Category Archives: General Tips

How to Create an eBook with Calibre

All of us work hard to create the content of our books, leaving the messy business of creating the .epub or .mobi files to someone else. However, every once in a while we need to create a draft of our ebook. You either need to get an idea of how the end product will look or to send to a beta-reader who doesn’t want a PDF. I’m going to tell you how to create a quick and simple ebook with Calibre.

According its website, Calibre is “a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books”. I’ve used it for many years and it’s great.

Now Let’s get to the meat of the matter. Follow these steps to turn a .doc file (or another document file) into a .epub or .mobi file. (Note: the following pictures contain LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office because that is what I have installed on my laptop.) You can click any image to get a larger version.

  1. Open your .doc file
  2. Heading1
    Change all your chapter headings to Heading 1. You can do this by selecting Heading 1 from the style menu.
  3. html-save
    Now, save your document as an HTML file
  4. Open Calibre
  5. add-book
    Click the “Add books” button. After the dialog box appears, you can browse to where your HTML file is located.
  6. edit-metadata
    Once the new HTML file is added to the Calibre library, select the new file and click the “Edit metadata” button. From here you can add the following information: Title, Author, cover image, description and more. When you’re done, click “OK”.
  7. convert-books
    Now click the “Convert books” button. From the top right of the new screen, you can select pub or mobi. There are quite a few options available, but your don’t need to use them all.
  8. remove-spacing
    Select the “Look & Feel” tab from the left side of the new dialog box. Now, select the “Remove spacing between paragraphs”.
  9. table-of-contents
    Next, select the wand icon to the right of “Level 1 TOC (XPath expression)”.
  10. table-of-contents-h1
    In the new window, select “h1” from the drop down menu under “Match HTML tags with tag name”. Click “OK” to close the window. Click “OK” again to convert the file.
  11. Once the conversion has finished, you can click the “Convert book” button again and select a different format.

Well, that was fairly easy. I hope this tutorial helped you.

Let me know if you have any questions.

***

John Paul WohlscheidJohn Paul Wohlscheid is the author of  Church Triumphant: 25 Men and Women who Gave Their Lives to Christ, Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth and Trouble is My Client, and A Battle for the Faith (with Theresa Linden).  He blogs at John Paul Wohlschied, Author.

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Do One Scary Thing Every Day  

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In this post, hybrid author Jane Lebak gives advice from her traditional-publishing experience that can be applied equally well to self-publishing.

I was frozen. I’d done my research. I’d spoken to my agent. I’d checked my contracts. I’d even gone as far as getting a business license, but now I was stuck. I needed to buy ISBNs.

For two days, I’d looked at my list and found other things to do, but really, I needed to buy my ISBNs. I had a business bank account. I had money in it. What I needed was to go over to Bowker and give them money in exchange for the numbers.

“I can’t,” I said to my Patient Husband. “Every time I get almost to that point, I freeze. Because buying the ISBNs is the point of no return.”

Once I did that, I figured I couldn’t double back anymore. I’d be committed.

My Patient Husband said, “You need to do one scary thing every day.”

Of course I was scared. I’d prepared extensively because I was taking my writing career seriously, but that meant doing the things I’d prepared to do. I needed to be willing to fail in a very big, very public way.

The next day, I said, “Okay, buying ISBNs is scary. So I’m going to do it, and then I don’t have to do it again.”

I did it. And after I’d done it, it wasn’t scary anymore. But I took the rest of the day off anyway.

The next day, I made myself an IngramSpark account. Again, it was scary to enter in sixteen-digit numbers (or longer ones) but after I did it, I was done. The day after that, I made myself a KDP account, but that was less scary than it had been the day before, so I went on to do something else scary instead.

When you’re writing for publication, you’re going to find yourself right at the edge of your comfort zone more often than you ever thought, sometimes on the wrong side of the fence. In the story itself you’re going to find yourself writing deep and touching emotions you never wanted out in the daylight. Then comes editing. And getting beta-readers. And reading your beta-readers’ responses. And making those changes. And asking for help with your query letter. And then sending your query to agents.

Eventually you have to open the responses you get from agents. Sometimes reading those is scary, especially when you really like an agent and hope she likes you back. How about phone calls with agents? Those will scare you too at first. Signing your first agency contract? Terrifying. And then going on submission. Going through the publication process. Reading reviews. Writing your next novel.

If you had to do all those scary things at once, you’d think your life was a horror movie. So instead: one scary thing every day. When you’re terrified, motivate yourself with, “Good. This is my scary thing.” The next time you face the same task, you’ll find it’s not so scary any longer.

(Except for reading reviews. Those are still scary. I get a friend to read them first.)

And then give yourself a little breather afterward. “I’ve done my scary thing. I don’t have to be scared again for a little while.”

***

headshot smallJane Lebak talks to angels, cats, and her kids. Only the angels listen to her, but the kids talk back. She lives in the Swamp, writing books and knitting socks, with the occasional foray into violin-playing. You’ll also find her blogging at QueryTracker.net, a resource for writers seeking agents and small publishers.

