Gmail on your Kindle

Don’t have a data plan on your cell phone?

Want to know a cool work-around of how you can check your email on your Kindle? It works whether you have a wifi or 3G connection.  Check your gmail!

This is from the perspective of using the 3rd Gen (graphite/grey screen) Kindle device (with the built in keyboard).

Just go to the ‘Menu’ from the home screen and choose ‘Experimental.’ You can launch the web browser from there.  Next, go to gmail’s page for mobile devices: http://m.gmail.com

I even used it during a recent trip to Mexico – the international 3G network worked like a charm!

Any website that supports mobile devices is probably going to work well for the Kindle browser.  Often, if a mobile version of a website exists, it’ll appear as http://m.<website>.com – for example: http://m.yahoo.com is one I use a lot.  So even if you are not a gmail user, you still might be able to utilize the ‘experimental’ browser on your Kindle to check your email.

You probably won’t be composing too many emails on your Kindle, but at least you have an option to find out if something important is sitting unread in your inbox.

An ebook conversion primer

Dear author friends (& soon-to-be authors),

I want to share a less fortunate situation I see some authors getting themselves into. If you let another company publish your eBook under their account, you are going to be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to succeeding in the era of eBooks. If you let another company publish your eBook under their account, you are not actually self-publishing. True self-publishing means you as the author are the publisher. You work directly with the marketplaces that sell your book, you buy directly from the printers who print your books. The beauty of self-publishing is that you retain 100% of your profits and purchase your books at the lowest possible price (no markup, no middle man).

Here’s WHY you should avoid letting anyone else publish your work under their accounts on the major eBook marketplaces:

If you ever want to setup the title under your own account (after it’s already been setup on another account), you will lose your ranking and reviews. This is because the marketplaces can’t simply transfer a title from one account to another. Instead, the title would have to be unpublished under the old account, and then setup as a new title on the new account. Amazon won’t transfer the reviews to your new listing and you have to start over working your way back up the sales rankings (which does take into account your cumulative sales).

If you want to participate in programs like KDP select – you need to be able to ‘unpublish’ your work on all the other marketplaces you might setup on (only for the duration you choose to participate in KDP Select). This is easy to do if you are the account holder, but impossible to do if you are not. This is one of the many reasons I’m not a fan of the shotgun approach of publishing your eBook in every marketplace under the sun.

One of the keys to being a successful eBook author is in being able to fine tune your listing. This entails updating your description, trying different keywords, changing categories, testing different price points, etc.. All which requires that you have direct access to make these tweaks whenever you want.

I’m not going to call out any of these companies by name, but the bottom line is that there are many different business models out there, and you need to be fully informed before you enter into an engagement. Some companies are charging an annual fee as well as fees anytime you want to update your listings. None of the marketplaces I recommend you publish to charge any fees whatsoever (they don’t have to because they get a % of every sale). Bottom line is that you should be self-publishing your eBook. Which means you as the author/publisher get paid directly by Amazon, BN, Apple, Google, Kobo, or any other reputable marketplace that sells your eBook.

What if your book has already been published in print with a traditional publisher?

If so, there’s a chance the contract you have with your publisher makes no mention of eBooks. If that’s the case, then it would be in your best interest to self-publish your eBook edition before the publisher does. If you wait, and the publisher will likely eventually publish it as an eBook on your behalf, and you will not have any easy time republishing it under your own account. Amazon won’t allow a title to be published as eBook more than once. If this as occurred, as I mentioned above – the only option is that you convince your publisher to unpublish the eBook so you can publish it under your own account. Your ability to do this will vary depending on the contract you have in place with your existing publisher. But many of the contracts were written long before eBooks existed, so there’s a good chance you own the rights to do this yourself. But if you hesitate too long, and the publisher does publish your eBook, you may be hard pressed to get the rights to self-publish it. Please note: Every contract and situation will be different, and by no means am I providing any legal advice whatsoever – you need to protect yourself and be sure you aren’t violating any terms with your existing publisher. You should try to get a letter from the publisher that they are rescinding any rights of the eBook edition. Amazon may ask you to provide written proof that you have the rights if they see the print edition was published under a different publisher. I’ve worked with many authors who had no problem getting the publisher to furnish this document. Sometimes all you have to do is ask!

