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Want to be a family hero–maybe forever?

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Here’s a step-by-step guide that can make you the best known member in your family during your lifetime and for hundreds of years beyond. The tree planter from today forward. No kidding.

I published this book in 2008, to modest fanfare. Now, suddenly, we’re hustling to keep up with the unexpected orders for Your Living Family Tree: Keeping your family together forever through print, photos, sound, and video. It’s been discovered! This tree must be a late bloomer. See more details and sample chapters at www.yourlivingfamilytree.com.

Its new popularity is delightful but baffling. We suspect that a couple of bloggers featured it. Or the new prices which we lowered (for most of our products) a few weeks back: $15 for print, $10 for the e-book.

What’s the book about? It creates a genealogical flip-flop, turning the usual “family tree” upside down, starting right now and exploding upward with 21st-century interactivity and fresh growth rather than digging downward for ever more questionable roots.

Here, I describe a vital new “living family tree” that unites every family member, living or yet to be born, into a new family website tree where each member shares his or her personal history and experiences. Starting with a founding director (like you) and beginning with the earliest living kin, the website would electronically draw all of the members together by print, photo, sound, video, and much more, making every member’s shared information, musing, memory, and hope instantly available to any member at any time and from any place.

As important, this living family tree will continue to grow and expand for a year, a decade, or 100 decades. The stored collection could last forever—and the old-fashioned family tree would be a welcome extension, appended as foundational information providing much-wanted starter roots!

In Your Living Family Tree, I explain the exciting new concept in the opening chapters: The Idea, The Parts, The Ways, The Director, and The Future. Next, 17 possible sections of the tree in an immediately usable format. Those sections might include a Personal Information Repository; Family Directory; Family Registry; “Tip of the Hat” Acclamations; “In Memoriam” Announcements; an Annual Family Summary; Family Treasures in Print; Family Treasure Box; Family Flashes; the Ancestral Family Tree; Journals, Diaries, and Memoirs; Unforgettable Recollections; Scrapbooks; DNA and Health Concerns, and a list of Other Attachments.

Why confine our genealogical curiosity to the past when we can create the future’s past in digital permanence today, tomorrow, and for as long as our families share and grow? See the do-it-yourself process explained step by step in
Your Living Family Tree.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. Want to receive my free monthly newsletter? Glad to have you with us.

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Mainstream publishing may not matter at all to most publishers…

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Let me offer another thought, between Mark Coker’s “The big houses are on the way out” and Peter Beren’s “Not only won’t it happen…” I wonder if, for 95% of the potential book publishers, the big houses matter much at all.

Oops, in one case they can matter a lot: to an author sought out and begged by one of the “Big Six” to print their opus for a million bucks, plus their next three books, whatever they are, all with even more generous advances…

For the rest of us, why are they probably irrelevant?

* Because the ‘oops’ above ain’t gonna happen to you, me, or anybody we know. We took their rejections to heart. (But I suppose if it did happen, the courting and the cash in hand would offset the snub, the usually lousy royalties, the delay in getting the book out, and so on. At least once.)

* For our books to prosper they are far more likely to be about topics or for markets that aren’t on the big houses’ radar. We can get very rich quickly by working niche markets, where our buyers would never seek us (or find us) in the brick-and-mortar or mega stores. Or we can just die happy, published. So what if we are in wee markets where we can barely find ourselves?

* Or our books could be one of those fictional phenoms about paranormals or wizards or whatever, presumably ground out quickly, that online fans could buy by the billions for 99 cents (or is it 9 cents?), or one of those Japanese novels released a page a day to be read on hand phones while going to work.

* Or they can be your son’s high school graduation book that you put together and publish as his gift, with a buying audience at most 30 deep. A book of love that costs you almost nothing to produce and print, but looks good and will be around forever.

* Or your book can be about how to make and bake your aunt’s quince cookies, your great-great grandfather’s handwritten diary about bringing the family West in a covered wagon, your summer in a Norwegian monastery, or “How to Feed Your Llama.” Who cares how many people read it? Still, there may be 1,000 souls somewhere in the world hiding in a computer or device that are looking for those precise words.