My Experience in the 2015 World Championship Of Public Speaking

In August 2015, I had the honor of participating in the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. This experience helped me become a better public speaker but more importantly, it allowed me to have two encounters with God that reaffirmed that He is interested in the things of our lives and will help us in doing that which brings Him greater glory.

This is my story.

Learning To Speak

I joined Toastmasters in 2010 to help me in giving presentations in support of the marketing of my book Daddy, Come & Get Me. The years of practicing speaking in front of groups, learning to eliminating filler words, and ensuring every speech has an opening, body, and closing paid off in greater confidence before audiences.

Toastmasters offers annual speech contests because humans excel when under the pressure of competition. As talk of the International Speaking Contest started in December 2014, I decided to give it a try as I had not yet competed in any contest. The speech I developed was entitled “Serendipity” where I told about an experience of self-discovery I had while writing my book.

Between January and April, I won the first four rounds and earned the right to represent my district (Indiana and Northern Kentucky) as one of the 96 competing in the semifinals at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 13.

What Does Serendipity Mean

tm_serendipityThe contest rules allowed me to use “Serendipity” for the semifinal round; however, in the final round, the speech must be one I had never competed with before. My challenge between April and August was to write a speech that was as good as “Serendipity” that — if I advanced — I could use for the finals.

As I was looking for a speech topic in May, I thought it would be fun to have a speech that included an adventure movie trailer voice that starts with “In a world…”. With that as my starting point, I developed “Love Overcomes Fear,” the story about my relationship with my son-in-law in the time leading up to his marriage to my oldest daughter.

In doing some research on what it would take to become a World Champion, I started having doubts that “Serendipity” had enough humor in it to win the semifinals. While the speech is not required to be funny, for the last 20 years only speeches with humor have won. I tried re-working sections of the speech but the humor seemed forced.

In late June, I presented both speeches to some of the better speakers in my district. There were over 50 people in the room, and to a person, they agreed that while “Serendipity” had served me well to get to this point, it would not win the semifinals. They all enjoyed “Love Overcomes Fear” and suggested I use it for the semifinals.

How I made $1000 a month as an indie author (part 3)

Become-the-good
Use quotes from your book like this for Pinterest and other social media sites.

In the previous two parts of this series, we have looked at finding your audience and creating a top-quality product. In this post we will consider marketing. How do you let people know your book is out there?

If you have done part 1 well, you already have many readers interested in your work. They are your first audience. The obvious first step when you publish is to let them know, by a blog post or email to your list.

Here are other strategies I have tried. I will tell you what has worked for me and what hasn’t.

Book blog tour

Many companies exist that will set up a book blog tour for a fee. They find book reviewers in your genre and ask them to review your book or interview you. The tour usually “stops” at one blog per day. This is a way to let readers beyond your current list know your book has been published. But you don’t have to hire someone to set up a tour. You can do it yourself.

I arranged blog tours for my first two books, but not for my third. The sales of that third book were very slow until another Catholic blogger posted about the book on Facebook. Then I got a big boost in sales. When she later reviewed it on her site, I got another boost. This was essentially a mini blog tour.

I have not found that blog tours give me huge sales number, but they do get the ball rolling. They help people who may never otherwise have heard of my book to hear of it, and sometimes to buy it. When you have posts on your book for seven to ten days in a row, there is a cumulative affect. Your book goes up in the Amazon rankings, becoming more visible to browsers. You start to run into people who say, “Oh, I’ve heard of that,” or, “I just read about that on so-and-so’s blog.” You build buzz.

So, will a blog tour make you a best-selling author? Probably not by itself. Is it one helpful tool to use? Definitely.

Connecting with other bloggers

In order to set up a blog tour, you need to contact other bloggers. Although you can just send them an email out of the blue, it helps if you already have a relationship with them. Start building this relationship before you finish your book.

Visit and comment on their blogs. Friend them on social media and comment on their posts there. I began building a relationship with the blogger I mentioned above by sending her the clipping of an article I knew would interest her. Not only has she enthusiastically promoted my books since that time, we have also become good friends.

Another way to connect is to join a Facebook group or Google+ community of authors or bloggers with a common interest. Many of these groups turn out to be little more than sites for link dropping. Find groups where people really support and communicate with each other. Besides Indie Catholic Authors, my favorite groups are the Catholic Writers Guild (CWG) and Clean Indie Reads. The CWG Facebook group is only open to dues-paying members. Clean Indie Reads is mainly for fiction writers, but I have learned a lot there as a nonfiction author. For the blog tour of my second book, I asked if anyone in the Catholic Women Bloggers Facebook group (currently being revamped) would be open to hosting me. Doing so helped me branch out to audiences that I had not reached with my first book.

