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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kids Kindle Magnets Review

Kids Kindle Magnets is a new guide to publishing illustrated Kindle e-books for children by Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum.

It's currently on offer as an instant download from JVZoo at an introductory price of just $9.99.

Although I've never really thought about writing children's books before - or perhaps for that very reason - I was intrigued enough to shell out for a copy.

Kids Kindle Magnets comes in the form of a well-produced, 37-page PDF, which includes plenty of illustrations and screengrabs, and lots of useful, practical content as well.

Really, though, that's just one part of what you receive, since the manual has links to online spreadsheets, videos, articles, and so on, which expand considerably on the information provided.

The authors start by discussing how the latest generation of e-readers such as the Kindle Fire have created this new opportunity for children's writers. While the original Kindles and their rivals only offered black-and-white and were best suited to adult fiction, the arrival of this new generation of devices has made publishing full-colour children's e-books feasible for the first time.

And it's not just a theoretical possibility either. I've copied below a chart from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) comparing children's book sales in various formats in January 2011 and 2012.

As you will see, sales of children's e-books were valued at 22.6 million dollars in January 2012. That's a substantial sum, though still less than hardback and paperback sales. But compared with January 2011, it's an increase of 475.1%.

That's a stunning rise, and suggests that very soon sales of children's e-books will overtake paperback sales (as has already happened with adult books).

So the market is undeniably there, and in the remainder of Kids Kindle Magnets Amy and Deborah describe how self-publishing authors can profit from it, even if they don't possess any artistic skills.

The guide discusses a number of different options for creating illustrations for your books, including low-cost outsourcing. It goes into some detail on the need to optimize images, since Amazon charges publishers a fee for delivery costs of larger files, which can eat into your profit margins.

The actual e-book creation process is described in depth, with various options (all free) set out. Step-by-step instructions are given, with screengrab illustrations showing what you need to do at each stage. I thought this section would be useful for all types of Kindle e-book, not just those aimed at children.

One thing I really like about Kids Kindle Magnets is that the authors use their own e-books as examples when discussing different aspects of the publishing process. For example, we discover how Deborah got one of her children's e-books listed in the "Olympics" category but why it was turned down for "Keeping Active". All very interesting!

As you would expect, the guide sets out various ways you can promote your e-book, including the KDP Select program. There are some interesting and unusual promotional ideas which I hadn't seen before and will certainly be trying out myself.

Perhaps ironically, the one thing you won't find much about in Kids Kindle Magnets is the actual writing of your book. For that, I recommend How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days by Mel McIntyre from my publishers, The WCCL Network, which I reviewed on this blog a while ago.

To be fair, though, Kids Kindle Magnets is really most concerned with picture books for very young children, and the amount of actual writing in such books is usually small. The authors do discuss the categories of children's picture book and what are the most popular, but really the emphasis is more on the practicalities of creating, publishing and marketing your book, rather than its literary qualities!

Overall, though, I thought Kids Kindle Magnets was an inspiring and informative guide, and it has certainly made me think seriously about having a go at creating Kindle e-books for this fast-growing market. For just $9.99, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can't really go very far wrong.

Disclosure: Some links in this review include my affiliate code, so if you click through and make a purchase, a proportion of the fee will go to me. This hasn't influenced my review, but you should of course complete your own due diligence and read the sales page (and this review) carefully to determine whether this product will be relevant to your needs.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

An Interview With Richard Long, Author of The Book of Paul

Today I'm pleased to bring you an interview with author Richard Long, published as part of a blog tour organized by Novel Publicity to launch his supernatural thriller, The Book of Paul.

In the interview, Richard talks about the inspiration for his book, the research he had to do for it (some quite gruesome), his use of Irish mythology and the tarot in the novel, and why he chose to self-publish.

The Book of Paul is on special offer at just 99c all this week, and all purchasers are eligible for a range of prizes, including a Kindle Fire and $300 in Amazon gift cards, as well as a free tarot reading performed by the author! For full details, please see below.

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Please enjoy this interview with Richard Long, author of the nail-biting supernatural thriller, The Book of Paul.

Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $300 in Amazon gift cards, 5 autographed copies of the book, and a look into your future through a free tarot reading performed by the author.

1. Tell us about the spark of inspiration that eventually grew into The Book of Paul.

The initial inspiration for The Book of Paul came when I wrote the first line of the first chapter called Exercises: “He practiced smiling.” I wanted to explore a character who had been so damaged by childhood trauma that he could no longer feel compassion, joy, affection, and had, accordingly, committed all kinds of horrible acts. I wondered if such a person could ever regain his emotional capacity and be redeemed by love.

2. What was the research process like for this book (which can at times deal with some pretty heady and—frankly—grotesque goings-on)? Any horror stories to share?

There are many aspects to the story, so the research was really extensive. I love doing the research almost as much as the writing, so it’s a joy for me to read and learn so many new things. The creation mythology literally goes back to square one and builds from there, tracing the history of Hermetic and Gnostic philosophy, alchemy, druidism and pagan mythology--particularly Egyptian, Greek and Celtic traditions. There’s also a strong science fiction element involving quantum physics, artificial intelligence, life extension and what’s known as The Singularity. Other lines of exploration involved Irish genealogy and what I call the pain culture: tattoos, elaborate piercings and body modifications.

I made some gruesome discoveries along the way. The most disturbing was the Extreme Body Modification website I stumbled upon, which is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen. I first saw it in the early days of the Internet, which is pretty amazing in itself. I checked recently and it’s still there, though I didn’t have the stomach to peek inside again. I’m actually as squeamish as some of my readers about certain things, which is probably why the horror comes across so vividly. If something scares the hell out of me, it’s easy for me to convey that fear and revulsion.

3. Tell us about Paul. Who is he and what is his book about?

The Book is a 4th century codex, the only one of it’s kind. How and why it was made and what it contains is one of the central mysteries of the series, so I’m not going to spill those beans. Paul is every bit as mysterious. When he is first introduced you might think he’s a serial killer involved with the occult in some way. As the story progresses you discover some really unexpected things about him. One thing is clear from the outset – he is one very nasty piece of work. I’ve always felt that any horror novel or thriller is only as good as the villain. I definitely aimed for the fences with Paul.

4. There is a strong tarot undercurrent to this novel. The protagonist even makes his living by reading the cards. Why did you decide to work it into The Book of Paul, and how does it surface throughout the course of the story?

I actually did tarot and numerology readings when I lived in the East Village many years ago. The tarot led me to a lot of dark occult explorations, which are mirrored in William’s journey. I was lucky enough to pull out of that nosedive and hop over to the Buddhist side of the fence. William is not so fortunate. The reader gets drawn into William’s world through his first person narration as he talks about becoming a collector of ancient occult manuscripts, which leads him to the tarot. Then he gradually reveals more through his journal entries, which contain the meat of the mythology and all the Hermetic and Gnostic lore. Finally, he discovers that the tarot is actually related to an apocalyptic prophecy, which Paul is determined to fulfill by any means necessary, which is very bad news for Billy.

5. At almost 500 pages, this is not a short novel. From start to finish, how long did it take you to write, revise, and ready for publication?

I’ve written over 2,000 pages for The Book of Paul and the series. The first draft of this volume was close to a thousand pages long. I cut out eight characters and their storylines in the second draft, which netted my first agent. She wanted a lower page count, so many of the narrator’s interior musings were cut. Those were actually some of my favorite sections. Then I moved to another agent and he wanted more of the mythology put back in, so it grew close to this size. After six months he hadn’t sold it, so I got sick of the whole process, wrote it the way I wanted, and published it.

6. The concept of synchronicity plays heavily in this novel. What attracts you to it, and has it proven a heavy influence in your own life?

