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Audiobooks vs. eBooks vs. traditional paper books: A professional book person’s comparison

I’ve been reading since I was 4 years old, having demanded my dad teach me how because I got tired of waiting around for him to read me the Sunday comics. I think a Berenstain Bears book may have been the first one I ever read on my own. Not surprisingly, I got A’s in elementary and high school English and went on to select nonfiction writing as my college major, with journalism as my minor. My first job was in a newspaper library. My career of choice is helping people self-publish their books. Words, reading, books, and research have always played giant roles in my life.

But, as we’re all well aware, books are changing, as is the experience of buying them. While you can still wander from stack to stack and genre to genre at your local bookstore – or library – that opportunity is unfortunately shrinking, as we head into the digital age. There are definite benefits to these new methods of reading, but there also are drawbacks.

I’ve never been much of an audiobook person, but I recently decided to give this format a try, checking out Mike Dooley’s Infinite Possibilities from the library. I loved the book and loved listening to it on my computer while I was doing other tasks. I listened to it three times before returning it, each time hearing new things I’d missed the previous time(s), no doubt do to my multitasking. The next audiobook I checked out was Life Visioning, by Michael Beckwith, who with Dooley, was featured in the movie version of The Secret. Different from Dooley in style but similar in content, I found Beckwith a bit more challenging as an audiobook because he punctuates his chapters with meditations that required my full attention, forcing me to stop what I was doing or risk skipping out on those segments in the hope of eventually returning to them.

Soon after that, I signed up for Audible.com, Amazon’s audiobook outlet. One of the first books I purchased was Rachel Maddow’s Drift. A radical departure from the self-improvement genre of Dooley and Beckwtih, I found myself facing a new challenge with Drift. I needed to pay a lot more attention to the content in order for the details of the book to actually make sense. Occasionally, I’d find myself wondering, “Wait, what did I miss?” and needing to “rewind” because in my distraction or multitasking, I had missed a key component of the message.

The same was true when I borrowed the audiobook version of Paul Krugman’s The Conscience of a Liberal. Like Drift, this book required my full attention when listening. The benefit of owning Drift, though, is that I can go back and listen to the whole thing in its entirety, anytime I want, whereas with Krugman’s book, I’ll have to check it out again if I want to hear it again.

For me, this multitasking experience is exclusive to audiobooks. I sometimes see people at the gym paging through magazines or juggling a book to pass the time while doing cardio. But I learned from my personal trainer a long time ago not to try reading on the treadmill or stair stepper, as you never get the same quality of workout as when you are focused on exercise alone. So when I read, the physical book in front of me has my full, undivided attention. And when I do encounter a distraction, I put the book down, attend to the issue, and then resume reading. With audiobooks, we may not even realize we are distracted until we’ve missed a significant enough section of the text to be jogged into that whole “Wait, what did I miss?” awareness.

In a recent post about book blogger statistics, I mentioned that I was startled to find out that of 300 book bloggers surveyed, 71 percent did not even OWN eReaders of any type. I somehow mistakenly believed that avid readers like those who blog about books would be early adopters. My husband thought he would be an eReader holdout until I got him a Kindle for Christmas – now he loves it. I asked him why he likes his Kindle so much, and he tossed of three reasons quite easily:

  1. Without a the cover of a traditional printed book, an eReader makes it easy to conceal your reading materials from passersby, something he often finds useful when reading during his lunch break on his commercial plumbing jobsite. Regardless of what book he’s reading at the time, when people ask, he automatically answers, “Stephen King,” as this both satisfies their quasi-curiosity and shuts them up.
  2. Another benefit my husband finds with the Kindle is having a wide selection of books at your disposal. Whether he’s in a Deepak Chopra mood or wants to read Sports Illustrated at lunch, he’s got both choices at his fingertips.
  3. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the eReader is the ability to purchase in an instant. “I can learn about the latest rock autobiography in Rolling Stone and be reading it in a matter of minutes,” explains my musician hubby.

My friend Carol, on the other hand, finds the impersonal technology of an eReader distracting. “You can get what, a third or a quarter of the contents of a printed page on that thing,” she said pointing to my Kindle Fire. To her, having to sweep your finger across the screen every two or three paragraphs is just plain annoying.

As more and more people make the transition from paper books to audiobooks and eBooks, it’s important for you to get your books out there in as many formats as makes sense. You can best determine this by knowing your readers. Print books are the most expensive to produce, but audiobooks also require a significant investment of time and dollars. eBooks are no doubt the easiest to take to market. If your readers are older church ladies who don’t read eBooks, though, it wouldn’t make much sense to go that route, now would it? While I think each format has place – and its fans/proponents – I suspect I will remain loyal to paper books for while still.

Happy formatting!