Joint marketing

These connections are great for doing joint marketing. At Indie Catholic Authors we currently do two joint sales a year–in June and December. Last December we tried offering coupons for our paperbacks on Createspace before Christmas. That bombed. The few of us who put our ebooks on sale at the same time did better, but it was still one of my worst Kindle Countdown Deals. I later discovered that most authors do poorly before Christmas. This year we’re starting our sale on December 26 and focusing on ebooks. We hope people who have found new ereaders under the tree decide to try our books.

Our second joint marketing effort in June was successful for many authors. No one made a ton of money, but for most participants it was the best promotion they had ever done. I had my second-highest sales numbers, but I also ran a paid promotion at Ereader News Today, which muddied the waters (and cut into my profits).

The more people who participate in these joint events, the wider the spread, so if you are an independent Catholic author, please join us!

The benefits go far beyond the life of the promotion. Here is one participant’s Amazon book page 3 months later:

Amazon-joint-marketingNotice the “also bought” books. Every one of them was part of our joint sale. Some readers bought all 15 discounted books. That means that, for a time at least, customers who browsed any of them had all our books suggested to them as additional purchases by Amazon.

A joint event like this takes lots of work. But each time it should get easier to set up. And have greater participation.

Countdown Deals and free days

I have never offered my full-length books free. Free days work very well for many fiction authors. For me, with a limited audience for nonfiction, I don’t want to miss out on sales. I use Kindle Countdown Deals instead. My best sales have all come when I have 3 days at $.99.

If you can connect your book to a special date for your sale, do so. It’s a no-brainer for books about saints to discount them for the saints’ feast days. Many people are looking for just such books at that time. If you are promoting a romance for Valentine’s Day, you’ll have a lot more competition. I’m not sure how well that works.

Other Amazon tips

Pay attention to your key words and categories on Amazon. Don’t choose categories for your book that are so broad that no (human) browser will ever find you. I use “Carmelite Spirituality” for one of my key words and have three of my books appear on the first page, including my free ebook in the top slot. The books are somewhat lower when I search for “Carmelite.” Hmm. I wonder if I should change that?

Ask yourself what you would search for if you were shopping for a book like yours. You’ll notice that when you start entering search terms, Amazon makes suggestions. These suggestions tell you what the top search terms are. Use them if you can.

Promoting on social media

Some people say that Facebook targeted ads (not post boosting) have worked well for them, but you have to do them right. Every time I try to set one of these up, I have browser issues or the process is so convoluted I give up. If Facebook can make it simple, I will probably try one.

In the meantime, I know that the people I interact with through commenting on their posts, direct messaging, or participating in a group will see my posts more easily than others. Before I launched my first book, I was very active interacting with my friends, to make sure they saw my posts about the book coming out. I had over 1000 Facebook friends at the time. Some of them shared my post with others.

On Twitter, I noticed more retweets, messages, and mentions once I hit about 1200 followers. Now during my promotions, I try to follow a couple dozen more people on Twitter. Often they will glance at my profile to see my latest tweets and–voila–they see I have a book on sale for $.99. This is my secret for sales through Twitter. Shhh! Don’t tell. Tweets to my regular followers can easily get missed.

Pinterest always brings more people to my blog than any other social media platform. For my launch of Trusting God, I created pins with quotes from my book, using public domain photos. See the top of this post for an example. Each pin had a hashtag, the book title, and my name. Over the first two months after publication, I pinned, tweeted, or posted one to Facebook or Google+ regularly. I pinned one to the top of my Twitter page for an easy retweet for new followers.

It’s impossible to say how many sales I received through these social media endeavors, but I am certain that they did help.

I have also done a handful of radio and podcast interviews. With each one I have gotten some sales. Some shows, of course, give much better results than others.

Public speaking

DSCN3455My focus is now turning towards doing more public speaking. Next spring (God willing) I will be leading a retreat for moms in the next diocese over. Last May I gave two talks at the Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference. I have also spoken at a handful of parish women’s groups and book clubs. I have done one online conference, and hope to do at least two in the spring.

How well can you sell at these events? My last talk, just a few weeks ago, had only nine women attend from a small rural parish. However, I brought along copies of all three paperbacks and sold a total of eleven. Not bad when combined with the stipend and traveling expenses I also received!

At the homeschool conference, when I had published two books, I sold 29. I also asked for a larger speaking fee than I had ever received before. Later, a woman who sells books at schools and conferences throughout the Midwest contacted me. She had bought Trusting God at the conference and wanted to order it and A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child for resale. I offered her a 40% discount and she bought 26 books. Last week I sent her a copy of Is Centering Prayer Catholic? for review.

If you hope to use reselling of any kind, you must price your paperback high enough that both you and the reseller can make decent money. After reading an article with this suggestion, I decided to price my book at $15.95 instead of $12.95. I now have a very good profit margin on my paperbacks. I don’t hesitate to offer the industry standard discount.

I see public speaking as similar to blogging–except you can earn money at it! You can speak about themes you are already an expert on. If they are related to your books, book sales will probably follow. Your take-home income from books you sell yourself is about double your Amazon royalty. You can decide whether or not to discount the books at events.

