ON COMPUTERS: Online tools for self- and hybrid-publishing your book

Three of my friends have books they want to self-publish. It sure beats sending your manuscript to the slush file of some harried, overworked agent. But another way to go is called "hybrid publishing."

With the hybrid approach, you team up with a publisher who lends an air of credibility to your book. As with Amazon's "Kindle Direct Publishing," you do the whole thing online.

To find out more, I chatted with author Samuel M. Goodman, a Ph.D. chemical engineer. He took the hybrid route for his new book "Beyond Carbon Neutral," by using an outfit called "New Degree Press."

What's nice about New Degree is that you can refer readers to an actual publisher instead of a vanity press. "It provides legitimacy for potential buyers," he said. "There is a glut of self-published books now that never sell more than a handful of copies, if any at all. Working with a publisher also made sure I had a professional looking product and properly formatted files both for ebooks and physical copies."

On the con side, he said, New Degree makes you do all the marketing yourself through a mandatory fundraising campaign on Indiegogo, which is how New Degree makes money. All of the funds you raise go directly to them. Their bank is linked to your campaign. You have to raise at least $5,000 for paperbacks, $6,000 for hardcover, and more for audiobooks. Any money not used for book production theoretically goes back to you. Goodman raised $6,039 and did the audiobook himself, but didn't remember getting the $39 back. He also spent $500 for access to classes and a developmental editor. If you don't get a good response on Indiegogo, you have to pay the publishing costs yourself.

A writer friend said he'd rather not get the third degree from New Degree, so I told him to search on the phrase "Reedsy's How to Self-Publish with Amazon." Besides a step-by-step guide for doing it yourself, Reedsy offers a free tool for creating a professionally typeset book. Apparently, readers can tell if you use Microsoft Word.

I thought about going through the Amazon process for a friend who is almost 90, but at some stage, she'll have to enter her banking info and tax ID. For details, go to kdp.Amazon.com. They will publish your book as an e-book and a paperback for free in exchange for 30% of the revenue you earn.

Getting back to the hybrid approach, there are a few complaints online from writers who felt that New Degree didn't offer enough handholding. Goodman says that as a professional writer who doesn't need much of that, he'd do just as well or better with a small, independent publisher next time.


Recently, one of my favorite children sent a voice message as a text. Now I'm doing it myself.

All I had to do was go to my messages app, then hold down the icon for a microphone and speak into it. Then it was ready to send off.

You can also make a recording using Windows. Type "Voice Recorder" into the search box in the lower left of your screen. When it comes up, tap the big red button to start recording. Find your recording in the "Documents" folder under "Sound Recordings," then attach it to an email or text.

If you're not sure whether your Windows PC has a microphone, type "manage input devices" into the search box in the lower left of your screen. My microphone is built into a webcam I have attached to my computer. You can get one from XPCAM for $26 on Amazon.


If you've ever wanted to be an action figure, here's your chance. Get one of the Hasbro "Selfie Series," to have your own face 3D-printed on Spider-Man, Iron Man, stormtroopers, Red Ranger, Pink Ranger, Ghostbusters and more.

The figures are six inches high and cost $80. To start, download the Hasbro Pulse app, then take five pictures of the front of your face. Choose the hairstyle you want, the glasses if any, and what action figure you want to be.


Talk about going backward. Instead of streaming music or playing CDs, you can cut your own vinyl albums with a new record player called "PO-80 Record Factory."

The cool-looking orange and white player is $149 from a Swedish company called "Teenage Engineering." The records are only five inches and will only support three or four minutes of recording time per side, at 33 rpm and 45 rpm. But there's an adapter for playing seven-inch albums.


Foodtimeline.org lists the history of food, with links to recipes. Avocados came along in 5000 B.C., but spices didn't appear for another 2,000 years. People had to wait for guacamole.


In a previous column, I said Kidas -- a service for parents that monitors voice chats and texts that are a part of online gaming -- has a seven-day trial. Actually it's 30 days.

Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at joy.schwabach@gmail.com.