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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

Wreck-It Robb

Photo of Robb SCCA rally car

Robb’s SCCA Pro-rally car, lucky #13


story by Robb Lightfoot

“If at first you don’t succeed, get a bigger hammer.”

My Dad

My sister, Pat, has long been my cheerleader. Years ago when I was first dating Karin, Pat boasted on my behalf.

“Robb can fix anything,” she said.

“Really,” Karin replied. “My pocket camera quit, and I miss it.”

Seeing an opportunity to impress, I offered my services.

“I’ll get it going again,” I said, not bothering to look at the ailing gadget first.

“Can you?” she asked. “It makes a funny sound.”

She rummaged in her purse, produced the camera, and then pressed the button to demonstrate.

“Gears are slipping,” I said confidently, but I knew I was in trouble. The camera was a small plastic box, glued shut. I was going to have to perform a magic act akin to sawing a lady in half to get inside that contraption. And putting it back together? Well, that could take some doing.

“If we can open it, we halfway home,” I said. Secretly, though, I wondered if I could buy another one just like it and substitute it when she wasn’t looking. This is my smoke-and-mirrors maintenance method. Dad calls it the “jack-up-the-radiator-cap-and-drive-a-new-car –under-it” school of auto repair. But whatever name you gave it… I had a problem. Everyone was watching, especially Karin….


I grew up in a family where the men don’t do sports or hunt. Instead, our virility is proven by being “gadget guys.” We are MASTERS of all things automotive, mechanical, and electrical.

Or so we claim.

My grandfather was the original Mr. Fix It. During his childhood, he often was bored with school. He once told me about his dull days. He’d prop up his books on his desk and hide behind them to dismantle his pocket watch.

“I’d do OK,” he said, “until I got to the main spring.”

“What happened then?” I asked.

“One time, it popped me in the face.”

“Bet that hurt,” I said.

“Not half as much as the tanning I got for not paying attention.”

Yes, repairs can be painful. Take the time I was rotating tires on my Mustang. I was in the alley behind our house, and the county had just put down some fresh pavement. I didn’t think much of this when I jacked up the car, as I’d done dozens of times before. I removed the tire without bothering to “block” the wheels on the opposite side.

Why bother? I thought. It’s level.

Things were going swimmingly until I pulled the tire off. I was bear hugging the tire, my legs on either side and both hands on top. Just then, the jack sank in the soft asphalt, turned sideways and popped out. The car dropped, pinning my 10 fingers between a steel-belted radial and the fender’s ½ inch metal lip.

I screamed, but no one came. So I shouted at the top of my lungs for help, alternately praying and cursing. I sounded like a cross between a pastor and Popeye the Sailor. A “good” 15 minutes passed, my fingers turning white, before my brother wandered out of the house, jacked the car back up, and saved me.

My phalanges survived, but I couldn’t so much as open a door knob for a week.

As you may have guessed, I have no formal training in auto mechanics. Dad took years of shop class, and worked in grandpa’s garage, but mom was determined that I’d go to college and get a white-collar job. So outside of the mandatory 7th and 8th grade shop classes— required for all  boys back then—I had no instruction. What I know about cars and electronics I gathered from a misspent youth, hanging around hot rods and ham radio.

In short, I’m a self-taught fix-it man.

The fancy word for this is autodidact. Which I think is Latin for smoke and mayhem. For example, at age 15, I was tinkering with a ham radio 2KW amplifier. My parents were blissfully unaware that I’d pried off the cover off and bypassed a safety device.

I was working inside a metal box that had a live circuit with 3,000 volts, enough juice to flash-fry a side of beef. But I wasn’t worried. I had mastered the lowly electron.

Unfortunately I misread the wiring schematic, and shorted the high voltage directly to ground. In an instant, the meter in my hand vaporized, exploded, and I ruined my amp. The power surge also tripped our home’s main circuit breaker. A neighbor three houses away later reported that her lights dimmed.

My mother dashed to my radio room and found me, amid acrid smoke, dazed but unharmed. I was compelled to sell the amplifier, and forbidden for a time from doing any more hands-on electronic experimentation.

