Stuff We Love: Zwoodle Books
Zwoodle Books is an online resource that shares the most popular free or inexpensive ebooks with readers. Visit www.zwoodlebooks.com to explore! Below is an interview with the founder (and Zwoodle Noodle), Kristen.
What is the goal of Zwoodle Books?
At Zwoodle Books, we really want to connect readers and authors together in an enjoyable experience. We do our best to feature books that are highly rated and from as many genres as possible so there’s a little something for everyone. And we want our site and Twitter feed to be fun. :)
We know what it’s like to be a casual or voracious reader on a budget scrolling through the books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play Books, iTunes, etc. and just being completely overwhelmed.
We also understand authors trying to strike that delicate balance between making their book available at an accessible price and being able to make a living doing what they love. There is a happy medium there somewhere, although it’s not an easy one to find. We hope that by connecting talented and serious authors with our expanding level of readership, we can help bridge that gap.
One difficulty authors often face is the fact that to be successful in this new age of digital publishing, you really do have to be business-savvy as well. How do you promote yourself without coming across like a spammer or spending so many hours of every day trying to do something with social media that you no longer have time to write? As we are able to grow our audience, we can help give authors a boost in their sales and connect readers to some really amazing work.
We try to research as many places to find each e-book as possible, so we aren’t focusing on just the Kindle or just the NOOK. There are a lot of great e-readers out there, and we don’t want to ignore the people that own those, especially since the Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions are often specific to each device.
We also take the time to research each writer and add their website and Twitter URLs to our posts whenever possible. The time it takes to do so really adds up, especially since some writers are astonishingly hard to find! But we think it’s important to help connect readers and authors together, which is why we do it.
We really do love books and almost everything we do is out of a genuine respect for book readers. Who are we writing for, if not them? As such, we are really open to feedback from the public, positive or negative. We want to make it the best that it can be.
Who created the idea for the site and why?
I moderate Zwoodle Books and our Twitter account under my noodly alter ego - the Zwoodle Noodle is a fun way for me to interact with people on a personal level in between our regular tweets. (Although I’d be glad for the extra followers it might bring me to promote myself, I don’t want people to think that my political opinions or what I eat for breakfast influences my book choice. I try my best to be objective.)
I stopped reading for about ten years during the course of my marriage, and like most divorcees, I set out on a quest find myself again; reading was a natural extension of that process.
Through a series of events and happenstance, I became the owner of a Kindle, and being at that post-divorce level of broke so many people can relate to, I spent a lot of time looking for books that were free or inexpensive.
To be honest, I wound up muddling through a lot of mediocre material. At one point, I read a free book that turned out to be the first in a series that was nine - nine! - substandard books long. The writing, the characters, everything about it was not at a level that I really appreciated, but I had to read the rest of them to find out what happened (because that’s just the kind of person I am). But that was a turning point for me. My reading time is limited and, therefore, valuable. So I became much more selective in my choices. It occurred to me that this research could benefit others, which was a way for me to justify the amount of time I was spending on it. So there’s that. :)
I also was a subscriber of several free e-book lists. There are a lot of great ones out there, and I would never try to minimize their work or what they have to offer. But for me personally, there were so many choices that I was like, “Oh, this looks good. And so does this one. Ooh, and this one.” It got to the point where I really became an e-book hoarder. I will never be able to read all of the books in my Kindle. Never.
For most people, I think a book or two a week in a genre that they like is enough, which is why we try to feature a different genre every weekday - Mystery Mondays, Two for Tuesdays, Romantic Wednesdays, Horror Thursdays, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fridays - and typically only one or two free books each day (plus deals, as we find them) so the choices aren’t so overwhelming. That type of filtering is what would work best for me, and I’m hoping it will help others as well.
Who is the audience for the site?
Anyone who likes to read. :)
How are books chosen to be featured on Zwoodle Books?
Sometimes we receive notices from the authors themselves, which is happening more and more, and we love that! We would really love to get recommendations from the general public or publishers because each of those would be an endorsement or additional filtering process in themselves. We could never read all of the books we share in a million lifetimes (but how great would that be?)
As it is now, we hand-select most of the books we feature, based on popularity and ratings. It’s an imperfect system, especially considering how “reviews” can be bought and sold online, and it’s almost impossible to distinguish between those and genuine readers’ thoughts. But eventually, the market should even itself out as more people catch on to these things.
We would especially love to feature writers from underrepresented aspects of our society that could offer a unique perspective on the world.
What (if any) changes or adaptations can be expected in the future?
Oh, wow. We do have lots of plans for the future…
Once our audience expands, we’d like to engage readers more, perhaps with book reviews, commentaries, and forums.
For authors, we plan to offer free websites, similar to Blogger or Tumblr but devoted solely to books, and perhaps low-cost promotional packages (that do not involve buying reviews).
Eventually, and perhaps most exciting (to me), we plan to host writing contests and ultimately delve into the world of publishing.
We can’t really do much expansion until we get through the growing pains of being a startup company, but we expect to offer most of those features within the next year. We are small, but we are here to stay, so all of these options are on the horizon.
