Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

As the year draws to a close I've finished the incredible Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

You've heard of a mid life crisis? Well, this book is the tale of a mid thirties crisis.

Loving Julia Roberts, but not yet seeing the film, I was intrigued to read the book to see what all the fuss was about. Now, after reading the story, I think Julia Roberts will play this part to perfection.

For me, the abundance of candor running through the story is at the heart of what makes this book so special. I can't speak for every female that ever lived, but the assumed way of doing things is to live our twenties to the max and then, once we hit our thirties, it's time to start thinking about settling down, getting married and having children.

"One woman's search for everything" ... that doesn't even begin to cover it! Who would have the guts to turn their life upside down willingly (and dive head first to get battered in a bitter divorce) in search of themselves? On the surface Gilbert had the perfect life - big house, married, great career, on the verge of starting a family - so why the hell did she throw it all away?

You could read the story and think "Selfish cow" or you could read the story and think "Courageous". There's no way to explain it other than some people just need more in their life and, with the norms becoming chains around the neck, conforming and staying put will eventually cause more harm than good.

Gilbert has an insatiable thirst for learning so she's not just telling a story, but teaching us too, mostly in spiritual things and also with her travels and the people and cultures she encounters. Don't be put off by this (who remembers those good old RE lessons back in secondary school) because she does it in such an endearing, thought provoking way that you can't help but be drawn in.

Starting her journey of self discovery in Rome, she eats her way through the city and socialises the months away. Then it's on to an Ashram in India where she meets a plain speaking, laugh out loud Texan man whilst scrubbing temple floors - and does a lot of meditating. Finally she ends up in Indonesia, sitting at the feet of a medicine man and helping another laugh out loud character, this time in the form of a Balinese woman called Wayan, buy a house amidst all of the traditions, superstitions and ceremonies of Balinese culture. She even meets a Brazilian and falls in love, but they vow to one another never to marry again, happy to just be in each others company as survivors of horrible divorces... until the bottom falls out of that plan, but that my friends is the sequel...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Inspiration from the Bible

Since it's that special time of year, a post on finding writing ideas from the Bible feels very apt.

Whether or not you're a Christian, the Bible contains a wealth of stories, parables and lessons that can be adapted to a modern day setting and within the pages there are characters jumping out from every page - some surprising us, others falling from grace and then desperately searching for their redemption. Human nature hasn't changed; there's still love, humility, greed, hope, cowardice, embarrassment, jealousy and perseverance in this World.

David the hero - good conquering bad - and later his adultery / Job the persecuted having his faith tested to the extreme / Abraham about to make the ultimate sacrifice / Daniel and his friends surviving being thrown into the lion's pit / Moses killing a man / Peter ashamed to know Jesus / Judas's betrayal / Jonas's cowardice / Saul who became Paul and his radical conversion on the road to Damascus / the sisters Mary and Martha - one was too busy to listen to Jesus / the brothers Cain and Abel / Noah's absolute trust in a higher being to build the ark despite all of the ridicule...

Seriously, the list of intriguing characters and their stories is endless.

And then we have the parables and lessons. We all know about the prodigal son and the good samaritan, but what about the unforgiving servant, the rich fool, the Pharisee and the tax collector, the wedding feast and the fig tree?

All of these can be re-worked for the modern day - and there's no need to worry about the copyright!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Writing poetry

The English poet and literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described poetry as "the best words in their best order."

I started to take poetry seriously in my teens when I realised I could be rebellious with it - no punctuation... lines running into one another... no capital letters unless you really wanted to... It could be as clear as mud with multi layered meaning and significance, or as fluid as water.

I write poetry after an important event in my life has taken place, or something has moved me so much that I need to express my appreciation and gratitude, my sadness and sorrow, my happiness and elation.

I'm in no way an expert, but for me the precision of poetry is made up of picture creation in the mind and emotion in the heart. If those two things are achieved, you have a good poem. If you can also convey a deep insight into Life through those words, you may just have a great poem.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A mental block with Passed vs Past

Passed vs past gets me every time. It's one of those combis I'm never convinced I'm using correctly and the more I say the sentence aloud, the more unlikely either sound!

If you struggle with it as well, Daily Writing Tips has a great post here to help you out.

We passed through the town or we past through the town?

A good idea is to write the sentence in the present tense: We will pass through / We pass through... so "passed" is correct in this instance.

However, as the article points out, past would be used in this context: We walked past a shop on our way to the town.

Now that's where I get confused and often use passed!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Building traffic to your website and blog

To conclude this 3-part mini series, here are some ideas to build traffic to your author website and / or blog:

  • After a new update to your website or a new blog post, post them out on your social media profiles

  • Use your social media profile pages to link back to your website or blog

  • Put your website and / or blog address on all marketing and promotional material online and offline

  • Have a basic understanding of SEO - search engine optimisation - and use Google Analytics to see how people are arriving at your content, what key words they are searching with and what posts are viewed the most

  • Do something exciting on one of your social media platforms - be your main character for a day

  • Create additional content surrounding you and your books that you can offer exclusively to entice people to visit your website / blog

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Working to get your new blog noticed

Photo credit Shutterstock

As well as posting great content at least a couple of times per week, here's a reminder of what you need to be doing on a regular basis to get your new blog noticed:

By far the easiest is sharing your content on social media sites. Nowadays, you just hit publish on many blogging websites and immediately your content is out there.

Get to know other bloggers in your niche and, rather than view them as The Competition, offer to write a guest post for their blog.

I've talked about free content sharing writing communities before and this is another way to get your work in front of many different audiences. So go and "hang out" at these virtual gatherings and engage with people who really enjoy your content.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The purpose of your author website

So, next up a mini-series to check on two of the main components of your author platform and make sure they are working as effectively as they should be.

As we discussed in the Author Platform series, I am a strong believer in an author's website being at the heart of their online presence.

Here's how you can review whether your website is doing the job it should be. What are your answers to these questions? I know I have some work to do!

  • Are you blogging fresh content at least once a week for your audience?

