If you have writing-related blog, it's very likely that you monetize it using Amazon affiliate links.
This can provide a useful earnings stream for any blog. That applies especially at this time of year, for reasons I set out in this recent blog post
One problem with Amazon affiliate links, however, is that they are specific to a particular national Amazon site. That means if you link to Amazon.com and your site is visited by someone from the UK, the link will take them to the "wrong" store and you won't make any money from them.
For this reason I recommend using a link management platform such as Georiot
, which automatically detects where a visitor is from and redirects them to the appropriate national store, with your affiliate code applied if you have one. I talked about Georiot a while ago in this blog post.
I recently heard that Georiot have launched a free plugin called Amazon Link Engine
. This automatically converts any Amazon links in your WordPress blog into universal Georiot links. This saves you the trouble of creating such links one by one, and again your affiliate code can be included if you wish.
Adding Amazon Link Engine to your self-hosted WordPress blog is very simple. From the plugins section of your dashboard, click on "Add New" and perform a search for Amazon Link Engine. The plugin should appear at or near the top of the search results, and you can click to install it in the usual way. All you then have to do is activate it in the plugins list, and anyone clicking on an Amazon link on your site will be automatically redirected to the relevant page of their own national store.
If you want the links to include your affiliate code as well, you will also need to incorporate the API parameters from your Georiot account. This is a very simple procedure, which involves no more than logging into your account and copying and pasting the "Key" and "Secret" API codes into the "Enable Reporting and Commissions" area of the plugin. This FAQ explains this in more detail.
Unfortunately I am not able to use the plugin on this blog, as it is not WordPress but uses Google's Blogger platform. However, I installed it with no problems on this WordPress blog
, which I use for testing purposes.
You should notice an item on the blog regarding Fodor's Guide to Greece
. Click on the link and it should take you to the relevant page of your national Amazon store. And yes, my affiliate link will be included if I have one!
One point to bear in mind, though, is that all visitors to the blog will see the same information – so if you have included a price in dollars (as in the post above) UK visitors will see this as well. The only way around this would be to create different versions of your blog for different nationalities, and use a different plug-in that redirects visitors to the version of the site designed for them. This is obviously a lot more hassle, but there are geo-redirection plug-ins that can do this for you
if you like.
For most writer/bloggers, however, using Amazon Link Engine
should be more than sufficient to ensure that all visitors to your site are forwarded to the appropriate national Amazon store if they click on any of your links, and that you benefit from any affiliate commissions generated.
If you have any comments or questions about Amazon Link Engine, as ever, please feel free to leave them below.
Labels: Amazon, blogging, resources
Today I have another syndicated guest post for you from writer and novelist Laura N. Roberts
. You might also enjoy reading her earlier guest posts on my blog, How to Write a Novel in Just 3 Days
and Practically Painless Outlines
In her article, Laura discusses a topic fiction writers often find challenging, the need to put their characters in difficult and sometimes unpleasant situations.
* * *
I wrote my first novel, Ninjas of the 512
, in just three
days. While that figure makes me sound like quite the masochist, today
I'm here to talk about the flip side of masochism and why all writers
must be sadists when it comes to their characters.
anything I've learned from reading great books, it's that even the most
beloved of characters must suffer. They have to be tossed into what John
Cusack's character in Say Anything
describes as a "dare to be
great situation," because then we get to see what they're really made
of, and whether they're heroes, villains or just yellow-bellied cowards.
Some of them might curl up into a ball and suck their thumbs at the
first sign of trouble, while others will draw their swords, strap on
their shields and hurl themselves into the fray for all they're worth.
the latter types of characters are the more interesting ones, because
even if they end up getting their asses handed to them on a silver
platter, the important thing is that they tried. They took action, and
they did something to deal with the situation at hand. Even if they're
only metaphorically battling demons, rather than actually slitting their
throats with a fancifully carved katana, readers want to see characters
that will grapple with unpleasant situations in an attempt to overcome,
rather than quietly accepting their fate. After all, we want to root
for the little guy, vanquish the enemy, be there to see them come out on
Okay, but here's the problem: this means that we
writers have to be the bad guys that throw all those awful problems at
our favorite characters. We're the spiteful gods that kick 'em when
they're down, the ones that keep throwing them back into the deep end to
sink or swim, or the jerks inflicting insurmountable hardships like
Sisyphus' ever-tumbling boulder and Prometheus's perpetually eaten
In short: we've got to be sadists.
