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Author: Troy Lambert

Troy is a freelance writer, editor, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life, his son, and two very talented dogs.

Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.

What It’s Like to Write “The End” Again

Honestly, it has been a few long years, and it feels like even longer since I have written “The End” on a book, mine or otherwise. In some ways, I was beginning to wonder if I could still do it. By that, I meant carry a story through until the end. 

Don’t get me wrong. I knew I still had it in me, and from my freelance writing career, I knew I could still write. However, writing is novel is much different than an article, a blog post, or a short story. Even those bait e-books they talk about are different when you write the end. 

But after the last year, things changed for me a lot. First, my freelance writing and even a ghostwriting book took off in ways I could not have imagined. I grew as a writer and a person and got back into the writing groove. I took on gigs I would not normally have and transformed my life to once again put writing at the center. 

I wrote “The End” a few times in recent months, and it feels good. If you are a writer and struggling to do the one thing we all struggle with from time to time, finishing, here are some thoughts for you. 

Personal Satisfaction

While we all know that writing is a business and “The End” is just the beginning of a larger process, it is the end of one of the toughest parts. There is something immensely satisfying in the completion of a large project, and whether that is a novella, novel, or a non-fiction book of some sort, you have proven you can see something through to a conclusion. 

Why are NaNoWriMo and other such programs so popular with writers? Because they give you a chance to finish something, even if you do not see it through to publication. Writing “The End” whether the first time or the fiftieth, matters. 

Inspiration to Do it Again

One of the truths of the writing craft is that no matter how good you get, no matter how long you work at it, you will never be truly a master, because there is always something new to learn. The only way to learn those things is to write something and finish it over and over again. 

Writing the words “The End” inspires you to do it again, and again, and again. Maybe you are like most writers and have a lot of projects in the works. When you write “The End” it is time to move on to whatever is next. You should have a plan for that too, by the way. Goals set are goals achieved. 

The Psychological Victory

Let’s put things in a bit of perspective. A big part of writing fiction or anything else is psychological. If you have chosen writing as a career, you can type pretty fast (probably) and you probably have enough ideas to fill a book themselves. Then life happens or people give you other ideas, and you feel like you can write forever. 

Until you sit down to write and then somehow our brain blocks us from doing what we love if we let it. The ability to get through those blocks and to the end with something that is at all good and worth working through the rest of the process is a huge breakthrough, and not just once, but every time. 

I endured a lot of personal criticism about many aspects of my life, including my decision to be a writer and do that for a living for a few years before a relationship ended and I started over in many ways. Whatever is going on in your life, whatever you need to do to finish or get started again, the ability to complete something and write “The End” will boost your confidence and morale. 

What a Relief

To be a successful writer, you need to need to be a writer, to the point where nothing else will really do. Whether this is a hobby for you or a way to make a living, you still need to have the same need. 

Writing “The End” this time for me was a relief. I need to be a writer. An extensive collection of nametags, hairnets, and various unsuccessful careers tells me this is true. The question I had after the last few years was whether or not I could do it anymore. Freelance was one thing: my books and novels were another. 

But I found I could. First, I wrote “The End” on Tilting With Windmills, a Monster Marshall’s story coming sometime this year, wrote “The End” on a ghost writing project I am involved in, wrote it in Harvestedformerly of another title after a major re-write, and am about to do it again on a non-fiction project about writing as a business, also coming out this year. 

This isn’t to brag. It is to simply say this very act proved I can do this, I can be a writer, and I can make it my living. I can keep writing “The End” over and over again until it is written the final time for me by someone else. What’s it like to write “The End” again? It is all of these things. What is standing in your way? No matter what it is, you can get past it. After all, what better satisfaction is there in this crazy business of ours? 

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5 BENEFITS OF A REAL ESTATE AGENT WHEN BUYING A HOUSE

The benefits of hiring a real estate agent to help you in buying a house are many. They do however cost some money once the transaction goes through. This cost is normally a percentage of the final sale price. It sounds very high, but they are worth every penny you pay them. In fact, that is the exact reason why I wrote this article in the first place. To let you know how important real estate agents are when you’re buying a house.

So, without any further ado, here are 5 benefits of a real estate agent you didn’t know about:

  1. They are good negotiators

Real estate agents can easily tell whether or not a property has been over price or not. If it is, then they can then negotiate to a much reasonable price. With the help of an analysis of all comparable properties in the neighboring community, the real estate agent can come up with a price that is not too low, but reasonable and comparable to the value of properties surrounding them.

  1. Ability to ask for repairs from sellers

You can trust that a real estate agent has the best interest of ensuring that your home buying experience is a good one.  This is why if there are any damages that are either hiding out of sight or are very visible; they know how to persuade the seller to have the repairs done. And if they can’t persuade them to do that, then it becomes another negotiating point through which they can lower the price of the house even more.

