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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why Amazon Authors Should be Promoting Like Gangbusters Right Now!

If you're reading this blog, it's quite likely you have a book or e-book on Amazon.

If that's the case, you should be promoting it extra vigorously right now. And, specifically, you should be promoting it as an Amazon Associate (as Amazon calls its affiliates).

There are various reasons why promoting your book as an Amazon Associate is a good idea. The obvious one is that any sales generated via your link will attract commission from Amazon. Assuming you're earning royalties on sales as well, in effect that means you'll be getting paid twice over for every sale.

But there's another particular reason to promote extra hard via Amazon just now, and that's because you will receive commission from Amazon for ALL purchases made by a customer who visits the store via your link. And at this time of the year, in the run-up to Christmas and Hanukkah, many people are buying multiple items as gifts. If they do some or all of their gift shopping via your link, you will earn multiple commissions.

Admittedly, Amazon doesn't pay a fortune to Associates. Commission starts at just 5 percent, and rises under their Performance Fee structure to a maximum of 8.5 percent in most categories. Even so, if someone spends a lot of money on a visit (and it happens at this time of year) the returns to you as the referrer can be substantial. Darren Rowse (aka Problogger) regularly lists surprising products people have bought from Amazon on visits via his links. Here's one eye-opening list he posted a while ago.

If you're not an Amazon Associate already, you can easily join by scrolling down to the foot of the Amazon homepage, clicking on Associates Program, and following the instructions to sign up. Note that you will need to join each national store's Associates Program separately to promote there.

Once you're in, Amazon have a huge range of banners and widgets you can use on your blog or website. They include, of course, simple image ads such as the one below for my home-based business book on Amazon UK...

You can also have all manner of other widgets, including slideshows, word clouds, best deals boxes, and Omakase (self-optimizing displays which automatically detect what a page is about and show ads related to this). Here's an example of a 'best deals' widget (optimized for e-book readers and accessories)...

You can even have an Amazon search box, such as the one below. This allows your website visitors to search the whole of the Amazon store concerned - and again, if they make any purchases, you will be credited with the commission.

Note that if you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog to see the sample ads and widgets.

Of course, it's possible that all you want is a simple text link. Oddly enough, this isn't as straightforward as you might think with Amazon. My own approach is to find the affiliate links page for the book or other product I want to promote, and select 'text link' from the options available. You will then be presented with some HTML which will display your text link in a pre-formatted, Amazon-approved style. As I don't necessarily want this, I normally extract the URL from the code, and use this to create my own links. So the 'barebones' URL for the link to my home-based business book looks like this:

I would then build this into my own text link. I'm not sure why Amazon doesn't simply provide this code as an option, but the method above works perfectly well for me, and I still get credited with commission as usual.

Good luck on Amazon, and I hope you sell lots of book, e-books and more expensive items as the festive season approaches!

Postscript: Just checked my own Amazon UK stats, and among the sales generated via my affiliate links recently, I found two Blue Banana Slinky Black Wrap Dresses. Not only was I gratified by the commission, it also conjured up quite a pleasing image in my mind. Sometimes it's the little things like this that keep you going as a solo freelance ;-)

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Easy Way to Make a Video Book Trailer

I recently read a blog post by my colleague - and regular guest poster on this blog - David Robinson, explaining how he created a video trailer for his new murder mystery, A Halloween Homicide.

The approach David took is one any writer could adopt, even if they have limited videographic or technical skills. As he explains in his blog post about creating the trailer...

Turns out, it’s not as difficult as I thought. Using my latest release, A Halloween Homicide, I took the blurbs for the book and developed the captions from it. Then I selected a range of photographs to go with them, and set to work with Windows Movie Maker.

Choosing the soundtrack and then marrying the frame changes to match it was the hardest part, and all up it took me a full day, but the results, while not spectacular, are pleasing...

As indeed they are. Here is the actual trailer, so that you can see it for yourself...