Wondering what work is involved to properly do an ebook conversion?

For the purposes of this article, consider the following: epub refers to any format of epublishing – whether it be mobi for Kindle,  epub for iPad, or epub for any other device.  Incidentally: a mobi file is built on the same foundation of epub file – just a few minor tweaks are required by the Kindle. Both are compressed files that take up little space.  The eReader expands (ie. unzips) the files every time you open a new eBook on your eReader.

While there are very few rules in print layout (other than margins and printer’s requirements which vary), there are many rules in epub layout. Epub is built on HTML standards because all eReaders are essentially stripped down web browsers programmed to display html pages. Thus, some knowledge of html is helpful to get predictable results.

There’s generally a 12 step process involved in doing an ebook conversion, no matter what techniques or tools you use, and at a fundamental level, they all involve the following steps.

Depending on the book and type of file provided, some of these steps may be eliminated, thus the time it takes (& thus the price to do the work) to do a proper ebook conversion will always vary if there’s a proof stage involved.  I mention this because the high volume, low cost conversion shops won’t give the author a digital proof – you will be stuck with whatever they produce for you.   An attention to detail (& understanding of the language of the book you are converting) is paramount.

Here’s the process we go through when we receive a new book file from an author to convert it to a ready-to-publish digital file format. Following a brief consultation with the author regarding possible layout and sequence changes to improve the ebook reader’s experience, we:

1. Strip out any headers/footers/endnotes/footnotes
2. Extract all the raw text from the file (usually a pdf or word doc)
3. Reformat all the content using html to mirror the styles in print (ie. bold, italic, font size, underlines, titles, etc..)
4. Recreate bulleted lists & numbered lists (to be html compatible)
5. Reinsert & hyperlink all endnotes/footnotes
6. Recreate tables or clip them as images from a PDF version
7. Create a metadata file that provides eReaders with information about the book, publisher, & author
8. Format the cover (to fit the full screen of an eReader)
9. Clip & reinsert images or forms (sometimes images will have to be reformatted)
10. Create a hyperlinked table of contents to each chapter and accessible in the navigation function of the eReader
11. Convert html to the epub & mobi formats and validate the file with the ePub checker.
12. Test on each device and make any necessary corrections and deliver a ready-to-publish file to the author.

After the file is delivered, we provide step-by-step tutorials to help the author/publisher upload their books to each of the major marketplaces.

There are variety of tools that can be used to work through the process, and those of us who do this work will favor tools we are comfortable with.

Having an understanding of how html works will help you understand why something looks the way it does on an eReader. Just as a webpage will look different on different browsers, an ebook file (remember, it’s essentially a webpage) will look different on different eReaders.  The best thing we can do is stick with the basic rules of html that are compatible with all ebook readers.

Many authors hire us after they’ve already spent many frustrating hours trying to get their book looking they way they intended it to.  And the vast majority of our business is through referrals, which is why we make sure every author is pleased with the results we produce for them.

Just like anything else, the final result will reflect the experience of the person doing to work.   Because your ebook will be a permanent edition of your book that will never go out of print (and outlive all of us), you owe it to your future readers to have it done right.  When I think about the lifetime royalties that’ll be earned from an authors ebook, spending a little extra to have it done right seems like a smart investment.

If you do want to do this work yourself, you should at least consider using our template. It has been refined through the process of literally hundreds of conversions and testing with each device. I guarantee you’ll get much better results than you would without it.  One of the most recent examples of someone who used our template to create a truly beautiful ebook is Will Craig, who published Date with Destiny: Living the Hero’s Journey on Kindle.

Want to earn an extra 5-8% for every ebook you sell on Amazon, BN, Apple, or Google?

