If you’re like me, you want to learn how to do all the steps in self-publishing. I wanted to learn all the steps because I’m cash poor and I generally want to know everything about everything. I feel nervous when I skip steps in a process. This post covers two areas: ebook formatting and cover design tools. Since I never used a handbook to figure out all this stuff, this post can save you time and prevent you from losing your mind. Good decisions are hard to make especially when you don’t know anything. That was my case about 6 months ago before I self-published my very first book on Amazon.
Even if you decide later that you want to outsource the tedious aspects of self-publishing, it’s good to understand it first.
The ebook formatting tools are still fairly nebulous and it’s difficult to figure out which one to use if you’re a newbie writer, like me. I researched 3 tools:Scrivener, Calibre and Pressbooks by looking at their interface and determining how easy or difficult they were to use.
Pressbooks was the clear winner for me for several reasons. First, it is built in Wordpress so it’s easy to use. If you’re like me, with your mind being easily distracted, you need a tool that won’t interfere with your mental focus. Scrivener is probably a great tool, but my brain couldn’t make sense of the interface. I didn’t want to spend my valuable time learning a complex tool.
Pressbooks is initially free to use, so you can see if you like it before paying. If you choose to output the files for the free version, your document will contain the Pressbooks watermark. I rarely pay for programs, but this one was completely worth it. Once you pay the $99, you get your files without the watermark. If you want to get 25% off, use the code STELLABELLE.
Pressbooks exports all the files you need: .mobi for Amazon, .epub forSmashwords, iBooks, B&N and .pdf files for Createspace. I just completed my formatting, uploading and proofing for my paperback copy on the Createspace website and the files worked perfectly. I am really happy with Pressbooks! Pressbooks also supports foreign languages, so that means you could get your book translated, then have it formatted in Pressbooks. They have also just added a cover generator. This application is in a constant state of evolution, and think it’s the most intuitive ebook formatting program currently available.
The other website that saved me from a thousand headaches ishttp://bookow.com/resources.php
Createspace makes it really difficult to figure out what the dimensions of a book cover file should be for a paperback. Bookow has a tool that creates a template for you to use for your cover. You put in the dimensions of the book, for example, 5.5 x 8.5 plus the physical number of pages in your book and it spits out a correct template. It also can create a digital file for your ISBN so you can download it, then add it to your back cover.
I used the free, open-source image editor called Gimp to design my book cover. My book illustrator friend, Lin Watchorn uses Gimp and she convinced me to use it also. I really like it because it’s free and it does just about everything Photoshop can.
Here’s the Createspace book cover file I made using these tools:
Un-Crap Your Life Createspace book cover file
The cover pictured above started with a drawing I did by hand. I took a photo of the drawing with my iPhone, then added text and background texture using an iPhone app called Enlight. I used Enlight to make my profile photo collage as well. Then I used Gimp to piece together the front and back covers into one big file. I set the text for the back cover using Gimp.
Honestly, I would much rather use InDesign, Photoshop and other pro tools, but I don’t have the money right now. So, this method of cobbling together all the free and cheap tools might be useful to you, if you’re short of cash but still want to create an ebook.
Do you have questions about newbie writer self-publishing? Email me: leahstellaATgmail.com or join my newsletter to get this stuff to your inbox.
Today I created a video for my Amazon Author page. I tried really hard to be natural.
Do you also struggle with self-consciousness while being filmed? It's hard to be natural!
1. Un-Crap Your Life was created in order to help people solve life problems in a straightforward way.
2. As an adult, it's best to admit you have been through some crap and then do a thorough reality assessment of your life. (THIS PART IS REALLY DIFFICULT!)
3. After you have done a reality check on your life, your next assignment is to figure out what you want (and I don't mean things like, "I want to lie around all day eating Snickers and watching Netflix and have loads of money come rolling in from the internet."). Once you have figured out what you want, then you can start working towards accomplishing that. I think a good place to start would be asking yourself this question, "What solutions can I work on that would solve a problem that affects a large number of people on the planet?"