  1. Ability to meet your needs

A real estate agent is normally familiar with the local community because they are most likely members. Their vast knowledge with the community owners and the area’s history gives them an advantage of knowing which houses are on sale. This enables him/her to easily find a house that meets your specifications faster than you would have if you decided to look for a house yourself.

  1. Help in all the necessary paperwork

They make sure that all transactions go through successfully. All these transactions include paperwork. From ensuring that all the repair requests are in writing to reading through and understanding the inspection reports, they have got you covered. For someone who is not a real estate agent, he/ she would be limited in experience in all these documents required when buying a home. And believe me, that is not a good thing to have.

  1. They have a good list of service providers

Hiring a real estate agent means that you also include a list of preferred service providers whom they have worked with before. This also means that this list is a team that the real estate agent trusts. This ensures that you get quality service. This list can be plumbers, painters, landscapers, home inspectors, etc.

All in all, if you decide to hire a real estate agent to help you make this big step of buying a house, make sure you do all the research necessary.  Ensure that the real estate agent has vast experience and is registered with the National Association of Realtors. Ensure that they have a good reputation with previous clients they have worked with. This is the only way to make sure that your real estate agent is ethically bound and hence will make sure that you get the best services.

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Writing as a Business: When to Quit Your Day Job Redux

Over the last couple of years, I have had some serious personal life changes and challenges, and that meant a transition from freelance writing full time to a full-time job, a part time job, and then leaving that day job altogether. Part of that had to do with my personal motivation and income, the rest had to do with listening to others and giving in to a certain amount of fear about not making it.

The thing is, the market changed as did my motivation to write and how much I wrote, and that made all the difference. I did not adapt (at first) to new opportunities in the freelance world, and I did not write nearly as much on a daily basis. When I first got back to writing copious amounts of non-fiction content, it was for someone else.

In the meantime, I started my own business (again) this time Unbound Media, LLC. I started with a small plan that has moved forward to something else that now is a much longer-term plan, although I am sure our company focus will change over time just as my personal one does.

For now, there are about six writers that create content for me from time to time, and others that come in and out at will. Some make good money, others have their own businesses and work for me as a side gig for an extra stream of revenue. It has not been easy, but over the last few months it came time to leave the day job (part time at that point) behind, but I put it off at first, and worked way too hard instead. This was partly out of fear.

So as I get back to the writing as a business posts on this blog and reignite some things I have let languish for far too long, I thought I would start with one of the most common questions I get asked (since I have left and returned to having day jobs a number of times over the last 9 years or so). When is it time to leave your day job?

As a freelancer who writes both fiction and non-fiction and also edits along with now running my own company, I think I have some answers, but boiled down to the simplest one, it simply depends.

You’ve Already Started a Business

We covered this topic early in this series, but let me just say this one lesson again: if you have written a book and it has been published, whether traditionally or you have self-published, you have already started a small business. You need to market that book. If you self-publish, you also need to distribute it, and to a certain extent this applies if you are traditionally published as well (that is another topic for another blog post on another day).

You will, if you continue to write, go through the processes of business that include production, distribution, and marketing. However, there is more to writing for a living than that, at least in my case.

I also do freelance non-fiction writing including a lot of web stuff and content for company and individual blogs and even some link building writing, although with a few exceptions I don’t do the rest of the link building process. (Outreach, placement, etc). I also have to go through the process of production (writing), distribution (getting the material to the client) and marketing (of my services that are unrelated to fiction).

As a third prong of income I employ other people who also write for me and my clients (production), distribute that writing for them (getting it to clients) and market (sharing that I have access to more than just my time for writing). All of this sound familiar and repeated?

From the start in this series, I have talked about production and touched on the first part of distribution for authors of books. But the same principles apply across the rest of business. Every stage takes time, and it may be time to quit your day job when it starts to interfere with the time you have for any one of these processes.

But wait. You can’t quit your day job without money, right?

Your Business is Making a Profit

Step one is to save money. The advantage I have as both an author and a freelance writer is that I am creating two different things: I have a service industry, a company that writes content for websites and blog content for clients for various uses and I also create a product, books, that continue to sell and make me money long after I have finished the work of producing and distributing them (or at least making sure they are available to a wide audience).

However, you don’t need to have both (although it is a good idea). If you have one or the other, you can leverage them to make money. Once your business is making you almost as much as you are at your day job, and you feel like if you were spending more time on your business it could easily pass those numbers, it is time to quit your day job.

A word of warning here: know what your earning needs are and what your earning potential really is. Don’t guess. If you earn $2,0000 a month from your day job, consider dropping to half time when your business is making $1,000 a month. When you are approaching $1,800 a month, you might consider quitting your day job as long as your business is growing in a way that will enable to you to make up that difference.