* But my main take on the irrelevancy is why this newsletter exists: it says that if you find a topic that others care very much about and want to buy your expertise, you publish the core book, get it in their hands, and that becomes the center (and foundation) of a very profitable empire that you build around, with other books, reports, articles, video, audio, workshops, classes, a newsletter, boot camps, consulting, etc. You don’t need mainstream publishers at all, or even “ancillary publishers,” though one might propel you farther and the other could make it cheaper and faster. Just POD and self-publish.

* Yet if you don’t care (or know) a whit about the minutiae of publishing, you can use the ancillary houses, write copy that can’t be resisted, let them make your book and sell it, and you just buy enough starter copies to put in the hands of those who will get you speaking gigs or help you get in touch with the very folks who want and need your expertise. A print (or even e-) book that looks professional enough that the reader will focus, beyond the book, on the title, the contents, and how that book’s message must be shared.

* I can think of a dozen more scenarios where mainstream publishers are irrelevant. And even more scenarios where having access to free and fast ancillary book producers could be a godsend, until you’ve found a readership and enough confidence to do the publishing alone—if that ever makes sense.

* I can also think of a dozen cases where big houses, redesigned and somewhat repurposed, must be around to do what Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu, PubIt!, Blurb, Scribd, Google, or LightningSource can’t. Most of those cases involve some degree of layering, enhancement, or “cloud” formation. Along the lines that David Marshall discussed in #3 of this four-blog series…

—–

(This is the last of that four-part blog series about the “two publishing revolutions afoot.” #1 appeared on 5/19 where Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, predicted the end of mainstream publishers as we know them. In #2 (5/23) publishing consultant Peter Beren offered a counter view suggesting that ultimately the “big houses” may absorb and dominate the e-book format. In #3 (on 5/25), Berrett-Koehler’s David Marshall showed some of the changes traditional publishers will make to survive and thrive in the future. Here, I add a cranky explanation of how the existence of “ancillary publishing,” as Mark Coker discusses it in #1, and the wee and e-books it facilitates, may in themselves be far more important to their author/publishers than the books’ actual sales records. In my [free] newsletter on 6/7, I will again share #1-#4, with comments, plus add many more immediately applicable insights that Coker shared at a BAIPA [Bay Area Independent Publishers Association] meeting on May 14.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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There are two publishing revolutions afoot…

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It seems that there are two publishing revolutions taking place, one at each end of what we traditionally think of as a book. Both were touched upon in the ASJA-sponsored meeting in Berkeley on May 15. They barely fit under the umbrella title of “E-Books. Apps, and Clouds.”

Mostly unmentioned were the book’s core content and the author, the primary source of “a transmission from one brain to another brain (which is publishing),” according to author Margaret Atwood.

The author as publisher (and the explosion of the e-book) was the focus of Mark Coker’s prophesizing the end of mainstream publishing by the accessibility of an open press and the democratization of unrestricted distribution. On the other end, the salvation of the book, in David Marshall’s presentation, seemed to depend upon software, layering, video, animation, interactivity with the reader, and responding to the “age of reading TV and watching books” by smarter and tighter cutting-edge firms. Authors were asked not to think of themselves as book writers but symbols of creative change.

Marshall is the VP of Editorial and Digital at Berrett-Koehler Publishers in San Francisco, a nonfiction independent house in the educational field.

He too focused on the “sea change” in publishing, emphasizing more the digital explosion in tablets and e-readers, ranking the top four as Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Google, and citing the four top formats as PDF (creating the exact replica of the print book), e-pub (with flowing text where type font and size can be changed but graphs and tables must be omitted), Mobi (in the Kindle), and the scanned process used by Google Book Search.

Most of the transformation from print to digital has been in fiction; nonfiction has increased from 7 to 12% of the total. Marshall then painted the vision of how nonfiction will look in the near future, as “enhanced” books including audio, video, self-assessments, and community portals where readers can talk with the writer and other readers. There might be games in the book or animation in the preface with the author’s voice-over.

Most of the book won’t live in the tablet either. It will “live in the clouds,” in a grand file beamed down from a database available any time from anywhere. The user can buy any section or chapter they want, paying through a meter. And the data can be continually updated, or added to, dynamically. Articles, too, can be modified as facts emerge or change.

