Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Roundup

As the end of the year approaches (!) I am trying to get a handle on the Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed(room)? books I have out on consignment. The St. Louis Genealogical Society has had 5 of the books since day one and I have received no payment from them. The weekend before last when I was in their office I noticed that only 2 books remain on the shelf. Have they sold 3? My neighbor bought 1 there, so I know I am owed for at least that book. The lady in charge of the shop is a little hard to get in contact with, so I have sent her an email and hope to hear back from her soon.

The Webster Groves Historical Society is the easiest to deal with. They had sold 3 more copies of the book, so I went over there yesterday and was paid in cash for those. While I was there, a local woman was looking through the original Webster Groves tax books in an attempt to research the history of her home. She has checked my book out of the library a couple of times, so she was familiar with me. I gave her a few pointers on other places to look. It was a little disconcerting to hear her say that our library told her they have nothing except my book (yay!) and a CD with a spreadsheet on it listing some of the tax payments. There is so much more at the library than that! When our library renovation is complete I definitely want to schedule a session on how to research the history of your home.

The current president of the historical society asked me (again) to serve on their board. Unfortunately their board meeting conflicts with the St. Louis Publishers Association meetings, so I just can't do it. I told her (again) that I would really like to work with the archivist in organizing the historical society collection. No one knows exactly what we have, which is a shame. That is when she told me that the archivist left this summer to move to Oklahoma. She then wanted to know if I would take over. I explained that I am not an archivist - I am quite sure there are things one should know about handling and storing the old records. (Such as the fact that our original real estate tax records dating back to 1897 should not be on metal shelves close to the floor in an old building!) I really would love to help, but I am a bit concerned that if I step forward I will be biting off way more than I want to chew. I'll have to do a lot of thinking on that.

Today will head over to Puddn'head Books. The last time I was in there they were getting ready to move across the street, so we decided that I would bring more books over after the move. At that time they only had one book left on the shelf and I had given her 9 the time before. So I will be looking to collect some money there as well.

All of this points to one of the biggest drawbacks of self-publishing. In addition to being the author and the publisher, you also become your own distributor - at least in St. Louis where the one distributor was driven out of business when Borders collapsed. This means you have to be responsible for getting your books out in the market, tracking them and collecting payments. Definitely not the fun part of the job.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Broken Record

Catch-22...not a good position to be in. My web host now is blaming Yahoo, which is where I purchased the domain name for, for the fact that I cannot log onto the site. This would not be a huge deal except that Yahoo does not show a record of my account, despite the fact that I have an April 2011 paid receipt from them for the domain name. Yahoo does not list a phone number for help, instead preferring to deal with issues via their online chat. But they won't chat with you if you do not have an account. Thus the trick bag I now find myself in. I am truly beyond frustrated by all this. My next step at this point is to move the whole account, domain name and web hosting, to a new company. I am hopeful that since my website is all backed up at WordPress this will not be too big of an issue. I just have to find someone to take care of it for me, because I truly do not have a clue. Who ya gonna call? Webusters?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Interview with Another Author

Recently I came across a blog by Kris Wampler, author of the book Love Train. In addition to discussing his own writing, Kris talks to other authors about their experiences in writing and publishing books. Check out his blog for great interviews with independent authors. Here is my interview as it appears on Kris’ blog.

Interview: Kim Wolterman

Kim Wolterman is a non-fiction author and focuses much of her work on writing about historical research.  In this interview she talks about her books, what you should do before you finish your book, and what led her ultimately to starting her own publishing company.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

Like a lot of people, writing a book was on my list of things to do.  But I always thought that my first one would be a book for children on the topic of composting.  My husband and I owned a large commercial composting facility, and I frequently went into classrooms to talk about the composting process.  There are no up-to-date books for children on this topic.  But sometimes our books speak to us and demand to be written.  That is what happened with my first book, Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed(room)?  Researching a St. Louis County, Missouri Home.  While researching the history of our home in order to obtain a century home plaque I became very frustrated with the fact that the records in St. Louis County are scattered here, there, and everywhere.  I kept wishing for a guide to help me understand where all the documents are located, and where else to look, when I hit a brick wall.  Since there was none available I decided to write a book to help other researchers in this area.

