Nathan Barry’s “Authority”

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Do you write non-fiction?  Is what you are writing valuable to people in that they could use it to make more money at their jobs?

If so, this book may be worth a look:

http://nathanbarry.com/authority/

At $40, the price is a bit steep, but the argument is that what he’ll teach you will help you earn that money back through your own writing.

Even if you’ve never written anything, the book also targets those people who have knowledge in fields that are in high demand, but who don’t know how to go about writing and marketing a book.  If you’re a well-paid professional, the book has a lot of suggestions on turning your knowledge into some extra cash, and, at the same time, helping people out by sharing what you know with them.  Chances are, a lot more people will buy a book from you than hire you at whatever hourly rate you charge, so this is your opportunity to reach a wider audience with your knowledge.

Here at LiberWriter, we’re very much in the Amazon camp, because for most of our authors, that’s where the majority of their sales are going to be.  So one thing that was interesting about Nathan Barry’s book was that he recommends selling the book more or less directly, perhaps using a site like Gumroad to help you with the actual payment/credit card handling.  This lets you keep something like 95% of the book’s price, rather than the 70% you’ll get out of Amazon if you stick to their terms, such as pricing between $3 and $10.  Furthermore, by going direct, it’s likely that you can also get the email addresses of your users, and as is explained in detail in the book, email marketing is a really good way of getting people to buy your stuff.

As a concrete example, say you write a series of books, and place the first one on Amazon, and it sells ok.  Then you write and prepare the second one, and want to do a big launch.  Fine, but guess what? You have no way of sending email to all those people who bought your first book.  By using a system like Gumroad, you can collect the purchasers’ email addresses, and – if and only if you have their permission – add them to a mailing list that you can then use to alert people when the second book comes out.  Since those people already bought one of your books, they’re quite likely to buy another one.  If you had sold via Amazon, you wouldn’t have their email addresses.

Now, that sounds good in practice, but there are also a few things I’m skeptical about for authors who go it alone:

  • There are no reviews for your book.  Sure, you can get quotes from friends and others singing the praises of your book to paste on your web page, but opening things up for reviews is a way to demonstrate that people really do like your book, and are willing to say so.  I often glance at the one star reviews just to see if they have a point, or if they’re just bitter or crackpots, or something else.  Reviews are stronger “social proof” than hand-picked quotes.
  • Readers lose out on the extremely convenient Kindle purchases.  I don’t have to touch my credit card to buy new books for the Kindle.  With a book like Authority, though, I had to physicall get my credit card out of my wallet and carefully think about whether I was really going to shell out money for it.  Granted, the target market – professionals – is not one where you’re trying to score impulse purchases, since the price is high, but at the same time, it’s still nice to keep your customers from dwelling on their expensive purchase by getting it over quickly.
  • For the moment this isn’t as relevant: but what if everyone sold their own books from their own site?   It’d sure be a pain in the neck – you’d always be reentering your credit card in this, that, or the other web site, and couldn’t take advantage of the economies of scale that Amazon offers.

However, 95% is a pretty powerful reason to go it alone.  But only if you’re willing to put in the time marketing the book…

And that’s one of the subjects the book covers extensively, covering many of the details of how to create a mailing list that you can then use to sell what you have created.  Naturally, “social media” such as Twitter and Facebook are mentioned too, but email still rules the roost in terms of bringing people in and getting them to purchase what you’re selling.  In other words, if you have limited time, focus on email marketing and leave the social media stuff to someone else.  The book contains several pages talking about the advantages of email as a way of reaching the most people the most effectively for the lowest price.  This is something I’ve heard elsewhere to, and I think it makes a lot of sense: if you’re an author, you should probably put together a mailing list for people who like your stuff via a site like MailChimp.

The theme that runs throughout the book, in terms of attracting people’s attention, is actually giving away valuable information.  By being generous and not trying to hoard every last scrap of your knowledge, you can create a blog or email newsletter that people will happily subscribe to.  Those are good platforms to sell your book with, or for that matter your consulting services!

Nathan also covers how to get a basic landing page, blog, and mailing list set up, for those who need suggestions about what to use to create those things.  Formatting is also covered, although his advice does not always match what we recommend for Kindle publishing.

Would I recommend reading this book?  If you’re a professional with valuable skills who can commit to writing a book with the aim of making some money from it, the answer is an unqualified ‘yes’.  As a fiction author, you might find cheaper alternatives that are more tailored to the set of problems you face, which are different from those of someone writing about something that’s likely work related.  It does have a lot of valuable information though, so if you’re reading books to get ideas on how to improve your own self publishing, this is a good one.

In any event, I enjoyed the book, as it’s well written, and a different perspective from ours here at LiberWriter.

Best Practices in Word for Kindle Conversion

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“How should I write my book in Word” is a question we sometimes receive from people who want to make the conversion process as smooth and easy as possible.

The answer: KEEP IT SIMPLE!

The less you do with your document, and the cleaner it is, the easier it is to convert.  Word files and eBooks are fundamentally different things, and the less baggage you try to take along from one to the other, the less likely you are to see the contents of your luggage scattered all over the conveyor belt at the other end of the journey.

  • Don’t use fonts.  Most likely, they won’t come through the conversion process very well.  Do use bold and italics – those are fine.
  • Use style elements like headers, rather than just upping the font on a particular section of text.  Those will translate better to the underlying HTML that eBooks are composed of.
  • Keep things “linear” – no sidebars and things like that.  This is something we cover in more detail here: https://blog.liberwriter.com/2012/03/13/the-one-thing-about-kindle-formatting/
  • Don’t use page numbers.  They’ll get stripped out because they don’t make sense on Kindles, which have pages of varying sizes depending on the device and settings used to read it.
  • Don’t use page headers or footers.
  • Do not use tabs to indent paragraphs.
  • Endnotes generally work better than footnotes.
  • Remember to embed images in the file, rather than linking to them. This means that instead of simply loading up the image on your own computer, the image is contained within the Word file itself.  Links to the images on your computer don’t work once the file leaves your computer!
  • If you have the ability, make your images the right size (not too big) before you embed them.  Massive images will cost you money, because beyond a certain size, Amazon will take a cut from your profits in order to pay for the download costs.

What you mostly want to aim for is what you get if you just open up Word, and start writing a new document with all the defaults and no custom settings.  Those are easy enough to add back in once you’ve got a cleanly converted book.