Draft2Digital Formatting Improvements

draft2digitalThe jury is still out (my own private jury) on this ebooks distributor, Draft2Digital. Their M.O. is noteworthy–trying to offer the best of what Smashwords does as in distribution to retailers while eliminating the worst of the Smashwords experience as in formatting hoops, delays and formatting hoops. Follow-up to a recent blog post on Draft2Digital–this email below just came on recent improvements:

As many of you are aware, we provide a free formatting and conversion service for your Word documents. Thanks to our beta testers, we have made many improvements to this system over the last several months. Most of these changes have been minor and released as they were completed, but starting today you’ll see this as well:

  • Preserve Scene Break Symbols – We now preserve the symbols you use for scene breaks while still recognizing that it is a scene break.
  • First Line Indent – We no longer indent the first line of a new chapter or scene in accordance with industry standards.
  • Whitespace Scene Breaks – Whitespace scene breaks are now smaller and can be used in places where a small amount of whitespace is desired.
  • User Provided Table of Contents – We can now use an embedded, linked table of contents to detect your chapters. We still do not require a ToC and will generate one for you, but some authors prefer their own.

Note: None of your existing projects will be updated to use this new styling unless you “Save & Continue” on the Acquisitions step of your book. As always, we strongly encourage that you preview any book that you make changes to before approving them for distribution.

We have also made some other changes you might be interested in:

  • CreateSpace Formatting – We have made major improvements to our CreateSpace formatting. Please take a look and tell us what you think!
  • User Provided Epub Repair – We now repair many more common user-provided ePub errors caused by many popular ePub creation programs.

We always welcome your feedback, criticism, and suggestions.

Kris Austin
President and CEO
Draft2Digital, LLC

Makes me wonder how well those documents look after their conversion process. I actually haven’t checked, have you? Mine are probably fine because I learned proper formatting from Smashwords. Yours? Sounds like everyone might want to inspect that D2D ebook they sell on iTunes.

How has your experience with D2D been? Jury still out? Leave a comment.

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LibraryThing for Book Lovers and Indie Authors

librarythingIndie authors, do you know about LibraryThing? It’s a social networking site specifically for book lovers. It’s also a place for authors to present their books, although self-promotion is frowned upon so keep it on the down low. Simply having a presence there may be all you want as far as promotions goes.

From their website;

LibraryThing helps you create a library-quality catalog of books: books you own, books you’ve read, books you’d like to read, books you’ve lent out … whatever grouping you’d like.

Since everyone catalogs online, they also catalog together. You can contribute tags, ratings and reviews for a book, and Common Knowledge (facts about a book or author, like character names and awards), as well as participate in member forums or join the Early Reviewers program. Everyone gets the benefit of everyone else’s work. LibraryThing connects people based on the books they share.

Yes, it’s one more place to list your books, but this one feels smart since it claims 1.4 million book loving members or the world’s largest book club (not sure if that claim is substantiated). You can also link your books to their Amazon page.

Sign-up is free and easy. Then you can add books to your bookshelf or catalog, which can be done with book title or ISBN in the search box. If it doesn’t appear, books can be added manually. LibraryThing gets its book data from Amazon.com and over 700 libraries around the world, including the Library of Congress. When adding your own titles, make sure to load up on smart tags that will help browsers find it with search terms.

librarything authorAll users can have their own profile, which can be set to public or private status. Lists of favorite reads, authors, your library and more can be in the profile. Authors have a special yellow button (right) designating their status as members who’ve also published books. To apply for Author status, visit the LibraryThing Author page for more information. I literally signed up today and was already approved for my Author Page, which you can see if you like.

There’s a lot to do at the site: see a list of the hottest reads, check reviews from others, do chat forums, join groups, find free books and even links to bookstores in your area. Since the site is more geared for talking about books than promoting your own, it’s probably best for book lovers or for authors just to participate in the dialogue. However, it’s also smart to make sure the books you have authored are listed there for others to browse.