In the long run, public speaking can be much more lucrative than writing. Of course, I love writing and am not about to give it up. But I feel I can slow down (as soon as I finish my temperament series) and focus on selling paperbacks at events rather than always having to produce new material.

Offline promotions

Promoting my book to bookstores has been mixed. I sent a copy to a bookstore in the city we lived in for six years. Even with multiple contacts, they never gave me a final yes or no. I eventually gave up.

However, Leaflet Missal Co. in St. Paul recently promised to include Trusting God in a future catalog and perhaps in their store. They are constantly sorting through samples, so they could not give me a timeline. At both stores I offered to do a signing. It seems that neither store does this very often.

I also have a Carmelite book shop in England that wants twelve copies of Trusting God for resale. I am still figuring out the best way to work that.

With the three recent successes on resales, I am planning to contact a few more large Catholic bookstores. Smaller neighborhood stores probably would not sell enough to offset the cost of time and review copies. I will probably post about my failures or successes in a detailed post later.

One other promotion I tried that fell flat was print advertising. Last December I ran an ad (quite expensive) in The National Catholic Register’s Christmas insert. I didn’t sell a thing. A short time later I had in ad in both the print edition of Our Sunday Visitor and on the OSV website. I did sell enough to offset some of the costs, but that was it. I will not try print ads again.

Hybrid publishing

My next venture is into the world of hybrid publishing. I was approached by an editor at Emmaus Road to co-write a short book. It is now being edited and should be available some time in 2016.

Studies show that hybrid authors–those who both self-publish and traditionally publish–earn the highest income. I am hoping that this book will expand my audience, introducing new readers to my “backlist” as well. It may also help me get my self-published books in more stores and net me more media appearances.

Will I make as much this year as I did last year? The way things look now, probably not. But I have mostly been focused on writing and haven’t done as much marketing as I did this time last year. The advantage to self-publishing is that it’s never too late to try a new marketing technique. If a book does not take off right away, I can work hard on promoting it a year later and see a boost in sales. No one is going to stop printing my book if sales slump. Least of all me.

I hope you have found this series helpful. Now, in the comments, could you share some marketing techniques that have worked for you? Like everyone else, I can always learn something new. Thanks!

***

Low-resolution-portraitConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, Is Centering Prayer Catholic? and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. She owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

How I made $1000 a month as an indie author (Part 2)

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In part one, we saw how finding your audience helps to raise the likelihood of indie success. In this post, we’ll focus on how to produce a work that sells.

If you have been able to build a good audience on your blog, you probably already write high-quality work that others want to read. But this can be a problem for many writers. They cannot seem to build their audience, even though others writing on the same subject have many subscribers.

The beauty of a blog is, it allows you to practice. Your elementary school teacher was right when she said, “Practice makes perfect.” Blogging regularly helps you refine your ideas and test them out. It gives you feedback. Listen to your subscribers. What do they like about your blog? Pay attention to the questions they ask. Are you being too vague or talking past them?

Sometimes it looks like successful authors are just “lucky.” In reality, most successful authors have lots of practice and often lots of missteps (even “failures”) in their past. In my twenties and thirties I was unable to find a traditional publisher for three novels I wrote from a Christian worldview. I set them aside and began writing nonfiction. Will I self-publish those novels some day? Maybe. But even if I don’t, the experience of writing and trying to publish them was invaluable.

Don’t expect instant success. And don’t give up.

While writing my novels, I devoured writing magazines and books from Writers’ Digest. I studied, I learned, I grew.

Revisions and edits

While we as indies know that many great books have been self-published, we also know that the stigma against indie books is not wholly unwarranted. I have started reading many books that I put down in frustration because of the poor quality. Most of the mistakes I see can be fixed by a good revision and editing process.

In writing Trusting God with St. Therese, I had the Catholic Writers Guild non-fiction critique group look over chapters, one at a time. When the manuscript was finished, four beta readers gave me their opinions. I made many changes, then turned it over to my editor.

I am blessed to be married to a nonfiction editor. But even though editing may be your greatest cost, I urge you not to pass this step by. Check out the list of Catholic editors and other service providers on our site.

My husband always has macro and micro editing suggestions. The process is painful. I complain. I nearly pull my hair out. But I also do most of the edits he suggests. My books are always much better for it.

After editing, you need to proof the book over and over. The first time, I did this myself and nearly went crazy. The second time, I paid a proofreader and was not very satisfied with the results. I think I will try a different proofreader for my fourth book. Again, it costs a little money. But you must have a well-proofed book if you want it to sell.

The importance of covers

As indies we are primarily selling our books online. If you want people to click on your book on Amazon, you need a professionally made cover. I confess I create my own covers, but I do many things to make sure they are top-quality:

  • I read about design at the book designer.
  • I buy templates from Derek Murphy.
  • I spend a few dollars for professional microstock photos.
  • I study the best covers in my genre and try to exceed them.
  • I study secular book covers.
  • I use professional fonts.
  • I use the same fonts and a consistent design and color scheme on all my covers to create my brand.

