Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New Barnes & Noble Print on Demand Service

Barnes & Noble debuted a new print on demand service today as part of its Nook Press.

From what I can see, the prices are going to be more reasonable than Lulu. I created a 180-page hardbound edition with a dust jacket for $10.10. The same book with Lulu would cost $13.25, so you save a little over $3.00 per copy. Not bad. From what I can see, you're able to order between one and 125 copies. Shipping was reasonable. I ordered two copies, and postage was $6.00.

Now for the downside.

At the current time, Nook is strictly a print on demand service. They do not distribute your books or sell them on their platform. Because of that, you need to have your own method for distributing your book.

You could sell them to friends, at book signings, and on your website. You can also sell them on Amazon if you have a seller account. I did that with a few hardbacks I printed on Lulu before Amazon picked them up.

Creating the book was fairly easy once I figured out how to embed fonts in my files. The good thing is Nook Press walks you through the entire process, and explains how to embed fonts, and create PDF print ready files.

To get started you need three PDF files. The inside file, the front cover, and the back cover. Nook specifies page sizes and margins for everything, so it's easy to follow along. You upload each file separately and then create your spine.

Like I said, I ordered two copies. It sounds like it should take a week or two to receive them. I'll share the results here when I receive them.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Set Up Your Mail List With Mail Chimp

I've been a little slow getting started with this mail list thing, and I could kick myself for it now. Every piece of advice I've ever read about being an indie author says you need a mailing list. Today, I'm over two years into the game, have sold close to twenty-thousand books, and given away twice that many. Think of all the fans I turned away.

To be honest, I tried to set up a mail list several times, and decided it was just too hard. I didn't understand how to do it, so I kept putting it off. I could always justify it. Sales were good. People were buying my books, sometimes by the boatload. Why would I ever need a list?

Well, over the last two weeks I discovered one reason I need a list - what goes up, also goes down. My sales have been disheartening, not terrible - but definitely trending downward. I've run a number of Kindle Countdown Deals, and done some free giveaways, but they haven't been as effective as usual. I suspect part of that is the time of the year. October is horrible for retail sales, and books are the same. They normally pick up by the first or second week of November.

The thing is, if I had heeded the advice to build a list, I could have done some targeted marketing to level out my sales.

That's the problem.

Here's the solution. 

I set up a list management account with Mail Chimp, and added links to all of my books, and to both of my blogs. My goal for the next year is to move from zero to a minimum of twenty-five hundred subscribers for my mail list. To do that, I'm going to concentrate on doing more free giveaways instead of using Countdown Deals to drive sales. I'm also thinking about offering several of my books as perma free to give readers a free entry point into my works.


Here's a quick tutorial on how to create a mail list sign up form using Mail Chimp.

To create your mail list from the Mail Chimp dashboard, select Create-a-list and follow the prompts.

After you have your list set up it's time to create your sign up form. Mail Chimp makes it easy to design a fancy form to entice readers to sign up, or you can go with something Plain Jane. The choice is entirely up to you. 

I created the list header above in about five minutes using Microsoft Paint. I shrunk the book covers down to 175 x 116 pixels, and tiled them across a rectangle sized 700 x 600 pixels. I used the line tool to draw the lines above and below the books and typed my text into the space below the covers. Alternatively, you could pay someone on Fiverr and let them design something really fancy.

Here's a screen shot of the actual signup form. It's easy to customize, too. You can easily add or delete fields for the information you want to collect. Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for readers to sign up. The more information you ask for, the more people are going to decide it's not worth it. My advice is to ask for the email address and first name. It's the path of least resistance.

If you look where it says Grouping 11725, you can see the different categories. By doing this readers can choose what they want to be notified about. Readers interested in only my ecommerce or history books can choose just those categories. When I send out offers about my self-publishing books or political humor works they won't be bothered. 

You could create several different lists or signup forms, but this makes it easier to manage your lists.

There are also several options available to embed forms on your blog or website, integrate with a Word Press blog, or create a form to use on Facebook. 

To include a link in your book, add the signup form URL to the front or back matter of your book. here's how I do it.

Want to know about Nick’s new book releases? Join our mailing list.

Interested in being notified when Nick releases his next book? Click here to join our mailing list. We promise not to send any spam, or unwanted emails.  The only thing you will receive is news about Nick’s new book releases, and occasional specials we are offering.

If you don't do anymore than this, you should be able to build a good sized mail list over time just from reader signups.

Another option is to include the signup form on your blog. Select the Embedded Forms option from the Mail Chimp menu. Choose the fields you want to include on your sign-up form, and copy the embed code. Paste the code where you want to embed the signup form on your blog. That's all there is to it. If you have a Word Press blog use the Integrated Forms option to include a signup form on your blog.

