eBay is a Money Machine

February 5, 2015

Want to make some money?  Have stuff laying around or talent in arts and crafts?  You can sell on eBay.  eBay is a virtual garage sale and auction house that earned $18 billion last year.  Maybe you should get some of that money.

Selling is easy.  Listing is inexpensive.  Help is available on the Internet and from eBay.

Why not try?

eBay is a Money Machine.

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Publish eBooks on Smashwords – Step by Step Instructions

February 14, 2014

Interested in becoming a published author?  Publish on SmashWords and control your work from content to distribution and pricing.  SmashWords is one of the largest – if not the largest – distributor of indie (independent) books in the world. The retail customers include iBooks (Apple), Nook (Barnes and Noble), Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and more.  If you want to make money as a writer – especially as a book author – use SmashWords.  This post has a step-by-step process for publishing on SmashWords.  If you really want to cover all eBook bases, refer to the recent post with a similar tutorial for Kindle.

eBooks are quickly overtaking print books as the media of choice.  iPad, Kindle, and Nook reader sales are strong and eBook sales will surpass printed book sales (see graph)  in 2017, assuming current sales trends remain.  Writers need to consider and embrace the eBook platform if they hope to be successful.

Infographic: U.S. eBook Sales to Surpass Printed Book Sales in 2017 | Statista

Before jumping into eBook publishing, have your story or other work formatted correctly and ready to publish.  Refer to SmashWords founder Mark Coker’s guide for eBooks as a reference. Also be sure to have cover page artwork prepared and ready to upload to the site.  SmashWords has a no-nudity policy for its covers; if writing erotica, know this in advance.  SmashWords current cover guidelines:

They (covers) should be vertical rectangle-shaped (the height is greater than the width), not squares, and must be a minimum width of 1,400 pixels. A recommended size is approximately 1,600 pixels wide by 2,400 pixels tall (the proportions of most paperback books in the USA, which have height 1.5 times greater than their width). To view the pixel dimensions, right mouse click on the image and click properties.(2)  Updates and examples are found at http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/06/new-ebook-cover-image-requirements.html.

Some lessons I learned after publishing several eBooks on SmashWords:

– A TABLE OF CONTENTS IS A MUST.  Especially for iBooks.

DO NOT USE TABS.  You may want to make a book of poetry look pretty or visually appealing, but no in eBooks, yet.

DO NOT USE EXTRA SPACING OR LINE RETURNS.  This is another guarantee that “Meatgrinder” will reject the file.

– SmashWords uses the “Meatgrinder” program to convert a .doc (MS Word) into an .epub file.  Errors are common the first time through, don’t get discouraged.

– Create a separate title page from the body text.  “Meatgrinder” does not know the difference between title page and body page.   Use the “page break” option in Word for this.

– Most autovetter error messages are very confusing and opaque.  You can follow the style guide and try to correct the problems.  It is often slow and frustrating.

– Help yourself and do not use numbered lists at all.  My most recent eBook had one bizarre error, and that was for several numbered lists in my book.  I removed all numbered lists and the error resolved.

– Instead of numbers, use bullet points: the “-“ works well.  Nothing fancy, just basic.

– Be consistent with paragraph styles throughout your eBook.  Use the same font (arial, times new roman, courrier) and no larger than 14 pt.

– Use the “save as” feature and save your document in compatibility mode.  Word version 2003 or .doc format.

– SmashWords is not nearly as fast as Kindle for mass distribution.  With Kindle, the eBook (assuming no errors) will be on sale within 12 to 24 hours.  SmashWords, while immediately on sale (at SmashWords store) after publication, won’t show errors or distribute to its affiliates (via the Premium Catalog) for several days.  Don’t be shocked if you wait for 5 days or more.  Since the affiliates include Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Diesel and more, your eBook must be error-free.

– Microsoft Word has many hidden formatting issues.  Use the paragraph icon (show/hide)  to reveal extra spaces and line returns (see below).

paragraph icon

– Download Adobe Digital Editions to review your .epub file.  epub is distributed to all SmashWords affiliates.

