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Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Transition from Squidoo to HubPages

A few weeks ago in this post I discussed the fact that the self-publishing platform Squidoo was being taken over by HubPages.

As I said in that post, the general idea was that all active Squidoo lenses would be migrated to the HubPages platform. You could ease the transition by setting up a HubPages account yourself, which is something I did at the time.

I also took the precaution of giving both my current Squidoo lenses a promotional boost. This helped move one of them from work-in-progress to featured lens status, which in turn improved its chances of being chosen for migration to the new platform.

Anyway, I was pleased this week to receive an email from HubPages confirming that both my lenses had been successfully migrated to HubPages. Here are links if you would like to see what they look like now...

Greece Travel Tips -

How To Write a Book -

As you may notice, the sites look a bit different now. In particular, some of the modules in Greece Travel Tips haven't survived the transition so well. I will need to research this and see what I can do to restore them or add something better.

I am finding the HubPages back end quite user-friendly, though. In particular, I have already configured all the monetization options, including adding my Google AdSense code, and signing up for the HubPages Amazon and eBay affiliate programs.

The latter two are not the same as any existing affiliate accounts you may hold with these companies, incidentally. You are allowed to use your own Amazon affiliate code if you prefer, but HubPages recommend using theirs, so for now at least I have done that. They say that earnings tend to be better if you do this, so unless I discover otherwise I will believe that! In any event, doing this ensures that any Amazon earnings are added to my other HubPages income, which is more convenient all round.

I also added my tax information. Being a non-US resident, this proved quite straightforward. It was basically just a matter of confirming that I didn't live in the US and didn't have any employees or business activities there. I did not have to provide any UK tax information.

The stats available from the HubPages homepage are similar to those that were provided by Squidoo. I have posted a screen capture below.

As ever, you can click on the image to see a larger version. Use the Back button on your browser to return here.

In addition, HubPages makes it easy to include all your hubs (sites) in Google Analytics, so I have done that as well. This gives you access to more detailed statistics such as bounce rate, and also provides independent corroboration (hopefully) of HubPages' figures.

I still have a lot to learn about how HubPages works, but will be delving into it in more detail in the coming weeks.

If you have any tips or advice on working with HubPages, I'd love to read them. And obviously, if you have recently completed the transition from Squidoo to HubPages as well, I'd be interested to hear about your experiences. Please post any comments below.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Publishing Money Trees

Publishing Money Trees is the latest product to be launched by the prolific duo of Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum, together with a third author, offline publishing expert Brenda Trott.

I've mentioned some of Amy and Debbie's other quality products such as Publisher's Review Accelerator, Book Trailer Treasure Map and Description Detective on this blog before. I also recommended their report on "underground" promotional methods, which you can still pick up via this blog post for free if you haven't already.

Publishing Money Trees is a bit of a departure from their other products in that it is aimed at people who want to make money by offering publishing services to other people and businesses (especially small local ones).

Amy and Debbie were kind enough to allow me pre-launch reviewer access to Publishing Money Trees, so here's what I found...

As is the way with most of Amy and Debbie's products, 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 them again!

Once you are in the members area, you will be able to access the content. There are five main sections, as follows:

1. Getting Clients
2. Your Own Published Book to Market Your Service
3. Creating Client Book Content
4. Formatting and Publishing Client Books
5. Providing Additional Services

Each of these sections contains at least one PDF manual, and most also include videos, screencasts, spreadsheets, Word documents, and so on.

Part 1 discusses ways to find clients for your publishing services. In addition to training videos and manuals, you also get other resources such as a flyer about the benefits of self-publishing to show potential clients, and advice about charging and invoicing. The section also has links to model publishing agreements you can use.

Part 2 features a complete book you can adapt and publish in print form to market your services to local businesses. The authors recommend that you publish it on the CreateSpace platform and order copies as required. Note that you are not allowed to sell this book yourself on Kindle or other platforms.

What you get in Part 2 is a comprehensive (72 page) book, which is well written and edited. It takes readers step by step through the self-publishing process, and makes a very interesting read. It is provided in the form of a Word (.docx) document, so you can edit and personalize it yourself. You also get separate cover templates for CreateSpace, along with training on customizing and using these.

The book should do a great job of establishing your authority in this field to potential clients. My only slight concern would be that it is so comprehensive the client might just decide to do all the work him/herself rather than hiring you!