  • Are you talking to your readers online?

  • Are you showcasing yourself as a professional?

  • Is it easy for people to buy your book from your website?

  • Do you have a fabulous book description?

  • Have you pulled reviews from various platforms - Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter - for your website?

  • Do you have a media page with your author bio, a cover image of your book, blurb and purchase links?

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Selling books with social media

Photo credit Shutterstock

In my last post I got you thinking about the 4 Ps of marketing and how you can use these in relation to your overall marketing strategy. I also advised that social media should not be the "be all and end all" of your strategy. To wrap up my Self Publishing series, I'm going to finish with a post on the smart way to sell books with social media without bamboozling your audience.

You need to grab their attention with creative blog content. Imspirational, enticing, entertaining - these buzz words should be loitering in your mind when you compose... People browse and skip about all over the place when surfing the web, often forgetting their original purpose for being there! If your content has great visuals and short, snappy bitesize chunks of information to draw the reader in - and more importantly so they remember you - then you're a quarter of the way there.

Once you've drawn them in and gained a following, you need to work to maintain and grow that readership. Spread out from your social media to a more personalised form of contact like having a sign up on your website for a monthly email newsletter.

If you don't already know it, marketing, like writing, is a long term project. You can't have a website and blog, even social media accounts and not use them for months on end if you're in this business seriously. You can never hope to sell any books if you don't first build, engage and maintain your readership over a sustained period of time (and I'm talking years!) You have to build a relationship with your audience so they get to know you, like you and trust you enough to want to invest their time in reading your work.

Social media is your platform to express yourself, not a platform to spam millions of people with "Buy my book. It's great!" You know why I love Twitter - because the mutual promotion is magic. I've heard it described as social karma. You take the time to promote others and they will promote you. Don't underestimate the value of word of mouth over social media.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The basics of marketing your eBook

A lot of people going into self publishing believe all they have to do is shout about their eBook 24/7 on social media and the sales will come rolling in, but social media is just a tool to help you sell, not a complete marketing strategy.

Using the 4 Ps, you can review your performance and work out your strengths and weaknesses in your marketing strategy. Remember, you are competing with thousands of other titles on the Internet. You should be regularly asking yourself "How do I compare?" and making sure you are fulfilling your audience's needs so they keep coming back to sample your work.

Quality - cover design / formatting / editing
Formats - is your eBook available on all of the main platforms?
Is it a series? Could it be a series? Should it be a series?
How does the word count, structure etc compare with your competition?

Do you know where the majority of your audience shops online?
Are you offering your book there and maximising all of the tools available to you?

Don't cheapen yourself and your work, but don't out price yourself out of the market either.
Keep experimenting with price until you find what works and don't be afraid to try free or discounted promotions.

What is your USP - unique selling point - or hook for your eBook?
Have a marketing plan in place with clear action points and time scales.
Utilise your favourite social media.
Research book bloggers to review your book.
Consider doing a blog tour.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Self publishing mistakes

It stands to reason we would eventually end up discussing self publishing mistakes, but it's ok to make mistakes as long as you are learning from them.

Nobody is going to get it right first time because the online world of publishing is constantly evolving.

All of these points I've covered in depth in individual posts within the Self Publishing series, so here are the headlines again:

  • DO spend time learning about yourself and your goals, the audience you would like to write for and the book you want to produce

  • DO invest in a professional edit and book cover design

  • Marketing online is more cost effective, but focus on one or two social media strategies first and give them time to prove themselves before moving onto the next best platform

  • DON'T put everything into one book, there has to be more so you are able to build your brand

  • Never reuse an ISBN

  • DON'T do a massive print run unless you have a solid marketing strategy in place to sell those print copies

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Writing for life

As we near the end of this mammoth self publishing blog series, here are a handful of useful pointers to summarise what we've been covering over the last few months:

  • The online publishing world is changing daily

  • There is no secret (and easy) formula to success

  • In my humble opinion, Amazon is the best place to start your self publishing journey despite its quirks

  • Write a fabulous first book

  • Then write many, many more great books

  • With self publishing, your writing really can be tailored more to what you actually want to write, rather than writing for markets and trends

  • You will never just be able to write - the time and effort you used to spend sending out zillions of query letters and first chapters to agents and publishers has been replaced by marketing and promotional activity

  • In my humble opinion, Twitter is the best place to start building your fanbase

  • Take the time to engage and connect with your audience

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Websites for eBook promotion

Today I'm going to direct you to some great posts which list a host of websites for promotion of your eBook/s across the pricing spectrum:

Savvy Writers & eBooks online

ePublish a Book - this is a 6-part series

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The value of free

The immediate value of selling your eBook for free is that you'll most probably get a fair few downloads, which naturally results in great and instant exposure. Then, continuing with the "pushing sales" theme, keeping the price at 99p will ensure those downloads actually earn you some real bunce.

By just tweaking this winning formula, however, you can get a much better deal for yourself which will pay dividends long term. Pricing at £2.99 after the free book promo will give you 70% revenue from each sale (verses 30% from a 99p sale) whilst also attracting an audience that is more likely to read your book (rather than downloading simply because it was "cheap" and storing it on their device for "later"). You'll break even faster and be attracting the right kind of reader.

Research proves that not all free and 99p books are read - I can testify to this with my own reading habits - impulse buys - but most books priced at £2.99 are because the potential reader has taken a look at the book, read the blurb and the first few pages. They are immediately showing more of an interest in you and your work and are willing to invest that little bit extra.

I've gone into the maths in this earlier post, but the point is to make sure you put a serious value on the time, effort and work you've put into your eBook. Don't pay hundreds of pounds to run an ad campaign for exposure to promote your free eBook!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Learning from an expert

I was reading an interview with John Locke, who sold a million eBooks in five months on the Kindle platform a few years back now, and I wanted to share two things I pulled from it.

He advised we should set ourselves small but achievable goals to help us in marketing and one of his suggestions was to start with securing five 5-star reviews for a current title in, say, a month. Then build it up. Little steps.

