Oct 042015

Well, not from a place which does not exist, but even more better.  The start of October was a bit pleasant when I checked my bank statement and found not one, but two royalty deposits from my three year old, still cranking them out, not so best selling ebook, “Moving To The Florida Keys“.   Both the iBookstore and Amazon made enough on downloads to warrant a transfer of a few more pieces of eight into my greedy little paws.  Actually, it wasn’t much at all, barely enough for a day or two’s food budget, depending on if I shop at Publix,  the Dollar Tree, or do some dumpster diving.  But, every little bit helps.

As I said, I wrote this little literary masterpiece 3 years ago and while it ain’t exactly Harry Potter numbers, just the fact I have made a small profit writing an ebook would have all my old English teachers spinning in their graves.  Those were some of my least favorite classes and I showed no aptitude for writing at the time.  Some may argue I still don’t, but then, they don’t have a blog drawing 10,000 visitors a month and a royalty check coming now and then, do they?  Hey, talent or not, I’m having fun doing what I want to do, and nothing shuts a critic up like making money.

In case you are wondering if you yourself have the ability to write a book of some kind, yes, you do.  If I can do it, anyone can.  The process itself is pretty easy nowadays with the available technical aids.  As to whether or not you will make money with your literary skills, the market will decide.

For me, writing the book was actually pretty damn easy.  It was a subject I knew well and had first hand experience at, namely, moving to the Florida Keys.  Virtually the entire book was based on my personal experiences.  The bulk of the book was already written over a period of time.  I was able to take old blog posts, do a minor bit of editing here and there, and before you know it, a book was formed.  The rest of the content was pretty easy after that.  Links to external sites, a few enhancements here and there, add in some photos, and there you have it.

As for formatting, I used a couple of handy and easy to use tools.  Paper and ink books are obsolete.  While a few of the bigger sellers still use the old dead tree method, by far the electronic book is the way to go.  It costs way more less to produce a book and it allows one to really spiff up the content with active links, video, images, and other digital wonders.  In my case I used a program called iBook Author.

iBook Author allows you to build and format your writings into all the elements necessary to create a finished book.  Chapters, sections, table of contents, fonts, pagination, paragraph styles, everything is right there to allow you to refine your work to exactly what you want.  No wasted paper, no writers cramp, and best of all, no costs.  The program is free and it works on both Mac computers as well as iOS devices.  You can edit over and over again as needed, completely change the look if you want, and create an unlimited number of books, if you are really feeling the writer’s urge.  Programs like iBook Author have put the tools to become a writer into anybody’s hands.  If you are going to write a book, you need this program.

Another program I use is called Calibre.  There are ebooks and there are ebooks and not all ebooks are the same.  The ebook format you get from the iBookstore may not work on your particular device.  Or you may want to publish on different platforms, like Amazon.  So, Calibre is the program to help you do so.  Again, the program is free and works on Mac as well as pc’s.  Download it and you can take your finished ebook and convert it into many other formats which will work on other devices.  It’s pretty easy to use and opens up other markets for your work.

The last program I use is a minor but important one.  You may notice on my book and others something called an ISBN number.  An ISBN number is essentially a book’s social security number.  It identifies the book, the format, and all the pertinent information.  It’s important to have this number to differentiate the formats your book has come in.  For example, if you publish a book as both an ebook and old fashioned paper and ink book, each version would need it’s own ISBN number.  The downside is ISBN numbers are not free.  One ISBN number will cost $125.  You can buy in bulk for a lot less which is a good deal if you intend to publish a lot of books in a lot of formats.  For me, the ISBN number was my only cost in producing my book.  And I made that money back rather quickly so the little royalty checks I received this month were all profit.

So, the process of actually creating a book is pretty easy.  But what do you do after said book is created?  Publishing a book these days pretty much involves two choices.

You can submit your literary gem to a publishing house for consideration.  A publishing house has all the marketing tools, expertise, and reputation for getting a book out there to the masses.  They work with the bookstores and have the experts who will turn your work into money…maybe.  To get said money you have to convince said publishing houses to actually consider if you work is worthy of their standards.  That means editors will read over your submissions.  And chances are, they won’t like it.  All the work you put into your story, all the hours of typing, refining, and working out plot twists is now in the hands of someone who doesn’t know the suffering you went through to create your masterpiece, nor do they care.  Do you think my book would have been accepted given the way I butcher the English language?  They’ll reject your work for just about any reason leaving you a sobbing shell of your former self.

And if by chance your work is somehow accepted, with whatever edits the publishing gods deem necessary, you will be paying them a fortune in fees.  Your royalties will be much more less, especially if you are just starting out.  Your numbers may, or may not be greater in terms of the number of books sold, but you will have to sell a lot more to make up for the smaller slice of your take.

