My Babelcube Experience (part 2) Getting Interesting

translate buttonMy optimism for self-pub opportunities spiked when I heard about Babelcube and their book translation services. I filled out a profile, uploaded books and began working with translators. I also wrote a blog post on that initial aspect (see part 1 of My Babelcube Experience).

Now comes part 2, what I’ve learned since a few translations have just been published. The answer is a fair amount. Some notes:

Babelcube uses Draft2Digital as a distributor, which doesn’t distribute to Amazon anymore so how does that work? Not sure, but it might explain why these titles went live two weeks ago to Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Scribd, but just today on Amazon and Google. Support mentioned they’re switching distributors.

(Save 92% Sell Ebooks on Amazon and Major Retailers)

Full length novels are much harder to get translated than shorter works or non-fiction. I still haven’t had any offers on my novels that are 96,000 and 105,000 words, but every other book has been translated, is being translated or has received offers.

Babelcube Spanish Book WebsitesNon-fiction seems easier to get deals. Perhaps it’s because the writing is simpler. How-to books attract attention, here and apparently abroad. One thing to beware of for authors of how-to guides: recognize any differences that exist in America (or your home nation) compared to the final destination. For example, my guides deal with websites and software that are popular in the US but not always elsewhere, so some changes were made accordingly. It helped to point that out to the translators ahead of time.

Take your time getting qualified readers to check the sample offer. Why rush into a decision when the book may take a few months once you agree on a deal? Babelcube doesn’t give advice or support there, leaving each author to find a solution. Fiverr, Facebook and Yahoo answers are places to get translations checked if you don’t have friends that read well in certain languages. However, you may have to take the word of strangers you don’t really know or trust.

Don’t ask proofreaders to read more than a few assorted paragraphs unless you’re giving something in return. If you have multiple books and offers in Spanish, for example, try not to wear out your Spanish-reading friends by asking them to read and critique large sections of each title.

Babelcube Italian Book Self PublishingDon’t expect masterpieces. These translators are working for free on the hopes of selling books and making a cut on the sale. They’re unlikely to be perfect in what they do. Of course you expect competency, but in some cases you may ask yourself, “Is it better to have something in a foreign language or nothing at all?” These can be hard choices.

Don’t upload MS Word .doc. Instead use .docx–it converts better. My uploads got stuck in a Babelcube cyber-vortex that took several emails and Twitter and Facebook mentions to sort out, segue to the next tip.

Don’t rely on prompt customer support whether you email them, make a post on their Facebook page or @-message them on Twitter. Presently Babelcube has slower than average customer support, which is surprising for a fledgling company that seems to have a good product and a jump on any competition. They should make an effort to speed things up and take social media a bit more seriously, IMO.

Below is the status of some of my titles. The top three have just been published, while the fourth is months away.

Babelcube translation status

There are some good translators out there. There are also some not so great people to beware of.

If you get along well with your translator, add their name to the cover design and give them some kudos in the “About the Author” section. Whatever extra credit you give should help in their interest at marketing the book in their country, which may be easier for them than you.

Part of me wonders if time and tech will make this obsolete. Google translate has come a long way in a few short years. I remember trying the program when it was younger, and it was terrible. These days it’s getting more intelligent fast, especially with non-fiction. Might there be a limited time before Babelcube’s service will be offered by Google and Amazon or some other computerized function?

Now for the real question: how are sales? At this point it hasn’t been enough time. Two of my titles just came out and I’m curious how they’ll do. I hope they aren’t duds because the translators spent several weeks on them. Sales will be a main focus next. Click here to read part 3 of my Babelcube experience.

What do you think about this: good idea, not so good idea or waste of time? Please share comments.

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Facelift or Botch for Amazon Author Central?

Seems like every time I publish something, like a video training course, the internet gives it a new spin. In this case Amazon Author Central profile pages got a facelift which may be a botched job. It appears an effort was made to have more show at the top of the page at the sacrifice of information about each item. This is the new look and I’ll explain the differences:
Amazon Author Central Oct 2014The biography is a thin column beneath the main photo, which shows less text than the old version (I need to shorten the URLs to appear on one line). Also only two photos display, whereas the old version showed a choice of boxes beneath the main one allowing readers to click on eight options. Just one blog post is listed unless you click the “pan sideways” button, where before several blog headlines were shown prominently. It took me a few minutes to figure that out as I am used to scrolling down, not panning sideways. Fortunately you can still scroll down and find the old information, but it’s not as apparent at first glance since it’s further down from the landing zone. The video area shows higher on the page but only one, where before there was a choice of eight like the photos. “Author Updates” have replaced “Latest Tweet” and “Blog Posts” so that’s kind of a toss-up. The horizontal book presentation has a lack of reviews displayed. This is a bit concerning for books with many good reviews, in the event people don’t scroll down further to see the reviews. Although for books with great covers and few reviews, it might help a bunch.