He also suggested creating soundbites about our books and writing life to be used to promote ourselves and our work whenever and wherever we're out and about and asked. Having these little details pre-scripted in our head will mean we're always capable of making the most of every opportunity to promote ourselves.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Expanding and nurturing your readership

The final reason to try self publishing is because there's the opportunity to earn more over time (higher percentage of royalties on a like for like digital rights contract) than you would with a traditional.

Of course, for this to happen, you have to be prepared to be in the business of writing and marketing for the long, long haul.

Personally speaking, the biggest motivation for me is when someone really appreciates my writing and tells me so. I believe looking after my readership is an investment. How then, can you expand and nurture your readership to keep the momentum going?

First of all, you need to connect and engage with your audience on a regular basis - and I'm not necessarily talking about public speaking engagements like book signings, book readings and About The Author events - all of which are important - but there are little things you can be doing as well.

  • Give away free books in promotions as we've just been discussing using KDP Select
  • Include links to your other titles and your website in your books
  • Keep producing great stories
  • Have an author platform on your favourite social media sites - Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+ and write a blog to share yourself
  • Keep the above presence continuous and not just before you launch a new book!
  • Secure reviews and learn from them to grow as a writer and improve your craft

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Tips for using KDP Select

When KDP Select was first launched, obviously less available titles meant more sales and profits for the enrolled books. Now the market is flooded and competition is red hot, so the recommendation algorithms and bestseller lists are not as effective.

However, to get the most out of KDP, you need to view it as a tool to be used within a broader marketing strategy, and not as a one-stop solution for all of your marketing needs.

If you are planning to use this program, here is some helpful advice to ensure you get the most out of those free days:

  • Removing your titles from other platforms will take a while, so plan to get this in motion well in advance of your KDP promotion
  •  Most websites where you can either advertise for free or pay to promote your Kindle eBook/s will require 48 hours notice to add your title/s to their promotional lists for a specific date
  •  Shout about your promo on Twitter and set up events on Facebook and Goodreads at least one week before
  • I've already mentioned not to pick the first of the month for your free day/s, but don't pick weekends either - and especially not bank holidays
  •  Try to get as many reviews for your chosen title/s before the promotion begins. This a requirement from many of the websites that you'll be attempting to advertise on 48 hours before
  •  Include a page at the back of your eBook requesting a review on Amazon from your readers. Add your website too
  • Set up a mixture of tweets to use every couple of hours during your promotion. This should vary between quotes from the book, reasons why people would like to read your book for free and other tempting material. Oh, and hashtag!
  • Be prepared to be stuck to social media during your free promo days and respond to people right away to keep the momentum going

So in conclusion, should you enroll in KDP Select?

If you just have the one book, it might be better to publish across multiple platforms and sell it on your website for maximum exposure.

If you have a few titles, it would probably be useful to try KDP for one of those and see how it performs. The idea of enrolling just the one title is to expose new readers to your work. If they like the freebie, they may consider buying your other books. Then you could continue the rotation.

KDP Select may also be the ideal platform to launch a new project or kickstart a title whose sales are slow.

You have to decide on your objective for selecting KDP. Are you trying to establish your expertise? Do you want to broaden your audience? Are you looking to increase your sales? Are you trying to make the Bestseller lists? Would you like to secure more reviews?

Don't try to do all of these at once in one promotion. Pick one objective and see how you fare. Remember, it's all about experimentation!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The benefits of KDP Select

What do you get for granting exclusivity to Amazon during those 90 days?

Within Amazon's marketplace there are many cross promotional sales opportunities giving your eBook greater exposure. Here's an overview of these:

  • Bestseller lists for both paid and free Kindle eBooks in every category. With the lists running side by side on the website, this means if you reach the top of the chart during your promotional free days, you'll be appearing right next to the top paid book.

  • When you buy an eBook on Amazon and reach the order page, they identify similar purchaser's purchases.

  • Your book/s will be listed in all of the places showing available library books within the Kindle Lending Library.

  • When viewing an eBook's promotional page, Amazon displays a list of other eBooks you may be interested in.

And finally, something worth considering if you have concerns that the exclusivity for 90 days is too limiting - don't forget there are free apps out there allowing people to read Kindle books on any device, so you don't have to own a Kindle to download from Amazon's Kindle marketplace.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

KDP Select for beginners

Number nine on my list of why you should try self publishing is any contracts with Amazon / Lulu / Smashwords are for as long as you want and there's no pressure to earn back the advance that you would normally get with a traditional publishing house. As soon as you break even against your own outgoings invested to get the book published (which will be smaller than an advance), you start profiting!

We've been focusing primarily on Amazon, so we're going to continue with that for the moment and take a look at the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select service and how you can get the most out of it.

What is KDP Select?

This is Amazon's service for indie authors and self publishers where you enroll your book/s for 90 day cycles. When 90 days is up, you choose whether to go again. For each 90 day cycle, there are five days available where you can offer your eBook for free. You control these five days. You can either run a consecutive free one to five day promotion, or choose up to five separate days throughout the 90 day period.

Amazon demands exclusivity while eBooks are enrolled in KDP Select. You won't be able to sell your eBook or give it away anywhere else online or offline. They won't even allow you to give away review copies!

When I received my Kindle, I had one month's free Amazon Prime membership and took advantage of it. Prime customers can borrow one eBook per month for free and they choose from KDP Select eBooks. You, the author, get paid if someone borrows your book (only a quid, but hey, it all mounts up).

Why give my eBook away for free?

If you can get your head around it, the point of giving away books is to ultimately help you sell more copies. This is a tough strategy to run with when you've got little or no cash flow and just starting out in the business, but don't underestimate the power of word of mouth. Use your free book as a stepping stone in your overall marketing plan. Shout about your promotion. It's also a great way to secure those all important reviews.