Part 3 features a six-page guide to creating a book for your clients. It sets out some different approaches you could use, and includes advice on interviewing clients, copyright, using PLR content, and so on. It is obviously quite concise, but links are included to various useful resources and online articles.

Part 4 is where you get down to the nitty-gritty of formatting and publishing client books. This is clearly a big subject, and there are three PDF manuals, along with screencasts, spreadsheets, and so on. Both Kindle (e-book) and CreateSpace (print) publishing are covered. The resources also include a Kindle template (in Word format) that you can use as a starting point for Kindle e-books, and another template for print books.

Part 5 features another PDF that sets out additional services you could offer to your clients. There is actually a surprising number, from setting up an Amazon Author page to building their social media presence. It's food for thought, although don't expect massive amounts of detail. There are, though, also lists of outsourcers you could use if you don't want to take on all these tasks yourself.

Overall, I thought Publishing Money Trees was another quality offering from Amy and Debbie (and Brenda). I appreciate that it won't really appeal to people who only want to write and publish their own books. But as the authors demonstrate, there is huge money-making potential for enterprising writers who are willing to get out there and offer this service to local businesses and individuals.

If that sounds like something that could interest you, Publishing Money Trees is well worth checking out. It is currently on sale at a launch offer price of $47, which will be rising to $97 in ten days' time. As with all Amy and Debbie's products, there is an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you have any comments or questions about Publishing Money Trees, as ever, please do post them below.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Why You (Probably) Don't Need an Editor

2008-01-26 (Editing a paper) - 19 by Nic
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Nic's events

A trend I've noticed recently among writing blogs and websites is a growing consensus that to succeed as a writer, you MUST engage an editor for your work.

This is an assertion that I feel needs to be challenged. Yes, a good editor is a wonderful thing to have, but there are two major stumbling blocks.

First, finding a good freelance editor isn't as easy as you might think. Bear in mind that anyone can call themselves an editor. As well as the genuinely good ones, there are plenty of deluded amateurs and some out-and-out fraudsters. Sorting out the good from the bad and the ugly is by no means a simple task.

And even if you are lucky and find a good editor, their services aren't cheap. For a full-length book you can expect to pay several thousand pounds or dollars. If you are self publishing - on Kindle, for example - you need to think carefully whether any boost in sales that may result will cover this.

Self-publishing authors sometimes believe that a freelance editor will be able to help them with the deeper, structural aspects of their book as well. This is akin to the role performed by developmental editors in traditional publishing houses. Whether a freelance editor can realistically offer this service is in my view very doubtful, however.

Developmental editing tends to be a slow, iterative process. The editor typically reads and reflects carefully on the manuscript, then raises queries and offers suggestions to the author. The author duly reflects on this and gives his/her reactions, and so on. This can work very well with a salaried editor who is employed by a publishing house, but it is not really compatible with freelance editing, where you are charged by the page or the hour. If you hire a freelance editor, what you are basically getting is a copy editor. They may (or may not) make the odd structural suggestion as they go, but it is a long way from the in-depth feedback you will get from a developmental editor in a publishing house.

My advice is therefore to ignore anyone who tells you that you MUST hire an editor. Instead, I recommend a two-pronged approach. First, be sure you are fully up to speed with the basics of grammar and punctuation (my course Essential English for Authors might be helpful here - just saying!). Aim to be your own best editor (and proofreader) rather than relying on someone else.

And second, make full use of free and low-cost resources such as beta readers (other authors are often happy to reciprocate in this role) and online forums such as myWritersCircle. Off-line resources such as writers' groups can be a big help as well. By this means you can get a lot of valuable feedback about your work without spending a fortune.

If you hear of a good editor and can afford their services, by all means use them too. But be realistic about how much benefit you are likely to get from their input, and weigh this carefully against the costs involved.

Remember, also, that with e-book (or POD) publishing, if someone tells you about a mistake, it is a very simple matter to correct and republish. Getting everything 100 percent correct before publishing, while still desirable, is therefore no longer so essential.

Of course, if you're aiming to get published by a traditional publishing house, some of the above comments may not apply. But still, bear in mind that in-house editors provide their services free of charge if the publisher sees potential in your work. Your objective as an author should therefore be to ensure that your manuscript demonstrates such potential. No freelance editor will be able to 'fix' your manuscript if it is basically unpublishable. But that won't stop them taking your money, of course.

