Publishing Kindle EBooks with Complex Layouts

There’s no doubt that being able to publish and sell your own books online is a great experience and one that many Independent authors are taking advantage of. When it comes to publishing eBooks with complex layouts though, things can get a little tricky. I encountered a few problems whilst publishing my second book so I’ve described these below together with details of how I tackled them.

Imagesparties
When I published my first parenting book some of the feedback suggested that it would have benefited from colour images. Therefore, as Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK) is a similar type of book, I decided to include colour images throughout. As I wrote each chapter I collected photographs from the organisations featured in the chapters. I didn’t bother about the image format at that point as I decided to tackle that matter as and when I needed to. I only had a vague idea at the time of how many images I would include, and thought that perhaps I wouldn’t use them all, especially if some didn’t fit the required format.
In the end I decided to include a picture for each chapter as the photographs I received were so lovely. When I started to format the book for publication to the Kindle I found that the Amazon specifications were that no image should exceed 127KB. A quick check revealed that most of my picture files were several megabytes so I knew that I had a bit of a problem on my hands.
I set about converting the images on my software but it wasn’t sophisticated enough to change the picture quality as well as the picture size. Therefore, in order to reduce the file size sufficiently it resulted in images that were only about an inch in width. Fortunately, the wonderful Alice Huskisson stepped in and offered to convert the images using her Adobe Photoshop package. Alice managed to convert the images to as near to 127KB as possible without exceeding that file size. At the same time, the quality was still really good, so big, big thanks to Alice.

Bullets and Numbered Lists
Gymnastics picI knew from my previous publication that there would be a problem converting bullets for the Kindle. However, last time it was a bit hit and miss and I couldn’t really determine why it worked on some occasions but not others. As bullets and numbered lists form such an integral part of this book I decided to run with it and tackle whatever problems presented themselves once I had attempted the upload to Amazon.
This time, fortunately, I discovered the crux of the problem. Providing the text in your bullet points does not extend for more than one line on the Kindle, the bullets convert fine. However, if the text runs onto the following line the bullets will appear skew wift. This meant that I had to go through the entire book and reduce the bullet points to no more than four or five words. Where this wasn’t possible I got round the problem by putting N.B. at the end of the set of bullet points and adding any extra points that were necessary. With numbered lists I sometimes had to treat each numbered point as a separate paragraph without a number. Fortunately, it worked out well and hasn’t had a negative impact on the layout.

Hyperlinks
This is a problem that I didn’t encounter the first time round and one for which I had to involve my resident IT expert. This book actually has a lot less hyperlinks than the first book. Although I have tried to include references to further information I deliberately reduced the number of hyperlinks as these don’t work so well in a print version (which will follow soon). Despite this, I still encountered a problem when I converted the document from Word to HTML ready to upload into Amazon. Here’s what happened:
In Word, and in the converted HTML document, hyperlinks show as coloured and underlined. They are very useful because the Kindle allows the reader to follow the hyperlink in order to access further information. Unfortunately, when I converted to HTML there were a few areas of the document where the colour and underlined text extended beyond the hyperlink. In a couple of instances this meant that there were several paragraphs of text that were coloured and underlined. I played around with the document in Word but couldn’t find a solution.

Over to my resident IT expert.

The only way in which we could solve the problem was for my hubby to actually alter the HTML code. The book looks fine now but unfortunately it means that my Word document doesn’t reflect these amendments. So, if I want to make any Kids at Chester Zoochanges in the future I can’t do them myself as they will have to be carried out using the amended HTML document. Needless to say, I’ve given my hubby advance warning that I will be needing his help again when the special offers in the book expire. He’s asked me to point out that he isn’t taking on any assignments from other authors – ha ha! How lucky am I?

I’m pleased to say that despite these little niggles I got there in the end (with a little help from my friends/husband) and the pictures look great. I couldn’t resist including a few images from the book again with this blog – I’m so proud of them! You can have a look inside the book with Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00GXHQ02G. I also have to add that after experiencing all the intricacies of publishing this type of book, publishing a novel should be an absolute doddle.

