Authors: Where Is Your Happiest Place Online?

I’ll discuss a few places, then I’ll cast my vote in the last paragraph. I’d also like to hear your vote, if you’d be so kind as to leave a comment.

Let me start with Amazon, since it’s a huge website that authors are familiar with. I love shopping for books (and more) at Amazon and I love the support that Amazon has given to authors, including indies. It doesn’t win my vote with regards to happiness, however. For one, the current customer review and comment platform detracts a little from what would be a much more positive ambiance. It’s great that they promote freedom and independence, I just wish they could do that and still limit the occasional spitefulness. Another problem I see is that I sometimes find myself frustrated when trying to search for and discover new books by keyword or in a category. It’s sort of an inherent problem in trying to search through twenty million books. Maybe if we could see more than a dozen or so books on a page that would help speed up the process; sometimes, the way the results are ordered seems to make us scratch our heads, too. Still, I love Amazon and continue to use it.

There are many features that I enjoy at Goodreads, both as a reader and an author. Authors can connect with other authors, and friend reviews are allowed but clearly marked as such (I happened to see one on an author’s page recently, and thought it was an interesting option). You can see what friends have read, are reading, or intend to read. You can discover new books. However, there seems to be a little too much negativity (enough that some authors actually shudder at the mention of the website’s name), but not enough effort to try to make the ambiance more positive throughout. Again, perhaps the negativity is associated with the effort to provide independence and freedom. On the other hand, my vote goes to a website that seems to promote freedom and independence quite well, yet still appears to be a much more positive environment. If they can do it, why can’t others?

Another popular place among authors is CreateSpace. There may be a little room for improvement, but overall I like the way the website works as far as publishing books goes. I also love the wealth of free publishing and marketing information available to authors (if you haven’t checked it out before, you should). The community discussion forum is a nice place for authors to interact with one another, and a good place to look for publishing help. There are many helpful members there, some who are small publishers with many years of publishing experience. For the most part, the forum is very courteous (especially, compared to some community forums on other websites). Still, there are a couple of reasons that CreateSpace didn’t receive my vote. First, the file review process can be a little frustrating at times – even if you submit the interior or cover to specifications, there are sometimes unexpected changes (like telling you that your file is too complex, or resizing the cover on you). The defect rate may be a little higher than we may like (we can hope that they are working to improve this), yet there are defects with all publishers. Finally, eStore sales require the customer to setup a CreateSpace account and it’s not intuitive for customers to search for books on CreateSpace. Nonetheless, I still love CreateSpace and continue to use it, even though there are promising new rivals like Ingram Spark.

I’ll cast my vote now. WordPress is the happiest place online for me. Authors seem to enjoy ample freedom, independence, and creativity, while also in my experience it’s usually a very happy place online. The exception may be the occasional bitter rant, but that’s easy to ignore if you want. The comments section is often filled with positive interactions. The sense of community here at WordPress has been excellent, in my experience. WordPress draws me in like a magnet. I don’t hesitate, fearing negative experiences. I find myself spending way much more time writing posts and reading posts than I ever imagined, and I enjoy it. A positive ambiance attracts people, and the people make or break the place. Here’s a big THANK YOU to all the great people who make this place. 🙂 Please remember to cast your vote and share your opinions and experience.

How to Change the Publication Date at CreateSpace…

(I intended to include this in my previous post. Better late than never?)

First, note that once you click Approve Proof, it is no longer possible to change the publication date.

As mentioned in my previous post, after you enter the title information, much time can pass before you approve your proof (from making revisions). So if you enter the publication date as ‘today’ when you enter the title information, by the time you approve your proof, this date can be a few weeks old. The problem with this is that you would then have very little time in the ‘Last 30 Days’ section.

At CreateSpace, when you enter the title information, if you click on the ‘What’s This?’ link, you’ll see that you don’t actually have to enter any date at all. Just leave this field blank and CreateSpace will automatically set the publication date to the day when you first click the Approve Proof button. This gives you approximately 30 days on the ‘Last 30 Days’ list (since it may take a day or more for your book to show up at Amazon).

If you didn’t know this and entered an actual date in the title information, when you go to the title section, you may find that everything appears to be ‘locked.’ If so, contact CreateSpace and explain the situation. Make it clear that you have not clicked Approve Proof (even in the past) for this title, and ask CreateSpace if they could please reset the date for you.

Publishing Tip: Change the Publication Date

If you hope to sell many books online through discovery in search results, the publication date is very important.

Why?

At Amazon, customers can filter search results by clicking the ‘Last 30 Days’ or ‘Last 90 Days’ new release links. These filters give your book a window of opportunity. Customers looking for new releases in their favorite genres may discover your book this way.

Now consider the following scenario.