Tactics for KDP Select

And now for a few tactical moves for the KDP beginner:
  • Don't offer your book free on the first of the month - everybody already does that!
  • Keep the free promotion running for at least two consecutive days so it has a chance to gather momentum.
  • Ahead of your KDP promo, plan the promotion for your promotion. Put the word out on social media, writing sites you contribute to, book sites and to fellow bloggers.

Friday, 1 November 2013

6 strategies for better exposure on Amazon

A fortnight ago we were talking about how to get noticed in the Kindle store amongst the millions of listings.

Today's post follows on from there with six strategies you can apply to your book as soon as you get it loaded up on to Amazon.

1) Use keywords in the title and subtitle for your book
Make your book more discoverable with keywords

2) Choose the most appropriate categories when you publish
Selecting Browse Categories

3) Create guides and lists relevant to your own book
Create a So You'd Like To guide
Create a Listmania list

4) Update your signature in your personal profile to tell the world what your areas of expertise are

5) Post reviews of other related books and products - but be subtle about your own expertise and don't link to your book or website. Your signature appears here giving you additional exposure

6) Channel all of your online book sales to Amazon because the number of recent sales appears to be an important factor in the way Amazon ranks search results

Friday, 25 October 2013

Tablet and eReader domination!

Just looking at some old tablet and eReader stats as we start to build up to Christmas 2013...

During Christmas 2011, 1.3 million eReaders were sold with Amazon accounting for 92 per cent of the market share.

One in 40 adults in Britain received an eReader for Christmas.

61 per cent of Kindles were received by women (from a YouGov poll of more than 2,000 people).

Over 55s were twice as likely to receive an e-reader as 18 to 23-year-olds.

A survey by the Data Conversion Laboratory revealed that 63 per cent of publishers intended to publish an eBook in 2012.

A tablet was being bought every second in December 2012.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Factoring Amazon and the Kindle into your marketing strategy

It's hard to believe we've had the Kindle for almost six years. With it came an entirely new industry, an entirely new concept and the capability for the self publisher to reach millions with their work.

If you are struggling with the number of eReader devices and formats and wondering which to take on, it might be best to just focus on Amazon and the Kindle platform for the moment. That's what I'm doing. Smashwords, Kobo and the other big distributors can come later. Amazon still has the lion's share of the market, so it's wise to concentrate your efforts in the place you're likely to get the highest return.

We'll be taking an in depth look at Amazon's KDP program over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Introducing enhanced eBooks

You say enhanced eBooks to me and I get very excited. The possibilities!!! Rich media. Alternative endings. Interview audios. Videos. Photographs. Interactivity like never before! For the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit, HarperCollins released an e-version with recently discovered Tolkien recordings and his own book illustrations, and Penguin has updated Pride and Prejudice with movie clips and instructions on the dancing.

But before we get lost in all of the hype, it's time to get down to the realism because the main problem with enhanced eBooks is they are not economically viable to the little author like you and me. You also have the concerns that embedded multimedia interrupts the reading experience and these interruptions take away from the reader's ability to imagine the story and characters. Maybe.

The art of merging sound, movies and images with text is constantly evolving and mastering the new technology will take practice. You won't necessarily need coding knowledge as there are apps for non coders to create enhanced eBooks.

Check out these sites:

For an example of one of their enhanced eBooks created through an app, have a look at this


Blurb Mobile

Urturn previously Webdoc

This article gives you more information on creating enhanced eBooks

While I will probably dabble in enhanced eBooks more for fun than anything, I do agree with the sentiments of Seth Godin when he says, "Sure, there will be experiments at the cutting edge, but no, they're not going to pay off regularly enough for it to become an industry. The quality is going to remain in the writing and in the bravery of ideas, not in teams of people making expensive digital books."

Friday, 18 October 2013

Showcasing writing sites

Number eight of why you should self publish is because the technology and social media is there to be exploited!

Rather than forums, I'm more a fan of what I've dubbed showcasing sites - online writing communities like HarperCollins Authonomy, Stories Space and Write On where you can get ideas out there and receive instant feedback and be motivated in the process. Interaction, whether through networking or through social media and writing communities, is so important when you spend hours, days and months writing alone. It's too easy to withdraw and lose confidence when you don't see or talk to anybody.

And who knows - you may even be talent spotted like Leigh Fallon or E. L. James!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Self publishing marketing on a shoestring budget

We all need a little helping hand every now and then, so here is a great post by The Writing Bomb on how to sell more eBooks on a shoestring budget.

The featured magic website is www.fiverr.com

There are some downright bizarre things on there, but if money's tight and you want to continue with those all important book marketing and promotional experiments - give some of the suggestions in this post a whirl.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Getting noticed in the Kindle store

Today's post has my thoughts on how to get your work noticed in the Kindle store.

Build up a back list so you can showcase all of your work to your readers and give them lots of choice. I wrote one book and when my readers wanted more, I had nothing for them! I wasn't ready with my second book so I'm going to have to start from the ground up once again.

Be clever with your pricing. Don't just think the 99p pricing model will solve all of your problems. Take a look at my earlier post about the pros and cons of the 99p strategy.

Think about branching out into audio versions and foreign rights to offer even more choice.

If you're writing a series, consider selling the complete work once all the books are finished and on sale. You can offer a cheaper price for a limited time, or price the complete set higher and include additional material.

Reviews! Include a review request in the back of your printed copies to remind your readers to leave feedback. A quick word on reviews - bad ones are all part of the business BUT DON'T RETALIATE as you'll destroy your credibility - possibly forever. I've learned not to engage at all on negative topics relating to my work. Let the non constructive criticism wash over you, but do read the constructive negative reviews and try to learn from them.

I'm wary of forums as they are a haven for nasty people to gang up on others. It's up to you, but don't waste your time defending yourself.

Be active on Twitter. You all know it's my favourite! Read about my Twitter journey here:

Getting started on Twitter

Twitter tit bits Part 1

Twitter tit bits Part 2

Social media mistakes to avoid

Social media techniques for newbies

The great thing with Twitter is the community feel to it whatever your areas of interest. There is a fantastic mutual promotion going on constantly whereby we retweet each others content and posts so, not only do we reach our own fans, but we reach each others fans too! And remember the 90/10 or 80/20 rule - either way, spend much more time engaging with people in proportion to the time you spend promoting yourself and your work.