No doubt these words will come back to haunt me. 

If you want to find out about my other books including future publications you can check out the book page of my website at: http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html.

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Are Amazon Revealing too Much?

I’m referring specifically to Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature. “A great idea”, many may say, both from an author’s and a reader’s point of view. For novelists it gives them the opportunity to display the quality of their work. Hopefully they will also be able to hook the reader so that he or she will want to read more and will therefore purchase the book.

From the reader’s point of view this feature is also advantageous. Often readers can tell in the first few pages whether they will enjoy a book. So, this facility gives readers the chance to sample the product before making a purchasing decision.

A situation where everyone wins, you may think. But what if you are a non-fiction author?

Amazon Look Inside FeatureThe Disadvantage for Non-Fiction Authors

This feature can cause problems for non-fiction authors. I will cite my first book “Kids’ Clubs and Organisations” as a specific example to illustrate my point. I think that the ‘Look Inside’ feature was detrimental to my first book and I remember feeling displeased when Amazon automatically added it. Although I had a good look around the author area I couldn’t find a way to opt out of this, but I am a self-confessed technophobe so it may just be that I couldn’t find the instructions. If anyone knows how to remove the ‘Look Inside’ feature I would be eternally grateful for your guidance.

The reason why I feel that ‘Look Inside’ has been detrimental to my first book is because one of the book’s selling points is that it introduces parents to kids’ clubs that they may not have realised existed. The contents page describes exactly what type of clubs they are, so some people, having been given the idea for free, could decide to do their own research. Of course, there will be many details that they won’t find on the Internet as I gained a lot of input from the organisations involved with the book. However, this is something that people won’t realise when they view the contents page. I think this disadvantage may have influenced the fact that I sold far more books outside of Amazon than I sold through the site.

I am not saying that this is the only factor that influenced my Amazon sales. Another factor may be because the title is quite formal and may make the book appear more like a library reference book rather than a book that parents and children can read together. I have addressed this factor with my new book by making the title more parent and child friendly. I also hope to include lots of lovely colour images. There is no doubt that self-publishing teaches you a lot and I have taken on board all the lessons that I learnt during the publication and promotion of my first book.

How my Second Book will address the ‘Look Inside’ Issue

With my second book I am avoiding the above situation by making my chapter headings more cryptic, then putting a sub-heading inside the book, which expands on the main chapter heading. The cryptic headings are also intended to add to the fun factor so that the book will appeal to parents and their children.

I have noticed that some authors put the contents page at the back of their Kindle books and I wonder if they do this so that readers don’t see the contents until they buy the book. From a reader’s perspective, however, I prefer to see the contents page at the start of the book, and this is the reason why I have decided not to follow this path.

N.B. My second book is nearing completion and I will be sharing more information about the book on this blog and on the books page of my website in the coming weeks.

If you have a view regarding the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature, I would love to receive your feedback in the comments box below.

Book Promotion – My New Approach

Since I published my first book “Kids’ Clubs and Organizations” a year ago I have learnt a lot about book promotion. As an Independent author I have to learn as much as I can because it’s my job to market my books as well as to write and publish them. I had a marketing plan ready when I launched the book and I thought that I had tried just about everything I could to get the word out. How wrong I was! I realise now that all Indie authors are constantly learning and finding out new ways to promote their work.

Last week I had my first free eBook promotion, which I see as another step in my ongoing effort to promote my work. As well as propelling my book up various lists, I also learnt a lot from the experience, which I will put to good use with future books. So, I’ll start this article by taking a look at how it went before talking about other new approaches that I am taking in relation to my book promotion. At the bottom of this post I’ve also included a list of people that I want to thank for helping me to spread the word about my eBook promo.

The Free Promo Day

I had a key objective in mind when I decided to do a free eBook promo day, which was to get my book noticed in more competitive categories so that I could hopefully attract new buyers. A specific aim of this was to appear on the first page of the Amazon UK popularity list for the parenting category, which has over 17,000 books. So, before I listed the book as free I swapped my categories to others that were more competitive but where I could also expect to achieve a high rank in the popularity lists.

