Smart Homes

July 20, 2018 at 11:39 am | Posted in Economoney, Security, Software, Technology | Leave a comment
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Modern “Smart” technology is a wonderful thing. Smart phones do vastly more than just make telephone calls. They give you information power unheard of until recently. That technology has also moved forward into TV’s, household appliances, and “personal assistants.”

However, the technology has also picked up bad habits. Many web sites exchanged free applications for your usage data and demographics for targeted marketing. This is the operating principle of Facebook, for example. Google picked this up then it migrated onto smart phones in a big way. Some applications use your paid monthly data to feed you ads and collect your information. It’s hard to find applications that don’t track you now. Even simple things like flashlights want to track your browsing history, calling history, and more. Pay attention to those permissions.

Ah, not a big deal you say – I give up a little privacy in exchange for convenience. Yet most people do not understand how much information is being collected about them,  from how many devices, and how it skews their world-view. Companies have been working to aggregate the data from multiple sources too. Now people are paying for “personal assistants” that essentially bug your home. Just who is this smart for?

In a recent TED talk, journalists Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu describe an experiment they ran. They speak of the ways supposed convenience is used to collect your personal habits and send it to corporations. That data is then used to manipulate you into buying more and is sold to unknown third parties. Your personal life has become a product without you knowing.

Much as companies may plead that no personally identifiable information is being saved, how hard is it to ID you if they also know who bought their products? Just one piece of data like your IP address can connect all the dots. You leave your IP address on every website you visit, sometimes with your contact info, photo, and so forth. If you use a router, your devices use the same IP.

Keep in mind this is being done without your informed consent and your life is being shared with companies you’ve never heard of, often off-shore. This is unregulated territory. Your email address has more protection than your sleep and sex habits.

Smart power meters are a simpler example. Power consumption itself doesn’t give a lot of information about you. But smart meters track patterns of consumption throughout the day. This maps your personal routines in detail. My hydro provider lets me look at my usage graphs and can make surprisingly informed suggestions to save money. But I have less concern about them than I do multinationals with little to no regulatory oversight.

Zeynep Tufekci talked at TED about artificial intelligence and the hazards of unconstrained tracking. For example, even if you don’t log in, YouTube will offer you “suggested” videos. Web sites feed us what they think will keep us there longer. This drifts to extremes, leading into dark corners and a very distorted view of the world. I’ve been surprised by the weirdness YouTube suggests if I watch a few clips, for example. News sites do the same thing in much less obvious ways.

The talk mentions how Facebook’s testing revealed small changes in posts changed the voting behaviour of hundreds of thousands of users. In the US election, this was more than the difference between the parties. And yet the vast majority of users don’t realize they’re being manipulated this way. Confirmation bias is unconscious.

Minimizing our use of biased platforms can help. Balanced news sources, non-tracking search engines, browser plug-ins that reduce tracking, and similar tools can help us get a more neutral view. But only if we’re informed and discriminating.

The EU has been more proactive about clamping down on some of this behaviour. But the Internet is still largely an open highway. That’s a good thing but remember the hazards of the open road.
David

An Ayurvedic Cleanse

April 12, 2018 at 9:26 pm | Posted in Health, Science | Leave a comment
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Many people treat their cars better than their bodies. They’d never consider putting a coke in their gas tank and yet all sorts of dubious things end up in their mouths. Even if we have good intentions, sludge builds up in the physiology over time. This gradually leads to chronic health issues. But that sludge can be flushed periodically. This flushing is known as a cleanse. Consider it routine maintenance.

Want to know if you have crud buildup? Just look at your tongue. Is it perfectly pink? Or does it have a white overlay? Just in the middle back or all over? This is one indication of “ama” or gunk buildup. (The tongue also shows some other issues.)

There are lots of possible cleanses you can do out there, from simple water fasting to complex and expensive programs. But most are designed to do one thing and are not very integrative. Few recognize differences in body type leading to benefits for some but imbalance and side-effects for others. You need to understand your particular type and what is suitable for you first.

For example, an extended fast or raw vegan diet is detrimental for those with a Vata constitution. But they can have benefits for another body type.

This is from Ayurveda, the Indian science of health. It takes a whole body approach. From this perspective, you both clean things out and restore balance based on your physiology. Then the body can maintain health.