Have a Facebook page hmmmmmmm like forums I'm not sure about this one either. It works for some people but I've not stumbled upon a winning formula for me yet.

While we all just want to write every day, all day, you do need to schedule in some time during your day for marketing and promo stuff. Your book might well be amazing, but if no one knows about it, you won't sell enough copies (or any) to fund future writing efforts.

Take advantage of Amazon's sneak peak "Look Inside" feature. This is usually 10% of the book. Perhaps also offer a longer online sample of your book in PDF format on your own website where you can end on a cliffhanger in the story. Hopefully people will be enticed enough to buy the book to find out what happens.

As well as time for marketing and promo activities each day, work on self improvement - you and your work - and having the confidence to talk about your writing life and your work. Most of us are shy, retiring types at heart, so try recording and / or videoing yourself and playing it back, or talking to yourself in the mirror when no-one's around.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Why self published printed books are expensive

This post also relates to books published by small independent presses, which is how my first novel came about.

A couple of years ago I wrote about the printing process and how errors creep in because of all the to-ing and fro-ing between documents. This is the process I went through with my Publisher and POD printers.

The traditional printing technique is called offset printing. Plates bearing the book's page images are prepared and the set up costs are the same despite the number of books printed. Trads will print as many books as they can in the initial print run to keep the costs per unit to a minimum.

As my previous post explains, with the print-on demand model, books are saved in PDF format and printed off a computer. They can be sold as single units to the public because it's quick and easy to print one at a time once the order has come in and been paid for. There's no minimum print requirement which has many benefits - books are paid for in advance so no cashflow issues, no need to rent a warehouse to store hundreds of copies of your book, easy to make amendments to the manuscript, books don't have a limited shelf life and they never go out of print!

However, here comes the bad news. The problem with POD publishing is the cost per unit is determined by the size of the PDF manuscript ie. by the number of pages that need to be printed. The way the trade works is they buy in bulk from the Trads, so they get a big discount which they then pass on to their customers. This is how it translates: I'm selling the printed version of my debut novel for £12.99 (approx 275 pages in PDF format). A Trad could sell the same book for RRP £8.99 and further discount it for the trade by a couple of quid, or even reduced further as part of a two book offer. These discounts are possible because the mass market incentive is clearly visible. There is no such appeal with self published or small press books because we just don't have the clout.

Don't despair though! If someone reads your eBook and really connects with it, they might be inclined to buy a printed version. Also, as your backlist grows and especially if you're writing a series, there's an opportunity to produce a really nice complete works, which you could offer to your readers in print. It's all about experimenting with format and price, finding out what your audience wants and then delivering it to them.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The pros and cons of the 99p eBook pricing strategy

We've touched on this subject already within the Self Publishing series, but the raging debate about eBook pricing rumbles on and on ... oh ... and on ...!

So here are my pros and cons for your consideration:


  • Readers will take a chance on new authors
  • Could be considered an investment in your future writing endeavours
  • Great way to gain instant recognition
  • Great way to build an initial readership and audience for your work
  • The "Impulse buy price" allows your book to get into the hands of many more readers
  • Lots of websites promoting bargain priced eBooks with free exposure
  • Good promotional or "Sale" tool (rather than a permanent pricing strategy)


  • To some readers an eBook is simply seen as a download like a PDF doc
  • The author will need to sell much more just to break even (at 99p an author makes 33p) - after shelling out for cover art, editing and marketing (based on the figures in my Self Publishing Budgeting and Funding post approx £3,000) so let's do the scary maths: £3,000 divided by 33p = 9,091 books to be sold to break even. I won't depress you with the fact that most indie authors only sell about 100 copies of their eBooks!!
  • Will be a long time before you can quit the day job - and all the time you're working full time, you can never give writing and promoting yourself your full attention
  • Not a good strategy for permanent pricing because you're undervaluing yourself and your work long term
  • Even at this cheap price, you still need to market and promote to make the sales. 99p doesn't automatically guarantee sales
  • Success with the 99p pricing strategy won't necessarily mean success with a Traditional Publisher. The business models are completely different. The Big 6 publishing houses have a no discount digital pricing model
  • Risk the label - "It's too cheap! It must be crap!"

My personal view is, it's ok to sell an informational "How To" eBook at 99p, but maybe for a novel the price needs to better reflect the time and energy that went into producing the book. Unfortunately for newbies, the price still needs to be attractive and competitive so people will "take a chance", but we all have to start somewhere, right. Personally I'm thinking about pricing my novel at £2.99 so that I can get the 70% royalties from Amazon and break even faster. This way I can also lower to 99p if sales are slow. People pay £2.99 for a Costa coffee and just think how much more work went into the story. In conclusion, I believe the 99p pricing model needs to be a part of of your overall promotional and marketing formula because as a standalone element, it will cause problems for the serious author further down the line.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Amazon's rules

In my humble opinion, one of the most exciting parts of why you should try self publishing is number seven on my list: Yes, marketing is hard work but you are in control of the experiments!

So before you let loose and start experimenting, here's a quick reminder of the frowned upon "Don'ts" within Amazon's guidelines for the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service:

1) Don't price your eBook at £2.99 to get the 70% royalty and then price it at 99p elsewhere.

2) Don't hold multiple accounts to increase book sales.

3) Don't discuss your Amazon sales figures on social media / on your website / on your blog / in forums.

4) Don't publish inappropriate content.

5) Do follow the above and indeed all of the terms and conditions because if Amazon finds you in breach of any of it, they will keep any outstanding royalties owed to you and ban you for life.

The full terms and conditions can be found on the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) website.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Cutting out the middle men

Tying in with number six on my list of why you should self publish, it's a history lesson today for those just joining the world of all things publishing and self publishing.