There are also options to add signup forms for you Facebook page or for tablets. I haven't experimented with them yet so we'll have to save them for another post.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: 33 Success Habits by Steve Scott and Rebecca Livermore

Another home run for Steve Scott.

The Daily Entrepreneur gives readers 33 specific steps to become more successful The book is broken down into five sections.

1. Failing to achieve professional goals
2. Not getting things done
3. Increasing competition
4. Poor business relationships
5. Stress and burnout

Numbers three and four hit my current weak points, so that's what I intend to concentrate on now. You can do the same thing. Read the entire book, pick one or two sections where you need the most help, and work on those.

To give you an idea of the practical advice you're going to learn, I'm going to focus on section 3 - Increasing competition. Here are the subtopics the book touches on -

1. Maximize dead time

When you're busy or under attack, it's often hard to find time to do things. But, if you look at it carefully - most of us have slow periods in our schedule where we can attack new projects or learn things.

2. Read 30 minutes a day

Reading is one of the best ways to learn new things and keep up with developments in your field. It can be as simple as reading magazines, newspapers, books in or out of your field, or even listening to audio books. If you don't set aside time to read, you're not going to be able to keep up with what's happening in your business field.

3. Develop new skills

Take time out to learn new things. If you're an author, learn HTML programming or how to format your books. Take a community college or graduate class about something you've always been interested in. You never know what information can be helpful, or how you'll be able to use it. I recently took two graduate history classes, and they paid off in a way I never expected. They helped me develop topics for several new books I will be writing soon.

4. Capture ideas

It's great to learn new things, but to make sure you can act on them, you need to find a way to save them. Write them down. Record them. Do whatever it takes to save and manage ideas.

Overall, the book has lots of great advice that you can easily implement to be more successful.

You won't be disappointed.

Book Review: Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Techniques to Supercharge Your Writing

I gotta admit, I really liked this book. It took about two hours to read, but the payoff should be huge.

Here's the main takeaway for writers: approach your writing like a cinematographer. Plan every scene in your book and choose a camera angle (perspective) to tell your story from. 

The author explains some different camera shots directors use, then goes on to explain how and when to use them. She also provides numerous examples of the camera angles as used in books and movies.

By knowing the key moment and how your plot builds it, you can plan the camera angles to best enhance the visual experience and evoke the strongest emotional reaction from your reader.

 The idea behind the book makes sense. If writers want to be successful, they should study Hollywood blockbusters. Good movies don't just happen. They're planned. They're edited to show exactly what the director wants viewers to see. 

I don't want to give away the farm, so I'm only going to discuss a few camera shots.

One of these is the establishing shot. It occurs at the beginning of the movie, and when you are switching scenes. It establishes the locale or gives viewers (readers) a frame of reference for the new scene. The establishing scene can be very brief, or it can take several minutes. It is important because it gives readers a context for what is going to happen. If you leave the establishing scene out, you risk confusing your readers.

Another important scene is the close-up. In the author's words...

...small close-up details can help make the scene come alive. Sensory details (touch, taste, sounds, sights, smells) are the most effective ways to make a scene come alive in the reader's mind.

If you want to do just one thing to help draw readers into your story, focus on adding several sensory loaded close-up scenes. If you're not sure how to do it, download some erotica stories. These authors understand the art of close-up, and how to involve your senses.

The final chapters help tie everything together, showing how to use the different camera angles in your writing.

If you want to bring your books to life - buy this book. Highlight it. Read it often. Practice telling your story using different camera angles.

Well worth the investment.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kindle Unlimited - Has it Shaken Up Your Book Sales?

About a month ago I posted a short article about how I pulled all of my eBooks off of Smashwords, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo so I could jump back into KDP. When I first heard about Kindle Unlimited, I knew I had to be in.

Last month was gooooood!

I picked up over a hundred borrows in nine days. Before that, I was at nine for the month. This month I'm at 160 borrows with twelve days to go. With a little luck, I may hit 300 borrows. Take that times the $1.81 Amazon paid out for borrows last month and that works out to almost $550. I'm figuring roughly 400 sales at about $2.00 each, which brings my total Kindle take to something like $1350 for August. Last month I received $850 in Kindle royalties. That's another $500 in my pocket thanks to Kindle Unlimited.

Not too shabby.

What was your experience with Kindle Unlimited? Did it totally change your ratio of sales to borrows? Did it boost your royalties? Or drive them into the dirt?

Let me know....

Updating this one 10/29/2014

Three months into Kindle Unlimited it's changing the face of Kindle sales.

I don't know about other authors but borrows currently makeup 40 to 45 percent of my monthly sales. The way it's going that number could easily exceed 60 percent by this time next year.

My thought is, that's good and bad. Payouts for Kindle borrows have fallen from approximately $2.11 each before Kindle Unlimited to $1.51 this last month. That's a decrease of about 60 cents per book. At the same time, the extra surge in sales during the first month or two of Kindle Unlimited has fallen off. The result, Kindle earnings are down.

