Fortunate Finds: Guido Henkel

Guido Henkel’s Zen of eBook Marketing still free today!

A few months ago, after I finished the first draft of my second novel, I started considering the possibility of joining the ranks of self-published, indie authors. I was thoroughly dissatisfied with the (non)strategy and unresponsiveness of the small U.K. e-book publisher who had released my first novel, Cynicism Management, as well as frustrated because of my lack of control over that release. Therefore I decided to educate myself in the matter of indie publishing, which I had previously consciously avoided, primarily due to two concerns: problems involved in e-book formatting; and my inability to promote my own work in any effective way (I have a long but infamously anonymous career as a composer, musician and producer behind me, spanning back more than 20 years with extraordinarily limited success, to prove that).

I decided to approach both issues the way I usually do: by reading about them. My ultimate decision to go ahead and self-publish was based on the most helpful works of two authors: David Gaughran and Guido Henkel. From Gaughran’s books (I intend to make a separate “Fortunate Finds” post about him and his work in the near future) I have gleaned a wealth of invaluable information about contemporary self-publishing in general, more than enough for me to decide this was indeed what I wanted; but they only touch upon the subject of e-book formatting briefly. However, as far as that pressing issue was concerned, Gaughran pointed me in the direction of Henkel.

Now, I know enough about IT and coding to have been seriously worried about how to even approach e-book formatting properly. I knew enough not to trust any ZenFautomatic conversion processes, and it turned out I was right. However, due to financial constraints (i.e., zero budget) I wanted to tackle this issue myself. The feat would have been impossible without Guido Henkel’s Zen of eBook Formatting, which has been, for me, the definite go-to e-book formatting compendium, and it hasn’t let me down once. To boot, Mr. Henkel is a very generous and plain old “nice” guy, who will not shy away from any questions one might have. With the aid of his thorough instructions I was able to overcome my fear of formatting my e-books myself… And I can now do so with conviction that they’ll display well on all sorts of e-readers, phones and tablets.

For this reason I was very happy when I recently found out that Henkel was about to publish a new Zen book – Zen of eBook Marketing – this time focusing on e-book promotion, which remains a seemingly insurmountable problem for me. First of all, I dread most kinds of self-promotion and abhor marketing. I find most of it nauseating and utterly incompatible with my personal philosophy, especially as I tend to be an annoyingly compulsive cynic, even with regard to my own work. Thus I’ve always found any self-help books on marketing shady, suspecting them of mainly promoting themselves – you know, in the vein of get-rich-quick books: why would one write such a book if one knew how to get rich quickly? Unless writing a get-rich-quick book is a way of getting rich quickly?

ZenMHowever, by that time I had already been very grateful to Mr. Henkel for his book on formatting, so in spite of my inherent skepticism I will quite shamelessly say this: it is my opinion that Guido Henkel does it primarily because he likes to help people (no matter how cheesy that statement sounds); and if he makes a thoroughly honest living while doing it, that’s fine with me. If you disagree, check his instructions on eBook formatting: he could have taken this freely accessible information down when he wrote a book about it, right?

If you’re looking for get-rich-quick schemes, you won’t find any in Henkel’s book. Instead he approaches the subject of e-book marketing realistically and wittily, providing a treasure cove of information on everything every indie author should know: from editing, proofreading, beta readers, formatting, importance of cover design, keywords and metadata… all the way to reviews, online presence, social media and promo ideas. You’re free to pursue whatever you like, and ignore whatever it might be you don’t. Henkel will not tell you to do this or do that in order to achieve overnight success: he provides a comprehensive overview of everything you can do, topping it all off with an exhaustive and invaluable collection of links and resources, and then it’s up to you. It’s a book every indie author should grab – and you can do so without any risk whatsoever, because Henkel is still offering it for free until the end of today.

2nd Edition of “Cynicism Management” novel published

Cynicism Managment - CoverThe second edition of my first novel, Cynicism Management, is now available on Amazon (the link should automatically take you to your local Amazon store) for $2.99 / £1.99.

HOWEVER! Be warned that this price can vary greatly between the countries you’re buying the book from, Slovenia being one of the most unfortunate ones. In Slovenia the $2.99 book will cost you $6.09. For example, these are the prices I’ve been able to confirm (when browsed in different countries, on Amazon US) after some research via VPN servers and/or with the assistance of friends living abroad:

  • USA: $2.99 (my price at Amazon US)
  • Germany: $3.29 (most likely my price of €2.99 at Amazon DE, with currency conversion from €)
  • UK: $2.96 (my price at Amazon UK, with currency conversion from £)
  • Switzerland: $ 3.26
  • Latvia: $ 6.04
  • Lithuania: $ 6.04
  • Czech Republic: $ 2.99
  • Romania: $ 3.71
  • Slovenia: $ 6.09
  • Portugal: $ 3.68
  • Spain: $ 3.26
  • Sweden: $ 3.74

I tried clearing up the issue with Amazon, but for three days of fruitless back-and-forth they kept evading and muddling the issue with diversionary tactics and nebulous quasi-information before finally sending the following statement (after I demanded explicitly that they send me a clear breakdown of how exactly they calculated the Slovenian price):

“The availability and pricing of titles in global Kindle Stores may vary by home country or region, because of taxes and other operating costs. However, it is our operational policy that we don’t disclose the breakdown to our publishers/authors. Unfortunately, we’re unable to provide why we can’t disclose these information to publishers/authors either.”

In other words, they won’t tell me why they charge the extra $3.10 in case of Slovenia, and they also can’t tell me why they won’t tell me that.

I know of no taxes and reasonable “operating costs” (of sending a digital file to a Kindle and charging a credit card) that could result in an increase of price in excess of 100 %. However, the last sentence of the final response was probably volunteered by a rather disgruntled Amazon support staff member, and the actual interpretation from “bamboozlese” would probably be – I’m reasonably sure – that Amazon applies some ridiculous arbitrary surcharge in case of certain countries… And they obviously don’t want to advertise this fact.

Be that as it may, the book will soon be published as epub in various other e-bookstores as well, hopefully without this astounding surcharge.