Archive for Strategy

Kindle Unlimited: The Key Questions | ReBlog of David Gaughran

A must read:

My thoughts: I’m going to have to stand down and wait to see what shakes out after the first month. I am concerned on the impact this will have on the perma-free strategy that has of late been so successful for me and Bookbub as the one truly effective means of promotion, and I abhor the strong-arm of the exclusivity requirement on e-vendors, readers, and writers/publishers/middlemen. I think this may be a cool tool for viability of shorts, and I might pull my The Jumbie House down elsewhere and test it in KU, just for grins. It’s 99 cents or free everywhere, so @$2 per borrow would be a raise for it, and since it’s a short, readers might have positive feelings about it as part of their subscription, instead of feeling ripped off that it’s not novel-length. In the end, I need to sell books, and I will revise strategy in whatever way it seems best does that.


Pamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an 10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_oemployment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (perma-freeSaving GraceLeaving AnnaliseFinding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your KidsWhat Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website, or follow her on Facebook


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So Is Google Play Worth Your Effort?

google-play-150x150If you’ve ever tried to load books for sale on Google Play, you know it ain’t easy. In fact, it’s by far the hardest venue to upload onto, and I don’t think Apple iBooks is a walk in the park. I tried it once about a year ago, and I booted. Then Molly Greene posted this very helpful blog, and, while the directions still didn’t work completely, I was able to figure out the 2-3 additional steps/need-to-knows and ended up successful. Rather than just regurgitate her instructions, I’d suggest you use her post as your general guideline for uploading. Then, when you hit a snag, which you will, come back here, and I’ll post my additional need-to-knows in a postscript to this blog post (that means scroll to the bottom, people).

Why did I go to all the trouble I did to get on Google Play? Mainly because Bookbub promotes Google Play links (I love promotions that target sites beyond Amazon, and one day soon I’ll give you a run down on all my favorites), and because I’d heard that it’s a fast-growing sales site that can quickly become a significant part of an author’s revenue. As to the latter, I had no solid proof. But there was only one way to find out for myself and my ebooks.

So I loaded all my books onto Google Play. Immediately I appreciated that they allowed me to offer free ebooks. I knew of no other way to get sales traction on a new venue than to entice readers with a few free books. One point Molly made in her post is to price your books at a minimum 25% above your retail price on Kindle. Don’t fail to do this, because Google discounts your price, and then Amazon price matches. In fact, I found I had to raise my price even further on Google Play to keep them from undercutting Amazon, so keep an eye on your actual Google retail price.

I had a few weeks before my Bookbub promotion ran, and very modest downloading of my free novel and short story occurred during that time. At that point, I was selling about 35-40 ebooks a day across all sales venues. Then Bookbub ran. Since my Bookbub day (which promoted my free novel Saving Grace), I have averaged 350 ebooks sold per day across all sales venues, and 7838 free downloads per day. And I started making sales on Google Play. Mind you, my Google Play sales are an average of three per day, or 0.4% of my sales in any one day. But over one year, three sales per day is 1095 ebooks, and for me that translates into royalties of more than $2200. (Now, I just have to sustain those sales, or something close to them, to see that kind of revenue stream!) Also, I had a high of 774 free downloads in one day and now am seeing about 35 per day.

For me, the answer is YES, Google Play is worth it.

The bigger question, I guess, is whether I would be selling at all on Google Play without my Bookbub day. And that gets back to all that I have done to position myself for that particular Bookbub day (my third one) in the first place. And as I think back on my efforts and strategy, I can’t untangle the ball of yarn and isolate any one factor as determinative of my current sales, so the best I can do is tell you that even if it were three years ago, and I was just starting out, I would load my books onto Google Play in hope of building a market through them while I started laying the groundwork that would eventually position my books for the kind of traction they now enjoy.

How about you guys–any other pointers for or thoughts on Google Play? Any success stories to share?


p.s. Things you need to know to upload successfully to Google Play: When initially setting up a book, Molly advises you to Save when it’s in draft form. This is good advice. I encountered one problem however. In doing my 10 ebooks, each one only gave me an option of Ready to Publish when I first created them and was on their General Details page. On my first ebook, that’s what a clicked. Yikes! Thereafter, I clicked refresh on my browser, and that Ready to Publish button changed to a Save Button. Sweet!

If you accidentally upload too many files–let’s say you upload an epub with an error and then a perfect epub–Google Play works with the last uploaded file of that type. You don’t delete the previous files.

