Writing and Self-Publishing Ebooks


It was July 30, 2010 and I sat across from Mark LeBlanc, a business consultant and former National Speaker Association National president.  He looked at me with his hound dog eyes and said, “You need to write a book. And you can do it next month”  It wasn’t a suggestion.  It was a “demandment.”

I stared back at him, thinking: I have no time.  I have no money.  I have no knowledge.

I had no time.  I worked two part-time jobs and had three teenagers at home, one of whom I was homeschooling.

I had no money.  We had a failing technology business.  Later that year we would be filing for bankruptcy.

I had no knowledge.  I didn’t know the first thing about self-publishing.

So with those thoughts swirling in my head, I said: “I think I can do that.”

I don’t know where those words came from, but if Mark thought I could do it, then I believed I could.

Three months later, I had self-published my first book, Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success.  And now, three and half years later, have a total of 5 self-published books and one co-authored book published by McGraw Hill (Diane’s Amazon Author Page).  I bring in passive income of about $1000/month from Amazon sales.  And, the increased credibility has led to speaking engagements (and back-of-the-room book sales) and media interviews.

I learned that I didn’t need much time because I could use content I already created.  Four of my books were originally blog posts and one was curriculum for a class.  After the first book, I published my books in less than a week, including both print and ebook formats. For the last book, which I published only as a Kindle ebook, the total time was about 5 hours (and that including cutting and pasting content from my newsletters, writing an introduction and a conclusion, and formatting).  For that first book, I carved out time from 5:15-6:15 AM Monday-Friday, about 20 hours total, to massage blog content and add a few chapters.

I learned that I didn’t need much money.  My first book cost about $800 to self publish and that included buying a block of 10 ISBN numbers for $250, and hiring out editing, formatting for both print and ebooks, and cover design. Most of the subsequent books cost $30 or less because I did everything myself.

I learned that I didn’t need much knowledge.  I still haven’t read a book on self-publishing. For the first book, I googled “how to self-publish” and learned as I went along.

If I can do it, you can do it.

You don’t need a lot of time. You don’t need a lot of money. You don’t need a lot of knowledge.

I can’t do anything about your time or money situation, but I can help with the knowledge, at least to give you an orientation to self-publishing, with a focus on ebooks.

Click here for a 2-page overview “Writing and Producing Ebooks for Speakers.”  (applicable to non-professional speakers, too!)Self-publishing ebooks

And, then . . . Just do it!

My Story in 4 Faces: Using Photos to Recall Stories

Almost any presentation, even business presentations, can be enhanced by using personal stories to anchor your points.  But, how do you recall and apply those personal stories?  One technique is to look at photos, specifically photos of yourself and try to recall where you were at in life and/or the story behind the photo.  Often one photo can result in multiple story ideas.  In preparation for a workshop that I’m giving on Saturday,  Storytelling for Business, I dug up my old photo albums (I’ve only digitized a few photos taken prior to 2001) and dug up some memories.  The four photos above and their brief explanations below will give you a flavor for the concept.  That, and you will see some of the very fashionable glasses that I’ve worn over the years!

Every face tells a story.

Age 11 I am in 5th grade and am about 10 years older than my brother.  We are about to have a formal picture taken, probably at Kmart.  My mother took lots of pictures.  I think it was to preserve the fantasy of a happy family.  My parents were not happy together.  I would go to my basement room and tune out their arguments by playing my violin.

Themes:  Fantasy vs. Reality, Tuning Out the Negative

Age 22 This picture was taken right before I left for my first day of work as an engineer for General Dynamics in San Diego.  I look so young and innocent.  I had no idea about the realities of being a woman in a male-dominated field.  Or, how ill-prepared I was by college.

Themes:  Being Different, Discrimination, Experience vs. Head Knowledge

Age 27  I became a full-time mother and homemaker, while at the same time building an Amway business with my husband.  We were going to be rich and have perfect children.  I became an invisible woman—my husband’s wife and my children’s mother.

Themes:  Managing Multiple Priorities, Identity Crisis, Unrealistic Dreams

Age 48  This is my first photo for my professional speaking business.  I didn’t have much money to spend because our technology business wasn’t doing well.  At the end of the year, we had declared bankruptcy.  I smiled to hide the pain.

Themes:  Starting a business on a Shoestring, Dealing with Loss, Rising from the Ashes

Need a story to anchor your point?  Try looking at some pictures!



Blog It and They Will Come

Have you ever started a blog and thought, why bother, nobody is reading it?

Maybe you just need to post regularly and give it time. Of course, there are other things you can do to improve your blog views (like writing interesting content), but regularly posting is a biggie.

