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Posts Tagged ‘Amazon.com’

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

The saying goes, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” I’ve lived that saying for a long time, unfortunately, so when I saw The Money Book by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese I wondered what sage (unusable) advice I would find between the covers. I wondered if it was going to be another Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a book that promises to give you secrets to accumulating wealth, but never delivers.

To be honest, I first picked it up because I liked the cover (remember the 8-second rule?). I decided to take a look inside when I realized they were speaking specifically to people like myself, a part-timer trying to make enough to eventually go freelance.

Read the rest.
This blog, The Road to Writing, will be discontinued Dec. 31, 2011. If you would like to continue receiving great tips and inspirational posts please remember to subscribe to my new blog by RSS or email for LOL Mondays, Spirit Wednesdays and Toolbox Saturdays.

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Ahhhh. The sweet smell of success… or almost success.

As some of you may remember, I’ve been diligently working on creating an audio book version of Simply Prayer. I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the recording and editing of it.

Now comes the really hard part: deciding how to get it to the public.

I’ve come across several possibilities, but they each have limitations and restrictions. Here is what I’ve discovered thus far:

CreateSpace

CreateSpace offers the opportunity to sell music, and in a round about way audio books, as both CD’s and mp3’s.

Unfortunately, if you plan to upload your tracks then you need to be able to put them into a .zip file. The only other way is to send them a master CD. Ummm… I thought that’s what I was asking them to do — create a CD.

Also the entire “album” can’t be over 78 minutes long. Most audio books are much longer, so I’m not sure how that would work unless I break it into more than one “album.”

Then there’s the problem of file type. CreateSpace will only accept .aiff or mp3. I can create mp3 files, but according to the FAQ it’s not recommended because you lose quality.

Lulu

Lulu offers the opportunity to sell your music, and as such your audio book, as a CD. The bad  thing is that, unless you already have an account with Lulu, it’s difficult to find any information on exactly what to do to get a CD made.

They accept .wav, .mp3 and .aif files that you upload to their site.

Apparently, there have been some problems with running out of space on audio CD’s, given that they have a forum topic on just that. They suggest the following to keep that from happening:

For MP3

  • Biterate: 192kps
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz.

For WAV

  • 16 bit
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz
  • Audio Format: PCM

Of course, their CD’s only have 70 minutes of play time. Again, gotta figure out what to do with an audio book, which is much longer than the average audio CD play time.

CDBaby

With CDBaby you get mp3’s and they’ll sell copies of your physical CD. Of course, that means if you’re going to sell physical CD’s you’ll have to find someone to create at least one. CDBaby can duplicate and replicate, but apparently can’t create.

The best thing CDBaby offers is digital distribution channels like iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic and many more.

If you sell physical CD’s through CDBaby, you can drop ship the CD’s to them, but only the number they request. They won’t warehouse extras.

One last drawback is the $39 fee. It is a one time fee and comes with a lot of extras. Unfortunately, those extras are great for indie musicians (their target market), but not so much for indie authors.

On a side note, CDBaby has a companion site called BookBaby where you can sell your eBooks. I’ll be checking into that one soon.

Kunaki

Perhaps the best option, Kunaki offers 5 disc or fewer manufacturing/assembly with jewel case for about $1. There’s no set-up fee and the UPC bar code is free.

You can use Kunaki to drop ship to other retailers, such as CDBaby or Amazon, or you can sell directly through them. You can also drop ship to individual customers.

One drawback is that you must sell at least one CD every 180 days or your item will be deleted. Another is you have to use a PC in order to use their software.

As for the amount of space available per CD, that’s unknown. I would assume it’s similar to Lulu and CreateSpace with between 70 to 78 minutes.

If you’re looking for something akin to a POD for an audio CD, Kunaki is probably the best bet.

So where do I go from here?

At this point, I’m probably going to use more than one company. I like Kunaki’s deal for CD’s and CDBaby for digital distribution. I may change my mind later, as I have with the Lulu vs. CreateSpace debate (I’m still not entirely happy with either), but for the moment this is what I’ll be trying for my first audio book.

I would love to hear from others out there who have made and sold audio books. Have you used any of these companies? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what/who did you use?

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In 2010 I used Lulu to publish my first book, Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Then, this year (2011), I decided to give CreateSpace a try when I published Simply Prayer. Although the two POD’s are similar, there are some differences I thought others might like to know about before choosing one or the other. Here’s the breakdown of the two.

