Wednesday 21 May 2014

How to Publish an eBook in South Africa - Part Three

In Part 1 and Part 2 we learned how to write our story, establish an author brand and publish our book. 

Now we just need to get the book into the eager hands of our waiting readers!

Choosing an eBook Distributor

You can find eBook distributors in South Africa, such as Little White Bakkie, eReads South Africa and, but a wider audience can be reached by using the international sites listed below, which allow you to publish and distribute your eBooks. If you have decided against hiring a professional eBook formatter, remember when choosing an eBook distributor to look at what options they offer to help you professionally format your eBook.

a.     Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: with all the advantages of a big company, KDP now allows an author to directly convert to MOBI, the Amazon only file format. There are also informative and useful KDP forums and communities, with people willing to help a newbie along at no cost.  Royalties are fair and regularly paid, although only by cheque if you do not have a USA bank account.    

b.     Smashwords: Have their own free formatter, and distribute to those international sites that don’t allow international authors, such as Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple’s iBooks and Kobo. But the Smashwords “meatgrinder” is difficult, although the site does offer the facility to do special promotions and offer free book coupons.

c.      Draft2Digital: Similar to Smashwords, but much easier to use. Also distribute to Nook, Apple and Kobo, and currently seeking distribution agreements with other major on-line eBook retailers.  You can upload an already formatted ePub file, or you can use their free conversion tool for simply formatted books.

d.     XinXii: Calling themselves “Europe's leading indie eBook publishing and distribution platform”, XinXii offers distribution to the usual US websites but also to a large number of European and other on-line bookstores. They also offer coupon codes for free review copies.

e.     PublishGreen: Offering eBook publishing and/or eBook distribution, they convert PDF’s to EPUBs and offer book cover design, editing and marketing packages. If you look in the side bar, they also offer a download called The Basics of eBook Publishing.  There’s upfront costs involved, so review your PublishGreen choices carefully

f.       There’s also Google Books, Scribd, BookBaby and many others available. Choose the eBook publisher that is right for you.

Once you’ve chosen your distributor you’ll have to follow specific steps to load your book into their catalogue. Each publisher/distributor has easy-to-follow guidelines dealing with (order may differ per site):

a.     Creating an author/publisher profile
b.     Adding your book details (such as the book blurb, ISBN and publisher imprint)
c.      Uploading/converting your book content
d.     Uploading your book’s cover
e.     Choosing a category for your book (eg crime fiction)
f.       Previewing the finished product
g.     Setting pricing
h.     Choosing distribution channels
i.        Going “live” on sales channels

Marketing your Book

Industry experts say that being a published author consists of 15% writing and publishing and 85% marketing.  Developing a marketing strategy is vital, even if that strategy consists of keeping marketing to a minimum.  Ultimately, all the marketing in the world won’t sell your book if it’s not something that the readers want to read.  Your number one marketing strategy must be to write your books. After that you can decide which of the many on-line marketing tools to use. Here are a few to get you started:

a.   Book Trailer:

                             i.      Having a book trailer to promote your book is a quick and effective way to raise awareness.  
                           ii.      I make my own book trailers (you can view them here)
                         iii.      You can read how I did it in my article 12 Easy Steps to Making a Book Trailer which was published on The Book Designer.

b.  Social Media: 

                             i.      You must at least have a “home” where readers who google your name can find out where to buy your books, for example, a website, a blog, a facebook author page, a Google+ page and a Who’s Who profile
                           ii.      It’s advisable to use the same author brand (separate accounts for your publishing imprint and author name, if you have both) across all the social media sites, so that readers can find you on their own favourite social media site.
                         iii.      I have an account with as many social media sites as possible but I’m most active on Twitter as that suits my personality.
                        iv.      I visit the other social media sites occasionally, but I do make sure that my author details are always up to date.
                          v.      Here’s a great article on 10 Social Media Marketing Musts

c.On-line Book Clubs:

