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Our Friend, the QR Code

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In my last blog post, I mentioned a funny-looking symbol on the back of my business card. Is it a symbol for my new, unpronounceable name, like the one Prince used for a while? No, it’s a QR code, which stands for “Quick Response Code.” It’s almost magic. Almost. And you can get one for free. Really!

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The Artist currently known as the artist formerly known as Prince.

What is it? It’s just a label, like a price tag, that is scan-able and contains embedded info that directs the user to a particular website or other internet location. It’s actually a form of bar code. You know what those are, right? The stripey thing that gets scanned at the checkout counter? Remember when those things were new? (Oops, there I go dating myself again.) In other words, your potential customer scans the symbol with their phone or other device, and it brings up the website where they can buy your book. Whee! Pretty neat. Simply put, it just enables them to skip having to enter the address in their search bar, doing that little chore for them.

If you don’t get this stuff, don’t worry. All those young people these days have the app on their phone, and they will know what to do with it.

RetroPhone
Check out all the apps on this phone!

So how do you get one of these QR thingies on your business card? It was easier than I thought it would be. Rather than recommending one particular source for them, I recommend just simply doing a search on Yahoo or Google for “QR code generator.” Scads of sites will come up, and just about any of them will coach you through the easy process. At some point you will need to either type in or “cut and paste” the web address at Amazon or wherever else someone would buy and/or download your book. Save your QR code to your computer (somewhere that you’ll remember), and paste it into your business card when you’re designing it, paste it into your blog, make a bumper sticker, paste it onto the side of your barn, . . . you get the idea. Use it wherever you want, and wherever you think someone might be interested/curious enough to scan it.

When I meet someone and give them a business card, I tell them, “You can go to Amazon using this address, or you can search there using my name or the book title, or you can scan this thingie.” They will take it from there, using the method they prefer to find your book online.

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Promoting My Book Frugally (So Far)

frugalpig

You have published your book on Amazon. Good job, you!

Now you need to promote your book. At least, that’s what all the advisers (both online and off) tell you to do. It’s practically a tsunami of voices chanting at you, “Promote, promote, promote!”

But how do you do that? And perhaps more importantly, how can that be done frugally? Which brings us almost up to real time. You see, I’m right here with you. I wrote my first book, a novel (see it here). And I published it like a boss on Amazon. And I have sold some (as of the writing of this blog post, about 26 ebooks and 7 paperbacks). But I want more people to become aware of and read my book! I’m sure you want that too.

Almost as soon as you’re done publishing, Amazon offers to promote your book with advertising. At a cost. No thank you. I want to do this for free, or at least cheaply. But how?

Well, I don’t claim to have all the answers. Yet. But I’m learning, and I have taken a few faltering steps. In this post, I will begin to tell you what I have done so far. After that, I will be posting what I do as I do it. That’s right, you and I will be learning to do this promoting thing together. Which will be a risk for me. Some things may not work. I may end up looking foolish. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

So here we go. Fasten your seatbelt, and get ready for a bumpy ride.

Now, to begin:

One of the first things I have done is to get some business cards made with my book’s cover art, title, and author on one side; on the other side are the links that will take the reader to Amazon where they can order my book. Here’s what it looks like, front and back:

bookbusinesscardfrontbookbusinesscardback

I designed this card myself at Vistaprint, caught a sale price of 500 of them for $20 (after shipping it came to $26.75). Whenever someone asks me “What’s new?” I tell them that I wrote and published a book, and hand them a card. One of my funnest experiences with this was meeting a student on a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train (in the San Francisco bay area), who fit the demographic of my target audience, handing him a card, and describing my book to him. He was really interested. Of course, there’s no way to tell whether he or anyone else actually buys my book, but I’m hopeful that for every 10 cards handed out, maybe one person will download my novel. Wishful thinking, perhaps? I don’t know. We will see. Meanwhile, it’s fun to say to people “I’m an author, here’s where to find my book.”

