Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Great Mailing List Experiment

If you're an author--or even a small businessman--you probably know what a mailing list is. If you're a self-published author, you've probably been told, maybe a million times, that you need a mailing list. They are, after all, the secret to success. Everyone knows that.

Beginning today, I am going to conduct a little experiment regarding mailing lists. I am going to prove they in fact don't work and are a waste of time for just-starting-out authors. I mean, I've been doing this for four years. If I can't make them work, a newbie has no chance.

First up, some ground rules...

This is an experiment for ebooks. Nothing against print--dead trees are wonderful. But ebooks are the wave of the future and far easier to produce on one's own.

Secondly, this experiment is closed to smut. That is, romance novels. Folks who write romance are operating in a completely different ballpark. Quite frankly, all you need to do to sell romance is to self-publish it. There is such a huge demand for it, and the vast majority of ebooks sold are in the romance field.While there are marketing strategies for romance, they aren't as crucial as they are for non-romance. Plus, I don't write romance, so it would be presumptuous of me to apply these results to all genres. For the purposes of this experiment, we're going to focus on Speculative Fiction.

Finally, a disclaimer. Your mileage may vary. Even if by some insane twist of fate I'm proven wrong, and mailing lists do  work, don't assume they will for you. I'm not making any claim this will work for you. Actually, quite the opposite. I'm trying to prove mailing lists don't work. And that leads us into...

SELF PUBLISHING OBSTACLES

Writing isn't all that hard. There are rules, examples, and plenty of folks ready to tell you how to write. But once you have a masterpiece finished, you want to sell it. And that's where the problems bergin.

1. Distribution. In the old days, you'd vanity print hundreds of copies and sell thm from your trunk like a black marketeer. Today, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and many more online sellers offer the way to distribute your written words to millions. Maybe.

2. Reaching Customers. Amazon has millions of books on their website for sale right now. They're broken into categories, sub-categories, and sub-sub-categories. But, customers aren't going to browse for hours and hours--they're going to buy what they find, that piques their interest, and start reading. You need a way to make sure your book is on of the first customers see, or find a way to let your niche audience know your book exists...

3. Marketing. This is where marketing comes into play. Rather than cross your fingers and stroke your lucky rabbit's foot in hopes your book is discovered like sunken treasure. Or... you can reach out to your target audience--the folks who would enjoy what you've written. Hopefully, you know who that is.

It's this third obstacles that is the big one. Tens of millions of Kindles have been sold, so it's not that much of a stretch to think you could sell a few thousand copies of your work. IF you can find your customers. And that's what brings us to mailing lists...

The general idea here, being so zealously preached, is that by painting blood on the floor in the shape of a book and burning Haagen Daaz ice cream--no wait... the idea is that you have people agree to receive emails from you, and then you send them emails, telling them about your new releases. Inspired by this information, they flock to Amazon, all buying your books on the day they're released. Their combined, simultaneous purchases then catapault your book from the lower end of the ranked sub-sub-category it's parked in, to the tippy-top of the overall Kindle rankings. Which means undecided folks who've never heard of you and are impatiently browsing for something to read, greedily One-Click you right into stardom. Once done with your book, these new converts to the heavenly prose you have published also sign up for your mailing list, and the cycle repeats with your next release and emailed fan notification.

At least, that's the theory.

There's a few logical problems with this way of thinking... First, how are people going to know your mailing list exists?

Well... those preaching from the Church of List claim that the Good Word of your list will draw folks in. Word of mouth. Oh, and free stuff. You see, you need to entice folks--who are probably reluctant to sign up for any more SPAM--by giving them things. Like free books.

Yes, you read right. To get people to buy your book, you need to create a mailing list, that you get people to sign up for by giving them a second, free book, so that when you write a third book, they'll possibly buy it.

Bookception.

NEXT TIME:  What it takes to actually make a mailing list. What you need, what it'll cost, and how much time it's going to take.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

THOR'S DAY RANT: The Long Way Around


Archimedes said that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Well, duh. At least, you'd think duh. But apparently, some folks don't understand that. 

