Self Publishing Simplified: How to publish a book the easy, high-quality way

Infographics are all the rage. They’re a fun, colorful way to present information in a way that is easy to absorb and also easy to share (which is important, given the emphasis on images placed by such social media channels as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram).

What is an infographic?

According to Wikipedia, an infographic is a graphic visual representation of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.

Below is an example of an infographic, in this case, a graphic representation of complex information (how to publish a book the easy, high-quality way).  One of the upsides to infographics is that they are easy to share on Facebook or Pinterest. The primary downside is that, with the exception of the alt tag, there is very little meta data available for search spiders to index. So even though this particular infographic has quite a few high-quality, effective search phrases for our self-publishing company at Outskirts Press, Google won’t recognize any of them.  But, perhaps that disadvantage is off-set by the potential “share-ability” of the graphic.   Or perhaps both those considerations are moot. Perhaps what is truly the most important is that this graphic clearly communicates many of the advantages of publishing with Outskirts Press in an easy-to-digest manner.  And that’s what potential customers and clients want from your product or service: easy answers to complex questions.  Voila — an infographic!

Self-Publishing Simplified: How to publish a book the easy, high-quality way

 

Outskirts Press Award Winning Books*

Yesterday I introduced our affiliation with the EVVY Awards. Last March, Outskirts Press won the most awards by a publisher. Below are the winners.

FIRST PLACE

Building a Champion Character: A Practical Guidance Program
Primary Version
by Susan R. Rose, M. Ed.
Category: Workbooks
Judge’s comment: “Perfect for counselors and parents.”

Defending Liars
In Defense Of President Bush And The War On Terror In Iraq
by Howard L. Salter Category: Political/Social
Judge’s comment: “The author put a lot of time and research into this book.”

RV Rentals
A Vacationer’s Guide
by Dave & Kay Corby
Category: Travel
Judge’s comment: “Packed with information.”

SECOND PLACE

Christmas Tree Advent Calendar
A Country Quilted and Appliquéd Project
by Ruthy Sturgill Category: How to
Judge’s comment: “Well organized.”

The Struggle Among Ideas
A Tourist Guide to the Natural World and the Human Predicament
by J. Ivey Davis Category: Political/Social
Judge’s comment: “Nicely woven history of philosophies.”

The War Chest
by Gary W. Buehner Category: Business/Finance
Judge’s comment: “Brilliant!”

THIRD PLACE

Blue Max
Missions & Memories
by N. G. Brown Category: Non-Fiction/Experiences
Judge’s comment: “Very realistic view of the Vietnam War.”

See Sally Kick Ass
A Woman’s Guide to Personal Safety
by Fred Vogt Category: How to
Judge’s comment: “Very clear, very straight-forward.”

Simple Successes
From Obstacles to Solutions with Special Needs Children
by Rachelle Zola Category: Parenting
Judge’s comment: “Professional, through and through.”

Wake Up with Fleas
by Carla Kienast 
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “Well paced and entertaining.”

MERIT AWARDS

Aidan’s Shoes
by Brent Sampson
Category: Children’s
Judge’s comment: “The storyline is truly wonderful.”

Fly Me to the Moon
Bipolar Journey through Mania and Depression
by H. E. Logue, M.D.
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “Beautifully designed and immediately intriguing.”

Full-Bodied and Peppery
Chronicles of a Western Colorado Wine Wench
by Christine Feller
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “A delightful book.”

Into the Light
A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Debra P. Whitehead
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “Loved it!”

The Literary Six
by Vince A. Liaguno
Category: Fiction
Judge’s comment: “Maintains interest and suspense from page one. I had trouble putting it down.”

*Originally posted Friday, August 17, 2007 on self-publishing.blogspot.com. To see why I’m reposting it, click here.

Google Plus Profiles vs. Pages

… continuing this series on Google Plus that was started a couple posts ago…

Once you “join” Google Plus as a user, after completing your set-up, you see a page that looks something like this:

Not too much there yet. Thus begins the process of building up this new social media presence according to your own personal goals, wants, and desires. But today, we’ll focus on the little link along the right-hand side that says “Create a Google Page” which takes you to this:

Already that are some problems, or at least, potential areas of confusion, when it asks you to classify the type of “business” you are creating a Google Page for. Here are the choices:

  • Local Business or Place (and Google provides examples like hotels, restaurants, places (?), stores, services
  • Product or brand (examples like apparel, cars, electronics, financial services (?)
  • Company, Institution, or Organization (companies, institutions, organizations, non-profits — thanks, Google, because that was so unclear by the category name)
  • Arts, Entertainment, Sports (movies, TV, music, books, sports, shows)
  • Other (if your page doesn’t fit a category above)

There are two problems with this screen:

1. Google doesn’t tell you WHY you are classifying it.  Is there a difference in how the resulting pages look? Does one receive different functionality? Or does Google simply want to know what kind of advertisements to send you?  Tell us why you’re asking this question, Google, and the 2nd problem with this screen becomes a little less problematic.