If you could tell our community only ONE thing about Zwoodle Books, what would it be?
Zwoodle Books is a labor of love; it’s a gift from us to you. <3
Author Education Series 9c
A Beginner’s Guide to eBook Publishing
(Excerpted from “” by Steven Spatz)
The digital book — or eBook — is now the preferred choice for millions of readers. Walk through any airport waiting area or Starbucks and you’ll see a growing number of readers enjoying new levels of convenience, portability, access, and affordability with their Kindles, iPads, Nooks and more.
Today you can publish your eBook for a fraction of the cost and time it once took to bring a book “to market.”
Empowering the independent author
Beyond the exploding sales numbers, the electronic publishing age offers opportunities for new and prospective authors that have previously been open to a relative few.
Authors are in control
Creative types — artists, musicians, sculptors, authors — have almost always been at the mercy of others controlling and profiting from their art. It’s been that way since Michelangelo was painting ceilings in Rome.
With eBooks, authors can finally have as much control as they want because of their direct access to their reading audience.
It can take anywhere from 12 to 15 months for a traditional publishing company to get an author’s work into the marketplace. Compare that with the 3 to 4 weeks it takes to see your BookBaby eBook on Amazon, Apple and more.
Special interests can be special
With eBooks, even tiny niche titles are economical to produce, satisfying small yet potentially profitable reading audiences.
Last but certainly not least:
The old payment formulas are completely upside down in the eBook world. Instead of accepting miniscule royalty percentages going through old school publishers, authors are seeing up to 70% of sales receipts through some of the online retailers. Even when eBook authors bring prices way down to 2.99….$1.99….even $.99…they’re realizing much higher revenue totals because of increased unit sales.
Why publish eBooks through BookBaby?
Authors hold all the cards at the eBook table. There are dozens of options available to you, ranging from a Do It Yourself (DIY) project that costs next to nothing, all the way to an expensive and elaborate suite of services for authors.
Right in the middle of those offerings sits BookBaby. We’ve helped thousands of authors get their books into the digital marketplace.
Publishing your eBook with BookBaby is easy. How easy?
• Upload your eBook and pay as little as $99. Sign up is fast and intuitive. You set the selling price, supply book descriptions, author bio — even list out keyword search terms. You’re in control from start to finish, and retain all publishing and ownership rights.
• Sell your eBooks worldwide. We convert your original electronic files so that your eBook can be read on every reading device — Kindle, iPad, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and more.
• Get paid 100%. We collect your net sales from the online retail stores. A few days later, BookBaby pays you every last cent. Our cut of your sales? 0%.
But there’s more to BookBaby. From supplying ISBNs and Cover Design services to eBook conversions from PDFs and for titles with massive amounts of pictures and graphics, we’ve got everything an aspiring — or established – author could need.
eBook editing —More Important Than ever
When authors work through the traditional system, editing is one of the most important elements that publishers or agents bring to the process. Just because you’ve chosen to go another route doesn’t mean that the requirements for editing are any less strict. In fact it’s even more vital for you to have a set — or sets — of other eyes on your prose because your writing reputation is on the line.
What do you look for in an editor? Most editors concentrate on one or a few genres, and that’s a good thing. So start your search for an editor that’s experienced with your type of subject matter.
To search for a professional editor, you can start with listings at Writer’s Digest’s site or Media Bistro. You can also check social sites like LinkedIn to contact best industry professionals. You can search the site to find dozens of user groups or communities within the publishing world such as:
• LinkEds and Writing
• Publishing and Editing Professionals
• Writing and Editing Professionals
• Freelance Editing Network
Another good source is the Editorial Freelancers Association, which has a directory of EFA members that you can search online. The EFA also has a great list of typical rates for various kinds of editorial services at http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php.
eBook file conversion 101
Your manuscript has one final hurdle to jump before it is eReader-ready: You’ll need to have your Word, Text or other electronic files converted into a file format compatible with the most popular eReaders.
There are three main file types currently associated with eBooks:
• epUB (.epub) - The most popular open standard format for eBooks that allows Digital Rights Management (DRM). This is the format used with all the major retailers EXCEPT Amazon/Kindle.
• Mobipocket (.mobi) - An eBook format that allows users to add a blank page at any point in the text for notes, bookmarks, corrections, and drawings.
• Kindle (.azw) - Amazon’s proprietary format is based on mobipocket, but with their own DRM protections.
Which brings us to the first fork in the road for independent self-publishing authors. Do you want a professional file conversion house to produce the necessary digital files for Amazon, Apple and the rest? Or do you want to save the expense and do it yourself?
Plenty of authors have gone down the DIY road and found success. There are dozens of websites, author forums, and whitepapers available to guide you through it. But converting your Word file into ePub and .mobi isn’t for everyone.
With the technology, standards, and best practices for eBook conversion constantly in flux, it’s tough for authors to stay abreast of all the latest developments. And frankly…that’s our job. Writers should be doing what they do best – write. Leave all of the technical details to our eBook conversion experts and your book will look great on all the different eReaders in the marketplace.
