HOW TO GET THE BEST ROBOT ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST

It was grey-blue, a bit shiny and about the size of a small doll. Robbie the Robot was my brother’s Christmas present. I loved it at first sight. It made noises and when you wound it up, it would ‘walk’ – more like a ‘jerky slide’, really.

 

Since that day, half a century ago, I’ve loved robots and have dreamed of having at least one in my life. So this year, I’ve backed a Kickstarter project and bought two robots for Christmas. I’ve (ostensibly) bought one for my husband and the other for myself. He might get to use one :).

Asimo the humanoid robot created by Honda who has been my desk buddy for years, watch the small wind up version walk in slo mo.

 

They don’t clean house

When I tell friends about my robots, they all immediately ask: “What can they do, can they clean the house?”

Well, no – they don’t clean house. But you can buy a Dyson robotic vacuum cleaner, which does a pretty good job vacuuming the floors. If that’s what you care about and are prepared to spend an anticipated $3,000 when they are on sale in Australia and New Zealand, the Dyson gets floors clean.

What my robots can do is recognise faces, understand natural speech, they can record and play back sound, they can avoid obstacles, they can learn a floor plan, and they can develop a path of travel.

How big

The second thing my friends ask is: “How big are they?”

They are small – about the size of a basketball or a small dog. No, they don’t look human. They don’t have a ‘head’ as such but a flat surface. I can say to it (supposedly, we’ll find out for sure in May 2017 if this is the case): “Take this to Graeme in the study”.

What do you call them?

My robots (no we haven’t named them yet) will then locomote to the study and – recognising Graeme’s face – ‘stand’ in front of him while he takes the beer I’ve sent him. If Graeme sends back a message, my robot will record it and play it back to me when it returns.

How much?

The fourth question my friends ask (as above, the third being: “Do they have names?”), is “what did they cost”. They cost me $450 for the two – delivered to Sydney. That’s converted from US$ and is an ‘early backer’ price. They will retail around $500 each – if they ever get that far and the project goes well.

The fifth question I get asked is: “Can they pick things up?” No, they can’t but they can carry to and from a path of travel. “Take this to Mum”, is something they can achieve (they have to learn that ‘Mum’ is sometimes called ‘Maureen’ and they can learn what ‘Mum’ and ‘Maureen’ look like and that they are the same person).

Fetch and carry

“Get me a glass of water” – involving getting a glass out of the cupboard, turning on a tap, filling the glass with water and taking it to a person – is not something they can do. For that level of robotic sophistication, you have to have a robot from Boston Dynamics – the maker of my very favourite robot of all Big Dog (and Small Dog or as they call it Spot Mini).

Reasonable adjustments

And just like for people with disabilities, we are having to make reasonable adjustments for our robots. We will be installing at least one ramp at our apartment so it can go in and out of the door to the balcony (I’m sure Graeme will want a beer on the balcony over Christmas).

We will also have to ensure that the path of travel is clear – no present wrapping or ribbons lying around. We will also have to speak clearly and distinctly, so the robots can understand us (think Siri on steroids).

I’m dreaming of a Christmas with robots. What would you like on your robot Christmas list?

My top 10 robots

ROBOT PURPOSE PRICE TAG
1 Big Dog All terrain robot, heavy haulage $10 million
2 SpotMini Washes dishes Not known but has cost at least $3 million so far
3 Dyson robotic vacuum cleaner Vacuums floors Likely to be around $2000-$3000 in Australia
4 iRobot Looj Gutter cleaner $209 online
5 Polaris Pool cleaner About $800
6 Litter-Robot Self-cleaning cat litter box $895 in Australia
7 e-Vigilante Replaces internal security guards Around $8 an hour (lease), so I’m guessing ‘super expensive’
8 Hobot 188 Window cleaner $350
9 Tech Line L60 B Robotic lawn mower $1800
10 Braava Jet Floor washer $350

 

Navbars

Remember that every element on a web page needs to be considered for copy that assists users. Forms, FAQs, drop downs – there is research on the words to use for all of them. We all want users to find our site, find what they want and engage with us. Every element needs to work.

Overflow

You might want your cup to runneth over but never your copy. Clear, concise, crisp – that’s what we need from copy. The best user design is one that respects the user. On the internet, no one reads. Say what you need, then go home.

Page scales to topic

For complex or unfamiliar content, leave more room for copy.

Questions, quizzes and queries

User testing via A/B sampling, user questionnaires, or quizzes all help ensure that copy is user focused. Also spend time questioning the client about what they think the user wants. Try to write copy that achieves what the user wants and the client will pay for. Have fun!

