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Issue #2: April 8, 2002
Publisher: Mind Like Water, Inc.

Welcome to the Mind Like Water Monthly. We had a wonderful response to last month's issue. If you missed it, our archive is available at http://www.mindlikewater.com/newsletter.html

I had three terrific interviews with authors. I'm including two this month and one next month. Please email me if you would like to be interviewed about your experiences as an ebook author, publisher or reader.

Best regards,

Michael Williams

Table of Contents
1. Feature Article: Connecting Readers With Authors
2. eBook Author Interviews:
    a. Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited
    b. Terry Dawson, The Jennifer Triology
3. Tip of the Month
4. Questions and Answers

Feature Article: Connecting Readers With Authors
Based upon feedback from our survey last month, I've discovered what I believe is the missing link in the ebook revolution: connecting ebook authors with ebook readers. I have to be honest here -- I don't have all the answers. But in this issue and the next few, I'd like to tell you what I've learned as a publisher about marketing ebooks on the Internet, and what I've experienced as an ebook reader. And I hope to hear from you as well.

Today I'm going to address how search engines can help readers and authors find each other.

Readers, use search engines to find ebooks. If you want to start off by just browsing, search for ebook directories. I'm a little biased, but a great place to start is Mind Like Water's directory (http://www.mindlikewater.com). Find out who is publishing ebooks by searching for ebookstores or epublishers. On their web sites, you'll often find additional information such as biographies of authors, ebook reviews, and sample chapters to help you make your selection. If you are looking for specific ebook topics, include the word "ebook" in the description when searching on standard search engines like Google (http://www.google.com). If you want a book on baby names, for example, try typing "baby name ebooks" rather than just "baby names." Be very specific. Finally, there are many web sites that offer free ebooks for downloading. Just type "free ebooks" when doing a search, and you are on your way.

Authors, really think about what your ebook is about and what potential readers are likely to search for to find it. Come up with a list of at least 10 potential keywords or phrases, and make sure that either you or your publisher creates web pages that are optimized for them. Visit Overture, 7Search or Word Tracker and find out what kind of traffic these keywords are getting.

Test out your new keywords and sales pages using one of the pay-per-click search engines like Overture, Google Adwords, 7Search or FindWhat. Pay-per-click search engines allow you to only pay for the traffic that visits your site, but you must make sure that you sell enough ebooks to justify the cost. We use the 1 percent rule and assume that only 1 out of 100 visitors will purchase our product. This means that if you are selling a $10 ebook, you cannot pay more than about 10 cents per click just to break even.

Recent research has shown that the number 1 position on a pay-per-click search engine is probably not the best. The number 1 position is often overpriced and most web surfers like to view at least a few listings before making a decision to purchase. The number 1 position usually gets a lot of indiscriminate traffic, making your cost per sale too high. A little trial and error is always necessary. Each ebook, along with its respective audience, is unique.

Authors, be sure to balance traffic potential with keywords that will make the sale. Readers will only spend a few seconds evaluating the listing on a search engine. Spend some time coming up with a compelling headline and supporting text for the listing. Make it as short as possible. Of course, once you have a potential customer, make sure your sales message and site are enticing to the reader.

Next month, I'll talk about establishing trust using an open business philosophy and ebook tools so that both authors and readers have a positive experience doing business online.

If you would like to advertise here or on our ebook directory, contact me at geoguy@mind-like-water.com

Supercharge Your eBook Profits!
Learn how to drive traffic to your site and make the sales.
Discover new untapped ebook markets.
Learn how to optimize keywords and use pay-per-click search engines.

eBook Author Interview: Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited
Michael: What is your background and why did you write about narcissism? Please define narcissism for those who are unfamiliar with the term.

Sam: Narcissism is a pattern of traits and behaviours signifying infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others, and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.

The book Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited was written in jail (at least in outline). It was an unflinching attempt to understand what went wrong, what brought me hither, and where I was likely to go from there. The book deals with a pernicious and devastating mental health issue - the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) with which I am afflicted. What made it a hit I think is its relentless straightforwardness, its uncompromising gaze and its willingness to venture where others feared to tread. 

The narcissist is often also a sadist, a stalker, a masochist, a sex pervert, and an abuser. The book is a manual intended to help the narcissist's exhausted and traumatized victims extricate themselves from the nightmare of being near or with a narcissist.