Now, obviously, sometimes the shortest distance isn't the best distance. I'll go an extra mile or three to take the expressway to a destination rather than travel surface streets clogged with traffic signals, pedestrians and idiot drivers. It's faster and less aggravating. 

When it comes to shipping goods, however, you'd think that sellers and shippers would adhere religiously to Archimedes simple line of reasoning. And you'd be wrong. 

I live in Southern Indiana. Right across the river from Louisville, KY, which has a major UPS hub. It takes me about twenty minutes to drive from my house to the airport. If there was no traffic and it was an Omega Man scenario, where I was the Last Man on Earth, I could make it in 10. Or 5--no speed limits!

Imagine my surprise a few years back when I discovered that goods being shipped to my from distant e-tailers were taking a rather circuitous route to my home. You see, instead of flying my packages from say, California to the Louisville Hub, then driving them across the mighty Ohio River to a distribution center and then on to my door, they were going a little out of the way. The packages made it to Louisville, all right, But then they were flown nearly a hundred miles north, to Indianapolis, then put on trucks and driven south to the local distribution center, put on trucks and thrown, er, delivered, to my doorstep. 

Say what?

I pointed this out to UPS in a friendly email. I was informed that they had determined it was more cost effective to deliver packages this way. I responded that a truck travelling from Indy to my town would need one-and-a-half hours, or more, travel time, while a truck driving from the airport in Louisville could do it in thirty minutes. Again, I was assured Brown had figured out the best route. 

What a load of brown.

Recently, I learned even my beloved Amazon suffers from the same map-challenged planning. We have a distribution center one town over. Prime actually gets delivered in two days from there. But not as easily as one might think. As I recently learned, a coat I ordered for my daughter traveled from Jeffersonville, Indiana to Hebron, Kentucky (near Cincinnati), again, almost a hundred miles away. To another Amazon facility. Next, the coat was tagged with a label for my house, which was ten minutes away from the Distribution center in Jeffersonville. The US Postal service delivered it to Louisville's main Postal hub--a journey taking a full day. Later that night, the package was smuggled across the Ohio (hopefully by truck and not airplane), ending up in my hometown's post office to be loaded and punted--uh, delivered-- to my doorstep by my friendly hit-and-run mailman (okay, maybe it isn't the same Postal employee who knocked my mailbox off the post and drove away last summer...). 

I find this particularly disturbing, given a lot of my "Prime" packages fail to reach me in two days, despite originating from an Amazon facility one town over. I emailed customer service, where Hadji, a.k.a. "Scott", typed back a profuse apology, offering me a $5 discount on my next order and extended my prime membership for one extra month. 

(FACE PALM)

Can you imagine the money Amazon is losing with these insane routes? I mean, what else are they doing? Shipping package meant for Los Angeles from Seattle to Honolulu, then to Santa Monica for final delivery?! What kind of battery pack will their drones need to deliver goods in a year or two--can drones even fly that far?!

Anyways, the next time your delivery from an e-tailer is running behind schedule, just remember that it is taking the long way round and seeing more of the world than you probably ever will. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

THOR'S DAY RANT: K.I.S.S.!

Back in the pre-Internet 1970s, when memes were spread by the Reader's Digest and Paul Harvey, we had this clever saying: Keep it Simple, Stupid. K-I-S-S. The urban myth was this was an unfailable mantra for engineers. Because the more complex a machine is, the more things can go wrong and it can break down.

I have always found that life is the perfect place to apply KISS. Take shoes. My wife has a closet full of shoes. I own about six pairs, ranging from sneakers to work boots, and including my beloved "Universal Shoes"--dressy 3/4 boots that could at a glance pass for work shoes. I can run in them, wear them with slacks, they keep my feet dry and warm, and if they get muddy are easy to clean off. They embody Keeping it Simple, because I don't have to decide what shoes to wear in the morning, I can just grab my dark brown universal boot-shoes and go. 

