Category Archives: ebooks

New eBook Release: And Not Forgetting Love

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This is one of those days which has been such a long time coming, but now all of a sudden it’s here and I can’t believe it! I was expecting to do all this last year, but I’ve previously posted about last year being a “write off” (ha ha) and so at last I can announce (cue trumpet fanfare)…..ta da:

And Not Forgetting Love – my latest short story collection.

This is a compilation of 12 short stories looking at love from various angles. They are love stories in a sense, but they aren’t all straightforward romances, and they don’t necessarily end happily ever after.  Some of these stories are about the first tentative steps towards love. In others, the characters are clinging to the memory of past loves, or dealing with a relationship where things have gone wrong. Some are hoping for a second chance; some are happy to be free!

But whether it makes you smile or sigh, each story will invite you to care about the characters for the brief time you are with them, and perhaps to acknowledge that you too have been there.

And Not Forgetting Love is available for Kindle on Amazon – just click here!

Read Me For Free!

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Another free offer from me this weekend – Beyond Words (12 stories about Love, Death & Deception) is available for free download for your Kindle – so grab it quick while you can.

All these stories have been successful in short story competitions, and there’s a note in the back which explains more about each one.

If you enjoy the stories, please leave a short Amazon review – just a couple of sentences would be very much appreciated. Thanks folks!

Marketing and the Introverted Writer!

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I’m not bad at sitting quietly in my “writing office”, on my lonesome, transferring the content of the world-in-my-head onto my laptop. When I’m in the right mood, I’m not bad at typesetting what I’ve written into a format that will successfully upload to Amazon KDP. I’ve even been enough of a grown up to find a professional to do my cover designs so my short story collections have a fighting chance of looking the part when they’re shoulder to shoulder with all the other eBooks out there. But I’m willing to concede that I’m pretty rubbish at the marketing and promotion side.

From articles I’ve read, and podcasts I listen to, I know I’m not alone. The kind of person who likes spending lots of time alone creating stuff quietly in their own space is not predisposed to then shout about it from the rooftops. Plus I’m British. We don’t like to blow our own trumpets. It’s hard to tell the world about something you’ve created without sounding like you’re bragging. To be honest, I’ve probably got friends and colleagues who don’t even know I write, so Blackadder was onto something when he said, “You might at least have told us you had a trumpet!”

So, consider this a polite cough to get your attention. I’ve got a new short story collection coming out soon. If you’d like to know when it’s available, and if you’d like a sneak preview of the cover, please sign up for my mailing list (and I promise you won’t be inundated with emails – I’ll only contact you when I want to let you know about something, or if I’d like to ask your opinion – and I won’t share your data with anyone else). And if you’re not sure if my stories are for you, then please download my mini collection The Camel in the Garden which is FREE this weekend.

Thank you.

*carefully puts trumpet away* 😉

Using the Kindle app to help you with your 2020 Reading Challenge

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Whether or not you’re a fan of Goodreads, you might have decided that 2020 is the year you’ll set yourself a reading challenge. Maybe (much like me) you’re usually an avid reader but recently you’ve found other demands on your time. If you chart your reading progress on Goodreads (or simply via a reading diary or journal), perhaps you’ve discovered that in 2019 you only managed to read a handful of books, and that discovery has shocked you. (It certainly shocked me!) So you’ve set yourself a challenge to read X number of books in 2020.

Lifestyle gurus who insist on “SMART” objectives will be happy with this because it’s a measurable outcome. Of course, you’ve not said what kind of books, so it might mean you steer clear of weighty tomes in favour of some nice short, easy to read novels. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter. In any case, you need to get hold of some books and relatively quickly.

If you have a local bookshop, this is your opportunity to support them, or alternatively your local library (the latter is excellent if you want to move out of your reading comfort zone but would like to try before you buy). If you have to resort to Amazon (and many of us do), then you often have the choice of print, audio or Kindle editions. (I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not listening to the audio version of a book counts as having read it!)

I love a print edition book – the feel of it, and the way you can more obviously tell when you are on the last few pages (the percentage figure on the Kindle often includes umpteen pages of backmatter or the first chapter of the next book which skews the measurement), and I love to keep my favourite books on my bookshelves. But I only have a finite amount of storage space, and since we are trying to operate a ‘less is more approach’ in our household, I love my Kindle because I can keep so many books in one small place. And, since the Kindle edition of a book is usually cheaper than the print copy, I’m much more inclined to take a chance on a book/author I’m not sure about. There are also some books which are only available as an e-book so arguably you have more choice with an e-reader.

