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Monday, July 21, 2014

Kindle Unlimited - Threat or Opportunity for Kindle Authors?

If you're a self-published Kindle author, you will probably have received an email from Amazon KDP in the last few days regarding the new Kindle Unlimited program, which has just been launched.

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription-based service for readers in the US (initially). Subscribers (who pay a monthly fee of $9.99) can read as many books as they want from over 600,000 titles. All books enrolled in KDP Select with US rights are automatically included in Kindle Unlimited, along with thousands of audiobooks.

Remuneration for authors is on a similar basis to the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (part of the Amazon Prime program), where the author of any e-book downloaded free receives a royalty payment from Amazon. The company say:
KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book-–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books-–as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted. 
KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan, where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded. 
The launch of Kindle Unlimited has been the source of considerable controversy on author forums and websites, with many fearing that it will be another nail in the coffin for independent authors. I'm not so sure myself, but it certainly does have some interesting implications for us.

First, if Kindle Unlimited becomes popular (and that's a big 'if' still) it is likely to impact especially on sales of longer, more expensive e-books. After all, why would someone pay $10 (say) for a single e-book when for the same price they could download virtually unlimited numbers of titles as a Kindle Unlimited member?

Yes, as an author you could enrol your e-book in KDP Select as well, but with more expensive books you will earn a lower fee per download than you would previously have received per sale. In addition, you will only be paid if someone reads 10 percent or more of your e-book. With a long book of 100,000 words, that means that unless they read at least 10,000 words, you will receive precisely nothing. And, of course, if you enrol your book in KDP Select, Amazon requires exclusivity, so you won't be able to offer it via any alternative sales platforms.

So, in my view anyway, Kindle Unlimited is likely to make writing and publishing long books increasingly unattractive to authors.

On the other hand, writing short e-books starts to look an increasingly sensible strategy. Say you publish a 5,000-word short story and publish it on Kindle at the minimum 99c price. If a Kindle Unlimited reader downloads it free, he/she will only have to read the first few pages to trigger a payment to you. That payment will be exactly the same as the one that would be received by the author of a 150,000-word blockbuster - and much more than you would have got in royalties on a 99c book sale.

And just think how many 5,000 word stories you could write in the time it takes to pen a 150,000-word novel.

I've also heard it suggested that Kindle Unlimited will create an incentive for authors to split their books into shorter instalments. In the case of fiction, for example, you could create a series of stories, each ending with a cliff-hanger and a link to the next. Marketed well, this could be a lucrative strategy. I don't suppose that is what Amazon intended, but it could certainly be a consequence of this program.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical at the moment. Kindle Unlimited has only just been launched, and it remains to be seen whether it will be a triumph for Amazon or a damp squib. Even so, it's already given Kindle authors plenty to chew over.

* So what do you think about Kindle Unlimited - is it a great opportunity for Kindle authors or a threat to their very existence? I'd love to hear your views. Please do post them as comments below.

Get Kindle Kash

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guest Post: What Makes a Good Book Cover? The Secret of Great Design

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post by Katie Woodbine, co-owner of ebook buddy, a successful ebook design and formatting company.

In her article Katie sets out some of the key qualities of a good e-book cover. Anyone who publishes their work on Amazon or other e-book publishing platforms should take careful note of this advice...

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With only one chance to make the right first impression, covers are critical to getting a book noticed. So what makes a good e-book cover?

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, the world's largest distributor of indie ebooks, explores the importance of cover design in his (free) ebook The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. He looks at the example of R.L. Mathewson, a romance writer who went from selling five or six copies a day of her novel Playing For Keeps to over 1,000 by simply replacing her book's cover image. Such is the power of a book cover.

'Book covers sell ebooks. A great cover makes a promise to the reader on a visceral level. It's aspirational,' Coker explained in a recent interview. 'A great cover makes an instant emotional connection to the target reader.'

So how do you create such a connection with a potential reader? Let's explore some of the techniques used by professional designers to create powerful and effective book covers.

Communication is Key 

A good cover 'talks' to its readers, quickly, clearly and efficiently communicating what the book is about. A reader should be able to tell the genre and tone of the book from a single glance, through careful selection of typography, imagery and metaphor.

Size Matters 

This is especially true when it comes to ebooks, when a thumbnail image of your cover is often all you have to get your book noticed. Always test your design by reducing its size to a thumbnail. Look closely to see if the title and author's name are still clear and legible. Is the design still coherent and meaningful? If not, revisit the design and simplify it.


There's no point in having a killer title if people don't see or notice it. The same goes for the author's name. If you're a well-known author your name will sell books, but people will still need to see it on the cover. Pay close attention to the choice of font, styling, sizing and positioning. Ask yourself, are the title and author's name clearly visible, readable, striking and enticing?