4. As you go along, you'll notice obstacles getting in the way. The obstacles are the areas you need to first understand then focus on overcoming. Each person will have different obstacles. If you choose to ignore the foundations of your obstacles, you'll never go forward in life. I know this to be true!
Say hi to me on Twitter @stellabelle
Instead of wasting the weekend on Facebook, I decided to figure out how to get my eBook on Amazon as a pre-order. You can order it right now for 99 cents. The official release date is December 11, 2015.
Also, I completed my Amazon Author profile and you can see it here. Let me know what you think! I sort of went nuts when writing my own description (a horrid task!):
"Stellabelle is an artist, writer and YouTuber. She has cut her own hair since she was 18 years old and calculates she has saved $3,240 over her lifetime. She views life as a giant experiment. An experiment that sometimes cuts her throat open by accident."
It's true, I have cut my own hair for my entire life. Well, this is getting weird since I woke up at 4 am, unable to sleep.
Also, since this whole Amazon publishing thing is so new to me, I wrote a blog about the process so far. If any of you are interested in learning some steps, read the blog post here.
If you're into numbers, and want to know how much I've spent so far on producing my eBook, it's $469. All these details are listed in the blog post above.
Next month I'll be bugging you to give me an honest book review on Amazon, but right now all I feel is relief that I've come this far. Oh, and I'm learning how to write better and more fascinating email newsletters from a guy named Neville. You can see his blog here. He's teaching me how to be more nuts and authentic.
It's now 5:45 a.m. and the healthy part of my brain says I should either go back to sleep or get some exercise since I didn't work out the entire weekend. I spent almost 15 hours writing, editing and figuring out how Amazon works. I feel pretty good about my productivity.
If you live in my area, I can't wait to see you at the book launch party on December 12. There's going to be a mysterious activity at the the book launch. For those not on Facebook, I created an Eventbrite listing so you can easily add it to your calendar. And for those who are far away, don't worry, I'll make videos for you to watch! Speaking of videos, here's one that shows the tiny book you could win if you come to my book launch party.
I started writing this book in earnest six months ago when I received the news from an HR manager at a really good company:
"We're sorry, but you're not the right fit for us."
I asked the HR manager why I wasn't chosen. I explained I had been interviewed five different times and reminded her that one of her employees had referred me to her company. All I wanted to know was what characteristic prevented me from getting hired so in the future I could correct this defect. I begged her to tell me why. I was tired of not being chosen for good-paying jobs and was eager to fix myself.
She told me she honestly didn't know why I wasn't chosen. She said my skill sets and work experiences were outstanding. At the end of our conversation, she confessed that the young, twenty-something hiring manager often made foolish decisions. The HR manager apologized numerous times and seemed honestly embarrassed I'd wasted so much of my time interviewing at her company.
After I got off the phone, failure and shame took turns ransacking my internal organs. My head filled with heat and my heart pumped uncontrollably. Then the nasty thoughts crept into my brain:
"I was rejected for being me. That hiring manager didn't like something about me and now I'm being punished. What the hell is wrong with me? Am I really a loser? Am I destined to have crappy jobs? Do I have a big letter "L" for "Loser" imprinted on my forehead that everyone else can see?"
Right after the feelings of failure and shame had washed over my body, I experienced a series of racing, flashing thoughts full of excitement, relief and lightness:
"I'm not sure I really wanted that job. I'm hurt not because I truly wanted it, but because I felt I was rejected as a person. Maybe instead of trying to find another job I'll most likely grow to dislike, I should write and self-publish a book? I've been writing for three years, so perhaps it's time to buckle down. Maybe it's time to test out my ideas and go all in. Maybe it's the day I make and keep a commitment to myself. Maybe it's the first day of un-crapping the rest of my life. I'm in."