Two years ago a big shake up was taking place. Amazon was about to announce its New York imprint had bought print and digital rights to bestselling self-help author Timothy Ferriss and his next book, and JK Rowling was launching the new Pottermore website which would be the only outlet for the eBook versions of Harry Potter. These significant developments in the world of publishing posed a couple of mighty big questions: Will authors start to cut out all of the unnecessary middle men ie. agents, publishers and commissioning editors and begin dealing solely with the companies that sell their work direct to the public? And if that's the case, what is the role of the Traditional Publisher from this point onwards?

Traditional Publishers naturally came in for a bashing. They were accused of not keeping up. They were also accused of giving in to supermarkets and the high street retail chains for greater discounts in order to keep stock moving, thereby pushing the price of books down. In doing this, they had been chipping away at the royalty rates for their authors.

When an author realises their income is in the hands of just a few buyers, why wouldn't they reach out to a bigger audience if the opportunity presented itself?

This time two years ago the first Kindle Fire was also released. Amazon had created "an end-to-end service" that "developed, promoted and delivered the product." A neat little package indeed.

So here we are, fast forward a couple of years and Amazon is stronger than ever, but interestingly Trads still exist. The debate rages on and the quality and pricing of eBooks comes under fire quite regularly. Amazon has introduced strict policies to keep books in their KDP program up to scratch. We still have Waterstones even though the tablet market continues to explode with better and better handheld devices for reading. But most importantly, if you're a writer and you want to see your work published instantly, you now have that opportunity. Nobody stands in your way and there's no financial risk.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Books you wouldn't believe were self published

Number five for why you should self publish is because respectable authors are doing it - and have been doing it for years and years!

Check out this great post "9 Books That Began Life Self Published"

Let's continue to smash the stigma!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Becoming a business

Number four on my list of why you should self publish was because there's the potential to fulfill your writing ambitions. No doubt one of those ambitions is to eventually give up the day job altogether and pen amazing works full time, thus becoming a business in your own right.

As soon as you sell your first piece, you're a business. In fact it's a good idea to start up ahead of that first sale so you can claim expenses for anything you buy and use towards your writing endeavours when it comes to preparing your tax return later on.

So you're at that point where you can now give writing your full attention and maybe you thought all you had to do was write (rewind two and a half years and that's what I thought too!) but it's actually more complicated than that. You're now self employed. Scary stuff! And there's a lot to think about and a lot of hats to wear - remember my post The 10 jobs of a modern day writer?

The good news is, it's never been a better time to be a writer because the online world of self publishing is brimming with possibility. However, the bad news is, you've got to work your ass off. But you knew that.

Here are some links to give you an insight into my own tax(ing) journey:

For help with setting yourself up as a registered writing business, check out my blog post here.

For guidance on the tax return itself, what you can claim and how it's calculated, check out this post.

Why I'd rather eat a doughnut than file a tax return - check out this post when I eventually had to file my first return and how it went.

A few more thoughts and considerations on becoming a pukker writing business:

  • Open a business bank account.

  • Keep track of EVERY expense - trust me, it's so easy to forget! Business cards / any production and promotional costs you may pay out to freelancers for book cover design, editing, printing and marketing / paperclips / postage and shipping receipts / paper for your printer / envelopes / stamps / pens.

  • Free book promo websites are great but be prepared to shell out for some advertising with Book Buzzr, Kindle Nation and Goodreads.

  • It's ok to show a loss at the end of the tax year. Depending on any other income you might be earning (ie. from a part time job), you may even get a tax rebate as I did in my first year. Don't forget, tax is always paid in advance, so if you quit your day job halfway through the tax year, you've already paid tax for that year so you'll be due some of it back.

  • Plan a budget for the year which includes the marketing and production for any works you plan to publish within the year. That way you're ahead of the game.

  • Think about a business plan. Actually, don't just think about it, WRITE ONE. How many books would you like to publish in the year? Where do you want to take your author platform? What ideas for marketing do you want to experiment with? Put the vision to paper. I've started doing it finally and it's really helping me to focus. Write down the steps needed to accomplish each task. Breaking it down in this way will stop you feeling overwhelmed.

For a great article on collecting all the vital data to help you stay in control of your new business, check out Simon Whaley's Data Collator article here.

For more information on self employment, visit the HMRC website.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

I love my Kindle Fire!

I decided to embrace eBooks a couple of years ago, but I still wasn't sure about not picking up a REAL book to read. It didn't seem right! It took me another year to finally release my fascination with (and need for) the physical book when I received a Kindle Fire for my birthday last November and instantly fell in love with it.

I'm not so bothered about multitudes and multitudes of apps and the Kindle Fire does have its limitations for some things ie. only a forward facing camera (so picture taking and video taking is a hassle), but the price is way better than Apple's iPad (which would have been my other choice). I also had one specific goal in mind and that was to get back into my reading. An added bonus was the extra media on the Kindle Fire taking it from the humble eReader to an all round tablet and this ensures I can connect easily with fellow readers and writers. It's such a nice easy way to squeeze one of my hobbies (reading) into the hectic schedule that is Life and being able to share passages of books, reviews and comments on Twitter is perfect. I haven't yet fully embraced the world of Google+ and Goodreads is still an unknown, but I'm looking forward to getting more involved with these in conjunction with my reading habits on the Kindle and as part of my broader social media strategy.

Looking at the bigger picture, the struggle for eBook retailers and publishers is not the fact there's so many free books, but the fact there's so much media content to devour - a different kind of distraction. The competition between them has switched so they now have to keep the consumer's attention across all media - books, movies, music, apps - and all in one device.

If you take Amazon and Apple as examples and look at how they operate, they coerce you into their own little worlds of content. Apple is definitely more restrictive and you pay through the nose, but Amazon has clever tactics too. Rather than sell content to push hardware, Amazon makes available hardware to sell all sorts of things.

Speaking from personal experience, I didn't want the Kindle Fire just for eBooks and enhanced eBooks, I also wanted the option to be able to purchase and access digital media.