Recent science has been backing up some of these ancient practices. Our gut biome or the balance of digestive bacteria within make a big difference in how well we digest. It also affects our mind and moods. Turns out the digestive system has more neurons than the brain in our heads, hence the term “gut brain.” They’ve also discovered the issue of “leaky gut” where stuff that should be eliminated leaks out of the digestive system to get deposited elsewhere.

On top of the gradual buildup of crud, the cycles of time also influence our health. Seasons of the year have certain qualities, like winter is dry and cold in many places. Over the season, those qualities build within. If we lack those qualities, this can be balancing. But if we’re prone to excess, for example dry skin, winter can make it worse. Thus, Ayurveda recommends a cleanse in the spring and fall to clear up seasonal imbalances.

But trips to an Ayurvedic clinic or spa for treatment can be costly. Some people go on long trips to cheaper places in India but this requires care and research.

Now you can buy at-home cleanse kits such as Douillard’s “Colorado Cleanse.” However, a pre-packaged kit doesn’t recognize our personal balance points that have somewhat different treatment needs. Most don’t have the knowledge to adjust their program correctly to their current body. A consultation and a customized package based on your specific needs is much superior.

For example, I had excess heat. A standard oil like sesame will increase that heat. But an alternative oil like coconut offers similar benefits with a cooling effect. Depending on degree, we can make a blend to combine the benefits of different oils and moderate effects.

Even better is to add therapies that aid the cleanse, especially in the second phase. Not only is a warm oil massage quite delicious, it can be deeply healing. Moreso if the practitioner is awake. I recently did such a program at Amrit Dhara.

The art of these long-tested programs is surprising. For example, in a juice fast you often have 2-3 days of cravings from cutting sugar and low quality carbs. But on these programs, the Sugar Balance herbal blend cuts the usual cravings, smoothing the process.

Another example is taking ghee (clarified butter) first thing in the morning during a diet without fat (Phase 2). This causes the body to burn unnecessary body fat (in the context of the cleanse) without effort. It was very effective for me.

A good program is full of details like this.

For an at-home cleanse, it’s good to read instructions carefully and have support. Because of the thoroughness of the treatments, they can be time consuming. There is a simplified diet, herbal formulas, hydration therapy, liquefaction, tissue treatments, and more. Follow the links above for more information.

If you’d like an introduction to Ayurveda as a whole, I can recommend Dr Lad’s book Ayurveda, the Science of Self Healing. I’ve been referring to this small book for decades.

Diets really don’t work. Many of us need to change our lifestyle to support health & well-being. Yet that can be difficult. Not only do we have strong habits and unhealthy influences around us but the foods we eat culture a gut biome that wants more of the same. Unless we change our biome, we’ll find unconscious drivers pulling us off the path.

A cleanse is a great way to reset. With time off from bad habits and a moderate cleaning out, it’s much easier to develop better habits and begin anew. We’ll see how well I do. (laughs)
David

Going Secure with your Website

March 23, 2018 at 7:47 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Once upon a time on the Internet, you only needed to secure your website if you were selling on-line. Often you linked to another website to do this for you. Yet browsing any unsecured website, especially on public WiFi, can easily be snooped. To make your activity more secure, web browsers are increasing their warnings about ANY site that doesn’t have a security certificate. The little “i” beside the web address is soon to go red and add warnings on many, many websites.

As this initiative is being driven partly by Google, having a certificate also helps search engine rankings. If you have a free blog like this one on WordPress.com or on Blogger or similar, you’ll see they’ve gone to https already.

But if you host your own website, you may want to consider securing your site with an SSL certificate so this issue will not chase away viewers.

This Webnames article talks about the changes and what the browser warnings will look like.

This article talks about the kinds of certificates that are available. If you have a simple informational site, you’ll just need a basic domain validation type. But if you use sub-domains or have multiple sites, other options are available.

You can get a free certificate, but they have to be renewed often and have no support or insurance. If you have forms of any kind, including subscription or contact, paid will be more reliable. A basic paid certificate is a similar price to a domain name which makes it worth the small cost.

While you can install any certificate on your site, it’s easier to go with the options your hosting provider offers. This way, you also get their support and they’ll describe the steps on their servers. The process is fussy so that’s valuable. Give yourself time to sort out the bugs.