This is something I
find difficult. When I like my characters, I want them to win. I want
things to be nice for them, and I want their lives to be pleasant. It's
because I identify with these made-up people, and I don't want them to
suffer. They're my friends, after all, and who wants their friends to
suffer? Jerks, that's who.
But guess what? Reading a pleasant
little story about people who are nice and never have to deal with any
pain is boring! For characters to truly be lovable, you've got to start
hurting them, and fast. The sooner you get to the parts where the bones
are breaking and the hearts are aching, the better, because it means
that action is taking place, and therefore growth is possible.
you don't beat your characters up, they won't learn anything about
themselves. And if you don't make them learn anything, then who cares
whether or not they live happily ever after? They're cardboard
characters, little puppets strewn across your stage, not real human
As Nietzsche said, what doesn't kill you makes you
stronger. So in case you're trying to man up to inflict some real damage
to get your characters moving, here are some of my favorite ways to
torture my characters until they spill their guts, grow some spines or
just plain break down:
Go for the kneecaps
Kill someone they love
Drive them crazy
Delete their jobs
Foil their friendships
Humiliate them professionally or personally
Force them out on terrible dates
Have them go on great dates, but then deny them sex or love
Foist a crazy person on them
Seat them next to the most boring asshole at the party
Cross their wires for some mixed-messages and hilarious misunderstandings
Thwart their dreams
Smite them with lightning or other natural disasters
Go for the jugular
Send them to the hospital
Give them inoperable cancer or other deadly diseases
Put them on Mission: Impossible
Dry up their water supply
Take away their technology or screw up their gadgets
Create a wild goose chase
Insert a red herring
Spurn their love
Poison them slowly
Make them think they're seeing ghosts or hearing voices
Addle them with demons
Have their family members psychologically or physically abuse them
Rip the roof off
Incarcerate them for crimes they never committed
Have them pursued by dangerous criminals
Sponsor a round of disapproving glares
Encourage their loved ones to express dissatisfaction with their chosen lifestyle
Marry them off to spouses that don't understand them
Attack their egos
Plague them with injuries
Saddle them with inconvenient truths
Force them on a physical or spiritual journey they never wanted to undertake
Create the Apocalypse
Unleash the hounds (or the zombies)
Have their coffee makers explode
Allow animals to inexplicably attack them
Make them unlovable, or unemployable, or both!
Make them burdens to their friends and families
Make them late for work
Reject them again and again
And always, ALWAYS heap more trouble on their heads the closer they come to victory
If you are the god of your writing universe, be the Old
Testament god that's spiteful, vindictive and thoroughly unpredictable.
If in doubt, send a plague of locusts. Or worse: snakes. (Hey, even
tough-guy Indiana Jones hated snakes.)
You must be the mirthful
sadist, always twisting your characters in the wind, dangling them over a
precipice, throttling them half to death. Give them hell, and see how
they react. Don't be afraid to take it to another level. You never know
what kinds of heroes you'll develop until you start slathering them with
: Laura Roberts (right) writes about sex, travel and ninjas - though not
necessarily in that order. To see how sadistic she can be with her own
fictional characters, head to Buttontapper.com
for humorous erotica and her sexy murder-mystery, The Case of the Cunning Linguist.
Scrivener Unleashed for Windows
is a new video training product that has just been launched by London-based author, speaker and self-publisher David Lee Martin
David is also the author of the excellent Kinspired Book Publishing
, which I reviewed here earlier this year
. This reveals how authors can break into the popular but often
overlooked niche of religious, inspirational and self-help publishing,
using the Kindle platform. This is an area in which David has achieved considerable success, though he does write on other topics as well.
David is a committed user of the popular writing and self-publishing tool Scrivener
, and in Scrivener Unleashed for Windows
he provides comprehensive training on all aspects of using it. The course already contains over 100 videos, and more are still being added. Among other things, they cover...
• How to set up a Scrivener project from scratch.
• How to utilize the Scrivener templates.
• How to format your documents perfectly.
• How to add research from just about any source, and organize it right within your Scrivener project.
• How to enjoy distraction-free writing (just one click away).
• How to export your project for Kindle publishing in just a few taps of the mouse.
• How to export to ePub format for the iBookstore, Kobo and Nook.
• How to take that same project and create a publish-ready PDF for CreateSpace.
• How to use Scrivener’s cork board view to rapidly create and arrange your projects.
