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Authors Archives - In 30 Minutes Guides

Ben Franklin silver award goes to Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes

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Last week I flew to Portland to attend the Independent Book Publishers Association annual conference, Publishing University. I have attended in the past, but this time was special: In 30 Minutes guides was picking up a Ben Franklin award for Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes, by author Shannon Combs-Bennett!

Ben Franklin silver award goes to Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin awards are well-known in the independent publishing community. Submissions are judged by multiple people according to very specific criteria, and the competition is fierce: This year, there were 1,300 submissions across several dozen categories. Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes was one of only three titles to make it to the final round in its category (crafts & hobbies) and we were very happy to be awarded a Ben Franklin silver award (congratulations to the gold winner in our category, Bricks, Cobblestones and Pebbles: A Path to Modern Quilts by author Gyleen X. Fitzgerald, as well as the other finalist, Building Block Dress: A Sewing Pattern Alteration Guide by author Liesl Gibson).

Shannon and a friend joined me at the awards ceremony–it was actually the first time I had ever met her in person–and we really had a great time talking about genealogy, history, and some favorite historical dramas. I did not know this, but Shannon and her friend are experts on period historical dresses and were able to answer a question that I had long wondered about–why do the men in the PBS drama Wolf Hall have such heavy clothes? Answer: It was a mini-ice age in Europe in the 1520s!

Congratulations to Shannon for all of her hard work in preparing a manuscript, rewriting the draft, providing materials, and answering questions from me and the copy editor. The guide has been a great help to many readers (including one as far away as Australia!) and it made me proud to see her accepting the Ben Franklin award.

Announcing Crowdfunding Basics In 30 Minutes

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Crowdfunding book - Crowdfunding Basics In 30 MinutesPublisher i30 Media today released the first edition of Crowdfunding Basics In 30 Minutes (ISBN 9781939924742) by author and crowdfunding expert Michael J. Epstein.

In a single sitting, readers will learn how to plan and execute successful crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and other online platforms. Epstein explains different types of crowdfunding projects, including entrepreneurial startups, creative or artistic projects, charities and community causes, individual support campaigns, and patronage funding. The guide also covers budgeting basics as well as realistic goal-setting, not to mention the importance of preparing professional-looking campaign assets such as video clips, photographs, and calls-to-action.

Other topics include:

  • Determining how much money organizers can raise
  • Pros and cons of platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Patreon, and more
  • All-or-nothing campaigns vs. partial funding campaigns vs. patronage systems
  • Time requirements for organizers
  • Hidden costs, from shipping to backer melt
  • Taxes and legal requirements
  • Telling your story with images, video, and text
  • Best practices for tiered rewards
  • Why campaigns fail: 10 pitfalls to avoid
  • How to keep momentum going in a lagging campaign
  • The art of communicating with crowdfunding backers

Throughout Crowdfunding Basics In 30 Minutes, Epstein cites his extensive experience organizing crowdfunding campaigns as well examples from some of the hundreds of other campaigns he has backed. Images, tables, and charts help illustrate additional concepts.

Crowdfunding Basics In 30 Minutes is available now in paperback and ebook editions for Kindles, iPads, and other mobile devices.

About the author

Michael J. Epstein is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, writer, musician, and scientist. His work has been featured in TIME, Scientific American, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, SPIN, CURVE, Famous Monsters, and Fangoria. Michael’s feature films TEN, Magnetic, and Blood of the Tribades were all funded using Kickstarter. His full bio is located here.

To contact the author or publisher, please use our contact form.

Should a self-published author get a distributor or agent?

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I recently received an email from a self-published author who wanted to know whether he should get a distributor or agent for his book. He had printed up 1,000 copies using a China-based printer, and wanted to know how he could get them into stores or noticed by an agent.

My answer: Getting distributors for printed books is extremely difficult … and probably not worth it. In-store retail paperback sales are falling While print sales have shown signs of life, margins are thin, there has been a lot of consolidation in the industry (or outright closures), and the distributors who remain are extremely picky about who they sign.

