Traditional Publishing to ePublishing: What you need to know

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 at 9:42 AM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 2 comments

Margaret Norton

Guest post by Margaret Norton

Five years ago, when I started thinking about writing my first book, most people recommended a traditional publisher rather than self-publishing. I took that advice many times, but since then I’ve wondered if I made the right choice.

One year after my book was released, I terminated my relationship with my publisher. There were several reasons for this: I felt that I was doing most of the work anyway – except for printing the book – so why not get the full financial reward? However, my biggest reason was lack of control. I felt that I had very little say over anything that happened with my book and I had no way to track my marketing efforts. Like most new writers, I wasn’t making much money anyway, so why not venture out on my own?

That was five months ago and this is what I’ve learned so far:

The electronic author has most of the same problems as the traditional author. For the new writer, the biggest problem is publicity. I am doing the same things I was doing 18 months ago – press releases, blog tours, working social media, trying to build a name for myself as a writer, etc. The only thing I’m not doing is physical book signings, which I could do with my remaining stock, but have chosen not to. My goal is to have a total virtual experience.

Technology is the biggest epublishing challenge, especially if you’re weak in this area. For months, I took classes and read articles to prepare for this change, yet I’m almost overwhelmed with the amount and content of the information. Initially, I was under the impression that there were two major formats – Mobi for Amazon’s Kindle and epub for everything else.

What I’m learning is there are variations on these two and it hasn’t been as easy as it sounded. Most web sites that publish books have technical departments that are very helpful and there are companies that assist you with the technical aspects of epublication such as formatting and creating ecovers.

Numerous outlets exist for epublications. New writers are usually encouraged to purchase their own books from the publisher until they create a demand for their product. Epublishers typically do not have as many restrictions and once your book is in the correct format, you can often list it free. One list had 40 web sites that allow you to sell books online.

This is time consuming. Some have regulations, some charge small fees, some have time limits, most let you set your own price with a minimum and maximum, some allow you to give your book away or free chapters, some have blogs and community support and some list your book with other sites and help with the promotion.

Payment is quicker with epublication and varies by site – PayPal, check or electronic transfer. Returns are not as likely with ebooks, a good thing. It takes time to get everything set up. Once this is done, all you have to do is maintain and collect your checks.

Changing from traditional publishing to epublishing is going from one extreme to another. I no longer feel that I have little control. Instead, I have total control over everything that pertains to the distribution, promotion and sale of my book. If it doesn’t do well, I can’t blame my publisher. On the other hand, if it does, then I’ll get to claim all the glory. The royalties are less per book, but the expectation is that I’ll sell more books.

Publishers tend to send you out to pasture unless you continue to generate healthy sales numbers. Online sales are different – they don’t drop you if sales are down. You can spend the rest of your life promoting a book and perhaps generate some healthy sales over time. For me, this was a chance that I was willing to take.

If you’d like a copy of the list of 40 web sites, the name of the company who did my formatting, my ecover designer or others who’ve helped me in this process, please contact me at margnorton at yahoo dot com.

When Ties Break bookAbout Margaret Norton: Margaret Norton has always pushed the envelope – never totally accepting the status quo. A people person, her greatest joy comes from helping others. Preventing abuse, empowering women and improving health are her passions. As a personal life coach, Margaret founded Life Transitions to help individuals deal with change. In addition, she’s a trained Stephen Minister and Dale Carnegie Coach. This training, along with her personal life experiences, makes her a caring and compassionate coach. Her stories have appeared in A Light Along the Way, the Upper Room, various local newspapers, and on-line.

Margaret Norton’s When Ties Break: A Memoir About How to Thrive After Loss chronicles one woman’s struggles through life, encumbered by far more than her fair share of burden, and her eventual triumph. The author provides an excellent guide through the tribulations of life, having survived divorce, abuse, abortion, excommunication, chronic illness, homelessness, death, bankruptcy, sibling rivalry, adultery, single parenthood, drug addiction, low self-esteem and depression.

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Personality and Style

Friday, November 18th, 2011 at 12:37 PM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog 5 comments

Meryl Multiple IntelligencesI took child psychology in my sophomore year of college. The one thing I’ll never forget about that class is taking Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for the first time along with other personality and learning style tests. The result? ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging). And I’ve tested ISTJ every time since then.

