Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Self-publishing for eReaders (A guide for Phe and everyone out in the interwebs)

My classmate Phe is an amazing guy. He exudes peace and harmony with every breath. I hope someday that I will evolve enough to be reincarnated as Phe (though as that is not likely possible, I would settle for someone Phe-like).

Phe writes a lot of poetry in English and Vietnamese. A while back, he published a book of his poetry and gave all proceeds to charity. He’s looking to do it again except this time he wants to keep more trees alive and do it electronically. To serve this purpose Phe can go with eReaders or Apps. Today we’ll go over the eReader options. I’ll cover the Apps in a future post.

The big players

The good: It’s Amazon and not only do a lot more folks have a Kindle but sales for Kindle are growing faster than Nook. The Cloud reader for PC is also easy to use allowing you to reach folks who don’t have an eReader. You can expect that 50% of the folks who buy your book will read it on their PC instead of an eReader
The bad: Amazon’s instructions are full of amazing options. This translates to a possibility for information overwhelm if you are a non-techy type. Fight the urge to close your browser and give up because you can make it through the instructions. Just buckle in and pace yourself.
The ugly (real price): You set your price but what you actually earn is determined by this formula- Royalty Rate x (List Price – Delivery Costs) and the royalty rate is determined by what country you sell to.
For example, if you sell an eBook in the US for $9.99 and it requires a 1MB download here is the formula:  (Delivery Cost is .15 per MB)
.70 x ($9.99- 0.15) = $6.88
If you sell to your eBook to users in many other countries the formula would be:
.35 x $9.99 = $3.49

Barnes & Noble pubit!

""The good: The tagline says it all-“Create an account, then upload your eBooks and cover art. It’s fast, easy, and it doesn’t cost a thing”
The bad: Limited customer base compared to Kindle
The ugly (real price): You set your price. They take 65% for books priced between $2.99-9.99 and 40% for books priced below $2.98 or greater than $9.99

For example, a book listed at $9.99 would net you $3.50 and a book listed at $10 would net $6.

""The good: If you have a Mac you can download this free app. The video makes it look easy!
The bad: If you use this tool you are handing over pub rights to Apple. This means you cannot distribute in any other way besides going through the iBookstore.
The ugly (real price): Apple takes 30%

Small Time

First-A word of caution: If you plan to sell on Amazon or B&N do not self-pub on these!
These are eBook repositories where you can submit your work for free download:

Free-eBooks According to the site, you can earn money through the Google AdSense ads which can be shown around your book page. I wouldn’t bet on bringing in substantial $ with this.

wattpad has a very simple interface that functions just like blogger. You can type up your eBook and publish each chapter to the cloud as you go.

Shortcuts- Pay the middleman

Smashwords will put your book just about everywhere except on Kindle (but a deal with Amazon is allegedly pending). Your profit rate is 85% of your posted price or 70.5% if the sale is made through an affiliate (This is after the retailers and paypal takes a cut). I’m planning to cover affiliate marketing in a future post.

BookBaby will get your books on to Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, and iPad for $99-199. The retailers still take the cuts mentioned above.

""Lulu will publish your books to the Nook and iPad for free. They keep 10% of your profits on top of the retailers cut.

The Future-Apple’s Fixed Layout Format

Apple has developed a format that will someday be widely used for children’s books and textbooks. The Alice for iPad book is a fun example of the possibilities and I think we will see more and more books becoming interactive over the next 5 years.

I can imagine reading one of Phe’s poems while listening to his guitar play in the background on my iPad in some not so distant future.

Action Steps

1. Sign-up for Barnes & Noble pubit! and get your stuff online for free. This one is the easiest and a good way to get your feet wet without paying any cash out that could go to charity.

2. Sign-up for Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing next. Yes, there is a ton of info on the page but don't get hung up on all the choices. You can do this. Prep your manuscript according to the directions and upload. 


Don’t pay 100+ for your ISBN!

$5 ISBNs here:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Entrepreneurship in Sac (Mark Otero)

Image representing KlickNation as depicted in ...