I’ve always been a spiritual seeker. I was raised as a Catholic, but the nuns effectively beat those beliefs out of me quickly. Even as a kid, I couldn’t accept the idea of God as the big guy in the sky with the white beard. Science and mythology and my own imagination showed me all kind of possibilities. I first noticed synchronicity when the number eleven kept showing up for me all over the place--addresses, hotel rooms, etc. Someone suggested I get a book on numerology and I discovered that eleven was my “name number” and also a power number. I started noticing all kinds of things after that, coincidences that were just too weird to brush away. Then I read some Jung, and when I got into quantum physics that sealed the deal. Synchronicity for me now is the manifestation of interconnectedness in the universe. There is nothing you can perceive that isn’t connected to you. As the Buddhists say, “no separate self.”

7. Paul is... scary (we’ll leave it at that). How were you able to effectively become this deranged character, and how did you hang on to your own humanity after the fact?

I would imagine it’s much the same as when Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lecter. He was very disdainful of method actors who got all caught up in identifying with their characters. There’s a famous story about Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man. Hoffman was a method actor and he stayed up all night before their torture scene together and Olivier said something like, “Why don’t you try acting, dear boy?”

That being said, I’m not immune to being disturbed by these things. When I wrote the traumatic scenes of him and Martin--well, I cried when I wrote them and they stayed with me for days. So maybe the method is working for me too.

Paul is great to write because it’s like letting my Id out of a cage. I get to play out my most evil imaginings and nobody gets hurt. I also had to find Paul’s humanity to make him really interesting for me. I didn’t want him to be some cartoon monster. Paul is also in a lot of pain; he was traumatized as a boy and his life was changed forever. By the end of the story you get to see many other sides of him. And of course, there’s a lot more to come.

8. Irish mythology is woven into The Book of Paul, and at one point, Paul even makes a sarcastic quip about the luck of the Irish. Why Irish, and how all does its culture influence the story?

When I’m writing, I go into a daydream state where I imagine the character and what he or she looks like and where they are and what they’re doing. No outline usually. I sit back and watch and listen. If it’s great the way I imagine it, then writing the dialog is like taking dictation. When I wrote the first chapters with Paul, I was surprised because I kept hearing him speak with an Irish brogue, but his accent went in and out – sometimes really thick, sometimes a little lilt, sometimes no accent at all. So I’m thinking, what’s that about?

I come from Irish American stock, but my parents told me absolutely nothing about their parents other than to say they were cruel. So that’s the starting point with Paul. He’s the ultimate bad dad. The more I explored Paul, the deeper it led me into Celtic mythology, Irish genealogy and history. I suppose I’m trying to find the missing links of my own heritage. My grandmother was born in Ireland, so I have dual citizenship, even though I haven’t been there yet. I’m thinking I’ll go next year when I’m writing the third sequel.

9. The Book of Paul is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and in that way, it can be difficult to classify. So tell us, who is your target audience for this novel?

Given the fact that there are some rough episodes in the story, you might think that the so-called target audience would be men who are into horror, thrills and mayhem. But women actually seem to be my biggest, or at least, my most vocal fans. I’ve been getting some really enthusiastic reviews from men, but even more so from women, who surprisingly seem less squeamish than some of the male reviewers.

The Book of Paul doesn’t fit into any neat, tidy genre. It’s very complex and like you say, unlike anything I’ve read before either. There’s a Pulp Fiction element to it, with quirky characters in a seedy environment. There’s a major religious/mythological mystery for the Dan Brown crowd. It’s very funny, but incredibly poignant. It’s very disturbing, but there are lots of fast-paced action scenes. There’s romance and kinky sex. Something for everybody.

10. Why did you decide to self-publish The Book of Paul, and how has the journey been so far?

Read above. The traditional publishing industry in general is like a boxer on the ropes in the tenth round. For fiction it’s even worse. Add first-time novelist to the list and sprinkle on an unclassifiable genre for a little seasoning. I had two agents who were well known and successful, and very enthusiastic about the book. But the editors they reached wouldn’t take a chance on it. I could have kept trying, but frankly, I ran out of patience.

