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Cool Tools For Publishing Your Book and Building Your Platform

Cool Tools at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference 2015


Panelists – Nina Amir, blogger, author, consultant, has clients who have one more than 300K.

photo of Cool Tools panelst at the SFWC15

Cool Tools Panelists Ron and Penny prepare to talk about the latest in technology.

Emmiliese Von Clemm – Gumroads

Penny Sansevieri, author of 14 books, consultant, adjunct Prof at NYU

Ron Martinez, CEO Airbook, – online book store

Carla King, Moderator

Favorite Tools?

Nina – Scrivener blogs with it

Emmilies – gumroad

Ron – Aero – great way to browse books. Not the normal way you’d look for a book.

Penny – see the handout. One of the favorite tools is lean pub (?) allows you to monetize your work before you actually publsh. You can sell on leanpub and then update when a new version comes along. As a travel writer, she does a lot of travel writing. Has pay-what-you-want pricing. This allows superfans to pay more. It’s not geeky at all. It uses markdown language. Converts well to mobi, html and even pdf.

You can email her at and she’ll send you information on these tools.

Nina – markdown has simple coding. You just use asterisks for bold and slashes for headlines.

San Francisco Writer's Conference 2015

Cool Tools Panel


Nina says you can speed up your blogging by having a plug-in to allow you to drop in markdown and then drop it in. If you write in Scrivener you can export to markdown, and when you click to open it will open in a browser already formatted, you copy and paste this and drop it and you can drop it right into your blog post. For the most part, it allows you to format as you write. This speeds things up markedly.

Pay-what-you-like pricing is a cool tool to try out. You can offer a chapter this way, and it gives you a chance to see what the audience wants. One author set her work at $1 and the average ended up being $9.40.

Recycling content – one of the panelists blew off slidechair, but it’s predicted to be the YouTube of Powerpoints. Can get lead generation. You don’t have to create original content, you can put it in bullet points and Twitter. Remember how important images are. Morguefile is a great place to get free images for publication.

Pigmonkey will let you reformat them and add text (may be pick monkey.

Also InstaQuote, you can type in anything and create a quote very fast. Nina says if you want to sell books you need to be on Pinterest. It’s simple.

Remember that Scrivner will let you write ebooks. Scrivener is a place where she gathers research. Scrivener allows you to have binders and combine things.


Photo of Carla King at the San Francisco Writer's Conference 2015

Cara King moderates the “Cool Tools” panel at SFWC15

Carla says she uses Evernote, but is moving over to Scrivener more and just using the search function.

Nina – you can pull things off Evernote and put them into Scrivner.

You can pull PDFs into Scrivener.

Another tool is WattPad – some authors are serializing their books on wattpad.

Model is changing where the reader is the still point, and the gap between authors and their readers is collapsing.

The goal of some of these new tools is to integrate these into major retailers, too.

Carla uses ads to help monitize her site. She cross-promotes her friend’s books and this helps drive viewers to her site.

Penny – this may be a trend. The bundled book. There’s a romance author that creates themes such as Valentine’s Day or Independence day. She gets 4-5 authors together to write. There are specifications, and then they combine their efforts to promote.

Faceboo and Twitter are all going paid, and so you really need your email list. Some authors have plummeted in their views because Facebook has pulled this back. The followers have been throttled.

Newletters and email. If you look at the sales data, email converts. Social is 3.2% and email is 10.2%, almost three times as high.

So, what if you one day you lost your facebook account? You can move your audiences. This is a lifelong pursuit.

Be alert about the limitations of cheap or free tools. You want access to the email data and to tools you need. You can outgrow constant contact. Then you have a double-opt in with moving an email.

The better email systems require double-opt-in.

Then, you need a call to action. You want something to get an email. This could be a short ebook, 10 tips in a PDF. It could be Press books. Once you have a list you own it. They have asked to be on the list. You don’t want feedburner because it is owned by Google and we keep hearing how this will go away.

This is the best practice across the industry. Harper Collins does this. The Wall Street Journal has used it. Giving away a simple book to get an email. This can be hard to do if you are only in Amazon.

You need your own paid website. Free sites can go away.

Discussion of Rafflecopter. Weird in that you must spend $60 to get rid of crummy look of the free site.

Pinterest. You have to put a time limit on how much time you spend on it or it can suck you in endlessly.

Ron – Buffer app allows you to schedule Tweets that cross post to Facebook. This allows you to stand aside.

Nina – Social Oomph (paid service) – you can cluster Tweets. If you are in Book promotion mode.

You can write a bunch of Tweets an put them in a cue, and you can set it to run a certain number of times per day or week. This is a very nice service.

Nina uses Tweedeck and doesn’t care for Hootsuit.

Tweetdeck lets you set up columns for all the people you follow.

On your WordPress blog you can get a plugin that will retweet. She will email this information to you if you contact her at (I used one called evergreen-retreat old post, but this is not what she uses. Worth looking at what she has as she vets her stuff carefully.)

Sane box can help you keep your inbox clear.

Nina – Freemind is a good mind map software.

Nina said that Carla turned her on to Press Books. You can begin writing your book in Press Books, it will allow you to get it out in markdown, mobi, and RTF. You can go in there and create your whole document.

Fast Pencil is an option to quickly write a blog post or book and you don’t want to pay. You can import blog posts and they have templates. You pick the template and then you’re good to go. You can use their imprint for cheap. You can print to the market place for beta readers. If you think you are going to publish a lot of books, You can pay $600 and then a smaller fee each book and have the templates and such. They have author services, but Nina is not a fan of author services.