Resources

Brand position papers, style guides, content checklists, dictionaries, existing marketing collateral and digital assets. All go to providing the copywriter the preferred style and tone of voice for a site. Combined with great research, it really kick-starts copy creation.

Story telling

Users connect with stories. How can we tell the story of this site? What is the best way to tell the story? How can you make copy visual?

Typos

We love designers – they are so talented and creative but how many of them can spell? Users, particularly of sites aimed at older readers and the literati, hate spelling and grammatical errors. Typos are your enemy and most of them will be found in the graphs, text-on-images, and other pictorial elements of a website.

Ensure that you have a good relationship with your designer so that you can point out all their idiosyncratic spelling without them feeling that they are being attacked.

User experience

Content-driven user experience includes clear wording, prominent CTAs and a strong value proposition.

Videos

See W3C below. Videos need captions, and content and copy need to meet W3C WCAG level AA, at least. You can read all about our accessible guidelines including our 2-hour video course on how to make videos – and other static and timed media – accessible.

W3C

The World Wide Web Consortium lays down guidelines for web content accessibility – which includes stuff related to copy. We usually tell designers that adhering to Level AA guidelines helps with SEO. Then you don’t have to explain yourself. If you don’t know how to meet these standards, see Videos above for what you need to know.

XML site maps

Site maps – every website should have two. The XML sitemap for search engines and indexing, and the HTML site map for reader/user accessibility. Reader-first design helps all users navigate their way around, makes content more accessible and helps with SEO. Win, win, win.

You

The most important word in the language for copywriters. Ensure that the copy is written for “you” the audience and not “me” the client or writer. This will increase readability – the No 1 aim of a writer.

Zen and the art of…

One upon a time it was motorcycle maintenance that merited a book on Zen wisdom; since Steve Jobs, it’s been user design. Elegant simplicity; effortless effectiveness – that’s what we seek for user experience. While you may not be able to incorporate all seven Zen principles, simplicity and naturalness are key.

 

Audience

Who is the audience? Write for your primary audience. Ensure the design and copy are aimed at the same audience. Work with the designer to achieve this.

Do you want the user to feel that they’ve found the right website? If so, reflect them in the visual and textual elements of the site. Don’t write copy that needs most people to visit Urban Dictionary to understand it and then show images of grey-haired individuals. Similarly, don’t depict Millennials on sites aimed at older users.

Bridge the gap

Copy cannot stand alone, so be prepared to bridge the gap between designers and copywriters. As a writer you may know that “Join Now!” is more impactful than “Register here” but does the designer know that? Can you explain why you need descriptive URLs, unique call-to-action buttons plus sub-heads and bulleted lists?

Create user personas

By creating user personas, you can keep the reader/user at the forefront of design and copy. The US Government has an excellent site on usability and a simple guide on persona development.

Design for copy

Does the design leave any space for copy? How many words are needed to describe the product/service/event? Copy should enhance the design. Consider:

  • audience appeal
  • style, and
  • tone of voice

Beware the concrete pour (a thick slab of text that is so dense that no one can – or wants to – penetrate it). Ensure that your designer understands why you need text treated like graphical elements (see bridge the gap).

Embed labels in descriptive language

Labels – links should tell you what they do and not just “learn more” or “read more” or “sign up”. Also, make links longer – so people with limited hand control can click on them.

Fonts

Be prepared to talk x-heights and readability. There’s little point in writing peerless prose if the font is unreadable for your 60-years-plus audience.

If the designer really wants Proxima Nova, explain why it’s unreadable on cheap monitors by old people (and lots of old people have cheap monitors). Proxima Nova does look gorgeous on a 27-inch Mac but the subscribers of the local library probably bought a $400 laptop from Officeworks that has Arial and Times New Roman installed.

Guidelines

Sometimes clients have brand guidelines, user guidelines, and style guides – if they do; great. Otherwise, you will need to write a style guide for the site. Base it on materials provided, their existing site and/or stakeholder meetings plus user research.

Ask the client what dictionary they use – the Macquarie (Australia), the Oxford (UK), Merriam Webster (US). If they neither know nor care, research similar sites and see what spelling they use. Stick to the one spelling (users and readers like consistency – they may not know it but their behaviour tells us that they do). Make sure the designer knows the guidelines – create a design cheat sheet if necessary.

Home

There’s no place like home and no page like the home page. Make it accessible and relevant. So many sites make users work to find information – click this, open that, swat that pop up. Collaborate with the designer to ensure the home page copy gives the user what they want – easily, immediately and relevantly.