Also, don’t forget to add intangible benefits like health insurance and other factors in there. Don’t forget the increased taxes you will pay. Really to replace your $2,000 a month day job, you will need to make more like $2,800 from your business after your expenses.

You’re Both Fed Up and Passionate

A point will come with your business where you start to resent the time you are spending at your day job no matter how much you like it. For the most part, I loved my most recent day job, although there were some definite drawbacks. But it got to the point where I would be working, and that day job would interrupt my work, and with less profitable work.

At the same time, I was growing increasingly passionate about what I was doing and could do, and less passionate about my day job. I knew I was at a place of great potential, and my day job was interfering with the expansion I needed to really grow the business.

You’re Ready to Face Your Fear

Notice I did not say you were free from fear. Good luck with that. If you get over that one completely, let me know. I said when you are ready to face your fears. Starting off on your own with no safety net of a day job is scary to say the least. There is no formula for you or those around you not to be afraid.

Get over it. Face your fear and jump. You are ready to quit your day job when you are really ready to do this. In fact, do it before you are ready. When the numbers add up, when you are growing, just do it. Jump. You will be fine.

I’ve talked about this topic before. Several times. And I have lived through it myself. When is it time to quit your day job? It depends, but it might just be now.

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Growing Your Organization Online: Secrets, Strategies, And Systems

It’s no secret that online marketing can help business owners step into deeper and deeper dimensions of success. Whether you define success in terms of optimized conversion, more industry influence, a broader base of clients, or something else, growing your organization via internet will help you realize the objective. Below you’ll find several secrets, strategies, and systems that you can utilize to put the growth process in full effect:

1. Access The Power Of Content Marketing.

One of the strategies that savvy business owners utilize to grow their brands online is accessing the power of content marketing. Content marketing is important because it ensures that the videos, web articles, or blog posts you utilize to advertise your brand are relevant, intriguing, information-rich, or valuable to your audience in some other meaningful way. One big secret to success with content optimization is doing your target market research. The research process is imperative because it empowers you to determine what types of things your audience is interested in as well as the best way for you to communicate information to them. For example, your target market research process may lead you to see that your audience regularly uses specific channels like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Once you conduct your target market research, you’re ready to start creating your content. One thing to consider throughout this process is the value of presenting your content in blog format. This approach can help you build an audience by increasing the likelihood that people will return to your blog again and again to read your new posts. Some textual elements that you may want to include in your blogs to take their quality from average to awesome include infographics and clever, concise calls to action. These textual elements make it easier for individuals to read your content.

2. Start Cultivating A High Quality Website.

In addition to accessing the power of content marketing, make sure that you begin cultivating a high quality website. This strategy will help grow your organization online by increasing traffic to your website. Increased traffic accelerates the brand recognition process while also helping you generate more sales and earn a higher ranking in the SERPs.

One great way to get on the road to cultivating a great website is examining your layout. There are a wide range of graphic design tools, strategies, and systems you could deploy to make the aesthetic of your site impeccable. In many if not most cases, really optimizing the aesthetic of the website will necessitate professional help. These days, there are hundreds of web design companies whose techies are trained in using colors, fonts, templates, and backgrounds in customized, creative ways which will make your website a visual masterpiece.

Another technique you can implement to make your website increasingly dynamic is obtaining web hosting services from companies such as Network Solutions. These hosting services can include things like a complimentary domain name, malware scans, email boxes, and 300 GB disk space.

Conclusion

Two strategies that you can use to grow your organization online are outlined above. Start incorporating them into your company’s current marketing plan so you can take your level of profitability, progress, and power to a new height.

 

 

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5 Alternative Ways of Getting to Writing Conferences

Writing conference season has already started, and the big conferences are coming up this spring and into the summer months. If you look around, you will probably find one near you if not in your home town. However, often some of the best conferences are just within driving distance, and place where it really is not practical to fly into.

If you are not going to fly, and you don’t want to drive by yourself, what are some alternate ways to get to a writer’s conference? Here are some real-life subbestions for you.

Take the Bus

The bus? No this is not a flashback to 1995 and that nightmare trip you took across the country. No, this is about the experience of the conference, and often taking a bus will give you more material for your stories.

While traveling by bus is not expensive, doing so may take some additional planning on your part. It takes longer to get somewhere on a bus, and you will need to account for that time on both ends of the trip. If you still work a day job, you will need to take the appropriate time off.

If you have ever watched movies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, you will understand the value of bus travel as story fodder. You may meet interesting people, and learn some new things.

Also, don’t just stick to your traditional Greyhound bus. There are also tour destination buses, and these can be even more fun, and affordable. Headed to a conference in Vegas? Take one of the gamblers’ tours and hand out with some cool people on the way there and the way home.

