Sunday, 29 September 2013

Becoming a business

Number four on my list of why you should self publish was because there's the potential to fulfill your writing ambitions. No doubt one of those ambitions is to eventually give up the day job altogether and pen amazing works full time, thus becoming a business in your own right.

As soon as you sell your first piece, you're a business. In fact it's a good idea to start up ahead of that first sale so you can claim expenses for anything you buy and use towards your writing endeavours when it comes to preparing your tax return later on.

So you're at that point where you can now give writing your full attention and maybe you thought all you had to do was write (rewind two and a half years and that's what I thought too!) but it's actually more complicated than that. You're now self employed. Scary stuff! And there's a lot to think about and a lot of hats to wear - remember my post The 10 jobs of a modern day writer?

The good news is, it's never been a better time to be a writer because the online world of self publishing is brimming with possibility. However, the bad news is, you've got to work your ass off. But you knew that.

Here are some links to give you an insight into my own tax(ing) journey:

For help with setting yourself up as a registered writing business, check out my blog post here.

For guidance on the tax return itself, what you can claim and how it's calculated, check out this post.

Why I'd rather eat a doughnut than file a tax return - check out this post when I eventually had to file my first return and how it went.

A few more thoughts and considerations on becoming a pukker writing business:

  • Open a business bank account.

  • Keep track of EVERY expense - trust me, it's so easy to forget! Business cards / any production and promotional costs you may pay out to freelancers for book cover design, editing, printing and marketing / paperclips / postage and shipping receipts / paper for your printer / envelopes / stamps / pens.

  • Free book promo websites are great but be prepared to shell out for some advertising with Book Buzzr, Kindle Nation and Goodreads.

  • It's ok to show a loss at the end of the tax year. Depending on any other income you might be earning (ie. from a part time job), you may even get a tax rebate as I did in my first year. Don't forget, tax is always paid in advance, so if you quit your day job halfway through the tax year, you've already paid tax for that year so you'll be due some of it back.

  • Plan a budget for the year which includes the marketing and production for any works you plan to publish within the year. That way you're ahead of the game.

  • Think about a business plan. Actually, don't just think about it, WRITE ONE. How many books would you like to publish in the year? Where do you want to take your author platform? What ideas for marketing do you want to experiment with? Put the vision to paper. I've started doing it finally and it's really helping me to focus. Write down the steps needed to accomplish each task. Breaking it down in this way will stop you feeling overwhelmed.

For a great article on collecting all the vital data to help you stay in control of your new business, check out Simon Whaley's Data Collator article here.

For more information on self employment, visit the HMRC website.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

I love my Kindle Fire!

I decided to embrace eBooks a couple of years ago, but I still wasn't sure about not picking up a REAL book to read. It didn't seem right! It took me another year to finally release my fascination with (and need for) the physical book when I received a Kindle Fire for my birthday last November and instantly fell in love with it.

I'm not so bothered about multitudes and multitudes of apps and the Kindle Fire does have its limitations for some things ie. only a forward facing camera (so picture taking and video taking is a hassle), but the price is way better than Apple's iPad (which would have been my other choice). I also had one specific goal in mind and that was to get back into my reading. An added bonus was the extra media on the Kindle Fire taking it from the humble eReader to an all round tablet and this ensures I can connect easily with fellow readers and writers. It's such a nice easy way to squeeze one of my hobbies (reading) into the hectic schedule that is Life and being able to share passages of books, reviews and comments on Twitter is perfect. I haven't yet fully embraced the world of Google+ and Goodreads is still an unknown, but I'm looking forward to getting more involved with these in conjunction with my reading habits on the Kindle and as part of my broader social media strategy.

Looking at the bigger picture, the struggle for eBook retailers and publishers is not the fact there's so many free books, but the fact there's so much media content to devour - a different kind of distraction. The competition between them has switched so they now have to keep the consumer's attention across all media - books, movies, music, apps - and all in one device.

If you take Amazon and Apple as examples and look at how they operate, they coerce you into their own little worlds of content. Apple is definitely more restrictive and you pay through the nose, but Amazon has clever tactics too. Rather than sell content to push hardware, Amazon makes available hardware to sell all sorts of things.