Smart Use of Colours 

The psychology of colour is an old and well-used marketing trick. We all know, for instance, that red attracts the eye, and using colours wisely can greatly assist in getting your book's message over. Just remember that your cover will need to work in black and white as well, as not all e-readers display in colour.

Image is Everything 

The image used on the cover is often more important than the title and author's name. 'A picture paints a thousand words' is advice well heeded. Use a sharp, high-quality image and ask yourself whether it conveys the overall tone, feel and message of the book effectively. If it looks pretty but is completely off topic, it can be misleading (and off-putting) for potential readers.


If your book is a period piece, be sure to stay true to the era. Choice of image, font and colour palette are crucial in imparting a sense of authority. The same goes for all genres; if your story is set in the future but uses an old-fashioned scripted font, for example, the two will jar and deter potential readers. Attention to detail in this way can make all the difference between selling your book or having it collect dust on the (virtual) bookshelf.

Standing Out But Also Fitting In

A helpful exercise is to browse for covers in your local bookshop or the catalogue pages of Amazon. Look for books in the same genre and choose covers that attract your attention. Ask yourself what it is about them that makes them eye-catching. Then compare your cover to theirs. Does it fit in? Does it look as though it belongs on the shelf beside them? If so, chances are you have a winning cover on your hands.

There's no doubt about it, great covers sell books. As Mark Coker says, 'A poor cover creates unnecessary friction that prevents a reader from clicking to sample or purchase a book. Great covers eliminate friction.' To give your book the best chance of being discovered, purchased and then read, it's therefore essential to begin with a beautiful, eye-catching cover.

About the Author: Katie Woodbine is the co-owner of ebook buddy, the self-publishing and ebook specialists. If you're looking for a dynamic cover for your book, why not let ebook buddy's team of graphic designers turn your vision into a reality! Check out our cover design packages for more information and prices.

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Thank you to Katie for an interesting and useful article. If you have any comments or questions about it, as always, please feel free to post them below.

And equally, if you have any tips of your own for creating effective e-book covers, I'd love to hear them!

Photo by courtesy of Fotolia, used with permission.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

IM Cartel - An Intriguing New Opportunity to Profit from Kindle Publishing

I wanted to give you a heads-up today about an intriguing new initiative called IM Cartel that is currently generating a lot of buzz in online marketing circles.

IM Cartel comes from UK-based entrepreneur and Kindle publisher Ben Shaffer. Ben is building a group or "Cartel" of people who will finance the production of four Kindle e-books per week, and share the income from Amazon royalties (and back-end sales).

The entire work of commissioning authors, publishing books and promoting them will be handled by Ben and his team. IM Cartel members are welcome to lend their support as well, and of course it will be in their interests to do so. It's definitely not compulsory, though.

Royalties will be paid to Cartel members every month, with a proportion held back for reinvestment in more books. In theory, each Cartel group could have an inventory of around 200 books by the end of the first year, 400 by the end of the second, and 1000 by the end of five years. IM Cartel members will be able to have a say on the actual titles published via a Facebook group to which they will belong.

The price of a place in IM Cartel is $997 (around 580 UKP). This is a one-off fee for lifetime membership, but even so for that sort of money it's clearly not going to be for everyone.

I am seriously considering getting involved, however, and if you can raise this sort of cash without causing yourself to be financially embarrassed, I recommend that you consider it too. I don't pretend to know Ben well, but he has been around in Kindle and internet marketing circles for a number of years and is generally well regarded. I can see no reason in theory why his plan couldn't work.

Clearly, for this sort of money you will want to do some "due diligence" before getting involved, but at the very least it's worth checking out Ben's sales page for the full scoop. If you're looking to create a hands-off extra income stream for yourself with the potential to grow steadily month by month, it has to be worth a look.

Finally, I'm not kidding when I say that this launch has generated a lot of interest, so if it appeals to you, don't leave it too long before you take action. Ben says he will be closing the offer in around 36 hours to keep the numbers within reasonable bounds, and I've no reason to believe he won't stick to that. Whether it will reopen again some time in future (possibly at a higher price) I simply can't say.

If this isn't something that interests you, of course, that's fine as well. It looks promising to me, but obviously there is a degree of risk involved, so don't put in any money unless you are comfortable with that. Read the information carefully, and make your own mind up whether it makes sense for you to participate or not.

Click here for information on Rob Shaffer's IM Cartel.