I decided I would never again let another random person define my self-worth. From that day on, I decided to un-crap one thing about my life at a time. I decided to go all in. The very first thing I decided to un-crap was my inability to finish personal projects. I made a commitment to myself to finish this book. I decided not to let my perfectionism, inability to focus, lack of money, low self-esteem or my bad writing get in the way of this commitment. I pushed through every negative thought I had about myself in order to keep my commitment. My message to you is to make one commitment to yourself. Just one.
In closing, I want to leave you with an inspirational quote from Kamal Ravikant's book, Live Your Truth:
“When we go all in, we find the answers. They're in us.”
The Facebook event details are here
My Un-Crap Your life book release party will be on December 12, 2015 at 6 pm at Records With Merritt. The address is 1614 Westport Rd, Kansas City, Missouri 64111.
Everyone who attends will have a chance to win the Un-Crap Your Life giveaway basket that includes: Un-Crap Your Life blank notebook, stickers and a tiny photo book.
Activities include music and everyone who attends is encouraged to write down one thing they would like to un-crap about their life. Each entry will be read aloud anonymously during the event.
My Un-Crap Your Life ebook will be free on Amazon on December 12 & 13, 2015. Paper copies will be available around New Year's.
Writing and self-publishing a book is a super unnerving process. After spending months or even years of solitary writing toil, you must then go through hellish editing operations. Getting your book written is a monumental undertaking but then the marketing can be even more incomprehensible and scary. What sources do you trust? What marketing techniques should you use? Where do you start finding the answers?
I’ve been researching these topics for several years in preparation for the launch of my first self-published book. This guide will save you hundreds of hours of research if you’re just entering the self-publishing world. When going through this guide, remember the basics: 1. Write the best content possible. 2. Get your book professionally edited. 3. Get a book cover professionally created. 4. Don’t be boring. 5. Go for it.
HOW TO WRITE
Problem: Your writing sucks. People don’t understand what you’re trying to say because it’s so bland and lacks clarity.
Answer: Read James Altucher’s 33 Unusual Tips To Being a Better Writer:
Main takeaways: 1. Bleed in the first line. 2. Don’t be afraid of what people think.
WHAT TO WRITE?
Problem: You want to write books and be successful but you’re not sure what kind of books to write.
Solution: Learn about Steve Scott. He teaches people to be authority writers: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/10/14/non-fiction-success/
Main takeaways: 1. Create micro topics from big topics. 2. Focus on the genre and niche. 3. Make writing your habit.
PRODUCTIVITY: SOCIAL MEDIA FASTING
Problem: You spend so much time on social media and browsing the web, you barely have enough time to write a book. I also struggle with this issue.
Solution: Go on a social media fast. Here’s how I solve it: in the mornings on my days off, the first thing I do is write. I don’t check email or Facebook until I’m done writing. In this way, I force myself to accomplish goals before rewarding myself with social media. Here’s an example of what steve corona experienced during his Social Media fast: http://lifehacker.com/5918784/how-30-days-without-social-media-changed-my-life
SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT FOR WRITER’S STRUGGLES
Problem: You hate your guts because you’re in the middle of writing a book and now you’re beginning to think it sucks. Self-doubt has taken over your brain and you need a helping hand or a caring writing coach to guide you out of your internal murky writer’s doom. Most of the self-made types out there don’t give a shit about you. All they want is your email address.
Solution: Ani Alexander is the savior you’ve been missing. She’s a writer, too and has been where you are. Above all, Ani cares about writers and is authentic. Listen to her soothing words of encouragement from her podcast: http://www.anialexander.com/category/inspiration/
Main takeaways: 1. Don’t listen to people when they say you can’t do something. 2. You already have self-confidence within you, so tap into it.
Problem: Should you self-publish on platforms besides Amazon?
Solution: Read this article by Clarisse Thorn to decide what is best for you: https://medium.com/tales-of-self-publishing/amazon-smashwords-oh-my-where-and-how-to-sell-ebooks-38080f2dded2
Main takeaways: 1. Self-publish in as many places as possible. 2. If you’re not detail-oriented, hire someone to format your ebook files.
BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST
Problem: You’re dragging your feet and haven’t started an email list. How do you start? Many people have not started their lists because they thought social media had replaced emails. However, now social media has become noisy plus crowded and it’s difficult to have sustained contact with your fans. Building an email list solves that problem. Also, each time you write a new book, you’ll want your fans to have immediate access to it via your email newsletter.
Solution: Learn from Sean Ogle because he started an email list from scratch without even having a website: http://www.seanogle.com/entrepreneurship/build-an-email-list-without-blog
Main takeaways: 1. Use Mailchimp: http://mailchimp.com/ 2. Create a smore account to create beautiful newsletters: https://www.smore.com/ 3. Write killer content that gets your blog posts visibility by big people.
USE MEDIUM TO WRITE BLOG POSTS AND GAIN FOLLOWERS
Problem: You don’t have a blog or website.
Solution: Don’t worry, Medium https://medium.com/ is the hottest thing right now and is actually better than your own blog. Medium is like long-form Twitter. It’s more enjoyable to read stories and posts on Medium than anywhere else. You can start posting there today.
Main takeaways: Start posting.
THE BUSINESS SIDE OF BOOK CREATING
Problem: You are a delicate flower. Your soul is deep and easily shatters. The thought of you pimping your own book makes you shudder and crumble into ten thousand tiny pieces.
Solution: Read about Jyotsna Ramachandran’s ability to build a home business from creating ebooks. She didn’t even write her first books. Instead, she hired ghost writers: http://jyotsnaramachandran.com/importance-of-passive-income/
Main takeaways: 1. Take a big gulp and harden your delicate flower insides. 2. Put your moody brain in a jar for a few hours and follow Jyotsna’s methods. 3. Don’t let your brain out of the jar until you have finished following her steps.
MARKETING: VIDEO BOOK TRAILER
Problem: You want to make a video book trailer but have no idea what to create.
Solution: Watch Tim Ferriss’ video book trailer: https://youtu.be/_KFPHmPoPlY
Tim explains his process in a blog post: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2013/04/10/how-to-create-a-viral-book-trailer-or-get-1000000-views-for-almost-anything/
Main takeaways: 1. Storyboarding 2. Assembling a team to create the video. (Tim has a budget but my free solution would be to go to a local art school and find film students to create your video book trailer).
MARKETING: RELEASE CONTENT ON BITTORRENT
Problem: Your book doesn’t reach enough eyeballs on Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Solution: Release your content on BitTorrent:
Here’s what BitTorrent did for Tim Ferriss:
Tim Ferriss has a big following and that’s the main reason he was successful on BitTorrent. However, I challenge you to try releasing your content on BitTorrent so you can learn for yourself how it could benefit you. You just might be the next big thing, who knows?
BEFORE YOU HIT THE PUBLISH BUTTON
Problem: Your title might not be as good as it could be.
Solution: Use James Altucher’s method of testing out possible titles in Facebook ads. Whichever ad gets the most clicks determines your title:
Main takeaways: 1. Test out titles 2. Build your platform with an honest voice.
MARKETING: TRY SOMETHING NEW & EXCITING TO MARKET YOUR BOOK
Problem: You have no idea what to do for marketing your self-published book.
Solution: Try something new and exciting like hiring an Indian news anchor to announce your newly self-published book on a video. This is what I’m planning to do: https://www.fiverr.com/ashwanithakur/be-your-indian-breaking-news-anchor
Or make tiny book art and leave it in public places.
Main takeaways: try out new methods to market your book and repeat whatever works. Use your imagination and come up with your own ways to market it. There are no rules for book marketing. Make up your own! Let me know what you come up with. Send me an email: email@example.com
There’s still a lot more I did not cover in this post but my goal is not to overwhelm you. If you’re a novice writer, there’s never been a better time to self-publish. Take your book seriously, do the hard work and go for it. I wish you the best of luck! Final note: get proofreaders who are not your friends!
Sign up for my newsletter to be notified when my book, Un-Crap Your Life, is released for free.
