatever good, bad or mediocre idea I can come up with.

If I'm not feeling my muse that day, I won't wait to create clever dialogue. I'll write the dialogue that comes to mind. Some days I fully recognize that a LOT of what I have written will be changed or excised in the re-writing or editing process. But here's the benefit. I CAN'T edit a blank page. I CAN edit whatever garbage I may have written at some previous date.

By keeping the story moving, I eventually come to a place in the plot, or a day of the week, where I feel like I'm writing good stuff again. As a consequence, I eventually reach the end of Draft No. 1.

Conclusion.

If you experience Writer's Block (or any obstacle to having a "good writing" day), try one of the suggestions above. I am optimistic that you will find success.

Thanks for stopping to visit.

Have a great day!

Cheers!

John