If you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog to see the embedded video.

Windows Movie Maker is a free program provided on most Windows computers. You can also download the similar Windows Live Movie Maker free of charge.

If you've never used Movie Maker before, it may take an hour or so to get to grips with it, but really it's a very simple and intuitive program. I've used it myself for editing home movies, but not for book trailers (yet). Obviously, you don't get all the bells and whistles of professional movie-editing software, but for simply putting a quick trailer together, it's more than adequate (as David's example proves).

I look forward to hearing how successful the trailer turns out to be for David in generating interest in A Halloween Homicide. And I hope to persuade him to return in a few weeks' time with a guest post discussing the results he has obtained.

So have you tried creating your own book trailer, and did you use Windows Movie Maker or some other program? Please leave any comments below, including a link to your own trailer if available.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Free Stuff Everyday

Free Stuff Everyday by Mike EssexToday I'm reviewing a print book I know well, as I copy edited it on behalf of the publisher :-)

Free Stuff Everyday by Mike Essex (aka 'Freebieman') reveals how anyone can get free products or services from companies. Don't worry, though, it's all legit and above board!

The approach Mike advocates doesn't involve trying to trick or defraud businesses, but rather seeking out mutually beneficial ways you can work with them. In exchange for giving you a free product or service, for example, a company might receive free publicity and/or valuable consumer feedback.

You don't need to be especially pushy, either. Mike sets out a wide range of possible approaches, and most don't require 'the gift of the gab' or even any particular self-confidence (one such possibility, which Mike himself has done, is creating a product-review blog).

I did, however, like the idea of creating a more extravert 'persona' for some of the more outward-facing methods, a technique Mike discusses in Chapter 7.

There are plenty of examples throughout the book, based on Mike's personal experiences. He talks about the different 'unique offers' you can make, the different types of organization you can approach, and the different methods you can use to contact them. There truly is something here for everyone.

The book concludes with a 30-Day Challenge, which is pretty much guaranteed to bring you a steady stream of freebies in whatever niche you favor.

Overall, I was very impressed with Free Stuff Everyday. It's a concise (128 page), practical guide, which contains all the advice and guidance you need to begin a lucrative and enjoyable freebie-seeking sideline.

It would, incidentally, also make eye-opening reading for businesses and PR agencies, by showing the many benefits they can accrue through partnering with selected individuals in this way.

Free Stuff Everyday would be especially relevant to someone with an expensive hobby or interest, who might welcome some help in kind to defray their costs (as well as gaining access to all the latest kit, perhaps even before it is officially released). Anyone, however, could benefit from applying the techniques in the book (most of which would, by the way, work anywhere in the world).

Any criticisms? Not really. This is a no-fluff guide, so you won't find many illustrations, and just a single diagram. This is a straightforward, practical manual, that sticks to telling you what you need to know as directly and concisely as possible.

In my view, at its low Amazon price, Free Stuff Everyday is a bargain. You would only need to 'blag' a single item using any of the (many) approaches Mike suggests to be well in profit. Highly recommended for anyone looking to make their paycheck last a little longer every month!

Want to win a free copy of Free Stuff Everyday? Just enter a comment below. The winner will be drawn at random from all comments received by 9 am BST (British Summer Time) on Monday, October 24. And yes, this contest is open to anyone in the world!
And the winner (chosen via is James, who posted, 'I would love to get free stuff everyday Nick - and the book? ;-).'

Congratulations to James, and commiserations to those who didn't win this time. Thank you all for entering, and you can of course still buy Free Stuff Everyday from Amazon UK at its very reasonable asking price.

I will be writing separately to James to arrange to send him his prize.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Get Inspired by NaNoWriMo 2011!

NaNoWriMo 2011For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.

It is a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month, and it comes around every November.

