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DPP011: Printable eBooks, A Podcast You Should Start, Cross-Promotion, and 5 More Ideas

January 17, 2013

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In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 8 different topics from a podcast I would love for someone to start to the best format for creating printable ebooks.

The podcast is on iTunes here. It would be awesome if you rated and reviewed the podcast in iTunes. Pretty please. If you’re using something other than iTunes, the podcast’s feed is http://blog.osmosio.com/feed/podcast/. The podcast will soon be available through Stitcher, too.

You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player right below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 20 minutes long.

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DPP011: Printable eBooks, A Podcast You Should Start, Cross-Promotion, and 5 More Ideas

Hey everyone, and welcome to episode 11 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, which you can find online at digitalpublishingpodcast.com. This show is the podcast arm of TheBacklight.com.

I’m Tristan Higbee, recording today in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This show 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. Also covered are things related to internet business and online marketing. Stick around till the end of the podcast and I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers.

I’d like to give huge thanks to the people that have gone into iTunes and left reviews and rated the show, and since the podcast is new, I’d REALLY appreciate it if you would do the same.

Ok! I’ve got 8 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.

Topic #1: Two Kindles

Two KindlesI’ve heard several people over the years say that it’s super helpful to have one work computer and one play or entertainment computer. And recently when I’ve heard people say something like this, it’s been more like one work computer and then an iPad for playing. The idea is that when you’re on your work computer, you know that you shouldn’t be looking at YouTube or watching Netflix. When you’re on that computer, you just work. Maybe you don’t have Minecraft installed on that computer and you have things that block Facebook or Reddit. And then when you’re done working, you pull out the other computer or the iPad or whatever. You won’t be tempted to do work, and you can just relax while being entertained and do whatever you want.

I’ve never done this. I don’t have an iPad and have only one laptop. But I have been thinking about something like this for my Kindle books. The Kindle books that I read can essentially be broken up into two categories:

  1. fiction that I read as entertainment, when I’m at the beach or in bed, and
  2. nonfiction relating to business and marketing and stuff like that.

(And there are other categories, but those are the main ones.)

I have both a Kindle and a Kindle Fire because I test out how my Kindle books look on each one before I publish them. From now on I’m going to use my regular Kindle for fiction and the Kindle Fire for nonfiction. The main reason I’m going to be doing this is that I often get too engrossed in the fiction that I’m reading and ignore the nonfiction. I forget about the nonfiction and it’s kind of a pain to find once I’m already into another book. (And by the way, I’m working my way through the Agatha Christie back catalog right now and highly recommend her books. There’s a reason she has sold two billion copies. And no, that’s not hyperbole or an exaggeration. On the official Agatha Christie website, it says that more than two billion of her books have been sold, and that’s a conservative estimate. Crazy.) Anyway, by separating my Kindles into dedicated fiction and nonfiction devices, I think it will be easier for me to access the nonfiction content I want to read.

You could do something like this even if you don’t have two Kindles. It would work if you have any combination of phone, e-reader, and tablet. I’ve read several full-length books entirely on my phone and I actually really like it for reading.

But yeah, I’ll keep you posted and let you know how it goes. And speaking of letting you know how it goes…

Topic #2: The end of The China Narrator

Almost exactly one month ago, I started a newsletter about China called The China Narrator. I’ve talked about it a couple times on the podcast here. Every day I sent out an email with a link in it to one high-quality article about China. After one month, I’ve decided to call it quits.

The big reason is that it took up too much time. I was spending an hour every day reading articles about China, and while I really enjoyed it, I just didn’t have an hour to spend. It cut into the time that I should have spent doing other things. I thought it would only take about 15 minutes each day, but it ended up consistently taking more than that, like 45 minutes to an hour.

Another reason is that I wasn’t having much success growing the list. I had a grand total of 15 subscribers. I tried Facebook ads and I tried banner ads on a China-related site, but not much came from either one. That was a big problem, because I didn’t have the time to spend writing guest posts about China or being active in China-related forums, which would have been great ways to grow the list.

So a few days ago I sent out the final email, saying that I was abandoning the China Narrator. The total money I spent was a few dollars on the domain (I had a GoDaddy coupon, so I think it was $3), about 20 dollars on another domain that I bought and didn’t use, and about $25 on ads. So my total expenditure was about $50. I was already paying for the AWeber account, so there was no additional expense there.

