Five More Free Tools for Authors

Indie authors wear many hats including writer, publisher, book designer, production manager, publicist, marketing manager, and social media manager. It’s a lot to do with multiple tasks to keep track of.

The more help you have with these tasks, the more efficient you can be. Following are five free tools to help you in your Indie author roles.

1. Organize Your Brainstorm Ideas.

All authors brainstorm ideas. Brainstorming is an important part of developing a book. But, where can you put all those ideas and organize them? Enter mind maps. Mind maps are a graphical representation of ideas and concepts. They are a visual thinking tool for structuring information, helping you to better understand, remember, and generate new ideas. You can use the Bubbl.us mind map online for free.

2. Find Out How Amazon Kindle Sales Rank Translates to Actual Sales.

Every Kindle book listed on Amazon has a sales rank. How does this sales rank correlate to daily sales? You can now find out with the Kindle Sales Rank Calculator by Kindlepreneur. This free to use tool helps authors understand the connection between Amazon’s best sellers rank number and Kindle ebooks sold per day. Try the free KDP Calculator.

3. Know the Tone Your Words are Communicating.

Written words carry tone, which conveys emotions. To make sure your next email, text, or social post carries the correct tone, use the Tone Analyzer tool. Just copy and paste your message in the box and click the “Analyzer” button. The Analyzer lets you know what emotion your text conveys.

4. Save Stuff from the Internet to View Later.

If you are like me, you probably stumble over lots of interesting things on the web that you don’t have time to digest at the moment. If you use your browser bookmark tool, it can become unwieldy. A better way to save and organize anything on the web—articles, videos, social media posts—for later enjoyment is Pocket. Once saved in Pocket, your list of content is visible on any device—phone, tablet, or computer—for viewing. The service has free and premium options.

5. Find Out Which Libraries Carry Your Books. 

Have you been pursuing library sales for your books? Do you want to know if any libraries have ordered copies of your books? You can find out which libraries have copies of your book in circulation at WorldCat database.

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Photo courtesy of RawPixel.com.

 

5 Common Indie Publishing Errors

Indie publishing is growing. Indie published titles now account for about 17% of all books sold. This is great news. Sadly, many indie authors don’t take the time to fully educate themselves on important aspects of publishing a book. Then these authors wonder why people don’t stand up and take notice of their books.

Following are five common errors that indie published authors make. I encourage you to read this list and educate yourself. Don’t make these mistakes.

1. Thinking that being self-published is a badge of honor.

Congratulations. You have self-published. Yes, it was a lot of work. It took time and dedication. However, being self-published is not a badge of honor. For years, self-published books were highly stigmatized. Most people viewed them as subpar. While self-published books have lost much of their stigma, it has not fully gone away.

If you are only marketing your book to readers, then loudly asserting that your book is self-published may not be that detrimental to your marketing efforts. But, if you are trying to obtain media coverage or reviews for your book in trade publications, then announcing that your book is self-published will ensure you do not receive coverage. Your press release or book will be thrown away. Most industry professionals still view self-published books as second-tier books. In other words, don’t announce in your press releases that your book is self-published.

2. Not purchasing your own ISBN.

Many indie authors are so happy to get their book published, that they accept the free ISBN from the publishing service they are using. This is another way to signal to the industry that you are self-published. ISBN stands for Industry Standard Book Number. Every book published receives an ISBN. This number is linked to the “publisher” of the book. If you purchase or use an ISBN from a service provider like CreateSpace, then your book is forever linked to that service.

Look professional. Get your own ISBN for your books. ISBN numbers are affordable. They can be purchased through Bowker.

Once you have an ISBN number, be sure to give the 13-digit number, not the 10-digit number when asked for your book’s ISBN number. The 13-digit is the industry standard.

3. Listing the publisher of your book as CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing.

CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are not publishers. Let me state that again in case you missed it. CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are not publishers. They are publishing services that allow you to take a book and get it listed in Amazon’s online bookstore. Both services also allow you to purchase print copies of your book.