When I approached traditional publishing companies with my book proposal, I was told that my audience was too narrow.  Even the local publishing company in my community wanted my book to be broader.  But I knew that if I made the book generic for all house researchers, then people in St. Louis County would still struggle to find the resources here.  So I wrote it my way and made the decision to start my own publishing company in order to get the book published.

What I was able to do with that first book was to come back to it later and remove all references to St. Louis County, have a new book cover designed, and convert it to an ebook.  That is how Keys to Unlocking House History came to be.  I would encourage authors to look at other ways to repurpose their work.
The idea for my third book, From Buckeye to G.I. LeRoy C. Kubler The War Years 1942-1945 came about after my father died.  As the genealogist in the family I inherited all of dad’s papers, photos, albums, etc.  As I looked at the numerous military papers my dad had saved from WWII, as well as the photographs he had taken during his time of service, I realized that they told an interesting story of the China-Burma-India Theater, also known as the Forgotten Theater.  I wanted to share the history in an interesting and informative way, so I decided to write this book.

2. How have your sales been?

My first book was published at the end of 2009, and I have sold about 125 copies so far.  The other two books just came out mid-2011, so sales numbers are pretty small so far.  One of the issues (and it is a big one, I think) with From Buckeye to G.I. LeRoy C. Kubler The War Years 1942-1945 is that I used Lightning Source to print the book and put it into their distribution system.  So while shows that my book is available, it indicates a 5-8 week delivery period!  Amazon does not play nicely with anyone else in the publishing sandbox, and I feel this is their way of discouraging authors from using anyone besides their own company, CreateSpace, to print books.

3. You’ve started your own publishing company. Tell me about that.

Once I determined that a traditional publishing company was not going to be interested in my book, I researched other ways to get my book into print.  After talking with a number of self-published authors, reading a LOT about publishing online and in books (I highly recommend Dan Poynter’s Selp-Publishing Manual) and talking with my accountant, I decided that I wanted total control of my book. Provenance Publishing LLC was formed in 2009.

4. You’ve attempted to work with local publishers. Describe that process and how one would go about trying to do that.

There is a publishing company in St. Louis that publishes local books by local authors.  I found out about them through a Google search of local publishers.  I tried to first contact them through the email address listed on the website, and then followed up with phone calls.  None of those attempts resulted in a response, but I was lucky enough to find the owner of the company sitting in a booth at The Big Read in St. Louis in 2009.  I explained my book to him and showed him my book proposal.  It was at that point that he informed me my book had too narrow of a market for him to take on.

I would encourage authors to seek out an area publishers association, because a number of new independent publishing companies are interested in taking on the books of other authors.

5. What sort of experience have you had trying to become traditionally published?

Since I tend to write books with a niche market, traditional publishing companies are not at all interested in offering me a book deal.

6. Overall, how do you like self-publishing?

Self-publishing has been a really exciting experience for me.  I enjoyed all the research I put into coming up with a company name, working with a designer on the logo, and establishing the company.  I like having total control of the design and pricing of the books as well as deciding which markets the books will be in.  Oh, and earning 85-100% of the book sales most of the time – that part is awesome!

7. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your book, and which ones have been most successful?

Like most authors I have a website to sell my books, and I cultivate my online presence with Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (just dipping my big toe in that one) and LinkedIn.  While my local independent bookstore carries my first book, and has sold a couple dozen copies of it, I also sell my books in non-traditional locations such as historical societies, museums and genealogical societies. But the most successful of all is when I do speaking engagements.  When you sell your books in the back of the room at presentations, you get 100% of the book sales.  I should add, however, that if a non-profit organization is the one who invited me to speak, I normally make a donation of a certain percentage of sales to them.

8. Are there any marketing techniques you have intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?

I have avoided trying to get my books into chain bookstores.  By the time the distributor takes a cut and the bookstore takes their cut, it just doesn’t seem to be worth the effort.

9. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?

The time that it takes to write a book is only the beginning.  Taking care of the business end of the publishing company and marketing the books takes a vast amount of time and effort.

10. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your book, what would it be?

I hate to admit this, but I probably would have gone through CreateSpace for From Buckeye to G.I. LeRoy C. Kubler The War Years 1942-1945 had I known that Amazon was going to make it difficult for small publishers to sell their books on  For my first book it really doesn’t matter because my audience is so local.  But the WWII book has an international audience, and in this day of instant gratification I don’t see anyone ordering a book with a 5-8 week delivery period on it.  And like it or not, an author really has to be on Amazon. For my ebook, Keys to Unlocking House History, I did the initial distribution through, but then I also submitted the ebook through Kindle Direct Publishing so the I wouldn’t run into issues with Amazon on the ebook.

11. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers.  What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?

Start creating buzz for your book before it is even complete.  Establish a web presence and look at your marketing options, because it may impact how you even produce the book.  Look for bloggers online who review books of the same genre as yours, and ask them to review your book when it is finished.  If you can get popular bloggers to review the book, all of a sudden your audience is way bigger than the people who follow your blog or Twitter feed.  Just ask Amanda Hocking!

12. What projects are you currently working on?

Currently I am working with an author who has asked me to publish a business book.  I really hadn’t considered publishing books for others, so I am looking into how to structure that type of an arrangement.

13. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?

Bringing the past into the present.

14. How can readers learn more about your book?

More information about my books can be found at or at my author’s page.  I blog about researching house history at and about writing and publishing books at

And if I could add one final piece of advice for authors who are going to self-publish: hire an editor (a book editor, not your sister or a friend who is an English teacher) and a book designer (not a graphic designer, but someone who has designed books in the past) for your project.  Just because your book is self-published does not mean it has to look like it is!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Still No Login

It is now Thursday and I still cannot login to I have received no response at all from axspace. I suspect the little guy is sitting in a basement somewhere scratching his head over my dilemma. This is beyond frustrating! I guess the silver lining is that none of my spammer followers will be able to post their "comments" about body part enlargements, movies, drugs or various other items they are peddling. That is the good news.

On Saturday afternoon I will be attending a two hour presentation on researching house histories. It is a little embarrassing to admit that the St. Louis Genealogical Society is sponsoring this workshop, and they sell my book in their store. So one might imagine that they would ask the author of the book to do a presentation of this kind. I obviously do not know the right people in the organization. But I figure I will probably learn something, and I plan to have copies of my book along just in case.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Website Downdate

I won't dignify it by calling it an update. Early this morning I received an email from axspace advising me that my website had been restored to its previous configuration. Sure enough, when I entered the website address into the search bar, the website did indeed appear. Woo, hoo! But I was cheering too soon. Later today I tried to login to the site so that I could enter a post. When I hit the login button I was directed to a white screen. With nothing on it. So now I have a website that I cannot make changes or additions to, and on which no one can leave any comments. Needless to say I have sent another email to axspace. What do you want to bet that they say this is not their problem?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ebook Publishing Part 2

We had about 35 people attend the St. Louis Publishers Association meeting last night, where Bob Baker and I presented the topic of getting your ebook published. The presentation went well, and the feedback on the SLPA facebook page has been quite positive. As a followup to my last post, there still is little information on the internet about the KF8 format that will be required for any ebooks sold for the new Kindle Fire. My best advice is that if you have an ebook ready to go, begin with all the other e-reading devices and have your book formatted for them. After all, that is still a huge market and not everyone is going to rush right out and get the new Fire.

Especially since the new Nook Color is also due to be released this month. Designed to directly compete with the Fire, the new Nook will be slightly higher priced than the Fire but will offer more amenities, including a longer battery life and larger storage capacity. The Christmas sales season should prove interesting!

My house history website is still down! I had emailed axspace and requested that they put everything back the way it was just to get the site back up. That was over a week ago. Tuesday I opened a new ticket with them, again asking that they change the website to its original format. This is the response I got at 4:18 this morning:


Please accept our apology in this regard,

Would you please let us know if you tend to change back your domain to "" ?


AXSpace support. 