I tried for more than a year to get a distributor for In 30 Minutes guides on the terms that I wanted. The terms were key, as our guides are already very inexpensive. Selling the books at a wholesale rate (typically a 55% discount off the cover price) and giving the distributor a cut would lead to a gross profit of just a dollar or two per copy. Moreover, print distributors demand control (and a cut) over ebook distribution even though they add practically no value to this side of the business. Finally, distributors require publishers to adhere to their sales and marketing playbooks. That might be OK for some publishers, but not for i30 Media — in fact it would add significant delays and expenses to our production and marketing processes.

I ended up abandoning the effort to find a distributor. I now handle wholesale and direct distribution on my own through Createspace, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and a short-run digital printer. While it’s true I am missing out on some brick-and-mortar retail sales, it works a lot better for my business — I have more control over my product, keep more money from sales (gross profit is 2x-3x more than what it would be through a distributor), and if retailers want to order the book they can do so through Ingram iPage or contact i30 Media directly through our contact form.

What about agents for self-published books?

As for the question about agents, my response was similar. Reputable ones will want to see evidence of very strong sales on Amazon before talking with a self-published author. And frankly, if your self-published books already has good sales on Amazon, why would you need an agent or a publisher? It’s questionable whether the traditional agent/publisher approach can improve sales for most authors. Even if an agent scores an advance, it won’t be much, and they will end up taking more money from both retail and online sales, leaving just a small cut for the author. Many readers of this post may be surprised to learn that big publishers seldom market books by new authors.

The questions about distributors, agents, and publishers come up a lot. Many people who are new to publishing assume that these players from the 20th-century publishing world are something to aspire to, or are required for success. The reality is it is possible to publish and profit in the 21st-century industry without going through agents, distributors, or big-name publishers in New York. Yes, it requires more investment on the author’s part to edit a manuscript, find a professional cover design, and market the book, but it is doable.

As for the author who contacted me, it turns out that he had self-published a cookbook. I told him that for a book like this, it will be either local bookstores in the community or special venues that will provide the best opportunities to sell cookbooks. Special venues could be a farmer’s market, a community or school fair, or flea markets. At IBPA’s Publishing University conference last year, I heard a presentation by poet/author Kwame Alexander who said that he was able to sell thousands of copies of one of his books at farmer’s markets, based on his wife’s suggestion — and he wasn’t even trying to sell a cookbook, which would be an even better match for people buying fresh ingredients.

Another option: volunteering to speak about the dishes or giving a cooking class … and then marketing the book to attendees.

As for online efforts, I would try the following:

  1. Create a website for the book with links to Amazon or other options to buy
  2. Create some simple videos on YouTube with a link to the book website.

Soulene wins IPNE book award

By | Blog, News

Soulene: A Healer in Paris IPNE Book awardOn this blog, I have documented the ups and downs of running an experimental nonfiction publishing venture—i30 Media, which I founded four years ago to publish In 30 Minutes guides. But one thing I seldom mention on this blog or elsewhere is the fact that i30 Media is also a publisher of fiction. I am pleased to announce that one our fiction titles, Soulene: A Healer in Paris, recently received an award from the Independent Publishers of New England for young adult fiction. Congratulations go to author Ursula Pearson, who put in a lot of hard work over a period of several years to tell the story of Soulene, a young healer living in medieval France and England.

You may wonder how a publisher of utility nonfiction got involved in publishing YA fiction. I’ve learned that once you hang out your shingle as “publisher” all kinds of people will approach you for help with their work. As the self-publishing explosion has demonstrated, there is an incredible well of untapped writing talent out there. Unfortunately, the process of publishing a book can be difficult. Not only are the tools unwieldy, but also most prospective authors don’t want to deal with the work associated with editing, formatting, designing, and marketing a new book. So they turn to people with more experience to help them get their books published.

While I have said “no” to most prospective authors who have asked me to edit or publish their works of fiction, I made an exception for Ursula. At the heart of her stories was a strong character, a young woman pursuing a passion to help the sick and injured. Soulene lived in an unjust and cruel world, in which poverty, plagues, and war were a constant presence. Only a small class of educated men (most of them from noble families or the clergy) could ever hope to become doctors. Yet Soulene was able to find an alternate path through a religious order for women, the so-called Red Heart Healers, who specialized in working with the poor of France and parts of England.