I usually design a cover early in the writing process, mostly for a change and for fun. Then later I decide I don’t like it and come up with something drastically better.

Along with good covers, consider good interior design. If you work in Word or Scrivener, book templates are handy for your paperback layout.  I designed my first paperback interior and will never do it again. Now I use templates from Joel Friedlander.

Sales copy

Some writers have a hard time writing their Amazon book description and back cover sales copy. The book description can make the sale for you, if you do it right. There are many blog posts about how to make your description work for you. This is your reader’s first taste of your writing. Get it right!

I have never had trouble with this step. If you are struggling and would like some help, I’ll write your description and sales copy for $10 per book. You just provide some basic information. Contact me at crossini4774 at comcast dot net for more details.

Sometimes mediocre books sell. But who wants to write a mediocre book? Take your time, practice, do your best work, and have it professionally edited. Then add a great cover and compelling sales copy and you’re on your way to success!

In Part 3, we’ll look at marketing for success.

***

Low-resolution-portraitConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, Is Centering Prayer Catholic? and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. She owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

How I made $1000 a month as an indie author (Part 1)

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So, you want to be a successful indie author, but wonder if you can make decent money at it. You know that a few big-name writers do, but they write secular romance. You write fiction from a Christian worldview, or Catholic nonfiction. Can you make more than pin money?

Yes, if you are willing to learn and to work hard. My first year as a Indie Catholic  Author (not counting the year when I mostly gave away my writing), I made about $12,000 in book sales and royalties. While I can’t guarantee that you will make that much (or even that I will do that well my second year), I can tell you how I maximized my profits.

First, let’s look at what a typical author makes annually. According to the latest Digital Book World Survey:

  • Half of the writers – traditional and independent – earned $1,000– $2,999 or less.
  • Traditionally published authors made a median income of $3,000-4,999.
  • Self-published authors made a median of $500-999.
  • Hybrid authors – who have published both ways – made a median of $7,500-9,999.

Now, let’s look at some strategies to help you exceed those numbers.

Find your audience

The most important thing you can do to become a successful indie author is to identify and connect with your book’s audience. We now have a global market of readers. That means that unless you write about something extremely obscure–like Lord Brideshead’s hobby of collecting matchboxes, for example–there is probably an audience for your book.

TrustingGodwithSt.ThereseI write about Catholic spirituality for those who are serious about their faith. This is hardly a hot market! Yet I made about twelve times the median income for self-published authors my first year. In fact, I passed the annual median in my first month of being published. And I am convinced a large audience for that first book (Trusting God with St. Therese) still exists. I just have to connect with them.

However, within the genre of Catholic spirituality, I did several things to help me choose a book that would sell:

  • I started a blog and built up an email list.
  • I chose a subject I was excited about.
  • I wrote from personal experience, sharing my struggles.
  • I combined two topics popular among Catholics (St. Therese and trusting God)

Blogging is much easier for nonfiction than fiction writers. My first musings about trusting God were on my blog, Contemplative Homeschool. They began to establish me as an authority on my subject.

If you write fiction, try to find a subject you can blog about that would interest your book’s audience. Some writers make the mistake of blogging for other writers, rather than for readers. Use blogs like this one for that purpose. On your own blog, you need to connect with people who want to read books like yours.

Use a service like mailchimp to share your posts with subscribers. In order to build your subscriber list, offer a free chapter of your book, an exclusive short story, or another incentive. Make your signup form obvious. I started offering a free PDF that combined several posts on prayer, and added a pop-up signup box to my blog, in January 2014. My subscriber list began to rise steadily.

Always focus your efforts to connect with readers on your blog. Other social media should be secondary. You don’t own Facebook (unless Mark Zuckerberg is reading this ). They constantly make it harder for your “friends” to read your posts. You have little control over any social media platform. Your blog – especially if it’s a self-hosted blog – is in your hands. No one can take your audience away from you.

Studies show that the people on your subscriber list are many times more likely to buy your books than those you are connected with on social media. Put your efforts where they will help you most.

I use Facebook a lot, because that’s where most Catholics on the internet hang out. It helps me expand my reach. I also find it good for support groups. Indie Catholic Authors is on Google+. The Catholics on Google+ are largely a different crowd than those on Facebook. I chose Google+ for our community for SEO.

But no matter where I am online, I always try to get people back to my blog.

I began blogging in November 2012. In July 2013 I published my first Thimbnail-7-16-14ebook, which was only 1600 words. I wanted to offer it free, but I also wanted it to be on Amazon. So I uploaded it both to KDP and to Smashwords. On Amazon, I put the lowest price allowed $.99. I sold 1000 copies in the three months before Amazon price-matched the book. To this day, Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life is in the top 5 free ebooks in the Catholicism category and the top 10 in the Religion and Spirituality category.

Besides the unexpected money, this short ebook helped expand my reach. Thousands of people all over the world have read it. I included a link to my blog. After I published Trusting God with St. Therese, I updated the free ebook to include the introduction to it, with a buy link.