From humble beginnings in 1999, when there were just 21 participants, NaNoWriMo has grown into a world-wide phenomenon. Last year 200,530 people took part, and the numbers this year are expected to be even greater.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are welcome), and no prizes either. Essentially, it is a challenge to help you write that novel you had always meant to write but keep putting off.

By registering with NaNoWriMo, you are joining a world-wide community of writers who are all seeking to achieve the same end, and are thus able to encourage and support one another.

This year a number of members of my forum at have registered for NaNoWriMo already, and more will no doubt follow. If you are looking for some 'buddies' to share notes and compare progress with, check out this forum topic.

Although there are no prizes for completing a novel for NaNoWriMo, if you do (and you have to prove it by uploading your work to the NaNoWriMo site), you will be able to download an official 'Winner' web badge and a PDF Winner's Certificate, which you can print out.

And, of course, you will have the first draft of a novel you should be able to polish and submit for possible publication.

There are lots of useful resources on the NaNoWriMo website, including wordcount widgets, web badges, flyers for downloading, motivational articles, and much more. There is also a busy forum where you can compare notes with other participants.

NaNoWriMo 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.

I'd like to wish you the very best of luck if you do decide to register for NaNoWriMo. Please let me know if you succeed in completing the challenge!

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Monday, October 10, 2011

MWC Olymp-inks - The Winners!

MWC Olymp-inks
The MWC Olymp-inks is now over, so here is a complete list of winners (forum IDs only).

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't know, the MWC Olymp-inks was a set of writing-related events run on my forum at last week, open to all members to enter.

Prose Marathon
Winner: AndrewF
Prize: Kindle Kash from WCCL

Poetry Marathon
Winner: 510bhan
Prize: Writer’s Block CD from WCCL

250 Word Sprint
Winner: Comeonpowerball
Prize: Running Scared by John Craggs (Gyppo) and a choice of any one of MWC charity publications.

Poetry triathlon
Winner: 510bhan
Prize: The 10-Day E-Book from WCCL

Torch campaign
Winner: Chrissie
Prize: Write Any Book in Under 28 Days from WCCL

Rhythmic gymnastics
Winner: DGSquared
Prize: Infinite Realities by R.L. Copple

Dialogue sprint
Winner: Mark
Prize: How to Write a Children’s Book from WCCL

100 word dash
Winner: Don
Prize: Rogues of the Red Barren Bar and Rascals of the Red Barren Bar (both e-books)

Winner by correct answers: Annmarie
Prize: Essential English for Authors

Speed round with penalties of 5 points for incorrect answers
Winner: Bluemooncafe
Prize: A Hamper of Havoc by John Craggs (Gyppo) and a choice of the MWC charity publications.

Limerick Relay
Winners: Mark and Chrissie
Prizes: The Festival on Lyris Five e-book by Nick Daws (2 copies)

Winners: Mark and Chrissie
Prizes: Two WCCL $10 vouchers or overseas equivalent.

Photo finish
Winner: Boshman
Prize: The Flying Ferret by John Craggs (Gyppo)

Caption contest
Winner: Comeonpowerball
Prize: Bristle Side Down by Mark Hoffman

Bonus Game
Winners: Mark and Chrissie
Prize: 20 UK pounds between team

The Victor Ludorum Award
Winners: 510bhan and Chrissie
Prize: The Brain Evolution System from Inspire3.

The Victor Ludorum Prize was actually a dead heat between 510bhan and Chrissie, but because we only had one prize, Sio very generously waived any claim to it - so the copy of The Brain Evolution System went to Chrissie. Congratulations to both of them, and many thanks to Sio for helping get us out of an awkward dilemma!

For more info about winners and runners-up, including the final points board for the Victor Ludorum Award, please see this topic on the forum.

Congratulations to all our winners, and thank you to everyone who took part, whether as a competitor, judge, marshal or forwarder. We couldn't have done it without you!

And a very big thank you indeed to the redoubtable Mairi Angus (Ma100) for organizing and running the whole shebang!