You go through the entire publishing process. You set the publication date to be today’s date, since it won’t let you enter a date in the future. Then you discover one or more typos in the proof. After correcting those, there is suddenly a problem with the cover. When you fix the cover, you find more typos. A few weeks later everything seems to be just fine. So you click the magic button to approve your proof.

Oops!

You forgot to update the publication date. Your book won’t be listed in the ‘Last 30 Days’ results for an entire month. If it took three weeks to fix all of those problems, your book will only appear in the ‘Last 30 Days’ results for about a week.

Unless you remember to change the publication date before you publish.

If you’re debating whether to enter the publication date as ‘today’ or some date in the past, there is a distinct advantage to using ‘today.’ If the book you are publishing now is a new edition, for example, then why not give this edition a new publication date?

When you explore the ‘Last 30 Days’ and ‘Last 90 Days’ filters, you may also notice a ‘Coming Soon’ filter.

How do you get your book listed under ‘Coming Soon’?

First, you have to publish a paperback or hardcover. You won’t be able to do this if you publish exclusively an e-book edition.

Next, you must learn how to setup preorders at Amazon Advantage. There are some very helpful discussions on this very topic at the CreateSpace community forum. Check them out.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon

Which Edition Is It?

After publishing, it’s almost inevitable that at some point you’ll want to make changes:

  • You might discover a typo yourself, or have some pointed out to you.
  • The formatting of the Look Inside often doesn’t come out quite as expected (even if the book looks great on Kindle).
  • After writing another book, you may want to include a short sample of the first chapter at the end of your previous book.
  • You might want to add your website, email, or other author information to your books.
  • As you learn more about publishing, you may find good ideas or inspiration that you’d like to incorporate into your existing books.

Revising your book is fairly painless: You simply revise your files and resubmit them. (If you were wise enough to keep track of which version of the file was your latest file and where you saved it, that will be quite handy. The last thing you want to do is introduce mistakes by accidentally using the wrong file.)

Beware that a tiny change can create a domino effect, messing up the formatting on dozens of pages that follow. Take the time to inspect the formatting throughout the book, no matter how small the change is.

Where the fun begins is after your revise the book. You check out the product page, wondering if the changes have been made. If they occur in the beginning, you might be able to see them on the Look Inside. You might be wondering if you should buy your own book just to see if it has been corrected, but then you’ll be really disappointed if you invest in this just to discover that it hasn’t been.

Suppose a customer brings a paperback copy of your book to you. It might be handy for you to know which edition of the book that customer has read – i.e. did the customer buy it before or after you made the changes?

Fortunately, there is a simple solution: When you revise your interior file, simply place something that will show up in the Look Inside that will distinguish one version from another.

If the copyright page shows up in the Look Inside (it should, unless you move it to the back matter, which some authors and publishers do with eBooks in order to maximize the free sample), you could simply write Edition 4, for example. Then when you check out the Look Inside on Amazon, if you see Edition 3 instead, you know that the old Look Inside is still showing.

If you added new material and made corrections, you could write Revised and Expanded Edition instead of the edition number. You can even write a brief note like Revised to Include…

It’s not necessary to make it appear like a new edition has been made. If you only made a few small corrections, for example, you might not want to advertise that it has been updated. If you don’t want to advertise the update, but want to be able to tell yourself that it has been updated, then you just need to make some subtle change to the Look Inside that will help you tell which edition you’re seeing when you see your book.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon

Should You Publish with an Imprint?

Every self-published author is faced with this decision. First, here is a little background on the imprint choice; we’ll return to the question in a moment.

The paperback author can select a free ISBN from CreateSpace or pay $10 to $100 for an ISBN from CreateSpace to publish using an Imprint. Another option is to purchase an ISBN directly from R.R. Bowker (the price becomes more affordable per ISBN if buying a block of 10 or more).

http://www.bowker.com

https://www.myidentifiers.com

The eBook author can leave the publisher field at KDP blank or enter an imprint there. Although some eReader services, like the Sony Reader, require an ISBN, you can get a free ISBN to use with your eBook if you publish through Smashwords (but you’re not supposed to use that ISBN for other eBook editions, like your Kindle edition).

Many authors publish both paperbacks and eBooks. Entering an imprint for the eBook while having the paperback publisher show as CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform kind of defeats the purpose of using the imprint. For $10 at CreateSpace, the imprint names can match.

Back to the question: Should you publish with an imprint?

That depends; there are advantages and disadvantages both ways.

Benefits of having CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform listed as the publisher:

  • CreateSpace is a positive name among many indie authors and their family, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. There are so many indie authors that this number is very large.
  • People who like to support the self-publishing concept often buy CreateSpace books (or Kindle eBooks where the paperback lists CreateSpace as the publisher).
  • Readers who know your book is self-published are more likely to enjoy your book.

