A to Z Challenge Reflection Post

It was a near thing this year, but I completed the A to Z Challenge! I found it a bit overwhelming, probably because I had so many other things going on at the same time. I’m already at work for posts for next year’s challenge which will continue the theme Turn Your Blog Into A Book!

I have so many other things to cover yet before I can say that I’ve done justice to that topic.

I found the alphabetical order of the posts to be less than ideal for this topic. It’s not a logical sequence, but hey, it was the A to Z challenge after all.

I also found it impossible to visit the 600+ blogs that were listed in the Master List for the challenge. I made a good attempt and during April I was able to visit and comment on about 50 blogs, but as I already said, I had a lot going on otherwise.

Since the challenge is over, you can expect more book reviews for awhile while I catch up on a few things. There will be more posts about Turning Your Blog Into A Book soon as well as some new releases by yours truly in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

If you blog and haven’t challenged yourself to complete the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I encourage you to try it out next year!

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Blog to Book Project — You author page

Since you have a blog, you may already have a good start on the About the Author page, provided you have an About page on your blog. You do, don’t you? The About the Author page is generally at the end of a book, as one of the back matter sections.

Your About the Author page is about you but not exactly a biography. It’s more about making a connection with the reader. Once you’ve established a relationship with a reader, he or she is more apt to become a loyal follower.

To make that connection, you want to tailor your story to fit your book. You already know that the reader is interested in the topic your book covers, so try to make YOU as interesting and relevant as that topic.

For example, if you write about living in the rolling hills of Ireland, talk about how you came to be there. Maybe you had an Irish grandmother or you visited once and fell in love with a leprechuan. If your blog to book project is about investing in bitcoins, include your credentials and experience. If you wrote about how yoga transformed your quality of life in your book, talk about your personal philosophy.

As you write your Author Bio, think about who you had in mind when writing the information in the book, who do you want to buy and read the book, and what sort of credibility would that ideal reader look for in an author.

Other things you should include: your professional background, education, current business, achievements, awards, general personal details about your family, pets, residence, interests but only as they relate to the topic of the book.

If you are writing about how you traveled the globe you might include information on how you developed wanderlust rather than the 6 soul-sucking years you spent in a cubicle after earning your MBA. Then again, maybe that’s all part of the story that led up to the book.

Tone is yet another important consideration. If your blog to book project chronicles your spiritual awakening, maybe you won’t want to be smarmy or sarcastic in your bio. Just saying.

Do include contact information with a link back to your website and maybe some links to your social media networks as well. Don’t overdo it though, no more than 3.

You should also have an author photo. It can be casual or formal, however best you’d like to be remembered. If you are like me, adding a photo might make you just a tiny bit uncomfortable. Go ahead and do it anyway.

Another section you might wish to include is a call to action. This is something you should already be doing at the end of your blog posts. You are, aren’t you?

A call to action is something you want the reader to do. You could request that the reader leave a review at Amazon or Goodreads. You could mention you have an ecourse available on the topic your book addresses. You could talk about your personal coaching program.  You could highlight a book you’ve written that relates to the topic of the current one and prompt the reader to go and check it out.

Just pick one though. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone. The odds of a completed action are greater when there is only one thing as well. Instead of highlighting every single book you’ve written, why not suggest the reader go to a particular page and browse through your other books.  Doing so means you don’t have to update this page when you publish something new, just the page on your blog.

About the Author should be written in the third person. Yes, I know, corny. But that’s what readers expect, so that’s what you’ll give them.

Keep it short and sweet. Think of this as sort of a letter of introduction to your readers. You don’t have to list your whole life story here, just the most relevant parts. Aim for about 200-250 words.

Your Author Bio is not a static document, but an ever-changing one. When you have new experiences, obtain new credentials, maybe even change location, you will need to update your About the Author section accordingly.

Assignment: Write your About the Author page. Include a picture.

Blog to Book Project — X-ray

Kindle ebooks have this neat little feature called X-ray. When you press and hold a highlighted word or phrase, the x-ray will pop up with more information about characters, topics, events or places.

Amazon has already taken the liberty of making the connection between certain phrases, events and names and Wikipedia.  All you have to do is approved the ones you want or replace the ones you don’t with your own juicy morsels.

In order to enable X-ray, you need to choose it from the options hidden in the ellipses on your bookshelf.

Then you’ll get a message asking if you want to enable x-ray for that particular book.

When the Wikipedia links are ready for review, you’ll receive an email.

Now the ellipses will list Launch x-ray as an option.

From there, you’ll be sent to the online reviewer. There’s even a tutorial to help you out.