Sometimes my Kobo epubs worked, and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes my Smashwords epubs worked, sometimes they didn’t. Same for Nook. Same for even my clean “Pressbooks” epubs. You can’t argue with Google Play, however, so just keep trying files until you get one that works. Don’t know how to download your epubs from these sales sites? It’s not hard. Consult help on each site while you’re logged into your account, or just carefully peruse the screens associated with the ebook in question. I learned I could use an epub-checker software to ensure I had good files, and that saved me some heartache. Also, for whatever reason, I was able to upload files for a friend from my machine that didn’t work for her on her machine. Moral of the story: if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

When I had finished my ebook, I had to click on the Processing button to find the option to Activate it for Google Play. I sat and stared at the screen for a long time before I figured that one out.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_oemployment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (perma-freeSaving GraceLeaving AnnaliseFinding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your KidsWhat Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website, or follow her on Facebook


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Launch Your Book Right

Six Month Launch Promotion Timeline for Print and eBook[1]

Traditional Pub: You’ve got from launch through six months for your book to take off, otherwise your books will be pulped and you’re done. You can do most of the items in this timeline, but the ones that require price changes you will have to do with your publisher.

New Pub: READ Hugh Howey’s “Author Earnings Report” ( for stats on online sales especially non-traditional. Sales are driven by the 5Rs: reviews, ratings, recommendations, rankings, and readers. Not sales and dollars. Result: you have all the time in the world. You can launch and re-launch. But, whenever you do it and however many times, make it count. Consider launching series in quick succession. Consider making first-in-series free, very quickly, to help the launch and ongoing sales of the later books.

L-3M (item and cost):

Ongoing: create opt-in email list: your time

Ongoing: promote others

Set goals; pick promotion activities to reach goal: your time.

Work with editor on book blurb/description: @2.5 cents per word

Identify book bloggers and advance reviewers: your time, consultant/publicist, or secure a blog tour like Pump Up Your Book (

Identify major reviewers: your time

Finalize cover(s): cost of digital artist

Order ARCs: 25-100 books ($3-6/book w/shipping)

Research and enter appropriate contests: your time

Secure templates/samples for review requests, bookstore proposals, etc.: your time

If not already in place:

Design and create website: @$150 for webhosting service plus your time or hourly designer fee

Establish Facebook and Goodreads accounts (consider Twitter and LinkedIn, too): your time or hourly publicist or social media consultant fee


Mail “major” review requests: your time and supplies (include ARC and letter)

Send queries (Author Marketing Club ( $105 for premier membership), book blogger sites following their instructions): same

Mail distribution proposals to chains (only if your book is available and fully returnable through Ingram/Lightning Source) and indies (consignment, usually): same

Obtain review quotes from betas/advance readers for book copy/marketing materials, if desired: your time

Start a Mailchimp ( account, create a newsletter template, and collect and load contacts into Mailchimp: your time or hourly fee

Select site for launch party and begin planning: your time

Create bookmarks and other promotion pieces if desired: your time or digital artist

[Cadillac version: Consider/schedule AuthorBuzz/Shelf Awareness (, @$1550]


Try to coordinate book bloggers in first month of your release: you time

Mail smaller publication (local) review requests: your time and supplies (include ARC and letter)

Set-up Goodreads giveaway: your time (runs for 30 days)

Order of bookmarks and any other desired early promotion materials: or @10-15 cents apiece

[Coordinate with AuthorBuzz: your time]


Ongoing: Make corrections to your books: your time

Answer requests (always says yes to giveaways) of book bloggers (cover reveals, reviews, spotlights, guest posts, interviews, character interviews, ANYTHNG is good): your time

Schedule online promotions, like World Literary Cafe New Release (for a list, see Loser or The Kindle Book Review): $25-200 apiece, most are @$40

Launch party? Send “save the dates” Evite: your time

Schedule additional local events if desired (three to five weeks lead time), think outside the box: your time


Send announcements to alumnae and organizations of affiliation: your time and supplies (include ARC and letter)

Set up “events” for virtual launch (Facebook, Goodreads): your time

Set up “event” for real launch party: your time

Mail books to Goodreads winners with review requests: your time plus postage and supplies and one book

Prepare/Build robust Amazon author and book pages (may not be able to go “live” with Author page until book is “live): your time


Test enewsletter: your time

Go “live” with CreateSpace version: your time

Request posting of reviews from beta and advance review readers as soon as book page goes up: your time

If a member of Author Marketing Club, notify of new release: your time

L: Launch

eNewsletter to all your contacts concurrent with launch: your time

Press release concurrent with launch: your time or publicist

Media requests concurrent with launch (and ongoing for events): your time or publicist

Local event (bookstores, libraries, book clubs, writer groups) requests concurrent with launch (and ongoing): your time or publicist

Ongoing: Consider strategically placing “pay it forward” copies when you visit coffee shops, lobbies, or when you travel on airlines: your time and cost of book: your time

Ongoing: Promote contest wins, reviews, blogs posts, interviews, character interviews on social media and your blog: your time (and promote others; never say buy my book): your time


Ongoing: Research and contact book clubs sites/groups: your time

Ongoing: Never stop looking for reviewers; never say no to free copies for them: your time