Even my daughter is into the personality test and came close with her guess that I was an ISFJ. She probably thought we were opposites since she’s an ENTP (Extroversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Perceiving). Introversion and extroversion don’t mean you’re shy or outgoing. Instead, they represent where you draw more energy from. Check out the 16 type descriptions. If you don’t know yours, this might give you a clue.

“The Secret to Helping Your Child Excel in School and in Life” at Lifehack introduces another test where you can learn more about yourself and multiple intelligences. This shows what areas we tend to easily understand and what areas are harder. The website explains, “For some of us it is relatively easy to understand how a flower grows but it is immensely difficult for us to understand and use a musical instrument. For others music might be easy but playing football is difficult.”

I test strong on intrapersonal and logical. Zilch on musical (no surprise). The only surprise is the linguistic score. These results reveal your stronger and weaker learning styles. For a good explanation of the intelligences, visit Family Education.

All of these assessments help us understand ourselves better and how you can better work with others once you figure out what they are. “The Secret to Helping Your Child Excel in School and in Life” gives an example of a teacher discussing the topic of  “the law of supply and demand” and how the teacher can best reach a child from each of the different intelligences.

Fascinating stuff. Here’s another to check out: True Colors.

Have you ever taken a personality or style assessment? What was it? What did you learn?

And now for your weekly links …

Brain food …

For fun …
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Four Steps to Building a Platform

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 at 12:41 PM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media 1 comment
Platform 9 3/4 sign

Image from user buzzybee

Guest post by Lior Levin. Reference this post for the what and why have a platform.

In business and in life, what you say only means something to those who hear it. You can shout all you want, but if no one is listening, then what you say doesn’t matter much. A platform is the audience you create for yourself — the “who” that you develop around you. They not only hear what you have to say, but also they care deeply about it.

Just like many other processes, the building of a platform involves steps. Following the steps ensures that you don’t skip anything, and prepares you for bigger and more important steps that require the ones that come before.

Step 1: Have Something to Say

Too often, people jump online, start blogging or try to develop a following before they’ve stopped to consider why they are there and what they have to say. People shy away from the difficult yet crucial questions:

  • “What am I trying to say?”
  • “Why should anyone bother listening to me?”

Until you can answer both questions with confidence and clarity, you shouldn’t aggressively attempt to build your platform. In all likelihood, you wouldn’t go to a conference without knowing the topics, would you? Why, then, should you invite people to “follow you on Twitter” without knowing the reason? Give people a reason to be part of your crowd.

Step 2: Know Who Should Listen to You

The second biggest thing people forget to do before growing a following is figuring out their ideal audience. It used to be that everyone needed to have a “target” audience in mind, but that’s no longer good enough. You need to really know your audience — not just target a specific group of people based on a couple of characteristics. The whole benefit of sitting down and determining an audience profile is to find out who is ideal for you.

Here are great questions to get you started:

  1. Who would care about what you have to say?
  2. How do you know that?

Answer those questions, and you will hold the key to reaching your audience with little effort and incredible results.

Step 3: Figure Out Where to Find Them

Where is your ideal audience? Are they hanging out on Twitter, joining a Twitter chat? Are they on LinkedIn, participating in group discussions? Are they on Facebook, posting comments on images and videos?

Finding out where your platform lives, breathes and desires to be is the next big step in developing it. Think of it like pulling out a map before going on a road trip. Sure, you could do without the map, and maybe you would eventually get to where you are going. However, with a map in hand, you can take the shortest route, or perhaps the most scenic, or the one with the most rest stops along the way. Whatever route you take to reach your ideal audience to grow them into a following, you need to know where to find them.

Once you figure that out, go find them! Consider everything: blogs, social media profiles, forums and even Meetup and Yahoo groups. You don’t need to be in all places at all times. What’s most important is what you do when you get there. (See Step 4.)