Michael: How do we encourage kids or adults to have high self-esteem, but yet avoid becoming narcissistic?

Sam: One cannot "teach" self-esteem or "encourage" it. Self-esteem is a derivative of one's sense of self-worth. Optimally, both do not fluctuate too wildly. They are both rooted in one's upbringing (mainly in early childhood), although one's self-esteem and sense of self-worth are affected by one's environment later in life.

A healthy and stable self-esteem is the result of predictable and just care giving, of a recognition of the child's boundaries and his or her existence as a separate entity, of nurturing but not overbearing compassionate and empathic care, of respect coupled with rational discipline, and of teaching by example. Self-esteem grows in response to all these and is osmotically "absorbed" in the right milieu.

Michael: Tell me about your book After the Rain. Why should I care about the Balkans?

Sam: If you don't mind the Balkans -- the Balkans will mind you. This is the greatest lesson of September 11th: the world is everywhere. There is nowhere to hide and isolationism is futile. America has millions of immigrants from the Balkans -- a direct result of the conflicts there. Knowing Balkan history is knowing the history of your fellow Americans.

It is in the Balkans that the psychodynamics of humanity -- the tectonic clash between Rome and Byzantium, Judeo-Christianity and Islam, West and East -- are still easily discernible. It is here that all ethnic distinctions fail and it is here that they prevail anachronistically and atavistically. Contradiction and change are the only two fixtures of this tormented region.

Michael: What is your most popular book?

Sam: My most popular book is Pathological Narcissism FAQs (http://samvak.tripod.com/faq1.html). It comprises dozens of questions and answers regarding relationships with abusive narcissists and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The content of this ebook is based on correspondence since 1996 with hundreds of people suffering from NPD (narcissists), and with thousands of their family members, friends, therapists, and colleagues.

Michael: What do you see as the greatest challenge in selling your ebooks?

Sam: Trust. Potential readers are not sure they will receive the ebook they ordered. They hesitate to provide their credit card data over the Internet, even through a safe server and to a respectable fulfillment agent such as CCNow. The barriers to publishing an ebook are very low, so the market is inundated by vanity-type "books" and "monographs" authored by graphomaniacs. People have learnt not to trust the quality of ebooks. Moreover, many ebooks are overpriced. The reader applications are still too complicated and mutually incompatible. You won't believe how many technical problems we have even with simple Word or HTML documents: backward incompatibility, Mac vs. PC, fonts -- it is a nightmare.

Michael: What advice can you give to other authors?

Sam: I thought that selling a book was a matter of mastering a few basic principles. Fresh on the heels of the success of Malignant Self Love, I hubristically believed that I knew everything there was to know about book promotion. The truth is that every book is an entirely independent product. It has its own, idiosyncratic, rules of promotion which one has to discover anew.

Moreover, "eyeballs" (online readers) do not always translate to offline cash. Books can rarely be promoted exclusively online. And niche products are a lucrative proposition, providing the niche is sufficiently large and accommodating. "Balkan studies" proved to be a narrow and Procrustean market.

Be online. Be generous with your free online content -- but not TOO generous. The entire text of Malignant Self Love is available online. While we had more than 700,000 visitors in the last four years, we sold books only to a negligible fraction of them.

To succeed, write about things you know well or that are close to your heart. Write with conviction and passion, but do not hector or judge. Just tell a story. Never forget the narrative. People buy books either to escape from reality, or to grapple with it. A good book provides both options and allows the reader to smoothly switch between them.

Michael: Please leave us with your favorite philosophical musing.

Sam: I have seen the enemy -- and it is I.

-- Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
palma@unet.com.mk OR as backup vaknin@link.com.mk 
(Buy Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited)
(Buy After the Rain - How the West Lost the East)

eBook Author Interview: Terry Dawson, The Jennifer Triology
Michael: I think it's great that you took on the challenge of writing a trilogy. Tell me briefly about The Jennifer Triology.

Terry: I had worked on the fringes of the property market for several years and this, along with a degree of hi-tech international sales and marketing experience, provided the background on which much of the trilogy is based.

There's a second closely interlinked theme running through the trilogy -- the creation of a Charitable Foundation to provide long-term funding, training and support to projects involving 16- to 24-year-olds. This evolved from my wife's continuing work with the area director of a major United Kingdom charity.