I also enjoy KISS when it comes to food. Meat and potatoes--'nuff said. I don't need a garden shredded and poured into a bowl. My steak doesn't need to be sprinkled with every spice known to man. Complicated is gross, as far as I'm concerned. Burgers have only one acceptable topping--cheese. Everything else drowns out the flavor of the beef. 

And for breakfast, I like bacon and eggs. Or maybe donuts... Donuts are these round things with a hole in the middle. They have a sugar glaze, or maybe chocolate, and sometimes sprinkles. A twisted piece of cinnamon-covered bread pretending to be a strand of DNA isn't a donut. A tube made of donut material covered in chocolate isn't a donut. No, none of the hundred-different offerings of bakers aren't donuts, they're pastries. As I said, donuts are round with a hole in the middle. Keep it simple.

In the past, when people didn't have a cow to butcher and eat, they scrounged for food. They rounded up a bit of carrot here, a slice of potato there, a handful of grass, maybe some leaves from their favorite shade tree... it all got shredded and mixed together and topped with a tiny sliver of fish. Because they didn't have anything. Trust me, those folks would have loved a huge steak, gleefully pushing the bowl of leftovers away. But today the more crap is on your plate, the fancier it is. Fancy sucks.

When McDonald's first opened, they had a menu of less than ten things. Ordering was easy. The chain grew to enormous size, conquering the world and becoming a staple in most nations. Today, they have dozens of items to chose from--and specialty, seasonal or test market items as well. Sales are lagging. Maybe they should have kept it simple?

Don't get me wrong, choice is great. I like to turn on the TV and flip through Netflix's options. I just wish there weren't hundreds of shows (that all seem the same), or that they could at least group them better in categories and sub-categories. It's like trying to pick one guppy at the petstore from a tank filled with hundreds. Choice has gotten out of control. 

How many remote controls do you own? Wouldn't one with maybe ten buttons be better? How many apps are on your smart phone? How many colors are at the paint store, forcing you to stand there deciding for hours on end? 

Video games are awesome. As are portable gaming systems, but give a kid a ball and take them outside on a nice sunny day, with a gentle breeze and shirt-sleeve temperatures and they'll have more fun than you could imagine. No worrying if the ball is charged, has a good wifi signal or if the cartridge is inserted properly. 

Vacations should be simple--they're when we momentarily escape the hectic struggle of everyday life. I'm sure Disney World is swell, with its smelly crowds, long lines, and product-placement rides, but a day at the beach is much better. With or without a picnic basket. 

Complexity has even swallowed politics. Anyone remember the "Affordable" Healthcare Act? Legislation so voluminous that many a politician admitted to not having even read it in it's entirety. Then there's the daily pork added onto proposed legislation--career politicians sneaking in funding or rules they want. C'mon guys--keep it simple. All legislation should read like the Bill of Rights, not like a medical journal. 

I dunno, maybe it's Baskin-Robbins' fault. Their 31 flavors may have started it all. 31 flavors... more like 31 choices but we know you're really only going to choose from 8... It sure seems like all I do now is have to spend time deciding--whether I'm shopping on Amazon.com or walking down the potato chip aisle at my local grocery store. It's all just too much. Do I need five flavors of Doritos or thirteen of Pringles? 

Simplicity rules. 

I pledge to keep simplicity in my life, from my meat and potatoes all the way to my internet presence. Cascading style sheets? Pfffft. HTML is simpler and easier to understand. 

Anything simple you miss or doggedly refuse to abandon? Tell me about it in the comments below...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

THOR'S DAY RANT: The Box is a Lie

So, there's been this trend the past few years in the self-publishing circles that now seems to have become cannon. You know, like how we call all tissues Kleenex. I'm talking about "box sets".

What, praytell, am I talking about? I'm talking about ebooks being offered in bundles online. For example, let's say there's five e-novels in the Lacy Underwere, Monster Hunter Series. Rather than buy Book 1-5 individually to get your pantied paranormal prose on, you can buy all five books at once: as a "box set"--downloaded to your Kindle...