Step 4: Start Communicating 

If only there were a secret recipe for the best way to interact with your platform. Wouldn’t it be great if you could rely on daily blogging, ten to twenty tweets per day, a Youtube video and three Facebook status updates every morning knowing that that would make your audience go crazy for you?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. But there is a golden rule: whatever communication works for your audience, you need to maintain it. Once you have established a way of engaging your audience — speaking, responding, reaching out, involving, polling, etc. — keep at it! Remember that for whatever reason, online activity has a short memory life span. People don’t remember things for very long, and there are a lot of messages going out every day. To remain top of mind, you need to be around a lot. Commit to having an active relationship with the platform that you build.

When broken down into steps, building a platform sounds simple, and it really is. Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. It takes work to follow the steps and ensure that the platform you build is relevant, worthwhile and highly effective for you. It’s worth it.

Have you built a platform? How did you go about it? Or why haven’t you built one? Should everyone have a platform? Why or why not?

About Lior Levin. This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for the University of Tel Aviv in the political communication masters programs. Lior also consults for a company that provides business and individuals with a to-do list tool.


Outdated Software

Friday, November 11th, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 3 comments

When I bought a Flip camera in 2008, I also grabbed video editing software. Before buying the software, I researched for a good editor that wasn’t fancy or power-packed. Just enough to get the job done without spending much time with the user manual. With new software, I can usually dig right in. However, past experience with editing software involved more reading time than editing time. After talking to a few folks and reading reviews, I went with Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Version 8.

I installed Vegas and never used it. Eventually, I uninstalled it because it took up unneeded resources and space. I decided to do a little winter cleaning by identifying the largest files on the computer. Three HD videos made the list, so that prompted me reinstall the editing software.

It can’t open the .m2ts files. This 2008 software has “HD” on the box, but it couldn’t open these files. I went to the website to see if the company had a patch or upgrade so it could open these files. It turned out they no longer support that version of the software. How hard would it be to create a plug-in to import these HD files? A search of user forums yielded nothing. I guess not too many people are using version 8 or they have cameras that don’t produce .m2st files.

Having learned my lesson that I don’t make time for editing videos, I looked around for freeware and cheap converter to convert these HD files into one Vegas 8 could handle. Unfortunately, no freeware app can handle these big files. Actually, there was one and it failed. Besides, I wasn’t comfortable using it because there had been concerns about the app having malware. (While working on this, I came across 10 Free Apps for Working with Video, but none could solve this problem.)

The trial version of Sony Vegas 11 converted the three big videos into one. Windows Media Player (Scroll way down to MPEG-4 section for why) couldn’t play it. Two other players could. Whew. I’m out of the video editing business. Back to using the old digital camera for videos.

I understand software companies have to draw the line in how long they support older versions of software. Is it fair to stop supporting a three-year-old app? Maybe Sony would’ve had a fan in me if they had a solution other than upgrade to 11.

What’s your take on software and support?

And now for your weekly links …

Brain food …

For fun …

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Doing it Anyway: How I Overcame My Fears about Writing

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 at 9:16 AM | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 11 comments

Welcome to meryl’s notes blog (this here place you’re lookin’ at) in Plano, Texas. We’re honored to be a stop in Melissa Ann Goodwin‘s WOW! Women On Writing Blog tour. We’re hosting a giveaway of her book The Christmas Village [affiliate]. Read on to see how you can win.

Melissa Ann GoodwinAbout the author: Melissa Ann Goodwin is a native New Englander, now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband, artist J. Richard Secor. She has written extensively for Fun for Kidz, Boys’ Quest and Hopscotch for Girls. She was a regular feature article contributor to the Caregiver’s Home Companion for more than five years. Her poetry took 10th prize in The Writer’s Digest 2010 annual competition. WOW! Women On Writing Blog tour. We’re hosting a giveaway of her book The Christmas Village is her first novel.

Doing It Anyway: How I Overcame My Fears about Writing by Melissa Ann Goodwin

I doubt there is a writer alive whose brain doesn’t feel as thick and frozen as a Dairy Queen Blizzard before sitting down to write. It’s why we post on Facebook, sort the laundry and make out the shopping list, when our firm intention that day was to get writing First Thing. We do this, often, because we’re scared. A thousand undermining thoughts creep into our minds: What if I try to write and nothing comes? What if what I write is awful? What if, GASP, it’s not perfect?