I did get a few emails back from subscribers saying that they were sad to see it go, but it’s for the best. It was a month-long experiment and though it ultimately wasn’t successful, I’m glad I did it. Now that idea is out of my head and I can focus on other things with a clear conscience.

Topic #3: The interview circle-jerk

You have probably noticed by now that this podcast is not an interview show. I have nothing against interview-based podcasts in principle, and I listen to several of them, but in general I think that people suck at interviews. More specifically, the people who are doing the interviews suck at finding people to interview. It seems like the same 10 people are interviewed over and over again. Come on, people. And this isn’t true for all niches, but it is for some of the bigger ones. As far as the internet world is concerned, Pat Flynn seems like a nice guy, but there’s really nothing he can say in the interview he does with you that I haven’t already heard in his ten thousand previous interviews.

I will actually mention several great interview-based podcasts in this episode, so again, this certainly doesn’t apply to all of them. But if you do interview people, I beg you, do some actual legwork and find people that the world hasn’t already heard from ten thousand times already. I’d much rather hear from Joe Schmo who makes a thousand dollars a month from AdSense than from Seth Godin yet again. I like Seth Godin but again, I want to hear from other people too.

Topic #4: The value of podcasting

This is the 11th episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast, and I thought I’d share with you guys a bit of what I’ve learned so far and what my impressions are of podcasting as a whole.

The biggest thing I can say about podcasting is that people seem to connect with you a lot better. I now get significantly more emails about the podcast than I do about the blog. My blog (thebacklight.com) has been around for more than two years. This podcast has only been around for a couple months. And I love the emails and questions I’ve gotten, so please don’t hesitate to email me. Just go to DigitalPublishingPodcast.com and click the Contact link at the top of the page.

Having said that, it’s interesting that my podcast episodes, when posted to the blog, get fewer comments and social shares than my blog posts do. It seems like they’re two separate audiences here. There are the people who subscribe to the podcast and the people who subscribe to the blog, but I don’t know if there’s much overlap. The blog people leave comments and share the posts, because that’s what people do on blogs. That’s not something people do for podcasts, I guess. It’s more of an off-site, offline experience.

Overall, I’m really pleased with the podcast. I really enjoy doing it, and I think people are enjoying it. If you are listening to this right now and like it, please leave a review in iTunes. That, along with shooting me an email, are the best ways to thank me and spread the word. If you don’t know how review a podcast in iTunes, just Google it and you’ll find instructions. But the plan definitely is to continue on with the podcast. It’s doing well and like I said, I’m enjoying it, so I’m going to stick with it.

I will say that I know that the quality of the recording isn’t the best. I’m actually not using an external microphone to record this; I’m just using the built-in mic on my Macbook Air, and for that I think it’s surprisingly good. But it is hard finding a podcast-quality microphone here in Mexico, and having one sent here from the States opens up another slew of problems. Robert from the Minimalism for the Rest of Us podcast (which is a great show for people interested in minimalism, as I am) got in touch with me and recommended some microphones (and I do appreciate that), and I’ve been doing a lot of research on my own, but yeah, it’s not as easy as just ordering one on Amazon. I’m working on it, but we’ll see. I might still be recording this way for a while still, but I hope the quality of the content makes up for the not-so-greatness of the actual recording.

And while on the subject of podcasting, I want to talk about a couple other things I often see other podcasters do. First, they’ve got intro music. I don’t mind music intros, but I don’t like it when they go on forever. I have, though, just bought the rights to use a 6-second audio clip in my intro, though I might not use it until I get a better microphone. Also, podcasters often read on their shows the reviews that their podcast gets in iTunes. I’m not crazy about this practice because if I’m listening to a podcast, I’m already interested and I don’t really care what anyone else has to say about it. But, if you do leave an iTunes review, please let me know about it and I’ll tweet out a link to your blog or podcast or whatever as a way of saying thanks.

