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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Kindle

Second Mouse -- An Excerpt

Here's the story of my own decision to become a self-publisher. It is taken directly from the book.

As I negotiated the paths of writing and publishing for a general audience rather than an academic one, I learned a lot. I knew I could no longer rely on a professional identity to pave my way, and that I had only made a start at building a viable platform as an author. I recognized the warning signs as publishers reacted to a faltering economy by restricting their publications to authors they could count on to generate huge sales. And I had identified my niche among potential readers.

My real breakthrough, however, came as a result of some random questions from a casual acquaintance. “I’m betting that you write exactly the kinds of books you most enjoy reading,” he said. “So how do you choose? When you walk into a bookstore, do you browse or head straight to pick up what you want? Do you buy best sellers or look for hidden gems? Do you buy hardbacks or paperbacks? Do you want a quick read, or a hefty volume to fill long hours? What kind of cover makes you pick up a book and examine it? If you know what kind of book you buy, you’ll understand what your readers want from you.”

His point was well taken, but my answers brought me up short. You see, I am a dedicated Kindle owner. Gadgets fascinate me, and I’m frequently the first to adopt new technology. I bought my Kindle in 2008, and since then my book purchases have dwindled to a trickle. I’ve purchased a couple of used editions of books that are out of print, but I don’t buy new books unless I can get them in an electronic edition.

That surprises even me. I was intrigued by the idea of a Kindle. But I’ve always loved the feel and heft and smell of books. They fill my office, every end table, and overflow the living room book case. I thought reading on a Kindle would be a novelty, but I didn’t expect the device to become transparent, leaving only me and the printed word—just the way a book does. I found the Kindle much easier to carry around than a stack of books, and my hands didn’t get tired holding a heavy book. The cat quit stealing my bookmarks because they no longer dangled out of the book.

I knew I had come to depend on my Kindle in ways I never expected. Kindle provides immediate and inexpensive gratification. If I hear about a book I want to read, I can buy it and start reading in less than a minute. I upload research documents that I want to have instantly available. I now have an application that allows me to read Kindle texts on my desk computer, my iPhone, or my iPad. All those devices sync themselves, so that I never lose my place or misplace a text when I move from one device to another. What kind of a book do I choose for myself? Obviously, the answer is one that comes in an electronic version.

And there was the answer to all my publishing dilemmas. Kindle editions (and the other versions that are now coming out) don’t require a traditional publisher. In fact, in some cases, having a traditional publishing contract limits or squelches an author’s ability to jump into the e-book market. I learned how serious that problem is when I tried to talk the publisher of A Scratch with the Rebels into doing a Kindle edition. Eventually they tried, but they did a really poor job of it and refused to advertise that the e-book was available because it cut into their profits.

I was about to become a self-published author. I have to admit that the idea made me slightly uncomfortable in the beginning, because I was still carrying around some leftover baggage from my days as an academic. Most professors have run into one or two folks who use a vanity press to publish their books because no one else will touch them. Within the university, publishing with a vanity press—in effect paying somebody to publish your book—was a career killer. My first hurdle was recognizing the difference between a vanity press (which charges a hefty sum to produce a book) and a self-publishing company (which allows an author to contract for services only when production assistance is necessary).

My production company of choice was CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. If they accept a book for publication, they do not charge for the privilege. They will provide guidance on how to prepare a manuscript for Kindle, and they will carry the Kindle edition in the Amazon catalog. The author pays nothing up front; the company takes a small cut of any sales for its handling and delivery of the e-book.

 They offer more elaborate services, of course. I wanted my Beyond All Price to be available in trade paper, so I contracted for their printing services. That also meant that they would sell my books on Amazon, thus releasing me from the need to distribute all my books myself. Because I wanted the book to look as professional as possible, I also paid a layout person to handle things like interior appearance, margins, and pagination. Those were services I could not do myself.

Traditional publishers, of course, do more than print a book, but I felt fairly confident of my ability to provide those other services. I already knew exactly how I wanted my cover to look, and I owned the photograph I wanted to use. All I had to do was prepare the cover art and submit it to the printer. All manuscripts need editing; traditional publishers have their own editors to proofread, catch stupid errors, and clean up grammar and punctuation. In my case, I had years of editing experience of my own, and a couple of talented friends who were willing to comb through the manuscript to catch any errors I missed. I did not think I needed to pay an editor. Publishers also assume some responsibility for marketing a book, although in recent years they have demanded that authors do more and more of their own marketing. Since I already had an Internet presence, as well as a small but loyal base of followers, and since I was writing for an electronic audience, it was easy to do my own marketing.