Are leaving money on the table with your ebooks?

Become a BN affiliate at Linkshare.com and earn an extra 6% on every nook book sale!

Sign up for the affiliate programs offered by the major ebook marketplaces and earn a extra % of every sale you refer (especially if you are linking to the marketplaces from your own site or Facebook page which I recommend).

All the major marketplaces now offer affiliate programs for authors, publishers, and anyone else who refers a sale (allowing you a way to provide your readers an incentive).  Click on the links below to sign up today and earn more profit from your ebooks!

Did you know that Kindle Expert also has an affiliate program?  You can earn $25 for any client you refer who hires us to help them with their ebook conversion.  To sign up and learn more visit our affiliate page.

Want to run ePub checker on your own PC?

Do you need the ability to check if your ePub file passes the ‘epub checker’ validation tool?  Rather than upload your file to one of the various epub checkers on the web, you should install and run it on your own computer.  Why?  Because if you are having any errors after you try to upload your formatted ebook, chances are, it didn’t pass the epub checker.

It’s a bit confusing when you try to follow the fragmented instructions you’ll find around the web. So I wanted to share the exact process I went through to successfully install the ability to validate an epub on my own PC:

  1. Download and install Java if it isn’t already on you computer
  2. Modify your PATH to enable the ability to run Java from your command line/prompt.  This is exactly how mine appeared (it’ll make sense after you view this tutorial): ;C:Program Files (x86)Javajre6bin
  3. Download ePub checker binary (version I have is 3.0.1)
  4. Unzip the file and place all the files in a root directory on your c: drive (ie. /epub)
  5. Put the .epub file you want to check in the same directory (ie. /epub)
  6. Run your command prompt application (type command on the start bar)
  7. Change directory to /epub (by using the basic command cd until you get to the root directory (c:/) and then type cd epub.
  8. To run the epub checker, you will need to yype something similar to this on the command line (it will vary depending on the version of epubcheck and your epub file name): java -jar epubcheck-3.0.1.jar filename.epub

Here’s a screenshot of how it looks when you have a successful epub check (in this case, the file I am checking is entitled ‘gaddafi.epub’).

If you are still struggling getting it to work, let me know because I can post a YouTube video to walk you through the process and will post the link when it’s available.

Three indispensable tools for getting your writing done

Now that publishing is no longer a barrier for many of us, it’s worth looking at ways to remove a common barrier that still exists: writing.  Here are some techniques and tools I personally use to help me get words out of my head and closer to being published.  If you have any others you’ve personally found to work well for yourself, please share them in the comments sections below.

1. Get a distraction free word processor. My personal favorite is also free (for the PC) – Zen Edit. On the mac, there are similar program such as WriteRoom & OmmWriter (ipad/mac).

2. Play background sound to focus your mind and inspire you. I love Pandora.  When I’m writing or blogging, I almost always have it running.  Two stations I’d suggest you create for some awe inspiring ‘atmospheric’ music comes from the bands: Manual & Hammock.  For years, I’ve used a brilliant little app called Chatter Blocker to keep my mind on task.  A cool thing you can do with Chatter Blocker is create your own loops.

3. Begin by outlining and gathering thoughts. One key to creating great non-fiction lies in the table of contents.  So be sure you are writing from an outline.  Visual outlining is easily done with any of the many mind mapping tools you can find online.  Be sure you get one that allows you to export the mind map into an outline, and use that as your table of contents.