Soulene also had a fascinating backstory. I won’t reveal it here, but suffice it to say that it rivals a Mexican soap opera for plot twists, villains, and vengeful plots. Ursula also paid close attention to important historical details, including the types of herbs and plants used for treating wounds and illness, the spread of plague in medieval towns, and even the layout of 13th-century Paris.

These qualities, along with the short length of the books, convinced me to take on Ursula’s trilogy. Book 1, Soulene: A Healer’s Tale, was released in 2013. The following year Soulene: The Art of the Red Heart Healers came out. Last year, Soulene: A Healer in Paris, was released. While the first book required a lot of rewrites and editing, by the third book Ursula had hit her stride. The characters were fleshed out, the dialogue was strong, and the pacing was just right. We found talented graphic artists—Steve Sauer and Malgorzata Godziuk—to handle the covers and interior maps. Reader feedback was great, but I also thought there might be an opportunity to get wider recognition.

award-winning Soulene trilogyEnter the IPNE Awards. Every year the Independent Publishers of New England holds an awards contest, the winners of which are announced at the annual conference. A panel of librarians handles the judging in more than a dozen categories, which include art, literary fiction, mystery, and several nonfiction categories. i30 Media entered Soulene: A Healer in Paris as well as two In 30 Minutes titles. Last month, Soulene was named a finalist in the YA category, and at the conference in Portsmouth New Hampshire it won the IPNE 2016 Book award for YA fiction. It was a pleasure to pick up the award on the author’s behalf.

Does the award mean that i30 Media will be developing more fiction titles? I am not sure, but I have told Ursula that when she starts work on another book I will be ready to read her manuscript.

To learn more about Soulene, check out the official Soulene.com website.

Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes now available!

By | News

Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes launchPublisher i30 Media today launched Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes: The quick guide to creating a family tree, building connections with relatives, and discovering the stories of your ancestors (ISBN: 9781939924681). Authored by professional genealogist Shannon Combs-Bennett, the book explains the joys, challenges, and triumphs of researching family origins. It aims to help people who are new to genealogy as well as those who have casually gathered information about their ancestors over the years and want to take their research to the next level.

While many people assume genealogy research starts online, Combs-Bennett shows the importance of getting started with family research using documents that can be found in one’s own home or with the help of relatives. She also emphasizes how to build a family tree the right way—instead of entering random ancestors’ names into Google or Ancestry.com, it’s critical to start at the base of the tree with one’s own family and then work back in time using vital records and other documents. As Combs-Bennett explains in the book, online research and genetic genealogy can play an important role once the most recent generations have been identified.

Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes is written in a friendly, easy-to-understand style that avoids complex jargon. There are lots of examples, case studies, and advice that can help would-be family historians quickly get up to speed. In addition to listing best practices for conducting genealogical research, Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes also warns readers about the many pitfalls of family research, from “brick wall” mysteries to time-wasting online searches. Topics include:

  • Why are people so interested in family history?
  • Evaluating clues, facts, and myths in family stories
  • The importance of linking generations
  • Vital records, from birth certificates to death records
  • Non-vital records, from census forms to wills
  • Religious records
  • Five things that can trip up newbies researching family history
  • Best practices for genealogy road trips
  • Interviewing relatives, and dealing with skeptics
  • Pros and cons of online genealogy research
  • Genealogy communities and continuing education
  • Genetic genealogy basics
  • Understanding the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
  • Genetic genealogy and adoptees
  • Non-paternal events and other skeletons in the genetic closet
  • Visualizing family history with charts
  • Research logs and genealogy journals
  • How to create good source citations
  • Preserving records and research
  • Genealogy software and GEDCOM files
  • Planning for disasters

Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes is not a comprehensive guide. Nevertheless, readers will be able to quickly understand key research basics that will serve them well as they embark on a journey to figure out their family origins. Creating a strong family tree will not only satisfy their curiosity, but will also serve as a record to share with relatives and future generations.

More information about Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes as well as online ordering options can be found on the companion website. The site also includes a genealogy blog and other resources for readers. The paperback retail price is $11.99 while the ebook edition is available on the Amazon Kindle and other devices for $7.99.