Lulu

Cons:

  • Not very user-friendly. It took a lot of time to search through the FAQs and community answers to find out how to put Lulu’s free ISBN on my copyright page. By the time I was finished I had a major headache.
  • Difficult to add Lulu’s free ISBN to the copyright page. I first had to upload my .pdf to Lulu, then have them issue the ISBN (took only a minute or two), then add that to my copyright page and then re-upload the new .pdf.
  • Look Inside! not even an option. Let’s face it, even if you’re buying a book online you want to be able to see between the pages to get an idea if this book is right for you. I did find a work-around, but it’s not the same as having an Amazon Look Inside! right there with the buy button.



Pros:

  • It’s free. This was super important since I’m just starting out and have a very small budget.
  • You’re book will be listed on Amazon. It can take a couple weeks, but it does show up pretty quick. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered those supposed listings with other booksellers often show the book as “out of stock.” Not exactly helpful for distribution.
  • Great cover designer. I was able to design the front and back, then import them as .jpgs into a basic template. Lulu even added spine text, though they did warn me about the possibility of the text wrapping to one side or the other based on the small page count. This was very important to me as I’ve donated my books to church libraries that will be including them on bookshelves.



CreateSpace

Cons:

  • Cover designer difficult to use. I like designing my own covers (though I hope someday to employ someone much better), but I found designing a full cover (front, back and spine) very difficult. The CreateSpace instructions for creating a full cover were a little hard to figure out. Also, CreateSpace refused to add spine text, even though the page count for Simply Prayer was a little larger than my first book.
  • Questioned about picture quality. What I was asked to do was change every picture to “300 dpi” or risk poor print quality. While that might not seem like a big thing, for someone who understands the nature of printing houses it was an irritation because it’s not the dpi that matters. What’s important is the ppi (pixels per inch), which I knew were perfectly fine.
  • Look Inside! feature can take up to 8 weeks. Sure, waiting 8 weeks is better than not having the feature at all, but it does wear on one’s patience.



Pros:

  • It’s free.
  • Very user-friendly. With step-by-step instructions and simple buttons, I didn’t need to read any FAQs or search the community pages to figure out how to upload my book.
  • Easy to add CreateSpace’s free ISBN to copyright page. I was able to get the ISBN before uploading a .pdf, so adding it to my copyright page meant only creating one .pdf for the entire process.
  • Listing on Amazon. Of course, that’s where free distribution ends. If you have the budget, then getting the larger distribution package might be the way to go.



Those are the biggest pros and cons I found between Lulu and CreateSpace. Everything else was similar, as far as I could tell. For those of you who have used either or both, or even someone else, what are your experiences?

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Editing. Possibly one of the most loathed words in a writer’s vocabulary. It’s a necessary evil, but with the right tools and some help from people who understand what you’re doing you won’t need to put it under getting a root canal on your to-do list.

The first thing you need to do is to evaluate is your budget. That may seem like an odd thing to suggest, but there’s a good reason I have. If you can afford to pay a professional to help you in the editing process, then do it. They get paid because they know what they’re doing.

Once you’ve checked your budget and know what you can afford, decide who you need to hire. I recommend reading Joel Friedlander‘s post What Every Self-Publisher Ought to Know About Editing before actually hiring anyone because each part of the editing process calls for a different skill set. You want to hire the right person for the right job.

Once you know who you need it’s a matter of searching for the individual who can do the job within your budget limitations. Start with your POD or print house. They often have editing packages that easily fit into smaller budgets. If you don’t find what you need there, then ask around. Most self-published/Independent Authors will be happy to make referrals. It’s in our best interest to help other self-publishers/Independent Authors find people who will do a great job editing.

Perhaps you’ve looked at your finances and found you have a big fat ZERO in your budget for editing expenses. Let me just say, not having a budget for editing expenses does not excuse you from the process.

If you absolutely cannot afford to pay someone to edit your work, then you must be even more vigilant when you do your own first edits and re-writes. Invest in some good style and grammar books (you may find them in your local library or, better yet, second-hand on Amazon.com). I like Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and the most recent edition of the AP Stylebook. You can also find a lot of free editing information on the internet just by doing a quick search. Just remember that searching for an answer can be time-consuming (especially if you tend to get side-tracked) and sometimes confusing.

Once you’ve done plenty of editing on your own, it’s time to submit your work to a writers’ group like Critters or Absolute Write. Be sure you choose the right forum when you submit your work or you’ll be in for some nasty returns. Keli Gwyn of Romance Writers on the Journey: Resources for romance writers en route to publication suggests in her post “How to Find Critique Partners” that writers find a critique partner in their particular genre.

Another good idea is to let plenty of people read your work before sending it to your POD or print house. I particularly like getting the insights of my non-writer friends since they make up the largest part of my readership.

Whether you have money to burn or a wallet full of moths, there is no excuse for skipping the rigors of good editing on The Road to Writing.