The image below is from the UK Author Central, which never displayed blog posts and must be next in line for the facelift (France already got hers, Germany and Japan waiting).

Amazon Author Central Oct 2014 2Perhaps it’s just a matter of getting used to the changes, but at first glance I prefer the old version. If they could figure out a way to add the reviews to the horizontal book display, I’d like it better. Plus the photos and video options from before were a nice touch.

What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments. Have you seen your new look and made any changes?

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2014 Digital Author and Indie Self-Publishing Conference LA

digital author and self publishing conferenceThe Annual Digital Author and Indie Self-Publishing Conference is focused on the new paradigms for authors in an increasingly digital world where the publishing giants are Amazon, Apple, Smashwords and other digital resources, rather than the Big Five Publishers. As the market changes, many authors are now publishing through a growing field of Independents, or becoming their own publisher.

This year’s conference takes place from Oct. 17th – 19th at Los Angeles Valley College.

Attendees can “turn back time” and get in at last months’ prices by going to the club rate here:

Or they can still get the 2-for-1 rate here:

Additionally, as faculty I (Jason Matthews) am entitled to bring a free guest, but I need to know immediately if you would like to attend.

Additionally again, I can offer a free scholarship or two to deserving clients, who should attend this conference but just can’t afford anything. Seriously. I can award the prize on my behalf. Pretty cool, just let me know.

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Authorly for Book Apps

authorly bear(This article by Jason Matthews first appeared on TheBookDesigner.)

Authorly turns books into apps. Don’t feel bad if you’ve heard the term a thousand times but still don’t know exactly what an “app” is; the tech learning curve never ends. App is short for application though that probably doesn’t clarify much.

This is similar to enhanced ebooks (EEBs), something we discussed in a previous post. Since the digital medium is capable of so much more than mere ink on mere paper, this boils down to storytelling helpers like audio, video, even reader options to the direction and outcome of a storyline. In theory, apps engage readers with major possibilities including:

  • narration and sound effects
  • animations and visual effects
  • hotspots
  • plot choices and alternative endings
  • questions and answers
  • forum participation with other readers
  • word-to-word highlighting
  • author interviews and more

Many of those advanced features aren’t commonly used today, though that could change fast. The short answer is an app can make any book more interactive and improve the user experience. Ebook apps are predominantly in illustrated children’s books, but other uses should expand to every genre and any book. Those that are short on text and heavy on other elements, like images or video, are perfect candidates. Think cookbooks, comics, travel guides, any form of education, etc., while also imagining possibilities for fun extras in mystery, thriller and romance genres.

Authorly is a web-based digital publishing system that enables anyone to design their own book app, even with a do-it-yourself option. That’s exciting because not long ago if you wanted an app and weren’t ultra tech savvy, you’d need to hire a designer and pay handsomely for it, a real gamble that left many authors deep in the red. iBooks Author from Apple performs a similar service but it’s only been accessible to Apple users via the iBooks Store, which left many unable to utilize it. Authorly publishes these apps to Apple iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Appstore and the Nook App Marketplace. Anyone with an Apple or Android device can create and buy an Authorly app.

How difficult is it for technophobes?

It’s not much harder than learning any new software and requires no programming skills. It utilizes drag and drop features.

What does it cost and what are the terms?

Authorly has a free do-it-yourself program. They also have paid versions ($20/page, less for bulk orders) if you’d like their pros to help out. (Think of a page as an individual screen of images and accompanying text.) Authors choose the price of the finished product. On sales, Authorly keeps 20% of the royalties while the retailers take another 30%, leaving the author with the final 50%.

CEO Adam Kaslikowski reports the majority of authors prefer the paid services while approximately 25% choose the DIY program. Because Authorly has created such a buzz, there is currently a queue of several weeks for apps to be produced and uploaded to retailers. They are adding to their staff to keep up with demand. Adam also mentioned the large number of illustrated books for children, comics and educational books using the service.

Using It

Authorly was founded a few years ago, but in February of 2014 they opened the self-publishing branch. I played around with it. The program appears to have been built around concepts for picture books, designed to work with individual pages that consist of images and text. I uploaded some to get my feet wet. At first glance, it’s similar to creating a Power Point but with fewer gadgets and options.