Notice the weird black-and-white square on the back of my business card. The one that looks like an aerial view of a labyrinthine castle. In case you didn’t know, that’s a QR code. More about that in the next post.

#frugaledit

Corrections Needed: Time For a Second Edition

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You have successfully published your book on Amazon, using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Yay! And you have sold dozens of ebooks, and a grip of paperbacks. Double Yay! But then, your friends and relatives come to you saying things like, “Dude, did you not notice that you misspelled the word ‘friends’ throughout your whole book?” It turns out your main character’s friends are all fiends. Now what do you do? Don’t despair–It’s just an opportunity to offer a second edition of your book!

In my case, there were a few minor typos pointed out to me (e.g. my main character encountered a dear rather than a deer). But the two more glaring mistakes were (1) way too much space between the lines of text, and (2) the lack of page numbers in my paperback version.

BTW, do not be offended by people’s feedback about your mistakes. Rather, be grateful! They are helping you improve your work of art, making it potentially more respected by more readers, and thus potentially increasing your sales. You should be rewarding your volunteer editors with candy!

Once you have your corrected manuscript prepared, you can upload it to KDP, replacing the existing document with your new pristine version. Go to your “bookshelf” and find your book there. See where it says “Kindle Ebook Actions” and “Paperback Actions”? Just to the right there’s a button with three dots (“…”). Hover over that button with your mouse cursor. There you will be able to choose “Edit ebook content” and “Edit print book content.” Those choices will take you through the steps to upload your new manuscript. That process takes only a few minutes, but then there’s a wait for KDP to actually perform the update and make your new book available. Potential readers may have to wait up to 24 hours for the new edition of your book, so be sure you’re ready for that slight delay. Only once, though, did I have someone tell me that they went to download my book and couldn’t get it. I told them it was in the process of updating to a new edition, and to try again the next day. They did, and got the new edition of my book just fine, with all my corrections.

Amazon and KDP allow you to make additional corrections at any time, giving you opportunities for unlimited editions, at no cost to you. As a bonus, you can announce your new edition on social media, giving you another opportunity for free promotion. (More on frugal promoting in upcoming posts. It’s too bad that I cannot provide a link to a future post, here. See? Click on the word here and nothing happens. Harrumph!)

#frugaledit

Preparing Your Book Cover for Paperback Publishing

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Here’s a Draft on the Way to Completion

So you have a fancy, whiz-bang front cover for your book, and you’re wanting to upload it so you can get your paperback out there, available for ordering on Amazon. You already have your front cover art, so great! We will be using that to prepare your paperback cover. (For tips on preparing your cover art, see my previous posts, here, and here.) The difference between the two is that while the ebook consists of only the front cover of your book, the paperback version requires the front cover plus a back cover, plus a spine (the part of the book you see when it’s on the library shelf).

Here’s what I did. I opened a new (blank) Word document, then I changed the page layout to “landscape” rather than “portrait.” Since the book size I had chosen for my finished paperback was 6″ by 9″, I set the page height to 9″. For the width, I needed the sum of front cover + back cover + spine. I read somewhere online that the average spine is about 1-1/4″, so that was my first guess. So adding those together, I made the page width 13-1/4″.

I imported my front cover art, stretched it to cover as much of the front cover area as possible, and aligned it to the right edge of the page. (As you can see in the pic above, it doesn’t quite cover the full height; that’s ok, some ends up getting trimmed off in the print process anyway.) Then I created two text boxes, one for the back cover, and one for the spine. I then typed in the text for my author description and story description into the back cover box, and typed in my book title and author into the spine text box (and rotated the text 90 degrees, to make it readable sideways).

The next step was filling in the back cover box and spine box with a color, and changing the font color to white. (I’m not spelling out all the steps and clicks to accomplish all these things in Word; most of them are pretty intuitive. If you have trouble with any, use the “help” feature in Word, which is the little blue circle with the question mark near the upper right.) In the pic above, I chose blue for the background, but I ended up changing it to black later–it looked better that way.