Just because the designer loves the infinite scroll, ensure the user is remembered and write the copy for them. See how we rank digital copy at The Copy Collective.

Information Architecture

Use information architecture hierarchy to let users know what’s important. Write copy accordingly – longer copy is not better copy (as you know). You need to strike a balance between copy for the user/reader and copy for Google.

Just do it

It’s a great tagline for Nike but doesn’t work for copy. It’s important that copy is considered as part of the design from the beginning. Giving copy to a junior or a designer juggling multiple roles isn’t going to get to the heart of things.

A designer who’s written copy has penned a useful blog on the subject. It should be noted this designer uses US spelling and confuses complimentary and complementary and past and last – apart from that it is v helpful for designers and copywriters.

Keywords

Focus on personas – who uses the content, what are they looking for.

Content needs to be readable, scannable and informative and the keywords should stand out. The reader is the main user not Google but Google is our secondary user.

What questions are our readers/users seeking to answer? Google will reward you if you know.

Logic

Have the copy follow an internal logic. For example, if you use bulleted lists or other hierarchies ensure they follow an easily identifiable schema.

Alphabetic order is the simplest schema and everyone recognises it instantly. You could also consider geographical schemas or topic or theme related (females/males, fairies/elves, Northern Hemisphere/Southern Hemisphere, city/country, modern/historical). By ordering content in a way that users recognise, you make it easier for them to absorb and find the information they want. Remember, users aren’t heroes and they don’t want to be taken on a monomythic journey where they overcome obstacles. They want information presented to them in a logical manner and they want the stuff they are looking for found easily.

Mobile

How many of your visitors are on mobile devices? By using a mobile-first strategy you can ensure that you keep content simple. It also means shorter navigation titles (join, search, home, login).

 

Part two will be published next week – stay tuned for N to Z 

There’s a certain irony to a small business wanting to create a more ‘officey’ environment. I mean, isn’t it most people’s dream to work from home? The idea of rolling out of bed straight onto the job (or perhaps not even leaving your bed) is just the best.

So why would having a physical office be so important to a growing business? Does it really make any difference? Can’t we all just work remotely?

Here are 10 solid reasons why a growing business needs an office:

1. It’s a place to call HQ

Employees find it reassuring to be able to relate the business they work for to somewhere that actually exists – the ‘home’ of their company. It’s also a central place where they know their boss either works or is invested in, and that builds confidence in your brand from the inside.

It also makes you as the boss feel more aware of your colleagues and employees.

2. It’s a recognisable ‘precinct’ for customers

Customers – and even more importantly potential customers – might find it hard to grasp the idea of a company with no permanent office or base. It reminds me of that scene in the 2005 movie 40-Year-Old Virgin with Steve Carell and Catherine Keener. Keener’s character runs an eBay store but still has a shop front.

Ok, it’s a lampooned scenario but the logic is, in fact, pretty good. People like to be able to see the bricks-and-mortar side to a company they’re about to spend money with.

3. Business-level infrastructure and connectivity

Think about how many times your internet drops out or slows down at home –even if you’re on a pretty good plan. Offices as a general rule have better connectivity. If all of your employees have access to this, it’s going to make them happy and work quality’s going to improve.

4. Professional image

This is an obvious one, but it’s true. Having premises that allow you to give interested parties a physical address sets the bar for your professionalism and how serious you are. It also suggests that there’s a level of success that requires you to have an office in the first place.

5. A place to interview and host

An office gives you facilities where you can stage interviews with customers or job applicants, and also a place to hold events. Meeting in a local café is great – especially for an informal chat – but it’s not ideal if you’re looking for somewhere that makes an impression.

Your office will also give you a place to meet with team members to thrash out ideas and keep the ball moving.

6. A place to meet, collaborate and build a community

Never underestimate the power of the water cooler. One of the biggest perks for employees is the sense of community they can find at work. People meet their life-long best friends at work. This is so much less likely to happen if you’re all working remotely.

7. Fewer distractions

Working from home has a reputation – and it’s only mostly true. Having worked from home myself, I know how household chores can interrupt the workflow, and people tend to think you’re just at home and not actually working.

An office environment keeps you focused – although you have to be careful not to make the office too austere at the same time.

8. Accountability

The office gives people boundaries. It’s a work environment above all else. Working from home or other places around town, the lines get blurry. I love this funny BuzzFeed article on the problems working from home  – and though meant as a joke, it’s only funny because there are elements of truth to it.

I’m allowed to say this because I work, predominantly, from my home office.

9. Productivity

Most people (and before you get over-excited, that really means ‘not everyone’) find working at their desk in an office environment more productive. You feel more professional.

