Taking the cake

Books are sometimes destined to become food for silverfish, but a recent family history we designed ended up as party fare. Launched at her 92nd birthday party, Sheilah Hamilton's book dealt with her life and extended family. Her children arranged for the book cover to be printed in edible ink onto her cake, even down to the spine and simulated pages. 

Smashwords and Open Library

It's a whole new publishing world out there. Here's an interesting discussion between Open Library and Smashwords founder Mark Coker. A brief summary of the ethos behind Smashwords:

"Smashwords represents 19,000 indie authors and small presses who handle the writing, editing and pricing of their books. We distribute these titles to major retailers such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel. We believe that authors should maintain the creative and financial control of their work and receive the lion's share of income."

Author Gives Away Ebooks...

Recently received comments regarding self-promotion from Mike Dixon, author's of Curtin Express:

I'm at last having success in promoting myself as an author. I've not started to sell books. That crucial point has not yet been reached. However, people are downloading my free ebooks and they are doing so consistently.

I'm averaging over 40 downloads a day. I start by making the books available through the "free ebook sites" listed on my home page. After that, they seem to generate a following of their own.

I suspect that Facebook plays a part but not directly. Attempts to promote through my own page on Facebook have produced poor results. The same can be said for Twitter and all those other ways that the viral explosion people talk about. They will take you for a ride which can cost a lot in time and money before you realise they are talking nonsense.

My advice is "Get focused". Expose your books to people who are interested in books and forget about everything else.

My remarks apply to works of fiction. A different approach may be appropriate in other areas.

My books are currently available in PDF format.  I have started to convert them to epub via html and calibre (free on net). The steps are (i) use microsoftword to produce document - jpg images may be included. (ii) save for web (iii) convert with calibre - just three clicks on the mouse is all that it takes. Finally, don't forget to support the folks at calibre with a small payment.

The epub format allows your book to be viewed on a small hand-held device (eg iphone). I'll let you know what the outcome is. I suspect epub will greatly increase the number of downloads. There's only one way to find out.

Another Impressive Author Website...

Sue Gillou's book "The Mayan Priest" is currently climbing the Amazon charts and doing especially well on the Kindle platform. Here's a list of some of the promotional factors that have contributed to her success:

The M(e)dium is the M(e)ssage

Ebooks are continuing their blitzgrieg assault on print publishing. Book publishing is starting to go through similar convulsions to the recording industry. Unlike the recording industry, piracy is not a massive issue (yet). But Ebooks are not just replacements for the printed book. They are something very different, and will become more different still. If the ebook does largely replace the printed version, designers, publishers and authors will have to make many adjustments. Ebook readers may expect a much more sophisticated and dynamic interface than a print book could ever supply. Their expectations of what constitutes a 'book' will rapidly alter. Content will shift to match these expectations. And unlike the printed book, which took essentially the same form for several hundred years, the ebook will be subject to continued and rapid development. 

Entry Level Blogging

Many self-published authors (and other clients) have asked us for advice in setting up a website, We usually advise them to set up a blog instead of a static website. Most blogging solutions are free, they are designed to be extremely easy to use, and they invite the owner to keep posting new information, keeping things fresh and interesting for potential readers.
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Google eBooks

Yet another Google service/business has been launched to very little fanfare. Google ebooks offer a huge number of current titles and also older works now out of copyright. Given that Google has scanned a vast swathe of print books already (outraging many publishers) one would think they have a big advantage over other ebook providers. Their ebooks are only available for sale or download in the USA at present, though they promise this will soon expand to other markets. The formats available are PDF and epub. Most older books are available only in PDF format. In a best-case scenario, Google will provide effective competition for Amazon in this market. Google is often good at keeping entry costs low, and may allow publishers to keep more of the sale price of their ebooks.

Selling Your Books Face to Face

Barry Wilks, author of Come in Spinner has this to say about selling his own book:

  1. I have found selling Come in Spinner at local markets successful
  2. I have sold 300 books in 3 months door to door in Armidale - cold canvas - and when I receive copies of Dolores I shall be making similar arrangements. I find personal contact with the customer at the door more successful than any other outlet.
  3. The postcard idea was unsuccessful — a complete loss. I didn't get one sale or even an enquiry. I sent out over 200.

Selling Your Books to Libraries

Besides being one of the most positive and useful institutions in Australia, public libraries are also major book purchasers (in this time of bookstore bloodbaths), so authors should pay attention to them. Jerry Bell, author of Lighting Up Australia had this to say:

I found that librarians rarely responded to the written word. It seems that those doing the ordering are young, and live on the email, so once I began to email the librarian responsible for the ordering  at libraries all over Australia, I got very positive responses. It also helps to stress if a bit of Australian history is involved, as that is seen as desirable. 

Tips from Self-Publishing Authors: Part 3

Steve Jovanoski, author of The Brotherhood:

The reality is, it's up to you to promote your own work. After all, no one cares more about it than you. How well it sells will depend on how hard you're willing to work at promoting it. The first couple of months are the most crucial before the buzz inevitably wears out. Here are some low budget options I used - some worked better than others, some don't work at all. But I think you should try anything you can think of (within reason and with respect in your integrity as a writer in mind). 
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Self Publishing Hints

Although the US book trade is enduring difficult times, self-publishing is more popular than ever. Perhaps that is actually a causal link — declines in traditional publishing lead to increases in non-traditional options. Many self-published books are intended only for a limited audience — the author's family, or a specific group. The Book Designer blogs about options for more ambitious self-publishers. Much of it is US-specific, but there are plenty of ideas that Australian authors can apply to their own promotional campaigns. For a bit of no-nonsense advice from Australia, try this from an established Science Fiction author.

Self-Publishing Author hints: Part 1

Self publishing or small press publishing does not have to be a royal road to obscurity and crates of unsold books. Active, savvy authors can drive healthy book sales. Here are a couple of tips from a multi-thousand selling Australian author:

Jacqueline Dinan, author of "A Woman's War", a work of fiction dealing with World War One, has focussed on giving talks about her book to interested groups. She says that:

  • The book came about because I married a history buff and realised that other than watching ‘The Sullivans’, my knowledge of Australia’s war history, was very limited. So, we set out to write a book for women like me.
  • Writing the book was the history lesson that I never received at either girls’ school that I attended.
  • I present to groups – Rotary, Probus, View, U3A, Legacy, War Widows, Educational, Shrine, RACV Club (they are all keen for speakers)
  • The power point presentation is about the research I did into Women on the Home Front & Men on The Western Front

In addition, Jacqueline was very active in soliciting reviews for her book prior to print publication. Reviewers included the Herald Sun, the Weekly Times and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.

Stay tuned for further practical tips for authors.