When I added it to A to Z Reasons Why La Yacata is the Place to Be in Any Disaster: A Prepper’s Guide to Mexico, the terms apocalypse, Prepper, and zombie were chosen along with a slew of place names and historical personages as well as any references to ancient indigenous gods.

For the most part, I linked up to the appropriate entry at Wikipedia. However, for places like La Yacata that have no wiki page, I added my own definition.

After you review and submit the terms, you’ll get an email letting you know that the feature was enabled for that book. It’sthat easy and it adds value to the reader’s experience.

Assignment: X-ray your book!

Blog to Book Project — When you know better, do better

Today we are going to take a break from the technical stuff and talk about motivation. Believe me, we all need a bit of a boost in that department every so often.

Take that time when KDP rejected my upload for image formatting issues for the 5th time. Or when my first Amazon review of my latest book was only 2 stars. Man, that was a sad moment.

There’s definitely a learning curve to turning your blog into a book. You will make mistakes. A lot of mistakes. And then you’ll figure out how to do it right and make fewer mistakes. Let’s look at my two examples above and see what I learned.

I like to include images in my books. I think it adds to the content. I didn’t know, but I do now, that it works best when I insert the picture I want to use into a template Canva has available, then upload that image to the book. It gives me a standard size image that is consistent throughout my book and guess what? No more formatting errors! In fact, my latest book was image formatting error-free the very first upload.

Now let’s look at the 2-star review. The reviewer mentioned 3 points, that my ebook had links that made reading difficult, that it did not have an index and that there were many typos. Two of those three points were completely valid. I had rushed publishing so that it would be ready for the new year and well, didn’t think some things through.

Currently, I am in the process of hyperlinking the text rather than including the full link in the ebook. Then I am also adding an index. I honestly hadn’t thought to include one, but I think it will be valuable for this particular book. Thirdly, no there were no typos. See, the reviewer was from the UK and as I write in American English, well, yes there are some differences in spelling, but they weren’t typos.

Once my hyperlinking and indexing are done, I’ll be able to upload a new manuscript to Amazon and everyone who has purchased it already will get the new version. So now that I know better, I’ll do better. And so will you.

Blog to Book Project — Video Books

Obviously, your print book isn’t the right format for sharing video clips. The best you can do is list the link to that super awesome video about the llama eating the boy’s head in the Appendix and hope that the reader is motivated enough to look it up later.

There are some options for including videos in the ebook world however. The simplest is to include a link to the video hyperlinked in the text. When the reader clicks on the link, he or she will be taken to where the video is hosted. After watching, she or he can click back to the book and continue reading.

A second option is to embed your video into the ebook. When the video is embedded, it will seem to the readers that they are watching them in your book, but in reality they are watching them on the page you are linking to, like YouTube or your website.

You should check copyright restrictions for videos that you wish to include that are not your own and include appropriate credits. Embedding videos also adds to the file size of your ebook. Amazon charges delivery fees on some international marketplaces based on the file size of your ebook. If you optimize your videos, the file size will be smaller.

Some ereaders don’t have the capability to view videos, like the Kindle Paperwhite. On the other hand, Kindle Fire and iPads are fully able to incorporate video and audio as part of an ebook reading experience. These new and improved books are often called enhanced ebooks. If the ebook has things the reader can do, such as complete quizzes, or make the bunny jump out of the hat with the touch of a button, the text has graduated to the realm of interactive ebooks. Many children’s books have been designed to be interactive.

In order to create an enhanced or interactive ebook, you’ll need some special software. Some programs allow you to import your book file into the new software and add the interactivity. Other programs require you to write directly in the software program for it to work. Amazon also has an enhanced ebook software program embedded in the Kindle Create system. Amazon calls them Print Replica eBooks.

I have yet to create an enhanced or interactive ebook, so the how-to is a bit beyond me at the moment. If you’d like a good overview of the dos and don’ts check out the article: How to create an interactive enhanced ebook: a step-by-step guide.

Blog to Book Project — Uploading your Paperback Manuscript to KDP

We’ve already talked about Kindle Direct Publishing and ebooks. Today we are going to look at creating a paperback print book with KDP.  This time, after you log in to KDP, choose + Paperback under Create a New Title. 

Paperback Book Details

The first section is identitical to how to set up your ebook.

Language

Choose the language your book is written in.

Book Title

Type in the book title and subtitle if you have one.

Series

If your book is part of a series, you’ll enter that information in this section

Edition Number

If you are creating a new edition of a book, you would include that information next.

Author

Add your name as the Author as you wish it to appear.

Contributors

Then list any contributors you would like to appear in your title and on the cover. This is a little different than your contributors’ page in the book itself.

Description

Your book description should be a short blurb intended to get people interested in your book. When this is displayed on the book page on Amazon, only the first few lines will be visible without having to click on Read more, so you’ll want to concentrate on making the introduction reader worthy.