Last night I went to the SEA Spring Showcase to listen to Mark Otero's story. I've followed him somewhat over the last year or two. Not stalker like follow but I always take notice when I see or hear his name. Stories like his are unfortunately not common in Sacramento. He built KlickNation, a video game company in the county that supposedly lacks the creative talent for such an endeavor. I myself am guilty of childishly lambasting an  NPR advert for a job that to me appeared to require too many tech skills for one single individual residing in this county in particular. Listening to Mark, I realized how ridiculous and contradictory some of my ideas and feelings are. On one hand I believe that MOOCS and online education in general have made it possible to learn anything, anywhere. On the other I  also believed that I needed to get the hell out of Sacramento in order to locate the creative team that could deliver me the promise land of innovation. In Mark's story passion trumped experience and led to the creation of a very successful game and the company's purchase by EA/Bioware.

How did Mark do it? He talked himself into it for a year and a half or so. He was getting promotions at work but his heart was yearning for something more and his work started to suffer. I'm sure all you budding entrepreneurs can relate to that. Mark's a bit different from most I've met though. Instead of chasing the dream while safely harnessed to his day job,  Mark decided in order to to find the courage he needed to pursue his best use he had to "burn the ships."  For Mark this meant selling the home he had invested in extensively and loved, selling his possessions and moving back in with his parents. How many of you are ready to do that? I told my wife about this and she jokingly (I hope) told me that if I decided to do that she would burn my mom's house down. Fear not mom, I intend to stay in my humble home.

What did Mark do next? Well, he did just what I would probably do. He slept a ton, ate junk, and watched TV for a few months until he grew bored of that. Personally, I think breaks like that are essential. I'm much more productive if I get that kind of time every year or two however the corporate grind doesn't generally allow for that. The better companies offer sabbaticals but I'm all for unpaid time off if you need it without stigmatization.

Back to Mark and his boredom. Next, he took the cash he had from his 401K, bought the failing coffee shop on the corner of P and 16th, and turned it into Mochii Yogurt. The little shop was immediately profitable and he coded aps with his partner in the upstairs office while using the profits from Mochii to keep afloat. Most of his attention was spent on ap creation and his sister fortunately stepped in to manage Mochii while simultaneously working full-time elsewhere. Mark made it clear that his family played an important role in his success.

How did he go from coding atop a frozen yogurt shop to KlickNation? The hard way, through 30 failed aps and multiple partners. According to Mark, he was trying to chase the successes that had emerged out of Silicon Valley and follow the winning recipes. He was also relying on Ad Sense and it was not working. They had aps with significant numbers of users but the click through rates on the ads were not enough to make a profit. Mark mentioned that Facebook charges companies for each user who installs your product. This makes turning a profit all the more difficult. My take-away was that your product better have virtual goods built in if you want to survive.

Mark turned a corner when he decided to go after his true passion: video games. They needed a team so they posted an ad on craigslist highlighting that the pay for services rendered would be "shit" or nothing but in exchange you would be a part of something "fucking" amazing. They received 40 applications. The emerging team had little experience but passion made up for it. I think Mark said that the development cost was around 50-60k all in all. They did try in feed the team pay for server space. A 40k line of credit paid for FB advertising during launch and at that point it was do or die. That's when the money started to roll in and Mark's status changed from lunatic to brilliant entrepreneur.

I wish I had Mark's presentation and I know SEA was recording because it's definitely worth watching. I'll post it here if I find it. Full of f-bombs and hilarity as well as life lessons. The lesson I got from it was this: believe in yourself, burn the ships, believe in yourself, your going to fail a shitload, believe in yourself, your going to fail a bunch more but you will learn, believe in yourself.