Laura

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Ideas for finding a QUALITY DESIGNER to build your author website

So we’ve been talking for weeks now about the importance of your author website to connecting with prospective readers and making sales. Here’s the question: Who should do your website for you? I completely understand issues around budgeting and why – if you have some natural (or learned) skill at it – you might want to build your own website. WordPress offers excellent tools for creating a pretty nice-looking DIY site.

However, there are a number of good reasons for finding money in your budget to hire a professional Web designer. Among them:

  • Hiring a professional designer can save you time.
  • The Internet changes constantly – your website should reflect that dynamism and change with it.
  • A friend/relative will never prioritize your work the way a paid designer will.
  • Some designers have good SEO knowledge and skill that can benefit you.
  • A pro will be able to optimize your site for various browsers (and mobile devices).
  • If you want a site that makes a splash of any sort, you may need the design skills of a professional.
  • One thing that will make your site look great – and work well – is a finished appearance, which a professional designer can do for you.

So, once you decide you will make the plunge and hire a Web designer, how do you find the right one for your author website? To be honest, more than any other industry I’ve encountered, this field is rife with the sketchiest of feedback in terms of the quality of service providers. I long ago lost count of how many friends, colleagues, and clients have told me they were misled, ripped off, or had otherwise bad experiences with Web designers. That is just my experience, but ask around. It seems to be an unfortunate trend in the industry. What that means is that it is up to you to do your due diligence and make sure the designer you’re hiring is worth the money before you plunk down a dime.

Here are some things to consider before making a decision about which designer to hire.

GOALS FOR YOUR SITE. Is your site going to be mostly a brochure site where prospective readers can come and test drive a sample chapter or two? Are you looking to build a speaking career around your book? If so, that site is probably going to be somewhat different. Do you want a forum where readers can interact with each other? There’s no right or wrong, but you must know before you begin what you want your site to do. Then, go find a designer who can do it.

EXPERIENCE. The best designer may or may not have a ton of experience under their belt. Either way, you’ll want to look at sites they have already created to get a feeling for whether they synch with your goals for your author website. There may be something to be said for hiring a designer who specializes in author sites; however, you probably don’t want a cookie-cutter site that looks like a bunch of other authors’ sites, either. So make sure the designer you hire has the breadth, imagination, and listening skills to capture exactly what you want to create in your site.

As thenextweb.com puts it:

Web designers come in various shapes and sizes. Many specialize in one technology or another, and further, some specialize in specific visual styles or servicing a particular demographic. I know of a few designers who do nothing but political sites all day, every day — and they nail the style that they are known for.

While expertise in a style can be useful, and an agency or freelancer that targets your specific area might sound great, there are some who simply re-hash the same few designs over and over again. There’s a big difference between knowing a particular style of design well and innovating within that style, and trying to make a living as a one-trick pony with under-developed skills.

FREELANCE vs. COMPANY. The next thing you want to decide is whether you will hire a freelance designer or an actual Web design company. Each has its pros and cons, but in this industry neither is a sure bet – so again, do your research!

WHERE TO LOOK. The best place to begin is by asking other people (authors) whose sites you like: “Who did your site?” They will likely give you honest feedback about their experience working with their Web designers. Another place to look is on Web design galleries (a Google search can get you there). If either of those options doesn’t pan out, you can always try the freelance sites like Guru.com or eLance.com. The most important thing to remember is not to rush this process. Find a designer you feel good about, and whatever happens, go with your gut.

LOOK AT THE DESIGNER’s SITE. Make sure you visit the designers’ sites to see how they represent themselves on the Web.

Sitepoint.com recommends asking yourself the following questions, at minimum:

  • Do they tell you who they are and what they offer?
  • Do they appear to have the specific skills you need?
  • Do they have a portfolio you can view?
  • Does the designer describe their technical background?
  • How well do they use color on their own site?
  • Are their page titles appropriate and informative?
  • Is their site easy to navigate, and to get back to where you began?
  • Would your visitors/readers like a similar navigation system?
  • Are all their pages accessible, with no broken links?
  • Is the overall page design consistent?
  • Can you easily find the Contact Page and Site Map?
  • Are things on their site aligned properly?
  • Is the text on their site easy to read?
  • Do the pages load quickly?
  • Do all links open in new tabs or new windows?

PRICING & CONTRACTS. Other things to consider are pricing and the sort of contract they offer. Pricing for Web design runs the gamut from several hundred dollars to many thousands. Of course, part of that has to do with the complexity of the design, but unlike many other industries, a high fee is not always a guarantee of good work. I like how thenextweb.com puts it: “You might find that many really talented designers aren’t charging particularly expensive rates, so don’t take their previous work as an indicator of price.” And as far as a contract goes, it’s always a good idea to get someone with some legal acumen to look over any contract before you sign it.