Topic #5: Printable ebooks

Here’s a question I got in my email last week:

“Hi Tristan! I stumbled upon your site the other day while searching for some ebook ideas- and I love it. You’ve got some great ideas for those of up just starting out with ebooks. What do you suggest for creating a printable ebook (lettersize)? Do you only create pdfs, or do you also publish them as epubs? I’m working in InDesign, and just wondering how to go about this…”

And here’s my answer:

“Whenever I create printable ebooks, I use InDesign and save them as PDFs. If you’re creating something that other people will be printing (regardless of whether you’re selling it or giving it away), PDF is definitely the way to go because everyone can read them on just about any device they’ve got.”

And now let me expand on that a bit. You’re probably familiar with what a PDF is, so I won’t talk too much about that. But an epub is what most other e-readers besides the Kindle read, like the Nook and Kobo and the iBooks app on the iPad or iPhone.

Generally speaking, when epub files are created, there aren’t set and defined pages or anything like that because what’s on a page will depend on the size of the screen you’re looking, among other things. So the width of the line and the size of the text will be different on different screens and devices. Epubs, like the mobi Kindle ebook format, aren’t meant to be printed; they’re meant to be viewed on a screen. The PDF format preserves the look and layout of your content, and PDFs are made to be read and printed on different devices and still look the same.

And then for those who don’t know, InDesign is a program (an expensive program) by Adobe that is used for print publishing. It’s used for books and magazines and stuff, and it’s also great for ebooks. It does take some time to learn because it is such a powerful and flexible program. Back in college I was a TA for a class where we taught InDesign, and it really is a fantastic program. There is a free and open-source equivalent to it, and it’s called Scribus. I’ve downloaded it and poked around a bit, but I’ve never actually used it. It seems like a powerful program with a lot of options, but with a user interface that isn’t quite as slick as that of InDesign. Both of these programs are great if you want to create PDF ebooks instead of Kindle ebooks, or ebooks for the iPad or Nook or whatever.

And finally, I do want to say that I do sometimes create PDF ebooks in Word, just because it’s faster and easier to work with than InDesign if you’re creating a short or basic document.

Topic #6: A podcast I would start

Here’s a podcast I would start if I had the time. It’s about travel. And by the way, if you haven’t noticed already, I have a handful of interests that keep popping up in my writing and in these podcast episodes. Travel is one of them. Rock climbing is another. Minimalism and languages are others. So even though I might talk about something related to travel or rock climbing, think about how the base idea can be applied to your interests.

So anyway, getting back to the idea. It would be an interview podcast, and the interviews would be with expatriates, also known as expats, or people who are living in a country other than the one they’re from. There are a couple blogs that have expat interviews, and I’ve briefly mentioned them before either in a podcast episode or on the blog (I can’t remember), but I don’t think there’s a podcast of expat interviews. So many people would love to live in another country, but so many people just don’t know how to do it. Interviews with these people would help shed some light on how people are actually able to live overseas. What do they do for work? What’s it like to live in that place? What are the pros and cons of living there? Questions like that would be really helpful and interesting for people who want to make the move.

There are a ton of niches like this that really are not being served by podcasters, so please, someone get out there and start more podcasts.

Topic #7: Cross-promoting your own content

The tagline of this podcast and the idea behind it is “things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing,” and now I want to talk about something that I’ve been doing that I think is pretty clever, if I do say so myself.

So a lot of podcasts also have blogs associated with them, and those blogs often have… I’m going to call them “extra-podcastular” content on them. In other words, there are blog posts posted to the blog that are more than just the shownotes of new podcast episodes. They’re regular blog posts.

The problem with this is that I personally very rarely visit the blogs or websites of the podcasts I’m interested in, and so I miss out on what is being posted to those blogs. It’s not because I’m not interested in other things the podcaster has to say, I just never think to check out the podcast’s website. I don’t think I’m the only that does this; I think a lot of people miss out on those blog posts. So you might have noticed that at the end of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast—which I record on Wednesdays—I mention the blog post that was published to the blog on the Monday before. It reminds people that oh yeah, there IS a blog and I should go check out that article. I don’t have any numbers about how effective this is, but I’m sure it’s prompted some people to go to the blog.

I also do cross-promotion in every email I send out to my newsletter. My weekly newsletter (which you should definitely sign up for; I don’t do any affilate promotions or any of that junk) consists mainly of links to the best articles I came across the previous week, but I also include links to the podcast episode and blog post from the previous week. I do track the clicks in those emails, so I do know that those links work.