If you fancy test driving the Kindle experience, without actually having a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for either android or iPhone, or indeed for your PC or tablet. If you already have an Amazon account, it takes seconds. And if you’re the sort of person who usually has their phone with them at all times, now you have access to a whole library of books too.

No excuse to fail your 2020 reading challenge now! 😉

 

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 5

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This is the last in a series of five posts designed to help you if you’re publishing your first eBook with Amazon KDP. It aims to give you a few hints and tips as well as some links to other sources of help. If you’ve just stumbled upon this post today, you can catch up with all the previous parts using these links:

Now we’re at the final stage:

Part 5: Marketing your eBook

Actually, it’s a bit misleading to say this is the final part, as the promotion and marketing process should really be on your mind from the moment you have the idea for the book. But I’ve left it until last in this series as, if this is your first eBook, getting the darn thing written and formatted is daunting enough.

One of the hardest things about self-publishing is the fact that you have to learn to wear a lot of different hats. Yes, you’re a writer, but you’re also a copyeditor, proofreader and cover designer. You’ve had to learn how to deal with the technical aspects of eBook creation. Now you also have to become the Marketing Department for your writing business. If you’ve been able to develop some or all of these skills in other roles prior to embarking on your writing career, then you’ll have a head start. For most of us though, not all the skills in the self-publishers toolkit will come naturally. If you’re a creative writer and a dreamer, if you like to spend vast amounts of time in your own head with just your characters for company, chances are you’re not going to be the sort of person who enjoys public speaking or self-promotion. So yes, marketing your book can be hard – but you’re a creative person (you must be, else you wouldn’t have written a book in the first place) so you should be able to come up with a strategy which suits both your book and your personality.

Fortunately there are loads of great resources out there for self-published authors. For instance, you can try Mark Dawsons’s Self Publishing Formula  or Joanna Penn’s site The Creative Penn. Both contain free resources as well as their own books and courses, and links to other useful sites. There are also loads of great articles in print magazines such as Writers’ Forum and Writing.

Read as much as you can about marketing and promotional strategies for eBooks, but don’t get carried away – keep in mind all the time what you are trying to achieve. Your eBook is available – what you want to do is let people who might be interested know how they can find it. There are lots of ways to go about this, including:

  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. are great ways to reach a fairly wide range of people relatively quickly and easily. But there is so much promotional activity on the internet that you have to have an integrated approach to publicizing yourself and your book. Ramming it down people’s throats by repeated posting “BUY MY BOOK!” is not the way to go. Yes, you need to run a few ads, but more importantly, you need to get involved in discussions, and engage with people about topics relevant to your book. Make online friends. Treat social media in the same way you would any other social interaction. You’re aiming to raise awareness and generate interest in your writing – you do this by building an online presence, and developing relationships.
  • Telling all your friends! It can seem incredibly embarrassing to talk about your writing with people you know (the non-writing people that is!). It’s difficult to work into conversation, and we Brits find it particularly tricky to talk about our own achievements. I always think of the bit in Blackadder Goes Forth when George says “Well you know, one doesn’t want to blow one’s own trumpet,” and Blackadder says, “You might at least have told us you had a trumpet!” That seems so true when people you know well say things like, “Oh, I didn’t know you write!” And you’re then embarrassed that you didn’t say something before. You’ll also be amazed when the people you least expected to be interested in your writing are the ones who end up being your biggest fans! Incidentally, you’ll probably know lots of people who don’t have a Kindle, but you can tell them how to download the app for their phone or laptop so they can be part of the eBook experience.
  • Sending press-releases to local newspapers (I’ve sent out a couple of press releases, and they were used – local papers are desperate for copy!). Though I’m not wholly convinced that this does generate any additional sales, it can lead to other opportunities, and does raise your profile as a writer.
  • Blogging about your writing (or chosen specialised subject if you write non-fiction). Or getting other people to blog about it! Or commenting on other people’s blogs… Or going on a blog tour…
  • Giving talks to writing groups or other interested parties. Or taking part in an event at a local library, bookshop, or other local community activity.
  • Paid advertising on Facebook/Amazon etc.
  • Building a mailing list.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to keep it up. Maintain that social media presence. Attend those events. Keep talking to your readers.

So, that’s my quick guide in a nutshell. To sum up, it is possible, if you do your own cover design using your own images, to create an eBook with absolutely no outlay, but if you want professional help, be prepared to spend money on cover creation, editing and proofreading, and marketing and promotion. Be realistic about how much you can afford to spend given your likely earnings – eBooks are not a get-rich-quick scheme.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and picked up a few tips on the way. If you’re about to have a go at creating your first eBook, I’d love to hear how you get on.