• How to set writing goals, track your progress and check your stats.
• How to use Scrivener’s Collections feature to search, streamline and organize your projects.
New topics to be added soon include...
• How to organize your blog posts using Scrivener
• How to transfer Scrivener documents to WordPress
• How to copy and paste without formatting problems
• How to compile as HTML
• How to use Scrivener to create your email autoresponder series
• Multimarkdown basics
If you'd like to know more, I've embedded below a video in which David takes you through the basics of using Scrivener as a writing and publishing tool.
It's a full 30-minute presentation, and will give you a good overview of how Scrivener
works. Even if you don't intend buying David's course, it will give you some eye-opening insights into how this inexpensive software can assist your writing and e-publishing activities.
If you are reading this post via email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog
to watch the video.
If you are interested in David's course, you might like to know that it's currently on offer at a launch discount price of just $39. This is a one-off, lifetime fee, which also gives access to all additional modules that are added in future. I understand that after the launch period the price will be rising to $167.
If this is something you could benefit from in your writing and publishing, do check out the full information about Scrivener Unleashed for Windows via this link
And as ever, if you have any comments or queries about this post, please do post them below!
Labels: e-books, self-publishing, writing
I'm pleased to bring you today a guest post from UK freelance writer John Craggs
John is a long-standing member of my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com
, where he is better known by his forum ID of Gyppo.
John's article was originally intended as a comment on my recent blog post
about using Dragon Naturally Speaking
. Unfortunately it proved too long for my blogging platform (Blogger) to handle.
I therefore asked John if he would mind me publishing it as a guest post instead, to which he graciously agreed...
* * *
Nick asked if anyone else has been using - or at least experimenting with - voice recognition software. I am in the process of 'training' the voice recognition software which comes bundled with most versions of Windows 7. I say most because although I know it comes with 7 Pro I've heard it doesn't necessarily come with the cheaper versions of this OS. But sometimes it does.
I became interested in voice recognition software a few years ago when arthritis locked up four of my fingers - two on each hand - into claws which made typing rather difficult. I have nearly fifty years of typing in my fingers now, dating back to manual typewriters, so a certain amount of wear and tear is perhaps inevitable. Fortunately my rheumatologist came up with some magic pills and exercises which have unlocked the treacherous digits again, but there are still times when one hand or the other gets a bit contrary. So when I found voice recognition hidden away in W7 Pro I had to try it.
Even viewed as just a backup for the occasional bad day it's worth trying.
Overall my comments are pretty much the same as Nick's about using Dragon. This is to point out some of the pitfalls and benefits I've discovered.
Once you have it trained - and I'll come back to this - it's quite good for entering reasonable volumes of text. But you do have to proof read carefully. This is a situation where the spell checker is almost useless, because every word the software enters is a proper word, no matter how misheard it may be.
All the usual suspects will be there: to, to, too, plus through, threw, four, for, and fore, and so on. Rather surprisingly the software does begin to recognise the difference after you've used it for a while and manually corrected the wrong choices. (That's right, it does learn your own vocal idiosyncracies, and will detect subtle differences which you probably can't hear yourself, such as the troublesome tos. This is because it looks at the word in context with the words either side. Which is almost like magic.)
Even straight out of the box it can be surprisingly accurate, but if you have something of a polyglot accent like mine, where some words have long vowel sounds and some short and harsh it will take a bit longer to learn. If you are consistently Northern or Southern English with your pronunciation the program will learn faster. If you speak BBC English then you're more than halfway there, but very few of us do.
There are no shortcuts here. You have to be willing to put the time in making the corrections. I've been giving it ten to fifteen minutes a day and it already recognises some Cornish and Northern dialect words, and I've taught it some Romanes (Romany language) phrases as well.
A short daily practice session definitely earns its keep.
Now let's look at some of the limitations. As Nick pointed out, it doesn't play nicely with every program, although perhaps a more computer savvy user could work out why and make it behave. But I suspect most writers, like me, still see their processor more as a typewriter with a memory and a few other useful functions. So digging into the programming corners is forbidden territory.
Just as Dragon works well with Microsoft's Word program, so does this one. I use it in conjunction with the alternative Jarte processor, which uses the Word 'engine' anyway, so there are no major conflicts there.
I've used it sporadically for posts on the myWritersCircle forum
, and it works after a fashion, but it chucks up odd spacing and spurious capitals which make my posts look like extracts from a Victorian Novel.