Who is

MARK OTERO? (bio from

Mark Otero is a serial entrepreneur and a social game expert who co-founded Sacramento-based KlickNation in 2008—one of the fastest growing innovations companies in the Sacramento region—and nurtured it into an energetic multi-million dollar operation that quickly became one of the leading makers of core social games for Facebook®. With a reputation for creating astonishingly fun, ferociously addictive games that run on social networks, KlickNation caught the attention of entertainment giant, Electronic Arts Inc., who acquired the start up in late 2011. Today, Mark heads up BioWare Social for the global leader in digital interactive entertainment. Mark received his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the California State University at Sacramento (CSUS) and his Masters in Business Administration with a Marketing concentration from the University of California, Davis in 2007.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Outreach for Non-profits: 3 things you should do with Twitter

1.     Build your following: Type in search words relevant to your cause and see who is tweeting on those topics and click “follow.” They may check you out and follow you in-kind. When they tweet about something relevant to your cause, consider re-tweeting it. This will allow you to build up a following of like-minded folks and spread your message. Don’t forget to search daily (it only takes a few minutes).

2.     Build a regional network: Find all the non-profits and businesses in your region and follow them. Occasional re-tweet their posts. Try to find the connections between your goals and their goals and consider working on joint projects. Perhaps there is a service you can provide that they need. For example, the Austin Senior Center provides digital literacy programs. They allow local lawyers to use their facilities for pro bono work and receive legal services in exchange. Think about the services you provide and form mutually beneficial relationships.

3.     Recruit volunteers: You have built your following. Now mobilize it. When you need volunteers tweet the time, location and a url for signing up. Repeat the tweet at least once a day and try different times. Reach out to your community partners to re-tweet your message. Don’t forget to add “please retweet” or “pleaseRT.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Top 3 Free Web 2.0 Collaboration Sites for Study Groups and Project Teams

What would I do if I wanted to effectively collaborate with a group by sharing more than my desktop? What if I wanted to add and augment content in the cloud with a group? There are many great free products out there however I have three must-have functions in mind; chat, forum, and archive. Whether you dream of building a collaboration hub for a small group of like-minded social entrepreneurs or a study group for LSAT test takers these three sites are fine sandboxes for creating community:

Zoho1. ZOHO
The free version includes unlimited group members, document management, Google docs integration, & 10MBs storage (which should go far with text). Host your media elsewhere and link to it to keep your usage low.

All free all the time with a 10 person room limit. This ad-supported site provides whiteboard, screen sharing, Voice-over-IP, and no storage limit.

Get to your group easily from your iPhone. Too many extras to count but it will take a tech savvy individual to fully implement this one. The free version gets you 200MB of storage for unlimited users.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Building Your Personal Brand: EDGEucational Forum

Building Your Personal Brand: EDGEucational Forum was put on by Sacramento's Metro Edge Group, a fine collection young but polished achievers. The forum was headed by Michele McCormick, an executive VP at Circlepoint. Her sage-like presence anchored the forum well. After arriving too late to network I did some quick eating so that my stomach wouldn't interrupt my brain's sometimes hit and miss ability to find the gold. Here are a few brand building points if you missed this event:

1. Everyone has a brand. Determine what yours is and what is shaping it.

2. Nothing is private on the internet. You must assume everything can and will be read by anyone.

3. It's better to not be out there (with a public presence on the Internet)than be out there incorrectly.

4. Be as collaborative as possible. Answering questions and giving advice shape your expert status. Don't be afraid that helping others will diminish your prospects. It widens your circle of influence. Linked-In groups are a good place to do this in but don't forget to help out your co-workers.

5. Your elevator pitch will be more successful if it involves asking questions about the other person and being genuinely interested in them as well.

6. If you have a company website be sure to feature your employees on the site. The personal connection makes a difference with customers and makes employees feel apart of something.

7. Actively manage the message you are sending out however don't make it so different from the truth that people are disappointed when they meet the real you.

8. Take up Golf. Michele reports that in her experience it's a subject many can and do talk/relate about.

9. Check out and discover how much you are getting e-mentioned. (Klout actually looks like it may help me keep an eye on my work social media campaign. At first look, I see facebook and twitter integration but I'll have to dig deeper to discover how they measure other activity.)

I had to run before networking time but much thanks to MetroEdge a Drexel University for hosting!