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Guest Post: Streamlining Your Writing Process with Self-Publishing Tools (by Dave Durden)

Adventures in Self-Publishing

NY Central Twentieth Century Limited, courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsIt can be a struggle to reconcile the need to be creative and the need to be disciplined and to set standards when writing a book.  Often, the balance of efficiency and spontaneity will be determined by the circumstances under which we write. Strict deadlines necessitate efficient writing processes, whereas passion projects can operate under a looser timeline. Regardless of your purpose for writing, it is difficult to argue against the benefits of streamlining your self-publishing process and increasing your efficiency. You stand to save time which eventually leads to financial savings through increased productivity and greater output.

Achieving such efficiency, however, can often be a challenge. Writers often balance multiple deadlines with other commitments, sometimes including a day job. It can therefore be difficult to take action on efficiency advice and put it to work.

Thankfully, a range of tools exist which allow self-published writers to effectively streamline their entire process and increase their efficiency. Knowing how to make the most of these tools, however, is absolutely crucial to ensuring they don’t become unused expenses.

Read on to discover the best self-publishing tools and the most efficient way to use them as part of a cohesive, streamlined self-publishing process. The market data requirements of a traditional book proposal submission are useful to keep in mind when considering the self-publishing perspective.

Step 1 – Quantified Market Research

An often overlooked part of the self-publishing process is carrying out efficient, tried and tested market research before embarking on a new book project. This process is predominantly aimed at non-fiction authors, but can also be used by fiction writers.

Too often, authors invest their time and effort into creating something purely based on their creative impulses. Rarely, this will achieve success, but more often than not, it will lead to a book which does not sell many copies.

It is absolutely vital to carry out proper market research ahead of starting a new book project, and this should consist of two phases –

Assessing Demand:  In order to assess the demand for your book idea, it is vital to know two things – that people are searching for the topic around which your book will be based, and that people are willing to pay for the type of information your book will contain.

The first type of demand can be assessed by checking how many searches are being carried out for your idea on Google. A good number of searches indicates good general demand. It does not, however, indicate that people will be willing to pay for your idea.

So how do you determine that there are paying customers demanding your idea?

In order to do this, it’s important to check that people are searching for your data on Amazon. Unlike Google, however, Amazon doesn’t publish its search numbers, previously requiring self-publishers to laboriously analyze bestseller ranks and estimate sales figures, from which search numbers could be approximated.

There’s a piece of software called KDP Rocket which uses various data to accurately determine the demand on Amazon for your book idea. It gives you a rating between 1-99 to show you how competitive and in demand your idea is.

Using KDP Rocket, you can carry out quantified market research to determine which of your ideas has more demand than the other. This allows you to ensure there is sufficient levels of paid demand for your idea before you invest resources into writing it.

Assessing Competition: Demand is not the only part of market research – it is also vital to assess the levels of competition your book idea will face.

The purpose of competition research is twofold – making sure there is not too much competition for your idea, and making sure that you can see a potential competitive advantage over the existing competition.

KDP Rocket will automate both of these things for you, streamlining your research process and saving you hours of manually trawling through Amazon and entering numbers into a spreadsheet.

One of the good things about incorporating this software into your publishing process is it allows you to see the number of reviews your potential competitors have, and also the book covers they use. By reading the reviews within the software environment, and assessing the quality of the book covers, you can quickly determine whether your own book will have areas of competitive advantage over its rivals.

It’s important to take a strategic approach to achieving self-publishing competitive advantage. You may wish to differentiate your book based on quality, for example, by identifying a common complaint in rival book reviews and addressing it, or by making a book cover that is more eye catching and therefore converts more sales than your rivals.

By making KDP Rocket part of your publishing process, you have quantified levels of both demand and competition for your book idea. This allows you to easily compare different ideas in terms of their difficulty and profit potential, and go with the idea which best suits your aims, objectives and resources at the time.

Step 2 – Efficient Writing Targets

The second step of streamlining your self-publishing process and achieving greater efficiency and output is setting strict daily writing targets.

Some writers feel that this approach is antithetical to creativity, but it is advocated by many leading authors, and is a sure way to guarantee a book project meets its deadline.

A software solution that lends itself to this stage of the process is called Scrivener. This is a specialist writing software which has a number of features not found in standard word processing programs such as MS Word, for example the ability to output in ePub format, aiding the final submission step. A variety of free and paid options of the like exist.

Scrivener allows you to set writing targets for a project and then divide them up into sessions. Your progress towards your session target is displayed as you write, allowing you to easily assess how you are doing.

Scrivener also offers a number of other ways to increase your writing output, such as a distraction-free full screen composition mode, the ability to compose scenes or chapters out of chronological order and then drag and drop them into place, and a corkboard on which you can brainstorm ideas or map out your work flow.

One of the key influences on efficient thinking is the business philosophy of Lean, which advocates the removal of waste and needless steps in a process. Writing in a more efficient fashion chimes with this philosophy, and measuring your output ensures you are able to meet deadlines on schedule.

No photographer would use a free piece of software to edit their photos, so why do writers use free options for their own creative output? By upgrading to Scrivener, you can maximize your output and make your writing process as lean as possible.

Step 3 – Competitive Advantage Through Formatting

The self-publishing market is becoming increasingly crowded. It used to be possible to make money with a low quality book, but that is rarely, if ever, now the case.

Instead, the current market reality is that self-publishers have to seek every opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals and to offer a quality product as the final result of a quality, streamlined process.

The formatting and exporting of a book is the final step of the process that is often overlooked and done poorly as a result. Ensuring your book has a clear, attractive layout, with properly formatted headers and chapters, is one way in which you can show quality has been woven into every part of your process.

Jutoh is one of many available tools which allows you to ensure your book is formatted on the page in the exact way you want. It lets you easily resize and manipulate images and to carry out all formatting of text, headings etc. Best of all, Jutoh allows you to export your book into multiple formats without having to redo anything for each and every format.

If you have ever exported a book into multiple formats, perhaps to meet the requirements of different publishing platforms, you will know how difficult it can be to ensure your book appears the same across every format. By using Jutoh, you take the frustration and trial and error out of the process, and instead are able to export your own clearly formatted books consistently across formats.

One of the common measurements of quality within process thinking is the lack of deficiencies and deviations from a process. By using an efficient export process, such as that described above, you are able to eliminate any deviations from your intended format, making it easier to output quality files

Streamlined Self-Publishing Summary

You know now the vital stages of a streamlined self-publishing process require you to –

  1. Assess the levels of demand for your book idea
  2. Assess the levels of competition for your book idea
  3. Write efficiently and according to targets to maximize your output
  4. Format and export your book to gain a competitive advantage

In the past, to carry out all four steps properly often required expenditure on outsourced specialists to carry out research, or formatting, for example. With the wealth of tools available now, however, it is possible for self-publishers without particular tech expertise to carry out their own efficient self-publishing process, from start to finish.

Whenever you consider using a tool as part of your self-publishing process, consider whether it will increase your efficiency or your output. This should be the ultimate aim of any process. Self-publishing is no different.

Dave Durden blogs at amzprof.com where he is dedicated to providing actionable advice on generating passive income through Amazon

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