Again, that's my experience. Maybe your's is different. Take a few moments to let readers know how Kindle Unlimited is working for you.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Have You Tried Kindle Unlimited

If you haven't heard about it yet, Amazon shook the Kindle world up a bit yesterday when they started offering a new program Kindle Unlimited. For a $9.99 monthly subscription fee Kindle owners can read all of the books they want for free (as long as they're in the lending library).

Right now Amazon is offering the first month free, so I had to give it a try. By the end of day one, I bumped into one of the program rules - You're limited to borrowing ten books at one time. After that, if you want to pick up a new book, you have to give one back. Fair enough, I guess. From what I understand there are no limits on how long you can borrow a book. And the fact that you can only have ten titles on your Kindle at one time is a good thing for writers because it means if readers want to keep a permanent copy of your book, they still need to buy it.

From what I understand the program works just like KDP. When a reader selects one of your books, you share in the split of KDP funds for that month as long as the reader reads ten percent of your book. To compensate for the increased borrow volume, Amazon added $800,000 to the fund for this month.

It sounds like a great deal for authors. There's no price barrier to try your book if readers are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. All they need to do is click on the Read for Free button, and your book is sent to their Kindle.

For someone like me who's been moving my books off of Amazon to Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and GooglePlay, this presented quite a dilemma. Sales were just picking up on the other sites, not fantastic, but I was looking at an extra hundred bucks a month from each site. However, after reading about Kindle Unlimited, and considering its sales potential, I decided to move all of my books back to KDP.

If you decide to try it, cancel your books on all of the other sites first, and then re-enroll your books in KDP. This way there's no conflict with your books being posted on other sites. Barnes and Noble removed my books in less than two hours. The rest of the book sites took from eight to twelve hours, so I was still able to have my books available on Kindle Unlimited from day one.

Here's hoping it works out as planned.

Book Review: Tom Robbins: The Kindle Singles Interview

I just finished reading the Kindle Single Interview with Tom Robbins. It's a lot like catching up with an old friend. I started reading Robbin's books over thirty years ago when I picked up a copy of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

It was new. It was exciting. It was the seventies. And here was this guy with a crazy writing style all of his own. It was like rediscovering Hunter Thompson, but this time he was writing fiction.

The interview was conducted by Mara Altman, and she does a great job keeping up with Robbins. We learn a lot of things about Robbins, for example, his passion for mayonnaise; his fondness for champagne, for Paris, and especially for the bubbles in carbonated beverages as they crash against his tongue, lips, and gums.

We also learn a lot about Tom Robbins, the Writer. He's old fashioned, choosing to write with pencil and paper, rather than those new-fangled word processors. And, the way he writes would drive all of the writing advice coaches nuts. A good day for Robbins is to churn out one page, or maybe even one paragraph.

Listen to how he does it...

"I try never to leave a sentence until I think it's as good as I can make it. Then when I'm satisfied with that sentence, I go onto the next one."

On planning and outlining...

"Sometimes I start with a title, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. I started with the title. I wrote the title and I turned the page over and I wrote the first sentence and I just went on from there."

On the business of writing...

"A novelist is in the same business that God is in. You're creating a world, universes, the people in them. I think that language is not the frosting it's the cake."

Of course, there's plenty more advice on writing, on LSD, on religion, and on living to be eighty-one.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Let's just say for 99 cents its a great MFA course for aspiring novelists, or just a way to catch up with an old friend.

The book is Tom Robbins: The Kindle Singles Interview by Mara Altman.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Update on Babelcube Sales

The results are in!

I'm not getting rich, but all of the books except one are selling. Most of them have sold two to four copies in the last fourteen days. Sales are spread pretty much evenly between Amazon and Apple. Only one sale came from Kobo.

Definitely not up there with Amazon.com sales, but I'm happy to see some sales rolling in. Hopefully, by fall the books will be established and selling more copies.

I would definitely suggest giving Babelcube a try. There's a potential there for picking up some extra cash over the long run.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Writer's Resume

I've been a liar, I've been a cheat, and I've been an asshole. Many times I've been all three in the same day, in the same hour.

It comes with the territory.

I've killed more men than Adolf Hitler, Atilla the Hun, and Cecil B. DeMille combined. I've blown up world after world. I've ravaged young women and assassinated Kings and Presidents.

It's all in a day's work.

And, when I was done, I found myself asking. "What's next?" "What other dastardly deeds must be done?"

Who am I you may ask?

A humble writer. A man of the pen.

I work my magic with paper, pen, and a bit of help from MS Word.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review of Everything I Know by Paul Jarvis

I don't normally like self-help books. All of that rah-rah go get 'em bullshit just doesn't sit well with me.