How has it been so far? The book is out in the world and it’s just the way I wanted it. I have complete control over everything I do, including the cover art, which is also exactly how I want it. The marketing is a lot of hard work, particularly the social marketing, which I had never done before. But that’s turned out to be a lot of fun too. I’m meeting so many great people--other authors and readers--and getting such a strong response on the book that it feels like a vindication. See? I told you so. Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Book of Paul eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $300 in Amazon gift cards, 5 autographed copies of the book, and a look into your future through a free tarot reading performed by the author.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copy of The Book of Paul for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event
About The Book of Paul: A cross-genre thriller that combines the brooding horror of Silence of the Lambs with the biting humor of Pulp Fiction. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Richard Long is the author of The Book of Paul and the forthcoming young-adult fantasy series The Dream Palace. He lives in Manhattan with his wonderful wife, two amazing children and wicked black cat, Merlin.  

Visit Richard on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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Thank you to Richard Long for an interesting interview, and to Novel Publicity for supplying the copy and illustrations (including the picture of the author, below).

If you're a blogger yourself, you might like to consider signing up as a host with Novel Publicity, to get the chance to host other tours on your blog and be eligible for free books and prizes.

As always, if you have any comments or questions, please do leave them below.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Could You Be America's Next Author?

America's Next Author is a major new writing contest that has just opened for entries.

It's free to enter and there is a $5000 grand prize. And the good news is that you don't have to live in the US or be an American citizen to enter - the contest is open to anyone, anywhere in the world.

The contest is organized by veteran eBook retailer, reseller of eBooks from some of the world's biggest publishers such as Random House, Simon & Schuster, and MacMillan.

America's Next Author describes itself as "the first social writing contest". In the email I received about it, they say:'s built around a very unique concept: all contest entries will be visible to the public and the winner will be chosen by voters and our panel of judges. Readers will be able to comment on stories, give feedback to authors, and vote for their favorites. This gives authors a great opportunity to get feedback on their work and build an online following. It's also much more fun and exciting because in regular writing contests, only the winning stories are shown and nobody else ever finds out why they didn't win.
The competition will have eight nomination rounds. Each week, the top-ranked author will be nominated for the finals. And even if a story isn't nominated, it will remain in the contest and have another chance to be nominated each week. During this process, authors can increase their chances of winning by getting everyone they know to vote for their story.

In addition to being read by the public, the contest entries will be judged by a panel of experienced professionals from the publishing industry. These judges will read entries and provide feedback to authors. They will also nominate four additional wildcard authors, adding them into the final rounds of the competition.
The first deadline for the contest is October 9th. Enter your story by this date so you have the most opportunities to be nominated, because even if your story isn't nominated one week, you get another chance each week of the competition. You can enter a story any time until November 27th, but for the reason stated it's best to enter as early as possible.

Stories must be between 2500 and 5000 words. They must be written in English, be original, and not be previously published. All fiction genres are accepted, but no poetry or nonfiction.

For more information, and to sign up, see the contest website at

Good luck, and I hope you really are America's Next Author!

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm Going Out of Print!

Well, one of my books is, anyway...

Start Your Own Home-Based Business was published last year by Lotus Publishing.

It's a guide to every aspect of starting and running a business from home. It covers everything from assessing your suitability to choosing the right business, raising finance to marketing and credit control.

For added inspiration, the book also includes over fifty home-based business profiles. It was written primarily for the UK market, and has attracted eleven reviews on Amazon UK, all either four or five stars (and not one of them written by me, lol).

The book's latest run has now almost sold out, and once it does it will then be out of print. My publishers have told me that due to adverse trading conditions they don't intend to publish another edition until things improve - which given the current economic outlook could be a very long time!

This seems a pity to me, as the book was fully revised and updated only last year and in most respects is still completely up to date. It remains highly relevant to anyone who is thinking of setting up in business from home, whether as a writer or something else. I've therefore bought up the remaining stock at my author's discount and will be selling them on myself.

The recommended price of SYOHBB is £12.99 and I see that it is today selling on Amazon at £10.90 (while stocks remain).

Obviously, I need to offer you an extra incentive to buy from me, so here's the deal. Send me a cheque or (preferably) a PayPal payment of £8.95 (UK only). You will then receive:

1. A pristine copy of the book sent post-free to your home address.
2. My signature at the front of the book, with (optionally) any inscription you wish.
3. A full-colour PDF version of the book, fully searchable, sent by email.