Was it the right decision? So far, I have to believe it was. In the current market, bookstores are closing and e-book sales are leaping ahead. Within the first three months, I had sold more copies of Beyond All Price on Amazon and Kindle than the total three-year sales of my last traditionally published book. Plus, Kindle pays 70% royalties, while my traditional publishing contracts offered 5% to 12%. Oh, I’m not going to get rich from the sales I generate. But I have paid off all my publishing costs, and I am in complete control of future sales. I’m my own publisher, and I love it.


Get the rests of the story here:

Kindle Versus Starbucks



            VERSUS








In March and April I experimented with Amazon's "KDP Select" program. One of the main advantages, they say, is that an author can plan several "Free Days" promotions. The concept seems clear, and it follows a well-known advertising pattern. When a new Starbucks opens, they offer free samples, hoping that one taste will bring customers back again. In the same way, offering some of one's books for free promotes more readership, and the effect carries over when the promotion is finished. Readers who sample one book are expected to be more willing to purchase other volumes by the same author.

Did it work? To a certain extent, it did, but I have a few doubts. Enthusiasm ran high for the books I offered for free. A few readers chose to download "The Dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux" during the free promotion. Sales for that particular title doubled over the next six weeks, although the total for that 20-year-old book was not exactly overwhelming.

The larger effect, however, had to do with the next promotion, where downloads of "A Scratch with the Rebels" were ten times as numerous. And after that, the promotion of "Beyond All Price" took off for the stratosphere. Downloads mounted into the hundreds, a multiple of 100 books downloaded for every one of the "Dilemma" downloads. So it works, right?

Maybe not! The enthusiast did not last. By the time I opened the give-away offer for "The Road to Frogmore," readers appeared to be tired. Give-away numbers fell off again, down to about 25% of the previous offer. But what was worse, regular sales started to fall off, too.

Now I understand that there are readers out there with good intentions but poor follow-through. They snatch up a free book, planning to read it, but somehow, it just never gets opened. I've done that myself. So the reader who has now downloaded three books but not started any of them may be disinclined to add a fourth to the "good-intentions" pile. OK, fair enough. You probably lose interest in a cup of coffee that has been allowed to get cold, too.

But I wonder if there isn't something else going on.  I recently reviewed my own reading patterns in my Kindle library and I find that the more I pay for a book, the more inclined I am to read it, regardless of content -- something about belonging to a generation that was taught that you get what you pay for, perhaps. (Which is why, perhaps, people are still willing to pay more for a Starbucks coffee than they are for a similar beverage at McDonalds.)

At any rate, I'm not going to be offering any more free promotions in the next few months. My experiment distributed a grand total of 985 free Kindle editions, which is about as much as I can afford to do. That should be quite enough to keep those readers busy for a while. Now we'll test the rest of the theory--the part that says, "The more books people read, the more they will want." (Books, like coffee, can be addictive.) I'll be keeping fingers crossed for improving sales figures on my newest books.

My two recent publications, "Damned Yankee" and "Yankee Reconstructed" are obviously connected to one another. They are the first two volumes of a series based on the fictional Grenville family of South Carolina. Volume one is set in the Civil War; volume two covers the years immediately after the war. (And yes, volume three is already in the works. I've finished one draft of the first sixty-percent of "Yankee Sisters." ) Faithful readers can expect  the third part of the series to appear sometime in early 2017. And if you haven't met the Grenvilles yet, now is the time to start reading.

One final reminder: the jury is still out on Amazon's "Kindle Owner's Lending Library" program. My books have been enrolled for the past six weeks, and I am pleasantly surprised to see how many people have joined the paid-subscription plan that allows them to read as many books as they like. The reports that come to me show only the number of pages read, not the number of readers, but the page totals are higher than I expected. The benefit there, from my point of view, is that I get paid something for each page read.  It amounts to only a fraction of a cent per page, but it's still an income generator.

So I encourage you to keep reading, in whatever fashion suits you best. If you are a "Prime" member, you can download one Kindle volume for free every month. If you join the KOLL subscription plan, you can get as many books free as you want. And if  you are not the joining type, please remember that most books on Kindle cost less than a large drink from Starbucks. That $3.99 to $5.99 book will last longer than your Starbucks double latte, and without all the calories!