With that said, why read this book?

It's not your typical self-help book. It doesn't paint a rosy picture of life, the world, and everything else. Jarvis tells it as he sees it. In his own words, "I swear because I swear. That's who I am, and always have been."

Damn right! Occasional swearing is good. Three points for Paul Jarvis.

For writers there's some additional advice, " blogging and social media don't make you better at your craft, doing your craft makes you better at it." Think about that for a minute. How much time do you spend blogging, tweeting, checking Facebook, and all that other BS? Most of it is just a time suck that eats up valuable time you could be writing.

Another key takeaway, "none of us advice givers know what's possible for you. We can offer insight sure, but that's about it. My best advice? Fuck advice and listen to yourself."

How about you? How many blogs, books, and articles have you consulted about writing, book marketing, or whatever subject grabs your fancy? Some times you've just got to say what the hell, and do what you think is best, or right for you.

And, that's what I like best about this book.

Jarvis advises you over and over again, not to follow the pack. Be yourself. Take a chance, and do what you think you should do. Be original. Don't ask others for advice, and don't copy what other successful people are doing because it worked for them.

Be yourself. Be an original. Don't be afraid to take the road less followed, or forge a new path altogether. Even if you fail, you'll know where to start the next time out.

The book is Everything I Know. It's written by Paul Jarvis, and it's worth the time you invest to read it.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Your Book in a Hardbound Edition? Getting Started Publishing on Lulu

I don't know about you, but I've always had trouble thinking of myself as a writer. I think part of this is because most of my books are available in digital, audio, and paperback formats. I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, you weren't a writer until your book was available in a hardbound edition.

For those of you who don't remember back before eBooks hit the scene, traditional publishers would release hardbound editions first. Then six months or a year later after sales had slowed down enough and they had milked the hardbound edition for all they could, they would release the paperback edition. It was a long wait, but for the monetarily challenged there weren't many other choices. You could join a book club, and grab the free volumes they offered. Or, you could visit the library. But, most times, it was just a long wait, hoping the new Stephen King or David Morrell novels would hit the paperback stands.

I know I was excited when my first paperbacks were printed up, and I could finally grab hold of one of my books. Thank you Create Space. But, even that wasn't enough to convince me I was a real writer. I still kept thinking you haven't made it until you've got a hardbound book.

The final dust jacket design for eBay 2014
Well, I finally took the leap today and did it.

I printed two of my books in the hardbound edition on Lulu. I haven't seen them yet, but they should be in my hands within two weeks, and that's the day I'll know it's official. I'm a writer.

In a way it's funny, we all set certain goals that let us know we made it.

I've sold over twenty thousand Kindle books in the last year and a half, thousands of paperbacks, and close to a thousand more audio books. Yet for me, success is seeing my books in a hardback edition.

How about you?

What goals did you set for yourself that would finally let you know you were a real writer? Was it selling your first Kindle book? Selling a thousand Kindle books? Making a hundred grand in royalties?

We're all different. And we all aspire to different things, and I think that's good.

Anyway, if a hardbound book is in your future, I'll try and get a tutorial up in the next week or two to guide you through the process of creating one on Lulu. Most of it's pretty easy, but designing that dust jacket almost did me in.

Hopefully, I'll be able to save you some time, and a whole lot of frustration.

Final dust jacket for Sell it Online (I designed these with Lulu's cover creator)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Excerpt from Life Without the BS: Rants, Raves & Other Crazy Stuff

Coming to Amazon readers in July
Okay, I've been slaving away at it for over a month, and the new book is almost finished. It's called Life Without the BS: Rants, Raves, & Other Crazy Stuff, and it should be available sometime in July. Here are a couple outtakes from the book, let me know what you think.

Getting Shit Done

There must be a million and one ways to do that, who’d have ever guessed your way would be the best?

Of course, it wasn’t. But, dad always had a way of winning those arguments. I cut grass against the grain. I dried dishes wrong. I ate the wrong food. I watched the wrong TV shows.

Let’s just say I did a hell of a lot of things wrong when I was a kid, and now that I’m in my fifties that string of wrong moves just seems to keep multiplying.

Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar.

My dad’s big on telling me I eat too much.

He’s probably right on that score. What grinds on me is the way he approaches it.

Every time I visit, he sends me off to the Chicken Ranch to fetch dinner. Deep fried chicken, greasy potatoes, BBQ sauce. I can feel my arteries clogging just thinking about it.

The thing is I love fried chicken, especially the skin. Man, just dip that shit in BBQ sauce, and you got a treat no one can match. So picture this if you will. Here I am dunking my chicken in BBQ and shoveling that shit into my mouth as fast as I can, and here’s the old man. He’s carefully picking all the skin and fat off his chicken, piling it in heaps beside his plate. After he’s got his chicken just right, he moves on to his potatoes. Deep fried potato wedges. Again, he carefully chops off all the skin and brown, taking it down to the consistency of a baked potato. And, all the while he’s doing this he’s giving a lecture on how bad that stuff is for you.