This will transform the authors’ role. They will publish digitally first, then think print later. The barriers and excuses will be gone. If it makes sense, print it, David said.

The “power of free” then becomes possible with the digital book. The writer can capture market share by giving away the first book (or the first chapters), then charge as the fan base develops. An e-list becomes the authors’ selling center.

Since e-books in the future will be multimedia, the writer will be responsible for the text and the embedded media components. Writers will find partners from film, audio, and art to create the best format.

David encouraged the participants to read his “Tools of Change Conference Call Report” from February, 2011 (go to www.scribd.com, type the title in the search box, save the document, and read or print it out in PDF from there).

From the May 15 presentation and the report, it’s almost overwhelming what’s on the publishing horizon. Particularly interesting in the report are Wired Magazine’s Kevin Kelley’s six trends that book publishers need to address in order to stay competitive and his eight ways to make it easy to pay but hard to copy. Brian O’Leary (Magellan Media) compares the old paradigm to the new and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale) gives a chilling author’s perspective. In fact, all 12 pages paint a brave New Publishing World in which the major houses and even the self-publishers hardly fit.

Perhaps David Marshall’s summary of that report best expresses the sense he shared with clarity, conviction, and excitement at the ASJA gathering:

“All ‘heck’ is breaking out in the digital publishing space. E-books are just the first wave of many waves of digital innovation… As the market for pure text products, even in digital form, moves to free, publishers must innovate to provide new layers of consumer value, or perish. Products such as The Elements (185,000 sold) show the portent of the industry. Unfortunately, most publishers will not be able to profitably transform themselves into companies such as Touch Press, Open Road Media, or Callaway, and some of the stiffest competition to traditional publishers will likely come from VC-funded ‘born digital’ start-ups. I sat at a conference lunch table on Wednesday under the banner, ‘What’s the difference between book and software publishing?’ That is an apt reflection of how these two industries are quickly merging. (Berrett-Koehler’s) collaborative partnership business model is more important now than ever before. We must re-invent ourselves to stay relevant.’

[This is #3 of a four-part series about changes in the book publishing field. In a couple of days, here, I will suggest, in #4, that mainstream publishing may be irrelevant.]

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If a free, monthly newsletter about this and related topics (all encouraging empire-building) interests you, join in. Three free reports too!

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Traditional publishers may absorb the e-book “revolution” rather than fold!

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“I remember more than 30 years ago when we used the same rhetoric and vigor that Mark Coker used today, but then we proclaimed that you didn’t have to publish in New York, that West Coast publishing was the new frontier of creativity,” Peter Beren told me as we hunted for the elevator leaving the Berkeley Public Library and the ASJA public gathering on May 15.

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, had just called for writers to re-embrace freedom of speech, and prophesized the end of mainstream publishers as we know them. (See the blog on May 19, #1 of a series of four; this is #2.)

Peter is a literary agent; a columnist for the San Francisco Publishing Examiner; a publishing consultant to authors, self-publishers, and independent publishers, and a literary agent with 30 years experience in book publishing. Among his six published books are The Writers Legal Companion (with Brad Bunnin) and California the Beautiful. (See www.PeterBeren.com.)

“I just can’t believe that e-books are the self-publishing keys to the kingdom. Mark’s rhetoric is as extreme as ours was. Particularly if it gives the idea that a writer can self-publish and by-pass the traditional publishers and achieve the same result in terms of readers and earnings. If the person does that, and only distributes to electronic platforms/channels, it is very difficult for a reader to know a work exists and how to get it. E-books are a great secondary sales channel and they can add to the authors’ earnings in a considerable way but right now the entire channel accounts for only about 13% of total sales.

“Nor do I see bookstores disappearing any time soon. True, Borders folded, but Barnes and Noble is predicted to bring in $300 million more in business in its absence. Independent bookstores, while only 5% of the market, are doing well, and the Expresso Book machine now produce books on the spot worldwide. In fact, it’s far more likely that traditional publishers will absorb the e-book channel just as they have absorbed trade paperbacks, books on tape, and boxed sets. Random House and other major publishers are going back to their authors and releasing their works in e-book form. They are even experimenting with enhanced e-books, which the new, smaller open press firms simply can’t do.