Ongoing: Promote others: your time

Ongoing: Build superfans

[Cadillac: Mailout of gift copy to indie stores (can target by multiple criterion): cost of list, $10/package, your time]

L +2M:

KDP Select Free Days with promotion through BookBub, eReader News Today, Bargain ebook Hunter, Pixel of Ink and several others: $25-600 apiece, most are @$40; BookBub is the best (use KindleCountdown)[3]

Use social media to promote this and any success, too: your time

L+3M and ongoing:

[Cadillac: Consider AuthorBuzz ads (expensive, but effective) if book is showing signs of being successful: $1500]

[Cadillac: Mailout to libraries (can target geographically, tax deductible): cost of list, $10/package, your time]

[Cadillac: Mailout as waiting room copies at local doctor’s offices (requires research): $10/package, your time]

Nonfiction Considerations:

Harder to find book bloggers. Start earlier.

Harder to secure effective online promotions.

Author platform is key, which is your expertise and acclaim in your field. Measured by enewsletter subscribers, website traffic, speaking, publications, etc.

Build as much public speaking, conference appearances, and article writing into your plan as you can. Do it free. (Sell books at seminars and workshops).

Cultivate an “expert” relationship with media.

Provide review copies to professionals in the field you’ve written on.

[1] If you are concurrently doing an audiobook, you’ll want to select a narrator (probably through six months before, leaving three months for recording, one month for proofing and corrections, and one month for ACX processing. They send you coupon codes for giveaways to help you promote/get reviews.

[2] For later releases in your career, consider releasing pre-orders at some point one to three months before launch, using Smashwords for Kobo, Apple, Google Play and Barnes and Noble and moving promotion activities up one month. The advantage of pre-orders is they all “drop” on launch day, which has a positive effect on your initial sales rank. Or not :-).

[3] I’ve assumed debut books, which I think do best exclusive to Kindle, but for later books, I choose wide distribution and thus would not do KDP Select Free Days but instead would, as soon as I had 30+ 4.0-star rated reviews or better, try for BookBub, which is currently the best place to promote online sales, bar none, and the only place I’ve found that drives Nook and iBook sales, too.


10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_oPamela Fagan Hutchins, President of Houston Writers Guild, is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who by night writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Grace, Leaving Annalise, Finding Harmony) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others). She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. Visit her website, or follow her on Facebook



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IBPA Magazine Quotes SkipJack Publishing on POD

Congratulations to Eric of SkipJack Publishing for this shoutout in IBPA Magazine, June 2014:






















To read more on Eric’s stance on print-on-demand books, check out Print Books: Eric Makes His Case.



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What’s Smashing About Smashwords, And What’s Not

It’s no secret I’m not the world’s biggest fan of aggregation. I totally get that some people aren’t gifted with large quantities of time or tech know-how, but I don’t like sharing my royalties (Smashwords takes 15%). I figure the benefit of indie-dom is sole claim to that percentage, and I’m not giving it up without damn good reason.

Well, there are some. Damn good reasons, I mean. I’ll just talk about Smashwords, because I like them best, but I am told you should check out BookBaby and Draft2Digital as well. They both take royalties cuts as well. BookBaby 15%, Draft2Digitial 10%.

1. Library access: Smashwords distributes to libraries through three channels, one of them brand new big news: Overdrive. I copied the following in straight from Smash so you could see their words:

  • “Library Direct is for large bulk opening purchases by individual public libraries who operate their own library ebook checkout systems (the act of a library operating their own ebook checkout systems is typically referred to as the Douglas County Model, which named after the large library network in Colorado that pioneered this model. Click here to view our Library Direct announcement.
  • Baker and Taylor’s Axis360 operates hosted library ebook checkout systems.  Libraries purchase the ebook from Axis360 and Axis 360 hosts the book for the library, and manages the ebook checkouts.
  • OverDrive (New!!!) - Smashwords announced distribution to OverDrive on May 20, 2014.  OverDrive operates the ebook checkout and procurement systems for more than 20,000 public libraries around the world.  OverDrive accepts all Smashwords Premium Catalog titles except erotica.”

I haven’t seen anything come of it with my books since I’ve had them on Smash from Library Direct or Axis360, and unfortunately if you read the fine print, you only make the potential cut for Overdrive (the big player in library ebook lends) if you’re part of the Smashwords-curated “most popular” titles. So, while you’re “available” for distribution, you don’t actually get distributed unless you are a big seller on Smash. Which you won’t be if you opt out of the major channels like Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks.

So, theoretically Overdrive sounds great. And I’ll opt in and hope for the best. In actuality, I don’t expect for my bestselling, award winning books to make the cut. Not that I’m bitter about it or anything, LOL.

2. Perma-free: One darn good way to stimulate sales of your indie series books is to offer the first book in the series free, permanently, also known as perma-free. Kobo, who I adore, let’s you do this directly. And they promote first-in-series-free books, too, which is very forward-thinking of them. As a result, when my book Saving Grace of the Katie & Annalise series went free on Kobo, my sales increased by 1000% there. And no, that isn’t a typo.