Here's how I began the process of healing myself from alcohol addiction:
I wrote down things from my childhood that made me happy. I explored the activities which used to bring me true joy. At first it was really hard to remember these things. I was so used to turning to alcohol to make me feel good that I almost forgot what it felt like before alcohol.
This exercise helped me understand some fundamental things about myself:
I used alcohol primarily to control my moods. Now when I start to feel anxious, I don’t try to immediately snuff out my bad feelings. First, I analyze what sources are creating the bad feelings. Some anxiety I experience is necessary for the improvement of life. For example, I feel anxious about my job since I know deep down, I don’t like my current one and have no interest in it. I want to be putting my energies into work I believe in and which also brings me monetary stability. I know the anxiety I feel is propelling me towards a work life which is more meaningful.
Then there is the anxiety which stems from my past experiences with an abusive boyfriend. This anxiety is much harder to deal with. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol to diminish my anxiety, I’m learning how to first acknowledge the pain and then become more detached from it in order to heal. It goes like this in my head, “Oh, hello again Anxiety. I see you’ve returned. I understand you’ve taken over my body and emotions temporarily. I feel your presence. And now that I’ve said hello, I’m going to go over here and think a bit. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. I give you permission to leave. Goodbye for now. See you soon.” I acknowledged the feelings, watched as they took over my body and then I told them to go away. I'm allowing myself to feel pain instead of numbing it.
Also, I began to tell the truth. For most of my life I had been scared to tell people how I felt. I was afraid of conflict. I was afraid of letting them down. I thought if I let them down, they would not love me anymore. This was part of my programming. We all have been programmed in our lives and it is up to us as adults to discard the programs that no longer serve our growth. I realized in order for me to get better, I needed to start telling the truth to myself and others.
Other things I did: wrote about my experiences, shared them with others who have similar issues and most importantly, realized I’m not the only one.
The last thing I did was allow myself to be assertive. I noticed when I drank I would become super obnoxious, loud, demanding, overly sexual and annoying to others. The alcohol allowed me to express parts of myself I did not accept. I had banished those parts of my personality to the cellar and now the alcohol had unlocked the door! My obnoxious and sexually aggressive traits were hissing, spitting and emerging like crazy, starved victims!
Being assertive was not part of who I perceived myself to be. My core personality was not aggressive as far as I knew. I viewed myself as a withdrawn, shy person. At least this is how people defined me as a young woman.
As I got older, however, a stronger, more forceful person developed inside. I drank in order to integrate this new trait into my existing personality. The way I was able to stop this vicious drinking cycle was to allow myself to be assertive when I was sober. I would say things exactly as they were. I didn't sugarcoat anything. I didn't lie to myself or others. It was really awkward at first. I said "No" to people for the first time in my adult life. And it worked. The more I unconditionally accepted that little obnoxious, opinionated monster within me, the less I needed to drink in order to bring it out. The more I let out my monster into the sunlight, the less angry it was. I became my drunk self while sober, to a certain extent.
I now allow myself to be as outspoken and honest as I want to be, as long as I don't hurt others. I am still learning how to be outspoken and polite at the same time. I’m not very good at it yet since it’s a fairly new experience.
I quit abusing alcohol about 6 years ago. I’m one of the lucky ones, though, because I can have 1 or 2 drinks and not crave more. This was unthinkable during my drinking days.
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I made the above infographic today with a great free tool: https://magic.piktochart.com/
This is an amazing infographic maker and it's free even to download your creations. Most sites require you to pay something when you download the infographic but not Piktochart. The infographics are fully customizable and if you're daring, you can even make one from scratch. The website even works on slow computers like mine.
I was a saleswoman at a big car dealership for nearly two years. It was one of the worst jobs I’ve had in my entire life. In the summer of 2014, one of my friends, Archibald, came to me to buy a car. He was in the process of getting a new job as an Uber or Quicksilver driver, so he needed to have a newer car. He came to me because he trusted me.