If you'd like to order, please write using my blog's Contact Me form. Let me know how you would like to pay, and I'll email the necessary information through to you.

Incidentally, I'm assuming this offer will be mainly of interest to people in the UK (as the book refers to UK tax laws, resources, organizations, and so on) - but if anyone overseas would like a copy, I've no objection. Please just add an extra £2 for postage, making it £10.95 inclusive.

Not only would Start Your Own Home-Based Business make a great reference resource for anyone planning on going down this route, it would also make a very nice Christmas present ;-)

Just remember, I only have a very limited stock - and when it's gone, it really will be gone for good!

Thank you, and I hope to hear from you soon if you would like a copy.

The 10 Day E-Book - New Guide Unveils All

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Kindle Renegade E-Book Cover Software

Creating cover images for e-books is always a challenge for those of us with limited graphics skills.

I include myself in that category - so when I heard about a new product called Kindle Renegade that promised to make it easy to create beautiful Kindle e-book covers in just a few minutes using a point-and-click interface, I bought it straight away.

Kindle Renegade is one of the many Kindle-related products being launched on the Warrior Forum right now. It's on offer until 27 September 2012 at a price of around $20. After that time, I understand it will only be available at a much higher price.

Kindle Renegade works online, so there is actually nothing to download. Once you have paid your fee, you are taken to the members area.

Here you can view video tutorials on using the software and launch the cover-design interface (which is WYSIWYG and looks rather like an e-book reader itself). The creators of Kindle Renegade, Dan Lew and Bertranddo, have created a video showing it an action, so I've embedded this below...

As ever, if you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog to watch the video.

Of course, the video makes it look super simple, but when you are using a new piece of software for the first time, there is always a learning curve. In particular, I am more used to working with a word processor, and at first repeatedly found myself deleting a whole text layer when all I really wanted to do was change a word!

I did get better, though, and in around twenty minutes produced the cover image below (using one of my own photos). All I have to do now is write the book!

Things I like about Kindle Renegade include its flexibility and speed (once you get used to the way it works), and the wide range of design features it offers (including banners, which I haven't quite mastered yet). It comes with 17 fonts, all attractive and potentially useful. And once you are happy with your cover image, you can export it in .jpg format at a suitable size and resolution for the Amazon Kindle store.

One drawback I found with Kindle Renegade is that you can't save projects. At one point I made the mistake of switching back to the homepage so that I could watch a tutorial again. The cover I had been working on vanished, never to return. It would be good if this functionality could be added in a future version.

There is the inevitable "One Time Offer" when you purchase. This is for an upgraded version which can produce 3D-style cover images and also has a number of extra templates. The 3D covers can't be used for Kindle books, but might be useful if you are selling e-books via ClickBank, for example. The extra templates are attractive, but would only be suitable for a limited range of titles. One tip is that if you turn down the first OTO, you will be offered exactly the same one at a somewhat lower price.

Overall, I thought Kindle Renegade offered a good solution if you are looking for a quick way to create e-covers for non-fiction books in particular, and you don't want to spend time mastering the intricacies of Photo Shop or open source alternative The Gimp.

Kindle Renegade does a similar job to Instant Kindle and E-Cover Creator, which I reviewed a while ago in this blog post. With Instant Kindle and E-Cover Creator you do still have to use Photo Shop or The Gimp, however. Kindle Renegade is a complete solution in itself, and probably quicker and more convenient to use. I do still recommend both, however!

Disclosure: Some links in this review include my affiliate code, so if you click through and make a purchase, a proportion of the fee will go to me. This hasn't influenced my review, but you should of course complete your own due diligence and read the sales page (and this review) carefully to determine whether this product will be relevant to your needs.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 is Coming Soon!

Once again, it's that time of year to start planning for NaNoWriMo.

For anyone who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's 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 256,618 people took part, with 36,843 of them achieving the 50K target by the deadline of midnight on 30 November. The numbers this year are expected to be even greater.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are always 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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Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: Killing It With Kindle

Killing It With Kindle is a new guide to Kindle publishing recently released by Kim Thomas and Benjamin Norman.