“And what about the craft itself? Think of coffee table books—that can’t be duplicated electronically.

“Also, how much of the e-book fire is being fed by the dozen or more firms earning $100 million selling self-publishing services?”

Peter told me that he doesn’t disapprove of self-publishing or e-books, just the hype. He said that e-books are keeping many of the smaller publishers in the black right now, and there are many micro publishers that will flourish in the new environment.

Beren could see the difficulties a year ago in a San Francisco Examiner Publishing column, on March 4, 2010, when he shared that “(w)hen self-publishing grew by leaps and bounds, it grew because technology made book printing simple. Combined with print-on-demand (POD)—where you get the orders first and then print to fit—self-publishing became an irresistible lure. Suddenly, there was disintermediation, eliminating the middle-man. Anybody could get their book on Amazon where it would democratically rise or fall without the mediation of the prejudices of a store’s book buyer. Since they were dealing with POD, there was no need to hold inventory or carry the capitol risk of inventory. Anybody could be an author, anybody could publish a book.

“What self-publishers discovered with the e-commerce channel was that somebody or something needed to capture the attention of the individual reader and motivate them to look the book up on Amazon or some other venue. Marketing and distribution became, and still are, self-publishing’s great challenge.”

Now it’s a year later. That concern remains. Peter says, “I think that Mark Coker is calling for the ultimate democratization of publishing, where any writer can publish anything anytime. There needs to be a debate as to whether that idea is true or even worthwhile.”

—–

(As mentioned, this is #2 of a four-part blog series about the “two publishing revolutions afoot.” #1 appeared here on 5/19 where Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, predicted the end of mainstream publishers as we know them. Here. publishing consultant Peter Beren offers a counter view that, suggesting that ultimately the “big houses” may absorb and dominate the e-book format. In #3 (on 5/25), Berrett-Koehler’s David Marshall will show some of the changes traditional publishers will make to survive and thrive in the future. And in #4, I will add a cranky explanation of how the existence of “ancillary publishing,” as Mark Coker discusses it in #1, and the wee and e-books it facilitates, may in themselves be far more important to their author/publishers than the books’ actual sales records. In my [free] newsletter on 6/7, I will again share #1-#4, with comments, plus add many more immediately applicable insights that Coker shared at a BAIPA [Bay Area Independent Publishers Association] meeting on May 14.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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The downfall of the mainstream publishers as we know them…

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“It’s time that writers and publishers stood up for free speech!” said Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, to some 85 attendees at the ASJA-sponsored free gathering on Sunday, May 15, in the Berkeley Public Library. The topic was “E-Books, Apps, and Clouds: How Writers Are Creating the Future of Publishing.”

Mark said it was paradoxical that only a few blocks away his mother (and he in utero) took part in the Free Speech movement at its peak in the 1960s. And now, finally, with e-books ranked as the #1 format among all trade categories, there is a renaissance in book publishing as firms like Smashwords, offering a free publishing and distribution platform, help give ordinary people the power about what should be said and printed.

“The ‘Big 6’ have judged the worth of writers by the commercial merit of the books they sent for publication. They controlled the printing presses and the venues of mass distribution, but their myth as the arbiters of value is giving way to a new reality as brick and mortar bookstores close, they pass the post-publication PR burden to the writers, their book advances tumble while they still reject almost every submission, they take 18 months to put those few books accepted in print—and if the new book doesn’t sell in the first weeks that it’s in the bookstores, it is withdrawn to be remaindered or pulped.”

“Writers have been exploited. It’s the public who should decide what they want to read. We offer an online, open platform so writers can release their potential. That creates many more choices.”

Coker said that answers to two questions will lead to the downfall of the big publishers (though they will never totally disappear, nor should they):

The first question is, “What can publishers do that I can’t do myself?”

The second, “Will using a traditional (or mainstream) publisher harm my book’s success?”