Here is a typical process. It will vary by host, server OS, and security vendor.

Step 1: Ordering the certificate you need. For example, I went to the SSL section of my host’s website and ordered there.

Step 2: Certificate Signing Request key: Typically, you’ll generate a CSR, then enter it into a form with your organizational info. This may be in 2 places on your host’s site.

Step 3: Often, there is then steps to set the certificate up in your website Control Panel under SSL or Security.

Step 4: Verify with the certificate provider. For example, they’ll email you a code to paste into a form to verify yourself. The certificate will then be Issued and emailed to you. Your site back end will be updated as well.

Step 5: Install the certificate. You then need to upload the certificate you received, usually into the form in step 3. Then you can select the certificate for your domain in your hosting control panel. Thus your site is certified secure.

Step 6: Site seal. You can then place a logo on your site to show your certification. This requires Header code, so I installed the “Insert Headers and Footers” plugin. (This can also be used for Google Analytics, Facebook pixel and so forth.)

You’re now officially secured. Run an SSL checker like this one, this one or this certificate detailed one to make sure everything is correct. Each reports a little differently.

But…
Odds are good that your site is full of old http addresses like images and back links. Thus, you’ll get a “mixed content” error and still won’t get the green lock or similar in a web browser – even if the SSL checks out perfectly.

This article lists some of the fixes needed (you can ignore the Cloudflare section if you’re not using them – skip to Enforcing SSL).

The temporary fix here was:
a) installing “SSL Insecure context fixer” plugin.
(Run the test first. It’s in the Dashboard, Tools menu. That tells you how to set it.)

b) In my case, the Custom HTML widgets needed to be updated to https links too.

If you’re still having issues, this tool identifies specific link errors.

As the above article mentions, you also want to update your website address on Dashboard, Settings, General to https. Also update your website links on social media sites.

Later, I’ll run a ‘search and replace‘ on the database to update all those image and internal links from http://domain.ca to https://domain.ca. Then I won’t need the plugin.

You can also use the “Broken Links Checker” plugin to check for redirected links, but I wouldn’t leave this plugin activated as it pumps the database too much and will slow your site.

Safe Surfing!
David

UPDATE:
When I migrated another site to a new domain a few years ago, I logged into the database, installed a special program, and ran a search and replace to update the domain for all the internal links. I then removed the program for security reasons.

This time, I took a newer, easier route and installed Better Search Replace plugin inside WordPress. After exporting the database as a backup, I ran a test. It found over 12,000 links to update (from http://domain.com to https://domain.com). I then ran the update and in a couple of minutes all was done.

I then deactivated the SSL Insecure Context Fixer plugin and ran a few SSL checking tools (all mentioned above) to confirm all was fixed.

I then activated Broken Links Checker to do a once over and fix random errors, like incorrect URLs entered into comment forms. I’ll deactivate this afterwards as it tends to bog a site down.

Had I known about the search and replace plug-ins sooner, I would have skipped the “temporary fix” above and done this directly. However, if there is an issue with the results, the SSL Fixer plugin can still be a great help to keep your lock green.

The Changing Landscape of Employment

March 23, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Periodically, I write about trends in work and the economy. For example, The New Unemployed or Changing Jobs.

Fully half of all current jobs are expected to be automated or replaced by new technology within the next decade. I recently posted a related article about changes to energy and transportation.

In a TED talk by economist Daniel Susskind, he explores misconceptions and consequences of automation. How do we distribute wealth other than through work?
(For some reason the talk video is not posted on YouTube and the TED code doesn’t work now.)

In this TED talk, Anthony Goldbloom explores which jobs we’ll lose and which not. Machine learning makes the difference – is the task novel or is it about frequent, high-volume tasks a machine can learn? Already, computers can diagnose disease and mark exams better than humans. They’re learning to drive cars and anticipate our desires too.

On YouTube

I’d recommend people get much better guidance on their skills and aptitudes. Often, these are not obvious without considerable experimentation. We can be blind to what comes naturally to us. Yet working at what we’re naturally good at can make a huge difference in quality of life and benefit to society.