I entered CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform into the search field in Books at Amazon, and pulled up 300,000 titles. So many authors are content with this.

One of these authors is Amanda Hocking. She has been extremely successful; this label has worked for her.

Amanda Hocking’s Author Page

Benefits of using an imprint:

  • Some readers avoid self-published books.
  • The indie label can be a hurdle to get your book stocked in stores, reviewed by the media, etc.

If readers buy your book thinking it was published through a traditional publisher, but it looks very amateurish after they buy it, they are more likely to be frustrated with the experience. This places a premium on professional book design (cover, editing, formatting, writing, etc.) for the author who chooses an imprint. A traditionally published book, for example, has a very detailed copyright page, which most indie books lack. A simple feature like this could give the indie book away.

Note that bookstores and reviewers can clearly see that your book is print-on-demand from the printing number on the last page whether you use an imprint or not. There is a way around this. You can find another printer (i.e. not print-on-demand) to print a small number of copies of your book. The custom order will cost more money per book if you buy a small quantity, but the overall cost may be affordable if the quantity is really small (like 10 books). This way, like many publishers, print-on-demand (POD) will merely be one of your publishing channels. You can approach bookstores and reviewers more confidently with the non-POD edition of your book.

Indie authors who are clearly self-published have succeeded in getting their books stocked in bookstores. If your book looks professional and you have a professional approach, it is possible to overcome various publishing obstacles, including the CreateSpace label; but sometimes there is a flat ‘No!’ to CreateSpace and POD. On the other hand, if you go to the trouble to use an imprint and have some non-POD copies printed, but your book looks unprofessional (cover, copyright page, formatting, typos, etc.), all of this extra work may not open up any doors.

People can also search for your imprint online. If they don’t find a website for it, or if there are just a couple of books that use the imprint, this will reflect that the imprint isn’t a serious publisher. Most shoppers aren’t going to check out the imprint. (However, they probably won’t recognize the imprint; using an imprint certainly isn’t the same as publishing with a household name.) But a wise bookstore manager or serious reviewer might do a little research before investing in your book.

Of course, you must do some research on the imprint name. You can’t enter Amazon or the name of an actual publisher like Random House (or many other publishers you’ve never heard of).

The name you choose should sound authentic. It should fit the book nicely. (It will also show up in keyword searches, but if you just make the imprint name based on keywords, there is a good chance it won’t sound authentic or fit the book.)

Before you publish using your own imprint, consider these questions:

  • Will your cover look professional?
  • Will your front matter look professional?
  • Will your formatting be professional?
  • Will your editing look professional?
  • Will you be approaching bookstores, libraries, newspapers, etc.?
  • Will you be selling copies in person at presentations, signings, readings, etc.?
  • Will you make a website for your imprint?
  • Will you be publishing other titles with this imprint?
  • Do you expect a lot of support from the self-publishing community?

Personally, I’m proud to have my books wear the CreateSpace label. CreateSpace and KDP gave me my chance, and I’m very grateful for it. I’ve also met several fantastic indie authors. I search for self-published books when I look for books to read, and I’m happy to support good indie books. I’m glad to be part of the self-publishing community. If you’re going to wear the self-publishing label, wear it proudly. 🙂

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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Benefits of Publishing a Paperback

Paperback Pic

It’s easy to publish an e-book with Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords, and other e-publishers. It’s also easy to publish a paperback with CreateSpace or Ingram Spark, for example.1

Well, either way, there is some formatting to do, and you might need a little help at the end. It’s generally not too bad. Most authors feel that one or the other is much easier. Those who visualize perfect formatting of pages tend to get a little frustrated with the reflowable formatting of e-books – i.e. there are no pages. Those who favor the e-book formatting tend to get frustrated with headers, page numbers, and other features unique to pages. But it’s manageable, especially with perseverance and all the free help available from other authors.

There are benefits of publishing in both formats. If you just publish in your preferred format, you save yourself from having to deal with the format you don’t like, but you also lose out on some of these benefits.

For one, both paperbacks and e-books sell frequently at booksellers across the globe every day. Many customers prefer to hold a book in their hands and turn the pages, while others prefer to read e-books on their favorite electronic devices. If you only offer your book in one format, you are narrowing your audience.

It depends in part on the genre. Nonfiction how-to guides are often handy to have in your hands when you need them, and there is plenty of room to jot down notes. Fiction geared toward an audience who embraces the digital age is apt to be preferred in e-book format. However, there will still be customers who prefer the book in the alternate format.