Take the Train

Yes, Amtrak still exists, and depending on where you live, you can take the train to a writer’s conference. Much more relaxing than taking the bus, the train will also allow you time to meet interesting people and gather story ideas. However, seats are usually much roomier than those on buses, and you can use dining cars and other common areas as places to get some writing done during your travel.

Like buses, trains usually take more time than driving, but especially if you are going to a conference a long way away, you can save a great deal of money and add some relaxation time to your trip to a conference.

The way home can be a great time to reflect on the things you have learned at the conference and make notes about what you want to do with that information.

Make it a Group Activity

If you have a local writers’ group or critique group, why not take the whole gang? You can split not only transportation, but the cost of hotels, perhaps even meals, and if you are attending the right conference you might even get a discount on your attendance fees.

There are a number of ways you can all ride together, including renting a passenger van. These vans often have seating room for up to 12 passengers along with room for all of your gear. This makes the rental affordable, the gas cheap, and you get the bonus of riding and attending the conference with your friends and fellow writers.

This method does require some planning though. You will need to reserve the van ahead of time and be sure you collect the money or at least a deposit from all of the participants so you are sure that no one backs out of the deal or cancels on you, making it more expensive for everyone else.

Also, you will need to plan lodging accordingly. You will all need to stay the same place or at least close by, so you don’t have to also use the van to go collect everyone. You can, however, use the van as a shuttle to and from the conference and your hotel. This can be very handy as long as you all go and return at the same time each day.

Motorhome It

Does someone you know own a motorhome, or can you rent one of those? This can be a great way to get to the conference and to save on lodging. While gas will be more expensive in a motorhome if you have the right sleeping arrangements you can literally save hundreds over the conference hotel costs.

Many times. even if there is no campground nearby, you can camp in parking lots or near the hotel somewhere anyway. Many megastores like Walmart are quite open to this idea, and there are often a number of motorhomes in the parking area.

Of course, if you are going to stay with those you are traveling with in a small space for a few days, it is a good idea to screen them and make sure they are people you will get along with for that amount of time. Set some group rules and be considerate.

Carpool

Another simple alternative is to carpool—simply split gas and travel costs with another person or two depending on the capacity of your vehicle, and ride together to the conference. This does have the advantage that you do not have to coordinate a larger group, and there is less chance that someone will cancel and you will get stuck with the whole cost of the trip solo.

Depending on the car you drive, this can be a money saver for sure. Also having another driver or just someone to talk to along the way can be a great help, keep you awake, and increase the speed with which you can get to where you are going.

No matter how you choose to get to a writers’ conference, go to at least one this year, more if you can. No matter what your level of experience, you will learn and grow for the experience. To save money and effort or even just to enhance your experience, choose an alternative way to travel and have some fun with it along the way.

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Use Your Website To Increase Your Revenue

If you are not tapping into the power of eCommerce today, you are losing out on the massive potential that it brings to the table. If you have a desire to run a growing business, you need to use the virtual world to your advantage. There are no hours here. You can always be open for business, and people from around the globe can take advantage of all that your website has to offer. All you need to do is make use of the tools and resources that are at your ready disposal. There are also times when you need to provide your visitors with the information that they need to make an informed buying decision, such as that which is found with comparison shopping engine management. By providing a wealth of information, and a visually appealing and functional website, you can use your online presence to increase your revenue accordingly.

Put a Virtual Office to Work for You

With such a range of technology ready for you to implement today, you will want to make use of more than a few that are applicable to your business model. This can include automated email delivery to remote payment processors, and almost everything in between. Each of these features will enable your website to become easily accessible from virtually anywhere around the world. You might be a small business operating out of your home, but your website can give you the power of delivery traditionally reserved for major corporations. All you need to do is ensure that these resources are properly implemented into the scope of your existing website.

If you use a virtual office, your clients will be able to access you and your products at any time, day or night. It allows them to engage with you via such features as online chat, email, and phone just to name a few. You might not be physically in the office, but your virtual office can handle many of the requests that come in when you are away. If you run an eCommerce site, your virtual office can handle many of your daily tasks in an automated fashion that makes you more efficient and productive. This will allow you to spend your time dealing personally with customers, which is where your attention needs to be in order to retain a competitive advantage over other businesses in your field.

Offer Personalized Service

It is also important that you offer a level of personalized service to individuals who visit your website. This is the one disadvantage that is commonly associated with online commerce, as customers often feel alone when shopping in the virtual world. You can use modern technology to your advantage in this regard as well. Make sure that you or your staff is personally available to speak to customers as they need you. When there is an issue with an order, you need to be able to deal with it quickly, or you will risk losing the customer to another site. Offering a certain level of personalized service will go a long way towards making your eCommerce business successful.

These are a few of the many ways that you can use your website to increase revenue. Remember to focus on the customer and everything else should fall into line nicely.