We would all benefit immensely if talented creatives, philosophers, healers and spiritual adepts didn’t have to seek other paid work to support themselves.
How all this will play out remains to be seen.
David

Epigenetics

March 23, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Posted in Health, Media, Psychology, Science | Leave a comment
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Epigenetics is a fascinating field. I first heard about it through geneticist Bruce Lipton. At the time it was not an accepted branch of biology.

We’re all born with a fixed set of DNA that comes roughly half from our mothers genome and half from our fathers. If you and one of your parents get a DNA test, you’ll know which of them gave you what. Each of our siblings also has a similar proportion, but each has a different mix.

Essentially, our genes are sequences of chemical combinations that are a blueprint to create specific proteins used as the building blocks of our body. However, the genes also have a protein cover that other chemicals open and close in various ways. When sections are exposed, a protein recipe is revealed for replication. When sections 17-19 are exposed, it produces a different protein than when just 17-18 are out.

This distinction is key for understanding epigenetics, the study of external control of DNA expression. It also means our genes are not determinism. Rather, DNA is a blueprint for replicating proteins, but it doesn’t control their expression. It is not our destiny.
Identical twins with matching DNA can have different life and health outcomes. What you do with what you have is more important than what you have.

Bruce talked about the influence of the mothers environment during pregnancy. Is she stressed and in danger? Or is she relaxed and listening to classical music? For the baby to survive in the world to come, it will respond to the levels of stress by developing more muscles or more forebrain. Ayurveda also talks of the importance of nutrition during pregnancy.

In the TED talk below by epigeneticist Moshe Szyf, he speaks of how early life experiences can program gene expression too. In other words, the process continues after birth. Food availability, threats, care, social status, and more can program our response. If food is uncertain, we’re programmed to binge or store it as fat. Yet this adaptation may not serve us well when food is very available. Our programs becomes a maladaption that affects our quality of life and may also affect gene expression.

Scientists tested if they could deprogram the automatic adaption response. In the example case, could they break cocaine addiction? In animal research, they could break the pattern with a single treatment.

While DNA is an old blueprint, gene expression is flexible and adaptive. Gradually, we’re learning how to correct programmed behaviours that are not in our best interest. It’s fascinating to consider.

On YouTube
David

Backup Updated

February 17, 2018 at 4:53 pm | Posted in Backup, Computers, Software | Leave a comment

I’ve written several articles on computer backup over the years. For example:

Backup That Counts reviewed types and locations of backups

Backup That Works talks about why you want a backup, and why you want to choose the system carefully.

However, many of the programs I’ve recommended have not been upgraded for more recent Windows versions. It’s time for a new article.

For my work computer, I have 3 kinds of backup:
– weekly system image of the boot drive
– daily data backup of changed files – a differential with monthly full, 3 months kept.
backup on save (real time or file sync) of key files or folders from my current projects, with versions.

The first ensures I can recover my system and get up and running quickly. Standard backups don’t work well for restoring operating systems – you want imaging for that. The second ensures I have copies and quick access to everything I’ve worked on or collected. The third makes a copy each time I save the file, ensuring I lose little time if key files are corrupted, deleted in error, or similar. I can get working quickly even if the whole system died.

While I’ve not needed these backups often, they make a huge difference when I do. There are some files that could not be recovered.

While Windows 10 has a backup tool included, I don’t like the approach. It’s hard to check if you don’t know what it’s doing. Other tools I’ve used have become out-of-date or insufficient.

I found maintaining 3 different programs annoying so I ended up migrating to AOMEI Backupper to get the first 2 types of backup. This includes a tool to create a bootable disk so you can access your backup without the software installed, like in moving to a new system. Then after testing, I upgraded to the paid version to get the third, File Sync. The paid version also has some useful tools I wanted. AOMEI has served me well for awhile now.

I’ve not found other tools that combine these techniques. AOMEI isn’t perfect. It’s not always clear what some settings mean. But their web site covers the process for configuring most options. Most importantly, the software has been very reliable. Once it’s set up and scheduled, it’s simply worked.
David

Talk on Book Publishing

January 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Books, Writing | Leave a comment
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I’ll be speaking at the North Island Writers Conference later this month on a panel discussing bringing your work to the market. See Concept to Completion in Session 2.