These tips won’t cover all errors – sometimes Word files become corrupted for no known reason.  In these cases, backup the file and copy and paste all of it (ctl + a) into WordPad or Notepad to remove all hidden formatting.  Copy the program back into a new Word file.

New Account

Create an account on SmashWords (free) using an email address.  If you are charging for your work, you will be paid within 40 days after the end of each quarter.  If in the U.S.A, payment is by paper check or PayPal account.  If outside the U.S., PayPal is the only option.  You will need to supply an address and tax ID number too.  Payment thresholds are $75 for paper checks and $10 for PayPal.

Existing accounts don’t need to go through the setup process unless something has changed or you are using a pseudonym (pen name).  SmashWords allows multiple pseudonyms, but the payment information (for taxes) should be the same.

Publish

Click on the publish tab in the toolbar as shown below:

Smashwords toolbar

– Enter the title of the book

– Select pre-order (see description) or publish immediately option (note above about distribution to affiliates)

– Long and short descriptions are important – they are the similar to the back and inside cover of a print book.

– Choose the language and dialect (if appropriate)

– Set pricing.  You have 3 choices: Free, Let Reader Set Price, or set a price more than $0.99.  About pricing – this can be difficult.  Too low, and readers may think the book is cheap (content).  Too high, and readers won’t buy.  Many authors choose $2.99 for a 15,000 to 20,000 or more word book.  Research pricing against similar products.

– Set sampling.  This is a preview of the first part of your eBook.  For short stories, 25% to 30% is good, for novels, 10% to 20%, depending.  Sampling includes the cover page, title page, and table of contents page.  Adjust sampling accordingly.

– Choose the category.  Category and Tags are part of the metadata for your eBook.  If a reader searches for paranormal romance, they don’t want ABC and 123 for kids.

–  If your eBook contains adult content, choose that button.  SmashWords publishes only original and legal works.  Period.

– Select the eBook formats desired.  By default, all available formats are selected including: ,epub, .mobi (Kindle), PDF, RTF, plain text and more.

– Click on the browse button to upload the cover

– Click on the browse button to select the eBook text.  .doc is preferred, but ePub is currently in beta testing.  I have not tried uploading an .epub file yet.

– Click on the agree box

– Click on PUBLISH IMMEDIATELY

The file will go through the “Meatgrinder” process and spit out the results.  You may receive errors as mentioned above.  If not, go to the dashboard and assign an ISBN number to your work.  After an ISBN is assigned (required for Apple iBooks), click on submit for review and addition to the Premium catalog.  This process will take several days and may give errors too.  You will receive an email notification when the process is complete or if errors occur.

Congratulations!  You can now claim to be a published author!


10 Questions to ask Before Starting a Home Business with a Spouse

January 4, 2014

You married or live with him or her because you love them.  But could you spend your working days with them too?  And sleep together at night?  Here are 10 simple questions to ask before starting a home business with a partner or spouse.

1) Can you work side-by-side?

This seems like a basic question – you play well in the sandbox – so why can’t you work well together?  There are many reasons from constant contact to settling personal and business differences.  Ask yourself honestly if a working arrangement can be productive, successful, and not destroy the positive and personal side of your lives.

2) Do you each have common goals?

Is your vision the same as your partner?  Does he or she support and agree with what you want to do and vice-versa?  If one wants to make widgets and the other wants to make cogs, how will you reconcile that?  What about the long-term?  Do you both agree about a long-term vision for the business?  Does it fit with your personal goals?  And if you have children, how do they fit in the mix?

3) Define and agree on roles

Will you do bookkeeping or will the other?  Determine who is responsible for producing the product (if appropriate) and who will handle customer service.  Also, who will make the final decision if common agreement is impossible?  You don’t want a business to cause friction in your personal life and the business needs are important too.  Someone must be in charge.

4) Define the business plan

Sometimes an objective third party is a good choice for reviewing a business plan.  An organization like SCORE will gladly assist entrepreneurs interested in starting a business – individuals or couples – with business plans and start-up businesses.

