In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 5 different topics, from how to set up a not-pretty-but-effective home podcasting studio to a couple great tips for writers.

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You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 18 minutes long.

  • 1:03 – 1. Is free still worth it?
  • 3:44 – 2. Refreshing your inputs (Consuming new media)
  • 7:17 – 3. Homemade ghetto podcasting studio
  • 9:38 – 4. A writing tip and an editing tip
  • 12:29 – 5. Reading what you want to write
  • 15:30 – Pick of the week

DPP028: The Ghetto Home Podcasting Studio, Writing and Editing Tips, and 3 More Topics

Hello again, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this podcast is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my pick of the week, so be sure to stick around for that. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast online at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.

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OK, I’ve got 5 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.

1. Is free still worth it?

KDP SelectThere’s a lot of talk online in the self publishing world these days about whether it’s still worth enrolling your Kindle ebook in Amazon’s KDP Select program and giving your book away for free. For those who don’t know, enrolling a book in KDP Select means that you have to make your book exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. You can’t sell it or give it away anywhere else during that 90-day period. By doing this, the main benefit to you, the author, is that you can give your book away for free for up to 5 days within that 90-day period. Amazon Prime members can also borrow your book for free at other times and you’ll still get paid a couple dollars, but in my mind, the main benefit is that ability to give the book away for free.

Now in the past, making your book free for a day or a few days was a great way to drive sales. There would still be some momentum to your book when the free period ended, and that would translate into some sales. I have not found this to be the case recently. Nowadays when my books stop being free, there is practically no abnormal increase in sales afterward. Your mileage may vary, but that’s been my experience.

So is it still worth enrolling your book in KDP Select and offering it for free if you get no extra sales from doing it? I say yes, and reviews are the reason. My books usually get in the hundreds or low thousands of downloads when they’re free, depending on the book. That won’t automatically translate into dozens of new reviews, but I think that getting even a couple new reviews as the result of giving a book away for free is worth it. Reviews are a hugely important part of why people buy things on Amazon, and the more reviews you have, the better. You can never have too many reviews, especially when your book is new.

So if your book is relatively unknown or if you just want more reviews, yes, I think it’s still worth enrolling your Kindle book in KDP Select and giving it away for free. Don’t expect the sales to go up afterward, but encourage people to leave reviews when they download the book for free, and it’ll be worth giving your book away in exchange for the new reviews you’ll get.

2. Refreshing your inputs

I’ve been in kind of a funk for the last month or so. I’ve been traveling a lot, and that’s meant less time on the computer and less work getting done. And then you might remember that I was hit by a car in Mexico a couple months ago, and it took a while for my wrist to heal to the point where typing for long periods of time wasn’t uncomfortable. Then I had a bad cold last week and felt pretty lousy, so I pretty much just laid around and read Agatha Christie novels all week.

As far as my work goes (which recently has been creating tutorials for Osmosio, my soon-to-launch site that teaches a bunch of stuff relating to digital publishing), I haven’t been getting much done lately. And as far as this podcast goes, I’ve been struggling to come up with things to talk about. That’s not the main reason I’ve taken off from the podcast a couple weeks in the past month or so—like I said, I’ve been traveling and moving and just haven’t had time to record a podcast—but it is unusual. For most of the run of the podcast so far, I’ve had much more to talk about than I could fit into a sub-20-minute podcast episode. But recently, I’ve honestly been struggling to fill up the time.

Well, I’ve been low on ideas until this last week, when I made some changes that have helped a lot. The changes can be summed up as “refreshing my inputs,” and bear with me as I explain what that lame-sounding phrase means. Here’s the thing: I get my ideas from things I see. That’s even the unofficial tagline of the Digital Publishing Podcast—”things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing.” But it had gotten to the point where everything that I was seeing was stuff that I had seen before. None of it was new to me. I needed new stuff coming at me, or new inputs, as I’m calling them.

So to remedy the situation, I did a few things to refresh my inputs, to breathe some new life into the media I consume. I’m a big fan of Reddit and I spend a fair amount of time there every day, so I subscribed to some new subreddits and unsubscribed from some older ones. I followed some new people on Twitter. I unsubscribed from a few news-style blogs in my RSS reader that put out a lot of new articles every day but that didn’t really give me anything new compared to other sites I subscribed to. Once I got rid of the echo chamber blogs, I found some new blogs and websites to subscribe to. I subscribed to some new YouTube channels. In other words, every channel though which I consume information was refreshed; old, stale stuff was taken away and replaced with newer stuff.

The results have been great. I feel excitement again when I check my RSS reader and go to Reddit and yes, I have more ideas. This kind of thing is a great way to get out of a funk if you’re out of ideas or even if you’re just bored or uninspired.

3. Homemade ghetto podcasting studio

As you might recall from last episode, I’m now in Tbilisi, Georgia. The apartment I’m in here has wood floors and high ceilings—not ideal for recording a podcast or any other kind of audio. When I recorded some test audio before last week’s episode (which was the first one in my new place) I was disappointed with how echoey it sounded. To dampen the echo, I rigged up a makeshift (and super ghetto) recording studio (and I use the term “recording studio” very loosely here). So I recorded on the couch, and my computer and microphone were on a small table in front of the couch. On either side of me on the couch, I placed a beanbag and on top of the beanbag, a plastic stool. And then I took the comforter from my bed and draped it over the small table, the stools, and the beanbags. The stools on the beanbags held up the comforter like a tent, and I sat there inside the tent while recording the podcast. I think it turned out pretty well.