Smash also lets you offer your books free, permanently. However, they don’t promote them for you. They do however aggregate them free to Nook and iBooks, who won’t let you price your directly uploaded indie books at $0.00. So to get Saving Grace free everywhere, I put it on Smash and opted in to iBooks and Nook (and everywhere else except Amazon), and I put it up directly on Kobo.

I’ll post next month on HOW to go permanently free on Amazon, and on how perma-free “month one” went for me everywhere (preview: fan-fucking-tabulous).

3. All-you-can-eat retailers, maybe: Oyster, Scribd, and a few others are offering all-you-can-eat ebooks for a monthly subscription price. I’d love to get me in on some of that action. So I opted in to both on Smash. After six months, even though I had AMAZON REVIEWS telling the world the readers read my books on Oyster, Oyster reported I had zero reads each month and thus paid me zero dollars through Smash.

I had family members decide to test the system and pay for one month subscriptions and download and flip all the way through my books (Oyster purports to pay full royalties after a small percentage of the book is viewed). Oyster reported I had zero reads and paid me zero dollars. This began to feel like piracy to me. I already had the willies, so I pulled all my books off of the Netflix-type vendors, except my perma-free books. You can’t pirate what I’m giving away, so have at it, Oyster.

4. Pre-order: Both iBooks and Nook will allow pre-orders of your ebook if you aggregate to them via Smash, even though they won’t allow you to do it directly with your indie book. Yeah, you know Kobo lets you do it directly, because they rock. (Kobo, I love you, and I’m posting all about it next month.) Amazon won’t let dirty, nasty indies pre-sell at all.

My last novel, Finding Harmony, had hundreds of pre-orders via iBooks and Nook thanks to Smash. While that isn’t huge, I learned from it and plan to add a zero to the end of that number with the pre-order release of my next novel, Going for Kona.

So, my strategy these days for Smashwords is that for my pay-per-unit books I aggregate only to the library services, and to those pay-per-unit services that I don’t want to monkey with elsewhere because they aren’t worth my time. Kobo, iBooks, Nook, and Amazon get my direct uploads so I can keep all my royalties, except when when I’m offering my ebooks for sale in the pre-order phase–then I use Smash for iBooks and Nook. For my perma-free books, I aggregate them everywhere but Amazon and Kobo via Smash. It works for me, y’all.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic10006025_10152294921092604_1598429323_o mysteries (Saving Graceand hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) and was named one of Houston’s Top 10 Authors by the Houston Press. You can pre-order/back her next novel, Going for Kona, HERE. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

p.s. Smash doesn’t aggregate to Google Play, so I upload direct there as well. And I’ll post on how to do it someday soon because it is so very NOT simple, and I am already seeing sales traction there after only a week.

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Pre-Order Going for Kona

Well, it’s official. Like we told you we would in our crowdfunding post last Spring, SkipJack is launching the Kickstarter campaign for Pamela Fagan Hutchin’s fourth novel, Going for Kona. But we don’t want anyone giving us money unless they get more than their money’s worth back from the project. That’s why the awards at each level of backing have a higher dollar value than the funds pledged.

Yep. We want you to get more out of this than we do.

So, if you want to

  • be part of the launch of Pamela’s fourth novel,
  • support the independent arts, 
  • find an inexpensive way to scoop up a library of her books (& more),
  • or help keep Pamela available to donate half her professional time to the nonprofit support of other writers in the indie community,

then this is the Kickstarter project for you.

We’d sure appreciate it if you’d check it out, even if just to emulate for your own project someday. And more than anything, we’d love it if you share it: this blog, this link, this project. Via email, social media, or Pony Express.

Many thanks!




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The Uncomfortable Silence

Stop the madness, people. Hire a damn copyeditor before you publish your books.

Maybe you are one of the eager writers who attends my workshops and presses your book into my hand.

“You’re going to love it. I can’t wait for you to read it,” you say. “I hope you can review it.”

Or you could be a writer who connects with me via social media and is–understandably–asking for a review. Books need reviews. Maybe you give me your book. Maybe I download it free or on sale.

However I get it, I open it and start reading. And one page in, sometimes three, I turn to my husband and say, “Oh no.” Because you sat through my workshop or my Facebook diatribes or my blog posts or my Loser book and know what I think about the necessity of professional copyediting, and that I believe it’s not just about competence, it’s about respect for readers. Yet you slapped that book on me with a smile and a wink believing you will fool me and your readers with a self-edit or one done by your half-hearted critique group or even a cheapo or barter job done by a friend who does a little writing/editing on the side.

You won’t. We’re smarter than that. We’ve learned to expect more from writing. We don’t invest our time in crap that’s not ready to see publication.

You didn’t fool me.

My husband sighs. “The editing or writing?”