Publishing Rights

The next category is Publishing Rights. As this is a Blog to Book Project, you will choose “ I own the copyright and I hold the necessary publishing rights.” Unless you take your blog posts down before uploading your manuscript, you may get a notification from Amazon saying that the content of your book is already freely available on the web. That’s perfectly fine. You just have to resubmit the manuscript verifying that you are the author of those freely available posts.

Keywords

You should spend some time listing the most relevant keywords next. Amazon gives some great tips for choosing the best keywords here. In general, you want to pick keywords that a reader might use to find your book’s topic. So if you write about zebras bred in captivity you might include zebra, zebras in zoos, zebra babies, animals bred in captivity, zoo babies and so on. Doing searches on Amazon for books similar to your own will also help you decide which keywords will get you the most readers.

Categories

You can choose two categories to help classify your book. Spend some time looking through the lists. Do another search and see what categories those books that are like yours are using. Try to be as specific as possible. Nonfiction > Self-Help > Death, Grief, Bereavement is more specific than just Nonfiction and a better category for your book about how you coped with the loss of your beloved pet.

Age and Grade Range

If you like, you can choose an age or grade range. Doing so is completely optional, but if you think it would help readers find your book, certainly do so. If you aren’t sure about the grade range, remember Hemminway will give you an approximate level for free.

Pre-Order

The last section on this page is to choose whether your book is ready for publishing or if you would like to generate some pre-order publicity hype first. It’s entirely up to you. Then choose Save and Continue to move along to the next step.

Once the new page opens up, you’ll see a check mark next to the work Complete if you have correctly added all the required fields.

Paperback Book Content

Print ISBN

You can get a free ISBN from Kindle or if you have one already, you can enter the information here. All print books must have an ISBN.

Publication Date

If this is the first time you are publishing your book, don’t enter any dates here. KDP will use the date that your book is for sale on Amazon. If you are printing a second or third edition of a book, then you would enter the first edition publication date.

Print Options

Interior & paper type

You can choose black and white interior with cream or white paper or color interior with white paper. Bear in mind that color will substantially increase the cost of your book.

Trim Size

The most common trim size is 6 x 9 inches. There may be reasons why you choose another size though. For instance, my One Year Blogging Planner has large spaces to write information and monthly calendars, so I choose the 8×11 inch size. Choosing a different size may restrict where your book can be sold. With the 8 x 11 inch size I can not sell my planner in countries outside of the U.S.  

Bleed Settings

Books with bleed have images that extend to the edge of the page past the margins. If you really must have images like that requires some more advanced formatting efforts. KDP provides a free book dimension calculator to help you.

Paperback cover finish

You can choose either a matte or glossy finish for your book cover.

Manuscript

If you are sure you’ve done all the formatting correctly and have your book saved in one of these formats (.doc, .docx, HTML, RTF, and PDF) you can upload it now. You can also use a KDP template.

Book Cover

You can make your own book cover, use a KDP template or use Cover Creator.  Make sure to include all the essential book cover components we’ve talked about. Your book will be printed in full-color unless you choose to use a black and white design.   

Book Preview

Check through your book using the book previewer. If you would rather not use the online version, you can download a PDF version.

Save and Continue.

Paperback Book Rights & Pricing

This section is considerably smaller than the ebook Rights and Pricing section.

Territories

Again, since this a compilation of your blog posts and you hold copyrights, you can choose All territories (worldwide rights).

Pricing & Royalty

KDP offers a choice of 60% or 40% royalty percentage for print books and gives you a minimum – maximum price range. You can see how much KDP charges for printing your book. Books printed in color are more expensive to print than black and white books. You can read about paperback royalty and KDP here. If you would like to change the prices of any individual marketplaces, you can do so at this point.

Terms & Conditions

If everything looks good after reading the terms and conditions, you can go ahead and click Publish Your Paperback book.

Proof Copies

You can request proof copies of a paperback book. These will have a gray bar across the cover indicating it is a proof copy, not for resale, and not have an ISBN code on the back. Other than that, the book will be exactly what your printed book will look like.

You’ll receive a notification that your book is undergoing review and another email if there is something that needs to be fixed or that the book is available for purchase. You did it!

Assignment:

Upload your manuscript to KDP and publish your paperback book.


Blog to Book Project — Table of Contents

The table of contents is a vital section in the front matter of your book. You may also hear this section simply called Contents or abbreviated as TOC. In a digital book, the table of contents lists the chapters which are hyperlinked to the corresponding area of the book.

In a print book, the table of contents has the page number on which each chapter begins listed after the chapter title. When there is significant space between the chapter title and the page number, there may be leaders, usually in the form of dots, that connect the two components. Sometimes the page number is on the left before the chapter title.