Okay, so I'm going to come off as a grammar nazi here, but if you aren't selling anything physical, it is NOT a box set. It's a compilation. Or an Omnibus. There is no box. Even if GLaDOS didn't write this one, THE BOX IS A LIE. 

I have wondered for over a year how this inaccurate description has become so widespread. Were the women writing all the femme fatale fiction not well-versed in reading? Had they never head of an Omnibus? Did they think "compilation" was a fancy word for mix-tape? Or were these scheming scribblers out to hornswaggle their customers, categorizing their readers as unable to comprehend the correct term for such a package deal?

In any event, it drives me bonkers every time I read authors bragging about their new "box set". I remember when Star Wars came out on VHS in a box set. Or Indiana Jones. THOSE were box sets. I don't think I've ever purchased books on a boxed set. Generally, books come out with huge gaps of time between them. I mean, who on earth is going to risk all that money on a whole set of books they've never read before. And if you have read them, why do you need a non-existent Box to virtually hold them? With movies, at least there's new versions, like classic Han-shot-first, or maybe re-master animorphic surround sound. 

Pffooey. "Box set" is just another deceitful marketing term, like "less filling" or "kid approved". My fellow authors, I implore you to stick to tradition and call those collections Omnibuses! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thor's Day Rant: Books are for Chicks!

If self-publishing has taught me anything over the past four years it's this: books are for chicks. 

Yes, this is a sour grapes post. But hey, grapes are nature's candy... 

Back in the 1980s, I was an avid reader of men's fiction. Lots of dudes were. Series like "The Destroyer" and "Mack Bolan" were always in fresh supply at the book store--until they sold out. Tarzan, Conan, and a host of other manly he-man adventures kicked ass on the printed page and saved damsels in distress. Communism was a four-letter word and the only people allowed to be feminine were chicks. 

Books weren't our only entertainment. We had video games. 8-bit wonders that required your imagination to smooth out blocky pixels to get the same experience books and comic books provided. Movies produced by companies like Golan Globus were full of manly action, with the likes of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and of course, Chuck Norris. Hell, even our President kicked ass--Ronald Reagan, who got shot, but survived. Ah, good times, good times. 

Fast forward three decades. A pencil-necked geek who rides girls bicycles and winces every time he says "gun" is in the White House. Downloadable mods for video games allow prepubescent boys and basement dwellers to see virtual nude women who damn near look real. Of our five hundred-plus channels of Cable/Satellite/Internet TV, two thirds are sports. Netflix, Hulu, Xbox and so many more on-demand sources spew out continuous streams of movies. And then there's the porn. The free, on-demand, never-ending supply of porn. 

No wonder men don't read anymore. 

Even if they did, we've produced a culture of namby-pamby, pantywaisted, she-male, body spray-wearing "hipsters" who would have been stuffed in their lockers or worse in my day. Most women, even the scrawny ones, act more manly. It's an emasculated society of wussies that give guys like Adam Carolla and Ted Nugent fits. If any of these modern "guys" could peel themselves away from their X-boxes and pornhubs, they'd probably be reading Jane Austen, 50 Shades of Gray, or the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. 

What does this mean for the aspiring author?

Well, men make up slightly less than half of our society. There are women. They read. A lot. Alas, they read literary porn--smut books euphemistically called "romances". Or as my grandad called them back in the day, "crotch novels". Lots of crotch novels sell. Many a woman, or mansies posing as women, have made their fortune selling smut. 

If you are a man of my generation, you may be taking offense. Well, suck it. You're part of the problem too, clinging to your rotting, yellowed pages of dead trees, stubbornly refusing to embrace modern technology. "I like the feel of a real book" you whine like bitches. You like the "real thing"? That doesn't stop you from watching porn or eating low fat this or low calorie that. When I was a kid everyone wondered where their Dick Tracy wristwatch communicators were. The future so many bleated for is here, and your clinging to your protective polybags like the Amish to peanut brittle. Luddites. Buy a damned ebook reader already. You've got 82 inch big screen TVs and surround sound--a far cry from the cathode ray tube black and white 13" sets most of us grew up watching in our rooms. Why won't you read ebooks? You can still collect your dead trees, putting them in their book shelf shrines, and carrying their digital editions around with you everywhere. 