I count the obvious errors, the errors 95% of their readers will catch: misspellings, missing words, duplicative words, missing periods, incorrect spacing, incorrect capitalization. I count the less obvious ones: verb tense, subject-verb agreement, homonyms. All published books have errors, but good ones have only a few in 100,000 words. Yours has ten in the first ten pages. Not style issues, but errors. Distracting, gross, reader-insulting errors. Close-the-book errors.

Despite that, I keep reading, because you seem nice, and I am determined to find a well-conceived story in here somewhere, maybe even a well-crafted one. I want to like your book. I want to at least be able to give you a three-star review on Amazon, and an encouraging email wherein I refer you to a professional copyeditor. But your story is disjointed, your characters are brittle and their reactions are way off. Your plot bogs down, and your writing is cliche. You need a critique group, one your mother isn’t part of, one comprised of writers better than you. You need to study writing, take some classes, and you need to write hundreds of thousands more words before you publish again, because that’s how you learn to write: by doing it until you get good at it and develop your voice.

“Both,” I tell him. I shake my head. “Both.”

“I’m sorry. You’ve got to tell them somehow. You’re not helping them if you pretend the emperor is dressed to the nines.”

“I know. But I don’t know how.”

Because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. This isn’t an abstract writer. It’s you, smiling and eager, and looking me in the eye. I like you.

Only I can’t believe you heard me talk about the criticality of professional copyediting and still dumped this on me. Are you really unaware? You can’t be. It wasn’t edited by a paid professional. You can’t not know that. It’s your book. You didn’t write a check. So I can only conclude that you don’t respect me as a reader and want to manipulate me.

And waste my time.

I sound harsh, I know. I mean, who am I to judge? I haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize. I’m not perfect nor is my writing, and I’ll never claim we are. You can still find a few errors in my books, because my (expensive) editor isn’t perfect either. But there is a difference between a well-edited, well-critiqued book by a writer who has put in the years and the work, and what you handed me. You and I both know that. You are capable of better.

I wish I could tell you there is a short cut. That you are the exception, the writer who should publish every word you queef out from the age of ten, that you don’t need years of practice or editors. I can’t, though, because it’s just not true. You start by sucking. You work to suck less. You attain a level of diminished suckyness eventually redeemed only by the help of other writers and a professional editor. That’s how this works.

And that’s what I’ll pay for. Not with just my money (and my money counts for something), but with my time. With my attention. With my online review under my own name, which is attached to my carefully-guarded reputation as a writer.

Your book? I skimmed through most of it, after I reached the “have to stop” point. I probably made it farther than most of your readers, because I care. And because I care, I can’t review it. I wouldn’t do that to you. If I can’t give you a three, I am not going to hurt you online by posting something lower. You also didn’t pay me to critique it or copyedit it, so I’m not going to send you back a marked-up copy. That’s your work, not mine. Mine was to read.

You can salvage this, though, if you pull the book down, rewrite it WITH HELP until it is truly ready (however many years that takes), and get it professionally edited before you republish it. {And I don’t want to hear that you don’t have the funds. Hold off on publishing until you do. There’s no need to rush. We don’t deserve you dumping this on us prematurely. Period.}You can save your good name and keep the potential readers who you hadn’t yet lured into this version of your book, who were otherwise destined to run from this book and you, never to be seen within your pages again.

If you do that and emerge on the other side as a better writer with a book to be proud of, I’ll post that review. I swear I will.

Until then, unless you can be honest with me–and yourself–about what you didn’t do to get this book ready for publication, my silence will be your review. Implicit in it is this suggestion: find a community of writers, in person or virtual, to help you as you develop, through critique and education, and to provide references for a great professional copyeditor when your work is ready.

Oh, and in the meantime, I’m using your book as a door stop.


p.s. You didn’t pay for this blog post, so I didn’t hire a copyeditor. Read on the internet at your own risk. ;-)

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Graceand hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.


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DIY Indexing Made Easy

When I wrote What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?, I wanted to index the book . . . eventually. An index can make a paperback how-to book immeasurably more helpful. [Note: in my humble opinion, an index for an ebook makes no sense, as an ebook is fully searchable, and because an ebook is not paginated.] At the time, I looked briefly at indexing options, mostly hiring someone else to index it for me, and I decided to postpone that decision until I’d had more time to research it. Somehow weeks turned into months and the launch of another novel, and still Loser begged for its index. So, eight months after it was born, I got down to the serious business of finding an index solution for Loser.

First, know this: creating an index requires a thorough understanding of your subject matter and how people will want to access it. An index isn’t just a list of words. It is a cross-referenced list of interrelated concepts and terminology. This means the author’s involvement is critical to its final quality, even if the indexing is outsourced. In addition, a book can’t be fully indexed until it is complete, unless you mark words as you go, a laborious process that when I looked into it via Microsoft Word made me briefly contemplate gouging my eyes out. Anyway, to index like I’m going to teach you, you need the copyedited final version in hand when you start, so that your page numbers are firm.