About the author

Author Shannon Combs-BennettShannon Combs-Bennett is an author, researcher, and lecturer based in the Washington, D.C. metro area. She regularly speaks and writes about genetic genealogy, Virginia genealogy, and research methods. Shannon is a frequent contributor to Family Tree Magazine and Family Tree University, serves as the Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist, and owns T2 Family History. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Indiana University, which started her passion for research and genetic genealogy. Shannon completed the Boston University Certificate of Genealogical Research in 2013 and is a student at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, earning a certificate in American Records. Shannon also serves as a staff genealogist at the National Society Colonial Dames 17th Century in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

About In 30 Minutes guides

i30 Media is the publisher of In 30 Minutes guides – “Quick guides for a complex world.” Thousands of readers turn to In 30 Minutes guides to understand mildly complex topics, ranging from genealogy to software. The tone is friendly and easy to understand, with step-by-step instructions and lots of examples. Top-selling titles include Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes, Twitter In 30 Minutes, and LinkedIn In 30 Minutes. For more information about the series, visit in30minutes.com

New genealogy book now available for preorder

By | News

Genealogy basics bookGenealogy Basics In 30 Minutes is now available for preorder via Amazon (Kindle/Paperback). This genealogy book is a great resource for people who are interested in learning about their roots, but are concerned about confusing tools and ancestry research methods. Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes breaks it all down, starting with a simple approach to building out a family tree. It also describes various ways to gather information, including:

  • The types of vital records and non-vital documents to look for
  • Best practices for connecting with relatives, from gathering documents to conducting interviews
  • Researching family history on genealogy road trips
  • Technological tools, including online databases, GEDCOM files, and genetic genealogy
  • Using charts and forms to track research and share the results
  • How to store digital and paper records
Shannon Combs-Bennett

Shannon Combs-Bennett

Genealogy is a topic that we’ve wanted to turn into an In 30 Minutes guide for many years. In 2015 we connected with an up-and-coming genealogist and genealogy blogger, Shannon Combs-Bennett. Shannon is not only knowledgeable about researching family history, she has a science background and a deep understanding of genetic genealogy. Best of all she is a great storyteller, which helps to relate various research concepts into real-world situations.

It’s a fascinating genealogy book, and publisher i30 Media hopes you can preorder your copy today on the Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes website!

Five pieces of advice for aspiring authors

By | Blog

Goodreads recently prompted me to share some advice about writing to aspiring authors. Although I do not write fiction, I have been a nonfiction writer for years as a journalist (1994-2010), blogger (2002-present), and author of “how to” books (2012-present). I am going to share five pieces of advice for aspiring authors, which may be useful to fiction writers as well as nonfiction authors.

  1. Make time to write. It doesn’t have to be long–an hour in the evening two or three times per week is fine–but you do have sit down, turn off or remove all distractions, and start putting words on the screen. Even if it looks bad, keep at it–you can always go back to edit it later, and in time you will find your voice. Also keep in mind that even if you only manage 200 words per session, that’s enough to generate a chapter or even a very brief short story in 10 days. If you need inspiration, check out the NaNoWriMo movement, which encourages authors to write 50,000-word manuscripts every November.Woman writing in her home office. Licensed from Shutterstock
  2. Work with whatever format you are comfortable with–manuscript, essay, blog, short story–and try to experiment from time to time. Two of the biggest boosts for my writing was keeping a travel journal in the 1990s and then blogging starting in the early 2000s. Both formats helped me develop a very easy-going voice which has served me well as a journalist and author.
  3. Get your book in front of readers. It can be friends, family, or colleagues, writers’ circles, blog audiences, or actual readers that read your book after seeing it on a self-publishing platform. You want honest feedback from people about what works and what doesn’t, so don’t take it too hard if you get constructive criticism about style, spelling, cover art, etc. Audience feedback is central to my “Lean Media” methodology for content creators, so if you are interested in learning more check out my lean media website I created.
  4. Do not waste time pitching agents or “Big Five” publishers unless you have a solid track record with traditional presses or self-publishing. I hear way too many new authors say “I’m waiting to hear back from an agent” when they should be publishing on their own and concentrating on writing their next work. Don’t wait for top industry professionals to help you, because they won’t unless they see evidence of strong sales or a national “brand.” In the meantime, you can try independent publishers or even publish the book yourself, using self-publishing services offered by Amazon KDP, Smashwords, and others.
  5. Learn how to do basic marketing activities, from writing cover copy and online descriptions to setting up a simple author website. If you don’t know how to do this, google it or check out one of the many online forums or blogs aimed at authors. Many new writers are shocked to learn publishers don’t do much marketing for their authors (big-name writers being the exception) so it will be up to you to send out review copies, organize author events, and take care of many other marketing opportunities.

