140 Tools and Resources for Building Your Author Website and/or Blog

By Matthew Bowden www.digitallyrefreshing.com (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/145972) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

By Matthew Bowden http://www.digitallyrefreshing.com (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/145972) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Author websites and blogs are important components to building an author platform. With that in mind, here is a list of resources that can help you set up and optimize your site. Continue reading

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Useful Productivity Hacks and Tools

By elian (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

By elian (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

For those of us who are multi-taskers and like to do everything at 1.5-2x speed (I’ve even started watching TV shows on fast forward), the New York Times has some bad news: “Sorry, you can’t speed read.”

But on the bright side, there are many tools and hacks out there to help you speed up your productivity. I’ll get into the writing-specific ones first. Continue reading

Indie Authors: Writing and Publishing Tools

It seems that every day I come across a new site or tool that can help with writing, editing, promoting, or pretty much any stage in the publishing process. (The Book Designer has a great article explaining why authors should embrace new technologies.) Here are links to a few of the best ones: Continue reading

Indie Authors: Using YouTube

Video can be a very important component of an indie author’s marketing strategy. In addition to book trailers, authors can make videos for a myriad of purposes, such as

  • Behind the scenes
  • Showing off research that went into the book
  • Interviews
  • Having actors play characters or scenes
  • Explaining concepts (for nonfiction books)
  • Animating themes or concepts

Explaining concepts, in particular, can be a great way to attract viewers (who may become readers). Brainy Marketer has an excellent post on why these types of videos are so good, but basically they are short, usually animated videos that really engage viewers because they are entertaining, get to the point, and have calls to action at the end (such as, “Buy this book to learn more).

YouTube

Although there are other options for where to post your video, YouTube probably makes the most sense for most people.

Because Google owns YouTube, videos that are properly indexed (meaning have good metadata) tend to be highly ranked and easily found. This means you should put a lot of thought into your title, subtitle, categories, and description. Having solid keywords relating to your content can really help. Author Marketing Experts also offers six ways to promote your YouTube channel, which includes getting a custom channel and annotating your channel.

If you get enough hits on YouTube, you can earn money via their advertising program. YouTube has also recently started a subscription service, where users can pay a monthly fee for access to videos without ads. Although the service is geared towards music videos, high quality videos showing other kinds of content may also be successful.

Have you seen success with videos? Please share in the comments!

Planning an Effective Video Strategy with MWP Digital Media

MWP

Sometimes it can be difficult for indie authors to think about video, but having a YouTube channel with book trailers, author interviews, and more can help boost an author’s platform. In order to find out what kind of videos work best, My Web Presenters (MWP) Digital Media has a new video marketing comparison tool, which can help users with their video strategy. Continue reading

Authorly, Turn Your Book Into An App

Authorly

Recently I learned about a new tool called Authorly, which can turn books into apps to sell in all the major app stores, including Google Play, iTunes, and the Amazon app store (see my post, “Turning Your Ebook Into An App“).

Authorly allows authors to easily create apps for their books, and make them interactive. And although I like the service, I do want to point out that the gap between ebooks and apps is closing, and ebooks in certain forms can also have interactivity. For example, enhanced ebooks (with EPUB3) can contain video, audio, and some javascript for interactivity. KF8, the newest ebook format for Amazon, can have hotspots, where you touch a certain area on the screen and it magnifies the text. And iBooks Author allows for widgets and almost endless possibilities for interactivity with javascript and HTML5, such as zooming images, scrolling sidebars, pop-overs, 3D images, questions within the text, and more. Continue reading

Udemy: Increasing the Volume of Recorded Videos

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 1.47.35 AM

Publishing a course on Udemy has been a great learning experience. I’ve already gotten some feedback for my course, How to Create Beautiful E-BooksOne of the suggestions was to increase the volume of my video lectures, so I spent some time researching how to do that without having to reshoot all the videos. Turns out it’s pretty easy and straight forward, so I wanted to share what I did in case other people might find it useful. Continue reading

EPUB3 Read Aloud Code

 

Per request, I’m posting snippets of code to use to enable read aloud functionality on an iPad. You usually do this for children’s books in EPUB3. Above is a sample of the SMIL file you will need to include. Remember to make a SMIL file for each “page.” And don’t forget to add it to your OPF! Below is a sample of the extra code to include in the HTML file. You will also need your audio file (use Audacity to easily create labels for the SMIL files). Good luck!

iAuthor

Three weeks ago, Apple launched an exciting new app: iAuthor. It sounded very promising. Using iAuthor, you can drag and drop to make enhanced ebooks. iAuthor and iBooks2 were released on the same day with the intention of making it easier for students to use interactive textbooks. All textbooks sold on the iBookstore are priced at $14.99 or less. But anyone can use iAuthor to make their own enhanced, interactive ebooks and sell them on iBookstore. At first, the articles about iBooks2 and iAuthors was very exciting. 

After a few days, however, all the restrictions and drawbacks became apparent. On top of that, recent data shows that e-textbooks are not that popular. Although 46% of students are interested in buying textbooks on an iPad, only 10% actually use a smartphone or tablet for classwork.

My co-workers and I sat down on Tuesday to experiment and learn as much about iAuthor as we could so we could determine its usefulness for Simon & Schuster. Here is some of what we found:

Pros

  • drag and drop is easier than coding, for certain things
  • The widgets are cool, especially the interactive images
  • iAuthor outputs an ebook that is both fixed format and reflowable, so you don’t have to design twice (vertical and horizontal views)

Cons

  • If you’re used to programs like InDesign, then iAuthor feels clunky and a little disappointing
  • Crack open the ebook, and you’ll see some very messy code
  • It still takes a lot of time and effort to make a beautiful ebook, and these types of ebooks only apply to certain books (cookbooks, highly designed books, etc.)
  • Apple only penetrates 10% of the ebook market, and if you make a book on iAuthor you can only sell it via Apple
  • Because an iAuthor book is in the .iba format, there’s a chance one day this format will be outdated and unusable, and you will have no way of accessing the book you worked so hard on

My personal opinion is that iAuthor is great if you’re designing a digital-only book. You’ll have to plan to take advantage of the widgets, because a text-only ebook will not be worth making in this format. However, you should also be sure that your target market uses iPad, since they are the only ones who will be able to see it. Still, for people who don’t know programming, this is a good tool (though not terribly easy to use, at first).

It’s too bad that everyone is using their own proprietary formats. This makes things more complicated for everybody, and consumers suffer because they have to have multiple tablets and ereaders to access all their content. This also limits creativity, since ebook producers have to spend all their time formatting ebooks for all devices, instead of being able to think of cool new features they could add via one universal program/format.