5) Talk. Talk. Talk.

Open and honest conversation is key to successful marriages and a successful business.  Set aside time to talk specifically about business issues.  When discussing, don’t be critical or dismiss the other’s ideas. You are not always right and the other is not always wrong.  Relationships are a 50-50 proposition.  A business partnership is too.

6) Draw a line between family and business

Maybe your business hours are 8 to 4 or one works that shift while another works a later time.  Whatever the case, draw that line between family time and business time.  If you promised to take the kids to the water park after school, make sure the business doesn’t interfere.  The flip side is also true.  Don’t allow your pillow talk to wander into the upcoming client meeting or quarterly taxes.

7) Create logical boundaries

Work is work.  The office is the office, even if the office is at home.  Design your work and living spaces to be separate from each other.  This helps keep personal and professional lives from conflicting.

8) Present as a team

Be united as business partners.  If you are parents, you don’t allow children to play one parent against another.  Do the same with your business.  Answer client questions the same way, each and every time.

9) Keep customers in the dark

Clients don’t need to know that your spouse is the other partner.  Keep them out of the loop.  Refer to your partner by name or as my partner, not as my husband or wife.  The less a client knows, the better.

10) Contingency plans

With both spouses working on the same business, failure is a double whammy.  Instead of losing one income, both incomes are gone.  Have a sizable cash reserve and another way to make money, if needed.  Assuming the worst outcome will make you plan more carefully and cautiously.  Build those reserves – remember, you have a family to feed too.  Further, draw up a partnership agreement that allows for one to get out, if they want to or must.  A business attorney can assist with this endeavor.


3 Tips for Freelance Workers

January 3, 2014

Want to start a freelance career?  Freelance work has many benefits: independence, control, flexible hours, and the potential to make a lot of money.  Before you make that decision, think about these drawbacks.

1) Can you and are you willing to do what it takes?

A freelancer has no backup, no wingman, no one to bail you out.  The job is completely up to you, or at least your part of the job.  Can you accept that?  Do you have the skills, experience, and determination to get it done?  Freelancing isn’t easy, and bad customer experiences can make you look bad too.

2) Are you a closer?

Getting freelance work isn’t about the number of social media sites or contacts you have.  It is about telling the customer how you will do the job, in their time, and within budget.  Social media sites – LinkedIn in particular – are great, but don’t replace a firm handshake or personal contact.  And once in the door, do you have the personality to close the deal?   You have to always sell yourself and always close the deal.

If you can’t or are not comfortable selling yourself and the services you bring, freelancing may not be for you.  You must be able to sell and react to changes in client demand and expectations.

3) Do you have the time?

Freelancing is not a 9 to 5 job at all.  It is closer to a 50 or 60 hour workweek or more.  Other than the actual consulting (freelancing) work, you will have lots of paperwork (billing, taxes, education),work on getting  the next client (while still on the current job), and of course every little task a small business needs to do.  As a freelancer, you have no staff and need to handle everything yourself.

Can you put in the time needed?  If you can confidentially answer yes to all of the above, you may be ready for a freelance career.  If you can’t, perhaps part-time freelancing is a better choice at this time.


Fax From a Computer for Free

September 30, 2013

Searching the Internet for a free fax from a computer program, I ran across Hellofax by Google Chrome.

HelloFax allows 50 free faxes per month, enough for most home business or individual users.

Fax From a Computer for Free


5 Ways to Make Money on the Internet

September 23, 2013

The Internet is a total game-changer.  We communicate, research, learn, and work from home – all using the Internet.

Starting a home business is also possible – using the Internet.

Below are five more ways to make money with the world wide web.

5 Ways to Make Money on the Internet.


3 Key Steps for Setting Successful Business Goals

September 20, 2013

There are a number of goals you can make when starting a home business or small business, but only a few actually make a difference.  Follow these steps and revisit them every year, perhaps on your start-up anniversary.

Business Goals

Read the rest of this entry »


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