REFERENCES. Lastly, remember to get references! Find a few people who’ve worked with the designer before and get input from them. Remember, though, consider the source. If three out of four tell you they had a great experience, there may be more to the story for the one who did not.

Yep, it’s going to take some work, but when you end up with a site you (and your readers) love, you will be glad you made the effort.

Happy hiring!

MARCIE

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Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

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Tips for optimizing your author website for mobile users

In one of our earliest posts, we explored the idea of knowing your reader, particularly as it pertains to marketing your books to them. We talked about the well known demographics and lesser-known psychographics. In her new book, relationship marketing expert Mari Smith reveals a new one: technographics: “Technograpchs is a composite picture of the type of people you’re trying to reach, which networks they hang out on, and — perhaps most importantly — how you’re going to reach them.” One of an author’s keys to technographics is knowing how people purchase your books, because the number who are purchasing — and reading — via mobile devices is growing.

Last time, we talked about how these mobile users need to factor into your web design. Today, I’d like to point you in the direction of some help for formatting your site so that mobile users can easily read, navigate, and use it.

PracticalCommerce.com offers some good questions to get you started:

  • Have you ever seen your website on a mobile device?
  • Are you confident your customers can find the information they are looking for?
  • Can they make a purchase from your website on their handheld device?

Depending on your level of skill as a Web designer, you may simply want to pass on this info to your webmaster. PracticalCommerce.com also recommends checking the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) specifications for mobile devices. Issues they tackle include:

  • Is your site using tables?
  • Does your site use a lot of images or multi-media files?
  • Does your site take a long time to download on a web browser?

Something to think about when assigning styles for mobile devices is to keep it very simple. Mobile devices are still a bit slower, so you want to avoid using lots of images and graphics. In addition, there are varying screen sizes and resolutions with handheld devices, so it’s a good idea to scale page elements by screen size, rather than setting fixed pixel widths for page elements.

You can also find a 60-item list of Mobile Web Best Practices at WC3. I won’t list all of them here, but they include things like:

  1. Thematic Consistency. Ensure that content provided by accessing a URL yields a thematically coherent experience when accessed from different devices.
  2. Navbar. Provide only minimal navigation at the top of the page.
  3. Balance. Take into account the trade-off between having too many links on a page and asking the user to follow too many links to reach what they are looking for.
  4. Pop-Ups. Do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window without informing the user.
  5. Auto Refresh. Do not create periodically auto-refreshing pages, unless you have informed the user and provided a means of stopping it.
  6. Clarity. Use clear and simple language.
  7. Page Size Usable. Divide pages into usable but limited size portions.
  8. Large Graphics. Do not use images that cannot be rendered by the device.
  9. Use of Color. Ensure that information conveyed with color is also available without color.
  10. Page Title. Provide a short but descriptive page title.

Note that some of these are good advice for ANY website.

According to Pelfusion.com, you can easily set up your WordPress blog for mobile users with the WPTouch plugin.

Lastly, I’m not making a recommendation for this, but Google offers a simple way to optimize your site for mobile devices. Enter the URL of the website and indicate whether or not you want to include images. Click “Go” to create a mobile-optimized version of the site.

Happy optimizing!

MARCIE

*Savvy Book Marketer

__________________

Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

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Growing number of mobile users MUST factor into your web design

Once upon a time, a 20-pound laptop was considered a mobile device. Twenty years ago, only a handful of people had email addresses; today, not having one is like not having a phone number. Ten years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. Today, what’s one of the first things you do when you meet someone new? Not only do we live in the digital age, but we find ourselves in a world where mobile connection is becoming less a luxury and more a necessity. What do the following have in common?

  • Meeting people at the airline gate
  • Giving a client directions to your office
  • Wondering if today’s special at your favorite restaurant is any good
  • Standing in line at the movie theatre
  • Carrying around a keyring full of stores’ discount cards

These are all behaviors that have gone by the wayside – or are disappearing – due to mobile connectivity.

What’s all this got to do with book marketing – and specifically your website? Everything, in that designing your website to accommodate mobile devices is yet one more important ingredient for success.

Consider the following:

Now think about your own frustration in navigating around sites on your smartphone or Kindle Fire. As more and more of our online behavior moves to mobile devices, our web design must shift with it. And if you’re really an SBM*, you will pay specific attention to which device your audience is using to connect.

Next time, we’ll get into some of the specific considerations that factor into designing a website (or formatting an eBook) for a mobile device. For today, just soak in the numbers. And begin to laser-focus on content and design concepts that will work for a smaller device tailored to an audience on the move.

Happy connecting!