I’m happy to discuss this advice in the comments section … or feel free to share your own advice for aspiring authors!

What should independent authors do about Kindle Unlimited and other predatory platforms?

By | Blog, Industry

This post originally started out as a comment on Mark Coker’s blog post about the demise of Oyster, but it has actually been brewing for a long time, since the launch of the Scribd and Oyster ebook subscription services and the appearance of Amazon’s predatory Kindle Unlimited subscription plan. I’ve decided to expand my thoughts on the In 30 Minutes blog and seek feedback from writers.

I have long thought that in the battle of the platform marketplaces and their business plans, the content creators — whether they be musicians, filmmakers, or authors — seldom get a seat at the table. We have seen this happen with Spotify, where artists get scraps while the platform owners and investors (including the big music publishers) grab money and control. Following the launch of the Oyster and Scribd ebook subscription plans, I wrote:

“As for the venture-funded book subscription services, I’ve taken a look at Scribd and read some of the recent news about Oyster, too. I find it very telling that Scribd.com heavily promotes unlimited books for readers, and offers resources for publishers and partners, yet there isn’t a single page in their support section that explains to authors what they will be getting from the service. Clearly, authors are not a priority.”

Amazon Kindle Unlimited buffet - Depolo_cc_2-0_attribution_flickrAlthough Coker was eventually able to get a reasonable rate from Scribd and Oyster for authors participating in his Smashwords distribution service, it was overshadowed once Amazon decided to jump in with the Kindle Unlimited subscription plan. It’s cheap, fully integrated with the Kindle, and absolutely terrible for most participating authors. Just like the $10 buffet at the local Chinese restaurant, the cheap, all-you-can-eat subscription plan that Amazon launched requires cheap stuff in order to work. It’s great for readers, it’s great for Amazon, but for the authors and content creators? Not so great. Authors who participate (via Amazon’s KDP Select self-publishing service) are getting crumbs in the form of a per-page reading rate that is the same for all ebooks. In the long run KU is terrible for authors, except for a tiny minority who can achieve scale. This will reduce the size of the pie and leave a lot of talented authors struggling or even giving up.

I think it’s time for indie authors to look at the music and film industries to not only see where things are headed, but what can be done to preserve or strengthen our collective power. Withholding the best content from marketplaces (as HBO has done with Netflix and Amazon Prime, and some artists have done with Spotify) is one strategy, although it’s unclear how effective it can be unless lots of content is withheld and there are viable alternatives for audiences to turn to.

Sharing data and shining a light on the ugly reality of treatment of content creators is another, as artists have done for years with Spotify and Taylor Swift did most recently (i.e., Spotify’s claim it had paid out $2 million, vs. Swift’s revelation that it was 1/4 that figure).

However, one thing artists and filmmakers have been unable to do — in part because of the industry structure involving studios and publishers with misaligned interests — is band together to demand a seat at the table, and fight for their rights. In the publishing world, while some author organizations have taken a stance against Amazon, they represent relatively small numbers of authors. I think there is a huge opportunity to unite the population of indie authors (including self-publisher authors and professionals) who are not represented by these organizations, and are not beholden to the large publishing houses. With a strong voice, the ability to shine a light on the good and bad players in this industry, and the power to issue recommendations, it may be possible for independent authors and other content creators to finally get a seat at the table or take action when platforms behave badly.

What do you think? Is this an effort worth pursuing?