He just doesn’t see how I can eat it.

I don’t see how he can keep buying it week after week if he’s so sure it’s going to kill me, unless… There may be some ulterior motives here.

But, wait. The plot thickens even more.

When dinner’s finished, and the lectures on watching your weight, not eating chicken fat, and not having a job are finally finished – out comes the pie, cake, or the ice cream.

Good thinking! A nice sugar filled desert is sure to counteract the chicken fat.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I mean who else is going to spring for a chicken dinner every time I stop by.

You know who else is always right?


Guys, I know you’re with me on this one. It’s okay, you can look around and make sure your wife or best lady isn’t within earshot. I’ll wait.

How did that old book put it? “Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars.” If you’ve ever tried to argue with a woman, you’ll appreciate the subtle changes I made to that line. “Women are from Hell, and men are from, Get me the hell out of here!”

It’s no surprise domestic quarrels are the most dangerous calls for law enforcement officers.

Have you ever seen a woman gone wild, swinging a frying pan?  She’s acting like she’s back in cave man days. The guy, he’s looking at her like she’s a raging mastodon. All he knows is he’s got to get clear of there or take a cast iron skillet across his forehead.

And guys, just to make it clear. If things have gone this far, there’s no chance of getting any make-up sex tonight. Just keep running. Just keep running.


Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress, but I repeat myself.
Mark Twain

Politics, like sex, is an acquired taste. Some like it rough. A lot of people talk about how big it is, or how it happens more and more in dark alleyways, and shady hotels.

My neighbor likens politics to marriage. After three or four years you’ve seen it all. A dick's a dick, and tits just keep sagging south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

If you’ve ever noticed, prostitutes and politicians have a lot in common. After you’ve spent a little time around either one of them, you can’t help but have yourself checked for diseases.


Have you given any thought to the upcoming elections?

Hillary is lurking around the corner waiting for her turn at the wheel.

The last election it was a race between black and white. This time it’s going to be a contest between fat and ugly.

Pick your poison. Hillary? Or Rush?

You’ve got to respect this guy, fat, stupid…not happy with the millions of fellow bigots that listen to his daily radio show, Rush recently decided his best shot at the big time was to infect young minds before they had a chance to fully develop.

To this end, he developed a series of patriotic history books.

Who hasn’t heard the tale of Rush Revere, and his talking horse, Liberty? Together they travel through history, righting wrongs, and rewriting historical events to better fit the Conservative agenda.

If I were Hillary, I’d take a few tips from Old Rush. She should take a few tokes of whatever he’s been smoking, and start writing about alien abductions, and how she was carted off to the Planet Probula, where she was ravaged by a band of sex starved half blind mole people.

Forget about writing all of those political books. Nobody wants to hear about Iraq, Iran, or the Arabian nights…tell us more about those aliens.

And, can you picture Bill? You know he’s over there in the corner, salivating at the thought of getting back into the White House. He’s thinking hot damn! Gonna grab me some interns, and head for the “Oral Office.”


Some things are better than sex, and some are worse, but there’s nothing exactly like it.
W. C. Fields

Everything I know about sex and dating I learned from perusing the Craigslist ads.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to have a pretty good idea of how to handle myself, but after twenty years of marriage, I figured I better polish up my dating skills before getting out there again.

Apparently, the new ritual is the guy posts a picture of his thingy, along with a catchy slogan like, “I’ve got a really big package for you,” or “Cum take a ride on my rocket.”

If everything measures up the female will respond back with a picture of her “boom box” or “tater tots.”

Last time I was in the dating game, it took a minimum of three dates to get that far.

But, as they say, everything moves faster in the internet age.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: Crypto Copywriting Secrets by Ben Settle

I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for a good book on copywriting.

I just finished reading Crypto Copywriting Secrets by Ben Settle. It's a great book filled with dozens of tips I can't wait to try out in my book descriptions.

Here's a sampling of what's covered in this book -

  • headlines
  • leads
  • sales stories
  • bullet points
  • the close
Now, to be honest, I have to tell you, the book is about writing sales letters. But most of it can be easily adapted to writing book descriptions.

I don't want to give too much away, but here are a few tips you can use today...
  • Don't bother writing killer headlines. What you want to do is write something that will get people to read your description.
  • Headlines that ask a question work amazingly well to keep people reading.
  • Bullets are the raw material for use in your description, and then he describes the different types of bullets and how to use them.
  • Finally, you're given two sure ways to close the deal. And, they're surprisingly short and easy to use.
I highly recommend giving it a read.