Photo Credit: Adapted by the author from a photo by Mike McCune on Flickr. Published under a Creative Commons licence.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

How I Accidentally Hacked Into Someone Else's Webmail

Masks by Racchio, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Racchio 

I'm off-topic today, but I had a rather bizarre experience I thought I'd share with you. It opened my eyes to what can happen if you're at all careless about entering certain information on websites.

The story begins a couple of months ago, when I got an email from Yahoo confirming that someone had changed the password on my email account. As I hadn't done any such thing, it obviously set alarm bells ringing.

I didn't immediately recognize the Yahoo account in question, but it had my name in it, so I assumed it must be one I had set up a while ago and forgotten about. Clearly I must have created it myself, as Yahoo was sending information about it to my personal Gmail account. It looked as if someone was attempting to hack into this apparently disused account, possibly with a view to stealing my identity.

Yahoo handily included a link for me to change my password, so I followed this and changed it to something different. A confirmation email duly arrived, and I clicked on the link to confirm the change. And that was it, I assumed - security leak fixed.

Then a few weeks later, the same thing happened - a message from Yahoo stating that my password had been changed. Again, I logged in to the account via their link and chose what I assumed would be an even harder password to guess.

A few weeks later, you've guessed it, the same thing happened again. I was getting a bit spooked by now, so I decided I needed to investigate further. So I reset the password again, and this time used the information to log in to "my" Yahoo webmail.

To my surprise I found myself reading the emails of an American guy called Nick Dawson. I must admit I spent a little time reading some of them to reassure myself that he was just an ordinary guy and not engaged in anything nefarious.

I then went to the profile area of the account and the explanation became apparent. In Yahoo (and other web-based email accounts) you are required to provide one or more backup email addresses, so that the company has an alternative way of contacting you. For some reason Mr Dawson had given my Gmail address as his backup email.

Now, I don't know whether this was a typo, or whether he simply picked an email address at random (some of the other entries in his profile suggested a rather flippant attitude to such matters). But the result was that any time he changed his password, an email was sent to me with a link allowing me to change it to something else. No doubt in deepest Illinois (or wherever he was) he was tearing his hair out.

Anyway, I felt I'd wasted enough time on this by now, so I simply deleted my email address from his account and logged off. I haven't heard any more from him or Yahoo, so I'm assuming he hasn't been stupid enough to restore it.

So the moral of this story is, be VERY careful when entering backup email addresses in web-based accounts. Get this wrong, and you could be inviting a total stranger such as me to read your private emails and alter your password and other details. It's just as well for Mr Dawson that I'm not a criminal, or I could have sent compromising emails in his name to his friends and other contacts, and much more besides.
  • Have you had any similarly bizarre experiences online? I'd love to hear about them! Please post them below as usual.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

The 3 Step Process For Turning Writer's Block Into Idea Overload

Today I have a syndicated guest article for you from Ruth Barringham.

Ruth was my co-author on The Wealthy Writer, a guide to making money writing for online markets published by my blog sponsors The WCCL Network.

In her eye-opening post, Ruth suggests some simple but effective techniques for generating ideas for new writing projects...

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Wanting to write but not knowing what to write about causes instant writer's block.

It's so hard when you want to write but you have no ideas at all.

So when this happens, how do you find ideas, and, once you have them, where do you go from there?
If you want to find an abundance of ideas to write about and be able to get more any time you want, then here is an easy 3 step process for not only finding ideas but how to use them. And this process works for writing fiction and non-fiction.

Step 1. Before you can begin to find an idea for your writing, you need to know where to look. This is the easy part because all your research can be done online.

Just go online and do a Google search in places that can spark your creativity. You can start by looking through all the articles on This will give you ideas about subjects you can write about.

Another great place for research is You can not only search the book titles and back page blurbs, but also use the 'search inside' option to get even more ideas.

To help with an idea for writing fiction, you can also do a search online for art galleries and see if any of the paintings or sculptures sparks an idea.

Step 2. Keep an 'Ideas' notebook. This is a place where you record all your ideas as you get them, with the emphasis on 'when you get them.' Don't make the mistake of thinking that you'll remember an idea. You won't. So write it down. Also write down a summary of what your idea is about and everything that occurs to you at the time, because, as I've already said, you'll soon forget it all.

Step 3. Choose which idea you want to work on and flesh it out into a detailed outline of your next best seller. Just work on it bit by bit until you have a full story or enough information for a non-fiction book. Once you start writing an outline or drawing up a mind map of characters and scenes you'll have it finished faster than you think.

And then all that's left to do is write your book, which will be easy if you have a full outline to follow. You can relax into your writing knowing that the planning is done, the idea is written down and all you have to do is write it up.

It's not difficult to find ideas for writing. All you have to do is start to look.