Do’s and Don’ts — eBook File Format Fundamentals
No matter what path you choose for ePub conversion, you can go a long way to make the process easier by following some basic formatting guidelines:
• Use basic text files to upload. Our experts have learned that eBook formatting works best when authors can supply original files in .doc, .html or .txt file formats.
• Don’t use tabs or the space bar to format paragraphs or individual lines. Use the format paragraph menu or the alignment buttons in the toolbar of your text-editing program.
• Use standard fonts for your document, like Times New Roman or Courier New. Don’t use very large or very small font sizes. We recommend 12pt. font size for body text and 14-18pt. for chapter titles.
• Resize large images to 300 pixels high if you would like them to display in-line with text.
• Do all image resizing work outside of the document, then reinsert them before saving. All images must be in .png, .jpg, or .tif format, 72 dpi, and in RGB color mode.* Cover and full- page images: 800-1000 pixels tall by 550-700 pixels wide. Logos or simple images: 75 - 100 pixels high.
• Don’t wrap text around images. All images (except full-page images) should be set “in-line” with text.
• Need more info? Additional information about how to best prepare your files for ePub conversion can be found at http://www.bookbaby.com/help/preparingforconversion
13 very important numbers for every eBook
The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique 13-digit code assigned to your book to identify it amongst all the others in the digital marketplace. Retailers use these codes to track and report sales. Every book — physical or eBook — is required to have its own number if it’s made available for sale. In fact: If you’ve already published your book in physical form, you’ll need another ISBN for the electronic version.
R.R. Bower is the official agency in charge of assigning and maintaining these numbers.
Publishers and authors can buy blocks of their own numbers.
A self-published author can buy just one ISBN for $125.
BookBaby.com sells ISBNs for $19.
Cover Design — Stand Out On Crowded Virtual Bookshelves
Most of your readers will view your book’s cover art as a tiny little postage-stamp sized image on an eBook retail site.
Given that, put your cover art to the test:
• Is it big and bold? The cover design needs to clearly display the book title and author name so that they can be read even when the image is small.
• Does it pass the “2 second” test? Can a potential reader understand what your book is about with a quick glance at your cover? Does your design quickly convey the vibe and tone of your work?
• Do you look like you belong at B&N? If you think your writing is world class and belongs on the shelf along with the literary greats, your cover needs to hold up its end of the bargain. If your cover art looks amateurish, the customer will assume the writing is too.
If you’ve already got a cover design that you think passes all those tests — great. If not, BookBaby has you covered.
A great eBook cover is one of your best sales tools, instantly conveying the key thoughts, messages and images that sum up your book. On those crowded eBook retail sites, it’s essential for you to stand out from everyone else. An eBook cover created by the BookBaby Design Studio will ensure you make a professional impression.
Our designers have years of experience creating packaging for authors, musicians and filmmakers, so rest assured you’ll get a cover that’s been designed with one thing in mind: Getting you more sales!
Check out our gallery of cover art examples and testimonials at
Data about Data — Why Metadata is crucial for your eBook
Metadata is one of the least understood components to publishing an eBook, but it’s critical to your marketing and sales efforts.
Metadata is all the information related to a specific book, including:
• Author biography
• The genre and subgenre of your book
• Short and long book descriptions
• Keywords that will aid readers searching for your book on Amazon
What’s so important about metadata? Browsing through the online bookshelves usually begins with a search. If your metadata does not reflect what someone is searching for, no one will ever find your book.
So how do you go about creating good metadata?
Here are a few ideas:
• Research retailers. Go to Amazon.com, Apple’s iBookstore or BN.com and look up books like yours. What categories are they in? Study the book descriptions. See what words they’ve used to describe their books. Then search for books using the keywords you found using the keyword tool.
• Use google’s keyword tool. It’s a tremendous window into the world of what people are searching for through Google. Look up words you feel describe your book and you’ll quickly see whether people are searching for those words and what other words they are using.
• Be consistent. Don’t put one book description on Amazon and change it around for B&N. Use similar wording for the boilerplate on your press release, book flyer, etc. Create a document or spreadsheet documenting the metadata and where you used it. This is especially important if you have several titles and a huge time saver as you expand your marketing.
Time to publish — Some final notes
The eBook world is very young. But as the sister company to the musical powerhouse CD Baby, this feels like very familiar territory. Today’s publishing world is eerily similar to the music world of the early 2000’s, when the marketplace was in a state of flux and confusion as musicians, agents and record companies were forced to react to the rapid change in technology.
Likewise publishers, agents and authors are currently scrambling to understand this new eBook world. BookBaby is here to help authors capitalize on new publishing opportunities.
No one can promise you that your book will be a best-seller, of course, but by reading this guide, I hope to have shared advice that helps you publish a truly great eBook.
What Should I Read Next?
Have you ever been stumped when trying to decide what SF or fantasy eBook you should read next? Check out this flow chart. SF Signal has created The Top 100 SciFi & Fantasy Books Flowchart, a decision tree based NPR’s list of the top 100 books. It is immense and highly detailed, and it asks questions I had never even though of. Click on it for a larger version. via eBookFriendly (via eBookNewser - The First Word on Digital Publishing)