Here's the new description I penned for my book, Author Bookkeeping Made Easy.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

New Sales Tracking Tool for Babelcube Users

Babelcube recently released a sales tracking tool so authors can see how their books are selling on various sites.

To view your book sales, click on the translations tab at the top of Babelcube's home page. In the books being translated section, you will see a list of your books. At the far right, there are three tabs for each book. To check your sales, select book sales.

After you click on book sales, it will take you to the following screen where it shows you individual sales at each vendor. The default view is the last fifteen days. You can also select the last thirty days, or pick a different date range.

Show, Don't Tell

As writers, we hear these words all the time.

Show, don't tell.

I heard the best example of it ever today in an ad on the radio. You've probably heard it, too. It's the Jimmy John's commercial, where the Jimmy John's delivery guys put out the fire.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, I'll recap very quickly.

The Jimmy John's delivery guy pulls up at the house to deliver a sandwich. When the homeowner answers the door, he tells him, "Hey, did you know your house is on fire?"

The homeowner responds,"Quick! Grab a bucket."

After this, the Jimmy John's guy keeps calling the store telling his boss to send another sandwich.

As each of the delivery guys show up, they say the same thing, "Hey, did you know your house is on fire?"

"Quick! Grab a bucket," is the reply.

Finally, when the last guy knocks on the door, it's a fireman, and the homeowner tells him to sit down and have a sandwich. The fireman says, "I've got just one question for you. Why didn't you call the fire department first?"

And, the homeowner replies, "I did."


They end the commercial with "Jimmy John's - Freaky Fast Delivery."

It's low key. It paints a perfect picture in your mind, and the best thing is - they don't beat a dead horse at the end by telling you how fast they are compared to the fire department. You're left to figure that out for yourself.

Next time you're trying to decide whether your writing shows, or tells, think of that Jimmy John's commercial. If you show the story unfolding, and, don't restate the obvious afterwords, you've probably got a keeper.

Hope that helps.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Book: Author Bookkeeping Made Easy

Here's a short preview of my latest book, Author Bookkeeping Made Easy. You can grab a  copy on Kindle by visiting this link. (After you've had a chance to read it, please stop back to Amazon and leave an honest review. It will help me with my writing, and it will help other readers decide whether it can help them with their author bookkeeping needs.)

Why you need to read this book

Authors work with words. Accountants work with numbers. So what does bookkeeping have to do with writing, you may ask?

Good question.

The answer could mean thousands of extra dollars in your back pocket.

Too many authors get so excited about the money rolling in they never bother to add it all up to see if they’re making a profit. Not until it’s too late, anyway.

To run a successful writing business, you need to make a profit. The more profit you make, the healthier your business is. Unfortunately, too many authors never stop to look at the big picture. They assume that because the money keeps flowing in, they must be making a profit.

I felt the same way the first year my books were on Kindle. I earned nearly ten thousand dollars in royalties that year, and I naturally assumed I was making money. Every time I turned around, there was another deposit in my bank account. I had to be making money. The thing was when I totaled it all up at the end of the year I really only made a couple thousand bucks.

How could that be?

Simple answer: I spent more money than the royalties I received. The long answer was I kept spending money I should have socked away. I bought a new laptop, another iPhone, a Kindle, and don’t forget Fiverr. I commissioned 179 Fiverr’s over the course of one year – covers, infographics, videos, you name it.

Smart author’s tie their spending to their cash flow. If they project $10,000 in royalties, they determine they can spend a certain amount for research and goodies. If they project $25,000 in royalties, they allow themselves to spend a few bucks more tracking down that last scrap of necessary research, designing one more alternate cover, or acquiring the latest greatest electronic gadget.

Of course, research expenses, covers, and computer equipment are only a few of the ingredients involved in planning cash flow. Authors need to look at all of their expenses when they make cash flow projections.

A simple author’s budget would likely have many of the expenses listed below:

1) Research expenses
2) Books
3) Travel
4) Review copies
5) Art work (for covers, promotions, flyers, etc.)
6) Gas and mileage for your car
7) Advertisements to promote your books
8) Google AdWords / Facebook Ads
9) Equipment (computers, printers, etc.)

While not an all-inclusive list, this will give you an idea of the expenses you need to track. You also need to track your sources of income.

These are some of the income sources you’re likely to encounter:

1) Kindle royalties
2) Create Space royalties
3) Smashwords royalties
4) Barnes & Noble royalties
5) Google Play & Google Books royalties

What this book is going to do is help you take a better look at your income and expenses.

We’re going to examine several different methods of tracking your expenses. GoDaddy Bookkeeping (formerly known as Outlook) is an easy to use program that makes it more convenient for authors to record their earnings and expenses. Some authors prefer simpler methods, such as using an Excel spreadsheet or a paper journal.