NIW_Conference_11x17_poster (Medium)

See the related articles here.
For more info on the conference.

How Many Stars Are There?

October 9, 2017 at 11:28 am | Posted in Science, Space, uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ve always enjoyed things that bring perspective on our place in the universe and the nature of space around us. I’ve posted on The Ultra Deep Field, How Our Solar System Actually Moves, Lanikea: Our Home Supercluster, Across the Universe, Quite Enough (on scale), and more.

A new treat: The European Southern Observatory is hosting a Gigapixel image of the Milky Way. You can shift it to full screen if you like. As you zoom and zoom, more and more stars show at every point. You can click and drag the image or use the tools across the bottom. Consider this a photo of our galactic neighborhood. It gives you more of a sense of just how large it is. Many of those points of light have planets.
David

 

Clean Disruption: Energy & Transportation

September 28, 2017 at 9:32 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 1 Comment

I recently gave a short talk on the three aspects of new transportation technology that are coming together to change the industry dramatically – even as far as how we get around. Will “driving” and car ownership be only for serious hobbyists?

In this talk, Tony Seba goes much further plus he explores the changes in the energy sector as well. He shows the science behind the changes underway and how some of this is already happening today. For the most part, the changes mean a cleaner environment and lower cost energy and transportation. But there will be a lot of job changes in the process. Key is that the disruption is not driven by technology, it’s driven by economics.

If you’re drafting a 5 year plan, you need to see this.

On YouTube

David

Book Publishing – Part 2 of 2

August 28, 2017 at 11:35 pm | Posted in Books, Online services, Software, Writing | 7 Comments
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< see Part 1

File Conversion

You’ve now designed your book in a set of files. Your next step is customizing for print and ebook versions. Make a copy of your chapter files in a sub-folder each for print and ebook, without the Book file. For the ebook version, you can drop the Index and pre-title page as they’re irrelevant here. Then create a new Book file for each version. Now you can customize for the final output.

See the Guides links in the Distribution section below to compare requirements with what you’re doing. Distributors require a Contents file and a Cover file for each format that meets specifications. (PDF format for print)

Print Version
Review your files and adjust paragraph breaks to avoid subtitles at the bottom of pages and so forth. Ideally, you want page tops to be even. (you don’t want these customizations in the ebook version)

The files for your cover and your content will be exported into separate PDF’s with fonts.

The print version should ideally be CMYK images to avoid unexpected issues later. If you’ve been working in RGB, update your images to CMYK, copy them into the Print sub-folder and re-link them in the Links panel.

To export the cover, File/ PDF Presets/ Press quality. On Bleed page, select “use Doc bleeds” or it crops them off. On Output, check its set to CMYK (it should be).

To export the book, select all chapters in the Book panel, then Export as PDF, uncheck Spreads.

Check everything thoroughly. Fix and re-export as required.

For both, edit the PDF document properties after to add the title and author. Don’t apply any security. If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat (full version) to do this, you can use the free version of Tracker PDF-XChange Editor. (It’s PDF Reader is much faster than Acrobat Reader)

EBook Versions
Many of the dozen or so early ebook formats have faded out now. The most important are:
.ePub – the open standard format, for Nooks and generic readers but not Kindle.
.mobi – for Amazon Kindle (and the similar .azw)
.pdf – designed for fixed-format printing but almost every computer has a PDF reader.
(comics have their own .cbr and .cbz formats. Other formats.)

The first is what you need for digital book stores. The second for Amazon. The last is best for manually printing a copy, like for your test readers. You can also add security to a PDF but because the pages don’t flow to the device, it’s less flexible for screen reading.

The first two formats are actually a packaged website. The chapters are html files, just like web pages. This is why the text can reflow so easily on any device. Your styles are converted to style-sheets. It uses web tags for formatting and design. There’s a table of contents file, much like a navigation bar. And a file much like a site-map. All of this is wrapped inside the file container, be it on Kindle, Nook, iPad or tablet.

(You can take your Word files and ‘save as a web page’ and upload that. But Word is full of useless code and you’ve lost control over your layout. Better to get it right first and upload that.)

Images for ebooks should be RGB colour. This means a different version from Print.

From InDesign, in the Book panel you can select the chapters and Export the book to EPUB format directly. (PDF too) That file can then be converted to MOBI.