2. The second problem revolves around category #2 – Product or Brand.  I’ll bet the hotel that is used an example for Category #1 considers themselves a brand, especially if they’re going through the trouble of making a Google Plus page.  Outskirts Press probably falls into the catch-all Category #3 (in fact, what wouldn’t?  I mean, Google Pages are meant for businesses, so everything is probably a “company” or “organization” of some sort).  But even though Category #3 might define us best, I also consider Outskirts Press a “brand” – so should I choose #2, instead? Who knows… Google isn’t telling me WHY I’m having to classify my page.  

This all becomes a matter of trial and error, and it doesn’t even tell you that if you want to change your mind later, you can.  So… make your best guess: That’s what I’m going to do.  “Company, Institution, or Organization” sounds so boring, so I’m going to choose Product or Brand. Hey, if Google suggests it for “financial services (really, Google, really?!), then it works for us at Outskirts Press!

In reality, it doesn’t seem like Category #2 and Category #3 behave any differently as far as Google is concerned. Both result in providing you with a drop down box during the next step with a list of more specific categories (and the drop down choices appear to be exactly the same, with the exception of general categories that appear at the very bottom of the drop down box). “Publishing” or “self-publishing” isn’t in either one (which is surprising, given Google’s in-your-face experience with publishers during their Google Book Library Project, but that’s a post for another day).

Regardless of the category you choose, Google Plus is going to ask you to “Title” your page.  Just like when you title your book or buy a big neon sign for your local business,  your goal when giving your Google page a title is including a keyword  (in this case, for search engine optimization). So be sure your Google Page title includes your most relevant keyword. Then provide the URL to your company website, select a category (again), set age-appropriate specifications based upon the content you’re going to post, and agree to Google’s invasive “Page Terms.”  If you can be bothered to read it, these specific terms are broken down into three categories: Privacy Policy (you don’t get any); Legal Terms (things you post on your Google page must comply with other Google terms — i.e. promotions need to abide by their Content and Promotion Policies, and text, images, etc., must comply by their User Content and Conduct Policy); and Content Policy. 

Humorously, Google’s Content Policy (a list of 12 things they “don’t allow”) clearly demonstrates that the employees of Google have never bothered to visit the Internet. Here’s what they say isn’t allowed:

1. Illegal Activities
2. Malicious Products
3. Hate Speech
4.  [Sharing] Personal and Confidential Information
5. Account Hijacking
6. Child Safety {they mean child exploitation}
7. Spam
8. Ranking Manipulation
9. Gambling
10. Sexually Explicit Material
11. Violent or Bullying Behavior
12. Impersonation or Deceptive Behavior

Hey, Google! Allow me to be the first to welcome you to the Internet. You’ve just listed 12 of the most common things you’ll find on it…

Then click “Create…” and the next step is customizing your page, which we’ll discuss next week…

Scheduling social media blasts in advance

So if you’re not as famous as Ashton and Britney (and let’s face it, most of us aren’t), then automation and strategic scheduling are tactics you can employ to maximize your social networking strategy. I discussed automation previously. 

Scheduling it just what it sounds like — plotting the release schedule of blog postings, ping updates, and social comments, etc.  The idea behind scheduling is to spread out the content you are distributing so that something “new” is posted every couple of hours.  This is relatively easy if you’re the only one doing the posting. It becomes harder if you have to coordinate these efforts with other people or other departments.   

The automatic aggregation makes it even more difficult still. TweetDeck, Hoot Suite, Feed Burner, Ping.fm, and the like don’t all operate instantaneously.  They update in batches.  So for example,  Feed Burner distributes this blog via RSS to our Twitter feed, but there is a discrepancy between when this blog is posted “live” and when Feed Burner syndicates the feed to Twitter.   Normally, this discrepancy isn’t that big of a deal, but when you’re trying to schedule postings in advance, such a delay complicates matters even further.

While I realize strategically what would be optimal, actually accomplishing such a lofty goal as strategically scheduling social content is still mostly a pipe dream I have.  For example, if one watches our own Twitter feed, one often sees 3-4 tweets come in quick succession (within a matter of seconds or minutes) when it would be best to spread those out across several hours.  In fact the only true tactic I’ve successfully accomplished is by scheduling my own blog posts to go “live” in the afternoons.  This is because I know our other blogs and social activities often (though not always) take place in the morning.    In other words, it is important enough to me to play a role in what keeps me up at night, but not really important enough for me to mandate some schedule with other people/departments at Outskirts Press.

How do Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears do it?