It’s a bit like when you have casual Friday or when you dress up for work, your whole tone feels different. Above all, an office gives you a time to get up and start work and – just as importantly – a time to knock off.

10. Communication

There’s nothing quite like face-to-face communication. I wonder if any technology will really ever be able to beat it. Seeing and speaking to the person you’re working with or a client you’re working for makes everything real and makes more sense of what you’re doing. It’s the easiest and quickest way to build rapport.

So what’s the big news with The Copy Collective HQ?

cat overflowing a box and text about moving offies

As you’ve probably noticed, The Copy Collective is growing all the time. We’ve got to the stage now where we need a space in the heart of Sydney to make ourselves more available to our staff and our valued clients.

And we want to do all the stuff we’ve listed above, of course! So as of 1 June, we’ll be combining our Sydney offices into one single central location at 185 Elizabeth Street.

We’ll be perfectly located right opposite Hyde Park, near several train stations and a wealth of bus routes. Plus our new building has a stunning heritage façade, which you might just find us standing outside admiring during our lunch breaks!

We’re so excited about this move, and we can’t wait to watch our business develop and bloom in these amazing new premises.

Here’s our new address for you to update our contact details now:

The Copy Collective
Suite 317, 185 Elizabeth Street
Sydney
NSW 2000

Productivity rules. Doing more with less is achievable when we are more productive. Here are 3 hacks that will get you on the productivity track.

  1. Do what you love

The glee with which she approached the task was infectious. I’d given one of our uni student-casuals the job of creating Facebook memes for Mondays and Fridays. Little messages of hope or fun to encourage our followers at the beginning and end of the week.

If I’d given her a $100 iTunes gift card, she couldn’t have been more delighted. She was, literally, bouncing in her chair as she chose or created images, drafted messages and got them approved. 35 memes later, in less than two hours, she had them designed, approved, and scheduled for our social media assets.

It was such a vivid reminder of how much fun work can be when we do something we love that aligns with our talents. What can you focus on this week that will have you bouncing in your seat?

  1. Unsubscribe

You can read 600-word blog posts about Inbox zero (where you work to get your Inbox down to nothing, nada, zilch). If you’re like me, you’ve got 4,290 messages sitting in your Inbox and the thought of having to go through and delete that many emails is climbing-Mt Kilimanjaro-daunting.

So tackle one thing – unsubscribe from the next 10 auto-generated emails in your Inbox. Do that every day for a month. Just think, at least 300 fewer emails in your Inbox next month.

  1. Stand up

If you’ve got an Apple Watch (or some other smart wrist device), it’s probably telling you to stand up right now. Take its advice and conduct your next meeting standing up. You will keep the meeting shorter, you will benefit from the exercise, and your nagging wrist will be bleating “goal achieved” in next to no time.

What makes you more productive? Let us know via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn #lovewins #unsubscribe #standup

Maureen Shelley is The Copy Collective’s COO. As our resident nerd, she loves productivity hacks of all kinds and devours tech blogs with her cereal. Maureen supervises our current crop of uni student creatives and admin assistants.

 

Growing a business isn’t easy. And it doesn’t happen overnight. CEO Dominique Antarakis (@dantarakis) and COO Maureen Shelley (@MaureenShelley) share the six things they’ve learned from growing their small business, The Copy Collective. From the people, the clients and the inspiring work – they’re privileged to do what they do… and they want to thank YOU for making 2014 a great one.
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You’ve finally written your masterpiece. You’ve done it. You’re an author… But how will people read it? Well, Red Raven Books can help. Maureen Shelley shares the final post in her Blog series “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author.”

Here’s the final steps of what you need to do:

1. Call The Copy Collective and a Red Raven Books’ editor will be assigned to collaborate on your manuscript.
Select how much you want to spend, what you want us to do and what you are prepared to do for yourself. You can stage your process so it suits you and you can pay over a period of time as each service is completed.
This is a fee-for-publishing service. You retain final control. You keep all the proceeds of your sales.
2. Select your package – you can choose some or all. Packages start at $870 through to a full print production with assistance at every step:

  • Editing.
  • Proof reading.
  • Book cover design and selection.
  • Print-ready manuscript (editing and/or proofing & typesetting) + ISBN + barcode.
  • Digital-ready manuscript (for Amazon (Kindle) & iTunes (iBooks) & Google Play.
  • Book app – Android and iOS.
  • Print management – typesetting, printer liaison (Australia), proofs & delivery.
  • Registration and lodgement to comply with the Copyright Act (1968).
  • Marketing plan – social and traditional media, registration with book distributors.