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The Money Book

The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs

The saying goes, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” I’ve lived that saying for a long time, unfortunately, so when I saw The Money Book by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese I wondered what sage (unusable) advice I would find between the covers. I wondered if it was going to be another Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a book that promises to give you secrets to accumulating wealth, but never delivers.

To be honest, I first picked it up because I liked the cover (remember the 8-second rule?). I decided to take a look inside when I realized they were speaking specifically to people like myself, a part-timer trying to make enough to eventually go freelance. The very first example the authors shared felt almost like a story from my own past. I was sold. I immediately found out if I could by it on Amazon for less than Borders was asking for it, which I could. So I shelved the copy I was perusing, went home, and bought a used copy.

From there it’s been an exciting ride of digging out past financial statements, cringing before lists of foolish purchases and working diligently on putting together a plan to make a go of it — financially speaking. (My husband thought their no nonsense language regarding credit cards being “dragons” we must slay was particularly well said. :)) I’m also looking forward to increasing the percentages we’re able to sock away for ourselves in the various savings accounts Kiernan and D’Agnese suggest those of us “with not-so-regular jobs” open.

The Money Book plan is so simple, I think even we can follow it, which is a great big step in the right direction on The Road to Writing.

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A few weeks ago I signed up for Google Book Search as a way to help market Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises for Our Lives. According to Ray Robinson of Dog Ear Publishing, “Authors involved in Google Book Search – all authors have this option – had sales far above the authors who chose NOT to have their books included.” From what Ray said on the Dog Ear Publishing site about Google Book Search it would:

  • create new ways for potential readers to find your book
  • give readers the opportunity to browse a small portion of your book
  • show readers where to buy your book
  • let you find new ways to sell books and earn income from your book

So why wouldn’t you want to be a part of something that would boost your sales? Here’s my take on it so far:

  • It has given a new way for potential readers to find my book. In fact I’m #2 if you type in the entire title. However, if you don’t know the entire title, best do an advanced search for the book or you won’t find it.
  • For some reason I have yet to figure out, my book doesn’t have the browse feature. It doesn’t even have a preview of the cover! If cover design is one of the most important aspects of selling a book, then tell me, what chance does a book with no cover preview have? This is something I’ve got to see if I can work out.
  • Indeed it does show you where to buy the book. I was psyched to see that Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises for Our Lives is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (though, again, no cover image on B&N and apparently it’s “out of stock”).
  • As for “new ways to sell books and earn income” I’ve yet to discover any.

I can’t say that I really expected a huge jump in sales, but I was very disappointed in the total lack of results. After taking a look at the entry in Google Book Search for Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises for Our Lives, though, I’m not at all surprised. I’m certainly going to look into improving what I can, but I have to wonder how much Lulu has to do with the dismal appearance. Then again, it could be a simple thing to overcome just like my store link was.

As always, this Independent Author is continuing to reach out to potential readers in anyway she can on The Road to Writing.

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We have the flu at our house, so this will be just a short post (and probably a bit scattered in its organization, so I apologize).  I hope to write more on the subject at a later date.  Perhaps by then I’ll have tried all the techniques suggested in the following links and will be able to give you a heads up on what’s worked best for me.

To begin, a lot of first time Independent Authors may think using a print ad will help sell their book.  Not so, says Morris Rosenthal.  Think about when you last purchased a book.  Did you buy it because you saw a great print ad that convinced you to buy it?  Not too likely.  You probably bought it either because you got a peek at what was inside or you heard a great review either by someone you know or another online customer (assuming you bought it somewhere like Amazon).

Going along with that is an article by Sam Henrie that gives tips on how to best market your book.  He says that authors shouldn’t focus on brick-and-mortar stores, but rather on online stores like Amazon and on online marketing.  At the very end of his article he states that every author should have a web site, which will help sell the books.  Some suggest publishing completely online.

On that, Morris Rosenthal says in his article “Book Marketing — Reasearch Competing Title Sales And How To Market Books Online”, “You can’t give the whole book away for free and not expect it to affect sales.”  I’ve been considering putting a chapter or two for potential readers on my web site (which I have yet to build :P).   We’ll see how that works for me.  According to Rosenthal, his sales jumped 200% when he put only the first three chapters of his book Start Your Own Computer Business: The Unembellished Guide on his site.

As for actual strategies on how to market a book online, I’ve discovered a wonderful free eBook called Plug Your Book by Steve Weber.  Weber says, “A single strategy won’t work, but a combined effort will produce results, and the effect will be cumulative.”  I plan on doing as he suggests and reading through the book entirely, then attacking each strategy in turn.  I’ll be keeping track of my progress on a calendar, as he also suggests, and plan on updating all of you as well.

Well, my “short post” wasn’t as short as I had planned, but sometimes that’s the way it goes on The (long) Road to Writing.

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