I started searching, beginning with online articles (<– the comments in this one are all from professional indexers) that referred to serviced providers. Outsourcing options started at $350 and went up quickly. My mental cash register dinged and dinged with expenses in terms of dollars and hours of my time.

Then a friend suggested I look for free indexing software for a DIY index. This appealed to me. Maybe someday I’d outsource my index, but I’m the kind of person how likes control, and to know exactly how things work. I searched for free options and found a few (Here and Here). None of them appealed to me as creating the type of final product I envisioned. Of course, I hadn’t known what I envisioned, but as soon as I started my search, I quickly made a list. I wanted an index with margins, fonts, and a general style that looked professional and matched my existing book. I wanted easy-to-use and good customer support.

I reviewed some paid applications, and finally settled on PDF Index Generator. PDF Index Generator creates an index to your specifications by counting and referencing each instance every word in your book appears in your text. You have control to omit words or to set minimum numbers of letters. Additionally, it asks you to specify how many pages to skip before it starts indexing. This is critical. You want to skip your cover page, table of contents, and other pre-pages so that your indexing starts with what you have named page one in your book.

The results are a list of words and the pages on which they appear. You then go through the list by hand and choose the words to include in your index, and how they will appear. For instance, POD means Print on Demand, and I wanted it to be listed in its long form in the book because I thought that was the way people would be most likely to look for it, so I simply defined it that way. If I wanted, I could also list POD, See Print on Demand to refer the reader to the correct entry. You can also combine words. I wanted many different terms to be collapsed into a general heading of Promotion, and I combined them all into that entry. You can also use your index entry’s name to provide more hints to what it means. I.e., Formatting, Print Books might be an entry, instead of just Formatting. And finally, you can index words that don’t appear in your text at all just by editing your entry’s name, or by editing a name for many entries that you linked together. Maybe you think someone will search by the term Self Publishing, and instead you used indie and independent publishing. Just link indie and independent publishing and rename it to Self Publishing, and you’re in business (I didn’t do that, but I could have).

Sound laborious? Well, yes, it is. Nothing like the labor of a hand-generated index, however, and it doesn’t require technical skills, just a great understanding of the material and its usage. To my knowledge, there is no way around this. And guess what? All told, my part of this process took one afternoon, even as a first-time user. With no tears and minimal cussing. Yes, I made mistakes and had to correct them. Early on, I ditched my file and started over. But when I was done, I thought, “That wasn’t bad at all.”

Note: proofread carefully every step of the way.

PDF Index Generator started with the PDF of my print-ready interior file, although I gave it a “saved as” version and kept my original intact. When it was done, it had created an index file, and it appended it to the end of the PDF I specified.

At this point, you may choose to send your book back to your editor for copyediting of your index. If your editor makes any changes, you make then to the index file itself, then rewrite it to a NEW “saved as” PDF of your original interior file. You can’t just copy the index over itself in the PDF you sent to the editor. Sorry. But that’s not much of a complication.

When you have a final page count for your interior file with its new index, you’ll be able to finalize your full cover to match the total page count.

At this point in my process, I then had a file I could use with my printing service. I do POD with both CreateSpace (Amazon) and Lightning Source (Ingram). I uploaded my file with no problems at all to CreateSpace and had an indexed book available within 48 hours.

This is where things got interesting. I am very careful about my file uploads to Lightning Source because they charge $40 per file. Since I had a new cover and a new interior, that’s $80. Truth be told, that’s one of the reasons I had held off with my index, to avoid paying this $80. However, Lightning Source is a critical component of my personal sales strategy, so I had to do it. That drove the cost of my project up from the $59.95 that I spent on the software by an additional $80.

I cheerily uploaded my new files, and the interior file was rejected due to the fonts not being embedded right. Rather than get upset, I contacted customer support with PDF Index Generator. Hesham Gneady spent weeks dialoguing with me while we waited for Lightning Source to respond in a helpful manner, and, once they got him the information he needed, he produced FOR ME a perfect file which uploaded and was accepted. He was more responsive and helpful than my Lightning Source rep, for sure. He spent more time with me—because he understood the importance of solving this problem to his future business—than $59.95 worth. And I was able to talk Lightning Source into waiving the additional $40 for uploading the second file. Phew.

The result, for me, was a functional and attractive index for Loser at a reasonable price, with no greater investment of my time than I had expected, with fantastic customer support. The paperback of Loser is now a better value to its buyers, too. I don’t anticipate doing a lot of books that need indexes, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this PDF Index Generator, for the use of authors, editors, publishers, and book formatters.

What about you guys? Have you found an indexing solution that works for you?


Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Graceand hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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Does the early bird get the worm with indie book pre-orders?