The other alternative is much more better and costs a lot less…self publishing.   When you self publish you have almost complete control over your work, where it gets published and what if any edits need to be done.  No editors destroying your work or your self esteem, and you can get a bigger slice of the royalty pie.  The downside is you won’t have the marketing tools of the big publishing houses, or at least not as much.  But you can control your own work and make a profit faster by self publishing.  Here is what I have done.

The iBookstore, as I mentioned above was the first market.  It’s easy to become an author.  Go to iTunes Connect, set yourself up, download the book and watch the money roll in…sort of.  The iBookstore is pretty good about getting your book ready for sale.  You pick the markets, set the price, add in some marketing copy, and they do the rest.  Apple takes a 30% cut of your sales but given the large market and what they do, it’s well worth it.  No editors will cut your content, and the book will stay on the market until you decide to pull it.  You can publish as many books as you want, edit old versions, change the pricing at will, and track your sales everyday.

Amazon is the second obvious choice.  I was hesitant to use Amazon for awhile but finally this year I put the book up there and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  It opened up a new market on new devices for me and now the royalties have started to come in.  Click the link above to get started, it’s free, and just follow the instructions to get your book online.  Like the iBookstore, you can chose many options including markets and pricing.  And the site allows you to edit and update your work.  Again, they take 30% to do all the legwork like handling the money and transactions.  All you have to do is provide a bank account to handle the monthly pennies rolling in.

Be careful with Amazon however.  They have a program called Kindle Direct Publishing.  The program gives your work more exposure and the royalties are higher but according to their terms you cannot market your book anywhere else.  I did not opt for this as I want to use other markets.

One other thing I did was convert my book to an app.  This was a pretty easy thing for me to do seeing as how I know how to build apps and while it has not translated into a lot of sales, it does give one more option.  And yes, for a nominal fee, I will be happy to convert your book to an app.  Contact me through the comments and we can discuss it.

The final option for self publishing if you want to avoid any involvement with any publisher and keep all the money for yourself is to simply set up a website, add the book in as download, usually in PDF format, set up a buy button with Paypal, and be done with it.  Unless you have a really large audience for your website, or you simply want to limit your book to a certain audience, say a teacher wanting to give a class reading assignments, this method will probably produce the least results.  I had such a set up a while back in response to a few people who didn’t have a device which handled the iBookstore version.

For me, self publishing was the way to go.  Less hassles, I probably made more money than if I had been accepted by some big publishing house, and I have complete control over my work.  I’ve made a small profit off the book and continue to do so, with not a lot of work in the beginning, and virtually no work since other than the occasional marketing post or mention on Twitter or Facebook.  It has provided me with a small amount of passive income, the encouragement to write some more, and the egotistical joy of seeing an actual book I have written being bought by people.  Well worth it.

So why don’t you try it?  Write your own book?  The tools are there.  It can be done without spending a lot of money, just taking the time to write it.  Pick a subject you know something about, or base it on events which happened to you.  A novel may not be the best way to start out so try something like I did.  Are you doing some sort of life event which would make a good story?  Building a house perhaps, traveling somewhere, or downsizing.  There is a market out there for most any subject.

Worried about your writing abilities?  How many publishers would reject my work because it’s not, ‘more better’.  I write the way I think and feel.  I like to think it gives my own special touch to the blog and the book.  Grammar does play a part in some ways but one of the joys of writing and self publishing is you don’t have to follow all the rules.  But if you ain’t sure about your abilities, find someone to ghost write for you.  A student perhaps, a teacher looking for some side work.   They can help proofread also.  I try to proofread all my work so I don’t leave any out.  But it’s easy to miss your own mistakes.  Find a second set of eyes to point out the obvious.  Working on the computatator helps a lot.  Spell check is our friend, and sometimes our worst enema.  But it works.  Using a program like iBooks Author helps because it can format all the piddly stuff for you.  Organize the pages, set up paragraphs, all that nonsense.  All you need to do is add in the content and refine the work.

And speaking of content, a book doesn’t have to be just words and sentences.  You can publish books based on photos, video, drawings, and just about anything else your perverted imagination can come up with.  Just make sure your work is original, and your own.

If you are still not sure if writing a book is for you but you have been kicking around the idea, here is one final thought. If you don’t write it, nobody will read it.  If you don’t publish it, nobody will buy it.  Take a chance and see what you can do.  Download the programs I mentioned above, or find some alternatives and get thee to writin’.  Don’t figger on becoming a best selling author nor making millions off your work.  Just publish something, get it out there and see what happens.  Very few things are as enjoyable or self satisfying as seeing those first few sales of your book go through and finding those pennies from wherever showing up in your bank account.

Now go write your story.  Somebody out there is waiting to read it.

Capt. Fritter

  One Response to “Pennies From…”

  1. there’s some great info in this post capt.
    thank you.
    it’s late here now. but tomorrow i plan to follow those links and check it all out.
    and congrats on those continuing royalties.