Ashton Kutcher has 5.8 million Twitter followers and appears to “tweet” a 140 character (or less) message 4-5 times a day at least.  Britney Spears has 5.9 Twitter followers even though she “tweets” what appears to be just about 4-5 times a week on average; and she even has help doing that.

Certainly being a big name celebrity doesn’t hurt, but what these two Twitter aficionados have demonstrated is that consistency with Twitter updates is one of the cornerstones to attracting followers.  That’s all well and good if you don’t already have a full-time job; but as most mere mortals soon discover– Twittering consistently and frequently can be a lot of work.

How do they do it?

Well, I can’t speak for them (having an entourage probably helps), but for the rest of us, it helps to rely on a little bit of automation and a little bit of strategy.  At least, that’s what we do at Outskirts Press to find the time to manage a somewhat realized “social networking footprint” while still devoting the majority of our time and resources toward efforts that benefit our clients the most (ie., producing award-winning books).

First let’s discuss the automation. We use three aggregators frequently: Ping.fm, Feed Burner, and Tweet Deck.   The first two are among the “tips” I discuss in detail in my upcoming book “0-60: Accelerating Your Online Marketing Efforts” and they also play a role in my upcoming presentation on the same topic at the Self Publishing Book Expo in New York on the first Saturday in October.

Ping.fm allows you to broadcast a single message simultaneously to about 50 different social networking sites. It requires an up-front time investment to set-up those sites initially with a profile, password, username, etc.  But once those sites are set-up, Ping.fm allows you to “participate” on all of them relatively efficiently.   Of course, part of the advantage of Web 2.0 is that it is a “two way conversation” and that is where Ping.fm has its drawbacks. Sure, it is very efficient at initiating one way correspondence, perhaps too efficient, because those messages then require some manual participation to moderate and respond to the “two way conversation” that results.  Managing 50 social networking sites is beyond our company’s resources; perhaps your company is in a different place. So we pick and choose the channels we invest time and energy in.  Not coincidentally, they are the most “popular” channels like Twitter and Facebook, etc.

Feed Burner and TweetDeck offer similar time-saving social networking tools, albeit in a different capacity than Ping.fm.  And that’s why we use all of them, rather than being able to rely on just one.

Automation and aggregation are only half the battle.  Strategizing and scheduling the composition and distribution of social networking messages is equally important and we will discuss that next time.

Inc. 5000 Self Publishing Company

Recently I made a change to this blog’s main title. For those of you reading since the beginning, you may realize how much thought I put into the title of the blog to begin with, since the subject of “titling your blog” was one that stretched across a number of postings at the beginning of this year.  In short, blog titles (not to be confused with posting titles) are extremely important for search engine optimization purposes.

Up until very recently, the “title” of my blog for the past year or so has been:  Brent Sampson: CEO of Inc. 500 Self Publishing Company OutskirtsPress.com. This accomplished a couple of things: It introduced me and my role/position; it identified the name and URL of our company; and it provided some promotion of its own, using other recognized keywords (Inc. 500, for instance). 

Two things occurred that led to the change. For one, Outskirts Press broadened its scope and its customer base with the launch of the Version 4 website, which is a subject I’ve been blogging about quite a bit recently, so I won’t cover it much here. But the long and short of it is that we are now offering book marketing services to writers on an a la carte basis regardless of where they publish. As a result, the new name became “Brent Sampson: CEO of Self Publishing & Book Marketing Company OutskirtsPress.com” to define this wider vision and incorporate perhaps a more applicable keyword phrase into the title (book marketing).

Secondly, came the change to our Inc Magazine listing. August was an exciting month because Outskirts Press won two different honors for fastest-growing private company, one from the Denver Business Journal indentifying us as the #10 fastest growing private company in the small-to-medium category; and the other from Inc. Magazine, which identified us as a Fast 5000 company–not that the Inc. Fast 5000 is anything to sneeze at, as 4999 other honorees will attest. 

 The “fastest growing” lists are interesting because, due to the way they are calculated, your company can actually increase its revenue year after year and still decrease its growth percentage.  But that is a subject for a future post.

Email marketing

Regardless of whether you are an author or a business owner, you should be comfortable with email marketing.  Its low cost combined with its performance makes for an appealing ROI (return on investment). In fact, the only marketing endeavor we have better success with at Outskirts Press is SEM (search engine marketing), or in other words, PPC (pay-per-click) marketing.

Email marketing is an ongoing effort, and one we spend a lot of time and energy on.  There are millions of articles on the Internet about how to do it right and how to do it wrong, so I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of CAN-SPAM regulations, opt-out best practices, opt-in mailing lists, or any of those things.

Instead,  over the next few postings, I’ll summarize some of the things we have learned — mostly through trial and error — over the past 8 years, that have helped us refine our current email marketing efforts.