If my hands were really bad again I'd definitely use it and accept the need to tidy up manually with a 'hunt and peck' approach. Anything is better than not being able to write or communicate.
During my experiments I found it fairly quick to use a hybrid approach, dictating via the microphone, but making on-the-fly corrections with the keyboard. If you are a truly slow typist with serious dexterity problems this approach could be faster than your normal typing, but even a modest yet accurate thirty wpm will fill the pages faster.
I haven't attempted to use it for form-filling for online ordering. I don't buy online that much, and accuracy is more important than speed when you're dishing out money. Earlier this year I nearly bought three computers rather than one due to a form filling error ;-)
Biggest problem when using programs other than Word or Jarte... The dictation part works well once trained, but some of the spoken commands either just don't co-operate, or work sporadically. The latter is far more annoying.
'New paragraph' always works. But until it's trained the phrase 'nude photograph' will sometimes trigger a new paragraph ;-)
"Spell it" should open a window where you spell out the problem word one letter at a time, then say "okay" and watch it pop into place. Sometimes the words 'spell it' will appear on the screen instead.
"Delete last sentence" or "delete last paragraph" work as expected.
"Delete" followed by the word in question usually works well. If there are several instances it will number them with a little superscript number in a box, and 'okay' by the last example. You can then give the number or just say "okay" and the word will vanish.
But there's a booby trap if the word you want to delete is 'all'. If, for example, your Hampshire accent has turned Town Hall into Town All. You say "delete all" and the screen obligingly empties. And then makes a surprisingly good attempt at the swear words you will probably say aloud ;-) Fortunately "undo" will let you step back through the actions and get your text back.
Which brings us to another potential hiccup. If you are in the habit of talking to yourself when you write - and many writers are - the software will type in the spare comments you put between sentences. Or comments called through to another room, such as "with you in a minute". Unless you first tell it to "stop listening".
It seems quite good at ignoring other voices in the room once it's been trained to recognise yours. It's also good at ignoring coughs, but will attempt to translate sneezes into something which looks like a Polish or Central European name.
It's definitely worth printing out the list of commands. The common ones you'll soon learn, but the more unusual ones will sometimes elude you in mid-dictation.
Summary: Voice recognition software will make you laugh and it will make you cry. But if you see a real need for it then it's worth the effort of training it for ordinary typing at least. It may not be faster, but the hybrid approach I mentioned could be a life-saver if you suffer from sporadic joint pain.
Hopefully for me it will always be a fall-back option rather than my only method of text entry, but I'm happy to spend those few minutes a day to keep it familiar. Better to learn now than before those spiky little crystals in my knuckles leave me no other option.
If you decide to try it for yourself I suggest you treat it light-heartedly at first - almost as a game - and it will be a lot less frustrating.
* * *
Thank you to John for sharing his experiences. They actually parallel mine quite closely, even down to what happens when I sneeze!
If you have any comments or questions about this subject, as ever, please do post them below.
Wordcloud courtesy of Wordle.net.
Labels: guest blog, resources, software, writing
I've mentioned my friends at the self-development company Inspire3
a few times in this blog.
They produce cutting-edge self-development products such as self-hypnosis MP3s
and their flagship Brain Evolution System
. Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of the latter in particular.
I know a number of you took advantage of the free offer Inspire3 made last month on their Subliminal Guru MP3s
, and I hope that if you did you are already noticing the benefits from this.
Their latest launch is a website titled Subliminal360.com
, which - you may not be surprised to hear - is promoting their brand new Subliminal360
than using audio, this (Windows) software displays subliminal
visual messages on your computer screen while you are using it. The messages
are flashed up too briefly to see consciously, but are designed to have a
powerful impact on your subconscious mind.
claim that these covert messages can "reprogram" your mind to lose
weight, gain confidence, improve memory, learn faster, become abundant,
healthier, more creative, and so on. The software can display tens of thousands of such messages every day while you are working (or playing). More information about the science behind it can be viewed here.
All buyers of Subliminal360 receive a library of up to 350 different subliminal
sessions, containing over 4000 individual affirmations, from building self-esteem to learning a new language to
getting over fears. You can also add your own messages (with aspirational photos if you like).
And with the premium "Everything" version, you can also create your own custom subliminal audio MP3s at the click of a button
again, Inspire3 are offering free gifts and discounts to promote Subliminal360. Right now, just for checking out Subliminal360, you can download five free subliminal MP3s designed to help you with self-confidence, weight loss, focus, wealth and happiness. They are also offering a $50 discount on the "Everything" version. For more information, just click on the link below.