To conclude this post, I have a great quote from Publishers Weekly: "The future is not about social reading. It's about social content, social experience, and interactive design. As a result, we must focus on the book's place and utility in the broader market of media, as part of a transmedia experience, and release our fascination with the history of the book's form."

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The value of libraries

It's great to read that libraries still have a place in a society that's bursting at the seams with digital technology and media. I was curious to read how they are faring because once upon a time they were a place where we went to research and take out books, but now that we have Google and Amazon...

My childhood centered around these quiet, peaceful buildings. A place to go for sanctuary and inspiration. Between the ages of four and sixteen, I was always in a library whether my local one or the school one, taking out music and books and researching. I used to have ten books on the go regularly and devoured them like I devour food. By age ten I was reading Lord of the Rings. By age eleven I was reading about terrorists, nuclear weapons, the ozone layer and greenhouse gases (I hit my teens "green" and passionately opposed to any kind of injustice). And by age twelve I was reading some of the best stories I've ever read, stories which have stayed with me up till now (thanks Judy Blume).

Libraries still have their place because:

1) Local authors use their local libraries to launch their career and promote their work

2) They buy in books with the aim of building the book market and introducing people to new authors

3) They've moved with the times and now lend eBooks

4) Statistics from various reports show that people often buy more books from the authors they were introduced to at their local library

5) And not forgetting, they develop and support literacy!

Monday, 23 September 2013

How the eReader has evolved

For me and many people, the concept of the eReader is a great one. We can carry a library in our pockets, so standing in queues is now a breeze because we've always got a book to hand. We've become accustomed to filling in tinier and tinier gaps in our day with reading on our handheld devices.

Traditionally, reading has always been considered a past time best suited to a quiet, distraction free environment, but even eReaders (er Kindle Fire - talking from my experience and usage!) are now deviating into the tablet mainstream with social media, email, movies, music and videos all vying for our attention.

For me this isn't a problem. I actually wanted an all singing, all dancing eReader because I love having everything at my fingertips wherever I am, but adding to the "noise" on the screen with all this technology, is our dwindling attention span. We want things fast and the ability to switch from function to function to yet another function is telling. I read a great quote at the weekend from the author of the book "Too Big to Know". He basically says that reading on the web does not lead you along a logical path, it leads you along a path of interest and if you write long-form now and it goes unnoticed, then very likely your work has failed. This is why I blog short, snappy posts and pack the ideas in. I want the discussion to come at a later stage more convenient to my audience and as and when they have time to follow up.

Maybe you are like me and switch from a real book or magazine to your Kindle and iPhone and then back again on a regular basis. There are times in my week when I'm looking through articles on Twitter or I'm after some quick and easy reading because I'm most likely queuing for something. And then there are times - usually in the evenings - when I want to put a lid on the World, pull out my latest "physical" book and get well and truly lost in it.

Whether you agree with the idea of an eReader or not, there are two consistent factors sitting at the table: 1) there will always be people who want to read and 2) there will always be people who want to tell stories.

I believe storytelling will continue to morph alongside new and exciting technology and we'll take a look at enhanced eBooks as the series continues.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Kindle and eBook tactics

So number three on my list of why you should self publish was because there's the potential to earn lots of money - if you're creative, resourceful and hardworking.

Even switching from a full time job to part time and still getting up at the crack of dawn, I am majorly struggling to make progress on my four-book saga. Life just keeps getting in the way. If I could shut myself behind closed doors for an indefinite period of time, I would jump at the opportunity.

I won't be earning any money from my saga any time soon!

Enter a much needed idea to make use of the writing and blogging I am doing (and completing) - and earn from it.

One article I read today suggested working on content for eBooks for half an hour a day. The priority is to get them up on Amazon and exploit the popularity of the Kindle, then branch out with formats for other eReaders.

A big stumbling block I have in the back of my mind is the length, but seriously, an eBook can be any length.

Some ideas for an eBook where the material may already be written and just needs tweaking:

  • Your best blog posts on a particular topic
  • A complete blog series you've written
  • A collection of tips and tricks
  • A collection of poetry / short stories / articles
  • A transcription of an interview

The last one caught my imagination. I remember my older sister interviewing my great aunty who's now passed about living through the World Wars. I came across the transcript the other day and thought what a waste it would be not to capture these amazing historical memories somehow.

And of course, all the practice in formatting, promotion and sales techniques you'll acquire from putting up short works will better equip you when it comes to the main event!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The content test

As promised, here's the test from ePublishUnum.com to see how your online content fares. It's been specifically designed for Google+ as that's the social media of the moment, but it can be used in relation to any social media content you write.

Yesterday we talked about the three points of social media - connecting, entertaining and sharing. These guys have added supporting and asking so we're up to five measuring markers.

What are your percentages telling you? I know I've got improvements to make!

The Content Litmus Test for Google+

The mindset of a self publisher

The self publishing journey can be a bit like wandering lost through a forest
In order to make use of this Worldwide online marketplace that's opened up to us and to reach the point of selling lots of books as an established self publisher, you need to get your mindset right from the off.

We've touched on this already in earlier posts, but here are some more of my thoughts on the subject.

You must have realistic expectations. I cannot emphasize this enough. When you start out in self publishing, you're starting at the bottom of a very long ladder. People around you may know your book exists, but then you have to get them interested in it so that they eventually care enough to buy it.

Treat your self publishing endeavours as a business with your book being the product. Invest in your product as much as finances allow (at least a copy edit and proof read) to bring it up to minimum standard because what it boils down to is this: if you're not prepared to invest, why should someone buy? Think like a buyer. Would you buy your book?

Social media is about connecting with people, entertaining ourselves and others and sharing valuable information. What are your percentages for each of these three? I hold my hands up - I don't hard sell but I don't stick to the 80/20 etiquette either (80% promoting fellow writers to 20% self promotion). I've got a great test I stumbled across at the weekend to show you in my next post. It will help you assess the value of your content online.