3. Work with your editor during a 4 to 6 week period to complete your draft manuscript.
4. Get the technical bits right: typesetting and design, including digital file preparation.
5. ‘Print’ execution: send to printers or submit to publishing platforms.
6. See your book in print, in the App Store or on Google Play.
7. Manage your launch/celebratory event, first conference presentation or elaunch – including media coaching, photography and support.
8. Digital media campaign – microsite development, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, TweetReach, CRM registration and HootSuite scheduling, plus eDM, GoodReads and genre sites registration and reviews.
9. Traditional media campaign: media releases, registration on news sites for Google News indexing, book tours.
10. Start working on your next manuscript.

Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

You’re almost there! You’ve written the work, laid it out and now you need to get it out. But how? Maureen Shelley shares her research on publishing platforms in part 8 of Blog series “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author.”

Print, digital or POD?
Once, it used to be easy. You could print or you could go digital. Now, you can print, go digital, go a bit each way with short print runs and print on demand (POD). Do it yourself, contract it all out, contract out a bit or contract a lot. It is up to you. Never have so many people been publishing books and never have there been more choices available to the would-be author to get their manuscript before a reading public.

Printing in Australia

We use and recommend Griffin Press in South Australia. They are a traditional printer with some extras for small publishers (like us), self-publishers and big publishers. People always want to know what it will cost to print their book and the answer is “it depends”. It depends on book length, size, paper chosen, cover stock chosen – even the size of your margins can make a difference (larger margins equals more pages).

A screen capture of the "Request a Quote" page at griffinpress.com.au
Self-print options available at Griffin Press. Source: www.griffinpress.com.au

So let’s say you have

  1. 316 pages
  2. in a Trade B format paperback
  3. with gloss cover (matte is more fashionable but it scratches more easily)
  4. with book cream pages

For 1000 books that will cost you around $5 a book.

Now, you can get a quote out of China for about $2 a book for the same format manuscript, however it will cost you $3 a book to ship it to Australia. That will still cost you around $5 a book.
It will cost you more if you want proofs rather than just checking a PDF file and it will cost you more if you ship stock to more than one “drop” (address).
You then have to store your books where they won’t absorb damp, smells (cigarettes, open fires, factories etc), or be attacked by insects or rodents (so maybe not the attic, basement or garage – unless they are clean, dry, airy vermin-proof areas).
If you must store your books in the garage, put your cartons on a plastic pallet – they at least won’t absorb damp from the ground. You can buy plastic pallets from eBay or Gumtree.
Our recommendation is to print in Australia if you have a ready-made audience. If you are well known – even if it’s in your own niche – you have an audience already. If you then market to that audience, you should get sales and hopefully can move 1000 books inside of a year.
The books that sell the most in Australia are children’s books (however, they tend to have a lower cover price so the authors may earn less than writers for the general market with a higher price) and tie-ins to movies and TV programs (good luck with that).
Female authors tend to do better with cookbooks and diet books, unless you are Mem Fox or writing romance novels. Andy Griffiths probably sells more books in Australia than any other Australian author but they’re cheaper so Andy may not earn quite as much as Matthew Reilly (I don’t actually know, this is a guesstimate based on reported sales).
If you write a book that can be used in schools, you will have a much better chance at success. Around half of Australia’s reported $2 billion+ publishing industry is for publications in the education sector.
You can view monthly top seller lists at Nielsen BookScan to get an idea of what is selling locally, who is writing them, and the retail price at local book shops.

A screen capture of the "Hot 10" page at nielsenbookscan.com.au
Top 10 selling books in Australia, retrieved 1 August 2014. Source: www.nielsenbookscan.com.au/

So, if Andy, Mem and Matthew are selling (say) 40,000 books each, you can expect to sell 400. If you have an audience or have created an audience, you may sell a print run of 1000. A best seller in Australia is 3000 sales or better.
Let’s say your book will cost between $5000 and $10,000 to produce 1000 copies:

  • $5 to print the book
  • plus up to another $5 per book in editing, proofing, design, typesetting, and other expenses

Of those 1000 copies you may sell 400 for $19.95. So your $5,000 to $10,000 investment will net you $7,980.

However, you could be the author that sells 990 of your 1,000 print run (10 copies for deposit at the National Library of Australia, some sold through marketing, and the copies your mum buys for Christmas presents) and you’ve made between $9750 and $14,750 profit. Start to do that twice a year and you have the beginnings of a new career.

