Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Experience with Kindle Direct Publishing

My Experience Publishing with Kindle Direct

Every year I have made it a point to try something new.  One year I took up painting, while another year I began learning the arts of ethical hacking and then for two years I decided to go back for my Masters in Education.  I am of the firm opinion that everyone should learn at least one new major thing per year if not more.  Over the last five months I decided to jump into the pool of authors that self publish on Kindle Direct Publishing from Amazon.  I have never actually considered myself an author and can remember a time (before pursuing my Masters) that I thought writing more than ten pages was a daunting task.  Last year my Bosses daughter decided to pursue a career in Self Publishing and has had great success!  Her Amazon page is under the name Bethany Claire and can be found HERE. I haven't made tons of money, nor did I expect to be a top author on Amazon.  From my understanding it takes a lot of work to not only write the books but also to spend time advertising and promoting them.  I have however been pleasantly surprised at how successful I have been and what I have learned both about the process and myself in becoming an author.

You can find me at http://amazon.com/author/michaelkeough.  So far all my books have been of a technical nature since much of what I do is of a technical nature.  I have written three books now and have found the process to be extremely rewarding.  I have been able to not only share my knowledge with others, but its also been exciting to watch the sales come in.  I find myself checking the reports nearly daily and in anticipation of a new sale and somewhat in shock as to how well I am doing.  In fact, as of the time I am writing this blog, when you search "Adobe Muse" on Amazon, my book appears in the top three results.  In my limited experience I have developed a few ideas why some of my books are successful while others don't do quite as well.

Being thrilled at the rapid success of my first book, I decided I would just continue the process and compound my income by writing a second book.  In my second book I spend lots of time and focused heavily on detail (its a programming book so I wanted to make sure I was very accurate).  I submitted this one with high hopes, but was shocked that even after months I was getting very little sales while my first book was selling almost daily.  Why the stark difference in success between books?  One notable things I  found was the number of books on Kindle available for Adobe Muse.  I found hundreds.  When doing the same search on PHP I found thousands.  Adobe Muse is a relatively new software program that is growing more and more popular all the time.  PHP has been around for years and has many established authors selling books on Amazon.  My first piece of advice is to research before you write.  Find books that have a "niche marker" in the store where you can stand out as unique.  Granted there may not be as many people in this smaller market buying books, but you will get better exposure.  If you can be successful in smaller easier to approach markets it will open the doors to larger markets as you get return customers and a growing fan base.

Secondly, take advise from the movie industry.  In nearly every major movie (Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, Twilight, Star Wars, etc...) come in a series.  Its difficult to approach this when you are a technical writer like myself, but if you are writing fiction books, try to make it longer then break it in to three books with a strong cliff hanger.  I have also been told on good authority that when you create these trilogies you should not release just one book.  Release them all at the same time.  

You are not Michael Crichton so don't charge like you are.  My books sell for between $2.99 and $5.00.  I am not saying this is how you should price your books, but keep in mind that most people can easily part with $500 but are much less willing to drop $20.00 on a book from an author they know noting about.  

My books tend to be fairly short.  Typically 40 - 60 written pages.  Maybe someday I will branch out into more exhaustive topics but I take the philosophy that most people just don't have the time to read extremely long exhaustive content so why not just start small and short and just focus on writing well.  I would much rather read a well thought out book that is shorter and to the point than a long exhaustive, and time consuming book that never actually gets to the point.

Most of all, I would suggest everyone at least try writing a book on something they are interested in and selling in on Kindle Direct Publishing.  You will be surprised at how fulfilling it is and how much you can actually write when you decide to sit down and actually do it.  If you don't make any money, who cares.  It looks great on a resume, and its a way for you to personally express yourself and your opinions.  Until recent years even great authors had a very hard time breaking into the publishing business.  With Amazon you know suddenly have hundreds of millions of people you can market to without ever having to fight publishers.  Also with Amazon you get 70% of your sales as opposed to traditional publishers who only give you around 30% if you are lucky.

So get out there and write something, and have fun!!!

Monday, January 19, 2015

PWK - Penetration Testing with Kali Linux (Class Begins)

For several years now I have been intrigued with the idea of penetration testing and computer security.  In my pursuits I came accrues a Linux distribution called "Backtrack".  This has recently be renamed to "Kali", but the premise is still the same.  Kali is supported by a group called "Offensive Securities" who specializes in Penetration Testing (Ethical hacking), and training.  If you do a Google search on top IT certifications you will likely find the OSCP (offensive securities certified professional) listed among the top ten.

I finally took the plunge and began my journey with OSCP and so far I have been extremely impressed with the program.  Currently I am on day 5 of 60 and am already wishing I would have signed up for the 90 day course rather than the 60 day.  I probably will not post again on this topic until I have finished the course and with any luck and lots of time passed the final exam which is 24 hours long!!!!

Don't expect any hints or direction from me here except some details on my experience.  I have worked in IT for around 10 years and have a good understanding of Linux, Windows and Mac.  I have a good understanding of TCP/IP and networking protocols with are beneficial in this course.  Finally I have limited knowledge of python, fair knowledge of BASH scripting and exceptional understanding of PHP scripting.  I say all this because so anyone looking to follow this course can gage themselves somewhat against me.

Since the course began five days ago I have spent nearly 8 hours a day studying the material.  There is a lot of new concepts and a huge PDF.  Let me recommend from the start of the course to PRINT your PDF file.  I spent the first few days working with it digitally on the computer and that is simply not the best way to approach this course.  I recommend getting a three ring binder with tabs and get ready to spend LOTS of time on the material.  So far what I have found most helpful is actually going through the book several times.  I start by watching the videos associated with the chapters and then go through the chapters practicing what I have learned.   After about four chapters I go back and start over and complete the homework and required documentation for those sections.  This allows me to practice the material and then essentially come back for a refresher and practical application of the material.  Along the way, I have played with some of the lab machines and have actually gained root access on one of them, but it is not my primary objective starting out.

I find lots of people online asking if they should do the 30, 60, or 90 day course.  Even though I am not far in the program let me suggest NOT to do the 30 day course.  It is simply not enough time unless you have been through this type of thing before and have extensive knowledge in penetration testing.  I will be able to comment on the 60 and 90 day option after I finish the program but I know most people don't have 6-8 hours in a day to spend learning the material and you will need that time especially if you are new to this like me.  The most basic google search on this certification reveals people who address the fact that you better have understanding family members before attempting this.  I would have to agree!  It is time consuming and worth while.

Again this is only my initial reactions to the program and will provide a more thorough review upon completion.  Until them feel free to post question, but understand I will not answer anything that could compromise the program or details that offensive securities prohibits me from sharing.  Taking this certification is about LEARNING not getting a notch in your belt.  If thats all you want look the other direction because you will not enjoy this!  If you want to learn and have a ton of fun then jump on in.

One last thought.  I have found the IRC channel invaluable!  Make sure to register and participate as it make the experience that much better.  Also it is extremely important that you take notes and take them often.  I can already not stress this enough!  I have grown to love "keepnote"  Its built rite into Kali and uses XML and HTML format for notes.  So I simply save the notes to a flash drive.

Cheers!!!