                             i.      Goodreads, BookLikes, Shelfari and LibraryThing offer two levels of benefits.
                           ii.      Firstly, you can connect with real readers, not just other writers. The caution here is that these are reader social media sites and they quickly take offence at authors who use the sites purely for book promotion. So interact with others as a reader, and be interesting enough that they voluntarily decide to follow you as an author.
                         iii.      Secondly, you can use these sites for book giveaways (to get reviews) and for advertising.
                        iv.      As soon as you publish a new book, remember to go to these reader sites and load your book’s information (also called metadata.)  A reader is giving up enough time to post a review – they may not go to the trouble if they have to spend even more time finding and loading all the metadata of your book.

d.   Book Blog Tours:

                             i.      An efficient way of garnering reviews and getting your book exposed to readers.
                           ii.      Make sure the blog tour you choose has participants who read your type of book.
                         iii.      For a (usually) small fee, book blog tours are offered by FabulousityReads in South Africa and other blog tours overseas

e.   Guest Blog Posts:

                             i.      Find blogs that have good followings, study their topics and write an article.
                           ii.      Pitch it to them in a professional manner. If the post is accepted, it’s great exposure. If not, you still have an article for your own blog/website.
                         iii.      This takes time and effort, but you gain writing experience and brand exposure.
                        iv.      Interact with other bloggers and if asked to do guest posts, carefully consider if the blog is in line with your author brand and target audience before accepting the guest spot. Once accepted, honour that commitment and submit the guest post when promised.

f. Offer Free Samples:

                             i.      There are two types of free samples you can offer to promote your books.
                           ii.      Full copies of your books sent for free to people who undertake to review them. Understand that when they accept the book for review it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will either read it or post a review about it.
                         iii.      Distribution sites usually require that you offer a free sample of your book for potential readers to download before buying the whole book.
                        iv.      When you’re loading your eBook file to the distribution site, you will be able to allocate the amount of pages you offer as a free sample.
                          v.      Some sites may have a minimum % of text that must be offered for free. Remember in Part 1 I spoke of backmatter? To make full use of your chance to bag a reader, make sure your sample only includes the text of the book (e.g for a novel the first chapter or for non-fiction a list of contents and some text.
             vi.      You will also need to decide whether to apply Digital Rights Management (DRM) to your eBooks.

Royalties and Taxes

The royalty % that you earn from the eBook distributor will be based on your price. Each distributor has their own terms so before choosing your distributor, carefully examine the terms and conditions around royalty payments.

If you use an American distributor such as Amazon, Draft2Digital or Smashwords, you’ll have to apply for an ITIN from the Internal Revenue Services. You can read my articles on this topic here to find out more about the process of obtaining an ITIN and submitting a W8-BEN form to avoid paying 30% withholding taxes in the USA.

Are you already registered with SARS (South African Revenue Services) for your day job? If not, once you start earning reasonable royalties, you’ll have to register as a taxpayer with SARS.

Keeping up to Date

The most exciting aspect of being an independent author is the freedom and flexibility this route offers an author.

The most daunting aspect is how quickly everything changes and the overwhelming amount of information and misinformation that’s available to the independent author.

As an independent author, responsible for all aspects of your book, you need to find the balance between these two extremes.

Keep up to date with the independent publishing industry, check your sources to make sure the information is valid and find the point where you can comfortably balance the different elements of successfully publishing an eBook with your everyday life.

Managing your Expectations

Publishing your own book is, as you’ve seen, not for sissies! At every stage of the process – from the writing to the royalties - your dream will, at times, seem impossible. In my Letter to a Young Writer I explain why it’s important to overcome these doubts and write anyway.

The biggest challenge in publishing your own book is keeping your expectations realistic. 

If you begin your journey to becoming a published author with the expectation of a lot of hard work to gain even the smallest victory, then anything extra (like becoming a best-seller) is a cause for celebration.  If you start off with the expectation of retiring off the proceeds of your first book, there’s a greater chance that you’ll be disappointed.