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Tagging Books-Tag My Book, Does it Help with Amazon Search Results?

tags for books, book taggingFor authors who want to sell ebooks or paperbacks, having their Amazon books tagged seems like it can be a big deal. Tag-my-book parties are even common at forums for writers including Goodreads, Authonomy and more although they have been banned from Amazon forums for “gaming the system.” But regardless of the ethics or lack of  ethics, does tagging really help?

What exactly are tags for books, you might ask? If you visit any book at Amazon, try one of mine for example, and scroll down past the product description and reviews, you’ll find a list of tags that customers (or others) have used to identify genres and subject matter of a book. This is meant to be helpful to browsers searching for books of similar nature and for Amazon to group books accordingly. In my example some of the tags will be: self publishing, sell ebooks, ebook business, writers, kindle, online marketing, etc. You can click on an individual tag and find a huge list of books with the same tag, usually ranked from highest number to lowest. Therefore, the consensus of many authors is–having more tags is great and having lots of commonly used tags–even better.

What are commonly used tags? Words like Kindle, adventure, fantasy, romance, humor, fiction, science fiction, history, young adult, vampire, christian fiction… the list goes on. Amazon has a page of commonly searched tags here. But tags don’t have to be so general; they can be much more specific as many of mine are like social marketing and ebook publishing.

How does a Tag Party work? A collection of authors (and sometimes readers/family/friends) agree to add tags, up to 15 per person, to each others books. A forum list develops with an agreement to tag everyone on the list and get tagged too. The more people in the party, the better. Once several dozen people are tagging each others books, in little time a book can achieve a fair number of tags.

However, at first glance it appears this helps with visibility and book sales, but that really hasn’t been proven to me yet. For example, currently my book has more tags for the tag term “epublishing” than any other Amazon book and will come up very high if you click a tag that says “epublishing.” But if you type the same term “epublishing” into an Amazon search box, my book doesn’t even appear in the top 100 results. Odd, isn’t it? The question becomes; what percentage of Amazon buyers really search for new books by using tags? Conversely, we know that many book buyers, myself included, search for books by typing terms into the search box.

The tag term “sell ebooks” currently places my book #2 in a tag search, but if you type that into a book search it comes up as #1 probably because those words are a part of the title. So, I’m still in the school of thought that keywords in the title are far more important than a huge number of tags. I’d still like to know, do the tags help? Maybe. I know of at least one reader, from her forum comments, who says she uses tags to search for new books of a certain subject. Maybe there’s more people like her, but I believe she represents the exception and not the rule.

Still, when it comes to selling both ebooks and paperbacks, Independent authors (Indies) should try a bit of everything and hope it helps. There are several good places to join tagging parties. You can find them on Amazon Kindle discussions at the Meet Our Authors Forum and currently at the Kindle Book Forum, though that might get moved to the former due to Amazon’s restructuring of what they consider to be blatant self-promotion. You can also find taggers at Goodreads, Authonomy and even some of the Indie groups on Facebook.

By far the best place I’ve found to date is at Kindle Direct Publishing New April 2011 Tag My Book. This group is serious and selective on who they accept. You will have to get your tagging act together, however, or you will not be tagged. This means you will have to learn how to copy and paste the author’s preferred 15 tags and do it for everyone on the list before you will be added to the list. There’s a thorough explanation for newbies at the start of the thread. Once that’s done, the tags on your books will increase by HUGE amounts. If you think you can handle that, try this exceptional tagging group.

Also for trans-continental efforts, notice that for a US Amazon author to tag a UK Amazon book, she/he must have made a purchase from UK Amazon. This rule is true regardless of the country of the author’s origin and the country of Amazon products (US, UK, Germany, Japan, France, etc.)

Any other highly recommended groups or opinions on this? Please share them in the comments section.