In response to the first question, any author can use the Smashwords format to create an e-book in nine software languages. Those books are then openly marketed by distributors worldwide, democratically serving all. There is no cost to the author/publisher. And a royalty of 60-85% is paid for every book sold (compared to 5-17% in royalties for the major houses). The books are released as e-books almost the moment they are processed.

The second question, how would a traditional publisher harm a book’s success? By making it unaffordable (in part to pay for their overhead), often selling it at prices double or triple the e-book rates. And by limiting its distribution, geographically or for restricted periods of time. (E-books know no boundaries since they become immediately accessible internationally once they are seen in an online catalog. Readers can also sample a part of the book before buying. And since there is unlimited space in the e-book bookstore, the books will remain available everywhere forever.)

“By self-publishing and having the means affordably at hand, the authors/publishers can take control of their own publishing destiny,” Mark adds. “If they write a good book that resonates with writers, buyers will honor the writer with word-of-mouth promotion.”

But another key question remains unanswered: will the “open press” or “ancillary publishing” process bring authors enough income for their efforts? “Right now we have less than 50 authors earning $50,000 a year,” Mark replies, smiling. But in just three years his firm has helped 20,000 writers publish 50,000 ebooks, and in the process Smashwords has become one of the largest e-book distributors.

Smashwords distributes to the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBookstore, and Scrollmotion. A distribution deal is in the works with Amazon, for implementation late this year.

The firm is on track to surpass 75,000 books by the end of 2011. Smashwords is one of eight self-publishing services (which I call “ancillary publishers”) that help releasing writers’ potential, including CreateSpace, Kindle, PubIt!, Lulu, Blurb, Scribd, Google, and LightningSource.

For more information about ASJA (American Society for Journalists and Authors), contact the President of the NorCal Chapter, D. Patrick Miller at info@fearlessbooks.com. To see the slides of Mark’s ASJA presentation, go to http://www.slideshare.net/Smashwords/upon-the-gears-of-big-publishing-asja-may-15-berkeley-ca. Three Smashwords links, too: Smashwords: www.smashword.com, Smashwords Distribution: www.smashwords.com/distribution, and the Smashwords blog: http://blog.smashwords.com.

—–

(This is #1 of a four-part blog series about the “two publishing revolutions afoot.” #2 will appear on 5/23 in which publishing consultant Peter Beren will provide a counter view that ultimately the “big houses” may absorb and dominate the e-book format. In #3 (on 5/25), Berrett-Koehler’s David Marshall will show some of the changes traditional publishers will make to survive and thrive in the future. And in #4, I will add a cranky explanation of how the existence of “ancillary publishing,” as Mark Coker discusses it in #1, and the wee and e-books it facilitates, may in themselves be far more important to their author/publishers than the books’ actual sales records. In my [free] newsletter on 6/7, I will again share #1-#4, with comments, plus add many more immediately applicable insights that Coker shared at a BAIPA [Bay Area Independent Publishers Association] meeting on May 14.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Make a bundle almost risk-free by publishing niche books…

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It’s much easier, less risky, and far more profitable publishing books for a niche audience.

Ask first what are the ten biggest problems that practitioners in your niche (plumbers, dentists, auto repairmen, hair dressers…) would pay $100 on the spot to have resolved. Zero in on one and write a how-to, step-by-step book by which a reader can solve that target problem.

First, find 200 average people in your niche and send them a test package: a flyer describing your (coming) book, a 1/3-page note asking them to please look at the flyer and complete (and mail) the postcard, and a postcard addressed to them where they can check yes, they would buy that book (if it were available) or no, they wouldn’t—plus another yes/no question: they would pay $29.95 (you set the cost), or not, for that book. You will know in 15 days the ratio of buyers in your niche universe by their response.

If it’s a go, make your book bullet-proof (it works every time), error-free, easy to read and do, and with enough illustrations, diagrams, charts, photos, whatever you need to add visuals to the words. Write it (or have it written).

Then describe the benefits of your book in one sentence: why must the person buy it, and what will they get from doing what it says. Expand that some, give it an instantly tempting title, a subtitle that finishes telling all, and a professional looking cover (front and back).