I'm straying off topic...

The point of all this is, yes, you can write and self-publish books for male audience, but they aren't going to find many readers. My own series of modern men's adventure seems to have more female readers than male... not that surprising when you consider the hit TV show "Supernatural" also has a predominantly female audience--something like 80%, if I remember correctly. Not all women read smut. 

Success as an author these days seems to come down to if/thens. If you're backed by a Big 5 publisher, you get prime shelf space in book stores. People see, they buy. If you're an indie, you've got to be writing in the correct genre to make lots of sales. If you're a male, forget selling much, because modern chicks are sick of white male authors dominating the industry and will boycott your work with feminist fervor. 

Self-publishing is a glorious thing, especially for readers. In years past, consumers were forced to read what the literary agents and publishers "liked". Variety just wasn't there. In today's market, just about any kind of story you can imagine is out there. True, you might be one of five people reading it, but it's there. This is crucial for indies just starting out. Not because you should chase a genre, but because you should have realistic expectations about what you're going to sale. 

Of course, since men don't read, only aspiring chick authors will have read this, and I doubt many will have made it to the end. Ah, well, if you have, good luck with your chosen genre--you may well need it.



(Disclaimer: Soldiers in the field read paperbacks... they don't require batteries, are far more durable and can provide material for a variety of other uses. Reading paperbacks if you're a service member is pragmatism, not a rejection of technology. Thank you for your service!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Felicia Day can Write!



Once upon a time, a brilliant redhead broke through the stereotypical barriers of the entertainment industry and became a living legend, both on and off the internet. Embraced by geekdom far and wide, she became a pop icon, adored by millions. Now she's written a book about this amazing journey and it's fantastic. At least my kid tells me it is...

I'm going to do something really, really weird here--I'm going to review a book I haven't read. See, I don't feel like I need to review it, because my daughter read it and won't stop talking about it. And that's a great, and curious thing. 

I'm a nerd. And was once upon a pre-parent time, an avid reader. I rarely read anymore, what with my own writing, Netflix and X-box sucking up what little time I don't spend with my kids. I was crushed when my eldest daughter didn't turn out to be a reader. She is full-on nerd, and does so much else with me. But she just doesn't enjoy immersing herself in a book--not Douglas Adams', nor even her dear old dad's. With one exception: THIS BOOK

My teen read Ms. Day's book in a week. Impressive. She dedicated her school project for Advanced English to it. She did a slide show presentation about it. She regaled me with Felicia Day stories all day long, every day, to the point I had to find podcast appearances by Ms. Day so I could fire back with something original. 

As a parent, I can't think you enough Ms. Day. You really captured my kid's attention. Hopefully, she'll embrace books like her younger sister, and I can get her to try Piers Anthony's Xanth series, or maybe Tolkien, or even Roger Zelazny. In my wildest dreams, she'll scoop up the classic pulps by the likes of ERB, Howard, and even Dent. Or she'll stick with nonfiction. Maybe I can get her to check out "If Chins Could Kill" or Ted Nugent's interesting books. 

In any event, job well done. I've added your book to my own reading list, but short of a lottery win and life of luxury, I probably won't get around to it until about 2020. I look forward to it though!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

SELF PUBLISHING 101: Where to Start

So you've finally finished that short story, novella or novel you've been working on and you want to get your work out there for all, or some, to see. Where do you go?

In the old days, you could mail a hard copy to an agent or Publisher and wait around for months to see if anyone bothered to read it or it was banished to a slushpile before its ultimate demise in the local landfill. Assuming your work was read, and green-lit for publication, you might get an advance then get to sit back and wait a year to see it appear on a book shelf in a store.