Speaking from personal experience, I didn't want the Kindle Fire just for eBooks and enhanced eBooks, I also wanted the option to be able to purchase and access digital media.

To conclude this post, I have a great quote from Publishers Weekly: "The future is not about social reading. It's about social content, social experience, and interactive design. As a result, we must focus on the book's place and utility in the broader market of media, as part of a transmedia experience, and release our fascination with the history of the book's form."

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The value of libraries

It's great to read that libraries still have a place in a society that's bursting at the seams with digital technology and media. I was curious to read how they are faring because once upon a time they were a place where we went to research and take out books, but now that we have Google and Amazon...

My childhood centered around these quiet, peaceful buildings. A place to go for sanctuary and inspiration. Between the ages of four and sixteen, I was always in a library whether my local one or the school one, taking out music and books and researching. I used to have ten books on the go regularly and devoured them like I devour food. By age ten I was reading Lord of the Rings. By age eleven I was reading about terrorists, nuclear weapons, the ozone layer and greenhouse gases (I hit my teens "green" and passionately opposed to any kind of injustice). And by age twelve I was reading some of the best stories I've ever read, stories which have stayed with me up till now (thanks Judy Blume).

Libraries still have their place because:

1) Local authors use their local libraries to launch their career and promote their work

2) They buy in books with the aim of building the book market and introducing people to new authors

3) They've moved with the times and now lend eBooks

4) Statistics from various reports show that people often buy more books from the authors they were introduced to at their local library

5) And not forgetting, they develop and support literacy!

Monday, 23 September 2013

How the eReader has evolved

For me and many people, the concept of the eReader is a great one. We can carry a library in our pockets, so standing in queues is now a breeze because we've always got a book to hand. We've become accustomed to filling in tinier and tinier gaps in our day with reading on our handheld devices.

Traditionally, reading has always been considered a past time best suited to a quiet, distraction free environment, but even eReaders (er Kindle Fire - talking from my experience and usage!) are now deviating into the tablet mainstream with social media, email, movies, music and videos all vying for our attention.

For me this isn't a problem. I actually wanted an all singing, all dancing eReader because I love having everything at my fingertips wherever I am, but adding to the "noise" on the screen with all this technology, is our dwindling attention span. We want things fast and the ability to switch from function to function to yet another function is telling. I read a great quote at the weekend from the author of the book "Too Big to Know". He basically says that reading on the web does not lead you along a logical path, it leads you along a path of interest and if you write long-form now and it goes unnoticed, then very likely your work has failed. This is why I blog short, snappy posts and pack the ideas in. I want the discussion to come at a later stage more convenient to my audience and as and when they have time to follow up.

Maybe you are like me and switch from a real book or magazine to your Kindle and iPhone and then back again on a regular basis. There are times in my week when I'm looking through articles on Twitter or I'm after some quick and easy reading because I'm most likely queuing for something. And then there are times - usually in the evenings - when I want to put a lid on the World, pull out my latest "physical" book and get well and truly lost in it.

Whether you agree with the idea of an eReader or not, there are two consistent factors sitting at the table: 1) there will always be people who want to read and 2) there will always be people who want to tell stories.

I believe storytelling will continue to morph alongside new and exciting technology and we'll take a look at enhanced eBooks as the series continues.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Kindle and eBook tactics

So number three on my list of why you should self publish was because there's the potential to earn lots of money - if you're creative, resourceful and hardworking.

Even switching from a full time job to part time and still getting up at the crack of dawn, I am majorly struggling to make progress on my four-book saga. Life just keeps getting in the way. If I could shut myself behind closed doors for an indefinite period of time, I would jump at the opportunity.

I won't be earning any money from my saga any time soon!

Enter a much needed idea to make use of the writing and blogging I am doing (and completing) - and earn from it.

One article I read today suggested working on content for eBooks for half an hour a day. The priority is to get them up on Amazon and exploit the popularity of the Kindle, then branch out with formats for other eReaders.

A big stumbling block I have in the back of my mind is the length, but seriously, an eBook can be any length.