So, the lesson here is to build your audience with free material.

Guest posts and columns

At the beginning, I encourage you to link to your blog in comments on others’ blogs or in social media threads. Find a blog with a large audience that overlaps with yours and become active there.

I started commenting at SpiritualDirection.com at the beginning of 2014. I linked to a post I had done on the same subject as the article I was reading. Dan Burke, the owner of the site, read my post. In June 2014, he invited me to be a columnist.

SpiritualDirection.com is the largest Catholic spirituality blog on the internet. Well over 30,000 people subscribe (although at that time it was closer to 20,000).

I published Trusting God with St. Therese in July 2014. I had about 800 subscribers. My first post at SpiritualDirection went up a month later. It was carried on several other sites afterwards. I sold about 20 ebooks and gained many new subscribers. Today my subscriber list is over 1700.

Guest posts are also a good way to share someone else’s audience. If you and another blogger can swap guest posts, you can both gain. Of course, if the blogger you are swapping with only has 100 subscribers, your gain will be a handful at most.

Formats and distribution

Part of connecting with your audience is making it easy for them to find and buy your books. Authors are always debating whether or not their ebooks should be exclusive to Amazon. Being part of what is called KDP Select gives you higher royalties, an easier way of putting your ebook on sale, and other benefits. But, of course, it makes you dependent on one retailer.

I start each of my books in KDP Select. Your commitment is only for 90 days. Make sure you try a promotion during that time to see how it works. My first promotion for Trusting God with St. Therese was very successful. I still have that book in KDP Select. About 70% of my profits have been from the ebook.

Choleric Cover 4For A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, I found that my audience prefers paperback. I have made a paperback version for each book through Createspace. Probably 70% of the profits of this book so far (released in May) have been paperback. I just took it out of KDP Select and began distributing the ebook more widely through Draft2Digital.

Trusting God with St. Therese was released as an audiobook in April, which has made about $300 in royalties so far. I split these with my narrator. I used ACX for the audiobook and highly recommend it. Although sales have been modest, I do see an uptick when I run a promotion on my ebook.

Issue your book in all formats, if possible. I probably won’t do audiobooks for my Spiritual Growth Plan series, because the book lists and lesson plans that are an important part of the book aren’t suited to that format. But I do plan an audiobook for my third book, which was just released, Is Centering Prayer Catholic?Centering-Prayer-2-Thumbnail

Most of the work is done when you complete the ebook. Paperbacks are essential for anyone writing nonfiction or speaking at events. Audiobooks give readers one more way to find you and offer a comeback for those who say, “Your book looks great, but I don’t have time to read.”

In part 2, we’ll look at quality issues that effect your sales. Part 3 will focus on marketing.

***

Low-resolution-portraitConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. Her posts have appeared on Catholic Lane and elsewhere. She owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

Benefits of Being a Hybrid Author

I unexpectedly became a hybrid author, so I assure you that it was not intentional.  I realized after the fact that both self and traditional publication is highly beneficial.  I’d like to share what I love about both.

Self-Publishing

The benefits of self-publishing are so obvious that I’m almost embarrassed to explain them here, but I do think there are some worth mentioning.

With self-publishing, an author has total control over the entire process.  For some, this may be the sole reason to self publish over seeking a traditional publishing company, but for others (like me), it can be daunting to handle every detail from start to finish.

My first book was self-published.  I began writing it without a particular agenda for its printed version.  Self-publishing came in handy and pretty much fell into my hands due to close friends of mine who had a) already been through the process of self-publishing and b) were learned in professional formatting and graphic design.  I became a bit frustrated, however, because I had to make a lot of decisions I wasn’t prepared to make as a first-time author.  I also was overwhelmed at the editing process, which took a long time until the manuscript was even remotely ready for printing.

I also found self-publishing to be somewhat expensive, though authors do have a lot of options available now for finding reasonably affordable programs, formats, and cover designs within a budget (and without looking too cheesy or unprofessional).  There’s no question, however, that despite the initial costs to self-publish, the profits are exponentially better than going through a traditional publishing company.

Of course, an author must learn to build his/her platform and not rely entirely upon the book to bring an income.  I’ve found marketing to be particularly difficult for me, and perhaps it is (at least in part) due to my introverted temperament.  But finding small ways to connect with others through my niche (which happens to be grief recovery) has often landed me sales.

With self-publishing, I think it’s critical to do some extensive research beforehand and determine if this is a route you are willing to take with your book.  It is a lot of work, but I think networking with other independently published authors (like on the Indie Catholic Authors platform) can make the process more manageable when things get intense.

Traditional Publishing

Again, I am a newbie in this arena, but my first traditionally published book (From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph) will be released in February 2016 by Sophia Institute Press.  Much like my first experience with publishing, I was honestly torn about which direction to take with this book.

