Thursday, 23 August 2012

Book Publishers, Non-American Authors and the IRS

If you self-publish your books (whether eBooks or physical books) using an American publisher (Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace or whoever) it may be a surprise for you to learn that the American tax office (the IRS) requires the company you publish with to withhold 30% of your royalty earnings. Yes, that's right, non-American authors who publish with Amazon or any other American company will have 30£ of their royalties withheld directly by the IRS. This is a big chunk of money to lose every month, especially by a foreign tax office (and you still have to pay income tax at home). But all is not lost. Most countries have a tax agreement with the USA and if you take a few simple steps you can stop the IRS from robbing you blind. What you need to do is to get a tax identification number from the IRS. Not being an American citizen, this can either be an ITIN (individual tax identification number) or an EIN (employer's identification number). Now, any American reading this will be stunned that an individual can get an EIN, because domestically, these are always reserved for limited companies. For non-Americans though, these numbers can be used by a sole trader — a category into which authors fall. Now the ITIN process requires that you send your passport and a letter from your employer (Amazon or whoever in this case) to the USA or to an American embassy in your home country. This is because these numbers are intended for individuals and the IRS needs to confirm who you are. But, not being an American you can apply for an EIN number and the application for this is much more straightforward, as you do not need an ID. Indeed, all you need to do is to call a specific number at the IRS which directly issues EINs for foreign applicants only. It might sound an expensive process, as you are calling the US, but if you use Skype you can keep the costs down and you will have the all-important number by the end of the call. The number I used was +12679411099 and though I had to wait almost 30 minutes to get a reply, the woman who eventually answered took me through the entire application process. By the end of the call I was told my EIN and I was sent a letter to confirm, which arrived a few weeks later. Now that I had my tax ID I could get form W8-BEN, which is available for download from Amazon and CreateSpace. I filled this in and mailed it (you need to send a wet ink copy) to the address Amazon provided (the address is available form the self publishing help pages). A few weeks later and I received an eMail from Amazon saying that everything was in order and that I would no longer have any tax withheld from the US side. And once you have your EIN you can use it with anyone you publish with in the US. A single phone call (which cost less than 50p with Skype) and a few letters and I saved a huge chunk of money. It really is easy and there is absolutely no reason for you to let the US IRS keep any of your hard-earned royalties. What I am surprised is that most of the information on the web talks about the ITIN number, which is a rather involved process, when for anyone not an US citizen getting an EIN is a much, much, easier process.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Print on Demand?

This evening I've been looking at Amazon's CreateSpace ( publishing solution. Basically, if you have a fully-formatted PDF of your bok, in the correct format you can use the self-publishing system and get them to print your book on a publish on demand basis.

If you can do all the work yourself (format the book, design the cover art) then this costs you nothing. Of course, the price of the book is based on the number of pages and whether it is colour or not.

I've been looking at a book format of about 7.5 x 9.25 inches and around 400 pages (depending on how I format it. If sold for $19.99 this would give just over $6 in revenue for every copy sold. The price CreateSpace charge being based on page number. Fewer page numbers means you can sell the book cheaper.

Being an InDesign user, this is much more familiar territory for me (I was an editor in a former life) and I know how to produce book-quality InDesign layouts. Currently I'm thinking of a layout using Times New Roman at about 11.5pt with embedded images (not that there are many).

The book I am going to start with is my Big Book of Curry recipes, which is currently by ar my biggest seller on the Kindle ebook store (you can find the Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery for Private Families on Amazon and you can also find Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery for Private Families on  Indeed, it's been the success of this book on the Kindle platform that has made me decide to go the print on demand route.Especially as I think a recipe book may well do better as a physical book.

Of course, I already have all the text and the links etc, but the image placements will need to be re-formated and because physical books do not re-flow like eBooks, page breaks will need to be taken care of. My current layout is A5, so I need to change that. And the links will need to go to page numbers and not be hyperlinks. But that's easy.

There is probably about a week's work in all and then the book will be ready for purchase on Amazon.

The publishing adventure continues!

The Basics of eBook Publishing

Following on from my guide to writing a book proposal, for publishing a print (ie dead tree) book, here is a guide for those who want to publish their book via the electronic book route.

Thanks in the main to devices such as Kindle, Nook and the iPad eBooks (electronic books) have had massive growth in the past few years, growth that shows little evidence of abating... which is good news for prospective authors.

Still, this the whole eBook publishing area is a bit of a minefield as there is no standardization in terms of devices and formats. ePub, an open standard is the most common and most devices will read it. This is the format that smashwords sells.

In terms of the big book sites, in the US at least, Amazon has 60% of the market, Barnes and Noble has 30% of the market and Apple has the remaining 10% (with a few other smaller markets filling in the cracks).

Anyway, that is the basic background. Whatever else you do, you need to writer your book. I would recommend that you ALWAYS, always, write your book with a physical publisher in mind. After all, this ensures that your book is the highest quality and even if you publish an eBook first you can still publish your own print version with a print on demand service and you can also send your book as a proposal to agents and publishers (just be sure to retain the electronic publishing rights for yourself).

Do this properly, with an introduction, table of contents and an index at the back. These are always good signs of a well-written and thought out book

Once your book is written (and I would recommend using Word or a compatible word processor for this) you will need to format it for the various eBook readers. Smashwords ( has an excellent service for doing this from Word, which covers most formats (but not Amazon). Now, you can do this yourself, or you can search smashwords for people who will do this for you (prices range from $65 to $150 and times range from a few days to a few weeks). Just remember you are paying for a formating service and not an editing service. For eBooks you will need to edit the book and any images yourself (there are editing services available, but expect to pay something in the order of $1200).

You now have an eBook ready, formated and exported in a range of formats. Whilst you are doing this, don't forget to export a PDF of your book and also format the first 50 pages or so as an excerpt.