These services are not publishers because they do not do the tasks publishers do of editing, proofing, layout and design, and marketing. They simply allow you to sell books that you have uploaded to their service.

Books that have CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing listed as the publisher on Amazon shout self-published. As I stated earlier, while much of the stigma over self-publishing has gone away, it has not been erased. You will have greater success hooking more readers if you look traditionally published.

If you did use a CreateSpace ISBN, at least pay the small $10 fee that CreateSpace charges to list yourself or your company or ministry as the publisher on your Amazon listing and in expanded distribution.

4. Thinking that bookstores order books from Amazon.

I previously wrote a blog post on “Amazon is Not a Distributor.” I will reiterate that here. Amazon is a bookstore. Bookstores do not order books from other bookstores. Bookstores order books from distributors at a minimum of a 40 percent discount from retail price so that they can earn money off the sale of the book. If Amazon is the only place your book is for sale, bookstores will not order your book.

5. Listing the book cover designer as the illustrator.

An illustrator is someone who has provided illustrations for the interior of a book. Most adult fiction and nonfiction books do not have illustrators, while most children’s books do. However, it is standard to have an illustrator field for metadata because those books that do have illustrators need them listed. It is okay to leave this field blank if your book does not have an illustrator. Don’t list the book cover designer. I am amazed at how many authors who nominate books for the Christian Indie Awards list their cover designer as the illustrator.

I know there are more than five common mistakes that indie authors make. I have just chosen these five to list. If you have a mistake that you have seen indie authors make and want to share it, please do in the comments section.

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Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline

According to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), there are now more than 2,321 independent bookstores. Between 2009 and 2015, the number of general market independent bookstores grew by 35 percent.

Sadly, Christian bookstores are not on the increase. Instead, they have been steadily declining for years. It seems like almost every week I read about another Christian bookstore closing. Rarely do I see news of a Christian bookstore opening. Last year the Christian publishing industry took a huge hit when Family Christian closed—losing 220 stores in one fell swoop (there were 240, but 20 were purchased to be run independently).

I believe there are three reasons why Christian bookstores have suffered while independent bookstores have thrived.

1. Lack of depth of inventory.

Christian bookstores tend to play it safe. They only stock bestselling books and books by well-known Christian authors and personalities. In other words, they only stock books they believe will sell well.

The issue with this is that consumers can get these books at the big box stores. Why would I take extra time from my busy schedule to go to a Christian store to purchase a book by Max Lucado when I can pick it up at Walmart with my groceries? Why would I bother to browse a local Christian bookstore when there is not much new material to discover?

Shortly after the start of the new millenium, when Christian publishing and bookstores were still in their heyday, Barna warned Christian retailers at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) that unless they broadened the books they offered for sale and included books with more meat and less fluff, that they would suffer. It appears these were prophetic words.

Recently, the Board Chairman of the CBA, The Association for Christian Retail, told Christian retailers: “Let’s return to carrying a healthy book inventory. If the life-changing impact of Christian books is leaving our stores, along with our most faithful customers, this is our chance to re-align our mission and responsibility to the church to be the place to discover new authors and Christian thought from foundational authors.

2. Failure to embrace Indies.

One of the reasons that general market independent bookstores are thriving is because they have embraced the Indie author. With almost one out of every five books purchased penned by an Indie author, booksellers cannot afford to overlook this massive group of enthusiastic authors. Local Indie authors have the power to bring the community into the bookstore.

Sadly, Christian bookstores and CBA, The Association for Christian Retail, have failed to embrace Indie authors. Other than establishing a Creative Pavilion section at their annual trade show (a tabletop area for authors), CBA has done little to encourage their member stores to work with Indie authors. They have not championed a “Christian Indie Author Day” for their stores, unlike the secular market has done with “Indie Author Day.” Nor have they developed guidelines their members stores can implement to help these stores be more confident that the Indie books they carry will be quality Christian material.

 

3. Using an outdated model.

Starbucks thrived because they marketed themselves as a “third place,” a space where people can share and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends and colleagues away from work and home. Many independent bookstores are also setting themselves up as “third places.” They are striving to be a place where friendly staff know and remember the names of their regulars. They are also a place for the community to gather over all things related to books and reading.