After spending several hours with Archibald at the dealership, I came to understand his financial situation. He didn’t have a lot of money and his future driving job wasn’t going to be very lucrative either. His credit was not very good. He was just barely able to pay his bills, even without a car payment.
Archibald and I spent the entire day hashing out the possibilities and by the end, he agreed to buy an older, used Prius from me. I didn’t have access to the profit margin database for our vehicle inventory. Only managers could see the invoice amount on any car at our dealership.
The invoice price is the amount that the dealership paid for the vehicle and the sale price is above that. The difference between these numbers is the gross profit that the dealership makes when the car is sold.
While my manager was looking at the Prius prices in his computer said, “Holy shit. Someone really screwed up and priced this car too low!” This meant that there was no room for negotiating and that my friend would not be getting any sort of discount on this car. I told Archibald the news, and he seemed surprised as well. But, since I was his friend, he didn’t question anything. He believed me completely. We worked the deal with the understanding that I couldn’t get the price lowered and we got him approved by the banks and finalized everything that evening. Later on as he was driving away in his newly purchased car, I had a feeling of satisfaction. I felt that I had really done him a favor since his credit wasn’t good and we were able to get him approved by the banks without too much hassle.
The day after Archibald bought his car, I opened up his financial account to find out what amount of commission I’d made on him. I figured it would be a “mini”. A “mini” is a set amount, usually $100, that is given to a salesperson when the profit amount on a car deal is either low or negative. Yes, car dealerships do, in fact, lose money on some car deals. 30% of car deals do not make any profit. I saw this with my own eyes.
My jaw dropped when I looked the numbers. The dealership made over $4,000 of profit on the sale of that car and over $2,000 in profit on extended warranties. I was shocked! How did we make over $4000 when my manager told me that the car was priced too low? My manager’s dramatic response when he first looked at the “super low price” seemed so realistic, so believable. Was there an accounting error in Archibald’s file? Or did my manager just put on a really good acting show when he told me that the car was priced too low? I was totally confused, bewildered. I felt cheated! My manager lied to me, which then caused me to lie to my friend. Technically, I never lied to my friend because I thought I was telling him the truth. My manager took advantage of both me and my friend! What a scoundrel. Welcome to the car dealership.
To be honest, I would have rather given my friend a $2000 discount in order to lower his monthly payment, and I’d be content with the dealership making $2000. If I had known that we had this much room on the deal, it would have turned out very differently, with my friend’s monthly payment being reduced quite a bit. My managers were all liars.
These sort of experiences left me very confused because on one hand, I wanted to make money, but on the other, I didn’t want my dealership to take advantage of my friends. I also didn’t want them to take advantage of poor people. And I especially didn’t want them to take advantage of MY POOR FRIENDS! The thing that continued to shock me is that my managers were constantly lying to me, and I was naive enough to believe them every time. It was only later when I checked the customer file that I learned the truth about how much profit the dealership made.
I enjoyed making decent money at my job but I do possess a sense of right and wrong. I was an honest person. I would always go out of my way to get a good deal for a friend. I would never intentionally rip off a friend. That was something that just didn’t feel right. I still feel really shitty about unintentionally ripping off my friend Archibald. He came to me because he trusted me. I can never tell him the truth.
I talked with Archibald just the other day. He told me he was recently in a bad car accident and his Prius that I sold him had been totaled. He had purchased Gap insurance, so the entire car loan had been paid off by the insurance company and my dealership. He said he was relieved that he no longer had a car payment. He also said he was quitting his driver job so he no longer needed a car. He wasn’t going to replace his Prius. He said he was glad he had come out of the bad situation free and clear.
I was relieved to hear this news but I never told him the truth. Maybe I will tell him someday.
Stellabelle is an artist, writer and YouTuber. Her main passion is creative experimentation. She received her B. A. in Japanese from the University of Kansas in 1994. She has lived in Kansas City, Chicago, Tucson, Tokyo and San Diego. She is about to release her first self-published book, Un-Crap Your Life. Sign up for her newsletter to receive release dates and other cool stuff.