You see what I am dealing with here? Wasn't that what I said - to change it back? Ugh! I can't wait to get this all straightened out and then yank my website away from them. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ebook Publishing

This month's St. Louis Publishers Association meeting is Ebooks Demystified, and Bob Baker and I are the presenters since we both have published ebooks. Bob is out of town in California so we have not been able to compare notes on who is covering what. But I am confident it will all come together nicely.

The one thing throwing a bit of a wrench into the program is the new Kindle Fire. Amazon could not leave well enough alone and use the same ebook format for the Fire as is used on the other Kindles. No, they had to come up with a new format called the KF8. While I'm sure this new format will result in a nicer, more interactive ebook, Amazon has not yet said if books formatted for the old Kindles will work on the Fire. Nor have they released the specs for the new format since the Fire doesn't arrive until later this month.

So in the meantime if you are getting ready to produce an ebook do you format for the old Kindles? Or do you wait for the KF8? The ebooks for the Fire will not be readable on any of the other devices, I don't believe. Hopefully I can get some answers before Wednesday night.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Touch of Class

Well, I have made the commitment to teach the Writing, Publishing & Promoting Your Non-fiction Book class for the spring session. I did make a few changes. First of all the class will meet on Monday nights at Hixson Middle School. I wanted to get the class off of Wednesday nights since it conflicts with the St. Louis Publishers Association meetings. The students need to be able to attend the meetings, and since I will be the Membership Chair I have to be there to check people in. Second, I figured if I was teaching the class again I might as well hold it at the school closest to me. Besides, I didn't really like being in the basement of Clayton High School.

The other thing I did was change the class description. Since the time I had taken the course it had been modified to reflect two tracts being taught simultaneously. Even after teaching this semester I didn't quite get what that meant, so I modified the description to reflect what I believe people will take away from the class.

At the last class I had handed out evaluation forms for the students to complete since Meramec didn't provide me with any. Based on the feedback I received, which was overwhelmingly positive, I will also make some tweaks to my weekly classes. I was so happy that everyone thought the guest speakers were helpful. I think that they add a lot to the learning process as they are all experts in their fields. Plus they offer a different voice and perspective from mine, which is beneficial.

I put some feelers out with the continuing education coordinator as to the possibility of offering a two hour Saturday workshop on how to research the history of your home. I could offer my house history book as part of the class. The coordinator was very amenable to the idea, but I would have to get a class description and the suggested class fee to her by tomorrow morning as they are getting ready to go to press with the spring catalog. So I decided not to rush into this, but will look at teaching it in the fall instead. I will be attending a house history talk through the St. Louis Genealogical Society in a couple of weeks, so that will help me with the format and pricing of the workshop. The biggest issue is where the workshop will be placed in the community college catalog. Their categories are Professional Development (which this is not), Lifelong Learning (which covers classes such as history, languages, personal computing, science and math), and Personal Interest (which covers activities for kids and adults, crafts, dance, fine arts, genealogy, music, photography, writing). The coordinator suggested placing it under history, which I can see. But I could also make a case for putting it under genealogy, not that it is the best option but genealogists do research the houses of their ancestors. I'm concerned that neither of those options will get a glance from my target audience. Lots to consider here...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Website Woes

After a website designer told me that all my Google "juice" was going to my website host due to the way they had my site routed, I emailed the host (no phone numbers provided - probably just as well since I don't have my daughter here to translate the Chinese for me!) to ask them to fix the issue. After a few days they finally replied that they had made the necessary change for the website to go to instead of Great! The only problem is, now when you enter my website into the browser, it says that it cannot find So my website is totally down, yet again.

When I did a follow-up with axspace, they now say that it is a problem with how my domain name is set up. The domain name is not with them of course, because that would be too easy. I tried to contact Yahoo Small Business, which is where the domain has been held since I came up with it in 2008. They say I don't have anything with them and they cannot respond to email support questions if you don't have anything with them. Talk about a Catch-22! I am very frustrated by all of this, and my site has now been down for about 2 weeks. I have emailed axspace again and asked them to restore the site to what it was before, because at least it was functional then. Once this is all resolved I think I will give them and Yahoo the boot!