Don't forget to create a cover for your book. This is another good sign of a properly produced book. Again you can do this yourself if you have some skill with photoshop or other image-editing software or you can, once again, pay to have it done for you.

The first part of your eBook is done. In the next part, we will look at Amazon and getting your book published (rights, pricing and getting it in on-line stores).

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Practising what I preach

Over the past couple of days I have been busy putting the finishing touches on two chapters that I am going to use as the basis for a new book proposal.

Over the past few years (quite a few in fact) I have been busy putting my Guide to Wild Foods on-line. This is has been a labour of love, with over 140 wild (or introduced and naturalized) plant species listing, all provided with descriptions of the plants and their edible parts and recipes.

I have thousands of recipes associated with these various wild edible plants. I've now separated them into categories based on the type of environment they grow in: farmland, woodland, scrubland, marine, sea shore etc and the new book will have chapters based on these.

Over the past couple of days I wrote sample chapters for the Trees and Introduced Plants from that list, with full descriptions of the plants and between five or six recipes for each plant.

Those chapters need a little updating ,but they are there now. The next step is to use the Guide to Writing a Book Proposal that I have published here in this blog to actually write the proposal for the book I am planning: The Guide to Wild Foods.

The aim is to get this proposal done by the end of the weekend and to submit the proposal to a range of editors and publishers at the beginning of next week.

I will be back with more information on how that process progresses, along with further information on how you can turn what you have written (whether to a website a blog or anywhere) into a publication (either for conventional print or for eBooks).

As always, the important thing is to get into the practice of writing. The more you write and the more often, then the more you will have to sell.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Research Section

Today is a bonus post.

For all writers of technical books... whether historic, scientific, academic or literary, then to write such books you will need to have done some research. This is your chance to show an agent or publisher that you have done extensive research and that your book is authoritative.

In this section you should briefly describe the bounds of your book (if you are writing about recipes from 1660 to 1760, state that). Now list your main sources. These can be libraries, book collections, books and websites. Think of anything that you would list in the references section of your book and list the main ones.

If there are any salient points garnered from your research, particularly if noteworthy, then describe these in this section.

If possible link this to the 'about the author' section. After all, if you are an expert in what you are writing about then your research will be more authoritative and your book or book proposal is far more likely to be picked up.

Do not go overboard on this section, just use it to show that you have done your research properly and that the book you are writing is based around this research.

Back to the Introduction on Writing a Book Proposal.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Querying a Literary Agent

The title of this post may be a little strange if you are outside the publishing biz... but an approach to a literary agent is termed a 'query'.

The truth is, though you can approach publishers directly, as an author you will really need a literary agent in your corner. An agent is a publishing insider. They know the market and they know the publishers. They can get you larger advances and they know which publishers will be the best for your book.

To select a literary agent you need to chose one that covers the topics that you are writing about. This improves your chances of a literary agent being interested in you. And because that literary agent specializes in your type of literature they will know the appropriate editors in the right publishing houses to actually get your book published.

Before you query a literary agent you should already have written your book proposal... just do not send it to the agent directly.

You need to first query an agent, to see if they want to read your book proposal. When approaching a literary agent, keep it simple... But your query still has to be perfect in all respects.

It should contain three sections: an introductory paragraph about your book; a paragraph listing your credentials and prior publications (if you have them); and a concluding paragraph that should simply ask whether the agent would like to receive your book proposal.

Of course, before this you need to find a literary agent to query in the first place. You need to do your research here. Search on-line and use various books about agents and publishing. Publishers Weekly is also an excellent source of information. There are hundreds of agents out there, but only a small section of these will handle your type of book.

If you choose agents that do not deal with your subject matter you will be rejected out of hand. But if you do your research properly then you already have a leg-up compared with other authors. If you are approaching your first agent then I would suggest narrowing your list down to 10 to 15 of the best options and sending your query (just the query, not your book proposal) to all of them.

If you have done your selection properly then you would expect responses from at least a couple of them asking for your book proposal (And if you have followed the other posts on this blog your proposal will be tip-top).

This is a lot of work, I know... but at least all agents these days accept emails so you can have everything ready in a weekend if you really want to.

Send those emails off and sit back in hope... the hope that soon you will be well on your way to getting published.

On to the next part: Writing the Research Section for technical and factual authors.
Back to the Introduction on Writing a Book Proposal.

Writing the Sample Chapters

This, of course, is a very important part of any book proposal as it shows your writing style to the publisher. Basically these sample chapters show that you can actually write and that you have a grasp of your subject matter.

Typically you would include two or three chapters from the middle of the book. The introduction is never included as this is both deemed too introductory and it is usually only written when the remainder of the book is done. Depending on your book's subject the first chapter might not be suitable either as this may be introductory as well (but it depends on the subject matter).

If your final chapter is conclusory in nature then including this is also a good idea. But, again, this will depend on the subject matter of your book.

For my first book proposal, I did not include complete chapters (as to do so would have meant writing the whole book before the proposal). Rather, I made selections from the contents of the first, second and third chapters that showed the contents, how the text would be laid out and revealed my style. For this book, which gave an ancient text and its translation using the standard sample chapter system was not suitable.

But whatever you do, make certain that you include sufficient text for your aims and your writing style to be evident. Just make certain that what you write is vibrant and that your personality comes through, as this is one of the distinguishing features of any book.

Congratulations, you have just written your first book proposal. If you went through this guide then you will have found out that it's not as onerous as many make it out to be. And keeping it structured actually helps you in the writing.

Print the text out, write your cover letter and send it off to your prospective publisher of agent and wait.

In the next (and final) section we will take a look at how to approach a literary agent.

Good luck to you in your publishing efforts!

Writing the Chapter by Chapter Summaries

In the previous article, I told you how to structure and create the table of contents for your book. If you have the table of contents written, then you have the book's framework already set out.

For the chapter summaries, take each chapter in turn, write the chapter name as a heading then write a brief paragraph explaining the what that chapter will contain.

Taking my example table of contents from the previous article for my Big Book of Curry Recipes project:

1. Table of Contents
2. Introduction
3. Traditional Curries
4. The Curries of South Asia
5. The Curries of Southeast Asia
6. The Curries of Indonesia
7. The Curries East Asia
8. The Curries of Africa
8.1 East AFrica
8.2 West AFrica
8.3 Southern AFrica
9. The Curries of the Caribbean
10. British Curries
10.1 Historic Curries
10.2 Restaurant-style Curries
11. Classic Spice Blends and Spice Pastes
12. Index

The introductory chapter is about the history and importance of curries and how they are cooked. The definition of what a curry is. How they evolved in the Indus Plains of India some 4000 years ago, how Persian, Arabic, Portuguese and British influences shaped modern curries as we know them. Then how Indian traders and Buddhist monks transported curries east to Asia and west to West AFrica.

Traditional curries are curry recipes from the curry homeland of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (the Indian sub-continent). Though the chapter focuses on curries it also treats curry in the round so that recipes for accompaniments, drinks, breads, pickles and relishes are also given so that you can serve a whole curry based meal. Also meat curries, fish curries and vegetarian curries are dealt with separately so that you can experience the breadth of dishes available.

Do this for each chapter and you will quickly have written your chapter summaries.

Again this shows the publisher that you have a proper plan for you book and that you can actually deliver on what you have promised.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Writing the List of Chapters

When writing your book proposal, you end up writing two tables of contents. The first of these, which has already been given in the first article of this series is the table of contents for your book proposal. Note that this is for the book proposal, not for your book.

Your are listing all the relevant sections in your book proposal. Now, I like to write my book proposal in PDF format and I often send both a paper copy and an eMail to the publisher. For the emailed version I hyperlink the proposal's tale of contents entries to the appropriate section of the proposal. Just to recap, here are the suggested sections for your proposal's table of contents.

1. Overview
2. Marketing
3. Promotion
4. Competing Books
5. About the Author
6. List of Chapters
7. Chapter-by-chapter Summaries
8. Sample Text

So far, on this blog I have covered sections 1 through 5 and we are now on section 6.

In this case, the 'list of chapters' referred to is the 'Table of Contents' for the book you are proposing. This will show the publisher how your are going to structure your book and will show that you can plan your book. For example, here is a first draft of my table of contents for my Big Book of Curry Recipes:

1. Table of Contents
2. Introduction
3. Traditional Curries
4. The Curries of South Asia
5. The Curries of Southeast Asia
6. The Curries of Indonesia
7. The Curries East Asia
8. The Curries of Africa
8.1 East AFrica
8.2 West AFrica
8.3 Southern AFrica
9. The Curries of the Caribbean
10. British Curries
10.1 Historic Curries
10.2 Restaurant-style Curries
11. Classic Spice Blends and Spice Pastes
12. Index

Essentially a chapter is a topic that you will cover in detail in the book. As you can see the table of contents shows an orderly pattern. The traditional curries come from the Indian sub-Continent. Indians introduced curries to south Asia, southeast Asia, Indonesia and East Asia following the spice routes and migrations of buddhist monks.

Indians also introduced curries to East Africa, but in Ethiopia there are native curry-like dishes, just as there are in West Africa. The British introduced one style of curry in South AFrica and Malays brought as indentured servants introduced another kind. The British and Indian immigrants brought curries to the Caribbean. So we traverse the world in a sensible historic fashion.

The penultimate chapter is on British curries, both historic and modern (many of the modern restaurant-style curries were developed in Britain) and lots of dishes that have curry flavours added to them were invented by the Victorians.

The final chapter is a series of recipes for classic curry blends that are used by a number of the recipes in the book.

As you can see, the table of contents is ordered and logical. This shows your thinking to the publisher. But if you have done this well, it is also a framework around which you can construct your book when writing it — which is exactly what your table of contents should do.

Whatever your filed and the subject of your book is, if you look at the table of contents of other authors you will get a very good idea of how complex (or how simple) a table of contents can be. And some authors keep them very simple, indeed.

Forums for Web Traffic

I have been in the internet business for quite a while now, but in the publishing and book writing business a much shorter time and I keep on forgetting that most writers come from the other direction...

If you have an internet presence, then you need to get noticed and the way you get noticed is via web traffic. Now, the big search engines are all looking for new, relevant content and they all still love forums.

I forgot this, partly as my original forum had not been updated for a while, was outdated and had been hacked. Over this weekend though I have put the forum: Celtnet Forums (actually a series of forums related to the main sections of my website) back up. I added a few notices and posts and immediately the googlebot spiders were there indexing the content.

Within 12 hours I was getting content. Now, one of the forums I am running is about my writing and that has links to this blog and to my books with information about books, writing and publishing.

This makes that forum an excellent resource for informing prospective buyers about my books. And because the search engines love forums it's also a really excellent way of getting the message 'out there'.

So, I am sharing with you an angle of internet marketing that website owners have known for a long time, but which authors promoting their books may not.

Personally I use PHPBB for my forum. It's free, can be downloaded by anyone, is really easy to install... I was up and running in just a few clicks.

Like everything there are a few drawbacks and most of those are to do with the value of forums as link bait. Because of this you get plenty of spammers, but PHPBB gives you lots of tools to reduce this nuisance to a fairly manageable level.

Forums... a really useful resource that you should really, really consider.

Writing the About the Author Section

This section is where you are allowed to have a little fun and to blow your own horn a bit. This is where you present the credentials that make you a credible author for the book you are planning.

Now, this can be uncomfortable to write for many people. The trick is to always write the 'about the author' section in the third person. Once you begin to write about yourself in this slightly personal style you begin to view your own life and achievements as an outsider.

Here are the various items to consider:

1. List any publications you have (particularly if national or international)
2. Mention any media shows (TV, radio or podcast) that you have been on
3. Write about any newspaper, magazine (or large website) stories that have mentioned or covered your work
4. If relevant mention your education and professional qualifications (all professionals should always do this... for example, I have a PhD from Cambridge University)
5. Mention any other relevant information about yourself

Always conclude by saying that you are very enthusiastic about the book you are proposing (this is the kind of flannel that publishers like to hear).

Of course, the above assumes that you already have a publishing career. If not, do not worry. If you have written and published an eBook (even if self-published) this counts and shows that you are a keen writer with an eye for detail.

But even if you have no publishing history, you can still get a book contract. After all, everyone has to start somewhere and all writers start from scratch. Publishers, editors and agents know this... you just have to put your best foot forward and focus on the positive aspects of your life and how these make you the best possible author for the book you are proposing.

You need to be positive and be a good self-publicist. But you cannot over-do it. And here is where writing in the third person is your friend, as the style itself will tend to tone-down any excesses in exuberance.

The overall aim is to project the impression that you are the best person in the world to write this book.

Writing the Competing Books Section

This is another section of your book proposal that tells the publisher that you have done your homework regarding the book your are proposing. What you write depends what your book is. You are trying to demonstrate two things: that your book is unique, but that there is a market for it.

First do a search on Google Books and Amazon for books with similar titles or in a similar niche to yours. Note the title and author of the books then write a single sentence about them. "A COLLECTION OF MEDIEVAL RECIPES by R W Wilkins (Abbey Books, 2010) takes a selection of recipes from several medieval volumes, however the original recipe is not given; in contrast, my book deals with a single Medieval cookery volume, giving the full original text, translation for each recipe and a modern redaction of every recipe." Note that the title of the competing book is given in all capitals, the author is given as a standard mane and the publisher and publication date are in parenthesis.

Do this for every book that could be considered as competing with yours. And, for each book you need to present:

1. The title, author, publisher and date of publication of the competing book
2. a brief description of the competing book
3. An assertion that your book is better.

You need to be a little bit bold here. You need to describe the competing book, yes, but you also need to tear it down a little as well. The aim is to show why your book is better and why the market absolutely needs your book. This is the information that your prospective publisher needs to hear.

One final note... Always, always, search for competing books on Amazon. Because this is where a prospective publisher or literary agent will go to hunt for books. They are going to do it, so you must do it too.

Most guides to writing a competing book section say that you should ignore out of print books and books that are not in bookshops — the argument being that these cannot compete with your book. But in some markets, mentioning these can be important. I write about historic texts and sometimes that text has not been published for over 200 years. This can be useful information to give a publisher.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Writing the Promotion Section

Many aspiring authors mistakenly believe that the function of promoting the book is all down to the publisher. Yes, the publisher does have the money for promotion and they will use that to get your book to the various outlets.

However, unless your book is an instant success you will have to do some promotion yourself. And, there is another side to promotion as well. If you give a talk or a lecture you can promote your book there. If there are interviews (whether in print, on line or on TV or radio) you should make it clear that you will be available for these.

You can also promote your book on a website if you have one. You can use your author page on Amazon (any author publishing on Amazon can create one) then you can use social media (Facebook, Twitter etc) to promote your book and yourself.

Here is a brief checklist of things you can do, or you can say that your are prepared to do:

1. You will make yourself available for interviews (in any media)
2. You will send press releases to publications (print and on-line) about your work
3. You will write about your book on your website (or start a new website to promote it) or you will create a blog to promote your book (this is free with blogger after all)
4. You will use social media to promote your book
5. You will submit articles to on-line article directories to promote your book
6. You will promote your book at any lectures or public-speaking events you do
7. You will attend professional conferences (if applicable) and you will promote your book there

You may not have done many (or any) of these things before. And it's always easy to say no to things you are not familiar with. However, the publisher needs to know that you are willing to promote the book and that you will be proactive in terms of doing some things yourself.

Fame and celebrity are not going to come over night... but you still need to be proactive about promoting your book. And the publisher needs to know this.

Be positive and proactive here and if there are more promotional ideas you have than I have written down here, use them!

This is all about showing the publisher that you are not passive... that you are the kind of pro-active author for whom an advance is justified and who will be working with them to make the book a success.

Writing the Marketing Section

Now, this is the section of the book proposal that surprises everyone and it's the part of the book marketing process that most authors do not think about, assuming it's part of the publisher's function.

However, you are the author, but you are presenting your book to a publisher as a commercial proposal. How do you know that your book will sell? That the publisher will make money from your offering?

As a result, your marketing proposal must make it clear that a market for your book most absolutely does exist. All the better if you can indicate that there is a large female market. You need to begin this section with what you think your book's largest market will be. As I write cookery books in the main I often state something like: 'This book will appeal to women aged 25 to 60'... you can then add something like 'this is an enormous section of the entire book-buying market.'

Next list all the most important markets where you think your book will sell. Don't pull your punches and don't be shy about boasting just how large the market for your book will be and how many millions of copies will be sold. After all, no one really knows what really makes a book sell or how many copies will sell. So err on the side of optimism here.

Finally, there are always minor markets for books: libraries, clubs, associations (whatever is relevant to the book). Don't forget to include these minor markets in the marketing section.

So, your marketing section should contain

1. A description of the major markets for your book (1 or 2 paragraphs)
2. A paragraph enumerating all the potential minor markets for your book

Partly this section of the book is to give the publisher a warm fuzzy feeling. But it's also an indication that you have done done your homework and that you wrote your book with an audience in mind.

When writing this section I tend to think of myself giving a lecture about the book and the various audiences I would invite and talk to are the markets for my books.

On to the next part, Writing the Promotion Section.

Back to the Introduction on Writing a Book Proposal.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Writing the Book Proposal Overview

The book proposal's overview should, quite obviously, be an overview of the book you propose to write.

Typically it is one or two paragraphs long and is broken into three sections: an introduction, a one-sentence summary and a description of the book (this should be a brief precis, the book description in a nutshell, you will write a longer version later in the proposal).

The style should be something like a leader article in a newspaper. The introduction should give a brief outline of the book and what it's about.

The summary should say something about the uniqueness of the book (unique books have less competition and are more likely to sell). This sentence usually goes something like 'This is the first book to .... [fill in the blank]...' In publishing parlance this is the 'book hook' that tells the publisher why your book will be worth commissioning.

Next follows a section on the description of the book. Here, give a brief description. The book will be divided into three main sections. The first sections will be the complete text of the 1380s recipe book rendered as close to the hand-written original as possible. The second section will be a translation of all the recipes into modern English. The third section will be modern redactions of all the recipes so that a modern cook could prepare them at home.

This section on the book description should close with an sentence that covers the likely length of the book (you may not know exactly as you have not written it yet), along with the expected completion date. Something along the lines of

'The book will be 80 000 words long and will contain a bibliography, images, a glossary and an index. The manuscript will be completed six months after receipt of the advance.'

It should only take you a few hours to write the outline. Just make certain you do your research. After all, if you are going to say that the book is unique, you must be certain that this is the case (searching Amazon is your friend here; after all, if you can search Amazon, so will your prospective publisher).

On to the next section: Writing the Marketing Section.

Back to the Introduction on Writing a Book Proposal.

Writing a Book Proposal

So far, the articles on this blog have all been about eBooks. But, if your eBook is selling, or, on the back of your eBook's success you want to try publishing your next book as a physical volume.

Now, I write non-fiction in the main (though I'm currently working on editing my first novel). So, this article comes from the viewpoint of a writer of non-fiction books. In non-fiction it is commonplace to send a publisher a book proposal even before the book is written.

Also non-fiction publishers are a little more likely to go for a book coming direct from an author. In any other sphere of publishing you need an agent to get to a publisher. But an agent will not pick you up unless your are already a published author. So there is a merrygoround of ring-a-roses going on where the author ends up nowhere (which is why eBooks and self-publishing are so popular for new authors).

Back to the book proposal. This is a very stylized document that gives the publisher an idea of the book you are planning to write, why you are the correct person to write that book and shows examples of your writing style.

A good book proposal is typically broken into the following sections:

1. Overview
2. Marketing
3. Promotion
4. Competing Books
5. About the Author
[5a. Describing your Research]
6. List of Chapters
7. Chapter-by-chapter Summaries
8. Sample Text

and you would actually start the book proposal with this list as the book proposal's table of contents.

Think of the book proposal as a mini-book and it shows that you can structure your work. It is also familiar to commissioning editors so they know where they are in the style.

For a good book proposal you need to keep to the strictures, whilst also allowing your personality and above all your passion for the topic your are planning to write about to shine through.

This is but an introduction and a taster. The next six articles on this blog will cover each section of the proposal in detail, so that following the advice given here you will be able to write your own book proposal that will sell.

The other thing to note is that writing a book proposal should not be onerous. After all you are writing to promote a book that you care about and for a good proposal this should come through.

I have added a new section to the 'how to write a book proposal' section. This is section 5a, about your research. This only applies to technical writers. If you are writing a technical book of any kind (historical, scientific... anything that requires specific research then you need to write about your research in your book proposal).

Of course, for most authors, to get a book promoted and published you will need a literary agent. I have also written a guide for how to approach a literary agent: Querying a Literary Agent.

On to the next part, Writing the Book Proposal Overview...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Affiliate Programs and Geo-targeting

Both Amazon and Smashwords have affiliate programs, where you are paid a percentage of a book's sale price to promote that book. This is good for you as you can get other people to promote your book (Smashwords will even allow you to give some of your profit from the book to an affiliate to make marketing your book more attractive). But as well as some free marketing you also get tools that will help you market your own books.

The books shown on the left here are my main eBooks, all sold via Amazon for their kindle platform. If you have an account on Amazon then you can easily become an affiliate. This gives you tools for creating individual ads like these, rotating ads and text link ads. In all these ads, your own affiliate link is embedded so that, if someone buys an ebook by following one of these links the affiliate income from that sale is credited to your account. Think of it as being paid twice.

But, as each Amazon store is isolated from the others and you are selling your books at and, say, you have to create a different ad for each territory you want to target. This also means that you either have to show two or three or four ads for each book, or you only target a single territory that you might consider to be the main market for your book.

At first glance, it looks as if this is what I have done with the books show here. You are seeing just a single view. However, the ads are embedded onto this web page via a small piece of code that I run on my main website.

The code that I added to this blog page is this:

<div style="float: left; width: 120;">
<iframe frameborder="0" height="240" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="NO" src="" style="border: none;" width="120"></iframe>

iframe is the html code for an inline frame that allows you include an external web page in another web page. So, here, code run on my website is embedded in this page. The 'div' bit defines how large the page I am embedding is and it also defines that the iframe should be aligned left on this page, which is where the formatting comes from.

All I am doing here is calling a script called 'barbecue-ebooks' on my website. This has the code in it for displaying the ad shown here, which I get from Amazon. The code also tells the web page to embed  the add in the iframe on this page.

Now, I mainly sell on and, the code I am calling includes the links for the US and UK advertisements for all the eBooks shown above:

But you only see one ad... how come? Well, if you are in the UK you see the UK ad. If you are anywhere else in the world you see the US ad. But how is that done?

Well, I am using something called geo-targeting. The internet uses something called IP Adresses to define the computer or router that the visitor to your site comes form. Something like: As these adresses are given out by agencies in the US, Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific each address an be decoded to the region and country in the world from where it came. As a result, you can know from where your main site visitors originated. You can get free databases and even flatfiles from the internet that will allow you to look up an IP adress and map that to a country code (I use the flatfiles from to do this and either use the flatfiles directly or load into a database for quicker querying.

Once you have a country code its a simple matter to write a script, something along the lines — if a visitor is from the UK or IE display the ad, otherwise display the ad. Use a simple redirect to ensure the correct ad displays to your visitors. You have geo-location enabled and instead of having only one static ad delivered to your site visitors you have ads targeted based on their location.

You will see that I also have the same kind of thing in the right toolbar of this pate. In this case though I randomly choose which ad to display. Every time a visitor refreshes the page they will see a new ad. I also have the technology to rotate through the ads. Which is excellent for blog pages.

If you are interested in this technology, but either do not have your own website to host the code or do not have the technical knowledge to be able to produce geo-targeted ads like these I can help. Hosting of ads from my site starts from $20, depending on requirements and complexity for a single display ad (that ad can be as complex as you like). If you want further information or a more detailed quite contact me at Celtnet Sales.

Writing eBooks that Sell

I will freely admit that I don't really have a clue how to do this — nor does anyone else, if they are completely honest. There's more than a bit of magic and social dynamics involved. Obviously you have to write and then edit your book to the highest quality. If writing a novel the plotline and the characters have to be engaging. If writing non-fiction you have to be authoritative, but you also have to engage with your readership. Don't be aloof or preachy.

But as to the subject matter that really engages with customers... that is a whole other matter. My first eBook, the Guide to Spices and Their Uses was written more out of love than anything else. It ended up being a big book, covering 88 spices, with over 800 recipes that weighed-in at over 1000 pages. A big book by anyone's definition. And though it's making sales, it's not a blockbuster by anyone's definition.

I wrote a book of Christmas recipes just before Christmas and this sold well over the Christmas period, but then languished in the doldrums. Then I actually had to earn a living and  put the writing and publishing aside for a while. Early this year I got back into the writing and put together a book of Welsh legends. Partly tales I had heard growing up, but also tales that I had translated or put together from literary sources. This led to Welsh legends and folk-tales book being published on Amazon as a Kindle book.

For this eBook, I put into practice what I wrote about in my post: Amazon's KDP Select — Is it for You? I set up two batches of free offers, where the book was free, tweeted about it, wrote about it on my Amazon author page and put banners on the Celtnet Celtic section of my website. This really drove downloads up and there was an amazing weekend of downloading. Page rank jumped and it's remained fairly steady since. All the while I was putting the URLs for the Welsh Legends and Folk-tales on Amazon and the Welsh Legends and Folk-tales on on the web wherever I could.... advertising, advertising, advertising!

Buoyed by this campaign I saw just how important certain subjects could be. So I wondered... could I repeat this success with a cookery book (which is my main passion). I had just managed to get hold of a book of Anglo-Indian recipes and I'd been working on a series of restaurant-derived curry recipes. Now, curries have always been a passion of mine and I had curry and curry-like recipes collected from around the world. So I came up with the idea for The Big Book of Curry Recipes.

The book presents curry recipes from the Indian sub-Continent, showcasing traditional curries from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, along with the drinks, side-dishes, snacks, breads and accompaniments, pickles and relishes typically served with curries.

Then I wrote chapters covering the curries of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Britain showing how curries had come to those various regions and giving example recipes. In all, the book had over 900 recipes, with a chapter on curry restaurant style curries.

It turned out to be a BIG book, and as usual I did my marketing on it and asked a friend to write a Review of the Big Book of Curry Recipes. I published the URLs to the book page on and (The Big Book of Curry Recipes on Amazon and The Big Book of Curry Recipes on wherever I could. Then I put the links and the Amazon ad on all the curry-based recipes on my website.  
After that I set-up a two weekends on Amazon where the book would be available for free. Then I advertised via twitter and via banners on my site that the free weekends were coming. This time the response was a little more muted than I thought it might at first be... But the purchases and even borrows via KDP started to climb.

This book is now by far my best seller and I'm even getting really good reviews. This book has struck gold in terms of a book that not only delivers in terms of quality but also gives people something that they are looking for. And that magic is what every author is looking for.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Amazon's KDP Select — Is it for You?

KDP Select is Amazon's little sweetener for its authors and its Amazon Prime customers.

If you sign up with Amazon to make your eBook available exclusively to them for 90 days then your book is made available on the KDP select program. This allows Amazon Prime customers to borrow their book if they so desire (they are allowed 1 eBook borrow per month). You also get five days within the 90 day period where you can offer your eBook for free.

Yes... that's right, a free offering of your eBook. But why do that? I hear you ask. You have poured your heart and soul into the book so why give it away? Especially as, for those days where it is being offered for free lost of eBooks will shift, but you will not be getting any income from them.

Well, to understand the whys you have to understand a little of how Amazon works. Within Amazon's system, each book is ranked by a number of factors, which very importantly includes the number of sales. Now it does not matter what the price of the book is. A download equals a sale.

If you have a new book and no reputation then you want people to notice you book. But if the book is not selling because no one knows you then no one will see your book.

But, if you offer it for free then the book is made visible in the 'Free eBooks' pages and you get downloads. Each download equals a sale, which means that your book climbs in the Sales Ranks.

OK, so it's almost impossible to get into the top 100 for an eBook and if you are a new author you might as well forget that. However, books in Amazon are sold in categories and if you choose the right category, then your sales rank might only be 40 000 overall but you could still be in the top 10 for that category. Just make sure you chose relevant but slightly more obscure categories when you upload your eBook onto Amazon.

Like most things this is all about planning. Chose the correct categories for your eBook, then plan for when your eBook will be available for free. Tweet about the promotion, write about it on your website and blog, create a banner, mention it on your Amazon Author page. Also, you have 5 days to play with. I think it's best to do the free days in two blocks. I tend to go for 2 days first and then 3 days over two successive weekends.

Get your marketing ready, maybe issue a press release. Write an article about it. Anything to get as many people to download the book as possible so that you get a big spike in sales ranking. This ranking will last a while and will drive sales.

If you are a new author and a new book you may also get reviews out of this. Improving your rank will also get book review sites to notice your book. Email them, talk about your book and get them to review it. More reviews of 4 or 5 helps your book's ranking in Amazon as well.

This is a campaign to get your book noticed and actually bought and like any campaign, it needs to be planned properly and thought out. Giving your book away for free can lead to more sales (just think of the 'loss leader' or the 'promotion'). But in terms of eBook sales, it an be even more important to use it properly to give you that initial boost you need to get your sales going.

And just remember that the secret of getting your eBook sales to take off is as much about word of mouth as anything else. Get people talking about your book, blogging about your book and writing about your book. For that to happen, you have to do some of the groundwork in terms of marketing your book.

But you also need to get your book into the hands of readers. And for that to happen giving your book away for a brief period, as long as you have done the ground-work to maximize the effect can be the best marketing campaign you can have.

Don't Forget Smashwords

With everyone's eyes on Amazon and the kindle bookstore/platform the other big player in the eBook publishing arena often gets ignored.

This is Smashwords ( Established in 2008 by an author, Smashwords is a digital publisher, or perhaps more accurately a digital publishing house. It has its own ebook creation software known as 'meatgrinder' that takes a single Microsoft Word .doc file as an input and converts this into various eBook formats that are compatible with a range of eBook sellers, including: Apple (distribution to iBookstores in 32 countries), Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, WH Smith in the UK and FNAC (both powered by Kobo), the Diesel eBook Store,  eBooks Eros (operated by Diesel), Baker & Taylor (Blio and the Axis360 library service), Page Foundry (operates retail sites and; operates Android ebook store apps for Cricket Wireless and Asus).

Which all sounds rather wonderful (which it is). It's just that, to sell on smashwords (they sell eBooks on their own website) and via their partners you have to create your eBook in Microsoft Word format and export it as a .doc document. Moreover, you have to closely follow their style, as defined in their Style Guide. If you do this exactly as they state, then your eBook will go through the meatgrinder process and will be available for sale at Smashwords.

They then evaluate your book manually (this can take between 1 and 2 weeks). If all is well, the book goes into what they term their 'premium' catalog and they distribute your book to the various retailers named above.

It's a bit of a faff, I will be the first to admit... as you need to generate your eBook twice. For Amazon and for Smashwords (Smashwords are not yet able to bulk upload to Amazon). Also, if you go with Smashwords you cannot have an exclusive deal with Amazon's KDP select...

It's a bit swings and roundabouts. Personally, as a writer of mainly nonfiction I'm currently making more from Smashwords than I am from Amazon and though I did enroll in KDP select for a number of my books (which gave me days I could offer the books for free) Smashwords has proved so good for the books I tried there that I will be opting out of KDP select and putting those other books on Smashwords.

You should also not that, just like Amazon, Smashwords has its own affiliate program so that you can both promote your own boo and get others to promote it for profit (I will be covering affiliate programs in future posts).

So, Smashwords... Is it worth it? For me, yes... But as they say on the smashwords site, very few authors sell lots of eBooks. Some sell none. However, because I sell non-fiction recipe books then I do well out of them (primarily from Apple Store sales, though its early days).

However, your mileage may well vary and it's still fairly early days for me. I will report back in a year!

One other thing to note is that Smashwords provides you with a free ISBN-13 number for the .epub version of your eBook (which the Apple store uses as its ID). I am not going to go into detail about this, as ISBN is a large topic that I will cover in more detail over the coming weeks.

Article Marketing for Authors

Internet marketers have known for years that writing articles and submitting them to article directories is and excellent way of getting links to your internet content so that the content linked to increases in relevancy to web search engines.

But what has this to do with publishing I hear you ask. Well, if you publish on any major eBook site (and I will use Amazon as an example) then what you have is a web page with your content on it. Of course, that content can be found by searching on the Amazon website. But the content is also web-accessible.

This means that you can use the same techniques that internet marketers use to drive traffic to their websites to drive traffic to your Amazon page. This is where article marketing comes in.

In article marketing you write an article to submit to article directories (see Dyfed's page on GoArticles for an example). The articles should typically be between 500 and 1000 words and they can be on just about any topi. As a 'thank you' for submitting your article your have the opportunity to write an 'about the author' section at the bottom of the article (generally known as a resource box). Within this you can typically add any two URLs you like. This means that you can link back to your Amazon Author page and your book's description page (check the article directory, as not every one will allow this).

Write more articles and get more links. The more good-quality in-bound links you get to your content then the higher it will appear in search engines' rankings and the more visible they will be to internet searchers. The more people who can find your books, the more sales you will make. This also increases your authority as an author.

The game has changed completely with eBooks and the new landscape needs a fusion of Internet Marketing as well as good old fashioned book marketing to maximize your digital marketing efforts.

For me, my top article directories are:

Squidoo (
Ezine Aricles (
Suite 101 (
GoArticles (
Celtnet Articles ( [because its mine]

Take a leaf out of the internet marketers' book and begin your article marketing campaigns today.

Using your Amazon Author Page

For those starting out on the road to publishing, it is a little known fact that Amazon allows you to create a biography and add a list of books on their author central pages: (this being the UK page). There you can create an account, add a brief biography about yourself, add photographs, link to your twitter account, add video (of book signings or other events) and add a list of events such as speaking engagements, book signings etc.

If your book is in print and has an ISBN number you can add it to this page. If your book is published for Amazon kindle and you have an Amazon ASIN number then you can also add it to this page. Basically, this is a chance for you to say something about yourself and to bring all your books together in one place. A marketing opportunity that Amazon gives you for free.

You can see my own Author Central page here: Dyfed's Amazon Author Page (or Dyfed's Author page on Remember, if you add links to this on your blog, your website and use article marketing then this brings in more visitors to your author page and to your list of books.

The page tells potential purchasers about you, making you appear more human and giving a face behind the books. It also links together all your books on the Amazon site so the link on the author name associated with your books has somewhere to go to. This also provides a link that Google and other search engines can find... very good advertising. And if you can add links to your author page that Google and the other search engines index, then they will also index your product pages, ensuring that they are searchable in the search engines.

After all, the more eyeballs that see your products, the more likely someone is to buy it. It's all marketing and advertising and it gives you something to write about when you come to write a book proposal for a physical book.

So, get your Amazon Author Central page written, ensure you add all your books to it then publish the URL in articles, on your blog, in your website and on Twitter so that people and search engines can find you.

Dyfed's Adventures in Publishing

My name is Dyfed Lloyd Evans and during my career I have been a physicist, structural biologist, computational biologist, informatician and webmaster.

Over the past eight years, as well as my normal daytime job I have been running my website, Celtnet which has sections on Celtic texts and legends, recipes (indeed the Celtnet Recipes section is the largest), historic cookery books and articles (the Celtnet Articles section is the next biggest on the site). Over the years I have created lots of content.

During this time I have been converting historic recipe books and Celtic manuscripts into digital forms. Basically, I have lots and lots of content.

About a year ago I showed this to a friend and he asked me why I had not published any of it yet. Which got me thinking... why hadn't I? I had a couple of novels I'd written a few years back, lots of poetry and thousands of recipes and recipe-associated items.

But how do you begin with getting published? I really didn't have a clue, so like a good researcher I hit the books and the websites. I learnt about agents, publishers, book proposals and the phenomenon that was starting to take-off in 2011, the eBook.

What first took my notice was Amazon's kindle eBook reader. After buying a machine for myself and signing up to the program I decided to work on my first book. eBooks basically use a cut-down version of HTML as their back end and you can create eBooks in HTML directly (this is the language on which the internet runs). Or you can use an eBook creator. At the same time, Amazon made their first plugin for Adobe InDesign available. Now, I am familiar with InDesign and have a copy, so it was easy to add the kindle publisher plugin and to use it to export the book's text in kindle-compatible format.

I'd already written a few eBooks for my website using InDesign, so it was easy to adopt what I knew already to produce kindle eBooks. So I started on my first eBook, the Guide to Spices and their Uses (you can find the Guide to Spices and Their Uses on Amazon and you can also find the Guide to Spices and Their Uses on

What it then needed was a cover, so I took a photograph of a pestle and mortar I had with some spices, photoshopped that to add text and author name then exported to JPG in the format Amazon recommended. I now had the book's text and the picture. What I did not have was the table of contents and index. Now that took almost as long to create as the main text of the book.

Finally I had everything, uploaded the files onto the Amazon Website and I was published! The book ame out on the 19th of November, 2011. I immediately moved on to my next book... which was m first mistake... I should have been doing my marketing and making the links for my book available. But I didn't have a clue.

It's now almost 10 months on and I have come back to the spices eBook. Amazon have improved their eBook plugin for InDesign considerably. And I had a few problems with the original eBook, so I went over the whole thing again, added some more contents (there are now 88 spices described with almost 800 recipes given).

Yesterday I uploaded the new version of the eBook (second edition) and, as you can see from the link on the left here it's available for sale again. Bigger, better and considerably improved.

A complete guide to a whole range of spices (both common and not so common) from all corners of the globe, including recipes that demonstrate how the spice is used to best effect. The book also has chapters on classic spice blends from across the globe as well as a chapter on curries (both restaurant style and traditional).

OK, that's the marketing section done, but it is my eBook and I have to get it known! But joking aside, like I said, marketing is a big part of actually making money from your eBooks.

Why start with kindle eBooks? You will probably not make as much money from eBooks as you will from physical books (you definitely do not get an advance and you have to do all the marketing yourself). However, everything you learn from eBook publishing can be immediately applied to the publishing of any book.

And that is the real point...

I used the kindle eBook as a learning exercise and I am new to this business and still learning. One thing I did learn is that it takes real effort. The writing is OK, I am comfortable with that, but the marketing is alien to me and I was so focussed on writing new books that I totally ignored it.

Still, realization had to dawn eventually... and because I have my own website, I decided to leverage that. I asked a friend to review the book for my site (you can read the review of Guide to Spices and their Uses for yourselves).  I also used the code that I use above (it's quite a cool iFrame that calls a script on my website that then delivers the Amazon ad for the eBook and the cool thing is that the ad is geo-specific so that UK visitors see the British version and everyone else sees the US version of the ad.

This was placed all over the website and associated with my website's spice guide and recipe pates. The advertising portion of marketing was underway.

This encouraged me to redouble my efforts, so I created my author page on Amazon, added a bio and all my books to it (I will take you through this in the next post). Things were going well, so I also began writing book proposals for physical publishers as well and went back to my old novels.

The work is in progress, but it will all be shared with you so that you can learn from my mistakes and my successes in your own publishing efforts.

It is hard work and it is a real job, but it is also very rewarding.

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