Saving my work, I then went to KDP, which I had open in another window. (I had kept it on the “upload cover” step.) Then you wait a few minutes for KDP to upload your cover, and it then prompts you to open the cover previewer. The first time you preview, be prepared to see lots of “red ink” warnings. Do not be alarmed. Close the previewer and start tweaking your cover in Word, saving it and re-uploading to KDP until you get a good result with most of the red ink gone. I had to make the whole document bigger, so that the height was about 6.13″, which then allowed for the extra that you have to provide so that the whole thing can be trimmed in the print process. I also had to adjust the spine size several times, and tweak other details too. Each time you upload, the red marks will give you clues as to what you need to adjust. After a reasonable amount of time and work I got the result I wanted; it really was not as bad as it sounds here. You can see my final result at my book’s ordering page on Amazon:

Here it is: No Form Nor Comeliness

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Front Cover Only; See the Rest at Amazon.com

(By the way, at some point I thought I had to change my book cover’s format to a PDF file. I don’t remember where I got that idea. That didn’t go well, and it turns out I didn’t need to do that anyway. Take my advice–skip that step. It added much more wasted time and needless headache. Just upload your cover as a Word document. Done.)

Remember, you can do this! And all without hiring an expensive graphic artist, using a program you already have.

#Frugaledit

Formatting Your Manuscript for Publishing on Amazon

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Oh, this is getting exciting! You’re about to publish your manuscript on Amazon, using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)!

(Cue record-scratch sound.) Wait a minute. You need to make sure you’ve got that document formatted correctly.

Ugh.

It’s okay. Calm down. It won’t be that bad. You can do this. And you can do it right within the Word program. Whew!

You see, when I went to format my manuscript for publishing, I read lots of information online. That can be a mistake. Yes, there was a lot of helpful information, but there was a lot of misinformation too. Or maybe it was just dated information. I read about downloading a document conversion program, to put my document into some other format (RTF, or something like that). Even the step-by-step instructions on Amazon seemed confusing and daunting. Anyway, make it easy on yourself. Word documents are compatible with Amazon publishing, just the way they are! Don’t convert your manuscript into any other form of document. Not even a PDF file. Forget about it!

There are several formatting things you need to do, though.

First, if you haven’t already done so, set up your Word document with page numbers. If you don’t know how, search “page numbers” in Word help (it’s the little blue circle with the question mark in the upper right), and follow the instructions. Unlike the document for your ebook, your paperback document needs page numbers. I found this out the hard way. Someone ordered and received my paperback and told me that there were no page numbers. Oops! My second edition now has page numbers.

Next, set up your manuscript’s paper size. “What size is that?” you ask. The answer: whatever size of book you want to end up with. Amazon allows you to choose your book’s dimensions. I chose one of the most common sizes for a paperback, which is 6″ width and 9″ height. Choose your size in the Amazon setup, and set your Word document to the same size. From the “page layout” tab, choose “size,” then “more paper sizes.” There you can enter in the dimensions you want. There, done.

Now, think about holding a paperback book. There’s what the call a “gutter” in the middle, between the two open pages. You need to account for that, so the printing doesn’t get lost in the gutter, making your book difficult to read. In other words, you need the right margin bigger on the left page, and the left margin bigger on the right page. (If this isn’t making sense, find an actual book, open it up, and you’ll see what I mean.) Here’s how to accomplish this: From the “page layout” tab, choose “margins,” then “mirrored.”

I didn’t know about all these steps until I went to upload my manuscript. I would get to the preview step, and there would be red warnings all over my pages. Yikes! So I managed to stumble through these steps one at a time, finding fewer and fewer red marks each time I re-uploaded and looked at the preview. It took at least a couple hours! I hope that I have saved you some time and frustration by describing the steps above.

Next we will have a look at uploading your book cover. That took me hours too, but I can help you so it won’t take you nearly that long. Stay tuned!

Also, please share with us your tips for uploading manuscripts, and what you have learned. More teachers please!