Here’s a few other tools I use on a regular basis to help me keep my writings organized and into a space where I won’t ever lose them:

  • Use Simplenote to never lose another idea. I use simplenote in combination with ZenEdit.  I begin by writing in ZenEdit, and then always save my work to Simplenote.  You can use tagging within Simplenote to organize your writing. I find that my mind often wanders, and simplenote has been a great tool for me to put those on the back burner for now and get back to the topic I’m writing about. The biggest reason I’m such a big fan of Simplenote is because of the seamless integration with the ipad (even when the ipad is offline).
  • Stay organized and expand your ideas with index cards. There’s a few virtual index card apps out there, but one that’s been out longer than most is Super Note Card. If you’ve attended any of my workshops, you might be familiar with my 4-up sheet & 8-up sheet brainstorming techniques.  SuperNoteCard is a great tool to expand them further.
  • Keep your files safe and secure. One of the common problems new (& sometimes old) authors fall into is in losing their files or getting revisions of their work mixed up.  Like millions of others, I’ve discovered dropbox – and now it’s a technology I feel I can’t live without.

Hope this helps you focus on your writing which is one of the most important things you can do!  My #1 suggestion is that you find a few tools that work for you and stick to them.  Complexity quickly becomes a real issue as you try to add that latest new tool to your arsenal.  And while it’s very tempting because we are always looking for a quicker/better way… resist them and stick with what you already know.

Amazon is on the verge of breaking 1 million titles on Kindle!

Screenshot taken on 7/18/11

You probably don’t watch these #’s as closely as I do, but I wanted to draw your attention to the fact that Amazon is about to break 1 million titles (ebooks) in the Kindle store.  Are you one the early adopters who’ve managed to get your own book on the Kindle platform? If so, I bet like a lot of us, you are selling more Kindle books than you are in print.  Over 1000 new titles are uploaded everyday to Amazon, therefore, I predict that Amazon will break the 1 million ebooks threshold before the end of this month.

To help celebrate this milestone, we are offering $30 off on our mobi & epub conversion services until there are 1 million titles available for sale at Amazon.  You’ll also receive a comp pass to our next Amazon optimization webinar ($47 value) when you hire us to do your conversion. Mention this deal when you contact us and we’ll knock our fee down by $30, which will make your rate only $299 in most cases (that includes both mobi & epub versions).

There’s never been a better time to jump on board as I’m certain a lot more attention will be on the Kindle once they break a million ebooks, and when they do, be sure your book is available!  We’re here to help, feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

PS: We now offer ebook cover services, as I’ve vetted some extremely talented graphic designers who are eagerly awaiting more work.  Check out some of the recent work at: http://www.kindleexpert.com/covers/

PPS: I also offer a great option for you Do-It-Yourselfer’s – There’s now a template in Microsoft Word or Open Office that allows you to do your own ebook conversions using tools you are already familiar with.  The file can be uploaded directly to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and I show how a small tweak allows you to create an epub version that you can also upload to Apple, and every other marketplace accepting ePubs.  Using our template will cut your time in HALF as it’s been optimized through the process of over 100 conversions (& literally hundreds of hours of trial & error). It comes with the same level of support from us that many of you have already come to know and love.

Need help finding better keywords to sell more ebooks?

If you have worked with me, you already know how important keywords are when setting up your book on any of the marketplaces.  Keywords determine how often your book shows up in each marketplace, so it’s vital that you take time and choose wisely!  This is one of the major reasons I advise my clients to avoid using 3rd party aggregators.

Amazon allows you to use up to 512 characters for your keywords,  so be sure to make full use of all the space they provide to fill your listing with relevant keywords.  Barnes & Noble only allows you to use up to 100 characters for your keywords, so be extra careful with that limited space they provide.

Here’s where you list your keywords in the back-end of your Kindle book listing:

There are two great tools I recommend you become familiar with as you get seek out relevant keywords; Google Insights & Netspeak.  There’s tons of great resources around the web on how to use Google Insights & Google will show you how when you visit their site. Netspeak.org on the other hand has little documentation to go off, so I created this video walk-through to show you how I use NetSpeak to come up with keyword ideas for the titles I setup:

Let me know if you need my help in optimizing your marketplace (Amazon,BN,Apple,etc.) listing for you, I do charge a very small fee, but I’m confident that the resulting increased book sales will provide a quick return on investment (ROI).  Alternatively, you can attend our next webinar and learn to do it yourself.