Some ideas for an eBook where the material may already be written and just needs tweaking:

  • Your best blog posts on a particular topic
  • A complete blog series you've written
  • A collection of tips and tricks
  • A collection of poetry / short stories / articles
  • A transcription of an interview

The last one caught my imagination. I remember my older sister interviewing my great aunty who's now passed about living through the World Wars. I came across the transcript the other day and thought what a waste it would be not to capture these amazing historical memories somehow.

And of course, all the practice in formatting, promotion and sales techniques you'll acquire from putting up short works will better equip you when it comes to the main event!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The content test

As promised, here's the test from to see how your online content fares. It's been specifically designed for Google+ as that's the social media of the moment, but it can be used in relation to any social media content you write.

Yesterday we talked about the three points of social media - connecting, entertaining and sharing. These guys have added supporting and asking so we're up to five measuring markers.

What are your percentages telling you? I know I've got improvements to make!

The Content Litmus Test for Google+

The mindset of a self publisher

The self publishing journey can be a bit like wandering lost through a forest
In order to make use of this Worldwide online marketplace that's opened up to us and to reach the point of selling lots of books as an established self publisher, you need to get your mindset right from the off.

We've touched on this already in earlier posts, but here are some more of my thoughts on the subject.

You must have realistic expectations. I cannot emphasize this enough. When you start out in self publishing, you're starting at the bottom of a very long ladder. People around you may know your book exists, but then you have to get them interested in it so that they eventually care enough to buy it.

Treat your self publishing endeavours as a business with your book being the product. Invest in your product as much as finances allow (at least a copy edit and proof read) to bring it up to minimum standard because what it boils down to is this: if you're not prepared to invest, why should someone buy? Think like a buyer. Would you buy your book?

Social media is about connecting with people, entertaining ourselves and others and sharing valuable information. What are your percentages for each of these three? I hold my hands up - I don't hard sell but I don't stick to the 80/20 etiquette either (80% promoting fellow writers to 20% self promotion). I've got a great test I stumbled across at the weekend to show you in my next post. It will help you assess the value of your content online.

There is a very interesting argument that says if your book is only for sale online, you should only be marketing it online. This is particularly relevant to me at the moment as I'm reading a book about how to market and sell my book and it's a 70/30 split in favour of traditional methods - press releases, radio shows, book speaking engagements at local libraries, festivals and fayres etc etc. Granted this book is a couple of years old and technology keeps pushing forward into new and exciting avenues, but paying for a Goodreads ad which will sit in a place where you know for sure readers gather could be a much more cost effective and rewarding marketing investment. I was reading about John Locke who apparently spent a fortune on traditional advertising and got no where. When he started to focus his advertising and marketing purely online, he became the first self-published author to sell a million eBooks on the Kindle.

Another good piece of advice - it's fine to aspire to the dizzying heights of success, see how they did it and try to emulate it, but keeping that level head, wouldn't it be far better to focus on the average, steady going authors? These are the authors who consistently sell books and make a living doing what they love. And guess what? They love to share their knowledge too!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Amazon's awesomeness

So my second reason to try self publishing was because you have instant access to a Worldwide marketplace.

This infographic is almost a couple of years old but still highlights the amazing potential Amazon, as a virtual "marketplace" offers us.

Check it out - nine facts about the giant:

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Self publishing budgeting and funding

How much should you be budgeting for nice book covers, professional editing and proofreading?

Here are some guidelines taken from The Society of Authors and the Freelance Fees Guide:

Paying someone to do a simple proofread will only eliminate the spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. Work with a proofreading rate of about 10 pages per hour with approx 300 words per page.

A copy-editor will spot weaknesses in your style, factual mistakes and inconsistencies. Work with an editing rate of about 4 to 6 pages per hour with approx 300 words per page.

The below prices are starting points for negotiating rates depending on your needs.

Say you have a 300 page manuscript. Your budget for proofreading would be 300 pages / 10 pages per hour = 30 hours x £21 = £630

Your budget for copy editing would be 300 pages / 5 pages per hour = 60 hours x £24 = £1,440

Then you need £400 to £500 for a jacket cover design...