So that's my view, but what do you think? Should all aspiring writers be told to hire an editor for their work, or is this (as I think) unrealistic in many cases? Please post any comments you may have below!

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Amazon launches Kindle Kids' Book Creator

If you write illustrated children's books for Kindle, Amazon have just released a new (and free) software tool you may like to check out.

Kindle Kids' Book Creator is designed to allow (and encourage) children's authors to create illustrated Kindle e-books that take full advantage of the extra possibilities afforded by KF8.

This new Kindle publishing format gives authors a range of additional tools and features. The idea is that they can use them to produce e-books that take full advantage of the capabilities of the new generation of Kindle readers, e.g. the Kindle Fire HD and HDX.

The new KF8 features are especially relevant to children's picture book authors. Among other things, they allow the use of higher-quality images, fixed layouts (both horizontal and vertical), and pop-ups. More about that shortly.

Although I'm not a writer of children's books myself, I'm always interested in new developments where Kindle is concerned, so I downloaded the software myself and had a little play with it.

When you first launch Kindle Kids' Book Creator, you will see the screen below. This is basically an introduction to using the software. Most importantly, it explains that you can either import a complete book in PDF format, or else you can import images (in various formats) one at a time. Note that you can't import Word files into KKBC. You can, however, import a PDF with text, and/or add text to images using text boxes in the KKBC editor.

Click on continue and you will reach the page below, where you add a few basic details about your book - all pretty straightforward.

Click on Continue again and you will arrive at the page below, where you are invited to choose your page layout. This is, of course, where you can opt for the standard vertical layout, or one of various horizontal layouts. The latter may well be more suited to illustrated children's books.

Click on Continue again and you will be able to upload your PDF or image files.

Once you have made your choice, you can click through to start editing. Here's what the editing page looks like...

You can insert text anywhere in your images by adding a text box. You can also include a feature that Amazon seems very keen to promote, the use of pop-ups.

The way these work is that when someone is on the page in question, for ease of reading all or any of the text can be made to stand out in a larger box. You can also have two or more pop-ups on a single page.

In Kindle Previewer pop-ups appear when you double-click on the text concerned. I suspect that on Kindle e-readers it may work a little differently, but as I only possess an ancient Kindle Keyboard, I can't verify that.

I have, though, posted a screen capture below which may give you some idea of what a pop-up looks like. In case you're wondering, this is from a demo e-book I created in a few minutes using some old photos.

Note that this screen capture was taken from the KKBC editing tool. In a published e-book you would only see the original (smaller) text or the pop-up, not both at the same time.

Once you are happy with your e-book, you can save it for publication. The software will then convert it to a .mobi file, ready for uploading via Kindle Direct Publishing (having first checked how it looks in Kindle Previewer, which you can download from the Kindle Kids' Book Creator page at the same time)

As you might expect from a company the size of Amazon, the software appears highly professional and in my testing it worked well. It's pretty intuitive, but there is also a PDF user manual if you need any extra help.

If you have any illustrated children's books on Kindle already, you may well want to think about passing them through this software. Not only will it give you many additional formatting options, Amazon themselves are highlighting children's e-books with pop-ups. Here's an example of the message you can already see on such e-books' sales pages...

To view a larger version of this, just click on the image. Use the Back button on your browser to return here.

It seems pretty clear that such e-books will have a marketing advantage in future, and Amazon may well choose to promote them preferentially as well.

Good luck if you decide to try out Kindle Kids' Book Creator yourself. I'll be very interested to hear about your views and experiences with it. Please post any comments or questions below as usual.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Email: Be Careful What You Authorize

4 Days of Spam by cogdogblog, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  cogdogblog

I'm a bit off topic today, but I wanted to share some thoughts about a problem I've experienced recently with my Gmail account.

What has happened is that on three occasions recently, spam emails have been sent in my name to people who are (or were) on my Gmail contacts list. Many apologies, by the way, if that includes you.

You might assume this means my account has been hacked, but that doesn't appear to be the case. There are no spam emails in my 'Sent Items' folder, and on my Gmail security page there is no evidence of any log-ins other than those I have made myself. It seems pretty clear that my identity in the spam emails was spoofed (which is of course very easy to do).

I was still puzzled by how the spammers got hold of my email contacts list, though. Initially I wondered if the Gmail servers had been hacked, but this seemed unlikely, and I hadn't heard any similar-sounding reports. After the third time it happened, I pretty much discounted that possibility.