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How to Market a Carpet Cleaning Company Online

It’s easy to believe that online marketing is only for online businesses while brick-and-mortar businesses, or those servicing people in their home, must focus on other ways of attracting clients. However, the reality is that inbound online marketing is just as effective for large online businesses as it is for the small hyperlocal ones. It’s all about how you utilize the tools available to you to attract people to what you offer via Search Engines.

Our very own carpet cleaning company in Ottawa, 1CleanAir, is a prime example of this technique. We found that there was a greater ROI when marketing using Adwords and SEO to boost our presence online and attract customers.

As a carpet cleaning company, we didn’t have a clear idea of how to start, but over time, we’ve built an online marketing structure using the best tools for our goals and measuring the results. Want to market your own carpet cleaning online? Here’s what you need to do:

Set Clear Goals and Audience

It’s important to know what you want to accomplish with your marketing campaigns. Do you want to increase your monthly revenue? Do you want more traffic to your website? Choose something you can measure and be as specific as possible.

An example of this is:

“1ClearAir will have 20% more new customers in 2017”

Now, who is your audience? Are they mainly female or male? What is the age group? Create potential client profiles and market for those specific groups.

Educate yourself on your industry’s keywords

We learned that the best keywords will center around our clients’ questions and how they would search them on Google. It’s easy to err by choosing keywords that are too specific or too vague. The trick is to provide answers for the client, becoming an expert in our industry and becoming a reliable source to come to when it’s time to make a purchase. For your own carpet cleaning business, don’t be afraid of using keywords that will help the client solve problems on their own.

An example of this is writing content with keywords about cleaning your own carpet.

Market your business using Adwords and SEO

Use Adwords to get your relevant content out there for your potential clients to see. Use keywords and long-tail keywords to better connect with your clients’ searches, which could be simplified and use colloquial terms, like in our case “outdoor rug cleaning in Ottawa” Knowing these keywords and using them to your best advantage will help you rank much better on both Google and other search engines.

Measure your ROI

Google offers conversion tracking to best measure how many of your leads turn into purchases using your calls to action.

A simple formula for this is to take revenue that is a product of your ads, take away the costs, and divide by overall costs. Good ROI will be determined by your industry and the goals you set. Sometimes, ROI can be as little as 1%, but given the costs of online marketing, it’s likely that your ROI will be much higher than traditional marketing returns.

This way, by using online market research, keywords and search engine marketing, you understand your customer better and can track down the cost of obtaining each client.

 

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Writing as a Business: EBook Distribution Options

Now that we have talked about the Amazon exclusive vs. wide distribution options, we need to talk about the options besides Amazon. What do we mean, exactly by wide distribution? How do you get your books on all of those different channels? It sounds like a daunting task.

It can seem like it at first, and there are services that will actually do that work for you as well. You can use services like Smashwords, Draft2Digital, or Pronoun. These are called aggregate publishing platforms, and they will handle the distribution of your eBooks either for a fee or a percentage of royalties.

The video below talks about the different aggregate platforms, but not too much about the pros and cons of each.

 

Of course, if you want to follow Dale’s rabbit trail of other videos about eBook distribution, just understand that they contain his experience and opinion (much as the information that follows here follows mine). I’d recommend you doing your own research, because no one’s book or journey is the same, and what works for one person may not work for you.

They key to these aggregate platforms is they are much like having a publisher: they take a percentage of your royalties or a fee for distribution, which means you make less money than if you did all that distribution work yourself. At the same time, you don’t have to do all of that distribution work.

Another factor to consider is that only a few authors and publishers can still publish their work on Google Play. Some of these aggregates, like Pronoun, are among them.

You can publish your book to the individual platforms as well. We talked briefly about Amazon already, but here are the others (in no particular order).

Apple iBooks

Apple is the second largest eBook platform in the US market. The Apple platform, however, could stand some improvements.

The reason is simply this. As with other Apple initiatives that have fallen off the radar of top management, iBooks, while it has some cool features for creating enhanced books, has languished. Apple is known for being the best in many areas, and in this one they fall short.

Outside of using an aggregate, uploading books to the iBooks Author platform can be a bit tricky, and is something it will take time for you to master. While many authors get good results from iBooks, it is a small percentage compared to Amazon.

Still, if you are going to distribute widely, iBooks is almost a must. You will need to have an Apple ID, connect that ID to iBooks author, and ideally upload a properly formatted ePub edition of your book.

There are tons of tutorials out there, and once you have mastered the process it will go smoothly.

Barnes and Noble

The bad news is this: the Nook itself and Barnes and Noble eBooks are decreasing in popularity, and it looks like at any moment the entire division could disappear. Of course, so could Barnes and Noble, whose attempt to compete with Amazon has met with constant obstacles struggles in the big-box, brick and mortar world of publishing, a tough spot to be at the moment.