Accounting solutions such as GoDaddy Bookkeeping can make things easier by automatically importing transaction information from your checking accounts and credit card accounts. It gives you the ability to set up separate income and expense accounts that make the program more flexible.

In my case, I set up separate income accounts for my Create Space, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble & ACX royalty payments so I could track that data alongside my Kindle royalties. I will go into more detail on this later and show you how to do it.

Before I go any further let me tell you a little more about me, so you can understand why I’m the right guy to help you with your author accounting needs.

Why Listen to Me?

Hey there, Nick Vulich here.

Although I’m relatively unknown in the publishing world, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve published more than thirty books over the last several years. Most of them are available as paperbacks, eBooks, and most recently as audio books.

What that means is I’ve been there, and done that. I know what it’s like to go to work every day, come home, spend time with the family, spend half the night working on your new book, and get up early the next morning to drag your ass through it all over again.

One thing you’ll discover is I’m not shy about telling you what I think.

I’ve run an online business selling on eBay and Amazon for the past fifteen years. Much of what I cover in this book is adapted from what I learned in those businesses. If I tell you about a tax deduction, tax credit, or computer program that can help you along the way, it’s because I use those programs and I know they work.

If I’ve just heard about something, but have never tried it, I’ll tell you that up front.
Let’s get started

Getting Started

What’s that you say? You don’t know the difference between a debit and a credit. Balancing your checkbook is a weeklong task. So how are you ever going to figure out business accounting, let alone get the right info together for Uncle Sam?

Don’t sweat it.

Modern accounting programs have simplified everything, so you don’t need to know the difference between a debit and a credit.

If you can punch your sales and expenses into the right category, these programs will work their magic and show you the final results – whether you made a profit or a loss.

Get Organized

The first thing you’re going to need is a system to organize and store your receipts and records. Some authors use a file cabinet. Some use expandable file folders. I like to use loose-leaf binders. I normally select a five-inch binder, monthly divider inserts, and storage pocket inserts.

Storing everything this way keeps all of my business records readily accessible, and the binder fits neatly on my bookshelf. I can store fifteen years of business records side-by-side in a relatively small space.

Save Your Receipts

Get used to it now. You need to save all of your receipts.

When you buy something online, print out the invoice, punch it with a three hole punch and store it in your three-ring binder under the month of purchase.

Save all of your mortgage or rent receipts, utility bills, phone bills, cable bills, sewer bills, etc. Store them in a zipper pouch in your binder. You’re going to need them to file for the home office deduction. It’s going to save you thousands of dollars on your taxes every year.

If you purchase supplies at Walmart, Staples, Office Depot, etc. save your receipts in a No. 10 envelope. Label the envelopes by month and store them in a zipper pouch in your binder.

Start Writing Down Your Mileage

Go to Walmart, Target, or your office supply superstore and buy a mileage log. They cost about three bucks and can save you close to a thousand dollars over the course of the year.

Starting today – You need to write down the beginning mileage on your vehicle. Every time you get in the car to run to the post office, check out a new fact, or anything related to your writing business – write it down. 

You need to record your beginning and ending mileage. Jot down a quick note about where you went, or why you went there. It doesn’t have to be a novel or anything fancy. Post Office, bank, library – just something to leave a trail of how it was business related.

Save all of your auto-related receipts as well. The government lets you deduct your actual travel related expenses, or the mileage deduction (56¢ this year), whichever is greater. To ensure the largest deduction, you need to save your car payment stubs, insurance payment records, gas receipts, repair bills, oil change receipts, anything related to your car. Grab another No. 10 envelope for each month, and label it auto expenses.

New Sales Tracking Tool for Smashwords Users

One of the most frustrating things about selling on Smashwords was the lag time between making a sale and having it reported in your sales dashboard. It used to take a month or two before you knew if your books were selling.

Yesterday (06/11) they came out with a great new tool that gives you daily sales updates for iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You can find it at the top of your dashboard in the sales reporting box. Click on daily sales, and it will take you to the page shown below.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Publishing Your Book to Smashwords - A Quick Tutorial

I have a love-hate affair with Smashwords. Here’s the link to visit their website - https://www.smashwords.com/.

I’m happy for the opportunity to get my books on all of the sites they support, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to configure a manuscript to get it through their “meatgrinder.” The good news is I don’t have to.

After a week of pulling out my hair and fighting urges to smash my laptop against the wall I found a guy on Fiverr who’ll do all the work for me for five bucks. His Fiverr id is Bookaholic, and he does the job in three days or less. If you want to check out his gig here’s the link.