Ultimately, publishing your own eBook is about finding satisfaction in a personal dream fulfilled. Your eBook may be one-in-a-million-eBooks for sale, but you -- as an author who had the courage to follow your dream and publish your own eBook -- you are a one-in-a-million shining star: you are A Published Author. 


You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 1 here
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 2 here


Tuesday 20 May 2014

How to Publish an eBook in South Africa - Part Two

Right … You've finished your book and you're about to release your masterpiece on an unsuspecting world, a world full of readers who will rush to buy your book.

Wrong! You have a product that’s one of millions of other similar products. In just five years, from 2006 to 2011, the number of self-published books exploded by 287%! By December 2013, Amazon revealed that 25% of its Top 100 eBooks were independently published.

Now, in 2014, when independently publishing your book is even more accepted, your book will be just one of those millions of voices. As hard a fact as that is to swallow when you’re dreaming about writing your first book, it’s a reality about independent publishing you must accept and work with from the very first word you write.

Eish! What to do?  Give up your dream of publishing your book? Never! Nooit! Absolutely not!  What you do is you start to establish an author brand.

Establishing your Author Brand

You’re not selling a book (a single product.) You’re selling yourself as an author (a product brand.) Before you choose that brand name, you need to consider:

·        Will you be publishing in fiction or non-fiction?

·        What genre will you write under, for example, romance, crime, literary? Technical, self-help or religious?

·        What sub-genre will you write under, paranormal romance, sweet romance, erotic romance or medical romance?

If you intend to write in one genre and one sub-genre, you could publish under your author name only.

If you intend to publish across genres, consider establishing a publishing imprint. I write novels, poetry and short stories, and I’ve independently published them under the publishing imprint Aztar Press, which has its own logo and website.  

Choose a brand name that works. If your name is Percival Archibald Wroskovoskovitch, write under Percy Arch or Archie Wros or use your mother or grandmother’s name. You want a name that's different but short, sharp and pronounceable like Dan Brown or Chinua Achebe. Can you imagine have a twitter handle like @PercivalArchibaldWroskovoskovitch? There won’t be any space left to tweet!

Have good author photo taken. You can hire a professional photographer, or you can get a friend with a good camera to spend the afternoon doing a photo shoot. Try to resist making the photo cutesy or fun – browse any well-known author and the main photo they use for publicity is a clear head and shoulders shot. You can add the cutesy photos in the spaces provided by various websites such as Amazon author page, Goodreads author page. There are sections where you can easily upload more images for anyone who wants to look at them.

Before you even start writing set up your social media (more later) with your author brand name. You'll be amazed at how many people have the same name as you no matter how unusual your name (there is a Judy Croome who lives in Canada!) Even if you’re not ready to start your social media marketing just yet, you do want to reserve your author brand name for when you’re ready to start tweeting, googling and facebooking.

So … you’ve written your perfect, professional book. You’ve established an author brand. The next step is dressing your baby up so she’s ready to face the world. This is also called publishing your book.

Publishing your Book

If you’ve decided you’re only going to publish your book as an eBook, you’ve cut your publishing work in half. But you still need to follow certain critical steps to publish your eBook and make it easily available for readers.

a.  Book Blurb

Before they’ll buy, readers have to know what your book is about. You’ll need to write a short description (called a book blurb) of your book. This blurb will be used in loading your e-Book to on-line distribution sites and, if you decide to publish in print at a later stage, this will feature on your back cover.  To get an idea of what a good description does, browse on-line bookstores and read the book descriptions of the top-sellers. Look on this as your sales pitch to potential readers.

b.  Cover Design

Cover design is another critical factor in the process of making your eBook into a professional product. While a professionally edited book brings the reader back to buy your next book, a brilliant cover design captures the reader’s attention from among the thousands of eBooks your book is competing with in on-line stores. You can do the cover design yourself, but then you need to beware of the numerous pitfalls that await. Or you can hire a professional cover designer. 