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 4

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If you’re publishing your first eBook with Amazon KDP, this five part series is designed to give you a few hints and tips, as well as some links to other sources of help. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here.

Part 4: Uploading your eBook to Amazon KDP

OK, so you now have your perfected manuscript correctly formatted, and your super front cover which looks good not only in full size, but also as a thumbnail. Now comes the exciting part – uploading it all to KDP.

First, you need to go to https://kdp.amazon.com/ (There’s a cute little video on this page which tells you all about publishing via KDP.) If you already have an Amazon account, you should be able to create a KDP account and sign in with your usual details. This then takes you to a page with tabs for “Bookshelf”, “Reports”, “Community” and “KDP Select”.

The “Bookshelf” is where you create your new eBook, and where the information for this book is then stored. In the future, as you write and upload more books, you’ll add to your Bookshelf.

Before you go any further, I recommend you buy a copy of Sally Jenkins’ eBook Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners – it’s ÂŁ1.99 and will take you through the process step by step. I found it incredibly helpful for my first eBook. Without Sally’s straightforward explanations, I would probably have wasted hours trying to work it all out for myself, particularly the financial aspects which you need to complete in detail for the first upload. (This includes your author/publisher information, and payment, banking and tax details so that Amazon can pay you any royalty monies owing – these are paid two months in arrears.) Subsequent eBooks are always more straightforward since you don’t have to complete all this information afresh each time.

Briefly then, in your “Bookshelf” you click to create a new eBook title. You then need to fill in all the details for the book, including the language it’s written in, the title, author etc. Next you’ll be asked to provide the book’s description – the blurb which will appear on the book’s Amazon page. This is really important and you need to take time to create something which will engage a potential reader’s attention, and make them want to click and download your book. This is surprisingly tricky, and it’s probably best to draft it offline and cut and paste it into the description box.

Next come the keywords and categories. These are also extremely important to enable potential readers to search for and find your book from the kazillions which are now available. You can have up to seven key words or phrases – and it’s important to spend time thinking about these. Put yourself in the mind of a potential reader. Imagine how you would search for a book. Think about what you would type into the search bar. Try searching for other similar books to yours.

You’ll be asked to select two categories in which you wish your eBook to be displayed. Think of these as akin to the areas or shelves in a physical bookshop where your book should be found. Try to be as specific as Amazon’s sub-sections will allow. (This is easier if your book falls into a clearly defined genre.)

Next you need to upload the manuscript file and the cover. When you upload the text, the upload process will check for spelling errors and inform you if it thinks there’s something wrong – you can then check and either amend or choose to ignore the issues raised. (I assume fantasy books always generate lots of “errors” as they are more likely to contain names or words which Amazon’s text checker will not recognise.)

At this stage you can use the previewer to check how your eBook will appear in an e-reader. It’s amazing how the odd formatting problem may still appear. If this happens, go back and amend your manuscript file, and upload again.

One of the important things you have to decide is whether or not you tick to join “KDP Select”. The plus side of Select is that anyone who is a member of Kindle Unlimited can download and read your eBook for free, and you’ll receive a (tiny) income per page read, and (arguably of more benefit) you may gain more reviews from this wider readership. The downside to Select is that it demands you publish exclusively with Amazon. This means you cannot market your book through Kobo or any other platform. If you tick to join Select, this is for a 90 day period. Once the 90 days is up, you can review the situation and decide if you’d like to continue.

Whether you decide to stick with Select or not, you need to choose your royalty plan and set up your pricing strategy. You will be asked to choose your primary marketplace (for me, this is Amazon.co.uk), set the price for this marketplace and then Amazon will automatically generate the prices for the other territories.

Now comes the exciting moment when you hit the button: Publish Your Kindle eBook. Whoop! Amazon says it can take up to 72 hours for your book to go live, but usually it’s much quicker than this. You will receive an email when the process is complete.

So there you go – now you’re a published author! But don’t go thinking your work is done. Read the final part of this series next week to find out what you should be doing post-publication.

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 3

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If you’re publishing your first eBook with Amazon KDP, this five part series is designed to give you a few hints and tips, as well as some links to other sources of help. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here, and Part 2 is here.

Part 3: Creating an eBook Cover

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but of course we all do – and much of that judgement is unconscious. The human brain is wired to be able to interpret images much faster than it can text, so your cover design is really important.