Chapters are sometimes grouped into sections, which are also listed in the table of contents. If the book has several authors, each responsible for a chapter or story in the book, the authors’ name also appear in the table of contents.

Any front matter before the table of contents is not listed on the table of contents but is included in the page count. All back matter sections are included on the table of contents. The TOC should begin on a right hand page unless it is exactly two pages. In that case, it should start on the left side.

Creating a Contents page is not necessarily difficult. If you use a template like Pressbooks, your exported book will already have a hyperlinked or paginated table of contents. Kindle Create will also format it for you.

You can find step-by-step instructions to create a TOC in Word and Google Docs as well. If you’d like to be a bit more creative, Canva has table of contents templates you can edit and download as an image to include in your book.

Blog to Book Project — KDP Select

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has several optional components you should know a little about before deciding yeah or nay. One of these is enrollment in Kindle Select.

Kindle Select is only for your digital books, not your print books. If you enroll, you earn a percentage of the KDP Select Global Fund for pages that are read either through Kindle Unlimited (KU) or Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). Enrollment gets your book in the KU or KOLL library so that readers can choose to read it with their paid subscription. If you don’t enroll, your book isn’t in the list and readers who use KU or KOLL won’t have access to it.

You also can earn the maximum 70% royalty rate for sales in Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico rather than the customary 35% rate. Since my books are about Mexico, geared to those living in Mexico, this is an attractive option.

Through Kindle Select you can also use some nifty promotional tools. The Kindle Countdown Deal will discount your book for a period of time. This discount is only available to books for sale on the UK or US Amazon site. You still earn your 70% royalty rating on the discounted price. There’s a dedicated page on Amazon called Kindle Countdown Deals which the savvy book reader will have bookmarked, leading to more sales of your book.

The way the countdown deal works is you can reduce your book price, then each day the price gets just a little higher, until it returns to the regular list price again on the fourth day. So if you discount your book to 99 cents the first day, the second day it will be $1.99. The third day it will be $2.99 before returning to the list price of $6.99.  

The Free Book Promotion will allow you to offer your book FREE (hence the name) worldwide for 5 days each 90-day enrollment period. You can run the promotion 5 days in a row or you can pick individual days during the 3-month period. While this is a great publicity tool, you won’t earn any royalties on any free downloads. If your book gets a large number of downloads, it just might be listed on the Amazon Best Sellers Top 100 Free list.

Both promotions will certainly help get your book in the public eye. You can’t run both promotions at the same time though.

Here’s the fine print. If you enroll your digital book in Kindle Select you can not make your book available on any other platform, including your blog, website, or other publishing sites. You can make up to 10% of an enrolled book available as a “sample” on your blog or provide reviewers and editors a digital copy.

Your enrollment in Kindle Select will automatically renew after 90 days. Therefore, if you do not wish to continue with the service, you need to uncheck the automatic renewal box on your bookshelf on KDP. You can re-enroll at any time.

Blog to Book Project — Royalties

As a published author, you will receive royalties on the books that are sold. Exciting, isn’t it?

Since I am most familiar with Amazon’s policies, we will be talking about royalty earnings through Amazon rather than other self-publishing sites today.

Amazon’s KDP lets you choose whether you wish to earn 70% royalties or 35% royalties on your ebooks. It seems like you would always want to choose the higher royalty rate, but there are some restrictions on eligibility.  

These eligibility requirements vary from country to country. If you are selling on the Amazon mega-platform (United States) then your book qualifies for 35% royalty sharing if it is priced at least 99 cents and less than 3 megabytes, if your book is between 3 megabytes but less than 10 megabytes and costs $1.99 or if your book is larger than 10 megabytes with a price of at least $2.99.

To quality for 70% royalty sharing your book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and at least 20% less than the lowest cost of the book in printed form.

If you enroll your book in KDP select, you will earn 70% royalties on books sold in Brazil, Japan, India and Mexico as well. Enrollment also means your book is in the Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) and you earn royalties based on how many pages are read. We’ll talk more about KDP Select on another day.

KDP will pay you 60% royalty rate of the list price on your paperback book. The cost of printing is deducted from that royalty. What is left over is all yours. If your book is sold through expanded distribution sites via Amazon, you will receive 40% royalty of the list price minus printing costs.

You can elect to receive your royalties by direct deposit or check. There is a minimum payment threshold with check payments. Direct deposit payments are made 60 days after the end of the month your book earned royalties.

Royalties are subject to withholding tax the amount of which depends on your nationality and in which country the book was sold. If you are a U.S. citizen, you will receive a 1099 MISC at the end of the year for tax purposes.