Once you have your ideas book, you can browse through it anytime you feel stuck and need some inspiration.

Just remember to write down every idea you have and don't let any get away.

An idea is a gift. You didn't ask for it. You didn't pay for it. It was simply given to you. So treat it like a gift and use it straight away. Write it down so that you can keep it.

And if you follow this simple 3 step process, you'll turn writer's block into idea overload.

Your only problem then (if you can call it a problem), is which idea to use first?

About the Author: This article was written by Ruth Barringham, author of "Goodbye Writer's Block: How to Be a Creative Genius and Have an Abundance of Ideas Plus the Inspiration and Motivation to Write". You can find this ebook and other books for writers at the Cheriton House Publishing website as well as free audio downloads and free ebooks for writers.
Article Source:

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Thank you to Ruth for an interesting article.

I agree absolutely with her about the need for every writer to carry a notebook. Personally I have a number scattered around the house, anywhere (and I mean anywhere!) I think inspiration might strike.

It's sad but true that if you don't make a note of an idea when and where it occurs to you, in many cases you will have completely forgotten about it later.

If you have any comments about this article please do post them below, although as I am on holiday this week I may not be able to approve them immediately.

Photo by Urbanworkbench on Flickr, reproduced under a Creative Commons license.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

All aboard for the June Book Blog Train!

I am posting this as my contribution to the June 2014 Book Blog Train, a promotional initiative organized by my colleague Diana Heuser.

All of the writers taking part in the Book Blog Train are offering our books free or heavily discounted on Friday 27 June and in some cases over the weekend as well.
My own contribution is my humorous science-fiction novella The Festival on Lyris Five (pictured). This will be available free from the book's Smashwords sales page from today (Friday) until Sunday. Note that to get the book for free, you will need to add the coupon code UQ86B at the checkout.

To quote from the book's blurb: "Former Ten Stars pilot Rick Barrett is having a bad day. Not only is he jobless and broke, in a seedy spaceport bar he has been forced into a winner-takes-all poker game with a homicidal cauliflower. Salvation is at hand in the shapely form of Irish redhead Julie Halloran. Julie has a proposition for Rick that could end his financial worries - but does she also have a secret agenda of her own?"

I should maybe just mention that there is also a Kindle edition of The Festival on Lyris Five, which has the same text but illustrations as well. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to make the Kindle version free, but if you would like the fully illustrated version, it is currently set to the lowest price Amazon allows! Click here for the Amazon sales page.

Whether you download the free Smashwords version or the discounted Amazon version, a review if you enjoy my book will be very much appreciated. And the same, of course, applies with any other books you download from my fellow Book Blog Train participants.

For the benefit of BBT passengers who may be visiting my blog for the first time, I should mention that I am a professional freelance writer, editor and writing teacher, living in the English county of Staffordshire.

I am the author of over 100 books, and innumerable published articles, training materials, radio and stage plays, advertisements, e-books, games and novelty products. I am also an award-winning short-story writer, and creator of the top-selling CD guide Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

If you would like to receive my free tips, advice and news for writers, please do sign up to my E-Writer newsletter.

Check out next the blog of Eve Goodnight, who is promoting her e-book "Write Your Own Check - Your Guide to Earning Money While Becoming a Better Writer". This sounds like a title any reader of my blog should be interested in!

There are many more great e-books on free promos today as well, including two other writing guides, so please follow the links from one blog train post to the next, collecting free books as you go.

Remember, also, that if you get lost at any time, you can see the entire Book Blog Train route map at

See you at the next station!

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Time to Sign Up for JulNoWriMo 2014!

Regular readers of this blog will know all about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. This event takes place every November, and I've mentioned it most years on my blog.

JulNoWriMo is a more recent innovation, but it's also been around for a while now. It started in 2005, so this year it is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Aimed at people for whom November isn't such a good month for writing - or for whom one monthly writing marathon a year just isn't enough - JulNoWriMo is a challenge to write a complete 50,000 word novel in July. As you've doubtless worked out, the name stands for July Novel Writing Month.

JulNoWriMo isn't (yet) as big as NaNoWriMo, but it's getting more popular every year. This FAQ page is a good place to find out more. To sign up for JulNoWriMo, you simply have to visit their forum and register a username. They also have a Facebook Page and a Twitter account.

If you're looking for a challenge to kick-start your novel - and don't have too much else planned for July - JulNoWriMo could provide just the incentive you need. It is also, by the way, a great opportunity to apply the techniques taught in WCCL's Novel in a Month course, or indeed my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days (see banner ad below).

I wish you every success if you do decide to register for JulNoWriMo and write a novel in July. Please do leave a comment below if you succeed in completing the challenge!

Nick Daws Course

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