Authorly project example

The website and actual software have a distinct beta-stage feel. In my first moments I ran into obstacles with simple tasks, like losing text boxes after creating them by clicking my cursor somewhere else. Unfortunately the onsite “Help” tab currently goes to a 404 Page Not Found link. That led me to try another browser, and switching from Firefox to Chrome made a big difference, which helped getting things to stay put. I then added images, video, text and brief audio clips of me narrating sentences. The next task was to play around with new slides and enhancements. Like many authors, I’m familiar with programs like MSWord, Power Point and Google Presentations so I assumed adding elements, editing and assigning animations would be similar on Authorly as to those common programs, but that isn’t really the case. In my opinion it’s less intuitive for a first time user, causing me to send an email to request tutorial info on basics. Even a YouTube search of “Authorly Tutorial” currently yields nothing, which may be an indicator of how new it is. (A screen-cast of one their pros creating a project would work wonders.) The other surprise was not being able to view what little I had created, to see it as it would be seen with a Preview or Present mode. Maybe I wasn’t doing it properly, but again without any tutorial guidance, that was my take. My guess is these things will see improvements in the user-friendliness department in the near future.

To get a feel for how some initial projects look coming out of Authorly, which were probably created by their pros, see the video below (more complex animations are in the works):

Melissa Pilgrim is an author who creates projects for all mediums—film, TV, theatre and books. One of her children’s books, Animal Motions (Indigo River Publishing), is an illustrated story that was recently turned into an interactive app via Authorly. Melissa is among the 75% of authors who enlist the help of Authorly’s design team. She says, “Working with Authorly was a wonderful experience. They encouraged me to design all the concepts dealing with the animations and audio hotspots. Since I am new to app technology, they also let me know what was possible to do in regards to the animations now, and what will be available later in the future as the technology progresses.

Animal Motions“The word-by-word highlighting on the ‘Read To Me’ and ‘Auto Play’ options was a valuable feature they wanted to add, for they felt it would help children learn to read as they had fun acting out and listening to the story—and I completely agree! The added sound effects/hotspots they provided were fantastic too (which were each based on a list of sounds I requested), for they allow children to learn the sounds animals really make.”(See the Animal Motions app at Amazon, iTunes or Melissa’s website.)

Authorly also has created their own library called BookFair, a monthly subscription service to unlimited access to the books selected by staff.


I have some thoughts for authors considering adding elements like these. First and foremost, recognize that the more data your book contains, the more it will probably cost the buyer. If you want videos embedded into a book, it’s wise to keep them as short as possible with smaller file sizes. I’d recommend video clips that are less than a minute. Adam Kaslikowski says $4.99 is a sweet spot for app prices, while $9.99 is an upper limit to avoid.

Another thing to remember is to make sure your app enhances the storytelling of the book, and you’re not just leaping into this as a thing to try for extra sales. Professionalism is a must, something that needs to be reiterated among indie author circles. It would be great to be approved for the BookFair, reserved for the best Authorly apps. Also note that changes can be made after publishing, but there is typically a charge based on the amount of change.

I’m also hoping the future design of the software is more accommodating to larger books with more text and less enhancements. For the time being, a novel app will probably need to be made some other way but it would be cool if that were more feasible. Just my opinion. I like the potentials here.

For more information, visit

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Amazon Author Central: Marketing Books Like a Pro

Amazon Author Central video courseA new video course for maximizing your abilities to reach a global audience as an Amazon author. For a limited time a COUPON CODE will be available making the course free: BACKTOSCHOOL (

Indie authors have more ways to sell ebooks with Amazon than at any other retailer because Amazon has enabled so many useful tools for them. Surprisingly, many authors are not using these options at all or not effectively. Authors who make the most of the available tools sell more books and generate more reviews, which helps continue the cycle.

This video walks new and established authors through the steps of doing everything in their power to make the most of their Amazon presence. You’ll learn to:

  • create a complete and efficient Author Central profile for Amazon USA and nations around the world.
  • make Amazon Associate-Affiliate program profiles and benefit from additional commissions on future sales.
  • build Global Amazon links for purchases and reviews to be left in the proper nation worldwide.
  • maximize your Amazon potentials.

Whether inserted in a website, blog, email signature or within the book itself, you’ll discover how easy and wise it is to always use Global Amazon links, which gives you an advantage since it is still not being done by many authors.

Taught by Jason Matthews, author-speaker-blogger-publishing coach, who has mentored thousands of writers with his guide, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks.

It’s time to make of the most of your Amazon potentials. Click here for the FREE COUPON while supplies last.


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