Does this mean you should not publish on Barnes and Noble? Nope. It just means you need to be aware that although Nook still has a faithful, but small following, you may wake up one day to see that your books, and everyone else’s, have disappeared from Barnes and Noble virtual shelves. Another step in that direction was the recent closure of the Nook Forums online.

Uploading is pretty easy overall, but like iBooks, the process can seem painful the frist few times. It can be mastered, or again done through an aggregate.

I have known some authors who have had decent sales success through Barnes and Noble, and others who have had so few sales they have given up the platform altogether.

Kobo

If Barnes and Noble is in the sunset of their business lives, Kobo is in a pretty good spot. In Europe and Canada, Kobo has a large presence.

Publishing on Kobo is, therefore, well worth pursuing. One of the advantages of self-publishing in the digital world is that your audience is worldwide, not just in your town, your state, or even your country.

Once you have created a Kobo account, publishing directly with them is pretty easy. Your book can be uploaded as a .doc or .dcox file, and Kobo will handle the conversion process, or you can choose to upload an ePub yourself.

You can preview how the file will look on Kobo once you have uploaded it if you have an online ePub reader.

Depending on your genre and your marketing efforts, you will may get a large number of sales on Kobo, certainly enough to make this relatively simple upload process worthwhile. Developing an international following can also spread to your Amazon sales, and even your sales on other platforms.

Overdrive for Libraries

The Easiest way to get your ebook onto overdrive and available to libraries is by using an aggregate. The issue for Overdrive with most authors is the marketing piece of this: simply because your work is available to libraries does not mean they will actually carry it. Library budgets are small, and the ones for digital books are even smaller.

The other debate is ownership. While a library can buy your print book if they wish, when they “buy” your eBooks, they are only getting the rights to use them in a specific way. Therefore, unlike print books, the library is not fulfilling one of its primary missions: preservation.

Still, if you can get enough people to request your books, a library will carry them, and if you sell enough books, this will happen organically.

Either way, if you are distributing widely, you should find a way to offer your book on Overdrive, even if you don’t end up making a lot of money from them.

The library dynamic is changing. Overdrive is offering new pricing models that make it easier for libraries to offer more eBooks. Don’t neglect this important area in your distribution, and again in your marketing further down the road.

Others

The list of other sites where you can distribute your book is huge, and could go on for days. In fact, you could spend days uploading your books to all of them (another argument for using an aggregator) only to get few or no sales from some of the lesser known markets.

However, you never know when one sale will lead to another, and you will develop a new audience. Many authors take the chance on these smaller markets for that reason alone, and it is not a bad strategy if you can do all of them quickly.

As we mentioned in a previous post, for many wide distribution is the best answer, and once you are distributing widely you might as well go all the way.

Look, anyone who pretends to tell you they have all of the answers to the distribution puzzle is probably lying through their teeth. What works for one author will not always work for you, and even if it works once for you, it may not continue to work the same way the next time. The publishing world is constantly changing, and you need to keep up if you are going to treat your writing as a business.

Next, we will talk about protecting your work, and the risk of piracy involved with wide distribution and aggregate sites.

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Writing as a Business: Wide Distribution vs. Amazon Exclusivity

Smashwords challenged the publishing industry when Mark Coker launched it in 2007. By 2010, the company was profitable, and was distributing books not only on its own website, but through partnerships with Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Sony.

Apple was also in the self-publishing game, and Amazon offered Kindle Direct Publishing options to authors starting in 2007.  Apple was the first to offer authors a 70% royalty under certain conditions, and Amazon KDP soon followed. Compared to traditional deals which often offered print royalties from 4-7% to new authors, this was a big deal.

Then Amazon, as per their usual mode of operation, started Kindle Select. This platform requires that authors offer titles exclusively on Amazon in exchange for certain benefits: marketing options are one of them, including the ability to run 5 free days of promotion, and 7 day Kindle countdown deals. The books in the exclusive program are also offered in the Kindle Unlimited program, a program where readers pay a certain amount each month to read as many books as they would like.

The payout from Kindle Unlimited varies quite a bit from author to author, as they get paid according to a “pages read” formula based on a monthly global fund set by Amazon. Many authors find great success with this program: many think it damages author earnings overall.

Thus arises the controversy. Do you distribute your book as widely as possible, making it available on several different platforms? Which ones matter the most? Should I use something like Smashwords or should I upload my work to each outlet directly? Or do you offer your work exclusively on Amazon through their distribution network? We’ll tackle each of these in turn, and examine the costs and benefits of each method.

Wide Distribution

It sounds like a great idea. Getting your work in front of as many people as possible seems like the logical answer, and for many authors it is. The reality is that most author sales come from Amazon: they are the largest book distributor in the world. However, number two is iBooks through Apple.