But how do we silence that insane Drama Queen screaming inside our heads, terrifying us into paralysis of the pen? Believe me; I count myself among the biggest fraidy-cats of all time. In fact, I let fear keep me from writing for almost 40 years. But I found some practices that have helped me overcome those fears. If you feel a bit paralyzed before sitting down to write, maybe these ideas will help you too.

Make Like the Buddha and Calm Down: Besides being a writer, I’m also a yoga teacher. Part of our goal in yoga is to focus and calm the mind. Similarly, clearing the mind of distractions before writing can help quiet your fears and make it easier to get started.  Try this: Sit comfortably and just breathe. Try to empty your mind, but don’t be aggressive about it. Let your thoughts come and go. If you are thinking about your shopping list or other “life” things, just mentally whisper the word, “later,” and try to move on. When you feel calm, open your eyes and start writing.

Leave Your Mind Out of It: The idea of writing without thinking might sound strange at first, but in my experience, it definitely works! After calming yourself with quiet breathing, open your eyes and start writing whatever comes to mind, without even thinking about it. Keep writing fast, without stopping or thinking, for as long as you can.  If you slow down and get stuck, write, “I don’t know what to write this is really stupid I can’t believe she told us to do this and I can’t believe I’m doing it.” Good! Keep going. The next thing you know you’ll be writing something coherent and unexpected and surprising.  You’ll be amazed by what comes out of you that you had no idea was hiding inside there.

Perfect Makes Crazy: I used to think that what I wrote had to come out of me fully formed and close to perfect. What a silly goose I was! No wonder my panic-stricken fingers hovered over the keys like a Zamboni with transmission trouble. How did I learn to let go of this perfection complex? By giving myself permission to write what the brilliant writer Anne Lamott calls a “shitty first draft.” Just let stuff flow out of you without judgment or mental editing. Let it be really and truly awful. Celebrate its awfulness! After all, that’s why they invented revision.

The Christmas Village book

I think that overcoming our writing fears is less about particular techniques than it is about learning to trust that the well of inspiration is deep and limitless. I’ve discovered that no matter how awful my first draft is, there is always something in it that is worth keeping – a word, a phrase, a snippet of dialogue. Something. We’re all different, and different things will work for each of us. The trick is to experiment, and while you’re experimenting, you’ll be writing. And the more you are writing, the more you will learn to trust in that infinite well.

About The Christmas Village: Jamie Reynolds wished that he could live in Grandma’s miniature Christmas village, and now that wish has magically come true. But is the village really what it seems? What stunning secrets does it hold? And how will Jamie ever get back home? Join the fun, come along on the adventure, and find out!

Comment and win: For a chance to win a copy of The Christmas Village, leave a comment about dealing with any writing struggles. How do you deal with perfection? Facing a blank page? Or share what you think happens in The Christmas Village based on the above description. You have until 11:59pm on November 15, 2011 to qualify for the drawing. The unbiased and robotic has the honor of picking the winner.


Odd Jobs

Friday, November 4th, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog No comments

Before They Were Famous: The Oddest Odd Jobs of 10 Literary Greats reveals the jobs held by Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck, Stephen King and others. They’re not that odd. Vonnegut managed a Saab dealership.  King was a janitor. Harper Lee handled reservations for Easter Air Lines. Still, it’s interesting to see what they did before becoming famous writers.

I’m no literary great, but I’d say the oddest job I held was working as a cashier and stocker at Toys R Us. Or maybe wrapping gifts in my mom’s little kiosk that she had for one holiday season. I also worked at Tandy’s offices (Radio Shack folks) as a file clerk. That’s about four jobs (not counting babysitting) by the time I graduated from high school. My high school senior daughter has had one job for three years: working at a brunch/lunch restaurant. She started as a hostess and she’s now the senior waitress.

Slot CarsThe coolest pre-high school graduation job I had was data entry for an antique toy car catalog. Entering names and addresses sounds boring, but it paid well for a teen and I loved looking at those old cars. Barbie wasn’t my thing — AFX slot cars were. I loved taking apart the broken ones and trying to fix them.

