ASK AN AUTHOR WRITING TIPS - FREE MANUSCRIPT FORMATTING, SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING, PUBLISHING UNDER ONE'S INITIALS

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By Sarka-Jonae Miller

How can I get free material on formatting my manuscript for eBook conversion, and where can I find a good free eBook conversion application? Do you know any eBook retailers who pay through PayPal, since I can't receive payments through a US bank and prefer PayPal to posted checks? Also, can I find quality material on how to use Social Media to promote my books? – James Badmos

June 1, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - I recommend Draft2Digital.com for quality ebook conversion. You can upload a Word document and they will provide you with a mobi and epub file for free. Their program can create a table of contents, dedication page, copyright page, etc. so you don't have to do much formatting. In your case, you might want to allow them to do your distribution since they pay via PayPal.

You can also upload your Word doc in Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform or Barnes & Noble's Nook Press for free conversion to a mobi and epub format respectively. Smashwords.com is the only place I know of that requires special formatting for Word docs. They offer a free formatting guide, but it's easier to pay someone the $30 to do it for you. Smashwords also offers payment through PayPal.

Using social media to promote your books is the best option for self-published and indie published authors because it's free and allows authors to make personal connections with readers, which is what motivates recommendations through word of mouth. I provided some social media marketing tips and resources an earlier column. If you have more specific questions about certain aspects of it, please ask.

For a comprehensive guide to marketing, I recommend How to Market a Book by Lori Culwell and Katherine Sears. I've known many authors who fell into the trap of Googling information on social media marketing and other avenues only to get bad advice or an incomplete picture that led to costly mistakes.

I recently published a cozy mystery under my initials, JJ Chow. I'm curious about your experience with using two names (your full and SJ Miller). Do you feel like it's been helpful to separate books by name, or have readers crossed genres to follow you as an author? Thank you for offering up your expertise. –Jennifer

People often ask why authors such as E.L. James, J.K. Rowling, and P.J. Fiala use initials instead of their first names. In Rowling's case, she was told by her publisher that boys wouldn't buy the Harry Potter books if they knew they were written by a woman. Erotica authors often use their initials to maintain a level of privacy without using a pen name. At least that's what they say. I think it's just to be cool. Pretty much everyone knows that E.L. James' name is Erika Leonard.

My reasoning is a little different. When I switched from writing clean romances to steamy romances, I went from publishing under the name Sarka-Jonae Miller to SJ Miller to signal a change to readers. Sometimes authors create entirely new pen names when switching genres, but since I was only moving into a different subgenre I didn't think it warranted a completely new name. I also happen to like my name even if no one pronounces it correctly.

However, I noticed a negative impact on sales. I remedied the situation by adding “Sarka-Jonae Miller” as a second author on my All for You books. This ensured that my steamy romances were linked to my clean romances in search results and on my Amazon author page. Speaking of clean romances and Amazon, my second novel Between the Sheets is free on Amazon from June 5-8. Plus, pick up the romantic mystery novel The Heiress of Santorini by #1 best-selling author Angel Sefer free June 11-14.

Got questions?

Send them to Sarka-Jonae Miller through Twitter @sarkajonae, Facebook, or via her author website. Alternatively, talk to her in person at the Alpine Branch of the San Diego County Library on June 6 at 1PM or to Warwick's bookstore in La Jolla on June 7 from 12-4PM. More events found on her events page.

SJ is a local author, book marketing manager, publicist, and columnist who writes chick lit and steamy romance based in San Diego and Los Angeles. Learn more about SJ and her books here.