I still don't know for sure, but after I visited the Google Account Permission page, a more likely explanation became apparent. As you may know, this page lists all the applications that have permission to access any component of your Google Account (which of course includes Gmail). There were about eight on my page, most of which appeared legitimate, including Chrome, Picasa, Feedly, Mail by Microsoft, and so on.

There were one or two that looked dubious, however, including Quora, a sort of social networking service I joined a year or two ago and soon lost interest in. Quora got a bad reputation a while back, when they were found to be sending emails to the contacts of existing Quora members urging them to join up as well. I could see from my Account Permission page that I had (inadvertently) given them permission to access my contact lists as well.

Obviously I can't prove that Quora were to blame for my contacts list getting into the wrong hands, but it is certainly a possibility. So I immediately revoked their access permission, along with a couple of other services I thought less likely (though still possible) candidates. I also changed the vague 'Access for Less Secure Apps' on the Security Settings Page from Enabled to Disabled. I am hoping that these measures will prevent any further breaches, although I can't guarantee this if some evil spammer has downloaded and saved my contact list and plans on using it again.

So what is the moral of this story? If you have a Gmail account, I strongly recommend that you head over to the Security Settings Page today and check (in particular) the account permissions you have granted. If there are any applications listed you aren't happy to have access to your account, you can disable them with a single click.

I'm not exactly sure how other web-based email accounts such as Yahoo email work, but if possible I would recommend checking the security settings and permissions on these as well. Who knows, it could save you the embarrassment of having all your friends and other contacts sent spam in your name like me!

If you have any comments or questions on this post, as ever, please feel free to post them below.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Practically Painless Outlines: Building a Roadmap Without Killing Your Creativity

Plotting Room by John Loo, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  John Loo 

Today I have another syndicated guest post for you from writer and novelist Laura N. Roberts. You might also enjoy reading her earlier guest post on my blog, How to Write a Novel in Just 3 Days.

In her article, Laura reveals her rather idiosyncratic method for plotting a novel, based on a one-liner and a list. Take a look and see whether it could work for you!

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I've written a variety of novel manuscripts over the years, many during the national noveling month of November. My typical approach to writing is commonly referred to as "flying by the seat of your pants," and although this may work in short doses, it is much harder to sustain in novel form.

In the past I avoided the traditional outline, with its spontaneity-crushing fascism, convinced it was a tool used by only the most mad or tortured of authors, chained to their writing desks and forced to retroactively outline their novels as cruel punishment by their publishing companies (who were probably stumped as to how to market their books, hence the need for said outline). However, I came to realize - while plotting my most recent book - that writing something as large as a novel truly requires adopting some method of outlining.


As an outline hater, I did my best to create a painless process that would both enable me to see where my entire novel was going in one fell swoop and still leave the door open for spontaneous changes and writerly fun, like incorporating random characters named by friends or having zombies attack in the middle of an epic battle of pirates vs. ninjas. Having completed my 3-Day Novel as a direct result of creating this new take on the sad old outline, I'm now an outlining convert, here to preach to you about all the ways this method will save your novel's soul.

Toss the Teacher's Method

First of all, if you're anything like I was in my pre-outlining days, you currently believe that outlines are those drab sheets your high school English teacher foisted upon you for essay writing purposes, back in 10th grade. You're supposed to write your thesis statement, and branch out from there with follow-up sentences that help support your over-arching argument, right?


Start With a One-Liner

When outlining your novel, the goal is certainly to start with a one-sentence summary of the plot, in order to solidify your mind's wanderings. But after that, it's chaos in motion, baby.

To best outline your novel, do write down that one-liner that best conveys your story's plot. For example, for my book Ninjas of the 512 I wrote "Pirates and ninjas face off in a no-holds-barred battle of good vs. evil - who will win?!" Okay, that's more of a question than a sentence, but that's okay, too.

Work That List

Once you've got that under control, start making a list.

A list? But that's not an outline!

Isn't it? Think about it: you've got some ideas you definitely want to incorporate into the story. You're not quite sure how they'll all add up, or how you'll connect the dots, but you want them all in there. How best to capture these disparate elements, other than listing?