Fixing a common issue – What to do when your physical book & ebook are not associated with each other on Amazon

What do you do when the digital version of your book isn’t being associated with the physical version of your book? And why is this a big deal?

If you have any reviews and/or tags on your print edition, when the two are linked, the same reviews and tags will be reflected on both listings.

Because someone who finds your physical book on Amazon may pass on it because they don’t see a ‘read it on your kindle now’ option!

Because the default search at Amazon and BN is still for physical books… and print books still get the greatest visibility for keywords entered from the default search bar.

So how to fix the problem?

One important caveat: Be sure the titles on both editions (physical & ebook) are an exact match (title & description) – Amazon won’t link the two unless the titles are an exact match. If they aren’t a match, than first edit your title in your Kindle bookshelf (it will take 24 hours for the new title to take effect). Once you are certain both titles match, here’s the process you will need to follow to get the problem fixed:

  1. Check to see if your print edition reveals that your book is also available on Kindle (in the example below, it is not).
  2. Make a note of your ISBN # (print edition).
  3. Make a note of your ASIN # (kindle edition).
  4. Notify Amazon of the correction through the contact us tab (available after you log in to your KDP account.

You will need to provide Amazon KDP support with both the ASIN # of your Kindle book & the ISBN # of your printed book. The ASIN is your unique identification number that Amazon uses to catalog your title.
Here’s a graphical step-by-step:

Step 1: Confirm if the print & kindle editions are already linked (In this example, they are not)

Step 2: Make a note of your ISBN # for your print edition

Step 3: Locate & Write down your ASIN # for your Kindle edition

Step 4: Go to the Contact Us page from your KDP account

Step 5: Provide the Title, ISBN # & ASIN to Amazon so they can correct the problem

Hope that helps you get the issue resolved if you are one of the many authors dealing with this issue. If you haven’t yet hired us to help you with your ebook conversion (to Kindle, Nook, Ipad, Sony Reader, Google Books, etc..) feel free to contact us to find out more. We also now provide MS Word and Open Office templates (optimized for the marketplaces) if you prefer to do the conversion yourself.

Putting your book & ebook sales on Autopilot (Part 1 of a two part webinar)

I am very grateful for the opportunity to address the National Speakers Association last week, and I’ll be giving Part 2 next month that will dive deeper into the marketing side of what we do at 50 Interviews.  Hope you enjoy it and I welcome your feedback. FYI, it’s about an hour long. You can hear the audio and the slides advance automatically when you hit the ‘play’ button:

Putting your book & ebook sales on Autopilot

Our next AuthorSwap begins May 3rd and I hope you can join us (you’ll be glad you did)!

How to send a mobi or doc file directly to your Kindle

Many of you who’ve hired us to convert your title to a Kindle-ready format will benefit from knowing how to send the .mobi file we provide directly to your own Kindle.

Option 1:

The quickest, easiest way is to simply install Amazon’s Send To Kindle application for PC or Mac.

Option 2:

This was the process we all used before the Send To Kindle app existed:

  1. You will actually attach the mobi or doc file and email it to the email address associated with your Kindle device. In order to find out what your unique email address is, log into your Amazon account at: http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle
  2. Next, add your own email address (ie. name@domain.com) as an ‘approved sender’ to your Kindle device (you only have to do this one time for each email address you plan to use).
  3. Email yourself the .mobi or .doc file you want on your Kindle to: [yourid]@free.kindle.com (free) or [yourid]@kindle.com (small fee).  You don’t need to put anything in the subject or body – just attached the file.
  4. Wait 2-5 minutes and sync your Kindle (hit the Menu button from your home screen) over WIFI (if using @free.kindle.com) or over 3G (if you sent it to @kindle.com).
  5. If you need more help or want to know how to transfer the file using the USB cable that came with your Kindle, there’s more help on how to do so at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200505520

Enjoy your Kindle and read more!

Brian Schwartz, www.SelfPublish.org