Visit the Subliminal360 website and access your free gifts, video tour and discounts here
As with all of Inspire3's products,
there is never any obligation to buy anything (although obviously they hope that sooner or later you will!).
If you have any comments or questions about Subliminal360, as always, please do post them below.
* My blog sponsors WCCL
publish a tool called Subliminal Power
which works in a similar way to Subliminal 360. It's an older product and doesn't have as many features as Subliminal360, but then again it's a bit cheaper! Do check it out as well!
Labels: Inspiration, resources
is a new series of products for writers which has just been launched by the prolific Amy Harrop
(on this occasion without her usual business partner, Deborah Drum).
Publishing Intelligence Nonfiction: Volume 1
is the first in this series of blueprints for writers
looking to create Kindle e-books in promising nonfiction niches. It's
launched at a low offer price, and will be available at this price till 18 November 2014
, after which it will go up.
Amy was kind enough to allow me pre-launch reviewer access to Publishing Intelligence Nonfiction: Volume 1,
so here's what I found...
As is often the way nowadays, the content is
accessed via a WordPress membership site. This has the advantage that it
can be easily updated/expanded with content of various kinds, though
don't forget to keep your log-in details somewhere you can easily find
Once you are in the members area, you will be able to access the
content. This is organized in three main sections, these being Module 1 - Niche Research, Module 2 - Writing Your Book, and Module 3 - Marketing and Promoting Your Content.
Each module contains a variety of resources, including PDF manuals, videos, checklists, spreadsheets, website links, and so on.
I have been asked not to reveal the exact niche this product is about, but I can say that it comes within the healthy-eating category. There is therefore some similarity with the KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition
product from Amy and Debbie that I reviewed in this blog post a few months ago
. I can, however, confirm that this is a different product concerning a different (though obviously related) niche. If you are interested in writing in the popular diet/healthy eating niche, you could certainly benefit from both of these products.
Module 1 discusses the exact niche you will be targeting. At the heart of this is a 14-page PDF. In it Amy provides an overview of the niche followed by more in-depth information about trends, relevant keywords, and the demographics of your potential readership.
After that she provides an analysis of current titles on Amazon and what you can learn from them. In addition the manual sets out various (free) research methods you can use (e.g. with Facebook) to help ensure that your book finds a large and receptive audience. I found this information especially valuable.
Module 1 also includes three informative videos, and other resources including spreadsheets for recording the outcome of your research.
Module 2 is about the nitty-gritty of actually creating your book.
An 11-page PDF takes you through researching and outlining your book, writing and editing it, and then publishing it. That's a lot of ground to cover in 11 pages, so as you might expect links are included to other resources.
These include websites and also specific documents. For example, there are links to three
sample outlines for books in this niche, which you can use or
adapt as you like.
Part 3 looks at promoting your book. A 14-page PDF is devoted to this. I was quite impressed that the advice provided here was specific to the niche in question. Credit to Amy for resisting the temptation to re-use a marketing guide she had written already! Some of the advice is nonetheless likely
to be familiar to experienced Kindle authors (and buyers of other products from Amy), but I found plenty of good tips I hadn't seen
before as well.
Finally, there is a comprehensive resources section. This includes links to
PLR (private label right) content in the niche in question, research
and keyword data, free image sites, relevant niche blogs and websites, and much more. This is invaluable information, and should save
you a lot of time compared with researching all these resources
One thing you should be aware of with this product is that there is almost no information about the mechanics of actually publishing your book on Kindle (or elsewhere). The assumption is that you will know how to do this already. Alternatively, there are lots of other guides to this subject available, including my own Kindle Kash
. Publishing Intelligence Nonfiction: Volume 1
is essentially a market research and marketing guide for anyone with an interest in publishing in this niche.
Overall, I thought Publishing Intelligence Nonfiction: Volume 1
was a high-quality product crammed with useful advice and information. It is especially
good value at the launch-offer price. If you are interested in writing for the healthy-eating niche, it's definitely worth a look. And, of
course, much of the advice given would be relevant when targeting other
nonfiction niches as well.
If you have any comments or questions about Publishing Intelligence Nonfiction: Volume 1
, as ever, please do leave them below.
Labels: Kindle, resources, reviews, writing