I designed my own cover for my first-ever book – here’s what a reader had to say. I took his advice, found a professional cover designer and ended up with this cover. Can you see the difference a professional designer makes to the first impression a reader has of your book?

Before you decide which route you want to take, browse through these cover design articles on self-publishing guru Joel Friedlander’s blog The Book Designer.  Also look for recommended cover designer websites or, alternatively, if you like the look of a cover from a particular eBook you read, look on the copyright or acknowledgements page – the author may have a link or mention who the cover designer was. Chances are, if you love the look of a particular eBook cover, the designer will match your expectations. Check costs first though, as some designers can be expensive.

You could also set your own cover design price and run a freelance cover design competition

Make sure that both a high resolution image and a smaller image to use for web thumbnails is included in the price, as well as asking how many alterations are included in the original cost (you can’t expect to make infinite changes – the designer works by the hour, so he’ll have a set number of hours he can work on your cover.)

Check that the font used for the title and your author name is clear and legible in both the large and small image. As you’re not selling a book, but selling yourself as an author brand, your author name must be prominent, but not overwhelming.

c. Formatting

Correctly formatting your eBook is another critical area in publishing your own eBook. Poor formatting and book design are as off-putting to the reader as poor editing. Make sure your eBook format is professional.

There are two main eBook formats, .MOBI (Amazon only format) and EPUB (industry standard). PDF is another popular format, but it’s easy to copy and re-distribute books without the author’s knowledge or consent.

There are software programs that allow you to format your own book into eBook format, and most distributors of eBooks offer a formatting style guide and/or process suitable to their site but, unless you’re an IT whizkid, it’s wiser to stick to professional formatting services and hire a professional eBook formatter who will convert your book into the standard formats for a fee. You will then have a professional eEPUB and MOBI file to upload to your on-line distributors.

d.  Setting your Price

Pricing for independent publishers is a controversial topic. Some experts say, keep the price cheap. Others say, place a fair value on your work. Still others say, play around with the price and find what pricing level readers are willing to pay for your books. Another option is to price your new books higher than the books listed on your title back list.  You’ll earn a % of that price as a royalty. Think carefully about what a realistic price for your book is and be willing to change it up or down if you need to.

e.   Digital Rights Management

Digital Rights Management (DRM) limits sharing of content to protect you against reasonable pirating of your books. When publishing your book to on-line distributors you’ll have to elect whether to activate DRM or not. 

The next step, discussed in Part 3, is finding an eBook distributor who will help us reach those eager readers!


You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 1 here
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 3 here


Monday 19 May 2014

How to Publish an eBook in South Africa - Part One

Everyone has a unique story to tell, and creative writing is one way of expressing that story.

Before you start writing that masterpiece, though, you have to ask yourself some difficult questions and you have to answer them honestly.
  • What do I want for my book?
  •  What will my book have that other books don’t have?
  • Who will read my book?
  • Is there a demand for my book?
  • What is my budget for publishing my book?
  • Do I really understand what I must do to publish my own book?
  •  Am I committed to becoming a professional author or do I want to write as a hobby?
The answers to these questions will determine how you proceed on the path to publication.

While technological advancements in the publishing industry have made publishing a book more accessible to anyone who has ever wanted to write a book, one basic fact about the industry hasn’t changed: becoming a published author isn’t an easy journey.

Whether you choose to go the route of submitting your completed manuscript to a traditional publisher or whether you choose to become an indie (independently published) author, being a published author still takes a lot of hard work. 

As an indie author, you will have to take responsibility for every aspect of publishing your book, from the first spark of a creative idea to the selling of the final, professional product.