Smashwords

There are, of course, several ways to get your work on all of these platforms. One of them mentioned already, and one of the oldest platforms is Smashwords. Smashwords was formed by Mark Coker after he and his wife shopped around a manuscript, made all of the changes requested by publishing houses, only to have it still be rejected. They knew they had a fan base, they just needed a platform to reach them.

So Mark went to work in 2005 on developing his own platform and launched it in 2007. It is still one of the largest eBook distribution platforms in the world. Smashwords also helps writers distribute their work across other platforms like Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and library systems in exchange for a small royalty.

They used to also distribute books to Amazon KDP, until Amazon changed their ability to do so, and created a more exclusive platform. More on that in a moment. Smashwords is unique in a number of ways. They were the first to offer e-book distribution in an affordable way. Mark offers tons of free advice from how to successfully format and upload your eBook to marketing and other advice for authors.

Smashwords Alternatives

Of course, Smashwords was not the only company to form an aggregate for distributing books. Draft2Digital, Lulu, and other self-publishing platforms soon followed. Ingram Spark is another, and many of these have one primary advantage over Smashwords: they offer print on demand services as well.

For this post, we will be talking primarily about e-books, since they are the bread and butter of most fiction writers at the moment. Print books are more expensive, harder to distribute, and you make less money on them. However, you do make money on them, and having them as an option is great.

Individual Uploads

The other option you have for wide distribution is to upload your books to all of the different outlets where you want it placed one at a time. There are pros and cons to this option.

Pro: You’ll get the highest royalty from each. Smashwords and any other book distributor takes a percentage of your sales to cover their costs of placing the books for you. This is usually a percentage or royalty rather than being a flat fee.

This means of course that the more books you sell, the more they make, which can be a good thing, as they will help you market your work. However, this does mean less money in your pocket at the end of the day.

Pro: Your book will be in exactly the right format for each platform. Every eBook format and platform has its quirks, and if you do individual uploads, you can be sure that your work meets the requirements for every site and distributor.

Con: It’s time-consuming and can be complicated. Just as knowing your book will be right for each platform due to each one’s quirks, you will have to deal with those quirks when uploading files. Don’t get me wrong, once you have done it a few times it does get easier. However, there is still a time cost involved, and you need to factor that into your schedule and your business plan.

Pros: Better metadata. If you upload on individual platforms, you get better search meta data on each, making your book easier to discover on that platform. This metadata also translates to Google and other search engines when potential readers are looking for your work.

Advantages of Wide Distribution

The advantage of distributing your book widely is that those who do not use Amazon for whatever reason can find your book in a number of places. These can include digital library collections. eBook platforms popular in other countries, and those who use iBooks and Apple products exclusively.

While Amazon is number one in book distribution, the second distributor is iBooks. Depending the genre of your work and how you do your marketing, by not having your work there and on Kobo you could be missing a large segment of customers.

However, some research shows that while not everyone uses Amazon, many people who use iBooks and Kobo also use Kindle apps to get books that are exclusive to Amazon. We’ll discuss this option next.

It’s simply important to understand that wide distribution means you can reach a larger variety of readers. You never know when one of those readers will become a “superfan” and spread the word about your books far and wide.

Even missing one reader could potentially be costly. So why would anyone want to distribute exclusively through Amazon? There are some valid reasons, and we will talk about those next.

Amazon Exclusivity

After reading the above section, you may wonder why anyone would choose to distribute exclusively anywhere. The reason is simple” Amazon offers some unique benefits for authors who do so.

What are those unique benefits, and why do they matter? Here is a quick rundown.

KDP Select

Kindle Direct Publishing is the platform authors use to load their work on to Amazon, and it is abbreviated KDP. KDP Select is the program by which authors offer their product only through Amazon for a period of at least 90 days, and in exchange get certain privileges other authors and most publishers who do wide distribution do not get.

Free Days: You can offer your book for a certain number of days in each 90 day period. Offering a book for free, especially if you have a series or other books for readers to find, can boost rankings and sales over the long run. This includes the book you offer for free or your other work.

You can also offer Kindle Countdown Deals: these are deals where your book starts at one price and changes over the course of a few days. These are easy deals to market, and coupled with good social media and Amazon ads can net you some good short term sales and long term exposure.

Your books will be automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s Netflix-like book lending program whereby readers pay a monthly fee and can read as many books as they would like.

 

Kindle Unlimited

I’m treating this as a separate topic because some authors love it, some hate it, and there are very few in between. The way it works is this: every month, Amazon sets a global fund for authors whose work is in Kindle Unlimited. The author gets paid according to the number of pages read. It used to be after a certain percentage of the book was read, but authors of longer works complained that readers would have to read more of their work for them to get paid the same amount of money as other authors.

As with any system like this, there have been those who have cheated it by having bots read books for them, hiring click farms in India and other countries where “readers’ click through books quickly to get tons of page reads.