A nifty way to generate rankings for your books at its launch is by offering pre-orders. As an indie, you can do this for both ebooks (easy) and paperbacks on Amazon (complex).  Pre-orders allow people to place orders as soon as they decide they want your book, when you begin pre-launch promotion. Without pre-orders, people may forget to buy it when it becomes available. Face it, something else new and shiny will come along and grab their attention, and they might never even hear of your book again, or blow their entertainment budget on a trip to Bali. Make it easy for them to spend their pennies on your books.

Let’s tackle the easy ebook solution first. iBooks (Apple), Kobo, Nook Press (through Smashwords, and sold via, and Smashwords all offer this option for your ebook. While Kindle Direct Publishing (“KDP,” sold through Amazon) offers it for their own Amazon-published ebooks and the ebooks of traditional publishers, they do not offer it for indies, unfortunately.

Quick strategy point: If this is your first book, there is still a small advantage to going exclusive on ebook sales through KDP Select for the first 90 days of your books life, so if you choose that route, you will be completely out of luck on pre-orders. But if you’re not doing KDP Select, for whatever reason, you’ve got a lot of options for offering pre-orders. I sold hundreds of pre-orders on my last novel, Finding Harmony. It didn’t suck.

All you need to set up your pre-order is a compelling sales pitch for the ebook’s online pages, one that has been edited by the same editor that is or will copyedit your book—and for God’s sake, don’t publish without having your entire manuscript thoroughly copyedited—the front/ebook cover jpeg file, BISAC code/categorization selections, an ISBN, and a price. You set up your sales page on each of the sites you’ll sell through about two to three months before your launch date. Good news: you don’t need to have your ebook file completed and submitted. You decide the date the actual ebook will launch, and you get your file uploaded before that date. Pre-order sales up until that date will accrue but will not show up in your sales until the actual date you set for availability. That is also the date on which customers will be charged and their ebooks will “ship,” virtually. The result is that you get the full benefit of all those pre-order sales on Day One of your ebook’s life, which gives you the best possible impact on rankings.

Paperbacks are harder.  Most indies sell paperbacks online through CreateSpace on Amazon, and Amazon does not directly provide for paperback pre-orders for indies. Again, they do for their own authors and for traditionally published books. But if you set up an account with Amazon Advantage as an online seller, and as one (or maybe the only) of your products you offer the sale of your paperback as a pre-order, you can get around this exclusion. It is a pain in the tush to set up an Amazon Advantage account, and should be unnecessary if Amazon were to play with a level field with us here. (They don’t really play levelly with ebook pre-orders either, because the Janet Evanovichs of the world get to be bestsellers for ebook pre-orders, whereas I don’t get to offer pre-orders, and, technically, her sales are all just supposed to accrue on her launch day, but, hey, the negotiation power of Random House can’t be taken out of this equation.)

You need the same elements ready for your paperback pre-order as you did for ebook pre-order. Once you have you book set up (and guess what? It’s not as easy as on CreateSpace; sorry) with its description, BISAC codes/categories, cover, and ISBN, then you set the date when it will become available/ready to ship and the price, it goes on sale. If orders come in for the book, follow this advice HERE (and through the related threads) to administer through your AA account. The gist? You tell Amazon to order the books from you for fulfillment to their customers a few day before its launch. But the fulfillment through you will never really have to happen. Read on. Once you set up your CreateSpace version of the same book, hold off on approving your proof until it is nearly time for your book launch. [Books go live on Amazon when you approve their proof in CreateSpace!!] Then, when you do approve your proof, hop back over to AA, notify Customer Service that CreateSpace will fulfill the accrued pre-orders, and and that you want to remove your book from AA. Heck, that’s how it’s supposed to work anyway. For me, CreateSpace took over fulfillment automatically before I even got back into AA, and then I just removed the book from AA myself. Note that fulfillment will occur immediately, though, as soon as that book goes live through CreateSpace. The only way to stop that train is to hold off approving your proof.

A big negative on the AA account-offered pre-order of your book is that any reviews left by customers on the AA-generated Amazon book page disappear and do not transfer to the CreateSpace-generated Amazon book page once it goes live. That’s a big bummer. Technically, though, no one will have read it except those people you provided free copies to offline, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Just let those reader-reviewers know not to leave reviews on Amazon until you tell them it’s time to do it, and then only at the link you give them.

Once upon a time, Lightning Source (Ingram’s Print on Demand unit) explained how to make my books available for bookstores to order prior to my book launch, but it made no sense, and it didn’t really matter to me, because it didn’t impact my online sales. If this issue is important to you, leave me a comment and I’ll dig up that old email and let you see what they had to say about it. Suffice it to say there was no such thing as pre-order. Once your book proof is approved on Lightning Source, it is shipped to web sellers, and is available for order to bookstores, at whatever time they deem appropriate (if ever).