So the takeaway here is to cross-promote your content however you can. You can do it with ebooks, too. My ebooks, for example, contain links back to my other ebooks, to my blogs, and to my Twitter accounts. And speaking of Twitter…

Topic #8: Twitter as an RSS replacement

I have heard several people say that they have stopped using RSS readers—like Google Reader—because they follow those sites on Twitter instead. I’ve been doing this a bit more recently, too, and I have a few thoughts about it.

The first thought I have about this is that it’s easy to miss tweets. So if you really do like a blog and want to make sure you see every new post, Twitter isn’t the best tool for that, and you should sign up for updates via RSS or email.

The second problem I see is that when you subscribe to an RSS feed, you get only notifications about new posts, but when you subscribe to a site’s Twitter feed, you often get more than that. You get funny jokes and stupid quotes and links to other stuff that you don’t necessarily care about or want to see, plus whatever else that person or organization decides to tweet. You might be interested in those other tweets, but you might not.

So as a content creator, you might want to create an account for your blog that is only updates from your blog. I’ve had one for a while for my blog, and it’s @TheBacklight. Every time I post something new to The Backlight blog, and that includes new episodes of the Digital Publishing Podcast, a tweet is automatically sent out via TwitterFeed.com. There are pros and cons to having this kind of Twitter account, but it’s something to think about.

But let’s say you like Tim Ferriss’s blog (and for those who don’t know, Tim Ferriss is the author of The 4 Hour Workweek, the 4 Hour Chef, and The 4 Hour Body books). Tim tweets a lot more than he blogs, meaning that the majority of his tweets are not about his new blog posts. If I don’t care about his tweets and only care about his blog posts, following him on Twitter like this presents the problem I just talked about. Here’s the thing, though: you can make your own custom twitter account that tweets out only the blog updates. So in other words, you create a new Twitter account (and to do that you just need an email address that isn’t already associated with another Twitter account) and then set it up to automatically send out a tweet when new posts are published to the blog or blogs you like.

The easiest way to do this is with a free online service called IFTTT, and that’s “i-f-t-t-t” at ifttt.com) standing for “if this then that.” It takes just a couple seconds to set it up so that every time Tim Ferriss posts an update on his blog, a tweet is sent out from your new Twitter account. And you can do this for as many blogs and RSS feeds as you want. So you can take the 20 blogs you subscribe to, put their RSS feeds all into IFTTT, and your new Twitter account will send out a tweet and a link every time a new post goes live. And then all you need to do is follow that account from your personal Twitter account and you’ll see all of those updates. If you don’t want to be bombarded with too many updates in your Twitter feed, you could add that other Twitter account to a list and then just check the list when you want some interesting news.

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And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. My pick for this episode’s featured podcast is Longform [link]. It is the podcast of Longform.org, which is a curated aggregator of articles that are more than 1,500 words long. The podcast is an interview show, and the interviews are with the journalists whose work appears on Longform.org. So you have interviews with some of the best journalists and writers in the world. I’m not a journalist and don’t have any desire to be, but it’s fascinating to hear about all of the work that goes into these stories, and to hear about how these writers got their starts and their ideas and everything. This is a podcast that I listen to every episode of.

My pick for this episode’s featured tool for digital publishers is Snip Save, and you can find that at SnipSave.com. It’s a site that makes it very easy to save snippets of code for future reference. I don’t know how to code, but that makes this site all the more useful, since there are CSS and PHP bits that I copy and paste into each new blog I start. Snip Save makes it really easy to save those code pieces, and you can name and tag each one. So whenever I want to add more space on a blog between the title of a site and the navigation menu, I just go search for “header” and that snippet of code pops up. It is a free service, and it is really fast and easy to get started. I’ve also had a brief Twitter conversation with the site’s creator, and he seems like a nice guy, so go give SnipSave.com a try.

Well, that’s all for this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links (including links to everything mentioned in this episode) and additional blog posts there at TheBacklight.com that go beyond what I talk about on the podcast. This week’s blog post on The Backlight was titled I’m Selling MakeMoneyBlogging.net. Want to Buy it? And as of recording this, the sale is pending, but that may change.

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. If I choose to answer your question on the podcast, I’ll say your name and website if you say that I can, but otherwise I will not share that information.

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, since this podcast is new, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed it. Thanks for listening.

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