First, have a think about the genre your eBook will fall into, and spend some time researching the kinds of designs used in that particular genre. It’s obvious that the types of cover used in romance novels will differ from those used in, say, Sci Fi or crime thrillers. Note the use of colour, and the kinds of images and font styles which tend to be popular. If you’re writing non-fiction, again, have a look at the way modern non-fiction is presented. For instance, in your particular subject area, is it usual to have a stylish minimalist cover image or an engaging photo montage?

If you’re confident in your design skills, and reasonably tech savvy, there are a number of ways you can produce your own cover. Amazon has its own cover creator, but I’ve not used it so can’t vouch for its quality or ease of use. You can also try Canva which allows to you create a cover for free, if you use one of their standard templates and images.

Remember that any images you use in your cover design must be copyright-free. Alternately, or you will need to provide your own original images, or pay for any copyrighted images that you use.

Notwithstanding all of the above, unless you are a design genius, it’s probably advisable to get assistance with this part of your eBook’s production. There are lots of websites out there to help with this. You might want to try 99designs, or you can join a site such as http://www.fiverr.com where you can find designers who will provide services from as little as $5, as the name suggests (though I’d expect to pay ÂŁ20-ÂŁ30 depending on the number of images you need to purchase, and how much manipulation the designer needs to do). I’ve used the same designer at Fiverr for all my eBook covers – you can find her here.

When preparing your design brief, try to be as specific about your ideas as possible at the outset – a vague description will increase the likelihood of getting something you didn’t want! Remember though that the designer will have more experience in what works and what doesn’t, so be prepared to take on board their suggestions and consider any alternatives they might present.

One of the most important things you have to consider when designing a cover for an eBook is that the image has to look good both as a thumbnail picture and a full size cover. These are the three covers for my short story-related eBooks, two fiction and one non-fiction:

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If you’re hoping that your eBook is the first of many, and intend to create more in the future, you ought to think about branding too. It’s for this reason that I’ve tried to keep to a certain style and colour palette with my books. These aim to mirror this blog, so you’ll see a lot of similar colours and patterns used in both.

OK, so that’s all for now on cover creation. See you next week for the next step in Part 4!

 

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 2

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This quick guide is a five part series to help you if you’re publishing your first eBook with Amazon KDP. If you missed Part 1, you can pop back to read it here. Part 2 is below:

Part 2: Formatting

Once you are happy that your eBook manuscript is complete and error-free, you need to turn your attention to formatting. I’m not going to go into the mechanics of this in great detail as Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has written a free style guide which is available for your Kindle or as a PDF here. I would thoroughly recommend that you get hold of a copy of this book as it’s comprehensive and will really help with your first time formatting.

Briefly, the idea is that you strip out any of the usual formatting used by your word processing software – and for the sake of argument, I’ll assume you’re using Word to create your eBook. You might not have thought much about the standard built-in formatting, as Word tends to use it without you really noticing, but when you’re attempting to format text for an eBook it can cause some real problems. For instance, if you are writing fiction, it’s usual to indent the first line of each new paragraph (the exception being the first paragraph at the beginning of a new chapter, or after a scene break – if you want to check this, take a look at any traditionally published novel to see how they’ve done it). Most of us use the “Tab” key on our keyboards to create this indent. When formatting your manuscript for upload, you need to get rid of any Tab-key indents, or additional Spacebar spaces, or Return-key line spaces and instead use the “Styles” menu in Word to add specific styles to your manuscript. You’ll need a standard paragraph style, as well as at least one heading style for chapter titles etc. The Smashwords guide will give you more detail (in fact, it will give you too much detail – but you can select the useful bits depending on your specific project).

One of the most important things to understand at the outset is that you are not formatting a book in the way you would for print. There is no such thing as a page. Anyone reading your eBook can do so on an e-reader, or their phone, or their tablet, or their PC. As a result, every “page” will be different according to the size of font, screen etc. This means that you are attempting to create a seamless stream of text which can accommodate any size of screen. You can use page breaks so that a new chapter shows clearly after a break, but it is extremely difficult to deal with something which needs specific formatting, such as poetry.

Another really useful thing explained in Mark Coker’s eBook is the use of hyperlinks. These are links within the text which allow the reader to navigate through the book. For instance, if your eBook is a collection of short stories, you can use hyperlinks to enable your readers to click on a story title in the contents page and go straight to that story rather than having to read every story from the beginning of the book to the end. You can also use hyperlinks at the end of every story to enable the reader to go straight back to the contents page. This is also useful in a non-fiction eBook which may not necessarily be read in a linear fashion – hyperlinks mean the reader can select the next topic they are interested in without having to scroll through large chunks of text.