Here’s the least you need to know about Smashwords. They’re a third party aggregator that posts content on their own website, and on other eBook sites. Some of the sites they make your books available on include:
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  •  Baker-Taylor Axis 360
  •  Barnes & Noble
  •  Flipkart
  • Kobo
  •  Library Direct
  •  Oyster
  •  Page Foundry
  •  Scribd 

The big three are Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

Apple is the toughest nut for independent authors to crack on their own because Apple requires you to use their own eBook authoring software that only runs on – you guessed it – an Apple computer.

Publishing your book

Smashwords does all of the heavy lifting for you. When you submit a manuscript to them, it gets run through their “meatgrinder.” This is what converts your manuscript into all the different formats they need to publish your book on other sites. To do this, they have very specific guidelines your manuscript needs to conform to.

For the sake of my own sanity and this book, I’m not going to cover their exact requirements. I suggest using the Fiverr gig by Bookaholic. 

If you want to go it on your own, you should check out the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. You can get your free copy here.

Your cover art may also need some minor tweaking to work with Smashwords. They require your cover to be a minimum of 1400 pixels wide, with a height greater than the width. You can resize your cover using paint, or ask your designer to redo it for you.

Once you have your manuscript and cover ready publishing on Smashwords is easy. Click on publish in the author dashboard. Most everything is self-explanatory.

The pricing and sampling section is different than on Amazon. You have the option to make your book permanently free on Smashwords. To do this select make my book free. Authors generally do this when they want to make their book permanently free on Amazon or other eBook sites. You’re also given the option to let my readers determine the price. If you’re feeling lucky, give this one a try. Readers can pay whatever they think your book is worth. Keep in mind, if you use this option, Barnes and Noble won’t publish your book if you submit it through Smashwords. The final option is charge a specific price for my book. Use this section to set the price you want for your book.

The section immediately after this lets you set up sampling. Amazon automatically sets sampling or the look inside feature to ten percent. Smashwords lets you select the sample size for your book. Twenty percent is the default setting. They suggest fifteen percent for full-size books and thirty percent for short stories. Choose the preview amount you’re comfortable giving away.

Section 5 lets you select the eBook formats to make your book available in. By default, all of the formats are selected. My suggestion is to leave it like that.

After you’ve completed all of the steps, select yes, I agree in Section 8 and Smashwords will begin to process your book.

Once you select yes, I agree your book goes into a queue waiting to be processed. When processing is completed, you receive an email saying congratulations your book passed the vetting process, or you will receive a message that your book had issues going through the autovetter. If you had autovetter issues, you can correct them, and resubmit your manuscript.

As soon as you receive the congratulations message, your book goes on sale on the Smashwords site. It also goes into review for premium distribution, which means it is good to be sold on other sites like Apple, Kobo, and Scribd. Most often it takes about a week to review your book and get it set up for premium distribution.

You can check the progress in your dashboard. The second to the last column at the far right of each book summary shows the premium status. When your book has been accepted it will show premium approved, and the date of approval. If there is an issue getting approved, you will be able to see the error code in the next column – retailer tickets. As soon as you correct the error, you can resubmit your book.

Selecting distribution channels

After you submit your book you have one last task to complete, you need to select your distribution channels. To do this select channel manager in the box labeled Marketing & Distribution Tools.

When you click into the channel manager, the first thing you see is an explanation of the royalties paid to sell your book on the different sites. To select your sales channels scroll further down the page until you see your first book cover. Smashwords shows you the different channels available and gives you the option to Distribute or Opt Out of each channel.

I list my books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo for myself so I choose to opt out of those three programs. This way I receive payment directly from both sites and don’t have to pay a commission on those sales to Smashwords. Others authors prefer the convenience of doing it all through Smashwords and just having one distributor. You can always change your distribution options later if you decide to publish to those channels on your own. I did this with Kobo when I discovered how easy it was to use their Writing Life interface.

After you’ve selected your channels to sell on it normally takes anywhere from one to four weeks for your books to start selling on those sites.

As expected, Apple is the most difficult vendor to work with.

When you format your manuscript make sure to remove all of the links to other eBook sites. I know I missed this step on several of my manuscripts. I usually include a clickable bibliography with links to where readers can find those books on Amazon or Google Books. That’s a big no-no with Apple unless you change to links to books in the iStore.

Another area I’ve been caught with my pants down on was where I included a link to my book on Amazon to ask for a review. Apple will reject your book if you link to Amazon, or even if you just mention that readers should stop back to Amazon to ask for a review.

To make it easy on yourself thoroughly check your book for links to other eBook sites and remove all of them.


Payments are made quarterly on Smashwords. Authors can choose to receive payment by PayPal or check. The payment threshold for PayPal is $10.00, for checks the payment threshold is $75.00.

Payment dates are:
  • January 31st (for sales in October, November, and December)
  • April 30th (for sales in January, February, and March)
  • July 31st (for sales in April, May, and June)
  • October 31st (for sales in July, August, and September)

To check out Smashwords FAQs click this link - http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#Royalties.