The Making of a Successful Ebook: An Interview with Geoff Jones, Author of The Dinosaur Four

dinosaur_fourYou may remember Geoff Jones, author of the thriller The Dinosaur Four, from my last post where I happily reviewed his book. Geoff is so awesome that I had to interview him twice. The first time was for the podcast I make with my husband, I Know Dino, where we of course discussed the amazing dinosaurs in his book, and the second time, Geoff very graciously let me pick his brain and ask him a ton of questions about his work as an indie author. Geoff has 501 customer reviews on Amazon with an average of 4-stars, and he successfully sells his book in ebook, paperback, and audio formats, so you can see how I may have gotten carried away.

Anyway, Geoff, being the great guy that he is, kindly answered all my questions and shared all the secrets to his success. Read on for my interview with him. Continue reading

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Guest Post: Writing An Epic Series

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By Ron Glick

Ron Glick is the author of numerous novels and three different ongoing epic series. In this post he outlines what it takes to write a successful continuous book series.

I have always been told that there are three cornerstones that must be built as an Indie author if you ever wish to establish your brand—a library, consistency, and legacy. Basically, this means you must have more than one book for your readers to enjoy, have a reliable schedule for release of materials, and books that share common characters and storylines. Though I might speak more on the first two at another time, it is for the purpose of the latter that I am writing this article today.

Specifically, I would like to discuss the concept and unique challenges presented by writing books in an epic series, a series that is a continuous, ongoing storyline. Though not all books with a common history are part of a specific series (look to Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon stories, as an example), it is largely an accepted fact that readers generally enjoy following the ongoing stories they fall in love with. And if you have done your job as a writer, this will be exactly what you have achieved: a bond between the reader and the characters you have created.

Another thing I was once told is that all good stories have a sad ending—because they end. If your reader is not sad that the story is over, if they do not feel a yearning to know what happens next, then you likely have not engaged your reader enough to have them read anything more you have written. Readers almost always put down one book and pick up another, and you always want to get your readers to put down that book and look for another one of yours.

This is a vitally important function as a writer—to get your reader to willingly suspend disbelief (something else I have touched on in other articles that I will likely one day write about in more depth at a later time), which is to say have them become so invested emotionally and mentally in your story that they are willing to set aside the knowledge that what they are reading is not a true story and believe what is being presented. If you achieve this, they will want to know what will come next in the story, and they will go looking to see if you have written anything else that continues the story.

This is where series come into play. True, books like Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code are great stand-alone stories, and it helps that they share a common protagonist, but unless you do some work on browsing through all of Dan Brown’s work, you really do not know this. One advantage of writing an actual series is that the reader can tell at a glance what the next book in the story is.

For example, if a reader were to read my book, The Wizard In Wonderland, he or she can see on the front page, “Book 1 of the Oz-Wonderland Series”. This ready-made label tells the reader that there are either more books available in the series or more are forthcoming. So if the reader enjoys the book, he or she will likely look for Book 2, and so on. True, a reader might like my work enough to just look for my name to see what else I write, but it is a sure bet that if he or she liked the book they just read, they will be more drawn to its sequel. Continue reading

Guest Post: Piracy on the High Ether

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By Valley Brown – author of Speeding Tickets

Piracy can be a serious issue for indie authors of ebooks. Valley Brown explains her personal experiences with digital piracy, and what she did to fight it.

The Internet is a vast ocean swarming with pirates. So I had been warned by any number of publishing professionals and experienced authors. Being a newbie author with an appalling lack of discoverability, I doubted I had to worry about that little problem for some time. Wrong.

August 2014: A Google Alert popped up in my Inbox. “Speeding Tickets by Valley Brown” was available as a free download on Google Docs. What?

I had never used Google Docs, and I certainly hadn’t put my book up there for a free download! I followed the link. The only legitimate PDF version of my book was available for sale through Smashwords, but they had no sales for my account. The supplier of this PDF version had a totally foreign name, which appeared to be of Eastern European origin. Through the Google Doc site, I was able to register a complaint for copyright infringement, after proving that I was indeed the owner of said intellectual property.

The online form – there was no way to contact a live human for this issue – stated the results of the claim would be sent to Chilling Effects and that a notice would be put up in the place of the removed material. I soon received an automated email reply from Google letting me know that they were taking this seriously, but due to the high volume of claims they dealt with, it might take them a while to investigate, and then to take the offending site down. Great. While my paperwork is lost in the ether-queue, hundreds or even thousands of people could be downloading pirated copies.

This was a real problem to me. I had barely any sales on this first book, even after (or maybe I should say especially after) having made the Kindle version free for three days the year before. It had not begun to pay its own expenses. The last thing I needed was someone cheating me out of income the book needed to earn. Within a week, Google took the book down. I had no way of knowing how many – if any – copies were downloaded, but at least I was safe. Not.

September 2014: Another Google Alert! Quite possibly the same individual had put my book up yet again for free download on Google Docs. Again, I filed a complaint with Google. Again, they took the book down. I was irritated at having this happen a second time, and so soon. Surely this person would be banned from Google Docs for life. Right.