So I turned my attention to cars. I proved adept at finding trouble there, too.  One of my first “learning opportunities” happened one weekend when I had an ad in the paper. I was working on my Triumph Spitfire, but the phone rang continually.

Each call forced me to put down my wrenches, crawl out from under the car, clean-up, and go speak on the phone. I took all these calls while doing a boring, repetitive task—repeatedly removing and replacing a wheel. On the five-millionth time, I ran the lug nuts up finger-tight and had the wrench in hand when, once again, the phone rang and I went inside.

The conversation lasted much longer that the others, and since it was midday, I took lunch. Eventually, I returned, and everything looked good to go. I took off for a test spin.

I was in 4th gear, doing about 50, when something jarred my memory. That “something” was the front end shaking violently—it tore the steering wheel from my hand. The Spitfire then lurched to the driver’s side, as the car parted company with its front wheel. It ripped off a fender, and exited stage left. I came to a stop traveling on three wheels and a disk brake rotor while I watched the errant wheel race onward. I saw it take flight on a bump—almost reaching the height of a telephone poll. Fortunately, no one encountered the thing as it bounced along for more than a half-mile before wobbling to a stop.

I was lucky…. Or, I’d mastered the power of prayer.


Photo of Robb's Spitefire with bent wing or fender if you're American. This happened just after driving off without tightening the lug nuts.

Remember to tighten lug nuts EACH time you replace a wheel


I was reflecting on these events last week, when I found myself in my office flat on my back, staring at the underside of my desk, screwdriver in hand. For 21 years I’d fussed to get my office refurbished. Finally, I’d gotten the OK to see some fresh paint applied to the walls of my dungeon. But as mother used to say: “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”

I had to clear out all my stuff to let the painters in.

As the final move-out date drew near, I faced a problem. To get my desk and chair and remaining items into my wife’s little Subaru, I had to dismantle them. This was “a process.” Before I could remove the top, I had to pull the drawers, gussets, spacers, supports, and the fossilized bodies of a million spiders. In all, 1.2 billion bits and pieces had to come out before I could gain access to 16 screws that held the top in place.

Photo of Robb standing next to a wall that needs paint

I’ve waited 21 years for this wall to be painted

I packed all this off. The painters then came and worked their magic. My office looked beautiful. All that remained was to reverse the process.

Moving boxes of books back in was easy. Ah, but there’s still one teeny-weeny sticking point. I had to reassemble the desk. But, hey, how hard can it be to put a few screws back in the right place?

Harder than I’d like to admit.

Years ago, when I’d first assembled it… I had instructions.  Sadly, I noticed AFTER taking the thing apart that the big bucket contained three slightly-different-sized fasteners.  They’re so close in appearance that the “wrong” screws fit quite easily in the “right” place, and “right” screws fit in the “wrong” place just as happily.

And then there were all those Lincoln-Log wooden braces, shims, supports, and door guides.

They, too, were ALMOST identical. But some tapered to the left, and some to the right. It’s possible to install a piece upside down, backwards, on the wrong side, and with two possibly incorrect choices of screws—all at once. Then… just as the last piece is jammed into place… the desk explodes like it’s the star of an episode of Candid Camera.

Lying under that desk, with my hands overhead, feeling my blood drain from my fingers, I had plenty of time—hours in fact—to contemplate the wisdom of dismantling the beast and not tagging its parts. I should have known better, and it occurred to me that it would have been easier to just fell a nearby oak and whittle a new desk with a soup spoon.

Photo of Robb under his desk - not having fun

But, being a true gadget-guy, I refused to quit.

Done at last, I tested my work it by tugging on a seldom-used drawer. It opened and revealed a vaguely familiar bag containing shards of plastic—just as Karin walked in.

She picked up the remains of her old pocket camera.

“Remember when you told me you’d fix this?” She laughed.

I squared my shoulders and stuck out my chest.

“I do,” I nodded, returned the bag to the drawer, closed it, and smiled.

“But I didn’t say when.”