Tag Archives: ebooks

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 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.

Smart Phones for Smart Writers

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One of the great conundrums of the modern age is that despite all the technology which has been developed, and despite all the labour-saving devices we have in our homes, we appear to have less and less time. How can this be?

Well of course, we still have exactly the same amount of time as we’ve always had. Those 24 hours won’t grow or shrink. It’s what you do with them that counts. So, yes you can get up at ridiculous-o’clock to squeeze in a few more useful hours. You can multi-task up to a point. You can choose to stop doing certain tasks to devote the time to something more important (see Kath McGurl’s Give Up Ironing book for more ideas on this approach!). And you can stop getting distracted.

I’m not a big TV fan – and you’ll absolutely never hear the words “box set” pass my lips in the context of losing a whole weekend watching 400 episodes of some show or other. (I am the person who can’t take part in office discussions about Game of Thrones etc.) But I am totally addicted to the internet, particularly because of my smart phone. I love YouTube videos which help me improve the way I ride my horse. I can lose hours googling random facts, or watching amusing or tear-jerking videos on Facebook. I’m also plagued by a kazillion emails (many from all the great writing-related websites I’ve signed up to). And I think this is the route of the time problem we all face. Whether smart-phone-related or not, there is simply too much information out there for our brains to process. So, I’ve decided I need to be more selective.

Before I had a smart phone, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. People had managed perfectly well for centuries without such a gadget. It was just a silly fad. Now? It’s an integral part of pretty well every aspect of my life. Its alarm gets me up in the morning, and the sleep app tells me how long and how well I’ve slept the night before (last night was amazing – 8h 4mins – almost a record!). My running podcast takes me through my morning’s run, and the health app monitors my steps/distance travelled. On my way to and from work, I listen to a writing (or sometimes horse riding) related podcast – at the moment, I’m checking out the backlist of The Creative Penn which is amazingly informative about the indie author world – and also very entertaining.

This week is National Short Story week, and my smart phone has been invaluable in helping me advertise my two short story ebooks The Camel in the Garden and Beyond Words, which have been on special offer. Using my phone has enabled me to access Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, post photos and links, join in discussions, to post and comment on this blog and, of course, keep track of downloads – at any time, not just when I’m at home at my writing desk.

But I need to get better at sifting online information, saving the important bits (such as story competition info) and managing it in a way which means I won’t overlook it later.

If you have any top tips on the way you manage this process, please share them in the comments below.  I will be eternally grateful!

And if you’re the sort of really organised person who has arranged their life so efficiently that you have an afternoon free for a spot of reading, Beyond Words is still half-price for the remainder of this weekend. 🙂

One Year On…

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A year ago, I posted here about having lost my beautiful mare, Cracker, how hard I was finding adjusting to life without her – and how difficult it was to focus on anything, even writing.

Since then, a lot has happened (including a house move), and while I’ve been horse-less, I’ve definitely had more time for writing-related activities. On the non-fiction front, I’ve had my first full-length article published in a national magazine (equine-related, of course).  And on the fiction front, most excitingly, I achieved my aim to release an eBook short story collection on Amazon. (Two, in fact!)

I’m quietly proud of “Beyond Words” (the second of the two collections) as it brings together some of my favourite short stories, all of which have achieved competition success.  There’s so much to be gained from entering competitions – the discipline of meeting deadlines, word counts and themes can only help improve your writing, especially when it takes you away from your comfort-zone, and being short-listed, placed or commended can only increase your writing confidence. If you’ve never entered a writing competition before but would be interested in having a go, there’s a reference list at the back of “Beyond Words” which gives each of the competitions in which the stories were entered.

And a year on…  Well, I finally decided it was time to take on a new equine partner. This is Deemon Whirlwind, my new part-Arab gelding:

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After 15 educational years with Cracker, I’m looking forward to an equally long and inspirational partnership with this handsome chap. And of course, I’ll keep you posted!

Flash Fiction – One in a Million!

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If you’re a writer of short stories or flash fiction, you may be interested in the “One Million Stories Creative Writing Project” at:

http://www.millionstories.net/index.html

As their homepage states, “It is our mission to discover, select and showcase some of the very best new short fiction being written today, and then publish it right here for you to enjoy…”

They have a specific page dedicated to flash fiction, called The Sharp End and they have just published my 100 word piece, “Sunburn”:

http://www.millionstories.net/TheSharpEnd.html

The One Million Stories Project is open for submissions now. They are looking for anything between 50-5,000 words.  Check out their guidelines here:

http://www.millionstories.net/contactus.html

And of course, if you like my flash piece, you might want to read my short story collection Beyond Words available here:

 

 

Erewash Writers Comp – Winning Entries

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Last month I discovered I’d managed to place not one but two stories in the 2016 Erewash Writers open short story competition (cue slightly smug grin!). I’ve made it as far as the shortlist in past Erewash competitions, but to find this year that Resolution had been placed 4th, and Never Far From the Tree highly commended, was a real boost.

One of the nice things about Erewash competitions (as well as the fact they post the judge’s comments), is that the winning stories are published on their site: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

If you enjoy Resolution and would like to read some more of my stories, don’t forget Raspberry Ripple is available free here: https://fictivedream.com/2016/11/27/raspberry-ripple / and if you’d like to read some others I’ve written which have been successful in competitions, you can find my ebook Beyond Words on Amazon, here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0

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Hopefully the festive break will provide lots of reading (and writing!) time – and perhaps even a blog post or two. Until then, thanks for reading – and Merry Christmas! x

Dear Reader of eBooks

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Thank you, o’ dear reader

For clicking on my book

For scrolling through the others

And giving mine a second look

 

I hope you like the cover

(It was professionally designed!)

And the blurb sparks interest –

Makes you want to “Look inside”

 

When you read the first few pages

I hope you find you’re hooked

And that you click to download

To read the whole eBook

 

I hope the writing grabs you

And the stories entertain

The dialogue rings true

The plotline doesn’t wane

 

And if you find you loved it?

Tell all your friends – please do!

And then tell all the reading world –

Please, please, leave a review!

 ~ Jenny Roman

 

To download “Beyond Words”, or to leave a review, please visit:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8