It has been widely promoted online and has been receiving some excellent reviews, so I thought I'd buy a copy myself and see what I thought.

Killing It With Kindle is currently available as a low-price Warrior Forum Special Offer (WSO). You get a number of items for your money...

1. The main 53-page PDF guide.
2. Five videos titled Research, Content, Chapters and Formatting, Publish Your Book, and Sell Your Book
3. A PDF resources guide
4. A Kindle book template in Word format

I thought the PDF manual was well written and presented. There are plenty of screengrab illustrations, which always helps!

The manual is divided into eleven chapters and takes you from setting up an account with Kindle Direct Publishing, through researching and writing (or outsourcing) your book, to publishing and promoting it.

As a published Kindle author (and creator of the Kindle Kash course) myself, much of the advice was obviously familiar to me. I did get a lot of new ideas from it as well, though, especially methods for researching potentially profitable niches.

There is also a useful chapter on how to use KDP Select to boost your book's profile. For those who may not know, KDP Select allows authors to make their e-books available for lending to US Amazon Prime members. Authors receive a payment from Amazon every time their book is borrowed under this scheme, and also enjoy other benefits (as explained in this blog post a few months ago). I was interested to read about the strategy Kim and Benjamin are using to make the most of KDP Select, and very impressed with the results they are achieving.

Other topics about which I took notes included the advice on outsourcing, using (multiple) pen names, getting your book reviewed, and the 'piggyback method' for choosing pen names and book titles. I can see that the latter could be an effective way to capitalize on the success of other authors, though some might regard it as a bit unethical. Still, many writers are using it successfully, and it's certainly well worth knowing about.

The videos cover similar ground to the manual, so if you prefer learning this way they are a good option to have. They are quite detailed and long (typically 20 to 30 minutes). One small criticism is that on my computer the volume was very low, so I had to turn the volume on my speakers almost up to the maximum to hear the commentary. It might be different on your computer, so check first before you do this!

The resource list and Word template are nice additions. Using the Word template in conjunction with the advice in the manual should get your book formatted and ready to upload via the KDP website in double-quick time (with no other software required).

At certain points both the videos and the manual say that non-US authors can expect to have 30 percent of their income withheld for tax by Amazon. I would just comment that this should not be the case if you live in a country that has a tax treaty with the US - please see my recent blog post on this subject. You don't want to be handing 30% of your money to the IRS if you don't need to!

Overall, I think Killing It With Kindle is a great value guide for anyone interested in publishing to this platform. Inevitably it's not as detailed in some areas as my own Kindle Kash (which I still highly recommend, of course!) but there are lots of great ideas and resources here you can use.

It's also bang up to date, and the fact that one of its authors (Benjamin Norman) is earning a residual income of $10,000 a month from his Kindle books has to be a strong recommendation in itself.

My advice is to buy Killing It With Kindle while it's still on special offer via the Warrior Forum.

Photo Credit: Kindle and Coffee by preetamrai on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence

Disclosure: The links to Killing It With Kindle in this review include my affiliate code, so if you click through and make a purchase, a proportion of the fee will go to me. This hasn't influenced my review in any way, but you should of course complete your own due diligence and read the sales page (and this review) carefully to determine whether this product will be relevant to your needs.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Interview with Sheryl Steines, Author of She Wulf

Today I'm pleased to bring you an interview with author Sheryl Steines, published as part of a blog tour organized by Novel Publicity to launch her urban fantasy She Wulf.

In the interview, Sheryl talks about how she writes, her favourite authors, and how she finishes a chapter when she just can't get it right!

She Wulf is on special offer at just 99c all this week together with companion novel The Day of First Sun. All purchasers are eligible for a range of prizes, including a Kindle Fire and $550 worth of Amazon gift cards. For full details, please see below.

* * *

Please enjoy this interview with Sheryl Steines, author of the action-packed urban fantasy, She Wulf. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, 5 autographed copies of She Wulf, and 5 copies of its companion, The Day of First Sun.

1. When you start a book do you know how it will end or do you create the ending as you go along?

I have a rough idea of what the book will be about and I have some scene ideas and a rough ending.