Your alternative to this lengthy process was to sell a kidney and pay an exorbitant amount of money to a vanity publisher who would run off a few dozen copies of your books and mail them to your doorstep. From there, you'd begin a campaign of begging at local bookstores, gifting to friends and family, and selling your prose from the trunk of your car like a drug dealer. Eventually, all those leftover prints would languish in your garage, feeding countless generations of insects and mold spores.

Thankfully, those days are over.

Today, we have Self-publishing, where we, the Authors, get to decide when people see our work. Better yet, as Internet Entrepreneurs, we control everything. Cover, content and marketing. For many aspiring writers, this may sound daunting, but it's really not. Self-publishing is actually very easy to do.

First off, ignore the naysayers. Traditional publishers and authors will often look down their noses at us Indie, self-publishers. They don't want us playing in their market, taking money they could have gotten. Friends and family might roll their eyes, scoffing at your idea to publish or telling you there's no money in writing. Forget all that crap. If you want to publish, you can. YOU are all that stands in the way.

WHERE DO I START?

That's a question I hear a lot. Heck, I even sat on a panel yesterday at Imaginarium, a Louisville, KY writer's conference. "Self-Publishing for Dummies" was an enlightening time for me. I was shocked to see so many folks wanting to publish but not knowing how to do it.

So, where do you start? The absolute best resource on the internet (which I assume you use, since you're reading this blog) is Kboards.com, and specifically, the sub-forum Writer's Cafe. This amazing online community of authors, readers, editors, proofers, cover designers, artists and more have a collective knowledge base that CANNOT be beaten. Ask ANYTHING and you'll get several answers. Please not, have a thick skin, though--some answers can be rough. Like any online community, there are trolls. DON'T FEED THE TROLLS. Read up and learn. You'll be amazed what you can find out, FOR FREE.

You can also listen to podcasts. RockingSelfPublishing.com is a great weekly show from the UK's Simon Whistler. He interviews those who have succeeded at self-publishing. Simon has a very liberal definition of "succeeded", with guests who are just starting out all the way to those making professional sums of money.

Joanna Penn hosts the weekly "The Creative Penn" podcast, another great interview podcast. Joanna really focuses on the behind-the-scenes of self-publishing and is a huge proponent of looking at your writing as a business.

Finally, check out your library. If there isn't a writers group, ask them to start one. Odds are, there are at least a half-dozen other aspiring authors in your community.

WHAT DOES IT COST TO SELF-PUBLISH?

NOTHING. Not a damned thing. Many will tell you that writing is a business and requires investment, blah, blah, blabbity blah. Bullshit. Got a computer, or access to one? A completed story? Internet access? Bam. That's all you need. Yes, spending money will make a better product, thereby increasing your sales, but you don't need money to get started. You can self-publish for nothing, and even earn a few bucks, that you then reinvest to improve your product.

FORGET ABOUT THE MONEY

Writing is not the lottery... well, it is, kind of. But don't think of it that way. There are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of us self-publishing. The odds of being that one needle in the ebook haystack that scores it big and sells enough money to buy a new house are slim. Don't chase that pony. Write because you want to write. Because you enjoy it. If you get all desperate to make a buck or ten, you will suck the joy out of this possible profession. Instead, think of writing, and self-publishing as a part-time job. When you get better, you might be able to go full time. You might make enough to quit your day job. Or to buy a speedboat and vacation in Monaco. Or you might be like most authors and just have enough to pay the bills and enjoy yourself. As long as writing and self-publishing doesn't cost you anything, or stress you out, it's a win.

A lot of authors, and cover designers, and editors will tell you that you have to invest in your book. That you don't want to put crap out, that it makes us all look bad, etc. etc. I say bullshit. Life insurance salesmen tell you that you need a policy not because they actually care about you, but because it's their job to sell them. Don't listen to an editor or a cover designer who says you need to pay for their services. You might, but don't let them pressure you into buying something you don't want. Or worse, convincing you to wait to self-publish because you can't afford a cover or an editor...