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Want to Sell Ebooks but it’s slow going? Here’s what to do…

ebooks wired to mouseFor authors who sell ebooks, it’s often a real challenge to begin the process. The hardest part can be coming up with ideas to jump-start sales. Ultimately a book that sells well will generate reviews, referrals and more sales. So how do you go from just starting out to selling ebooks in quantities that matter?

Asking this question to a group of writers who frequent a site called Authonomy prompted many great answers. Please note the author’s name and her/his book link accompanies the advice which reads in italics.

Question: what to do when ebooks sales are slow?

K. A. Jordan, author of Let’s Do Lunch, gives a few quick tips. She says, Stay visible, don’t spam, get the book reviewed on an Indie friendly book blog… I’m on Nook boards, Kindle boards, Goodreads, Facebook and Authonomy…. I also have my book links on my email signature.

Having an online presence in many forums (including emails) without spamming sounds very wise indeed.

Sarah R. Yoffa, author of Coming Home, says, Successful authors don’t just sell books; they build communities, have followings, are personable but not personal, are professional but not businesslike, are fun but not too silly (okay, a little silly at times but not all the time or you lose credibility; none of the time and you seem to have no sense of humor)… The Amazon Kindle Communties, Nook Boards and Goodreads are all great places to mingle–but Goodreads is a no-sales-safe place. Respect that and they’ll click through your posts to buy your book. ALWAYS put your book’s link into your sig. Keep it in a text file on your desktop so you can copy/paste it into posts in places that don’t let you set one up by default… Facebook (a Page, not a personal profile) is a good place for building a private community but be aware that not everyone in the world is on Facebook (I know, hard to believe!) so don’t make that your #1 or exclusive destination for news. More people are tweeting than doing Facebook FWICT and Twitter trends go viral really fast. Learn to use the Twitter hashes for trending topics (# for hashes and @for mentions)… If you’re already on Goodreads and would like to share buzz, please friend me. I’m releasing my first book on March 21 and will start to build up my Goodreads profile... You can also put a video onto YouTube. One caution, though, a bad video trailer for a book will work against you and YouTube is full of bad things being shared so as to make fun of how bad they are.Amazon Kindle

Okay, Sarah is echoing online presence without spamming. She’s also talking about professional relationship building, which is exactly what many of my readers appreciate the most. YouTube videos are smart, as many readers have found me from my videos, even though they’re far from Oscar quality. This Twitter # (hash tag thing) is a confusing entity for many, and we’ll be hearing about it again below.

Gerald Hornsby, author of Bleak Midwinter Tales, says, Participate in something called #SampleSunday. The hashtag is a clue to the fact that it’s a Twitter-based promotional tool. The idea is that you publish a sample of your writing to your blog, and ‘Tweet’ the link using the above hashtag. I’ve got some brilliant feedback from fellow writers using this. Have a look at my blog for examples of my #SampleSunday pieces at http://geraldhornsby.wordpress.com/

Very wise advice. If you go to Twitter, in the search box type #samplesunday to find plenty of info.

Barnes&Noble NookThis one seems like a final resort though maybe it shouldn’t be since it has worked wonders for some authors. Consider this great advice from Jennifer Bogart, author of Remember Newvember. She says, What about offering a free upload for a limited time? …people like to receive things for free. If those that do download it offer up a review, then you are on your way with word-of-mouth promotion.

In fact some authors have experienced tens of thousands of downloads in less than a month when offering free ebooks. This could be especially brilliant for an author with a sequel or a series of books, as happy readers are likely to continue with an author and characters they enjoy.

Brooklyn Writer, author of On the Verge, says, The people who have done really well, the Amanda Hockings, Stephen Leathers, etc have a few things in common:
-fast paced commercial GENRE fiction with great openings and hooks
-lowest Kindle price
-forum presence (but this could get overwhelming)
-multiple books and/or series.
-blog that also creates a fan base and attracts readers

Here we see great recommendations including adding a blog to the online presence, engaging the readers right off the bat with blurbs, hooks and sequels, and having very low prices. Amanda Hocking is on her way to millions by selling books at 99 cents.

ebooks on pcDon A. Martinez, author of The Advance Guard, says, Find a local writers’ guild who might be able to offer support for their membership. This can include (but usually isn’t limited to) financial support in the form of purchases. A member of my home writers’ association (http://www.etwritersassn.com) tends to only buy Kindle/Nook e-media books, while offering her own in both traditional and electronic formats. She bought a copy of my own e-book after I offered it on Kindle.