I had already gone through the process of self-publishing, so I was familiar with it and knew what to expect (generally speaking), but at the same time I had this nagging feeling that I was supposed to seek out a traditional publisher for the next book.  Naturally, some of my self-published friends were naysayers and tried to convince me otherwise.  But I prayed about it fiercely and eventually was approached by my Catholic Exchange editor, who suggested I submit a book proposal to Sophia Institute Press.

What are the benefits of traditional publishing?  For one, I merely wrote the manuscript, sent it to the publisher, and they are hiring editors, designers, formatting staff, and marketers to do the remaining work.  It has been so liberating for me to focus on other writing endeavors now that my manuscript has been submitted.

At the same time, traditional publishing companies offer a measly royalty for book sales, so I never expected to become wealthy using this method of publishing.  But I anticipate that the widespread promotion of my book (especially that it will automatically be in bookstores) will compensate for the lack of profit.

All-in-all, hybrid authors tend to be more successful than their independently published or traditionally published peers.  The reason is that they have the best of both worlds: They have acquired the ability to make high profits through self-publishing while at the same time gaining more public momentum through traditional publishing.  As a result, both processes – while divergent – somehow benefit each other.  Widespread publicity leads to higher sales, and higher sales (especially if you have more than one book) lead to more people being introduced to your work.

The bottom line for me is this: As an author, you really have to know yourself well and understand the pros and cons of both types of publishing before you start the process.  Profits and sales are only fragments of the bigger picture of why you are writing and how you intend to reach your audience.

***

Text Copyright 2015 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.
Image Copyright 2015 “Typewriter” by Unsplash on Pixabay and edited in Canva by Jeannie Ewing.

Jeannie Ewing is a writer, speaker, and grief recovery coach. She is the co-author of Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers. Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and Tony Agnesi’s radio show Finding God’s Grace. She offers her insight from a counselor’s perspective into a variety of topics, including grief, spirituality, and parenting children with special needs. Jeannie resides in northern Indiana with her husband and two daughters, both of whom have special needs. For more information on her professional services, please visit her websites lovealonecreates.com or fromgrief2grace.com.

How To Become a Professional Writer – 12 Tips

I’m going to share with you twelve tips I learned at a recent writers workshop I attended, which was hosted by a professor of English and prolific author, Dr. Dennis Hensley.  He has over fifty published books and has been featured in hundreds of periodicals.  I really love his short, sweet, and to-the-point helpful hints from which we can all benefit, whether we have been published several times or have just begun our publishing journey only recently.

1.  EMOTION:

What about your writing will grab a publisher’s attention?  The most common way books sell is still by word of mouth, so make sure your writing evokes the intended emotions through your style and voice.

2.  AUDIENCE:

Do you know your audience?  It’s common for us as writers to sort of gloss over our target audience, but this is a critical component to successful professional writing.  What is the age range for people who read our work?  Are they primarily male or female?  What education level do they typically possess?  Know who you’re writing for, and you will be more successful in selling more books.

3.  STYLE:

What’s your writing style?  Ask people what they specifically like about your writing.  Is it the colorful details of your descriptions, or perhaps the engaging dialogue you use to captivate your audience?  When you receive specific feed back about what makes your style unique, you will better understand how to capitalize on your natural talents.

4.  LONGEVITY:

How long can your book last?  Some authors know their work will only be relevant for a short amount of time, while others truly desire that their literary work becomes timeless and classical.  Only you can determine what works for your particular book or writing niche, but truthfully, longevity sells better – and more – books.

5.  CONTROVERSY:

This point seems obvious, but many authors overlook it.  Be sure to cite your primary sources when you are quoting other people’s work and even when you paraphrase someone else’s idea.  This will avoid the inevitable controversies that could potentially entangle you in a messy situation when you are publishing your manuscript.

6.  COMPETITION:

How many comparable books are on the market?  Note catch phrases, terrain, dress, architecture, and food.  Be a student of culture.  Writers are, by nature, detailed in their description of characters, plots, and emotions.  Be cognizant of how you would describe – through your senses – the variety of your life experiences.

7.  HONE YOUR MECHANICS:

Review grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.  It may come as no surprise, but most schools do not teach grammar anymore.  In turn, many students are graduating high school and even college without proper knowledge of sentence structure or the general mechanics of the English language.  Don’t make that grave mistake, because it will drastically hurt your credibility as a professional writer.  Always hire a professional editor before you publish your work.

8.  POTENTIAL:

Consider your momentum.  What’s your potential – as an author, of your work, as a person?  How many ideas do you have?  Consider sequels and other pop culture ideas that are associated with many successful literary works.

9.  PRODUCTION:

Do you really need those charts, maps, photographs, and cartoons in your published manuscript?  Probably not.  A few of these can add necessary detail to your book, but if you use them indiscriminately, it can harm your credibility.  Most readers do not want to be inundated with excessive graphics.  They want to read your book.

10.  PROMOTION:

How willing are you to promote your books?  Offer interview questions that you want people to ask you about your book.  This makes it simpler and likelier that you will land those radio and television interviews, because most broadcasters are too busy to actually read your book.  But if you offer them several interview questions ahead of time, they will most likely be happy to oblige you in promoting your book.