Note that you may publish both a paperback through CreateSpace and an e-book through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) even if you enroll your book in the KDP Select program. Although KDP Select enrollment requires your e-book to be published exclusively with KDP, you are allowed to publish print editions of the book while enrolled in KDP Select. I have several books enrolled in KDP Select and also available as paperbacks through CreateSpace, and so do many other authors.2

Many authors, especially in fiction, feel that it’s only worthwhile to publish an e-book because the price will be much lower. Why bother formatting a paperback edition at a higher price?

  • Some customers only buy hard copies. If your book is only available as an e-book, you may be losing some customers. Even if your book will primarily sell as an e-book, all sales are valuable. It’s not just the royalty you’re missing out on. The more customers who read your book, the greater the chance for word-of-mouth recommendations and reviews. Maximize your exposure.
  • At Amazon, your Kindle edition will show as a discount off of your paperback list price if the two editions are linked together.3 So if your Kindle edition is $4.99 and your paperback is $9.98, even if you never sell one paperback, the effect of publishing it is that your Kindle edition will look like it’s on sale for 50% off. This way, the presence of your paperback edition may inspire a few e-book sales.
  • If you sell a paperback book, you’re eligible to take advantage of the GoodReads giveaway program (http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/new) within six months of publication. Giving away one or more copies (10 is recommended) is a good way to help build buzz for your book. There is a chance that one or more recipients will leave a review for your book (but, of course, there is no guarantee, and no guarantee that the review will be favorable).4 This is the indie author’s opportunity to compete with traditional publishers who send out advance review copies. Of course, you can also comprise a mailing list and send out advance review copies like they do. You can even print ADVANCE REVIEW COPY across the cover, if you wish.
  • You can sell the paperback book in person. Since you can buy author copies for cheap from CreateSpace, it allows you to offer a healthy discount while still drawing a fair royalty. This opens up opportunities for selling your book directly to local stores (not just bookstores, but other local stores that sell books). You can sell directly from your website or in person. This improves your overall visibility. You can even sell special editions.
  • The printed proof is handy for editing. No matter how many times you view your book digitally, you’re sure to find more typos when you read the printed proof.
  • A paperback book is an important part of your press release package. You might use then when contacting a local newspaper, bookstore, or library, for example.
  • If you don’t have a paperback, you’re missing out on a possible marketing opportunity. Have you ever seen someone reading a book on a bus on in a plane? If the cover catches your interest, you might just ask if the book is good. This is word-of-mouth sales potential. If you give away copies of your book to friends and family, give them paperback editions, especially if they are likely to read in public places (“Guess what: I’m going on a trip this weekend,” “Really? How would you like a free book?”).
  • Every time someone sees a paperback lying around the house, it reminds them to read it. Sometimes books are purchased, but not read; sometimes people read books, but don’t finish them; and sometimes people intend to review books, but forget to do it. Seeing the paperback is a constant reminder, whereas an e-book can become buried behind other e-books on an electronic device. I’m not saying to publish in paperback only, just that this is one more possible benefit of having a paperback in addition to an e-book.
  • A well-formatted, visually appealing paperback tends to make a favorable impression on the reader. It may put the reader in a good frame of mind while reading.

Notes:

1. CreateSpace is an Amazon company. Ingram Spark is a new print-on-demand service from Ingram, the major distributor to bookstores. I’m a loyal CreateSpace author. Amazon gave me my opportunity, and I’m quite grateful for it. However, Ingram Spark has some merit, too. Another option is Lulu. Finally, Lightning Source may have a few advantages of Ingram Spark, especially for the small publisher. It’s also possible to mix and match. For example, use CreateSpace for Amazon and Ingram Spark for possible bookstore distribution, or use CreateSpace for paperback and Lightning Source for hardcover.

https://www.createspace.com/

https://ingramspark.com/

http://www.lulu.com/us/en

https://www1.lightningsource.com/default.aspx

2. You are allowed to publish a paperback through CreateSpace and enroll in KDP Select at the same time. However, you’re not allowed to publish an e-book through Kobo, Nook, Smashwords, or anywhere else while your book is enrolled in KDP Select. On the other hand, if you don’t enroll in KDP Select, you may publish your e-book with Kindle and anywhere else, too.

3. Your Kindle edition and paperback edition should link together automatically within a few days provided that the title and author are spelled and punctuated identically. If you have a subtitle for the paperback, use a colon to separate the title and subtitle at KDP. If the two editions don’t automatically link within a couple of days, there is a specific place to request this on the KDP Help forum. Click the link below (then you may need to login to KDP), choose Product Page, and select Linking Print and Kindle Editions. Go to your product pages and copy/paste the ISBN and ASIN into the designated fields.

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/contact-us

4. A recipient of a free book at the GoodReads program may choose to rate or review your book at GoodReads and may also choose to review your book at Amazon. Recipients might not review your book at all, and the review will not necessarily be favorable. Note that if the recipient reviews your book at GoodReads, it won’t show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers