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Archive for the 'Success' Category

How To Be Invisible – Book Review

How to be Invisible

If you’re looking for a book on how to LEGALLY protect your assets and your privacy then you absolutely have to read How to Be Invisble by J.J. Luna. I strongly recommend it. I generally don’t mark up my books, but I can’t say that for this book. It’s bookmarked, highlighted, you name it. The only thing to note is that this book is NOT about tax avoidance. Neither I, nor the author, recommend tax avoidance in any way. This book is about protecting your assets and your privacy from the public.

Why would you want to protect yourself? For several reasons. To use some examples from the book: you suddenly win a lottery ticket, you physically look just like the bank robber that was highlighted in the evening news the night before, you’re innocently related to the wrong person, you have a significant amount of money, someone faked their identity as yours, you have a stalker, you accidentally cut someone off on your way home and they want to come after you, and so on. There are a lot of reasons of why you might want to protect your assets and your privacy.

How do you protect yourself? That’s the topic of the book How to Be Invisible. J.J. Luna covers this topic in amazing detail and he offers a wealth of information. Not only that, but he also explains how there are different levels and layers of security. He goes from the simple basic security precautions you can take all the way to some very advance and high level privacy measures you can implement. What I especially liked is that he not only covered how to protect your privacy, but also how to protect your assets.

Being a computer geek, I generally find that most sections on technology are pretty superficial, and too often just plain wrong. In many cases the authors doesn’t really get it, and there are glaring holes in their information. Not so with this book. I actually learned new things from the technology section of a non-tech book! Assuming the rest of the book is as accurate as the technology section, well let’s just say I have no fear trusting the information in this book. Although I always recommend doing your own due diligence, because after all you can only blame yourself, I’m very confident in the information in this book.

Something else I really liked about the book is how several times the author asks you how you would find someone given a specific set of limited information. At the beginning of the book, and I hate to admit this,  I really didn’t know how. But as I progressed through the book, I got smarter and smarter. There’s some amazing examples of how easy it can be to find people and their assets, so it pays to know if you want to protect yourself. It also makes you more aware of your surroundings, which is very valuable in all situations, not just when you want to protect your privacy.

Overall I strongly recommend the book How To Be Invisble. It’s a great book with lots of useful information. Although you may not choose to implement the highest levels of security, I have no doubt you’ll at least implement some of the techniques the author suggests. I know I’ve already changed the way I do a few things.

You can find the book How to Be Invisble on Amazon by clicking here. You can also find further information at the website HowToBeInvisible.com and at the author’s blog Invisible Privacy.






Can Google Trends Predict the Winner?

For those of you who don’t know, Google Trends is a free service by Google that lets you determine the trend of different keyword searches over time, and then compare them together. Today I’m going to show you that it’s often possible to determine who will win between competitors using just Google Trends. By the way, did you know that Google can predict the flu activity up to two weeks faster than the current medical system? Yes, it can be that powerful!

LCD TV versus Plasma TV

Plasma Versus LCD TV

As you can clearly see, the number of Google searches for Plasma TV’s is on a clear decline whereas the number of Google searches for LCD TV’s is climbing. Based on the current trend, I predict it’s only a matter of time before Plasma TV’s are obsolete.

Another interesting thing to note about this graph is the spikes near the end of the year. This is inline with the increases in shopping for Black Friday and Xmas.

Facebook versus MySpace

Facebook versus MySpace

I remember how not very long ago everyone was wondering which would be bigger. Looking at the Google Trend it’s pretty clear who’s going to be bigger. FaceBook is continuing to grow while MySpace is declining. Although we can’t know for sure what the traffic numbers are, I’m willing to bet Facebook is ahead and gaining just like the Google Trends indicate.

When I wrote my ebook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website, I only had the Google Trends up to early 2008 (where they prettty much overlap and there’s not yet a clear winner), and even then I stated: “As you can see MySpace looks like it has already peaked, and may even be on the decline whereas Facebook has only recently peaked [in retrospect what looked like peak was only a temporary slowdown]. Please note however that these graphs don’t indicate real traffic but rather search query trends over time. If I was going to invest some time and/or money on one of these social networking sites, I would choose Facebook over MySpace based on these trend graphs.” A perfect example from a year and a half ago on how you can use Google Trends to better predict the future.

Netflix versus BlockBuster

Netflix versus BlockBuster

Based on the above Google Trends, it’s again pretty easy to conclude that Netflix is going to win over rental movies (I use Blockbuster since they’re the biggest brand name). Already Netflix has overtaken BlockBuster, and Netflix has an upward trend whereas BlockBuster has a downward trend. So unless things change, this lead should only widden.

Tivo versus PVR versus On-Demand

Tivo versus PVR

Based on these Google Trends, it appears that On Demand is growing faster than both Tivo and PVR’s. Tivo is definitely shrinking, and I expect it will eventually go away. PVR’s seem to be pretty static, which means they’ll probably stay with us for a long time. But On Demand is definitely a growing trend. If I was a betting man in the entertainment business, I’d put my money on On Demand as the way of the future.

Google Maps versus Mapquest

Google Maps versus Mapquest

I remember how exciting Mapquest was when the internet was new. It was the first big website to offer you the ability to map direction from where you where to were you wanted to go. Since then things have significantly changed. Google Maps has come onto the scene. And have they ever. They’ve blasted right past Mapquest. I can’t imagine this trend reversing, especially not when you consider what all Google Maps has to offers over Mapquest.

Norton versus McAfee versus Nod32 versus Kaspersky

Antivirus

Years ago it used to really be a battle between Norton and McAfee. Today things have changed a lot. I can tell you from personal experience, I’ve used both McAfee and Norton and I dislike them both. They’re so performance hungry that they really hamper your machine. These days I use Nod32 and I have only good things to say about it. The performance of Nod32 is amazing. What a difference!

In any case, you can clearly see that the lead Norton had is now gone. Not only that, McAfee is also losing steam. What’s interesting though is that it looks like the old guard is going to be replaced. I picked Nod32 because I like it a lot, and Kaspersky because I’ve heard good things about it, but there are many others. Needless to say, these two are growing while the while Norton and McAfee are shrinking. I predict it’s only a matter of time. If it wasn’t for stores like Best Buy stocking Norton and McAfee on their shelves, that and corporations staying with what they’ve always bought in the past because change is hard, the numbers would be even more drastic. I predict it’s only a matter of time.

Network Solutions versus GoDaddy

Network Solutions versus GoDaddy

Back in the early days of the internet there were only 3 domain registrars, one of them being Network Solutions. Eventually this changed, and now we have more registrars than I can count. But what’s interesting here is that we can see that just because Network Solutions had an early lead, it doesn’t mean they will keep it. Remember they were one of only three registrars! What happened? They kept charging very high prices for domains hoping to bank on their brand recognition.

Along came GoDaddy with cheap domain registrations. Today we can clearly see that Network Solutions is going in a downward trend while GoDaddy is going upwards. It’s easy to see this lead growing with time.

SSD versus HDD

SSD versus HDD

For those who aren’t as familiar with these abbreviations, SSD represents Solid States Drives and HDD represents Hard Disk Drive. HDD’s are currently the standard disks you find in computers. It’s most likely what you have in your computer. SSD’s are the new storage technology. They destroy HDD in terms of performance. They aren’t just a bit faster, they are multiple times faster. Not only that, they use a fraction of the energy, can take more physical abuse, have no moving parts, make no noise, and so on. Basically they trump HDD’s. The downside is that they’re still expensive, several times more than a standard HDD and they only come in smaller sizes. It’s more than enough space to run a normal computer, but I wouldn’t recommend storing larger media files on it just yet, it’s still too expensive.

In any case, you can see that HDD searches are going down while SSD searches are increasing. I predict it’s only a matter of time before SSD’s win out over HDD’s.

Conclusion

In many instances it’s possible to predict a clear winner by using only Google Trends. However you still need to use your brain, it’s not always correct. When I ran Blue Ray versus HD DVD, HD DVD was winning at the time, and it appeared it was going to win. I remember reading all kinds of articles and posts on how HD DVD was going to win. But then suddenly Sony made some deals and the majority of the studios made commitments to Sony’s Blue Ray technology. Within a month, it was all over. Blue Ray beat out HD DVD. However if it wasn’t for a direct intervention by Sony, I suspect things would be very different now. Having already gone through and lost the Beta versus VHS battle years ago, Sony wasn’t about to replicate it’s mistake one more time with Blue Ray versus HD DVD.

Overall though, you can, and should, definitely take advantage of leveraging Google Trends to predict the future. It’s the most powerful tool I know for predicting the future.






How to Get the Best Possible Technical Support

Technical Support

It’s early Tuesday morning and you’re just entering your trusted car mechanic’s garage because last night your car was really acting up on your way home from work. You don’t know exactly what’s going on, but there’s no doubt that something is really wrong. The mechanic greets you with a smile and asks you what he can do for you to which you reply “my car is broken”.

What do you think happens next? Is this enough information for the car mechanic to help you?

No, not even close. Firstly, what do you mean by it’s broken? Does the car start? Is the windshield broken? Does the car make any noises? Does it rattle? And so on.

Basically the mechanic will first try to get a basic assessment of what’s going on. Saying the car is broken just isn’t enough. It’s much too generic with too many possible meanings. The mechanic needs to know more.

The exact same is true with software technical support. If you truly want to maximize the effectiveness of the help you’ll get from the support department, give them as MUCH RELEVANT information as you can.

For the car mechanic, you could say something like the car makes a loud rattle, but only when I turn. And this only happens if I’m going at least 30 mph or more. I’ve also noticed that it’s coming from the back left section of the car. I just started last night, I hadn’t heard anything before.

When it comes to support, a surprising number of people seem to just say things like “the software is broken”, “it no longer works”, “I can’t use it”, “it won’t let me close”, “it won’t let me enter my data”. All of these are too vague and to do any real troubleshooting with unless there’s more information to give it a context.

For example what does it’s broken mean? Does the software start up? Are you getting an error message? If so what is the error message? Is it a report that’s not generating the results you’d expect? Are you not able to perform a specific task? The list of possibilities are endless.

And please don’t take this post as me complaining about our customers, because it’s not at all about that. I really do appreciate all of our customers. What I’m trying to give here are some tips to help everyone (me included) to get the best support experience possible. And this isn’t just with us, but with every company out there. Not just software, but with anyone you’re trying to get help from. The more context you can give the better your results will be.

Imagine going to the doctors and just saying you don’t feel well. What does that mean? Do you have a headache? Do you have a stomach ache? Are you bleeding profusely (well you would hope that one would be obvious)? Did you bruise something? The list of possibilities are endless. You have to give your doctor some context so that they can help you.

The same is true with technical support. The more context you can give the better your results will be. I know we always appreciate it when people give us more details. And more importantly, it lets us respond immediately without having to send a request for more details. Adding relevant details and context is a win-win scenario for everyone.






What Do You Do When You Can't Be Right?

Right now we’re at a pivotal point with the Swine Flu. It can go either way. So we’re preparing and taking as many precautions as we can as a world population. Mexico is virtually shutdown for 10 days. The rest of the world is on high alert. Although travel, especially air travel, hasn’t yet been restricted, it’s strongly advised against unless absolutely necessary. Funds have been released to help fight the battle. In other words things are moving.

But no matter what happens, once everything is said and done, people will complain. If the virus does become a pandemic and lots of people die we’ll complain that not enough was done. That we should have acted earlier, and stronger. That we should have stopped all travel right away. That we should have had quarantines setup right away. That we should have [fill in the blank].

However if the virus is stopped by our current actions, we’ll never know how bad it could’ve gotten. So people will complain that we over-reacted. That we overdid it. That it was all hype and fear. That the media oversold the story. And the next time we’ll be even less likely to do anything because nothing happened last time. For example, we’ll never know what could’ve happened in the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak. Today people still argue that the cost of the vaccine may have been too much because people died from the vaccine. But how many more would have died without the vaccine and the preventative steps taken at the time? How much more could the virus have spread and killed? Did we prevent the death of millions at the cost of hundreds or thousands? We’ll never know. All we know is that people died from the vaccine and the that outbreak never occurred. We forgot that our actions might have actually stopped a much worse scenario because we didn’t see it.

Basically, whatever the outcome, it will be wrong! If we don’t react enough a pandemic can occur and potentially millions of people can die (worse case scenario – we don’t yet really know how virulent this strain is). If we do enough and stop the spread of the virus, then people won’t believe it really was a threat after all. This is especially true if people die preventing the spread of the virus because of the vaccine.

So what would you do when there’s absolutely no way you can be right?






Be Careful Where You Buy Your Software

Fraud

Every once in a while we get someone contacting us asking why they haven’t received their license. In most cases it’s because the spam filters have somehow blocked the email or have sent it in the spam folder and they just missed it. In either of these cases it’s a very easy fix, especially if the email is still in their junk folder (which it usually is). However once in a while it turns out the person tried to buy the software from another website (completely unsanctioned by us) at a very significant discount. And I don’t just mean 10%-20%, I mean up to 70%-80%. Nice discount isn’t it? Maybe a little too nice…

Unfortunately it’s not too nice. In these fairly rare cases it’s from fake websites trying to illegal process credit cards with no intentions on fulfilling the orders. It’s all a fake storefront to just get people to buy whatever (in this it’s software but it could be anything, shoes, tv’s, you name it). As soon as the money is processed, you won’t ever hear from them again. Within a month or so more, the website/domain is completely gone and has moved to another domain/website. I don’t know how they get away from credit card chargebacks and such, but they somehow seem to. And I don’t even want to think what they do with the credit card information!

Now I can understand falling prey to a scam, especially if the price is within a small percentage (say a 10%-25% discount). Even 50% is not unheard of if you’ve been dealing with the site for a long time and/or it has a good reputation. But when a site that you don’t know (the domains have generally been purchased within less than a few months so there’s no way you can know it), that has no SSL certificate (they often state it’s a secure connection on the webpage when it’s completely bogus), and the discount is more than most liquidation sales, doesn’t that make you wonder? Wouldn’t you at least contact the company first to make sure it was legit?

The worse part, at least for us, is that a few of these people who contact us after the fact expect to get a license because they “paid” for the software. Yes I agree they paid something, but it was nowhere near the price and not to us. It’s the same as if you tried to buy a Rolex watch for $100 from a random site and wondered why it was a scam. Then contacting Rolex and demanding that you get a real Rolex watch since you already paid for it. It just doesn’t work that way.

The good news is that we’re generally very accomadating to these people, probably more so than we should be. That is assuming they are courteous and respectful (after all we aren’t the ones that scammed them and we didn’t try to get a riduculous discount). For example, today I was in communication with a gentleman because he was scammed in exactly this way. Because he was so courteous and nice, we helped him out as best we could. Had he been abbrasive and demanding, odds are very high I would given him the Rolex example above and ended it right there. Common courtesy can get you further than you might expect. Remember, we aren’t the ones to blame in this situation. If you buy a Rolex from a street vendor in a shaddy part of town for $100, don’t be surprised if you get taken.

So if you see a version of LandlordMax (especially an OEM version because there is no such thing) selling for a fraction of the real price, RUN!!! RUN AWAY! And it’s not just us, it’s almost every other software out there. If a software (or any other product for that matter) is discounted by more than 50% of it’s normal price and it’s coming from a site you don’t know, RUN! RUN AWAY! If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true.






How to Publish Your Own Book – POD (Print on Demand) – Part 3

Continuing on our series on how to publish your book, we’re now going to look at POD (Print on Demand) publishing. It’s the next step up in terms of effort and costs from publishing an ebook, and it’s definitely a lot less than self-publishing and being published through a traditional publishing house.

Print on demand (POD) is a technology for publishing smaller quantities of books, sometimes even as small as just one copy at a time. It basically allows you to print your books as you sell them, requiring no inventory. In other words, the initial attraction of POD versus self-publishing and traditional publishing is that you can get your book published for a lot less money. You don’t need to have a run of 1000-3000 books, you can print only those books you sell (as you sell them). However it’s not as simple as that, and often (not always but very often) POD books aren’t as polished as self-published or traditionally published books.

Something that is often forgotten with POD books is that you still need to heavily market your book to make it a success. This is true with all four of the publishing techniques I’m discussing, but for some reason lots of POD authors forget this fact. Did you know:

“According to estimates from the three big players, the average POD author sells 100 to 200 copies. Who’s the biggest buyer? You sitting down? According to Xlibris, 64 percent of those copies are purchased by the authors themselves, and the numbers elsewhere are probably similar.”

But even more than that, Peter Bowerman author of the book The Well-Fed Self-Publisher writes:

“I remember a much-heralded celebration they had that same year after paying out their one-millionth dollar in royalties. Let’s see . . . $1 million over 7,000 titles comes out to an average royalty of $149 each (and I’m being generous here by counting that $1 million as payment for just one year’s sales rather than for cumulated sales). I promise you, they charged every author far more than that to “publish” their books.”

And I absolutely agree with Peter that they charge much more than that. When I initially tried POD, I was quoted over $2000 for what I wanted. And don’t be fooled by the entry level prices of $500, it doesn’t really offer much if you want to be serious author. For this article, I’m going to use iUniverse as my example since I dealt with them directly. There are lots of other POD publishers, but I preferred iUniverse for a few reasons (which I’ll discuss later). In any case, they offer 4 publishing packages ranging in price from $599 to $2,099. And I can guarantee you will need to spend more than what they list, even with their high end package, assuming you plan on producing a book of decent quality.

The other big difference with POD versus ebooks and self-published is that you deal with royalties instead of profits and expenses. In other words, with POD you get a percentage of the sales straight out. For most companies it’s about 10% of the sale price (I’ve seen it as high as 20% but 10% is more the norm). With self-published and ebooks, you have to pay to get the book published and then you make profits afterwards (minus your on-going expenses. In other words, POD is front-loaded (pay upfront with only revenues later) whereas self-published and ebooks have the profits on the back-end (costs up-front with revenues after costs are taken into account afterwards).

Forwarning: You will find I’m biased against POD, although I will concede it has it’s merits. In some situations, POD is the way to go. I’m just biased because it’s being sold as a really good alternative to self-publishing and traditional publishing when it’s not. It’s more of an alternative publishing option for vanity authors, authors who don’t plan to sell more than a few hundred copies and are doing it more for themselves and their families and friends. But more on that later.

Pros

No need to get accepted by a publishing company

POD and self-publishing are the only two methods to publish a PRINTED book without having to go through a publishing company. And this is the greatest benefit of POD, you don’t need to have anyone accept or approve your book for publication, you can print anything you want. Almost all POD companies will accept any book, be it the next Steven King multi-national bestseller to your personal diaries and memoirs. With POD you can print anything, good or bad.

This means that you can also print books that have smaller niches since more big publishing houses aren’t interested in books that can’t potentially sell thousands and thousands of copies. It also means that you can try new things with books. For example with my book Blog Blazers I tried a new interview format. Instead of interviewing each person differently with their own custom tailored questions, I asked everyone the same questions. I believe this makes the book richer as it allows you to compare oranges to oranges and apples to apples versus oranges to apples. Of course since this isn’t your normal/standard format, most traditional publishing houses aren’t that excited about it. It doesn’t mean you can’t, Seth Godin’s latest book Tribes (great book by the way) is the first book I’ve seen without chapters that I can remember. Of course he’s an international bestseller with over a dozen books so he can get away with breaking the rules compared to new authors.

Cheapest printed method

POD is sold as being the cheapest publishing method available, and I have to agree it is the cheapest way to publish a printed book. BUT it’s not as cheap as they make it out to be. For example, I’ve seen countless POD ads stating that you can publish a printed book for about $500 or less. Yes it’s possible, but you wouldn’t want to do that. I can also buy a brand new car for about $2500 USD but would you want to? Is it worth it?

If I just want to print my own book to give to my friends and family and I don’t want to sell millions, or even thousands of copies, then POD is great. It’s the most affordable route to go. Plus you can skimp out on some of the additional services since it really doesn’t matter as much (for example who cares if your book has an index if you’re only printing 20-50 copies for your family and closest friends).

The thing to note is that although the POD industry is advocating that publishing with POD is the cheapest printing method, it’s not that cheap. Especially if you factor in all of the other costs such as printing promo copies, who owns the rights to the book, and so on.

No need to create a company

A great benefit to POD is that you don’t need to do anything special, you don’t even need to form a company. The POD company will handle all those details. They’ll take the orders for your book and give you your cut (your royalties). They’ll basically be your company for you.

The thing is that creating your own company, or even corporation, isn’t that much work. And if you’re serious about your book and want to sell lots and lots of copies, then this shouldn’t be a big task. But if you just want to print a handful of copies and not deal with any of this, it can be nice.

No need to accept or fulfill orders

With POD you’ll never have to accept or fulfill any of your sales orders. Of course this is true too with traditional publishing, and can even be true with self-publishing to a great extent. However with POD you’re guaranteed to have all your orders fulfilled for you, and the accounting taken care of for you.

Can be fairly fast to publish

With POD it’s possible to publish a printed book fairly fast because you can decide just how extensive you want to edit it, if you want to create an index, etc. However with POD, unlike self-publishing, you have no control over how long each step of the book publishing process will take (for example with iUniverse it’s x weeks to do this step, x weeks for that step, and so on).

But more importantly, you don’t need to spend time looking for a publishing company to accept your book which can take months to years. If you have a book you want to publish, you can get started today!

Least amount of knowledge needed

For a lot of people, a huge appeal to POD is that you don’t need to know much about publishing a book to actual publish a book (just like traditional publishing). Someone else, the POD company you’re dealing with, is going to take care of everything and walk you through the steps. It can be relieving to put all that effort onto someone else’s shoulders. However having self-published my own book, I can tell you it’s not that hard (and I knew nothing going in). Especially if you get a really good book like Peter Bowerman’s The Well Fed Self-Publisher, it will really help.

You can write for niches

Like ebooks, you can potentially write for niches. The costs of publishing a POD book are definitely much higher than publishing an ebook, but it’s still not prohibitive. Especially if you think it will take a while to sell many copies of your book (you don’t need to keep an inventory)

Long tail

POD is great for long tail books. That is books that won’t sell in big numbers at any one time but will continue to sell well for years and years. The main reason is that you can amortize your cost over time and you don’t need to keep thousands and thousands of books in warehouses waiting for the orders to come over time.

No warehousing

Another great benefit of POD is that you don’t need to warehouse your books. Sure you can keep the books in your garage or in your basement if you really want to, but be warned that if you do they will eventually get old. The pages will go yellow, or the book will go stale. Nobody wants an old book. It’s better to warehouse them in places that specialize in book warehousing. Plus if you do this you won’t have to fulfill your orders, they will generally do it for you.

Although warehousing isn’t that expensive, it’s not free either. For about 10,000 books (my first print run of Blog Blazers), it’s costing me about $200-$250/month to warehouse the books. Not a big amount when you consider how many pallets of books that is, but it’s still not cheap. It does however mean I have to sell out quickly enough, or at least get a certain minimal level of sales per month to cover the warehousing costs. In other words, you have to sell your books.

No fulfillment charges

With POD you don’t have fulfillment charges, you only get royalties. With self-published, for every book that’s sold, assuming you’re using a warehouse that’s also fulfilling your orders, there’s a fulfillment charge for each book. It’s not much, about $1-$2/book (on single orders). The difference with POD is that you don’t see this cost, it’s embedded into your package.

Great for small publications

If you only plan on selling a handful of books, nothing beats POD. Once you cross the threshold of about 200-300 books, than it becomes interesting and POD starts to hamper you. Therefore it’s important to decide early on how many books you plan to sell, it can make a difference later.

No ISBN, etc.

Like ebooks, you don’t need to worry about the small administrative things like an ISBN number, etc. This can be nice since it’s less to worry about. However having gone through the process myself, I can tell you that it’s not nearly as hard as you think. The unknown is the frightening part. It’s actually pretty easy.

And please note that with POD the ISBN can be an issue. To quote Peter Bowerman (I do recommend his book The Well-Fed Self-Publisher for a good reason, especially if I quote it so often):

“in most cases, your book’s ISBN will be in the POD company’s name, which means that you won’t be listed as the “publisher of record” in the book world’s databases, and that you have even less ownership of your work.”

In other words, the official publisher is the POD company. They own the book. And what’s more, if you ever have to move away (the POD company goes bankrupt, you outgrow the POD company, you want to sell to the rights to your book to a big publishing house, etc.), this can be problematic.

No typesetting, etc.

To keep the costs of publishing POD books down, most POD companies force you to work with their templates. This means that you have limited control and options when it comes to formatting, to typesetting, etc. This can be viewed as both a pro and con. It’s a pro in that you don’t have to worry about these aspects of a book, they’re just dictated to you. You don’t have to worry about how wide to make your margins, which fonts to select, how to match the fonts, how to make the chapter headers look, etc. It’s all done for you.

The downside is that you can’t modify it to your liking. You’re confined to what the POD company offers you. You’re book can’t be unique, it’s going to be set according to pre-defined templates.

Easy access to editors, etc.

An advantage of POD is that they already have a staff of editors, etc. You won’t need to go find an editor for your book. You won’t need to find a typesetter, a cover artist, and so on. They have all these people on staff. The downside, as we’ll discuss shortly, is that you also generally don’t get to select who you’re going to be working with. And often you won’t even be able to communicate with them directly. But if you’re the less adventurous type, and you’d like to just have someone assigned to you, then POD is the way to go. It’s quick, and you don’t need to seek out professionals.

Plus it will save you a lot of money. For example, the cover artist (George Foster) for Blog Blazers was more expensive than the whole cost of publishing the book with POD. Which is also the downside of POD. You’ll get an average editor, an average artist, etc. You won’t ever get the best of the best, it’s just not possible at the prices they charge. And they know that most people who use POD aren’t interested in paying for the best anyways. It’s not their marketspace. To give you a concrete example, for my book Blog Blazers I wanted to get the best cover (back and spine) for the book that I could. I preferred to spend more money than not to get a higher quality book cover because I believe it’s worth it. I’m a strong believer that producing higher quality products leads to a better overall experience, and hence more sales. And unfortunately for books, a book is often judged by it’s cover. Which is why I decided to hire George Foster, and am I happy I did. You can’t easily do that with POD (and even if you did, it would be financially prohibitive).

Credibility

As we’ve discussed in the ebook post, having a printed book increases your credibility. People put more value in a printed book. It’s as simple as that.

The good news is that most people don’t really understand the book publishing market. They don’t understand the difference between the different publishing options. A printed book is a printed book for the general public. This isn’t true for bookstores and other people involved in the book market, but for the general public, a printed book is a printed book.

Easy to get in big online bookstores – Amazon, B&N, etc.

Most POD companies will list your book in the bigger online bookstores by default (Amazon, Barnes & Noble). This is because it’s easy and they already have agreements with them. The same isn’t true however for brick and mortar bookstores. For these you’re on your own, and unfortunately it’s much harder for POD books than the other two printed book methods (self-published and traditionally published books).

Easier to get reviews

Unlike ebooks, it’s easier to get reviews of printed books. People are more open to printed books. They’re perceived as higher quality. Even if you can print anything with POD and it’s not always true, printed books are still perceived as higher quality. Which means it’s easier to get reviews by bloggers, etc.

Please note however that this isn’t true for the big media (newspapers, magazines, tv, etc.). They will generally shy away from POD. They know the difference. They’ve learned that most POD books aren’t as good self-published or traditionally published books (even getting traditionally published books in the media can be difficult, so the more hurdles you have to jump the harder it is).

Sometimes you can move up to traditional publisher

Some POD’s will give you the option of moving up if your book becomes successful. For example iUniverse says that if you sell over a certain number of copies they’ll suggest you to move to a traditionally published company or become a self-published book rather than stay with them. They’re not made to deal with high volume sales of books. This isn’t their business model. Which is also why I don’t suggest you select POD as a publishing method if you plan to sell a lot of books.

However one caveat here is that this isn’t true of most POD publishing companies. Many end up owning the rights to your book by virtue of you using their service (it’s in the agreement in fine print), which means you can’t just move up. So be careful, this can be a particularly thorny issue with some POD companies.

Cons

Sometimes you CANNOT move up to traditional publisher

As discussed above, it’s often not possible to move up, or even change POD publishers, without a lot of hassle. Depending on your agreement, the POD company can end up owning all the rights to your books which can be very problematic.

You can test out a book before fully committing

You would think this would be listed as a pro, but I’m actually listing this as a con. The reason I even listed it is that I’ve seen several POD companies sell this as a benefit of POD. That is the idea that you can try to publish your book on a smaller scale/budget to see how it goes before fully committing. I very strong disagree!

Firstly, if you’re going to test a book, then give it a good chance to succeed. Publish it with the same quality as you would on a larger scale, otherwise you’re not comparing apples to apples.

Secondly, if you’re going to go through the efforts of properly publishing a book, then make it worth your time. Avoid the issues you’re setting yourself up with if it does succeed. Although I haven’t mentioned it yet (it’s coming), as part of owning the rights some POD companies will keep the finish products (for example the cover art that the printer needs, the typeset manuscript the printer needs, etc.) which you’ll just have to redo and repay for anyways.

Higher prices

Because POD books can be printed on demand, they are more expensive to print. For example, it’s possible to bring the printing cost of a book down to as little as $1-$2 per copy with runs of 10,000 or more. However with POD, you can’t come close to matching these prices per unit. Which means that on average, POD books will cost significantly more. For example a book that retails for $15 will generally have to retail for $25 with POD to make the same profits after expenses.

This can be a big issue because it’s much more difficult to price competitively. And it’s not like your competing on quality. By this, and I’m using another of Peter’s example in his book The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, I mean:

“You’ll pay $3.49 for a loaf of a small-batch ciabatta bread at your local fru-fru bakery rather than $1.49 for supermarket white bread, but you do it because you’re getting far more for your money. But would you pay 50 percent more for basically the same white loaf, but just a different brand name? Not likely. Same thing here.”

Most expensive to get promo copies

Everyone who’s marketing a book knows they need to give away a lot of promo copies. You’ll need copies for the media, you’ll need review copies, you’ll need copies for high profile people, and maybe even copies for your friends and family. With POD, each copy will cost you a LOT more than the other publishing options. For my book Blog Blazers, the printing cost per copy is about $2 (ignoring production costs and shipping). For POD books, the average printing cost is about 40%-50% percent of the retail cost. Looking at iUniverse’s discounted prices for authors, you only start to get a 50% discount on retail if you order 250 books or more. Which for Blog Blazers, retailing at $16.95, that would bring the cost of each promo copy to $8.48. On 250 books, that’s $2,120 compared to the $500 I know pay!! A huge difference. On a 1000 books, the difference is $6,780 to $2,000. And it just keeps getting worse as the quantities increase.

You might argue that with self-published and traditional publishing you still have to pay fulfillment, but when you order in bulk, fulfillment costs become negligible. It’s $1/book on single orders but with large orders it can cost as little as $20 for an order of boxes and boxes of books (I can’t recall the exact amounts but it’s really negligible which is why I omitted it from the cost). What about shipping? Neither includes shipping charges so this is a moot point. A quick tip, shipping 500 copies at once is a lot, and I mean a lot, cheaper than shipping 500 single copies.

In any case, sending out promo copies with POD is very financially prohibitive. There’s no way you can give copies of your book at conferences. You can’t even get a booth and sell your books at a discount because you’d be hemorrhaging money. You’re basically severely limiting your marketing power, which in turns is going to several hamper your sales and revenues.

Trunk sales

Which leads me to what’s called “trunk sales”. Most authors like to keep copies of their books on-hand for numerous reasons (ie. in the trunk of their cars). Firstly, it can be handy to show people, maybe even potentially give out copies if need be. But more importantly, you can sell them at a discount (generally a 20%-30% direct author discount). If you’re giving seminars, it can be very handy to sell your book after the seminar (back of the room sales). With POD this isn’t possible. The finances just don’t work.

You often lose the rights to the book

Many POD companies require you to turn over the rights to your book when you use their services. We’ve already discussed the ISBN issue, but it’s more than that. There can be issues transferring companies, and so on.

Even scarier, many will state that they own the rights to the finished products. This means that they’ll own the rights to the finished typeset files. They’ll own the rights to the cover files, the spine, the back of the book. They’ll own the rights to all the produced files. Which means that if you transfer, you have to redo all of this work. They own the files and not you, so they don’t have to give them to you if you move to another company (and many won’t).

Royalties instead of revenues

With POD you get royalties rather than revenues. Although this might seem like a small difference, it has enormous implications!

Firstly royalties are generally paid on the net sale price, not the retail price. This means that if the book is discounted for a wholesaler, you get a royalty on the price the wholesaler paid (which is reasonable). But in most instances you don’t control that price or discount, so you’re at their mercy. The difference is that with self-published and traditional publishing you’re in control.

With POD, most royalty contracts are complicated, with lots of fine print. You have to be careful and understand everything. And I mean everything. With self-publishing and ebooks, you make a revenue, subtract the expenses, and what you’re left with is your profits. No complicated contracts to understand.

Most POD companies pay very slowly. By this I mean it can be months and months before you see any royalties from your book. For example, just now I’m looking for the iUniverse royalty payout schedule and I can’t find it. It’s already been 10 minutes and I’m still looking. I did eventually find it, which makes me wonder why it’s not so obvious to find. According to iUniverse: “iUniverse will process your royalty payment in accordance with our publishing contracts, 60 days after the end of each quarter. For example, after the 1st quarter (January – March), we will post your royalty statement and send your payment by May 30th.” Which means that for sales in January, you’ll get paid at the end of May. Up to a whole 5 months after iUniverse took the revenues for the sale, during which time they do whatever they want with the money.

Long time to get paid

Although we’ve just discussed it in the Royalties instead of revenues section, I wanted to include it as it’s own section for those of you who are just skimming this article. Basically, you don’t get paid when the book is sold, you generally get paid months later.

Control – ISBN is not yours

Again, we’ve discussed that the ISBN is not yours, it’s registered under the POD company. Which means if you change publishers, you need a new ISBN. It might not seem like a big issue, but now imagine that people are buying your book on Amazon and they’re searching with the old ISBN? I don’t know about you, but I’ve done searches for books by ISBN in the past. Especially if I’m going into a local bookstore to buy the book (not all local book store computer systems have great search engines like Amazon). Plus many bookstores have flags for books with ISBN’s from POD companies (they won’t stock POD books and this is an easy way to determine if a book was printed through a POD publisher). So it’s a much harder sell.

Quality is lower

POD printing quality is generally not as good as self-published or traditionally published books. To quote Get Published! (a book written by the folks at iUniverse): “there may be a slight variation from one cover or book interior to the next. Most POD printers allow for a 10 per cent variation, which is negligible to most readers.” You have to remember this is a promo book on POD printing from a POD company (a very biased view), and even they feel the need to address the printing quality and admit it’s not perfect.

POD books have a reputation for bad print quality, covers unaligned, bad bindings, faded ink, and the list goes on. Although it’s not true of every POD book and every POD company, it occurs enough that it’s now commonly accepted as a reality of POD printing. And there have been horror stories, just check out the section on the POD printing quality of this article. They have a list of examples of some poorly printed POD books with links to the original sources so you can get even more details.

Again, not all POD books are bad, but overall you shouldn’t expect your book to be of the same quality as those you see in the bookstores.

Average service quality

We’ve discussed this before, but essentially you’re assigned an editor, a cover designer, etc. You don’t get to pick who you’ll be working with. And because they’re in the business of limiting their costs, you’re also probably not going to get the best of the best. The services you’ll get are going to be average.

And for book covers, a very integral part of a book, you’ll also get a limited service. There’s just no way they can create a custom cover for your book that doesn’t use a template for the price they’re charging. A professional book cover alone generally goes for $2000+, with the high end going for $4000-$5000. Which brings me to the point, how can someone design a cover for as little as $200-$300 (or say in a $599 package which also includes other services)? The only way is by standardizing, and hence limiting what you can do. Plus they can’t afford to spend too much time on the little details (which I believe can make a big difference), at least not at those prices.

Lastly, when I did try iUniverse, the editing services worked something like this. You sent in your manuscript. Someone was assigned to read it and send you back an edited version with comments. That was it. There was no back and forth. You didn’t get to talk to them. You didn’t get to select someone with your same writing style, or even someone who was familiar with your topic. You basically got someone who read it once and let you know what they thought. And I can tell you there’s no way to catch all the mistakes in one pass, especially if you’re making corrections. When I made the decision to go from POD to self-published I had to do several more editorial passes before I felt the book was ready.

No control over who will edit your book

As I’ve just mentioned (again this is here just for people skimming this article), you have no control over who you will be working with on your book. You are assigned an editor, a cover artist, and so on. Whether or not they match your preferences is luck.

Creative control is limited

Again, for the reasons mentioned above, you have limited creative control. You will be generally be working from templates because that’s the only way they can make it affordable. This means everything from typesetting to the books cover. Everything is standardized. Make sure you’re ok with this beforehand.

Credibility

Most bookstores and media will not accept POD books. Much like ebooks, there’s too many lower quality books that get printed which has caused bookstores and the media to lose interest in these books. You need to be aware of this. It can affect your sales, and it will definitely affect how much effort it will take to get your book out there.

Hard to get in bookstores

Again, I’m adding it here for people skimming the sections. Many bookstores refuse to stock POD books. They generally don’t sell as well and the quality is less than other books.

Harder to market

I’ve already alluded to it multiple times, but POD books are harder to market than self-published or traditionally published books. The mainstream media generally won’t look at POD books unless they’re exceptional or otherwise standout’ish.

Very limited access to editors, etc.

The interaction between you and your editors, cover artists, etc. is very limited. Often you won’t even have a chance to directly communicate with them. And as I mentioned before, you definitely won’t get to have a lot of back and forth with these people if you don’t even get to communicate with them directly. It’s prohibitively costly for the POD company, they’re goal is to process you as cheaply as possible. With a professional that you’ve hired, they’re goal is to do the best job they can since their odds of getting further contracts depends on their past performances.

Minimal control over your timelines

Although I’ve mentioned that you can publish a POD book fairly quickly by skipping some steps, you also have a lot less control over your timelines. For example, when I worked with iUniverse, I was told it would be x weeks before the proofreader would contact me. There was no way to speed it up, absolutely no way. When I worked with George Foster on the cover, we of course looked at his schedule for when he was available, but once the work started, it was quick. We went back and forth many times, but each time he was quick responding. If I sent him an email, he generally responded within hours, and if not, definitely within a business day.

With iUniverse, well lets just say I had some timeline issues. Although I can’t remember the specifics, they were quoting weeks to get the cover art done. With George, this was done in a day or two. When I got the indexing done for the book, it was done in no time. With the POD company, it was weeks again. Everything was to a set timeline (generally of weeks), and often much longer than it should’ve required.

You can’t do work in parallel

With POD, at least with iUniverse, they wouldn’t work on different things in parallel. For example, we couldn’t start working on the cover until all the editing was done and approved. Why? Because that’s the process they use. When I took over control of the book and went the self-publishing route, I worked on multiple things in parallel. For example I had the indexer working with the typesetter (as well as a graphic designer for the headshot images of each blogger interviewed). As sections of the book were being completed, the typesetter would send them off to the indexer, where she would proceed to index them. Since the typesetter and indexer had worked together before in the past, it was great. They would just CC me on their emails and the work was getting done at an amazing pace. And all the while, I was working with George and Peter on getting the book’s cover and copy done. What the POD company had scheduled for 3+ months I had done in a week or two. And it was done better. Sure it cost me a lot more, but it was worth it.

Not only that, but I found it very hard to get information on what the next step was and how long it would take. It felt like it was always along the lines of: we’re almost done and this next step should be very quick. But each time it was another 3-4 weeks. And 2-3 times they lost me in their process (for 3-4 weeks) until I approached them asking for a status update.

Less control on pricing

Pricing is always a very sensitive issue, not just for books, but for any product. With books, prices are generally based on the thickness of the book. For example, you generally won’t buy a book that’s less than 100 pages for $30. There’s some kind of unwritten rule as to how much books should cost. Some people are able to break these rules (recently I bought Peaks and Valleys – great book by the way – for $19.95 which was only 100 pages or so, but this is very rare). In any case, with POD they generally set the price of your book for you, and it’s often not that competitive (as we’ve discussed earlier).

No control over margins

Because the POD companies set the price for your book and your royalties, you have no control over your profit margins. They’re set. In itself it’s not a bad thing, the only reason I’ve listed it here is so that you know and understand that this is a limitation with POD.

Bad for branding (multiple books)

If you plan on publishing multiple books, POD becomes more and more of an issue. Generally when you publish multiple books you start to look at branding. A great example of this is the Rich Dad Poor Dad series by Robert Kiyosaki. The books in this series are very distinctive. They have the same coloring, the same style, etc. In other words, you can spot a Rich Dad Poor Dad book just by glancing at it’s cover, without even knowing it’s title. With POD this becomes harder and harder for all the reasons mentioned above. It’s just not setup for this.

Conclusion

I would only recommend publishing your book with POD if you plan on printing (or selling) less than 200 copies of your book. My personal experience with POD was very lackluster and I don’t ever plan to publish a book using POD. I also think changing from POD to self-publishing was the best decision I made for my book Blog Blazers.

If you’re still considering POD, I strongly recommend you read chapter 12 of Peter Bowerman’s book The Well-Fed Self-Publisher. I keep coming back to this book, but it’s for good reason. I even contacted Peter over the phone and ended up using his consulting services. He’s a really good guy and I do recommend his services to help you get your book published, no matter which route you take.

Also, do remember that if you publish your book through POD, you still have to do all the marketing. You will also have to absorb all the costs. The POD company will not send out promo copies of your books. They also won’t pay for any of your marketing efforts. All the book’s marketing is entirely up to you. Yes they might offer some marketing services to help you, but I’ll be honest, it’s very weak. And it’s not just iUniverse, I have yet to see a good marketing service from any of the POD’s. They’re very overpriced and under-deliver.

Warning: Shameless plug coming. If you really want to learn how to generate traffic to your book’s website, I recommend my ebook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website. It’s a fraction of the price (less than 5% of the iUniverse marketing service) and it gives you a lot more. For example all the iUniverse service seems to do is create a bunch of account on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Feedburner, etc. Above this they will create a WordPress account for you to start blogging. This literally takes minutes.

What makes me worry is the following statement: “What makes this service especially effective is when you update your blog, that information is automatically pushed to the other social media sites. You make one entry and 10 sites get updated.” Firstly, how do they do that, and what does it really mean? If you read my ebook, you’ll find that just pushing a blog post to a social media website doesn’t mean it will be at the top of it (nor is it the only way to get traffic – or the best way). There’s more to it than that. And having an entry duplicated to 10 sites scares me (for example which sites?) because the search engines penalize duplicate content. But since I haven’t actually tried it, I can’t know for sure. It’s just that I’m very leery of what you get for $799.

I would recommend POD publishing if:

  • you only plan on printing 200 or less books
  • you want to limit your expenses
  • you’re writing a vanity novel
  • you want someone to hold your hand through the publishing process
  • the quality of the book isn’t that important

I would NOT recommend POD publishing if:

  • you plan on printing more than 200 books
  • you want to market and promote your book
  • you want to own and control your book
  • you want a quality book
  • you want to be creative
  • you want to compete on price
  • you want to be a national bestseller
  • you want to get into bookstores
  • you want to create a series of books





How to Publish Your Own Book – Ebooks – Part 2

ebook

The easiest and fastest way to publish a book is to create an ebook, which is also why there is so much variation in the quality of ebooks out there. For example, it’s possible to create an ebook in a few hours, although you most likely wouldn’t want to. But in reality, ebooks are generally created much faster than books you’ll find in the bookstores. However this doesn’t mean to say that all ebooks are lower quality, there are some amazing ebooks and some terrible printed books. All I’m trying to say is that on average creating an ebook takes the least amount of time to get to market out of the four publishing options.

For those who aren’t familiar with ebooks, an ebook is generally a document that has been converted to the PDF format. In it’s most basic form, it can be as simple as a Microsoft Word document converted to a PDF file. Ebooks can vary greatly in length, from a few dozen pages to several hundred pages. I’ve yet to see an ebook that’s over 1000 pages, although I’m sure there’s at least one that exists.

Because ebooks are digital in nature (a computer file), they’re mostly sold online. Which also means you won’t find ebooks in book stores, or any other store where you can buy tangible products. As well, because of this, ebooks are more often than not sold on the author’s website (or an affiliated sites). Ebooks aren’t generally distributed through many online stores, they’re sold on the author’s website (maybe a few affiliate sites, but that’s about it).

Pros

Cheapest publication method

Ebooks are the cheapest way to publish a book. At the very lowest, they can only cost your time (assuming no editing, etc.). Which means that if you write a book in a week or two, the cost would just be your time. Of course you probably don’t want to do this, you’d want to get other people involved, such as an editor, etc. But it’s definitely possible to significantly limit your costs and exposure. You can decide exactly how much effort will go into the book.

As well, since most ebooks are only read online or printed on a regular printer, you can get away with lower quality images in the ebook. For instance if you want to include a screenshot it’s easy to do. You don’t have to deal with 300dpi images that are corrected and set in your pages. You can just paste an image into the book. Again, you probably don’t want to do this (you should take care in your images so that they look good), but it’s possible. Unfortunately too many people just slap on very badly edited images. Don’t do this.

Cheapest to duplicate

Ebooks have a zero cost to duplicate. With the other three methods of publication, there is a cost for each additional copy. If you print millions of books, the duplication cost can get to as low as $1 or less. With lower volumes it can be as high as $20 or more (the higher price is usually with POD – depending on the size of your book). With ebooks there is no cost to duplicate the book, it’s just a file copy.

Pricing

There’s an oddity that I can’t explain with ebooks, and that’s pricing. For normal printed books, there are some general rules of thumb on pricing. You can go outside the norms a bit, but you’re still very limited. For example, it’s virtually impossible to sell a pocket book for $50. Similarly, you don’t sell a thousand page book for $5. However the same isn’t true with ebooks. I’ve seen ebook prices all over the spectrum. I’ve seen ebooks that are only 40-50 pages successfully sell for $50. I’ve seen ebooks with barely a hundred pages sell for $200. I’ve never seen a similarly traditionally printed book sell for that. I’ve seen ebooks with hundreds of pages go for $10.

The reality is that the price of an ebook has almost nothing to do with it’s size. But in the printed world, the rule of thumb is to base your price on the number of pages, plus or minus a small variation. This is absolutely not true with ebooks. Which means that price is also not a good indicator of the value of an ebook. But it’s a good thing for you, it means you can play with the price of your ebook to where you’re comfortable. As well, you can price it to what the material is worth rather than the size of the material.

Highest margins

Ebooks offer the highest margins by far. There are no costs to print each copy of the book. There are no shipping costs. There are no warehousing costs. There are no costs to register an ISBN, etc. Basically your costs are much lower.

Of course, you may not sell as many ebooks, especially if you focus on narrow niches (discussed shortly), but because the margins are higher you can still achieve a nice profit. As well, because most people are used to higher prices for ebooks, the per ebook revenues can be higher.

Quickest way to publish a book

You will never ever ever beat the time it takes to get an ebook to market. Publishing a printed books takes a lot longer, there’s no way around it. You cannot publish a printed book in less than a month, no matter how hard you try. And anything under a few months means you have to make some serious sacrifices. Even if you have an incredibly fast team (editor, etc.), you still have to get the book to the printers, finishing the typesetting, have the book printed, etc.

If time to market is crucial than an ebook might be your only choice. For example, a book on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be published as an ebook. Trying to publish a printed book about SEO would be a loss cause. By the time it got to the bookshelves it would be obsolete. The SEO market just changes too fast. It needs to be published in internet time.

Books can be image loaded

Generally the more images you include in a printed book, the higher your costs. Not just for printing, but to get them setup right (the right resolution – 300dpi, working with a typesetter, etc.). There’s also the fact that a color book costs a lot more than a black and white book to print. With ebooks all these considerations go away. You can include as many images as you want with no additional printing costs.

No expectations on number of pages

This one might seem minor, but with printed books there are expectations on the number of pages. For instance you generally won’t buy a pocket book if it only includes 50 pages. The same isn’t true for ebooks. Of course I would suggest the opposite, you should overwhelm your readers with value. But I’m including it here to let you know it’s possible.

And if your book is going to be distributed for free, then there’s nothing wrong with a 50 page ebook. You can definitely offer more value in 50 pages than the time it takes someone to read the book. Plus you have to remember that many ebooks don’t have indexes, etc. in the book so there are fewer pages.

You can write for niches

If you’re writing a printed book, it’s very hard to write to a niche audience. This is because to make any money in printed books, you need to sell at least a certain amount of copies. And to be honest, selling anything less than a three to five thousand copies will probably result in a loss (not including POD).

With ebooks this isn’t true. You can create an ebook for a very small niche because the costs to produce it are much lower. Not only that, because it’s to a small niche, you can also increase your price without people complaining. Which means you can sell a $50 ebook to 500 people for $25,000. It’s not a huge income, but it can be enough to make the effort worth it. With ebooks you can afford to write to smaller audiences.

And because you can write to smaller audiences, it also means you have less competition. As well, if your ebook is amazing, word will spread like wildfire that there’s a good book in your niche. After all, if there’s only a small amount of people involved in the niche, you can be assured they communicate to each other much more attentively. For example, if there was an amazing ebook on how to setup a home theater system, you can be certain that the audiophiles would all refer to “the” book. There can’t be that many good books that are up to date on this topic.

Ebooks can be given away for free

It’s possible to create an ebook with the only intention of giving it away as a promotional item. For example, early on John Chow wrote an ebook on how to make money blogging with the idea that people would subscribe to his blog (and thus help increase his readership). This would be very hard to do with a printed book. Above the bigger costs of preparing the book, there’s the printing costs for each copy, shipping costs, warehousing costs, and so on. This is why you very rarely see people print a book for promotional only purposes but you see it here and there for ebooks.

Just a quick tip, if you’re going to publish an ebook for promotional purposes only, make sure it’s of real value. Please don’t pollute the web with another really bad and awful free promotional ebook that’s totally useless. Do offer something of value otherwise it will hurt you more than it helps.

No ISBN, etc.

When you create an ebook, you don’t have to register an ISBN. With ebooks, you don’t need to have a publishing company (either your own or a publishing house). With an ebook you generally don’t have to worry so much about indexing it (most ebooks don’t have indexes). You also don’t have to worry about creating the back or spine graphics for your book. In other words there are many things you can skip.

Cons

Credibility

Because of the lower costs to publish ebooks, there’s lots of garbage ebooks out there. And I do mean garbage! There are even people just copying material that is now in the public domain and selling it!! There’s ebooks that are absolutely worthless.

And don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Books that are ebooks only overall have a perception of being less good than printed books, and for good reason. Most are not as good as their printed counterparts. There are of course exceptions like everything, but as a general rule of thumb I’ve also found this to be true. Some amazing ebooks include the SEO Book (no longer available), The Definitive Guide to Adwords, (warning: shameless plug) my own How to Generate Traffic to Your Website, and so on. There are lots of great ebooks, but overall the landscape is polluted with lots more duds than with printed books.

Which is why many people don’t put as much faith in ebooks. There’s a lack of credibility. So unless you’re already known, it’s going to be harder to sell ebooks. You’re going to have to fight to prove your ebook’s credibility. Whereas for a printed book, just being a printed book gives you a lot of credibility.

Quality

Generally you won’t find poor quality printed books. Books with images that are all pixelated or just bad looking. Books with all kinds of random typesetting. Books with odd and random images of different sizes and resolutions. Books with poor spelling and grammar. Books which haven’t ever been edited or even re-read once. Unfortunately with ebooks these issues happen far too often.

Although it doesn’t have to be that way, the quality of ebooks is generally lower than printed books. But again this could be due to getting the ebook to market before the material is obsolete. For example, spending the time required to have multiple editors, proof-readers, professional typesetters, graphical designers, etc. go through a book about SEO would render it useless. In other words, by the time the book had gone through all the same edits as a printed book, the material would be obsolete. Which means that this can be considered the cost of getting the material in a timely manner.

That or the size of your niche just doesn’t lend itself to those types of costs. For example if the most you can ever make is $25,000 in total revenues, then you just can’t justify the costs of full out editing, typesetting, graphical design, etc. Maybe all you can spend is $5000-$10,000 on these things to make the project worth it. Nothing is ever free.

Harder to market

Because there’s so many bad ebooks out there, it also means it’s a lot harder to market to consumers. People are much more leery of ebooks, and rightfully so. So be prepared for this. Just because you write an ebook, it doesn’t mean you’ll get tons of sales right away.

Harder to get reviews

Many people just simply outright refuse to review any ebooks, they’ve just had too many bad experiences. And I can’t blame them. It’s much easier to ask for a review of an ebook since it costs you nothing compared to a printed book (where you have to pay for the book, pay to have it shipped, etc.). But mostly, it just goes back to the credibility issue. There’s so much garbage that you’ll really have to convince people much harder to review an ebook versus a printed book.

You need to be a good marketer

Because of everything mentioned, and the fact that you’ll probably only be directly selling your ebook from your website, you need to be a good marketer. You need to get people to come to you and buy your book. So you need to be good at generating traffic AND converting that traffic to sales. If you’re not very good at this, you probably won’t generate much, if any, revenue. This is a requisite to publishing a successful ebook.

Conclusion

Having published an ebook (How to Generate Traffic to Your Website) and a printed book (Blog Blazers), I can attest that they both have their places. I will very likely publish more of each in the future. Both have been very positive and rewarding experiences.

I would recommend publishing an ebook if:

  • you want to limit your exposure/costs
  • you’re writing to a small niche audience
  • you’re writing timely information
  • you want to generate buzz through promotional books

I would NOT recommend publishing an ebook if:

  • you want to become a famous bestselling author
  • you want to leverage your book in a professional manner (career, business, consulting services, etc.)
  • you have the time/money to print a book
  • you want to make quick money
  • you’re not good at marketing AND sales





Video interview on Project Shrink

Bas de Baar of Project Shrink just recently interviewed me (video) about my book Blog Bazers and why blogging is important for project managers. In the interview he asks me the following questions:

  • Most of my viewers are Project Managers and other professionals. How would you convince them to start a blog?
  • What are your personal 3 favorite tips you encountered during the book interviews on how to write successfully blog posts?
  • If people have one day of spare time, have the desire to start a blog, how would you recommend they arrange their day?

If you’re interested, you can view the full interview on Bas’ blog Project Shrink here.

Thank you Bas for interviewing me. It was a lot of fun and the interview turned out really good.






Who Should Make the Decision?

Make Decision

Is it the person in charge that should make the final decision? Sometimes, but not always. It should be the person who’s most knowledgeable with the information on which the decision will be based.

Let me give you an example. In the tv show 24, this season the president of the United States was taken hostage in the White House by a small team of armed men. Yes it’s quite a story, but let’s ignore that for now. What was interesting is that the decision on whether or not to storm the White House and retake control was not decided by the agents that were following the case the whole time, those that knew who the terrorists were and had studied their histories, those that really understood their motivations and intentions.

Instead the decision was taken by the Vice President. He didn’t even know what was going on, he was just quickly appraised of the situation, well as much as they could within minutes, and he had to make a decision on whether or not to storm the White House. There’s no way this person could make the right decision unless it was pure luck. There’s was just too much history and information needed to full appreciate and understand the situation. Plus, he had additional motives (such as protecting himself) which came into play. In this case the wrong person to make the decision was the person in charge.

Of course this is only a tv show, but it happens all too often. Especially in software development. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen developers struggle and fight through a hard problem only to come to a fork in the road. They then have to go to the team lead / manager (or whoever is in charge, which is sometimes someone who’s not at all technical) and have to explain the issue. Now if it’s a good lead, they will listen to the developer and pretty much let them lead the decision, after all they’ve been in the thick of it while the leader only superficially knows and understands the issues. It makes sense and is the smart thing to do.

However many times the opposite happens. The suggestion is completely ignored and the developer is told to just make it happen (even when they strongly disagree and push against it). My favorite is “I understand you might not think this is a good idea, but just do it anyways.” The reality is that someone working on a problem for hours or days can’t really express the full issue in minutes. It’s just not possible, so what you get are the highlights, the glance over. If you really want to make the decision, than dig into it, spend some time to really appreciate what’s going on. Expect to spend some hours, maybe even days to fully understand what’s going on. Especially if the decision has large implications for the future.

The reality though is that sometimes the developer is not perfect either, they might not appreciate everything else that’s going on. Maybe there’s political factors. Maybe there’s monetary factors. Maybe some timelines with the marketing team that need to be met, etc. If you can (I understand that sometimes it’s not possible), than share with your developers other factors that will affect the decision. Help them rather than just make the decision outright based on only one factor. In other words, don’t just pick option A because it will allow you to meet your deadline while option B won’t because it might come back to bite you very hard. If the developer is pushing option B so adamantly, figure out why. And only then make your decision. Don’t just base it on one factor that you know, understand the full problem. Work together to come to a decision.






Blog Blazers at Drake University

Drake University

Since I published Blog Blazers a few months ago, the reviews have been great! A while back I sent Mike Sansone a copy of the book to review for his blog ConverStations and he liked it so much that he’s decided to use it for his workshop at Drake University! How great is it to see your book used in a University workshop?  Especially as it’s only been a few months since it’s been available!

To quote Mike’s review:

“There are a lot of blogging books out there. Many are good, but I’ve found Blog Blazers to be a gold mine of instruction. That’s why I’m recommending it to my students in one-on-one and classroom settings. Stephane Grenier quizzed 40 fantastic blog authors on how to create a high-profile, high-traffic, and high-profit blog.

If you’re coming to the Drake University workshop on Saturday, we’ll be talking a lot about this book.”

Thank you Mike, it’s awesome to hear you’ve decided to use Blog Blazers!






 


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Blog Blazers: 40 Top Bloggers Share Their Secrets to Creating a High-Profile, High-Traffic, and High-Profit Blog!

Blog Blazers is a book that
features secrets from the
Top 40 Bloggers on the web

How to Generate Traffic to Your Website ebook

How to Generate Traffic to
Your Website
is an ebook for
to you achieve success


 

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Disclaimer: This is a personal blog about my thoughts, experiences and ideas. The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only. No content should be construed as financial, business, personal, or any other type of advice. Commenters, advertisers and linked sites are entirely responsible for their own content and do not represent the views of myself. All decisions involve risks and results are not guaranteed. Always do your own research, due diligence, and consult your own professional advisors before making any decision. This blog (including myself) assumes no liability with regard to results based on use of information from this blog. If this blog contains any errors, misrepresentations, or omissions, please contact me or leave a comment to have the content corrected.