Once you’ve formatted your text, email it to your Kindle, and check that the text, chapter headings and page breaks look correct, and that any internal hyperlinks work. You will usually find a heading which has centred when you wanted it left justified, or vice versa, or a random space generated by an undetected return-key! Go back and amend the original document, and email it to your Kindle again. Complete until the text looks exactly as you want it, and now you have a correctly formatted version of the contents of your eBook.

Next week in Part 3 I’ll talk about another very important step in the eBook creation process…

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 1

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One of my local writers’ groups asked if I’d give them a quick run through of the process of publishing an eBook using Amazon KDP, and I thought it made sense to share this on the blog too for anyone who has never tried publishing an eBook before, but would like to give it a go. I’ve broken down the whole process into five stages, so I’ll publish each as a separate part in a short series. Part 1 is a biggie:

Write Your eBook!

The beauty of eBooks is that they don’t have to be a specific length. A standard traditionally published novel might be around 80,000-120,000 words, a romance novel might tend to sit around the 50,000-55,000 word mark. These are accepted norms for physical books where publishers need to consider costs of paper and printing, how the book will look on the shelf, the thickness of the spine for printing the title and author name, and so forth. With an eBook, you are not bound by the constraints of traditional publishing, so if your magnum opus turns out to be 300,000 words long, that’s absolutely fine – in fact, there is some evidence to suggest readers prefer longer eBooks. Conversely, you can publish a stand-alone short story as an eBook if you so desire (and many people do) – though you’d be advised to make it clear in your blurb and in your pricing strategy that it’s a short story so readers don’t feel short-changed and leave you poor reviews.

Whatever the length of your book, the most important thing is to do your very best to make your manuscript error-free. This is incredibly difficult. It’s not unheard of to spot typos in traditionally published books produced by publishing companies with professional editors and proofreaders, so as a lone self-publisher you need to pay particular attention to this aspect of the publication process. You can pay for professional help with your edits and proofing, but this can be very expensive (you need to consider if this is justifiable – how many copies of your eBook will you have to sell to cover the cost? Is this realistic?). If you decide not to go down the professional route, you need an alternative strategy.

To start with, you need to check and re-check your manuscript yourself. This is usually most effective if you leave a period of time between the end of the writing process and your read through. It also helps to read aloud (amazing what you notice when you do this). And you may find it helpful to read the text in different formats – if you usually read on your laptop screen, try printing out a hard copy, or emailing the manuscript to your e-reader and checking through it in different fonts. Next, if you have access to a writing group, or some like-minded friends, you can ask them if they will act as beta readers for you. Ask them to read through the manuscript, looking out for typos, as well as clunky sentence structure and anything else which seems odd, doesn’t follow, or is inconsistent. Once you get their feedback, make all the final amendments, then leave it for a while before your final read through.

Then stop. It’s incredibly nerve-wracking self-publishing an eBook, but you have to let your book-baby go sometime. We writers are terrible for tinkering, and there will never be a time when you are completely happy with your manuscript. But you have to draw the line somewhere otherwise the project will never be finished. In any case, another great thing about the eBook is that even if you spot an error after you’ve published it (or more likely, one of your readers does), you can always correct and re-upload the text at any time.

So, I hope that was a helpful start in the self-publishing process – catch up with Part 2 of the series next week.

Cover Reveal – Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success

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I’m always over-optimistic about the amount of writing I’ll get done over the Christmas holidays. It seems glorious at the outset – a luxurious festive week stretching out before you. Granted, there’ll be visits to family and friends, and you know there’ll be a bit of over-indulgence, some time devoted to lounging in front of the telly, but surely there’ll be loads of time left over for writing, right?

So often, the answer is no, but this year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to use the time effectively getting my latest project finished – my first non-fiction eBook, Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success.

And of course, you guys have helped me by voting on your favourite cover design. Each of the three sample covers got plenty of votes (so a big thank you to Shar at Landofawes for creating all three). In the end though, one was ahead by a sizeable margin. I decided to make a few tweaks to this design, but you’ll recognise it as being not too dissimilar to the original. So this is the final cover design:

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The book has been released in time for New Year – so if perhaps you’ve been frustrated with your recent writing progress, or you’re just starting out and want 2018 to be the year you see success as a short story competition entrant, you might find the book a good place to start.

The book is available at Amazon here – and I’ll be posting about the book, and about New Year’s Resolutions, here on the blog, and also on my Facebook page over the remainder of the festive season. I hope you can join me for a celebratory glass of virtual bubbly over the next few days, to find out more about the book and get inspired for 2018! 😉