I’d recommend polishing and testing the EPUB before MOBI conversion as you can’t edit a MOBI file very easily. (Amazon gives instructions, but it’s not as straightforward)

Editing, tweaking, and converting your ebooks can be done with free software. If you have a little familiarity with web design, you’ll find the required fixes straightforward.

Calibre is the most popular editor for ebooks and includes a library & converter, a good reader and an edit program. The Manual. Converting requires adding the book to its library first (it makes a copy). When you convert, it will overwrite the previous converted version without warning. It also adds the cover once one is assigned, even if you don’t want it to.

(Alpha Ebooks Manager library software doesn’t copy, reorganize, or change your library, by comparison. But the free version is less useful.)

Sigil is similar to Calibre but has a single interface. I preferred it for editing and got the best results. But Calibre does have the good reader for checking, so I kept it installed.

The EPUB output from InDesign removed the second paragraph break from each paragraph, butting them together. As I didn’t use paragraph indentation, it made it harder to read, so I added them back in.

Ebooks do have their own TOC system but it’s normal to keep the table of contents pages anyway. As the page numbers are gone, you may need to remove the contents page links but you can relink to chapter files instead. You have to add page anchors to link to subsections.

Once you have the file polished, check it meets the EPUB standard. You can use the on-line epubcheck Validator. They also have a downloadable version but it requires Java. (I didn’t find the Sigil FlightCrew validator plugin as useful.)

There will be issues. This often requires tweaking the HTML code. For example, the conversion naturally broke the table of contents links, mentioned above. I also edited the Chapter names in the ebook TOC so they looked better. This is editing the label content, not the file names.

I also needed to add some meta information in the contents file. Use the Metadata Editor to add useful tags and enter your title, author, and so forth. For the ISBN, remember you must do a different version for the MOBI conversion as it has a different ISBN.

I also had to reposition many of the images.

Once it checks out and is polished, it’s time for the MOBI conversion. Amazon has a strong preference for their KindleGen software for converting EPUB to MOBI. This also adds “Enhanced Typesetting.” However, KindleGen is a command line tool. This gets annoying when you have to do a bunch of tests to fix issues. You can get software that adds a GUI, but I got the best results by using the KindleGen plugin in Sigil.

There is also an EPUB3 plugin that upconverts the EPUB2 you’ve been working with from InDesign. IngramSpark wants EPUB3.

Sigil has numerous other plugins too.

Testing
You’ll want to install a few software ereaders to test your files. And try them on any electronic readers you have (called side-loading). Some of the independent software doesn’t translate the formatting well, which is one reason I like the Calibre reader. It also handles a wide range of formats. Avoid software that takes over and reorganizes your library. It may even convert your ebooks to a proprietary format.

Amazon offers a Kindle Previewer which is your best bet for testing the MOBI files. It will let you know how it’s responding to the file and if it has Enhanced Typesetting. (Their Kindle app is distinct)

Finally, you’ll want a cropped image for the front cover, trimming off the bleed. JPG in RGB is the typical format. You’d also use this on your web site and promotional materials.

For detailed specs to check your files against the supplier requirements, see the Guides links in Publishing below.

Web Design

Your book also needs a web presence on-line so you can be contacted by readers, the press, tell people where to order, etc. If you have a website, it’s simply a matter of adding a page for the book. If the website is unrelated, you can get a domain that points just to the book page inside your site.

If you don’t have a site, you can use a free WordPress.com site (like this one) but can’t use it for commercial purposes. Just information and links, like an on-line brochure. Get a domain for the book too, like mybook.com.

If you want to use the site commercially to promote your book and use it as an information hub, then you’d want a hosted WordPress.org site. For that you need a domain and a WordPress hosting service. WordPress is modular so it massively simplifies designing and adding features to your site. Choose a theme and 90% of the design work is done. Choose a plugin to add features.

As an author, it can be very useful to take up blogging to build an audience for your work and a web presence. A blog is an included option in WordPress sites. You can post articles, announcements, events, gather subscribers, and so forth. Blogs also have a higher profile in search engines than static sites.