MARCIE

*Savvy Book Marketer

__________________

Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

PREVIOUS POSTS

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How to Make an eBook: Second of 5 easy ways to give away samples of your writing

We’ve been talking about 5 easy ways to give away FREE SAMPLES of your writing to readers and prospective readers. Last time, we learned how to create a zine. Today we’re going to focus on the easiest, most common ways to make a chapter or selection from your book into an eBook that you can give away for free.

If you’ve already converted your book or published an eBook, you can probably skip this post, except to say that you might want consider cropping it to offer just one or two chapters as a free giveaway through your blog, website, or social media outlets.

All of these processes are done electronically, so the only equipment you’ll need is a computer and Internet access.

We’re going to discuss 4 of the most common methods of eBook conversion:

  1. PDF
  2. Mobipocket
  3. Smashwords
  4. Text files

The thing to keep in mind is that an eBook CAN be an exact electronic duplicate of a printed book, but it doesn’t have to be, and frequently is not. The popularity of eBooks is continuing to skyrocket, and with it a multitude of eReaders is becoming available. However, not all of them are equipped to handle graphics or fancy pagination, so a decent rule of thumb, at least for the time being, is that simpler is better when converting your writing into eBooks.

Before you begin any of these processes, make sure you:

  • Abbreviate your file to include only the chapter(s) you want to give away for free.
  • Double check that you have not inadvertently cut off any sections while you were creating your excerpt.
  • Give one last run-through for grammar and spelling errors you may previously have missed, especially if this is the first time you will be publishing your work.
  • Unless you will be using the PDF method to convert your chapter(s), make sure you’ve got it stripped down to a simplified file with few images and no fancy pagination.

PDFs

PDFs are the best way to ensure consistency between the printed
book and the ebook conversion
, but they’re limited to use on a computer,
tablet, or smartphone that can read them –
and they won’t translate
for many eReaders.

Depending on how your computer is configured, once you’ve got your file
saved the way you want for the conversion, you may be able to hit “Print”
and select “Adobe PDF” as your “printer” option.

A second possibility if you’re saving from a MS Word 2007 document is to choose
the “Save As” command and then select the PDF option.

If you do not appear to have a PDF conversion mechanism of any sort already
installed, you can download a free piece of conversion software called CutePDF
that works quite well.

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MOBIPOCKET

MobiPocket is the ebook technology employed by Amazon’s Kindle eReader.
Convert your MS Word files to .mobi files using the free Mobipocket eBook Creator. Download the software and follow the instructions and prompts.

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SMASHWORDS

Smashwords is a free online service you can use to convert your books
(or chapters) to eBooks. It’s quite a nice program because it will allow you
to upload to ALL of the major eReaders (including Kindle), but it requires
a VERY stripped down version of your text with next to no formatting.

The Smashwords.com site also gives you four pricing options:

  • FREE
  • Let the reader set the price
  • You set a fixed price for the book
  • You can specify that a portion of a book you have for sale is available
    for free
    .

Visit the site and follow the prompts to upload your book.

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TEXT FILES

The easiest way to convert a file that almost
anyone can read on almost any platform is simply
by saving it as a .TXT file.

1. In any version of MS Word, choose the
“Save As” command and select “Other Formats.”
2. Find the drop-down menu.
3. Choose RTF or Rich Text File, and hit
“Save.”

 

That’s it for our four simple ways to convert your sample chapter to an eBook. Once you’ve converted it, the next thing is to TELL PEOPLE it’s available. Announce it on Facebook. Send a couple Tweets. And, of course, let your mailing list know. You can even ask other authors, editors, marketers, literary types, and anyone who loves and supports you to help you get the word out.

Make it a personal mission to have 500 people read your free chapter(s) within a certain period of time. This means, of course, you’ll have to figure out how to know they’ve read it. One way might be to motivate your pre-readers to comment about your chapter on your blog by announcing that you’ll enter all commenters into a drawing for a copy of the finished book. This will do two things for you:

(1) Give you feedback on the book.

(2) Give you an idea of how many people the chapters are reaching.

Remember, these are just a few ideas. Put on that SBM* Thinking Cap and see what other wonderful ways you can dream up to get the word out about your free chapter(s). If anything awesome comes of this experience for you, please come back and share it in our comments section!

Make sure to check back on Thursday when we’ll be discussing Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature as a way to give away free samples of your work. 

MARCIE

__________________

*Savvy Book Marketer

__________________

Visit Write | Market | Design to download your Marketing Skills Evaluation. This will help you determine how close you are to SBM status, and where you may need a little extra boost.

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

PREVIOUS POSTS

Thursday, August 11 How to Make a Zine: First of 5 easy ways to give away samples of your writing

Monday, August 8 – 5 easy ways to give away FREE SAMPLES of your writing

Thursday, August 4 A Savvy Book Marketer embraces the idea of giving freely

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