There is a very interesting argument that says if your book is only for sale online, you should only be marketing it online. This is particularly relevant to me at the moment as I'm reading a book about how to market and sell my book and it's a 70/30 split in favour of traditional methods - press releases, radio shows, book speaking engagements at local libraries, festivals and fayres etc etc. Granted this book is a couple of years old and technology keeps pushing forward into new and exciting avenues, but paying for a Goodreads ad which will sit in a place where you know for sure readers gather could be a much more cost effective and rewarding marketing investment. I was reading about John Locke who apparently spent a fortune on traditional advertising and got no where. When he started to focus his advertising and marketing purely online, he became the first self-published author to sell a million eBooks on the Kindle.

Another good piece of advice - it's fine to aspire to the dizzying heights of success, see how they did it and try to emulate it, but keeping that level head, wouldn't it be far better to focus on the average, steady going authors? These are the authors who consistently sell books and make a living doing what they love. And guess what? They love to share their knowledge too!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Amazon's awesomeness

So my second reason to try self publishing was because you have instant access to a Worldwide marketplace.

This infographic is almost a couple of years old but still highlights the amazing potential Amazon, as a virtual "marketplace" offers us.

Check it out - nine facts about the giant:

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Self publishing budgeting and funding

How much should you be budgeting for nice book covers, professional editing and proofreading?

Here are some guidelines taken from The Society of Authors and the Freelance Fees Guide:

Paying someone to do a simple proofread will only eliminate the spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. Work with a proofreading rate of about 10 pages per hour with approx 300 words per page.

A copy-editor will spot weaknesses in your style, factual mistakes and inconsistencies. Work with an editing rate of about 4 to 6 pages per hour with approx 300 words per page.

The below prices are starting points for negotiating rates depending on your needs.

Say you have a 300 page manuscript. Your budget for proofreading would be 300 pages / 10 pages per hour = 30 hours x £21 = £630

Your budget for copy editing would be 300 pages / 5 pages per hour = 60 hours x £24 = £1,440

Then you need £400 to £500 for a jacket cover design...

A budget of £2,500 wouldn't be far off...

And not forgetting a few optional extras like book formatting and some basic membership to Author services to help with marketing the book on SEO services and social media platforms... let's say another £500.

I have to admit when you write the numbers down and process them, it's a little scary!

If you're feeling quirky and creative (oh, and broke!), check out the following crowdfunding websites for financing your self publishing endeavours:




Monday, 9 September 2013

eBook publishing for beginners

I haven't yet tried any of the eBook tools available to us because my debut novel was put together by my publisher, but here's some information I've pulled together for beginners like me that may be of use.

  • Start with a Word document
  • Two recommended software tools for ePub conversion Calibre and Sigil 
  • After conversion and formatting, you need to validate your file (book) before uploading to any service. Use an ePub check tool which will generate an error list and bring any problems within the file (book) to light before you put it out there
  • The top five free distribution channels to begin with: Amazon's KDP, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble's Nook Press (previously PubIt), Apple's iBookstore and Google's eBookstore
  • We know Amazon Kindle is the eBook giant so your Amazon page may be the first and last page your potential audience will see. Get those reviews in!
  • Smashwords - Word docs only. Pays 85% of listed price if sold on Smashwords website. Multiple channel distributor unlike the other four, so distributes to all major devices / retailers except Kindle. You will need to pay approx £10 to purchase a Kindle ISBN 
  • Nook Press accepts most file formats - minimum price point 99p (like Amazon). Pays 65% royalties (verses Amazon's 70%) if you price between £2.99 and £9.99. Pays 40% (verses Amazon's 35%) at other prices
  • Apple - Mac users only! Must be set up through an iTunes Connect account. Will need an ISBN. 70% royalties on listed price
  • Google accepts PDF and ePub files. Will pay 52% of list price, or 45% if your book is purchased through a reseller


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Blogger or Author or both?

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself: "Am I a blogger, an author, or both?"

Do you sometimes wonder whether you should be blogging, or working on your manuscript, and which is more important?

Do you sometimes think you spend more time doing marketing and publicity then actually writing?

I'm addressing these questions in today's post because I'm just as confused as some of you may be! My blogging has really taken off and I feel great with my new blogging plan and marketing strategy. However, I haven't touched my manuscript for at least a month. At least.

What does Bridget Jones say? It's a well known fact that when a part of your life is going well, another part will fall apart.

Ok, I'm being dramatic, but it is frustrating trying to find that lovely, natural balance.

I think I've found a halfway house solution though - using some of my blog content to make an eBook which I'll publish to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. That way I can publish something, get it out there and feel like I've achieved - all whilst working on longer projects.

Remember what you're trying to achieve when considering starting up in self publishing:

1) A brand for yourself and your work
2) Becoming an expert in your field
3) Attracting a wider audience to your website and blog
4) Making a little money to re-invest in cover design, professional editing, proofreading and marketing

If you blog regularly (three times a week), you'll know what I mean when I say your blog content gets lost pretty quickly in the archive. Everything you write should be used and re-used over and over so you get your deserved return from each piece you pen.

When I thought about this idea a year ago, I wasn't sure because I felt using my blog content was cheating - and who would buy it when they could read it for free? The trick is to create some new material but this doesn't have to be complicated. For example, how about an exercise at the end of each chapter?

I have to be organised with my blogging and write within a series each time. It doesn't matter if your blog doesn't follow one set path, but you will need to read back through your content from beginning to end and do some sorting through. Try to group by topic (check your post categories). See which posts were the most popular (check your stats). Each category could be an eBook if there is a lot of material to work with, or you could create a "Best Of" collection.

Then - Intro, conclusion, nice cover, format, upload. You know the drill.

Think about whether you want your eBook to carry the same design as your blog (think branding)... and then promote it on your blog and via your social media.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Write Sales Launch Plan

Remember at the beginning of this Self Publishing series I gave you ten reasons to try it?

Why should you self publish?

Number one on that list was you can publish a book freely without the depressing submission and rejection merry-go-round, and today's post is a brief visual overview so you can see the work involved and plan your time, energies and finances accordingly.