Keep in mind that having a Facebook Page or similar is social media, not a web site (see below). Only Facebook users have access or can interact with you there. For your main site, you want an open web platform where you control the content. If you’re active on social media, that doesn’t have to change. But you don’t want to limit access to your book info.

You can set up an estore on your website to sell directly via PayPal or an ecommerce platform. But it’s usually not worth the effort for a book or two as your store is largely invisible compared to something like Amazon. People will be less likely to share their credit card info with a small site too. And having a store means a whole other business, as mentioned in Publishing below. Let your distributors take care of this for you. Far more people will look for and see your book in the big stores than on a small site.

Publishing

You are the publisher as discussed in ISBN in Part 1. But you don’t want to be the distributor. You’ve been preparing files to upload to a distributor. They then act as your wholesale (bookstores, etc) and retail (Amazon, etc) sales channels.

You’re looking for a Print on Demand (POD) distributor so you don’t have to carry inventory to fulfill sales. Otherwise self-publishing is massively more expensive and a lot more work. Being your own distributor means buying lots of inventory from a printer, taking orders, processing sales, setting up a shipping system, shipping books, dealing with returns, handling delivery problems, and more. Let your distributor take care of all this and save your time and money.

Price (Update)
It’s worth doing a bit of research for comparables and costs before setting your price. If you’re going to offer your book to bookstores, the price has to cover both the cost of printing and the 55% bookstore discount. This is your wholesale price. If you don’t offer the standard discount, they are unlikely to carry it.

Example:
Book Type: 250 pages, 6 x 9, paperback
List Price: $20.00
Retail Discount: 55%
Net Price for retailer: (List Price x discount) = $11
Print fee = $5.50
Publisher Compensation = $3.50

For direct sales, it would be Price less Print fee plus the cost per book of Shipping the printed books to you. This is usually your best cut. Sales through a distributor like Amazon would be in between.

For ebooks, note the promotional programs. For example, Amazon KDP is currently pushing a 70% royalty on ebooks if you price it at $9.99 or less (compared to 35% for over that). Lower price, but higher take. As you usually want to offer the same price across all channels, this may influence your price everywhere. Ebooks are often about 60% of the price of print but the above example would make it 50%.

As I noted in ISBN in Part 1, if you’re planning to sell internationally, it’s best not to include the price in the cover barcode or text. Instead it’s set in the sales channel of the distributor (below).

Distribution

Ingram, a large, established book distributor, bought Lightning Source (POD). They now offer both print and ebook distribution to a huge market via IngramSpark. You’re included in their catalog used by bookstores and libraries.

Amazon owns CreateSpace for POD and offers the KDP program for Kindle ebooks. Amazon is a bit less expensive but Ingram handles wider distribution better. Ingram is preferable to Amazon’s “Expanded Distribution.” Ingram can handle distribution to Amazon too, but because Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore, it’s better to handle them directly.

Ingram, as with most printers, does charge a setup fee for checking and posting your uploaded files (which is refunded if you order 50 books after). Amazon is free. After uploading the files to each supplier, you’ll be able to view results on-line or in downloadable “proofs.” You’ll want to order a print “proof” and have it shipped quickly so you can address any issues prior to your release date. Check it carefully.

Update: Note that the uploading process is different for each company. Ingram has you complete all account and payment info before you can upload books (see their guide below). CreateSpace takes you into uploading much faster, but reminds you to complete account info afterwards. And so on.

You’ll need banking info for the payment sections. Direct deposit is ideal as you’ll get paid faster. The sales have to meet a threshold in each currency before they’ll mail a cheque.  Ingram pays after 90 days, Amazon after 30 but Ingram’s thresholds are lower. They both insist on paying in the currency of your country. As a Canadian, I couldn’t deposit to my US$ account, for example.

After you complete the process on Createspace, they do offer to send your files to KDP to add a Kindle version. However, I don’t recommend this approach as you have less control over the results. You already did the conversion and testing above. Ditto with adding a print version to KDP (see below).

If you’ve followed the instructions above, your book files should upload smoothly. But you can expect there to still be bugs. The KDP upload, for example, does an automatic spell check and may find surprises.

Amazon doesn’t charge for uploading new versions either but Ingram does. In either case, new files uploaded have to be re-screened, which can make them unavailable for a day or 2 if the changes are significant… so you do want to minimize the number of re-uploads.