In addition to sales, your book may also be purchased by public libraries and the Public Lending Rights (PLR) scheme may apply. If you strike gold and your education-related book is picked up and used as part of the National Curriculum, then the Education Lending Rights (ELR) may also kick in. These schemes are administered by the Ministry for the Arts, a part of the Australian Attorney General’s Department. Guidelines can be found at the Ministry for the Arts webpage.
Your decision to print should be carefully weighed. On the one hand, you are taking a risk. However, you will control your sales and distribution and, if you are a self-published author all of the money from sales (less your costs) is yours to keep. If you do want to print in Australia, then Griffin Digital can do short runs if you don’t want to commit to more than 500 books.

Digital

Using a digital format to produce your books is a no-brainer. There really isn’t a good reason to not produce a digital version of your book. The difficult part is to decide what formats to publish in and whether you will do it yourself or contract out part or all of the effort. I discussed preparing your digital file in Part 7 of this series.

PDF

A PDF is the easiest, simplest and cheapest form of digital publishing available to you. You can write the book yourself, use an online program to undertake editing or proofing (some are even free to use) and you can then convert your manuscript by printing to PDF in your word processing program.
You then have an ebook that you can give away, send to people who subscribe to your blog or sign up on your website (assuming you are marketing some other product), or upload to a platform such as Scribd. If you give away your book, you can upload to Scribd immediately. If you want to sell it, you will need to go through one of their digital publishing partners:
SmashWordsINscribe DigitalBookBabyDraft2Digial
If you have ecommerce on your website, you can take payment for your book and provide the PDF as a down-loadable file once payment is made.
You can also sell your PDF ebook through platforms such as those used by Scribd or through Vook or IngramSpark.
Conversion and distribution platforms
If you don’t want to convert your Word doc to an ebook version yourself, there are platforms that will do it for you. This is a small selection but they offer some of the largest distribution networks with up to 39,000 outlets around the world.

Popular conversion/distribution platforms

Platform Your share Fees
BookBaby 60% of list = 85% net royalties $0 to $249+, cover design $149 – $279
Booktango 100% of net royalties Free basic package, premium packages from $49 to $349. Booktango is part of AuthorServices, which is a division of Penguin Books.
Draft2Digital 60% of list = 85% net royalties No fees but retain 30% for US tax if not from US unless a signed W8-BEN form is lodged (Australia & NZ have tax agreement with US), free ISBN
INscribe Digital ?? “flat fees per title distributed & a small revenue share per title sold”
IngramSpark 40% of list/agency price $25-$49 per eBook plus $12 per title per year – dearest but also can be paired with POD (print on demand); it also distributes to the most outlets
Smashwords 60% of list = 85% net royalties No fees, free ISBN
Vook 60% of list = 85% net royalties No fees

Free conversion tools
There are tools that allow you to convert your word processing file to the popular formats for free. They tend to be a bit fiddly but if you have the time and are prepared to be patient, then you can convert your files yourself and upload to the popular stores yourself:

  • Amazon, for Kindle – still the category killer
  • iTunes – Apple’s iBooks are getting more popular
  • Google Play – PDF, ePub or .ASCM (Adobe’s format with DRM)

You will want – as a minimum – a version for Kindle AZW, iTunes (ePub) and Google Play. You may also want versions for Sony LRF, eBook FB2, Microsoft LIT, and TCR (Symbian platforms).

The Calibre open source program can be used for DRM-free (digital rights management-free) books and you can use the free converter at Online Convert to produce most popular formats. Both these sites request donations. Online Convert has a paid premium service as well. Zamzar also converts one ebook format to most others and is a free service.

 

Direct digital services

Amazon – Kindle Direct Services
Amazon really created the ebook market. The Kindle (love it or hate it) is still the best-selling e-reader and some authors make a living through just listing with Amazon. If you choose to publish exclusively with Amazon you will earn higher royalties (70% net instead of 60% or less). Publishing in the Kindle format is complicated (I’ve done it) but Amazon have excellent resources for self publishers.
Apple – iBook Author
If you just want to publish in iTunes and your books need colour images, then I would recommend using iBook Author. It is free but you will need a Macintosh computer. Apple provides excellent resources for the self-publishing author but if you publish directly with Apple you can’t sell your book anywhere else. You can give it away, though. Authoring with the iBook Author is a “drag and drop” experience, particularly if you have multimedia that you want to include.
Apple – Book Creator (for iPad) ($6.49)
If you don’t have a Macintosh computer but still want to publish directly to iTunes, you can use an app on an iPad called Book Creator. It will produce a reasonable book that can be published to the iTunes store and will be available for sale or distribution. It is better for short books such as picture books for children or self-help books (not so much for 52,000 word novels) and you can incorporate both video and audio into your book. More than 5 million books have been published with Book Creator, so it is well worth trying.
Google Play
To publish directly with Google Play you need to create a Google Partner Account. Google accepts PDF and ePub formats and provides a step-by-step process for authors and self-publishers. After establishing your account and sorting how you’d like to be paid and where you’d like to sell your book, you can list your book in Google’s book catalogue, set your price and distribution and then upload the book.