Finally, get a mailing list with, say, 1000 names from your niche field. If your selling ratio is 1:10, have 100 books run at a POD (print-on-demand) printer (like Lightning Source). Create a winning flyer (like the one you used in the test), send it to the 1,000 names, mail out the bought books, and, if the selling ratio remains profitable, keep expanding the list, the printing, the selling, and the core of your budding empire. Think of moving outward to solve those other nine problems…

You can buy two books right now that will walk you through the process: an e-book ($10) How to Test Your Niche Market First and a bound book ($15) or e-book ($10) called Niche Publishing. How do I know? Because niche publishing is my empire!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If you want to read a free monthly newsletter about this topic, glad to have you aboard. You’ll even get three free reports!

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Eight reasons to seriously consider publishing your book through “ancillary publishers”

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First, who are “ancillary publishers,” since it’s our word first used in my book How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days? They are the most benign form of subsidy publishers around–for bound books, seek Lulu, CreateSpace, Blurb, and PubIt!, and for e-books, Lulu again, Smashwords, Kindle, and Scribd.

1. Your book costs you almost nothing to publish. Only the shipping cost of your ink-on-paper (bound book) proof (about $10-30). Zilch for e-books.

2. They will publish almost any kind of book: fiction, nonfiction, cookbook, history, memoirs, reunion, wedding, family tree, travel, niche, erotica, poetry, business, inspirational, and so on….

3. You must write the book, lay it out in book form, and have it proofed. What you send them (within reason), they will publish. Errors, typos? You live with it.

4. You keep your own title and you design your own cover–or have it designed. (You don’t need much of a cover for an e-book since it is the front only and usually thumbnail size in a catalog.) Blurb and Lulu will even provide a simple cover wizard to design it there. (But it may look just like it came out of a canned wizard!)

5. You submit the interior and cover files, answer a maze of questions, provide a description and bio, and proof the digital book. It will be on sale almost immediately, and sold through some of the biggest distributors in the world.

6. You go through the same process, then proof the bound version (you can sell it both bound and digital), give the publisher the okay, and the final copies will be available for you or the public to buy in days. Again, they will distribute the bound book worldwide.

7. If needed, most of these publishers provide the ISBNs required for bookstores, libraries, and others to handle the book. That saves you several hundred dollars.

7. You paid nothing, or almost, but you still get paid a royalty (monthly, starting in about 90 days) that will range from 30% to 85% of what the book sold for. Digital versions pay best, bound, the least. Don’t expect a windfall.

8. You don’t need to understand the minutiae of printing or publishing. Ancillary publishers will do that for you. And the books will look just like bookstore copies (if you sent quality books with professional-looking covers.)

The only problem is going through the submission process, though with patience you can figure out what to do in what order. But if you can’t (or are a non-techie like me), just use my book to walk you through.

I haven’t seen any chicanery either. No add-on fees, nothing but what they promise. We’ve posted 15 books and used all but Blurb (they do art books, we don’t). It seems like the best deal imaginable for new writers (or old writers) with a book and no way to give it print life. Kind of a miracle. But you still have to write the book and get it in tip-top form before you submit it.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I talk about this a lot in my free monthly newsletter. Join in. The price is right—and you get three free reports too.

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Digital magazines, e-books at the library, a manuscript review, and educational publishing…

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There’s a lot more information and details in my free monthly newsletter (that came out an hour ago) about these topics:

* How will digital magazines affect and change us?
* Do libraries want books that self-destruct after 26 sign-outs?
* Need a manuscript review?
* If you write or publish in the educational world, things are upside down!

… plus a joke, a hug, and two fast book reviews.

I covered two first-rate webinars featuring top publishers, printers, educationfolk, and digital magazine leaders, and I share their thoughts, projections, and conclusions–lots of things I’d never heard before.

For example, which major publishers aren’t selling e-books to libraries (and why), how you can buy products directly from a digital magazine, where we are far ahead of India and China, the “e” and “f” words that will guide the educational field far into the future, why Encyclopedia Brittanica is getting out of the library business, and that self-publishing and blogging are the most important changes in publishing…

Check #31 in the archives or just subscribe, free, and get three money-making free reports.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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