When I wrote The Day of First Sun, I knew that a high profile, non-magical person was going to be murdered by magic. I wrote out a paragraph of things that I wanted to see in the story and began writing. I didn't look at the paragraph again until after the book was published and realized that I didn't keep to my original thoughts at all.

I tend to work without an outline because I feel tied to the story as if I'm trying to make everything fit. I prefer to let it flow and change. I like the freedom and the discovery. Sometimes I'm wildly surprised.

2. Do your book characters ever visit you in your dreams?

Yes and no. Not as much when I'm sleeping, but I daydream about them all the time. It's how I work out characters and storylines. It's almost as if a movie is playing in my head and I can change and add to storylines.

3. What are your favorite authors as either an adult or a child?

When I was a kid, I loved Nancy Drew. I read every one of them, but I didn't just want to read them, I wished I had wrote them and started to write my own detective stories when I was seven. As I grew older, I read Judy Blume and Stephen King. Both made me feel something and from that I wanted to keep writing. I still read Stephen King and was very inspired by his autobiography On Writing. It was J.K. Rowling though, that reminded me of what I loved to read and that's what inspired me to write my own fantasy novel.

4. How do you go about finishing a chapter when you can't get it right?

I skip it…Just kidding. No, actually I'm not. Sometimes, I make a note in all caps reminding me I haven't finished the chapter and other notes that I might be thinking about for the chapter and start the next one. Sometimes you just need to move on. The answer will eventually hit you upside the head when you least expect it.

5. Describe your reaction when you saw and held your first book?

I think I was numb when The Day of First Sun was published. Almost as if I had only done it to satisfy a selfish desire. It didn't seem real. It was when I held She Wulf in my hands for the first time that I was overcome with emotion. This book consumed me for so long and I was so amazed by the final product and it seemed more than just a fantasy.

6. What is your biggest achievement to date?

Writing my first book. I always wanted to and never gave myself the opportunity. One day I decided it was time. It changed my life, gave me confidence. I lost the extra baby weight, changed my wardrobe, straightened my hair and gave my girls a role model, an example of taking control of one's life and being the best person you can be.

7. What's your favorite color?

Pink. I’ve always been a girly girl. As much as I'd like to be a sporty girl, I'm just not. It’s all about the pink, purses and shoes.

8. Favorite sound?

I love the sound of rain on the roof. Not during the sunlight hours, but early in the morning when it's still dark out. I snuggle under the covers. It makes me happy.

9. If you weren't a writer, what would you be?

An interior decorator. I love being creative and crafty and picking paint colors and getting lost in a fabric store. It's almost as good as getting lost in a bookstore.

10. Worst fear?

I fear the alligators under the bed. Since I was a kid I can't sleep without something covering my feet in case they come and get me. Don't laugh, Stephen King admitted the same thing in an interview once.

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the She Wulf eBook edition is just 99 cents this week--and so is the price of its companion, The Day of First Sun. What's more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copy of She Wulf for just 99 cents
  2. Purchase your copy of Day of First Sun for just 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  4. Visit today’s featured social media event
About She Wulf: Annie is sent through an ancient time portal with only a prophecy to guide her; she struggles with a new destiny as she tries to figure out a way to destroy an un-killable demon and return home. Get it on Amazon.

About The Day of First Sun: A vampire, a rogue wizard and an army of soulless zombies are par for the course for Annie Pearce and Bobby “Cham” Chamsky of the Wizard’s Guard. But when the non-magical princess, Amelie of Amborix, is murdered by magical means, a deeper plot unfolds. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Behind the wheel of her '66 Mustang Convertible, Sheryl is a constant surprise, using her sense of humor and relatable style make her books something everyone can enjoy. Visit Sheryl on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

* * *

Thank you to Sheryl Steines for an interesting interview, and to Novel Publicity for supplying the copy and illustrations (including the picture of the author, below).

If you're a blogger yourself, you might like to consider signing up as a host with Novel Publicity, to get the chance to host other tours on your blog and be eligible for free books and prizes.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions, please do leave them below.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Writers: Should You Work With a Collaborator?