Amazon cracked down on this, but unfortunately, many legitimate authors who were not cheating also got in trouble when they had sudden uptakes in pages read. This only added fuel to the controversy.

Many authors argue that this system is hurting author incomes rather than helping them. Authors who are well-known get more page reads and make more money. Not to mention those still gaming the system who take money away from the fund, lowering the amount available for other authors.

Others claim Kindle Unlimited payments have boosted their income, and hail the program as an innovative way for authors to earn more. The system seems similar to that of Spotify or Apple Music. For some the rewards will be great: for those who do not get pages read or “listens” as in the case of musicians, the system will feel broken.

Either way, Kindle Unlimited is an option avid readers love, and authors are divided on. Amazon calls it a benefit for authors in the KDP Select program, and it can be, with proper marketing support.

Conclusion

Wide distribution vs. Amazon exclusives has been a debate for several years now. Amazon proponents like Hugh Howey will tell you that this “all my eggs in one basket” approach works, because at any time an author can move their eggs should they become dissatisfied.

Others say this is foolish: missing readers on other platforms is simply not worth the price, even if the benefits are legitimate.

Ultimately, the answer is up to you: do you want your work many places, or can you make an Amazon exclusive work for you?

We will look at some specific case studies and experiments a little later in the series, but for now, let me know what you think. Comment below, and share your experiences.

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3 Things to be Thankful for During Construction Season

In the Northwest corner of the United States, we have four seasons. We love them all, almost. These are not the seasons you were taught in school. They are fall, winter, spring, and construction season.

That’s right. The fourth season, known in some places as summer, is marked by orange cones, hard-hat wearing shovel leaners, and flashing yellow lights that mean one simple thing: you’re not going anywhere fast.

From “Lane Closed Ahead” to “Flagman Ahead, Expect Delays” the signs decorate the sides of nearly every road. The winters are hard, and the time to repair the damage such a small window, it seems unavoidable. If the roads don’t get fixed, we complain. While they are being fixed, we complain just as much. Here are three things to be thankful for this Construction Season.

Modern Windshields

Okay, yeah. A rock chip in your window sucks, and you will get them during construction season. It is simply a matter of when not if. Carrying glass coverage on your vehicle in our area is like carrying water in the summer: you just have to do it.

Think of it this way though: cars did not always have the best windshields. Early ones would shatter if struck by even a small rock, cutting all the occupants inside. Henry Ford got sued a few times over tragic accidents, and then things changed.

 

The modern use of laminated glass similar to that of your cell phone screen means windshields are safer than they have ever been and even contribute a great deal to the structural integrity of your car.

So next time you curse a rock chip, just be thankful the whole windshield did not land in your lap and cut your arms to shreds. If you do get a chip or even small crack, find a local glass replacement dealer, and get it fixed. That’s what you pay all that money to your insurance company for.

 Air Conditioning

That same windshield that keeps out the road debris and doesn’t shatter in your lap holds in one important thing: air conditioning. We can control our climate even as we roll down the road at 70 miles an hour, but it becomes even more important when we are whizzing by orange pylons at 15.

It used to be that running your air conditioning when at a standstill was a death sentence for your car’s cooling system. Modern vehicles, if well maintained, can handle this task, although you should still be cautious in extreme temperature climates like Vegas, Phoenix, or the small desert towns in-between.

 

via GIPHY

 Air conditioning also used to be bad for the environment until we started using R-134a instead of R-12. Those systems have gotten better since their introduction, although idling in a construction zone is still not best for the trees around you, and you might want to save them. Otherwise, where will you run hide to use the restroom when you can’t wait any longer and traffic is still not moving.

Despite its limitations, air conditioning is better than rolled down windows and stealing ice from the cooler to put down your shirt (or elsewhere).

Digital Music

Remember when you would get out into the middle of nowhere, and your radio would get crackly and fuzzy? Or when you would reach the part of Wyoming where they had both kinds of music stations, country and western, and that was all? Unless you had an extensive collection of first 8 tracks, then cassettes, then CDs, you were sunk. It was either listen to the kids squabble, actually talk to each other (gasp!), or suffer in silence.

Now, all our music is digital, and we can transport thousands of songs, an actual music library on our phones or other devices. We can connect them to the car radio in several ways, even using an FM transmitter and creating our own radio station of sorts.

This means everyone can have their own device as well. Dad can put his tunes on the radio, and mom and the kids can listen to whatever they want using headphones or other devices in the passenger and back seats without argument.

With all the complaining we do about construction season, we need better roads, and we can also be thankful for those who fix them for us. While we hate the hours of sitting in line with other cars, we can count our blessings that we are not driving cars with dangerous glass (or worse, with none at all), we have air conditioning, and we can take our music with us rather than being at the mercy of local radio.

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