Winners of all prizes should receive them soon - please keep watching your email inbox. If you haven't heard anything by the end of this week, please get in touch with me or Mairi.

One last thought is that if you won a prize, it would be appreciated if in due course you could review it and/or send a testimonial. Our sponsors have been extremely generous with prizes, and it would be nice to return the favour wherever possible.

In view of its popularity and the almost universally positive feedback received, we hope to repeat the MWC Olymp-inks again next year.

Photo credit: wickedrice on Flickr.

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Three New Flash Fiction Contests

flash fiction contests
Flash fiction contests seem to be very popular right now, so here are details of three I've heard about in the last week or so.

Incidentally, the term flash fiction is typically used for short stories of under 1000 words, although often the word limit is set much lower than this.

1. Miranda Dickinson Flash Fiction Contest

This contest for aspiring novelists, from the HarperCollins Authonomy website, invites you to create a 416-word story, beginning with the words, 'It started with a kiss'.

The contest is being held to celebrate the release of the third novel 'It Started With a Kiss' by UK romantic fiction author Miranda Dickinson. A near-neighbour of mine, Miranda was originally 'discovered' via the Authonomy site, and is now one of HarperCollins' star authors.

The winning entrant will be invited to submit the first 20,000 words of their novel manuscript (which need not be related to the contest story) to be reviewed by Miranda’s own editor. They, alongside four runners up, will also receive a signed copy of Miranda’s new novel, publishing November 10 2011. The contest is open world-wide. The closing date is 16 October 2011, so you'd better get writing now!

Incidentally, some of you may know Miranda as WurdSmyth on my forum at It's great (and inspiring) to see how successful she has become in the last two or three years.

2. Reader's Digest UK 100-Word Short Story Contest

This contest for stories of exactly 100 words has a top prize of 1,000 UK pounds - a pretty good rate per word! It's open to UK and Irish writers only - sorry if that doesn't apply to you.

There are three categories: one for adults, and two schools’ categories: one for children aged 12 to 18, and one for children under 12. In the adult category, the entry voted best by the panel of judges will receive £1,000, and two runners-up will receive £100 in book tokens. In each of the school categories, the prize for the winner is £500 of high-street vouchers of their choice, and £500 for their school. Winning entries will be published in a future issue of Reader's Digest.

The closing date is January 31, 2012, and entries have to be submitted by email.

3. LWC Flash Fiction Slam 2011 (scroll down a bit to reach the relevant item!)

The Limerick Writers' Centre is running its second international flash fiction contest this month.

This year, writers are being asked to submit pieces of up to 500 words (not including title), with the prompt being '2011'. They say that the stories could be about anything: '2011 could be number or a year. The pieces must be stories with a beginning, a middle and an end - not poetry or vignettes.'

Entries must be submitted by email by the closing date of 30 October 2011. A short-list of 10 entries will be announced on or around 15 November. Each shortlisted entrant will have the opportunity to read their piece (or have it read by an actor) at the 2nd Annual LWC Flash Fiction Slam in December 2011. On the night, there will be a small prize selected by the judges and a small prize voted on by the audience.

Good luck if you decide to enter any of these flash-fiction contests. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

Photo Credit: CG Lightning Strike by Axel Rouvin on Flickr.

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Monday, October 03, 2011

Ten Things You Need to Know about Self-Publishing

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post submitted by Corinne Reidy, who works for Web Design Schools Guide.

Corinne has some great tips for any authors who are thinking of self-publishing niche books (as advocated in my guides Kindle Kash and The 10-Day E-Book).

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Today's authors have started to catch on to the fact that they no longer have to depend on and pay a third-party publisher to do the work that they can do themselves by self-publishing.

Self-publishing is no piece of cake, but these books have all the potential to be best sellers and major moneymakers, just like their commercially-published counterparts.