(Note: This post reflects my views only. I welcome dissenting views and discussion in the comments below, but please be respectful)

Image: Chinese Buffet, Steven Depolo/Flickr, used under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution license

A new guide to setting up a high-performance virtual office

By | Blog

Today i30 Media Corp., the publisher of In 30 Minutes guides, announces the release of a new book by award-winning author Melanie Pinola: The Successful Virtual Office In 30 Minutes: Best practices, tools, and setup tips for your home office, coworking space, or mobile office.

Virtual Office setup guideThis quick guide is intended to help virtual workers of all stripes (telecommuters, freelancers, independent professionals, entrepreneurs, etc.) set up and maintain a high-performance virtual office. Just as Pinola’s first book, LinkedIn In 30 Minutes, helped people supercharge their LinkedIn profiles and network more effectively, her new book about virtual offices makes it easy for everyone from newbies to experienced telecommuters to leverage new technologies and ways of working to achieve more.

Pinola is a true expert when it comes to this mode of work. Not only has she been working virtually since the 1990s, she’s written about it for Lifehacker and serves as the Mobile Office Expert for About.com. Jessica Lipnack, the author of Virtual Teams and The Age of the Network, calls The Successful Virtual Office In 30 Minutes a “thoroughly useful compendium of tips and tools” for working virtually.

“Once one virtual team member is remote, all members are,” Lipnack notes. “Very little work gets done today without virtual teaming, which means there’s a huge market for this helpful book.”

Why virtual offices are taking the world by storm

Virtual offices represent a huge shift in the way people get work done. If your job takes place in front of a computer screen, chances are you can work from practically anywhere, whether you’re on a beach in Bali, working out of a home office, or setting up shop in a downtown coworking space. According to one estimate published in the Journal of Labor Research, 65 percent of all jobs are amendable to at least part-time telework. In the United States alone, more than 30 million people are already working remotely on a part-time or full-time basis.

The Successful Virtual Office In 30 Minutes addresses everything from the mindset of working remotely to the practical tools and services virtual workers can leverage. Topics include:

Finding the best place to work and creating an efficient workspace (Chapter 1)

  • Recommendations for setting up the ideal virtual office, based on the latest research.
  • How to use alternative offices such as coffee shops and libraries to get more done.
  • Four elements of a productive office.
  • Ergonomics, or how to stay healthy at your desk.
  • Essential supplies for your mobile office.

Learning strategies to help you work more effectively on your own and as a virtual team member (Chapters 2 & 3)

  • How to ward off roommates, spouses, children, pets, phone calls, and other daily distractions.
  • Crucial time-management tips to start and end your day.
  • How to establish a rapport with virtual team members.
  • Best practices for effective communication.
  • Dealing with coworkers who don’t appreciate virtual work.
  • How to cope with isolation.

Using technology to help you stay productive and connected (Chapter 4)

  • The best apps for real-time communication and collaboration.
  • Software to keep distractions at bay.
  • The most important products for securing your digital life.

Chapter 4 is titled “Top Tech Tools to help you work smarter, not harder,” and includes more than 30 software programs, apps, and special services that Pinola recommends. They include everything from 1Password, a tool that stores passwords in an encrypted database, to Zapier, an application that automates repetitive tasks. You can see the full list here or check out some of the tools that are described in more detail on the blog, including MindMeister (sponsored post).

One of the most interesting sections of The Successful Virtual Office In 30 Minutes covers the social aspects of working remotely. It can be lonely and isolating. There are lots of online tools that can help with this. Pinola cites Slack, Webex, and LinkedIn Groups. Some remote workers and entrepreneurs turn to coworking spaces (the guide mentions Regus, WeWork, Desksnear.me, and a cool Wi-fi location app called Cubefree). But the author goes deep in her coverage of the social dynamic, with recommendations relating to family members, resentful colleagues, and managers of virtual teams.

The Successful Virtual Office In 30 Minutes is available today in a variety of formats. Buy the Kindle and paperback edition on Amazon, the iBooks edition for the iPad and iPhone, the Google Play edition for Android devices, and the Nook book. There is also a PDF edition.

For more information, be sure to visit the official website for the virtual office guide, or email info@in30minutes.com.