Release Date (Update)
They recommend you allow a month or more between first uploading and your release date. This gives you time to test, fix, reupload, and retest. It also gets your files distributed to the various outlets for pre-sale prior to release.

However, Ingram and KDP allow you to set a release date but Createspace does not. It simply launches the book when you activate the sales channels. This means it shows up for sale in some channels in a day or 2, others a little later, and in Canada, nearly 30 days later. As a Canadian author wanting the print book available on Amazon.ca on the release date, this meant allowing it to be for sale in other markets for a few weeks prior. Clearly, this has been an issue for customers as they essentially apologized when I asked about it.

I find it odd they’ve not addressed this as it puts Createspace out of sync with Amazon sales outlets and KDP. But they each behave as quite distinct companies. If Amazon print is your primary channel, it means you have a rolling release date.

Guides
IngramSpark: Guide to Independent Publishing     File Creation Guide (pdf)

Amazon CreateSpace (print POD)
Particularly, you want the PDF submission spec

Amazon Kindle Direct (KDP) (ebooks)

KDP Print Publishing Guidelines (not recommended per below, but here’s the guide)

You’ll notice the many more rules Amazon has due to people trying to game their system. KDP offers tools for doing work on their site but it’s better to use professional tools and test first before uploading. They give you an option to fix your MOBI ebooks though.

You can order prints through KDP but you get fewer options. You can’t order physical proofs or your own copies or (proofs and author copies now available early 2018) drop ship batches to others. But you can set a release date for print books. Here’s a comparison with CreateSpace.

Smashwords is a popular ebook only distributor, but I found IngramSpark covers more bases.

Because of the cost of shipping books, you may also find it valuable to upload to a more local POD or short-run printer, depending on where you’re based. This is not for distribution but simply for your own print orders. You’ll need hard copies to sell at your book launch, to send review copies and gifts, and so forth. Even with setup costs, the savings in shipping and speed can be substantial. It’s worth getting a quote.

Marketing

Marketing is often anathema for writers. Partly because many authors are introverts but also because it’s a very different skill set. Here’s a site on Marketing for Introverts. And Change The World Marketing, oriented to ethical approaches.

If you know any experts or well-known authors, it’s helpful to have reviews or testimonials for marketing. Maybe they’ll even write your foreword. Asking if they’ll read a pre-published version (after primary editing) helps you get them in advance, perhaps for your books back cover or launch publicity.

Also, be sure to set up an Author page on Amazon. This is a separate step from the above. Head to Author Central to register. Five of the Amazon sites have their own Author Page setup but just US and UK have English buttons and links. Do what you can. They’ll send you links.

On Reviews
Do not respond to on-line customer reviews. These are not like blog or social comments. You can get attacked for this and get swarmed with low reviews. There are also some on-line reader communities you have to be very careful about entering as an author.

Don’t pay for reviews. They’ll get deleted along with anyone Amazon discovers you have a social media connection with.

You can certainly send review copies though. For example, Midwest Book Review. You send them 2 books which they review and resell to support the business. They’re long established.

When you get such reviews, don’t add them as a customer review. These are Editorial reviews. On Amazon, you add them through Author Central (above) or put them in the product description.

Social Media
Having a social media presence is a good idea. This will raise your presence in other communities on-line. Pick a couple of popular platforms. But don’t use them for direct marketing. Social media is just that, for social sharing. Think of it like updating friends, not sending ads. If you’re blogging, an update about your book is fine, but spamming subscribers with advertising can cause a backlash.

Remember that some social media, like Facebook or Pinterest, is a partially closed system. Posting there is for that community, not the web as a whole. Non-users will have limited to no access and cannot interact with you. This is why your open-access website should be the center of your marketing efforts. It should contain direct links to purchase your book, typically through other sites like Amazon. By all means, post updates on Facebook and the like. But you’ll gain the most eyes by posting to your website (blogging) and setting that up to feed other social media automatically. This will tend to attract more people to your website mailing list too.

Your writers group should be able to help you with local book launch and promotion events. Local papers are often good about publishing book launch events from a press release.

Congratulations! Publishing a book is still a remarkable accomplishment.

Do you have any other suggestions that worked for you?
David

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