A budget of £2,500 wouldn't be far off...

And not forgetting a few optional extras like book formatting and some basic membership to Author services to help with marketing the book on SEO services and social media platforms... let's say another £500.

I have to admit when you write the numbers down and process them, it's a little scary!

If you're feeling quirky and creative (oh, and broke!), check out the following crowdfunding websites for financing your self publishing endeavours:

Monday, 9 September 2013

eBook publishing for beginners

I haven't yet tried any of the eBook tools available to us because my debut novel was put together by my publisher, but here's some information I've pulled together for beginners like me that may be of use.

  • Start with a Word document
  • Two recommended software tools for ePub conversion Calibre and Sigil 
  • After conversion and formatting, you need to validate your file (book) before uploading to any service. Use an ePub check tool which will generate an error list and bring any problems within the file (book) to light before you put it out there
  • The top five free distribution channels to begin with: Amazon's KDP, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble's Nook Press (previously PubIt), Apple's iBookstore and Google's eBookstore
  • We know Amazon Kindle is the eBook giant so your Amazon page may be the first and last page your potential audience will see. Get those reviews in!
  • Smashwords - Word docs only. Pays 85% of listed price if sold on Smashwords website. Multiple channel distributor unlike the other four, so distributes to all major devices / retailers except Kindle. You will need to pay approx £10 to purchase a Kindle ISBN 
  • Nook Press accepts most file formats - minimum price point 99p (like Amazon). Pays 65% royalties (verses Amazon's 70%) if you price between £2.99 and £9.99. Pays 40% (verses Amazon's 35%) at other prices
  • Apple - Mac users only! Must be set up through an iTunes Connect account. Will need an ISBN. 70% royalties on listed price
  • Google accepts PDF and ePub files. Will pay 52% of list price, or 45% if your book is purchased through a reseller


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Blogger or Author or both?

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself: "Am I a blogger, an author, or both?"

Do you sometimes wonder whether you should be blogging, or working on your manuscript, and which is more important?

Do you sometimes think you spend more time doing marketing and publicity then actually writing?

I'm addressing these questions in today's post because I'm just as confused as some of you may be! My blogging has really taken off and I feel great with my new blogging plan and marketing strategy. However, I haven't touched my manuscript for at least a month. At least.

What does Bridget Jones say? It's a well known fact that when a part of your life is going well, another part will fall apart.

Ok, I'm being dramatic, but it is frustrating trying to find that lovely, natural balance.

I think I've found a halfway house solution though - using some of my blog content to make an eBook which I'll publish to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. That way I can publish something, get it out there and feel like I've achieved - all whilst working on longer projects.

Remember what you're trying to achieve when considering starting up in self publishing:

1) A brand for yourself and your work
2) Becoming an expert in your field
3) Attracting a wider audience to your website and blog
4) Making a little money to re-invest in cover design, professional editing, proofreading and marketing

If you blog regularly (three times a week), you'll know what I mean when I say your blog content gets lost pretty quickly in the archive. Everything you write should be used and re-used over and over so you get your deserved return from each piece you pen.

When I thought about this idea a year ago, I wasn't sure because I felt using my blog content was cheating - and who would buy it when they could read it for free? The trick is to create some new material but this doesn't have to be complicated. For example, how about an exercise at the end of each chapter?

I have to be organised with my blogging and write within a series each time. It doesn't matter if your blog doesn't follow one set path, but you will need to read back through your content from beginning to end and do some sorting through. Try to group by topic (check your post categories). See which posts were the most popular (check your stats). Each category could be an eBook if there is a lot of material to work with, or you could create a "Best Of" collection.

Then - Intro, conclusion, nice cover, format, upload. You know the drill.

Think about whether you want your eBook to carry the same design as your blog (think branding)... and then promote it on your blog and via your social media.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Write Sales Launch Plan

Remember at the beginning of this Self Publishing series I gave you ten reasons to try it?

Why should you self publish?

Number one on that list was you can publish a book freely without the depressing submission and rejection merry-go-round, and today's post is a brief visual overview so you can see the work involved and plan your time, energies and finances accordingly.