Periodically I get asked my opinion about writers working collaboratively.

It's a topic that interests me, so I thought I'd set out some of my views here.

In principle, I like the idea of working with a collaborator. Writing can be a lonely business, so the prospect of working with someone else is attractive for the human contact aspect alone.

Plus you have someone else to bounce ideas off (many of the most successful comedy writers work in duos and I'm sure this is part of the reason). And, not least, having a collaborator means that they will do some of the work instead of you!

Of course, there are drawbacks to working with collaborators too. If you don't get on with your partner or constantly disagree with them, the savings in time and effort may evaporate. Instead of being entirely free to pursue your own artistic vision, you may sometimes have to compromise. And any payments resulting from your labours will have to be shared with your partner instead of all going into your own pocket.

I have worked with writing partners on various occasions over the years (and am still open to the idea if the right project comes up!). The person I've worked with most often is my old friend, the poet and performer Simon Pitt.

One of our first collaborations was a satirical sketch show called The Naked Apricot (a skit on the book by Dr Desmond Morris "The Naked Ape"). This was performed by a local amateur theatre company, and in financial terms anyway was their most successful show ever (admittedly, it probably helped that we didn't get paid a fee for it!).

More recently I collaborated with Simon on a couple of non-fiction books: Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching and How to Invite Any Writer, Artist or Performer Into Your School (currently out of print).

The way Simon and I work is to take a project, divide it into chapters or sections, and then allocate each of these to one of us or the other. When we have completed our assigned chapters, we pass them over to the other one to read, edit and add his own input. In addition, I tend to handle the IT-related aspects, as I'm sure Simon would agree that this is not his strongest suit.

One thing we don't do (or at least hardly ever) is sit down together and go through our draft manuscripts line by line, word by word. Apart from being horribly time consuming, I could imagine this putting our friendship under strain. In my experience anyway, it's easier to accept (and give) criticism in the form of a quick note rather than face to face.

My number one advice to anyone thinking of working with a collaborator is to agree how you will work together first. If your collaborator expects you to sit down and write together while you prefer to work alone and just meet for planning, marketing and so on, it's doubtful whether the partnership will succeed.

Likewise, it's important to discuss the proposed topic of your book, screenplay or whatever in detail, to ensure you don't have totally different perspectives on it. That's not to say you have to agree in advance on every point, but unless you have certain basic assumptions in common, the writing process is likely to become a test of endurance. This applies especially in fiction-writing projects.

One other important consideration is how much each person can contribute to the project. This is partly a matter of time, and partly one of skills and expertise.

Clearly, if one person has more time available for the project than the other, this could be a problem if the ultimate rewards are to be divided 50:50. You could, of course, agree a different division of the returns, but this really needs to be discussed beforehand and agreed by both partners. Attempting to negotiate a change mid-project if you think your partner isn't pulling their weight is not an attractive prospect for either party.

As regards skills/expertise, I've sometimes turned down offers of collaboration when I couldn't see what particular contribution I would be able to make to the project - how I could "add value" to it, in other words.

I think it's important to know how your skills and expertise are going to mesh with your writing partner, and what input each of you expects from the other. Ideally there will be a synergy when you have complementary skills and expertise. But if one partner doesn't have any distinctive contribution they can make, the project is unlikely to survive through to completion.

Finally, if you do decide to go ahead, it's worth looking into the growing range of online resources that can facilitate working collaboratively.

One tool I have used quite a bit is Google Docs. As you probably know, this lets you publish documents on the web where they can be viewed and, if you allow it, edited by other selected individuals (i.e. your writing partner/s).

This means it is feasible to work collaboratively with people in other countries and even other continents. I used Google Docs when planning and writing The Wealthy Writer, the downloadable course on making money writing for online markets I co-wrote with Ruth Barringham, who lives in Australia.

So what are your thoughts on collaboration? Do you actively seek out writing partners, or does the idea fill you with horror? I'd love to hear your views and experiences!

Note: This post is an updated version of one first published on this blog in 2007. 

Photo credit: Bird's Eye View by Marfis75 on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 Generic Licence.

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