How to file a DMCA takedown request to remove pirated ebooks from Google

By | Blog

This week, I spent several hours dealing with sites that illegally post pirated copies of In 30 Minutes ebooks, allowing people to download them for free (or for an illicit fee, none of which goes back to the authors). Ebook piracy not only takes money away from the authors who created the content, pirate sites can sometimes outrank legitimate sources of ebooks on Google and other search engines. It’s almost impossible to remove the content from the torrent sites that host the pirated content, but there are ways to take the fight further up the food chain using a standard DMCA takedown request (DMCA stands for digital millennium copyright act):

  1. Filing a DMCA takedown request with the sites that link to the torrents
  2. Filing a DMCA takedown request with the hosting companies of the sites that link to the torrents
  3. Asking Google to remove references in Google Search by filing DMCA notices

I’m not going to go deeply into what the DMCA is or how it works, but for the sake of this post it gives limited legal rights to authors and publishers who have discovered unauthorized copies of their ebooks (ePub, mobi, or PDF) floating around the Internet. It can also be used to fight bogus “bloggers” who take pirated content and use the text and images for blog posts beyond what Fair Use would allow. Unfortunately, the DMCA can be abused, and I have actually seen cases of authors being hit by bogus DMCA claims by pirates for their own works, as if the pirates had created the ebook!

Why send a DMCA takedown request to Google?

This short tutorial concerns how authors can use a standard DMCA takedown request to fight ebook pirates. I’ve found it’s very difficult to ask the sites themselves to comply — even though many of them contain “DMCA” links which supposedly enable copyright holders to file a DMCA takedown request, half the time the pages lead to 404 errors or dead email addresses. The other half have working email addresses or Web forms, but many of them don’t result in takedowns either. Filing DMCA notices with the registrar or hosting company is also problematic — registrars want nothing to do with copyright disputes, and the hosting company is often hard to identify or claim they can’t do anything (this is particularly true for overseas domains).

That leaves Google. The idea here is if you can remove a reference to a pirate site from Google search, it not only reduces the likelihood of the pirated content being downloaded, it hits the offending site where it hurts by reducing traffic and advertising impressions.

The easy way to identify offending content is to search Google for the title of the book and scroll through the results. You can also set up a Google Alert to automatically mail newly indexed content that features the name of your book. Here’s what happened when I searched for the PDF edition of my quick Excel guide:

Google DMCA takedown request pirated ebooks

The first two results lead to sites that link to pirated copies. They feature unauthorized use of copyrighted content, including descriptions and cover images. They push down links to authorized sites where readers can purchase the guide, including the official Excel Basics In 30 Minutes website. The pirate links also expose readers to potential computer hazards, including malware and other scams.

How to file a DMCA takedown request with Google

How can authors or publishers ask Google to remove these results from Web search? Use the special Google form at http://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_dmca?&product=websearch. The form asks you to identify yourself, to describe the content in question, to include links to legitimate versions of the book or ebook, and then list the offending links. You have to swear to the following:

  1. I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
  2. The information in this notification is accurate and I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Note that your name and complaint may also be submitted to the Chilling Effects project, meaning that it will be publicly available. This could be a concern for authors who use pen names.

Because I usually have to file the same type of complaint against different parties, I use a a DMCA takedown request template and copy and paste the contents into the form, depending on the title being infringed and the content that has been used without permission:

I am the author and publisher of [TITLE OF BOOK]. This is an ebook and paperback (ISBN: [ISBN NUMBER GOES HERE]) that is about [NUMBER] pages long. My company [NAME OF PUBLISHER] holds all rights to this work, including text, logos, and cover images.

The book description and cover image have been appropriated without my permission on the website [WEBSITE DOMAIN] and subsequently appear in Google search results. The site further contains links to download unauthorized copies of the work.

I also have prepared links of legitimate versions of the content to paste into the form (e.g., official website, Amazon, Google Play, Google Books, etc.).

Filing a DMCA takedown request takes about 2 minutes using the template. Google usually responds quickly, although in some instances I have had to follow up with additional information (this is often the case for bloggers who are republishing scraped ebook content). For people with Google Webmaster Tool accounts, you can review the status of all DMCA takedown requests here.

Do you have problems with ebook pirates? How have you dealt with the pirates? Share your story in the comments below.