Genre-wise the trilogy is classified as a contemporary romance. I've never been particularly happy with that and, for a long time, A Circle Squared (the first part of the trilogy) had the alternate title of Cinderella Revisited. To me it is a contemporary fairytale set in today's world of international business with a story line that pushes -- but never breaks -- the envelope of credibility.

Michael: After a lifetime of technical writing and sales, what inspired you to write a novel?

Terry: It began with an after-dinner discussion several years ago. We'd spent the evening celebrating having secured a large contract with a major multi-national; after a few drinks my colleagues solemnly decided that my contribution, in writing the original contract submission and the final presentation material, had been critically important. It prompted one of them to remark that, since I obviously had a knack with words, I ought to try my hand at writing something serious -- like a novel.

Several years later, when I had a little more time, I remembered that remark and began to sketch out a few ideas. A Circle Squared evolved quite slowly at first but, before I really knew what was happening, it had taken on an existence of its own. And the trilogy was born!

Unfortunately (or do I mean fortunately?), I lost track of the guy who made that original remark a long time ago!

Michael: You mention a lack of quality among some ebooks. Can you describe what you mean? I often think that, where writing is concerned, my perception of "quality" may be different than that of other people.

Terry: To me quality is a complex mixture embracing plot construction, standard of writing, characterization, continuity, depth of research and much, much more. Everything that happens in the novel, however minor, must have a role to play; events that occur late in the story must link smoothly to events that happened in the first few chapters. The reader must never be left confused and convinced he's slept through something important. Here's an example from my personal list of horrors -- an ebook short listed in a major national competition. It reaches a totally confusing finale in which good appears to have triumphed over evil and the hero/heroine are pretty close to getting out of bed and riding off into the sunset together.

I suspect the author realized the confusion but, instead of editing the manuscript (a serious rewrite), chose to add a 20-page epilogue explaining what had really happened, who some of the characters actually were, and how they were related to the hero/heroine.

Would I bother to buy another novel by that author? You guess...

Michael: I'd like some candid thoughts from you about ebook marketing. What has your experience been like?

Terry: My views are based on (or perhaps biased by?) little more than 12 months of experience. It's very difficult to get meaningful statistics, but I strongly doubt whether many ebook authors (and publishers) achieve viable sales volumes -- except those writing in a certain "top-shelf" genre. I suspect there are at least two reasons:

    a) Quality of writing -- see my earlier comments about buying another of one author's novels.

    b) eBooks are a new medium -- as time goes by this, and the cost of ebook readers, is becoming nothing more than an excuse.

Assuming our author can actually write, how should he/she approach promoting the novel in this rather strange marketplace?

    a) Leave it to the publisher to list it on their website? Well, it doesn't cost anything...

    b) Employ a publicist? Lots of money involved and, since the end result is influenced by the quality of the author's writing, there's absolutely no guarantee of results.

    c) Set up his/her own website with the ability for anyone to order from it? Assumes, of course, that the prospective buyer can find the site.

   d) Get independent reviews and publicize them? Where? On the author's own website, assuming that the prospective buyer can find the site...

    e) Spend a lot of money trying to persuade the search engines to rank your ebook site amongst the top half-dozen? Who's kidding who?

    f) Get the novel listed on some of the free listing sites that link directly to your own site? Yes, that can definitely work.

    g) Get reviews like this one?

Ask me next year. At the moment the jury is still out!

-- Terry Dawson, Aare Publishing
Ash Lea Farm, Burrells, APPLEBY,
Cumbria, UK, CA16 6EG
Tel: +44 (0)17683 53055 Fax: +44 (0)17683 53709
Email: terry@aare-publishing.co.uk
Web site: http://www.aare-publishing.co.uk/

Tip of the Month
eBook authors/publishers: Customers love to hear from you. Make sure that one of you sends a follow-up email to everyone who orders your product. It's a fact that customers who have purchased from you once are much more likely to purchase from you again. Why? Because they trust you and like your product.

Save your contacts in a list or database, and you are on your way to developing an opt-in email list.

Questions and Answers
I didn't receive any response to last month's question, so I'm going to open it up to your questions and my answers. Please email your questions to: mlw_monthly@mind-like-water.com/?subject=monthly_question

Issues of the Mind Like Water Monthly are archived at http://www.mindlikewater.com/newsletter.html

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Copyright 2002, Mind Like Water, Inc., all rights reserved.
7419 Metcalf Ave., #321, Overland Park, KS 66204
Phone: 913-381-4520 / FAX: 240-368-5664


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