In this 3-part series we’ll be looking at the following steps in the process of independently publishing your eBook in South Africa:
  •          Writing your Book
  •      Establishing your Author Brand
  •           Publishing your Book
  •      Choosing an eBook Distributor
  •      Marketing your Book
  •      Royalties and Taxes
  •      Keeping up to Date
  •      Managing your Expectations
Writing your Book

a. Write your heart out. Free write and let your creativity run wild. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or any technical aspect of writing until your first draft is on the page.

b. Your writing should reflect your voice, your vision. Your story shouldn’t be you trying to write like Stephen King or Maya Angelou. It should be a creative reflection of your inner world. In that way it will be “original” writing.

c. Write with integrity. The same technological advances that make publishing easily accessible to you, make it equally easy to cheat at your writing. If you’re so hungry for writing success that you’ll do anything, or if you’re too lazy a writer to put the work in yourself, you can plagiarise (copy) someone else’s work. Just remember: with access to free on-line plagiarism checkers, you will eventually be caught. Rather choose to become a writer who prides his/herself on having integrity, even when no-one else is watching.

d.Once you’ve written THE END, the real writing work begins. Now you must revise and edit your story.

·  Do you have plot holes in your story arc?

·  Are your character arcs complete?

·  Have you adequately foreshadowed the climax of your story?

·  Have you corrected your spelling and grammatical errors to the best of your ability? You could try a free grammar checker such as Ginger or buy one such as Grammarly.

·  Have you checked for typing errors and “flabby” writing?

·  Have you said what you really want to say?

·  Have you chosen a book title that is appealing and relevant?

e. Show your baby off – let someone else read it and give you fair but honest feedback.

·  Have you established a beta reader relationship with a writing friend or joined a critique circle?

·  If not, find an on-line critique group that caters for writers at different levels and actively participate.

·  You can learn as much about writing by constructively reviewing someone else’s work as you can by writing your own.

·  Be considerate – only submit your manuscript when you’ve already edited it into a readable state.

·  The more times you submit the same manuscript, the less feedback you’ll get.

·  If you don’t have time to review other group member’s submissions, don’t expect them to find time to review yours.

f.   While your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect, it must be polished.

·  Is your manuscript of a professional standard?

·  Does it still need professional editing?

·  You can have a line, copy or content edit, or all three. This will cost money, but it’s one of the three critical steps in ensuring that your completed book is a professional product that readers will want to buy (I’ll discuss the other two critical steps, formatting and cover design in Part 2 of this series)

·  Make sure you find a reputable and professional editor, one that gives good value for money. That means, an editor who is good enough to offer constructive criticism while still respecting your unique creative vision.

g. Your final (and optional) step in writing your book is to add more elements to the body of the book.

·  You will need to give some thought to including some, or all, of a title page, a copyright page, a dedication, an epigraph page, a list of contents, an acknowledgements page, and an author page letting readers know a little about you and where they can find you on the web.

·  If you’re writing a non-fiction book, you may also need to consider including a list of illustrations, a list of tables, a preface and a forward.

·  In eBooks, especially fiction, it’s best to include as much as you can after the text itself (as backmatter). Part of your marketing strategy (discussed in Part 3 of this series) will be to offer free samples to readers to entice them to buy your book. While these pages give your book a professional layer, if the free sample consists of everything but the text, chances are a new reader won’t be interested in buying it.

·  Do you have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) included in your copyright page?

                             i.            An ISBN is a unique numeric commercial book identifier number.

                           ii.            You can choose to publish your eBook without an ISBN, but having an ISBN is an essential requirement for inclusion in the catalogues of some on-line booksellers, such as Apple iBooks.

                         iii.            Some eBook publishers/distributors such as Amazon and Draft2Digital do provide an ISBN service, but then their name will be reflected as the publisher. Unless you have your own publishing imprint, this could be the option that suits your preferred needs.

                        iv.            If you live in South Africa and want to publish your books through your own publishing imprint, you can apply for a free ISBN from the National Library of South Africa. You will, however, have to provide free copies of the books to the national legal depositories, details of which are provided when the ISBN is issued.

When you’re finally happy that your manuscript is of the highest possible quality, you’re ready to move onto the next step, Establishing your Author Brand.

We’ll discuss that in Part 2 of the series.


You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 2 here
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 3 here