Print On Demand (POD)

Print on demand services enable your books to be listed as “in stock” or “available now” in online stores. There are a lot of POD services out there. I’d recommend you look at three: Lulu, Blurb and IngramSpark.
Lulu
Lulu has been in operation since 2002, which is a long time in the POD space. Lulu lets you set up your account for free. It has a slightly different take on fees. Lulu takes a “base price” deduction from your RRP (the cost of producing the book), as well as a “share”. However, it claims that authors receive more net than if they print with Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Ingram. These three publishers all charge less to produce the book but they have higher distribution fees. While the POD prices for Lulu are reasonable (about $10 a book), in the past shipping was a killer and often left a book costing as much or more than it would cost to print in Australia. However, Lulu now have print facilities in Australia and this is less of a problem.
Blurb
While the Blurb POD book costs more (about $11 to $12 for a 200-page book printing 1000) it allows for much more flexibility than the usual self-publishing service. You create one file and Blurb converts it to PDF, fixed format ebook and POD book. You can sell through Blurb, your own site or Amazon. This is a great platform for photo books, coffee table books, art books or similar. If you want a straight black print on book cream paper, there are cheaper options but perhaps not those that are as easy to use or as flexible.
IngramSpark
While IngramSpark is probably one of the most expensive options it also has the greatest reach. You can produce an ebook and a POD book through Ingram. If you produce your eBook and POD book at the same time, the set up fee is $49, however, if you order 50 books for your first print run the $49 fee is refunded. If you print 50 books of the one title and ship to a single address, the $49 is recredited to your credit card. If you choose IngramSpark, your book (eBook and POD) will be available in 39,000 outlets. That is as good as it gets. What you need to decide is whether you are prepared to put all the “publishing” in the hands of one partner and collect a lower net revenue or whether you want to do more of the leg work and receive a bigger share of your list price.

Personally, I think that it is better to put more of your time into marketing your book than distributing it so my recommendation is to go with IngramSpark.
If you work with a company such as ours, we would put it through the publishers’ equivalent Lightning Source (also owned by Ingram, which is a big US publisher).


Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

Maureen Shelley turns technical in Part 7 of Blog series “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author”, on preparing your digital file.

The good news about digital files is that the eBook format takes care of all the extra formatting that is required in a print-ready manuscript. The bad news is that you have to take it all out: all those extra section breaks, footnotes etc. you put in for your print book – they all have to come out. This is where you will thank yourself for using the inbuilt formatting available in word processors.

Less is more:

Remove all section and page breaks, all footnotes and end notes, remove all underlining.

if you want to emphasise a point use italics, not underlining.

Remove the table of contents and page numbers.

Leave in your chapter headings.

Remove any hidden commands.

the long dash in Word is an example: some digital programs don’t deal well with these so use short dashes or change your punctuation.
Apostrophes are another punctuation mark that can cause issues. You may have seen a question mark in some digital files; it is usually in the place where an apostrophe would be.

Remove all blank pages. Remove all notes pages.

Your file should be continuous (no separate pages; the text should flow on) with your title page, frontispiece, the introduction and your body copy.
 
It may be tempting to save your file as a text file to get rid of all the formatting. This is a temptation you should resist, as it will only create additional issues, such as having to replace all the chapter headings’ format.

EBooks aren’t necessarily great places for tables and graphs. You may need to convert these to JPEG files. Then you will need to embed your images or convert them to outline files remembering to save them in the correct format if they are in colour. Your eBook platform will have specific instructions on each of these steps.

Hyperlinks need to be formatted differently for eBook versions, so if you include them read up on how to do it. There are plenty of digital publishing blog sites, so search and you shall find.

There are about 40 digital formats

An ePub is the most widely used. However, as a self-published author you will want to get onto Amazon and the Kindle uses proprietary software. Also, Apple’s iBook store uses a modified ePub (it has different cascading style sheets or CSS), so you may need at least three versions of your eBook.

Storyist is great publishing software that lets you create manuscripts (and screenplays) and convert them to popular digital formats. I recommend you investigate your options. When you upload your manuscript you will need two PDFs: one for the cover and one for the body copy.