Despite my preference of cars to dolls, I’m not responsible for my older son’s love of cars. (I can’t begin to give you an estimate on how many Hot Wheels we have between him and his younger brother.) One of my favorite clients just happens to be in the car business. I write content about the many cars his company sells.

For a long time, I regretted accepting the 20-minutes away Toys R Us job on the spot when I had another interview lined up with the public library two blocks from my house. Obviously, I love books plus I knew the staff at the library. I was 16. I didn’t know better. Besides, working at Toys R Us taught me a bit about business and retail. Learning the Dewey Decimal System would only help me find books faster. 🙂

What odd jobs have you had?

And now for your weekly linkage …

Brain food …

And for fun because we’re allowed …


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Craig’s List Scam

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping 2 comments
Handcuffed Laptop

Photo from user trohaa

Between my digital camera having video recording capabilities and cutting clutter, I decided to sell my barely used HD video camcorder on Craig’s List. Or rather, the camcorder posted it begging for a home that will take good care of it and use it often. Within hours of posting, an email comes in from Walt Julius asking if the item is still for sale. After confirming, he replies [edited for readability]:

Thanks for you reply, i am located in Kansas, i really need to buy this and send to my friend schooling outside the state as a Gift to him, i have been trying to buy this on eBay but is very stressful buying on eBay and i will not want to miss out on this opportunity so am making you an offer of [deleted] to rap the sale off.

I will be paying through PAYPAL because i have a verified account with PayPal. So kindly get back with your PayPal email address so i can make payment into your PayPal account. Once payment clears, shipment will be handled by me through my personal FedEx account, so you don’t have to pay for shipment. Get back to me if my approval is granted. I would like to see the pictures please.

Sounds OK so far. I take pictures and record a couple of videos. Though I spend more time than I’d like doing this, it turns out to be a good thing. I find out the battery doesn’t last long and needs replacing. The camcorder works fine while plugged in. I send him the pictures, let him know about the battery and lower the price to make up the difference to replace the battery.

Then comes the kicker … [email edited for readability]

I have just made out the payment online now. Go and check the mail you used in opening your PayPal account I believe the confirmation mail must have been sent there check the in box trash or the spam message you should be able to see it there. I wanna let you know that i am having some little problems with my FedEx account as i checked it online now and i was asked to reactivate it so i cant do that now as i have to sort one or two thing out with them. So i am sorry as i wont be handling shipment through my FedEx account again.

So, pls get the postage cost to the following address via post office (USPS EXPRESS MAIL) and ship out the item via post office (USPS) asap cos i have told Ryan to be expecting it. I have also included $100 extra for the shipping. i think that should be enough for you to ship.

Ryan Coker
[address deleted]
Country: Nigeria

Let me know how much it costs you to ship.After you ship get back to me with the amount you used in shipping. I am really sorry for the inconveniences. Please get back to me asap.

Suspicious. Without looking at the email, I sign in PayPal and see a balance of zero. I never click PayPal emails — not even legitimate ones — because it’s often used in phishing. Whenever I receive a PayPal email, I go to PayPal and check there. No clicking on links.

Your cover is blown, Mr. Julius or whoever you are. Curious, I look for the emails and sure enough, phishy. The “From” says, “Service@PayPal” with the email address coming from “”. Here are the subjects of the three emails I received:

  • **PAYMENT CODE CONFIRMED(Routing Code: [deleted])**CONFIRMED

Just when I thought it was over and I’d never hear from him again, another email came in after I told him the email wasn’t from PayPal and no money came in:

i will confirm from paypal now because my money as been deducted, dont worry go and send the it item to the address i receive from my friend now, he has called me he told i told him u have send it through fedEx please do so.

I didn’t reply.

What threw me off about the whole thing was the response to something I posted (and a Gmail address, too) and then his responding to multiple messages. I share these names because they’re fake and to help others who may encounter them. When I figured it all out, I searched the web to see if others had reported a similar incident. It’s often an eBay scam.

I forwarded the three messages to who confirmed they’re phishing attempts. Anytime you get something like this, please forward it to PayPal. I won’t explain the other mistakes he made as I don’t want to help the phishers improve their scams.

Stay safe out there.

What tips do you have for protecting yourself online?

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