EDIT ON THE CHEAP

That doesn't mean having grandma read it with her trusty red pen in hand. It means go online and find some beta readers. Or join a website like Wattpad, where you can post snippets or whole novels and get feedback. Some online writers groups will have authors who'll edit, quid-prose-quo: you read theirs, they read yours.

You don't need a college degree to write a novel. Sure, it might help, but if you can tell a story, you can learn the mechanics of writing, for free, by talking to others or reading how. NEVER PAY for this information. The people who charge you for it are out to make a buck. Plenty of folks will share information for free.

Once you think you've got some good edits, start bargain shopping. FIVERR.COM is a great website that offers every imaginable service for $5.00. That includes covers, blurbs and more.

COVERS

Keep it Simple, Stupid. That's an engineers expression, but it also works for covers. If you've ever been to a library, you've doubtless seen hardback books. Not all have fabulous artwork. Some have NO artwork. The only really important rules about cover design are:

1. Don't have bad art. Moldy bread isn't appetizing, and neither is bad art. Self-publishing is great, self-publishing something people buy is better. No art is better than bad art. Get opinions for free online before you put that art up.

2. Your cover must be readable. If a reader can't read the title of your book, you might as well have a blurry image or no image.

3. You don't marry your cover, nor is it written in stone. That first cover may be all you can afford, it may not generate many sales, but it's a cover. You can always go back and replace it later. Remember, REINVEST in your work. Start with a simple cover with a single symbol, title and your name. Fiverr.com can give you that. Later, spring for some stock art at places like Fotalia or Shutterstock. Learn to do the art yourself with free programs like GIMP, or (re)invest in some cheap software online, like Corel Paintshop Pro on Amazon--it's less than $50 if you get an older version (just make sure it's compatible with your computer's version of Windows or Mac).

4. Keep it simple. (I know, I'm repeating).

5. Make it relate. Don't false advertise. Make sure you cover has SOMETHING to do with your book contents. If Harry Potter had a magic wand on the cover, it would work. If it had a mechanic's wrench... well, that would be misleading.

GET A PROOF READER

Proofreading is vital because our brains want to see our work the way we want it. We will often gloss over mistakes we've made, oblivious to them. Printing your work and reading it helps. So does reading it aloud, but there's still going to be something to slip through. Even if you paid an editor, something might slip through. Get a Proofer, or a Beta Reader. People will do that for free sometimes, or, again, you can swap proofing with another author-to-be.

REVISE AND RE-PUBLISH

Always improve your work, polishing that turd to shiny perfection. At least for a while. Don't put off your next work to perfect your self-published work, but there's no reason why you can't go back and fix typos, or plot points readers griped about, or put a better cover up. Hell, you can even change the title if you want! It's YOUR book!

GO KINDLE

More than 70% of ebooks are bought on Kindle. Don't sweat iTunes, Kobo, etc. etc. when you're first starting out (and avoid Google, their interface sucks). Kindle has easy, simple instructions online. If you can use a word processor program and pay bills online, you can get your manuscript read and uploaded. It's not that hard. If you can't, shop around for someone who will format it. Maybe even on Fiverr.com, or on KBoards.

What? You want print editions? It'd be cheaper to buy some scrap wood to shove under the leg of that wobbly table. Don't kill yourself trying to put together a print edition until you're ready. It is a lot more complicated. Not impossible-complicated, but significantly harder. Createspace.com (yet another Amazon subsidiary) offers a fairly easy system for making print copies. But before you do that, make sure the eversion will sell. Make sure you have a winning, or at least selling cover. Print copies are an investment of money you could spend on better cover art or editing. Invest those royalties easily.


REMEMBER YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY

Just because Hugh Howey has sold a bazillion copies of Wool, or the guy working the drive thru at McDonalds sold one whole ebook in five years doesn't mean that is your fate. Genre, target audience, and product quality are just some of the factors that make books sell. LUCK is the greatest. Your book is one of millions out there. Even if you win the lottery and produce a Superbowl Half Time ad, what you write may only sell to a few folks. That's perfectly okay. Keep writing. Keep self-publishing. You can do it.