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4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing a Book

4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing a Book

“Dude, you should totally write a book!”

Maybe you’ve heard that before or it’s just something you’ve always wanted to do. But writing is only part of what it takes to get a book in the hands of eager readers.

Self-publishing is all the rage these days but there’s still a lot to learn for a first time author.

As I write this article, my book has officially been released for five months. Sales are steady but I’m ready to get back to writing.

Get back to writing? Didn’t I just “write” a book?

Yes, but the majority of my last six months has been spent getting the book ready for sale.

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So before you start down the self-publishing road, here are a few things to take into consideration.

1. Once You Finish Writing, Expect More Work

I finished writing my book in December of 2011; the book was officially available on Amazon the first week in June 2012. I used CreateSpace for editing, internal design, and publishing. I used my sister for cover design.

I could have cut down on time if I’d simplified my internal design and cover—or just used CreateSpace for the cover design as well. But it was my first baby and I wanted the cover to be awesome and knew my sister would do a great job (which she did!). So I was happy to wait while she designed my cover between a full-time job and single motherhood.

The copy editing process with CreateSpace was fairly easy. Once submitted, it only took a few weeks to get my first manuscript back with tracked changes. After that, I made changes and used family and friends to proof read. Depending on your manuscript length, (mine was around 32K words,) this takes time.

One thing I would have done differently is be more diligent about format checking the Word document before submitting the final manuscript for proof printing. Things like two En dashes (- -) instead of one Em dash (—) which looked fine in the manuscript due to the font I used showed up all over the place in the printed proof. Of course this is what proofing is for, but with CreateSpace you only get so many corrections for free so you might end up having to prioritize what changes are made or pay extra.

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2. The Headaches of Paperback

Every aspiring author wants to see his or her name in print. I can attest to the fact that it’s a pretty cool feeling. There’s nothing like holding your book in your hands for the first time. However, when it came time to market and set pricing, the print version added some extra headache to pricing options.

Let me explain…

My main sales strategy was to consist of online sales through my website. The goal is to set pricing in a way that encourages people to purchase an eBook bundle—PDF, .mobi, and .epub—via my website since Amazon.com takes 40% of the print books list price. Yeah, you read that correctly, 40%. But they also have the ability to reach millions of potential readers.

I can way overanalyze things and probably spent unnecessary time worrying about how to price these different formats (Kindle, Print, PDF, etc.) to maximize profits and reach. Two goals which seem to conflict with each other; future testing will reveal some insights no doubt.

At this point, I still have a lot of testing to do as far as pricing, but it would have been a lot simpler to offer only a Kindle and/or eBook bundle. Nonetheless, I’m not sure I would have done it any differently for my first book. It’s just something to think about.

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3. Blurb Requests

When it came time to request blurbs, I wanted to send out a copy of my manuscript that had been through at least one round of copy editing to avoid most grammar or spelling errors. This was pretty late in the game and thus added time waiting (and praying) for responses.

Everyone wants’ the best blurbs for their book, but requesting them takes a special knack that I’m not quite sure I navigated correctly. I did get some awesome blurbs, but it’s hard to know if I did it the right way. I just tried to think of how I would prefer to be approached, and what would make it easier for me?

Some suggest sending an “example” blurb in your request so all they have to do is tweak it a little and add their name to it. This seemed awful presumptions to me, but I did have better luck once I started using this approach.

Next time I’ll spend more time revising my rough draft and start sending it out a lot sooner.

4. Trailer video

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Being in the non-fiction (self-help) niche, I’ve seen other authors use interview styled trailers with success so I decided to have one created for my first book.

Although there’s no way to tell how much impact my trailer has had on sales at this point, I’m not sure I would do it again. It added additional time and money to the project, so the jury is still out on its effectiveness. At some point, I’ll A/B test the sales page to see how it affects conversions.

Another use for the trailer will be to promote on YouTube and other video sites. I purchased a handful of easy-to-remember domain names around topic keywords that redirect to my sales page with logic to track where the sales originated. This will allow me to track traffic from assets like free eBooks, newsletters, podcast, etc. to know what’s working.

Distribution is another area for consideration. For example, do you use Amazon only or do you use a service such as Smashwords.com to distribute the eBook version to multiple sites?

Yeah… there’s a lot to think about and it can get overwhelming at times.

So even though I’ll approach my next self-published project a little differently, I learned valuable lessons. If there’s one piece of advice I could give to anyone considering self-publishing, it would be determine what your budget is and bootstrap the things you can’t afford. But most importantly, kick procrastination to the curb and just do it!

Featured photo credit:  book of fantasy stories via Shutterstock

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4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing a Book

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Last Updated on July 4, 2019

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

1. Coursera

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    Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

    Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

    Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

    2. Khan Academy

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      Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

      Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

      3. Open Culture Online Courses

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        If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

        Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

        4. Udemy 

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          Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

          Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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          5. Academic Earth

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            Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

            Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

            6. edX

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              Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

              7. Alison

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                Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                  A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                  Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                  Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                  ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                  9. Stanford Online

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                    Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                    Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                    10. Harvard Extension

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                      Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                      Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                      11. Open Yale Courses

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                        Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                        12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                          Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                          13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                            Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                            14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                              Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                              15. Codecademy

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                                Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                16. Code

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                                  Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                  In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                  Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                  17. University of London Podcasts

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                                    The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                    18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                      Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                      The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                      19. BBC Podcasts

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                                        For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                        Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                        20. TED-Ed

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                                          Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                          Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                          21. LessonPaths

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                                            LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                            22. Memrise

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                                              Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                              Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                              23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                24. Fun Brain

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                                                  Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                  Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                  25. Whyville

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                                                    Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                    Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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