My pirates vs. ninjas list included
  • Pirates: swashbuckling, parrots, peg legs, eye patches, "YARRR!" and "AYE, MATEY!"
  • Ninjas: silent, deadly, nunchaku, throwing stars, all black gear, the ultimate evil?
  • Treasure
  • Austin landmarks
  • Bats
  • Rick Perry is evil
  • Teachers losing their jobs
  • Rainy Day Fund
These are all elements I wanted to incorporate into my story, each of which served as a reminder to me when I was running low on steam. Throw in the wild, the crazy, the weird, the sane, the insane, the stuff that even you don't really understand what you meant when you scribbled it down off the top of your head. Everything and anything. Get it all down on paper. The more specific an image, the better.

Pull Out Plot Points

Next, see if you've got a few actual plot points in your list. Maybe you have something like "Pirates and ninjas battle at Town Lake" or "Ninja training center reveals the leader of the group is really so-and-so's boyfriend." Start arranging those on your paper, in an order that seems to make sense.

As you arrange your plot points, you may think of others. Write 'em all down as you go, and keep moving them around until they seem coherent. Remember, you can always change the order if things crop up in the story to throw off your timeline.

Engage the Hero's Quest - And Kick His Ass

Once you've got your outline from A to Z, taking your characters on a journey of some kind (this can be an actual journey, as in a quest, or a metaphorical journey, if they're soul-searching or coming-of-age or something hyphenated like that), be sure you've got a few plot points that involve your main characters getting their asses kicked. Again, this could be entirely metaphorical; perhaps your character is just engaging in negative thinking, or is turned down for a date. On the other hand, maybe your character ends up on the business end of a baseball bat, or sets out to fight a Big Bad that he can't really handle, and his ass is quite literally handed to him on a plate.

Why beat up your characters? Because you need CONFLICT. No conflict? No story.

Intersperse many small conflicts with your various plot points, and you'll start to see how your outline is going to save your soul. (Or, perhaps more correctly, your hero's butt.)

Conflict Resolution - AKA Endings

Once you've got conflicts, you need resolutions. Make sure you have a few points that show your hero getting out of a jam, or rebounding from those conflicts you've set up. At the very end of the outline, you have two options:
  1. Tie everything up in a nice neat bow, or
  2. Leave the reader dangling as a set-up for the next book in your series.
Both have their own charms; please choose your own adventure as you see fit. Keep in mind that you will likely change your mind as you come to the end of actually writing your novel, throwing out a totally random, unexpected ending instead of the first one that came to you. This is completely acceptable.

Get it? Got it? Good! That, in a nutshell, is how to write up a nearly painless, rather entertaining little outline for your next novel or non-academic endeavor. Happy outlining!

Byline: Laura Roberts (right) is the author of Ninjas of the 512: A Texas-Sized Satire, written in just 72 hours for the 3-Day Novel Contest. In addition to sharing her thoughts on writing faster and better, she also writes about sex, travel and - of course - ninjas at her blog, The Buttontapper. You can follow Laura on Twitter @originaloflaura, or read more of her work at
Article Source:

* * *

Thank you to Laura for a thought-provoking article.

Her suggested approach actually reminds me a little of the Snowflake Method described by Randy Ingermanson. This also starts with writing a one-sentence description of your book, although it then becomes rather more elaborate than Laura's method. Either could work well, of course, and I do rather like the relative simplicity of Laura's approach!

If you have any thoughts or questions about this article, or would like to share your own hints and tips for plotting, please do post them below.
  • Don't Forget! My blog sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network produce an excellent guide called Novel in a Month by Dan Strauss, which is packed with tips and information for aspiring novelists. Click on the banner below to find out more!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Why We Should All Spend More Time Standing and Less Sitting

Today I have a thought-provoking infographic for you, by courtesy of PMIR (the Pain Management and Injury Relief medical center).

The graphic makes some excellent points about why sitting for too long at work can be dangerous, and why we should all spend more time standing.

This advice is particularly relevant to writers, who typically spend much of their working life sitting down.

It's something I've become increasingly aware of myself, so much so that earlier this year I switched to using a variable height "Kangaroo" worktop. This has definitely had a beneficial effect on my health, and it's something I recommend any writer to consider.

Even if you don't decide to go down this route, however, the PMIR advice to stand up and/or walk around for five minutes every hour is a good minimum guideline to follow.

* * *
Courtesy of: Pain Injury Relief

Thank you to PMIR for allowing me to reproduce their infographic. Note that I have had to reduce its size to fit on the blog, so if you have any difficulty reading it you can click through to see the full-sized version on their website.

If you have any comments on this issue, as ever, please do post them below.

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