The above screen shot shows my monthly blog view stats from November 2009, when I started blogging, through August 2011 (22 months).  In that time frame, I made 85 blog posts, which averages out to about one post every 8 days.

The first year looks pretty dismal, but as you can see, things started picking up!  Last month, my blog had more views in that one month than it did the entire first year.

What have you found, aside from posting regularly, that has helped your blog’s view stats?

Please Reject Me Nicely–10 Tips for Writing Rejection Letters

There’s nothing like getting an email “brush off” to make you consider how your own emails sound!

Earlier this week, I sent out an email to the presidents of several local Rotary Clubs, offering to speak (for free) at a meeting.  I’ve received several positive responses and have already booked a few dates.

However, my one and only “rejection” email rubbed me the wrong way.

Below I share:

  • The email offer I sent
  • The email rejection I received
  • 10 tips on writing a good rejection email/letter
  • How I would have written the rejection email
  • And, for people who are really curious, my response to the rejection email

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How to Self-Publish a Book: A Short Course of Why, What and How

Maybe you want to write the next great American Novel.  Maybe you want to write a book to gain credibility in your field.  Or, maybe you just want to write down a family member’s stories so that future generations will not forget.   You can do all that and more by self-publishing!

In  preparation for a short educational presentation on self-publishing that I am giving on Saturday for the District 6 Toastmasters Spring Convention, I prepared a 3-page handout:


The handout gives some facts (like only 1-2% of manuscripts are accepted by traditional publishers), some ideas (why, what and how) and a page of resources with links!

I’ve blogged before on my self-publishing experience:

My First Book Adventure . . . Part I Pre-publishing

7 lessons Learned in My Book Launch

Self-publishing continues to evolve and become less expensive (although there are plenty of expensive options even in self-publishing) and easier (although the choices multiply!).   Here’s to self-expression through self-publishing!

My New Best Friend: a Moleskine Notebook

Moleskine Large (51/4" X 8") Red, Ruled Notebook (240 pages)

My new best friend doesn’t call me, send me emails or text.  She also never complains and is always there for me.  She helps me remember what I’ve learned, reminds me of great ideas and gently prods me into action.  “She” is my new Moleskine notebook, in a bright you-will-never-lose-me-red, the color of poppy flowers in early summer.  We made our first acquaintance 3 weeks ago, at a Barnes and Noble bookstore.  I admit, it wasn’t love at first sight.  I was searching for the elusive numbered-page notebook and couldn’t find one I liked.   However, she caught my eye, her fetching color and just-right size pulling me toward her.  I picked her up  and caressed her smooth cover.  Gently, I snapped her elastic closure, and heard a satisfying “thwap.”  Oh, she would never come undone and her pages be smushed like some other, cheaper notebooks I’ve used.  I fanned her buff-colored, lined pages, noting the ribbon bookmark and sewn-in binding.  And, at the very back was an expandable pocket, perfect for temporary storage of business cards or tickets.  She even fit in my purse!

But, I hesitated.  She didn’t have numbered pages.  I had planned on buying a notebook with numbered pages so that I could use the last few pages as an index, writing down each topic with it’s associated page so that I could quickly find information.  So, I set her back on the display and continued shopping. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  She was almost perfect.  The one thing she lacked, numbered pages, was not a deal-breaker.  I could number them myself, probably in one sitting, waiting for a doctor or dentist appointment.  Then, I looked at the price, $17.95.  For one notebook. 

That is a lot of money to pay for a notebook when you are the kind of person who will shop at Target in August and buy a case of spiral notebooks when they are 20 cents  a piece.  My husband uses a cheap composition book to take notes.  Could I justify the price?  Yes.  This notebook was the perfect size for my purse, so I would always have it with me and I couldn’t dispute the quality.  If I used 40 pages/month, it would last me 6 months.  I bought the notebook and took my new best friend home with me.

What could be the possible benefits?  Well, in the 3 weeks I have had my notebook, I have used it to:

  • take notes at seminars, highlighting action steps
  • Write down ideas for further development
  • Jot down stories for use in presentations
  • Note important points in conversations for follow up
  • Note action items (on a separate page near the back)
  • Take notes on a book I’m reading
  • Take notes at a Sunday sermon

I’m very happy with my new best friend. 

How have you used a notebook?

Link to my new best friend at Barnes and Noble

Diane’s website

My Facebook Life Year 2010 Status Updates

We’ve been dumping information on Facebook for years (well, for me it has been 557 days according to the Status Statistics application), but searching for and saving our own information is sometimes difficult.

I’m sure there will be new applications coming out, and I’ve used a few recently in my efforts to document my 2010 on Facebook.

The first was My Year in Status, which gives a collage of statuses for the year–you can let the application randomly choose statuses, or you can select a few for your collage.

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