There are dozens of eBook publishing sites and platforms. They will convert the file for you and publish to thousands of outlets. However, they will also manage your sales (which could be a good thing) and you will get the proceeds. Expect to receive between 30 and 50% of the RRP or recommended retail price.

Another way to publish is simply to use a PDF file, thereby avoiding formatting challenges. Scribd will publish PDFs and Scribd has a very large readership, or you could chose to have a downloadable file from your own website; that way you don’t share your sales with anyone.

You will need to decide whether it is better to have all the money and fewer sales or less money on more sales. If you have good traffic to your website – say 2 to 3 million visitors a month – then by all means publish only on your own site.
You will need a separate ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your digital manuscript and a separate National Library entry for the digital format. You will not need a barcode. If you publish on Amazon, you will be given their equivalent of an ISBN.

 

A last word on digital files: use the strengths of the format.

You can add social media buttons and links, links to your GoodReads review page or Amazon listings for your other books – all from within your manuscript. It makes sense that if someone has just read your book, they may want more or they may tweet about it. Don’t stand in the way of your readers doing your marketing for you. Read up on the HTML codes to insert these buttons into your manuscript. It could be well worth it!

We will publish a list of sites for self-published authors at the end of this series or you could just Google it if you don’t want to wait.

Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

Maureen Shelley turns technical in Part 6 of Blog series “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author”, on preparing your book’s print file.

The least pleasant part of writing a book is preparing the file for the printer or digital publication. I recommend you save yourself a whole lot of pain and angst and send the file to a professional typesetter to do the job for you.

If you have budgeted for nothing else, budget for a typesetter. Google typesetters in your area and send off your file and get back a nice PDF that has everything done for you. Most authors don’t try to design their covers, yet many believe that they can do the work of a typesetter.

What you need to provide if you’re going to attempt it yourself:

  • You will need to provide two files to your printer – one PDF for the cover and one PDF for the manuscript itself.
  • If you don’t understand any of the points below, please consult Google as there are a myriad of resources available to the self-publishing author and most are available for free.

The Cover file for the printer:

  • Send the checklist of the printer’s requirements to the graphic artist who designed your cover.
  • They will follow the instructions and send you back your cover with embedded fonts or with the fonts outlined.
  • They will also supply the PDF in the correct format for printing, particularly if you have a full-colour cover. The details below are for the body copy file only.

The body copy file for the printer must have:

  • Embedded fonts – all fonts are to be embedded, this is why I recommend Times New Roman and the use of one font only
  • Mirror margins
  • If the book is more than 150 pages, the right margin wider than the left (gutters)
  • Manuscript margins (these are wider than standard)
  • The correct leading and spacing that is consistent throughout
  • The number of pages in the manuscript is exactly divisible by 16
  • If the pages aren’t divisible by 16 you have added blank pages at the end
  • If you have blank pages, there are fewer than 10 blank pages
  • If there are more than 10 blank pages, you have typed ‘notes’ at the top of each
  • The last page blank,
  • The introduction and the first chapter start on right-hand pages
  • The dimensions of the ‘pages’ are equal to a standard paperback form such as Trade B, B+ or C
  • All options of the ‘printing’ of the file to PDF are changed so the page size remains the same at Trade B or C or what size you have chosen
  • Section breaks, so you can change the page numbers before the Introduction to Roman numerals
  • Page numbers after the introduction or Chapter 1 starting with Arabic numbers
  • The file is ‘printed’ to PDF not ‘saved as’ a PDF from Word
  • Each page set so when the file is ‘printed’ to PDF the words don’t move to the next page – resulting in changes in format and more pages than originally desired
  • Standard headings used by your word processing program
  • A table of contents created by your word processing program
  • No extra spaces or paragraph marks – not one! Extra spaces and par marks can create havoc when files are converted to PDF and fonts are embedded
  • Word processing commands for paragraphs (Ctrl (or Ctrl) in Word on a PC) – not the ‘enter’ key hit twice
  • Uniform paragraph spacing – not the ‘enter’ key hit twice creating greater leading after 14pt letters as compared to 11pt letters
  • Consistent spelling – chose Australian English as the review language and apply it to the whole document; unless your market is the US and then apply US spelling to the whole document
  • Numbered chapter headings
  • Spell checked – one last time
  • A frontispiece – this sets out the requirements under

The Copyright Act (1968), provides details of the author, printer, publisher (if any), the ISBN, whether the book has been catalogued at the National Library of Australia, a statement that the author is asserting their moral rights, a copyright symbol next to the author’s name and details of the edition (1st, 2nd, Australian etc). Look at recent books in your genre to see how these are laid out.

Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

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