Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Use Your Blog to Formulate Your Next Book

Photo by Savit Keawtavee
In recent conversations with writers, I've been asked a particular question a few times:

"I have an idea for a book, but I'm not quite sure the direction I want to go and don't even know if there is a market for this topic. What do I do?"

My answer was this: Use your blog! This is just one of the many examples of the fact that a blog is a critical weapon in the writer's armory. This is where you connect with your readers (your tribe) instantly. You can blog about the topic on which you're considering writing a full length book and gauge the response you get.

Even if you aren't sure the direction you'd like to take with a topic, or even what the scope of the book should be, this is where you can work those things out. Let your readers' feedback be your guide to what they want to hear more about. If you are writing a business book on How to Grow Your Market Share, for instance, you'll want to know the specific areas in which most business owners are looking for advice. Your blog readers, probably primarily made up of business owners, will tell you exactly what they are looking for and your book will be all the more relevant.

You don't believe me that your blog readers will buy a book filled with information they've already received on your blog?

Here's an example:  Platform by Michael Hyatt. This book is based on information he shares very generously for FREE on his blog. But, it was packaged differently, new information added, and several freebies were offered when he launched it. Platform became a NY Times bestseller in 2012.

Blogging a book works for fiction as well. If you have an idea for a novel but are having trouble with character development or the plausibility of the setting you've created,  blog a short story using those characters and setting. You can get feed back right there that will help you in when you are writing your novel.

Some novelists are even publishing an ebook of  the  first chapter of their novel as a short story, getting feedback through their websites and reviews, and then making changes before they put out the next chapter. That takes to the next level, don't you think?

So take your idea to the people. You'll have a better book in the end and may sell a few "pre-ordered" copies along the way.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

CreateSpace Writers Workshop

Photo by adamr
On Saturday, the Center for Women here in Charleston, S.C., held their monthly Womens Writers Forum. The guest speaker was David Symonds, General Manager of CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of

First of all, let's just say more often than not, living in Charleston doesn't allow for access to people like David. Typically, companies (large and small) in the publishing world aren't located in South Carolina.
New York? Yes.
L.A? Sure.
Chicago? Sometimes.
Charleston? Um, no.

CreateSpace, however, is located in North Charleston, S. C. I was thrilled at the opportunity to hear from David without travelling to a conference to ask him my questions directly.

David and his colleagues were informative, knowledgeable, and willing to answer even the toughest questions to the best of their abilities. First, he reviewed the process of publishing a book with CreateSpace from start to finish. Then he discussed royalties, and finished with a Q&A session. Needless to say, tough topics came up like the Indie bookstores' boycott of Amazon products, the lack of returnability of CreateSpace products, and lack of access to Amazon Canada, just to name a few.

Here are my takeaways:

1. CreateSpace is just about as easy as it gets for new authors to upload a book, create a cover and hit publish. Now we all know that ease is not the most important thing when it comes to self-publishing, but for someone like me who has used other Print on Demand companies, ease is a welcome change. Who doesn't want easy?

2. CreateSpace (print books) and Kindle Direct Publishing (ebooks published for the Kindle) are NOT the same thing. While they are both owned by Amazon and work together, an author must create an account with both companies and upload your document to both companies. Definitely a downside when you are looking for a streamlined service.

3. Amazon Canada is not part of the distribution options when you publish with CreateSpace, yet Amazon Europe is. Is that a big deal? I think so.

4. Expanded Distribution is optional for $25. This means Amazon will make sure you are listed with Ingram and Baker & Taylor. But, let's face it, the chance that a bookstore will pick up your book when it's not returnable (and CreateSpace is not), is small at best. Unless you are the next Amanda Hocking, they will go with something else to fill that wild card spot on their shelf.

5. There are many different options when it comes to ISBNs through CreateSpace. The options range from the simplest (you are assigned of their ISBNs for free) to publishing as your with your own imprint and purchasing an ISBN at $99. This is a convoluted topic. Do your research before making a decision.

Overall, I was impressed with CreateSpace's software, their commitment to making publishing easy for everyone, and the fact that they recognize they may not be the perfect publishing route for everyone - but they're ok with that. They strive to do the best they can for the authors that choose them.

Finally, here was the Quote of the Day summarizing one attendee's take-away:

"You don't have to pick one way or another (traditional, hybrid publisher, or self-publishing); you just have to have quality content."