Their specs are a bit different. They distribute with ebooks too. Their distribution is as good as SmashWords. Consider getting your own Imprint and your own ISBNs,

Slicebook allows you to buy parts of your book. It’s the brainchild of people who used to work with O’Reilly.

When you upload your book, it automatically slices it into chapters and you can assign a price to it. This allows the creation of small books or pull-out sections.

From the consumer end of it, the reader comes in the store, and decides to dive into just what meets their immediate interest.

Be mindful of your work’s length. Short is the new long.

Podcast your book. Audacity is free, open sources tool

Levellator will optimize your file for you.

Focus@will – Great to help you focus.

Ron – Audio books are a great place to look for opportunities. “Iambic” is a place where people are getting together to produce audiobooks. This is going up against Amazon ADX – an exchange of talent.  – contact @emmiliese (check her name above)

@ninaamir – Twitter

Ripley On The Radio – Tech Triumphs


Amazing at as it seems, cartoonist Robert Ripley reached more people via radio than he did with his newspaper-based images in the Believe It Or Not series.

I’m almost through reading his biography, and there’s a few more things I want to explore to better understand how Ripley far out-shined his competition. My goal here is to look for ways to improve how we reach out and invite others into enjoying our art.


Ripley was a innovator and leader in the early days of radio. This came as something of a surprise to me. Most of what remains of his work are the various books in print or re-issued cartoons. But he dominated the early days of commercial radio, laying claim to may of the medium’s “firsts.” He was not a technical expert, but when he had an fresh idea–and he was brimming with them–he could find and employ the people around him to make it happen.

He was the first person to have a show broadcast nationally. He did this not only to reach a bigger audience, but also to gain boasting rights. This goal was consistent with his Believe It Or Not series and its attention to offer audiences the first or the most unusual.

Ripley was competitive and determined to beat his colleagues at every turn.This lead him to constantly find new promotional gimmicks. He was the first to broadcast a program from a ship at sea, and even the first to transmit in a dozen languages simultaneously. He accomplish this by hiring a team of linguists to translate in real time.

Ripley understood the immediacy and intimacy of radio and its ability to take people to places the could never go themselves. So it should come as no surprise that he loved to do his show from odd places, driving his engineers crazy and pushing the limits of the 1930s technology.

He broadcast from an alcove behind Niagara Falls, and he also originated a show from inside Carlsbad Caverns hundreds of feet underground. His interview subject was the man who had discovered the geological wonder. For another broadcast, he donned a divining suit and took his microphone underwater–another first–in a shark tank. But his transmission was cut short when the shark took an intense, aggressive interest in Ripley.

He may have been briefly terrified, but the listeners loved it.

His “deepest broadcast” came from rafts floating in the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, a stunt that required scores of technicians to relay the signal up the top of the rim, then connect equipment to phone lines that traversed many miles to reach the nearest radio station.

This feat was topped by another program required  an even more complex relay process. Ripley travelled to Australia and originated a show that was that was beamed to America, halfway around the world, through a complex series of retransmissions, and heard by audiences in real time.

Through it al, his commitment to maintaining a high profile in the public’s eye by using the latest technology allowed him to fascinate audiences by not only what he said but by how he did it. He knew how to grab an audience’s attention.

Once he had the listeners, he held them with a compelling mix of oddball guests and emerging talent, such as Ozzie and Harriet (ask your grandparents.)

Of course radio is ancient history, a vestigial technology that is almost a century old. And Ripley’s lessons don’t have much to teach us.

Or do they?

These days, media sage Guy Kawasaki is all about the magic of Google Plus and Twitter. Yet he sounds a lot like Ripley in his competitive attitude and how-to advice on beating out your opponent and commanding the stage of public opinion. In his recent Time magazine article, Kawasaki offers some suggestions for standing out via social-media. His techniques seem to boil down to grabbing a reader’s eye with arresting images. To have a conversation, he notes, you must first attract attention. Kawasaki says that “In in the Valley of the text, a good graphic is king.”

This is sound advice, as far as it goes.

It’s true that most of us have ready access to digital cameras, and the basics of taking a good picture (proper lighting, the rule of thirds, and filling the frame, etc) are covered in a number of places. But as a columnist, I can tell you there are instances when I don’t have the time to shoot my own artwork, or I find I didn’t get the shot I needed. And when you’re writing small budget, you can’t buy the art you need.

And that’s a big bummer.

But the good news is that there is an out. When it’s not possible to get your own shots, partner up with those who can. Use public domain artwork. There are several places you can get legal, free images. My favorite is — check it out.

On the face of it, Kawasaki’s advice seems to echo the sort of lessons to be drawn from studying Ripley’s life. The manner in which you keep yourself in the spotlight may be as important as the content itself.

Yes, eye-popping images can help. After all, that’s what first established Ripley.

But don’t forget the other half of his legacy–the power of the spoken word. Ripley wasn’t content to be the lead cartoonist in scores of the nation’s biggest newspapers. He continued to attract even larger audiences around the world by making sure his material was multimedia–you could hear it.

And when it came to blending art, entertainment and  advanced technology, he was a ahead of his time. Great visual art is a treat, as Ripley’s cartoons were, but the human heart still hungers for stories. And those tales are what Ripley’s radio broadcasts delivered. Perhaps you should narrate your tales, too.

Ripley, precursor to the podcast? Believe it… or not.



Propeller-Head Stuff – Server Migration


Composite photo of a computer server box and a hand weight, the kind you use to work out.

If you’re interesting in the gory details about web hosting, MySql databases and server migration, you may want to drop by my publishing blog, New Meme Media.

Thanks for bearing with me while I sorted all this out. The migration is complete. But there were a few days there where the permalinks, links to old stories, weren’t working. That should all be fixed now.