Do You Known What Kindle Readers Think?


Do You Fit This Image of a Kindle Reader?  
Do Your Readers Share These Traits?

Shared from http://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2015/09/09/anatomy-kindle-owner/




What I Did with My (Last Week of) Summer

What I Did with My (Last Week of ) Summer

The idea of writing a children’s book about a teddy bear grew out of a small disaster in my own family. When I first started thinking about becoming a writer after retirement, this was the story that came to mind. i did my homework. i learned about page sizes and font sizes and the seemingly unbreakable rule that a picture book must have exactly 32 pages. I found that almost all children’s publishers worked with agents, not authors, and that agents who handled children’s books were hard to find. I discovered that most picture books were illustrated by professional artists hired by the publisher, not the author.

All of this sounded like a lot of work for a 32-page book, but i gamely set out to give it a try. I plotted my 32 pages and squeezed the story into a 1000-word bundle. I sweet-talked my husband into invading a local motel with me so that we could take pictures that I could show to an illustrator . And I started the long, thankless task of writing query letters to agents and publishers. Only a few even bothered to respond, and every one of them turned me down because I had never written a children’s book before. Sigh!

So I wrote grown-up novels instead -- six of them -- and published them. Meanwhile, the little story languished — paper copies in a desk drawer, and the powerpoint files I had used to design my pages lost among the files of an old laptop.  . . .  Until! . . .  Until last week, when Amazon sent out a short announcement that they were making available a free Kindle-based program that could take a powerpoint file and format it for a new section of Amazon called Kindle Kids. It was the solution to my every problem.

I ordered the free download, dug out the old laptop, and found the teddy bear story. It was an amazingly simple process: open the powerpoint and make any needed changes — save it as a .pdf file — open it with Kindle Kids Book Creator — make any other changes — save it as a .mobi file (which it does automatically) — and upload ti to Kindle.  Unless you decide to do a complete re-write, the whole thing can be done in about two hours. Then the KKBK guides you through setting the price and the reading levels.  I found only one glitch: right now the page-counter doesn’t work, so it labels all books as being one page long. You’ll have to take my word for it that this is a regulation 32-page picture book.

And here it is— “Teddy Takes a Road Trip” — available only on Kindle or other electronic devices with a Kindle reader.   It is listed as being for children from 3 to 6 years old or for pre-kindergarten through first grade. (I would add that it is also for any parent who remembers a beloved teddy bear!) The list price is $3.99, but you can get it with free shipping through Amazon Prime, if you are a member, or read it for free if you belong to “kindle unlimited.”


Nobody's Perfect!

With just three days to go, I've been busy all day punching buttons.  I've given the "PRINT IT" word to CreateSpace, and they in turn have created my "Damned Yankee" book page for their own site, so if you want to order a print copy, the book is technically available, although you wouldn't receive it until May 1 or thereafter.  CreateSpace has also forwarded the book to Amazon, and the word on that is that the paperback book will become available in 3 to 5 days.  It may appear in their listings earlier, but again, it will take a couple of days to fulfill any orders.

My next project was to prepare the Kindle edition.  That one took most of the morning because of all the details that needed to be filled in.  Then I started the upload process, which involves letting the upload take place, followed by formatting checks, spell checks, etc.  The file was rejected once because of three spelling errors.  To correct them, I had to resubmit the entire file.  Then, with the second round of checks, I realized that there was an error in the ISBN, which required a third upload.  Everything is set to go now, but because Kindle publication takes only 4 to 6 hours, I won't give the final "OK, publish it" command until Wednesday evening.  It should be there when you wake up Thursday morning.

I'm pretty well satisfied by now that the Kindle version will be as good as it can possibly be.  But of course, in the process, I had to realize that those same three typos will appear in the print edition, and I'm obsessing over them.  It's too late to stop the print editions, of course, so I just have to hope that most readers will not notice 3 types in a book of 105,000 words. As a percentage, that works out to 0.0000285% of the words are incorrectly spelled. Maybe I should offer a prize for the person who spots them all!

What's next? Well, among other things, the Katzenhaus website needs to be re-worked to take into account this latest publication.  But that's a project for another day.  For tonight, I'm off to a dinner meeting -- if the tornado warnings don't get us first!