Writers tend to read and help, so being active in writing communities is a great way to network and share your books.

Siamzathang’a Hauzel Sailo, author of Lallula, Fairies and Super Beings: In a Mysterious Land: How to Become a Wiseman and a Superhero, says, I would join, register or publish in as many places as possible…. You can also publish with http://youwriteon.com to make it available to order through leading bookstores in UK…. I think http://myspace.com is also a good place… Spread about your book to whoever and wherever you can… And do mention and add a link to your other book(s) in your free book (if you give them away). If people don’t know, how will they come and take it even if it is a diamond? So, if you are on http://twitter.com make followers. And http://twiends.com?i=shsailo (my referal link) is the best site I ever found to increase followers for twitter and likers for http://facebook.com.

Good additions. Many authors don’t think of MySpace, but they have writing/reading groups similar to Facebook. Didn’t know about Twiends either.

This was helpful. I plan to return to this topic with a new post and tips in the future.

What do you think?

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Where WordPress Beats Blogger, One Category You Can’t Dismiss

I go back and forth on whether WordPress.com or Blogger.com is the better place for free blog hosting. Certainly each of them have pros and cons, and it’s true that there are several things I prefer about Blogger. From a recent post I made on this subject: Common opinions are that WordPress doesn’t allow JavaScript or AdSense… Blogger is owned by Google which could boot you if they don’t like the content… WordPress has a better forum… Blogger is easier to use… the arguments go on and on.

The post went on to discuss how Blogger has added statistic monitoring back in July of 2010. This was an area that WordPress used to have entirely on Blogger, but no longer. Although now that I’ve had a few months to really delve into the stats from both blogs, I’ve discovered something of monumental importance.

For my blogs, WordPress is much better with SEO (search engine optimization), and it’s not even close!

Here’s a bit of background. I have two blogs, one with WordPress and one with Blogger. I’ve had the shorter-named, custom domain Blogger one (thebigbangauthor.com) since 2005 but didn’t get into a steady habit until Feb. 2008, so approximately 3 years of regular blogging there and 110 posts. My WordPress blog is a long and non-custom domain (ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com) that I’ve only had since Feb. 2010 for about 10 months and 55 posts. Some posts I actually repeat on each blog while other posts are markedly different. I try to maintain them equally about once or twice a week, and I always do similar methods of SEO efforts like labels, categories, tags, alt image text, link building and so on. I truly love them both like two great pets.

When I analyze the results of the search engine traffic, which obviously means how absolute strangers found my posts through search engines, it’s amazing how many more visitors arrive at my WordPress blog than at Blogger.

For example, on one of the posts that I repeated at both locations, a Google search for the term “2epub” has led just 8 visitors to Blogger over 5 months, while that same term led 97 visitors to WordPress in just 3 months.

On Blogger, only 10 main search terms have produced 2 or more visitors in the past 5 months. At WordPress, over 50 search terms have sent 2 or more visitors to it. I also check these search terms to see if my blogs really come up on the first page of Google, and they do.

When I analyze individual keywords and phrases that land one of my sites on the Google front page, it’s not even close. My WordPress blog is head and shoulders better in this regard. No wonder it gets consistently better traffic by nearly three times, even though I promote them about the same. And that’s why we blog, isn’t it: to get traffic?

Blogger, I love you, especially for the joy of JavaScript gadgets. But just as some dogs are better at fetching while others are better at guarding the house, WordPress is the kind of dog that’s better at showing up on the Google front page.

You know the strange part? Blogger is owned by Google, but WordPress works better in a search. Weird.

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