It seems that most Christian bookstores are maintaining the old model of simply setting up shop and expecting customers to come because they are interested in what the store is selling. Wouldn’t it be nice for Christian bookstores to be a “third place” for Christians and seekers to gather and encounter God without the formality of a Church building or service?

I know I don’t have all the answers. Bookselling is a difficult business. However, comparing and contrasting the general market independent bookstores with Christian bookstores does show some glaring difference that I believe account for the current state of the industry.

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Are You on Second Shift?

According to author Dr. Harold Arnold, Jr., people on second shift are those who work at their passion after their day job is done. Many authors fit into this category.

Few authors can afford to quit their day jobs to become writer full-time. Hence, they must devote their “second shift” (after a day job) to their writing careers.

seond-shift

In his book, Second Shift: How to Grow Your Part-Time Passion into Full-Time Influence, Dr. Arnold looks at the frustration that comes from this position. He talks about DRAGONS (doubt, regret, apathy, guilt, obstinance, and narcissism) that can derail you from continuing to pursue your passion that is already marginalized in your life.

Addressing each one of these DRAGONS, and teaching the reader about each one’s antidote that comes from KINGDOM thinking (Knowledge, Insight, Novelty, Grace, Deference, Other-centered, and Much). Dr. Arnold encourages his readers to continue following their GODprint (the calling or passion that God has placed on your heart).

Dr. Arnold speaks from his own personal experience. For years, he has pursued his passion in his second shift, often running into discouragement and frustration with having to pour his “leftover” energy into these projects. I think my favorite quote from Second Shift that is great encouragement for anyone pursuing their passion in their spare time is:

Your obedience to God unlocks doors for someone else. You become the conduit through which God’s blessings flow to another.” (p. 202)

In his book, Dr. Arnold gives his readers four strategies for success in their second shift. They are:

1. Sacrifice security
2. Fail forward
3. Tame time
4. Promote partnerships

If you are a second shifter, take heart. Digital Book World’s 2014 Author survey found that only one in ten (10%) of writers actually make a livable salary ($40,000+) writing full-time. Another study found that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of self-published authors earn less than $1,000 a year.

If you are a second-shift author who needs some encouragement to continue on your path, Dr. Arnold’s words might just be the encouragement you need.

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Indie Authors Get Their Day in the Spotlight

Up to 42% of the ebooks sold on Amazon.com are independently published books, according to Author Earnings. As independent publishing grows, so do the programs that help indie authors gain more attention.

Indie Author Day

This year will feature an inaugural Indie Author Day! SELF-e, a joint venture between BiblioLabs and Library Journal that brings independently published ebook titles to libraries across America, is the sponsor of the event.

This first annual Indie Author Day will be held on October 8, 2016. Public Libraries across North America will host their own local author events on this day. The sponsor of the event hopes that 400 libraries will participate. Currently, they have over 100 libraries already signed up to participate in Indie Author Day.

As a Christian independent author, is there room for you to participate? I think so. Here are some things that you can do to participate in Indie Author Day.

  1. Host your own event at your church library for Indie Author Day (or even the day after on Sunday).
  2. Find out if your local library is participating. You can check the listing here. If your local library is not participating talk with them about doing so. Bring the event to their attention. Let them know that you are an indie author who is willing to participate by reading your children’s book, holding a seminar on a topic related to reading or writing, or even hosting a craft related to your book. Maybe even volunteer to help coordinate the events for the day.
  3. If your library is already participating, contact them and inquire how you, a local independent author, can participate.
  4. Help spread the word about Indie Author Day. Just helping promote Indie Author Day gives you another opportunity to get your name and book in front of readers.

Through Indie Author Day libraries are encouraged to support their local writers. It’s a chance for Indie Authors to have the spotlight. As a local writer, you can participate in this event to raise more awareness not just for your books, but also for the growing independent publishing movement.

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Independent Bookstore Day

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