I wasn’t expecting the mammoth number of downloads that novelists receive because my book fits into a specific niche and its readership is predominantly UK based. Therefore, I will focus on the results that I achieved in accordance with my objectives as well as the positions achieved on the free eBook listings.

Free EBook Listings

The maximum positions that “Kids’ Clubs and Organizations” achieved were:

–        First in the UK list Parenting and Families>Family Activities, a category which has about 1000 books.Popularity Lists

–       Second in the UK list Parenting and Families>Parenting, a category which has about 17,000 books.

–       Tenth in the main UK category listing for Parenting and Families, a category which has over 61,000 books.

–       Second in the US list Parenting and Relationships>Reference.

N.B. The latter category only has about 300 or so books, but I was surprised to make the US listings at all as my book has a UK bias.

Popularity Lists

At the time of writing (Saturday lunchtime) “Kids’ Clubs and Organizations” achieved the following positions in the UK popularity lists for my chosen categories:

–       First in Parenting and Families>Family Activities, a category with about 1000 books.

–       Eleventh in Parenting and Families>Parenting, a category which has about 17,000 books.

–       Number 88 in the main category Parenting and Families, a category which has over 61,000 books.

That put me just one place behind Richard Madeley’s book “Fathers and Sons”, and seven places behind Paul O’Grady’s book “At My Mother’s Knee” on the Amazon popularity list for Parenting and Families. I must admit that I never envisaged a day when I would be running closely behind Richard Madeley in hot pursuit of Paul O’Grady. What diverse lives us Indie authors lead!

I am now waiting to find out what impact my position in the popularity lists will have on book sales – fingers crossed!

Shouting about It

ShoutingI must admit that shouting about my achievements is something that I am not comfortable with. I am naturally quite reserved and prefer not push myself forward. However, having a free promo day gave me a reason to shout about my work. Apart from the results described above, this enabled me to connect with more people on social media and by email. Having said that, I did feel guilty about directly approaching Twitter users who were involved in parenting, and asking them to RT my tweets. My direct approach paid off though because I had a couple of opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have come across.

The first was a request for help with the editing of a book and the second was a promotional opportunity. The latter consisted of an interview about me and my work, and the accompanying article will be published on a major UK website for mums later this week. I’m looking forward to seeing the article and will definitely be doing a bit more (online) shouting in the future.

Mailing List

My first eBook now has a mailing list in the back as well as details of my two forthcoming books and my social media URLs. The mailing list was something I hadn’t thought of until I read David Gaughran’s “Let’s Get Visible”, which is a really useful guide on how to get your books noticed online. Having all of these details in the back of “Kids’ Clubs and Organizations” means that, in effect, the book acts as an advertisement for future books.

Blog

For almost a year I pressed on with the blog that came as part of my website software package. There were a few problems associated with this. Firstly, the RSS feed didn’t work so people couldn’t follow my blog. Secondly, there were no statistics attached so I didn’t have a clue how many people were reading the blog.

Thankfully, I recently swapped to WordPress. I love the statistics that WordPress provides because I can see how many people are reading my blog posts. This enables me to assess which posts appeal to my readers the most. Additionally, because WordPress has its own community, it gives me another opportunity to connect with people online. That means I have more people to share my news with whenever I launch a book, run a promotion etc. I was also able to import it into my website so that you can still view it through www.dianemannion.co.uk as well as through my WordPress URL.

Future Promotional Ideas

All of the knowledge that I have gained over the last year should stand me in good stead for future books. When I release my second parenting book (hopefully in the next couple of months) I will do a few things differently, and I will give you details of any triumphs as I go along. However, there are some promotional measures that I would repeat for my second book. Basically, it means that I won’t waste time on promotional areas that haven’t worked in the past and I will focus more on those that have worked as well as trying out some new ideas.