11.  PROFIT:

How much money can you make?  Obviously with self-publishing, your profit margin is considerably higher than through the route of traditional publishing.  Think about creative ways you can earn more money: translations into different languages, audiobooks, a study series, etc.

12.  HONORS:

What accolades have you received that are relevant to your book?  Is it really that important to include every post-secondary degree or certification you have received if there’s no relevance?  People want to consider you an expert based on your knowledge, but also on your experience.  Consider this when you are creating your author biography.

Though most of us aren’t entire novices when it comes to writing, editing, and publishing, it is always beneficial to consider certain areas we may overlook from time to time, as well as ways we can improve our approach to writing and self-publishing.  We become seasoned veterans over the course of time, but I believe a dose of humility helps keep us grounded and focused, too.  Hopefully these tips taught you something new but, if not, drew you back to a renewed focus on your work!

Text Copyright 2015 Jeannie Ewing
Image Copyright 2014 by Condesign on Pixabay and edited in Canva by Jeannie Ewing.

***

Jeannie Ewing is a writer, speaker, and grief recovery coach. She is the co-author of Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers. Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and Tony Agnesi’s radio show Finding God’s Grace. She offers her insight from a counselor’s perspective into a variety of topics, including grief, spirituality, and parenting children with special needs. Jeannie resides in northern Indiana with her husband and two daughters, both of whom have special needs. For more information on her professional services, please visit her websites lovealonecreates.com or fromgrief2grace.com.

Offline Independent Book Sales

by John C. Connell

Try local bookstores for elling your paperback. (Photo by MorBCN Flickr Creative Commons http://bit.ly/1bYvWzq)

Try local bookstores for selling your paperback. (Photo by MorBCN Flickr Creative Commons http://bit.ly/1bYvWzq)

 

Besides Amazon and Smashwords, how and where do you sell your books? Parish or Catholic bookstore? Local retail outlets? Direct at your events? Card table in the front yard?

Here are 5 tips to help you to sell more content!

 1. Speak!

Deliver your message in person, and always have copies with you to offer. In person you can easily test different price points, create discounted bundles (once you have multiple titles) and/or provide bonus giveaways. Sign everything. The will audience appreciate it.

2. Local bookstores

Catholic and other local bookstores are often good advocates for area and independent authors. Standard discounts for bookstores is 40% off of your book’s retail price. If you can live with that, great. My personal opinion (as of this writing) is that your book’s presence at a Parish, Catholic or Retreat Center bookstore can certainly help “your brand”, but without very public events and/or a lot of advertising dollars, they will only produce occasional or supplemental sales to your direct and/or online efforts. Go into it with the right expectations.

3. Other retailers

50% off of retail price is a standard discount level for other types of retailers like gift shops, grocery stores, and restaurants. Don’t dismiss these options. Put your thinking cap on and keep a running list of possible connections you could make with other businesses. You may be surprised where you can create some visibility for yourself.

4. Corporate sponsorships

Corporate sponsorships are another avenue for the ambitious! Look for business people to help sponsor (pay for) bundles of books for you to give away or offer at dramatic discounts. The Chicken Soup for the Soul writers sold many of their millions of books with this strategy.

5. Translations and alternative editions.

You got English covered, but what about Spanish? Consider getting your work translated to grow your audience. Also what about audio? What about breaking your book up into a series of chapter installments? What about YouTube or Vimeo videos? Lot’s of people want your content but have a hard time finding quality reading time. Listening, skimming small portions via email, or watching may work better for them.

***

John C. Connell wrote the non-fiction titles: Catholics Mean Business & Catholics Have Courage, and the Novella – Eyewitness!

As a practicing Catholic concerned with building bridges, not walls, with people from all walks of life, speaker, business grad from the school of hard knocks and book lover, he uses his outlook and experience to reach, encourage, motivate and nurture the soul at work.  His readers are his mission. Find him here.

The Kindle sample: Design your ebook to take advantage of this overlooked sales tool

kindle sample books SIZED

When I was a kid, I had no idea I would someday become an independently published author. I had lots of ideas about what I wanted to do when I grew up: archaeology, travel writing, commercial art. One of my childhood aspirations was to design books. I loved all the subtleties of type and layout, the feel and smell of ink on pages. I was fascinated by the differences between books published in English and those in foreign languages — should the title run down the spine, or up? Should the table of contents be in the front or the back? And what were those wonderful typefaces they used in French books?

Despite my years as a graphic designer and typographer, working on marketing brochures and newsletters, I never got a chance to be a book designer — that is, until I became an indie author. Now that my childhood fantasy has become a practical reality, one that can have a serious impact on how my books are received, I have to think seriously about the choices I make in putting my books together —
always with an eye toward the reader’s experience, not my own design preferences.
Continue reading The Kindle sample: Design your ebook to take advantage of this overlooked sales tool