So that’s the scoop for offering your books for pre-orders. It’s a really nice enhancement to your pre-launch ability to turn promotion into sales, especially if you’re outside KDP Select, and if you offer a print version of your book.

What about you guys? How have pre-orders gone for you?


Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Graceand hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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Adventures in Crowdfunding

Have you ever considered crowdfunding to raise the money you need to publish and/or promote a book? I hadn’t, until author Matthew Arkin told me about his success with crowd funding for In the Country of the Blind. Even then, it was only a passing thought. I wasn’t even sure I understood completely what it was. (See below for Matthew’s story)

Crowdfunding, per some schlup who posted on Wiki, is the collection of finance to sustain an initiative from a large pool of backers—the “crowd”—usually made online by means of a web platform. Google defined it as the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.

When it came time to publish our Houston Writers Guild SciFi Anthology, Tides of Possibility, author of Absolute Tenacity and lead anthology editor and HWG member Kyle Russell suggested we crowdfund. As a nonprofit, we are perpetually lean on cash. Kyle took the lead and ran a campaign that exceeded our funding goal for 100%! He used Kickstarter as our interface to crowd fund. Take a look at the excellent job he did with it, HERE. It’s going to allow to pay each contributing author a small stipend, and to pay for the cover art, various aspects of publication, and for some promotional initiatives to help launch the book. If we are very careful, it may even fund our fall fantasy anthology.


Buoyed by his success, I looked into using Kickstarter to crowdfund for the launch of my upcoming novel, Going for Kona. It was clear that in order to attract backers, a campaign must be well-planned, thorough, sound, and compelling.

I wanted to see how that looked when someone else did it well. Here’s what Matthew Arkin had to say about successfully crowdfunding his novel, In the Country of the Blind:

Well begun is half done. A favorite phrase of mine, and one of the keys to Kickstarter success. A few months ago, shortly after surpassing my goal in my own campaign, I learned that a very close friend was going to be starting a campaign. I called him to offer any advice I might be able to give based on my experience, but he told me he didn’t need it, that he was working with people who really knew what they were doing. I wanted to say, “No, you’re not, and your campaign is probably going to fail.” No, I am not a seer, but it was clear that they already had one almost insurmountable problem: Lack of network awareness.

A Kickstarter campaign is not a magic bullet to raise money. It is only a social media platform that allows you to collect money for your project. It is not the primary way that you disseminate information about your project and generate excitement amongst your network and, one hopes, the every-expanding circle of networks created by the people who donate because you have captured their interest and enthusiasm. The reason I knew my friend’s campaign was probably going to fail was that he was a close friend. We were connected through many social media platforms. His campaign was starting in three days, and I had not already heard about it. I was not eagerly waiting for it to start so that I could jump on the bandwagon at the beginning. So make sure you get your information out there well ahead of time so that your immediate circle of donors are ready to pull the trigger on launch day. Other donors want to get in on something that is already racing towards success.

Armed with our Tides of Possibility experience and Matthew’s words of wisdom, here’s the game plan I recommend:

1. Entice Backers With Quality:

- Don’t crowdfund until you can show and tell something GOOD. You’re going to need to be able to describe your book and how you are going to finish it, and do so in a way that makes it sound like a good investment to backers, meaning you need a pitch. Don’t know how to pitch? Read from a few experts:

Pitches/Queries | The Graceful Doe’s Blog


Graphics help, a lot. If you’ve got your cover done, use it. If not, use something resonant of your cover concept. People like purty pictures.

Kickstarter recommends you use that webcam and shoot a personal pitch for your project as well. Video. Yes, video yourself. You can do it.

2. Provide Value to Backers:

This should not be about your getting something for nothing. Instead, think of this as a pre-sale, and give back to your backers all you have to offer:

  • Thanks in your book
  • Bookmarks and other SWAG
  • Ebooks
  • Signed Paperbacks
  • Your Time

Backers should feel like they got their money’s worth, just a little ahead of everyone else.

3. Appeal to Backers’ Values:

Besides the quality of your project and the value you offer in return for their money, backers are often motivated by the intrinsic value of a project. Are you benefitting a nonprofit? Is backing you support of indie arts? Is there something socially valuable you will do with your time and/or money if this project gets funded? Is the project itself intrinsically valuable to the public? These things matter. Get clear about What’s In It For Your Backers, at the gut level.

4. Promote Multi-phased Campaign Message from a Well-Established Social Media Platform: 

If you don’t have a robust social media platform, your crowdfunding effort is not likely to be successful, so start on that years before you launch a Kickstarter project. Then, as Matthew points out above, create a gently building buzz for your project in the weeks before you launch it, so that by the time you do, people can’t wait to pre-purchase your book and/or other stuff, and fund your project.

My own Kickstarter campaign for Kona will launch in June, and I will report back on the success of that initiative. In the meantime, tell me about yours–what did you promote to fund, and how did it go? What made it most successful–or vice versa?


Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Graceand hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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