Whether you're sold on having endless artistic freedom or complete control over your work, self-publishing is a rewarding task and a terrific option for authors who are willing to put in the extra effort. Here are 10 things you need to know about self-publishing:

  1. You Need to Pick a Niche: It's important to pick a well-defined niche for your book, to guide you during the writing process and help determine your target audience. Niche books tend to do best, so it's generally a good idea to write what about what you know and steer away from personal journals, emotional rants or niche topics that no one has heard of. Also, think about what your audience wants to read and what's missing from your chosen niche. Once you determine this important information, you can better address the needs of your readers and niche market, as well as make a name for yourself.
  2. Study Your Competition: Before you self-publish, it's important to study, analyze and keep up with your competition. If you haven't picked a niche for your book yet, but have a couple genres in mind, start your investigation by looking closely at these types of books and authors to compare and contrast. If you do your homework and stay on top of your competitors' latest works, you'll be able to bring something fresh and new to the table and hopefully stand out from the others.
  3. You Are Your Own Editor: It's important to remember that self-published authors are on their own for editing, unless you hire a professional editor, which can get expensive, fast. Proofreading and revising your own work is all part of the self-publishing process and is necessary to maintain full creative control of your book. If you're taking the self-editing challenge, be sure to utilize the numerous editing resources available online, and try to get a second set of eyes to take a look.
  4. Make Your Title Memorable: In order to stand out among the rest, you've got to make your book title unique and memorable. This is true for any book - self-published or not. A short, clever title is always preferable, but it should still be clear and relevant to your book.
  5. Self-Publishing Includes Self-Promotion: If you don't have a publishing company and literary agent to market your book for you, you'd better be ready to do it yourself. Self-published authors have to put themselves out there and take an aggressive approach to marketing if they actually want to sell their books. This includes promoting the book online, organizing book signings and sending complimentary review copies to newspapers and magazines. Essentially, you should eat, sleep and breathe your book so others will care about it as much as you.
  6. Praise and Criticism Should Happen Naturally: As tempting as it is to ask friends and family to write positive reviews for you, whether they've read your book or not, authors should overcome this urge and let praise and criticism happen naturally. Fake or forced reviews are easy to spot, and it won't help your image one bit. So, sit back and let unbiased readers praise your work or rip it to shreds. After all, isn't criticism better than no attention at all?
  7. A Literary Agent Isn't Necessary: As much help as literary agents can be, they aren't necessary for selling good books. If you're dead set on self-publishing and reaping the benefits on your own, you probably don't have much need or desire for a literary agent who works in mainstream publishing. Having an agent often defeats the purpose and personal benefits of self-publishing, because you'll no longer have 100 percent control over your work.
  8. Self-Published Authors Can Still Win Awards: Forget what you've heard before - self-published authors can win awards too! Every year, there are several writing contests to enter and awards to be given for superb self-published work, including short stories, fiction, nonfiction, poetry and many other genres. Credibility, a strong readership and strategic marketing will help you achieve your goals and reach the award-winning level.
  9. Know Your Audience: An essential part of writing and successful self-publishing is knowing your audience. Since self-published books generally cater to a smaller niche market, you have to consider your audience from the project's conception, publication and marketing stages. One way of knowing your audience is to study the demographics, interests and needs of readers within your chosen niche. If you've self-published work in the past, get in touch with your readers and deeply consider their comments, concerns and questions when writing your new book.
  10. Send Out Review Copies: One of the best ways to establish credibility and garner attention for your hard work is to send out review copies to as many people and publications as possible. If your budget allows it, you can snail mail printed complimentary review copies of your book to newspaper, magazine and journal reviewers, as well as publishing companies, bookstores and anyone who sparks an interest in your writing.

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Thank you to Corinne for some excellent advice on self-publishing. Do check out the links to other interesting articles from this post as well.

Although these tips are mainly directed at writers of niche non-fiction, many would apply equally to fiction writers.

If you have any comments on this article, as ever, please feel free to post them below!

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