I’m recording this episode in the same setup. I know that some podcasters record inside their closets, where they’re insulated from noise in the rest of the house, and the clothes dampen vibrations. Chris Kalous, the guy behind the Enormocast, which is my favorite rock climbing podcast, records in his closet, and even does interviews in the closet. He takes his guests into the closet with him, which I think is pretty awesome.

Sure, recording in the closet or in a tent might seem kind of ghetto, but it works, and it improves the quality of the sound recording. In the transcript and show notes for this episode at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com, I’ll include a photo of my funny-looking recording setup here and will link to some closet recording studios, to give you some ghetto inspiration.

My super deluxe home podcasting studio

My super deluxe home podcasting studio

Other examples

4. A writing tip and an editing tip

As I mentioned, I’ve subscribed to some new subreddits on Reddit. Subreddits are like individual forums for specific topics. One of them is the writing subreddit, which is at reddit.com/r/writing if you want to go take a look for yourself. Here are two tips I found in just a few minutes of browsing the subreddit.

The first tip is a writing tip. As writers, we tend to have pet words or phrases that we use. If you’re a fiction writer, maybe your characters “sigh” or “nod” or do something else a lot, or maybe you use the word “like” a lot. We each have these pet words that we might not realize we use a bit too often, and a great way to see what words we use most often is to paste the text of our book or blog post or whatever it may be into a word cloud or tag cloud tool. A word cloud takes all of the words you used and shows you which ones are used the most. The more often a word is used, the bigger it will be in relation to the other words. I found a good word cloud tool at tagcrowd.com. You can paste in your text, enter in a website URL, or upload a file, and you have the option to exclude certain words from the cloud if you want. It’s pretty neat and again, is a great way to see which words you use often and possibly overuse.

The second tip is an editing tip. The person on Reddit who wrote this tip talked about how it can be hard to self-edit a book or story because you get too caught up in what you’re reading, or you know what you’ve written too well and you may not pay as close of attention as you should. The tip was to start at the end of your book or story and read to the beginning. You don’t read every word backwards; that would be kind of tough. You read paragraph by paragraph, from end to beginning. Then you’re focused more on what you’re actually reading, rather than thinking about what you just read or what’s coming up next. I like this idea a lot, and I’m going to use it the next time I need to edit something.

5. Reading what you want to write

If you’re a new or new-ish writer, you’ve probably heard people talk about how you should read the kind of stuff that you want to write. So, for example, if you want to write a fantasy novel, you should read a ton of fantasy novels. Makes sense, right?

Now, historically, I haven’t been much of a fiction reader, but I’ve wanted to write a novel for a long time now. It’s one of those bucket list items, you know?—write a novel. Well, I can sit and churn out nonfiction all day, but fiction is impossibly hard for me to write, as I’ve stated before on the podcast. I consider myself a very creative person, but not in that way. Well, for the past month or so, I’ve been reading a lot of fiction. I’ve actually read 8 fiction books so far in May, 6 of which were Agatha Christie mystery novels, which I’m now a huge fan of. And again, I’ve had the time to read these because I’ve been sick and not wanting to do anything productive. The more I read these mystery novels, the more I think to myself, “Yeah… I could write one of these.” I actually have a goal to read ALL of Agatha Christie’s novels, and I expect that after that I’ll have a pretty darn good handle on what makes for a good mystery. I don’t know if what I’ll end up writing then will be a good mystery, but at least I’m fairly certain that I’ll be able to produce a mystery. Mechanically, I think I’ll be able to write a mystery, which is not something I could say before I started reading these books.

So that’s reading what you want to write as far as fiction is concerned. I also read what I want to write where nonfiction is concerned, except that I do it in a slightly different way and for a different reason. I don’t have a mental block about writing nonfiction like I do with fiction. But whenever I write a nonfiction book about something, I buy and read the existing books that are similar to what I’ll be writing. Like a couple months ago, for example, I wanted to write a book about travel tips, and so I went onto Amazon and bought and read several other books that were along the same lines. I did this so that I could make my book better than all of those. It’s a “know your enemy” kind of thing, though obviously not quite that dramatic or serious. And I think that what I wrote did indeed end up being better.

So whether you plan to write fiction or nonfiction, it’s a great idea to read as much of it as you can, especially stuff that is closely related to the kind of thing you want to write.

Pick of the week

CodeCanyonAnd that brings us to my pick of the week. This is where I pick one useful thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or just about anything else. My pick of the week is a website called CodeCanyon, and it’s at codecanyon.net. It’s a marketplace for code and things that are made out of code, so you can buy PHP scripts, javascript and CSS snippets, and WordPress plugins, which is what I’m interested in and what I think a lot of people listening to this are interested in, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.

I’ve talked about CodeCanyon a couple times in the past, but only briefly and indirectly as a place where I’ve bought a couple specific WordPress plugins, but I want to talk about it now in general as a place to find interesting WordPress plugins. The plugins there will help open your mind up to how much you can do with WordPress without having to code anything. Just go to the site there and browse the bestselling plugins and you’ll see a bunch of interesting ones, like ones that add interactive maps to your site or make it easy to display certain widgets or sidebars only on certain pages. Lots of neat stuff like that.

None of the plugins on the site are free, but the majority are $20 or less, so still affordable. Go check out the plugins at CodeCanyon.net, and then choose Popular Items from the WordPress menu. I’m not affiliated with the site in any way, I just think that it’s a good resource to know about.

Final words

And that’s all for episode 28 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.

Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.