January/February 2015: Another Google Alert. Seriously? The scenario repeated itself. I repeated the complaint. Google responded, a bit more quickly than the previous two instances. I could only shake my head. Why my book? It was still an unknown little tome adrift in the online ocean. My son, who is far savvier and techie than I, informed me there are a lot of individuals out there who spend countless hours pirating books and other forms of entertainment, all to share these luxury items with the less-wealthy around the web.

This perplexed me. Was this a form of flattery, or had I simply been ensnared in a wide net with who knows how many other unsuspecting authors? I had no way to know. And then…

March 2015: The now-familiar Google Alert arrived in my inbox. This had become more than annoying, more than ridiculous, and I let Google know it in my comments. The book was removed in a matter of hours, not days. Somehow, a live person must have seen the comments and raised an eyebrow over them.

Four times in seven months. That’s a lot, I think. I’m thankful I had Google Alerts set up for all my books, name and pen name. They catch a lot of tidbits that are nothing to fret over, but they also caught all of these piracy incidents. It begs the question: what DIDN’T they catch?

I’m just waiting around for the next one, for it surely is inevitable, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. With all the sophisticated software available (as free downloads, even), no form of digital/electronic IP is safe from being pirated. I trust that the majority of people out there don’t steal, that they respect and value our writing enough to pay us for our labors. Thank God for those readers. They allow us to pursue our dreams, and it is a privilege to share with them.

Incidentally, you should visit Chilling Effects sometime. The number of copyright-infringement complaints registered involving Google are endless. Mine were in company with such well-known names as The Zac Brown Band and Coldplay.

ValleyBrownSmallPromoPhoto(credited)11March2011Valley Brown lives in Southwestern Indiana with her husband (who swears she killed him off in Book One – “Speeding Tickets”). She is a member of Romance Writers of America, including Indiana RWA. “The Rocky Road” romantic suspense series celebrates mature women who realize life is one big amazing journey and that love is always worth a second chance. Valley openly admits lusting after Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream, but chocolate and coffee will always be her first loves.

Valley’s books on Amazon.com:

http://amazon.com/author/valleybrown_romance

YouTube Book Trailer:

The Rocky Road Series by Valley Brown

http://valleybrown.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/valley_brown

http://www.valleybrown.com

Indie Authors and Authorpreneurs: Teaching Online Courses

To many people, self-publishing means producing ebooks. But nowadays, that’s a limited way of thinking. A lot of indie authors call themselves authorpreneurs, and at least some of them have expanded their business to include not only books, but other digital content such as blogs, podcasts, videos, and even online courses.

Making and selling your own online courses is one of the latest ways to build a brand, and more and more companies are popping up and offering their platforms to anyone with subject matter expertise who is willing to share. Platforms include Udemy, Skillshare, Skillfeed, Pathwright, Coursmos, ON-ED, and Fedora, to name a few. Classes consist of videos, presentations, quizzes, and discussion topics. Full disclosure, I have self-published a few ebooks, and I have my own online courses available on Udemy, Skillshare, and Skillfeed.

I spoke with six other online instructors who are also authors, five of which are currently earning a full time income with their books and classes. In most cases, their books and courses fuel each other’s sales. Though some of them offer their courses on multiple websites, they all teach classes on Udemy, a platform with more than 20,000 courses and over four million students. Continue reading

Guest Post: Global Fans? Get Global Links

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By Cole Lakes – Director of Operations, GeoRiot

GeoRiot builds links that work “across countries, devices, and stores.” The company also recently acquired BookLinker.net, which creates a universal link for a book “that works for all Amazon stores.”

If you’re an indie author, chances are you’re taking advantage of Amazon’s international online store to promote and sell your books. One thing many authors don’t realize is, if you want your books to be international bestsellers, you need to be able to promote them to international readers. Let me break it down. Continue reading

Indie Authors: Finding an Editor

credara-coverJ E Henderson, author of the Credara series, has kindly agreed to let me publish an email exchange we had, which provides some insight into why it’s important for indie authors to work with editors and how to find the right one.

Henderson’s editor is Lynette M. Smith of All My Best Copyediting.

“I found my editor by a referral,” he said. “If you notice, her website says she edits non-fiction. But she said she would do it because of our mutual friend. Needless to say she made me feel like a grade school dropout. Which was WONDERFUL! She’s really great. I highly recommend her.” Continue reading

Smashwords: An upgrade to help indie authors sell better ebooks

On the last day of 2012, Smashwords made an exciting announcement: authors can now directly upload epubs to the site.

This might not sound like a big deal, but it kind of is. According to the Smashwords blog, as of December 31, 2012, Smashwords became “the world’s largest distributor of ebooks from self-published authors and small independent presses.” And now that authors can directly upload epubs to the site, Smashwords will not be limited to novels, short stories, and other books that are mostly narrative. Because authors now have the ability to upload their epub, they can sell their enhanced ebooks, children’s books, and other illustrated works through Smashwords to retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Apple, and more. Continue reading