Special Thanks

I am really grateful to all the people who helped to get the word out about my book promo by various means, as follows:

StarsAll Round Stars – These are the people that have gone the extra mile e.g. tweeting, retweeting, mentioning the book promo on their FB pages, websites or newsletters, or downloading a copy to add to the numbers (even if the book wasn’t in a genre that appealed to them). Here we go: Alice Huskisson, Guy Portman, Anne Coates, Terry Tyler, Charlie Plunkett, Jess Sturman-Coombes, Working Bees, Steve Hill, Mark Richards and Selva Sugunendran. You are all wonderful people and I’m very grateful for all your help and support.

Terrific Tweeters and Fabulous Facebookers – There are too many to list all of them, but a few people tweeted and RTd repeatedly about my book promo so I want to give them a special mention. They are: Lizzie Lamb, I C Camilleri, Rose Edmunds, Rachel Dove, Rosie Morgan, Clare Davidson, Bestiary Business and members of the #ukLL. Some of my Facebook friends were also willing to share my incessant postings about the promo so a big thank you to them as well.

As always I love to receive your feedback in the comments box below so if you have enjoyed this post please let me know by clicking the like button.

Self-Publishing Facts and Figures

Following on from last week’s blog in which I stressed the importance of supporting independent authors, I decided to find some figures to back up my claim that independent publishing is a growing trend. I’ve also included some other interesting facts and figures relating to self-publishing, which I’ve gleaned from various Internet sources. For simplicity I have used the term ‘self-publishing’ to refer to all publishing that isn’t through a traditional publisher, including independent publishing. For a fuller explanation of the terms ‘self-publishing’ and ‘independent publishing’ please refer to the paragraph at the bottom of this post.

Pie chart

1) According to figures published by Bowker Market Research, self-published books accounted for 2% of all UK book sales in 2012, but 12% of all digital UK book sales. However, in the crime, humour and romance genres self-published UK book sales reached more than 20%!

2) Between 2006 and 2011 the number of self-published titles produced in the US tripled, reaching a combined total of 235,625 books and eBooks in 2011.

3) In 2012, 17 of the top-selling 100 Kindle books were self-published.

4) Included amongst the growing list of famous authors that have self-published some of their work are: Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf and John Grisham.

5) If authors use a traditional publisher they can expect to earn between 17.5% and 25% royalties on an eBook, whereas by self-publishing they can earn up to 70-80% of the sale price of the eBook.

6) The total number of books produced by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers in 2009 was a whopping 764,448.

7) In 2009 CreateSpace produced 21,819 books and Lulu produced 10,386.

8) Apart from financial gain, self-publishing offers a number of other advantages to authors; the self-published author sets the price, retains all rights and decides the release date.

9) There are more self-published eBooks than print books, which contributes to the overall trends although the publication of eBooks is growing generally. From 2006 to 2011, total US eBook production rose 129% compared to a rise of 33% for print book production.

10) 39% of all self-published print books were produced via CreateSpace in 2011. This represents a total of 58,412 titles published using CreateSpace in 2011 compared to 21,819 in 2009.

Bar chart

Self-Publishing or Independent Publishing?
There is some confusion about the terms ‘self-publishing’ and ‘independent publishing’ with many people using them interchangeably. Self-publishing is the term that has been used for many years to refer to any publishing that isn’t through a traditional publisher. At one time the only way to do this was through vanity publishing where authors would have to make an upfront payment to the vanity publisher. However, the publishing platforms available nowadays give authors more freedom, especially with the growth of digital publishing. This enables authors to be listed as the publisher as well as being able to obtain their own ISBN numbers. This is what is known as independent publishing. Through their own publishing businesses many authors also choose to publish books for other authors. When figures are quoted regarding the publishing industry, many people use the term ‘self-publishing’ to refer to both independent and vanity publishing.
If you have enjoyed my fun facts please let me have your feedback below or feel free to add your own interesting facts relating to self-publishing.
N.B. This information was drawn from a variety of Internet sources and I cannot give any guarantees regarding its authentication.