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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

14 Simple Steps To Ensure Success With Your Writing for the Next 12 Months

Today I have a syndicated guest post for you by my co-author on The Wealthy Writer course, Ruth Barringham.

In her post below, Ruth sets out twelve pieces of excellent advice to get your freelance writing career on track for the year ahead.

Ruth is a prolific and inspirational writer/publisher, and I always enjoy and gain something useful from her articles. This one is no exception...

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Unless you’re planning on not writing any more in the next 12 months, now is the time to set yourself up for success for not just next year, but the next 5 or even the next 10.

Give me just five minutes of your time and I’ll show you the 14 steps you need to take to achieve all your writing dreams in the year ahead.

1. A business plan. Now while this may sound boring, it's not. If you're a writer, sitting down and writing out how you see your writing career really taking off in the coming 12 months can be really inspiring.

Just sit down with a pad and pen and imagine where you want your writing career/business to be in one year's time.

Be as bold as you want. Do you want to make $100,000 in e-book sales? Or how about $200,000? Or maybe you want to earn enough money to hire an assistant and a book-cover designer and an editor?

Think of where you want to be with your writing in 10 years. Then work it back to 5 years. From there, work out what you need to be doing in the next 12 months to get it started.

2. Manage your time. If you're like most writers, not only are you the writer, you're also an editor, proofreader, bookkeeper and stationery supply manager.

So it's important to make a written time map to see where you are spending most of your time.

Tracking your time can be a real eye opener and will help you to see where you're wasting time on unimportant tasks.

It will also help you to see how you can prioritize better and spend more time on things that are more important.

As a writer, at least 80% of your time should be spent writing.

3. Decide what's important. Once your time can be better managed, because you have a clearer picture of where you're wasting time, you then need to make a list of what is really important to move your business forward and which tasks are simply unproductive busywork.

It may be that you need to spend less time online or that you need to allocate certain hours or times of day (or certain days) to complete mundane jobs like bookkeeping or answering e-mail.

Put the urgent tasks to the top of your to-do list, but only if they're important.

4. Outsource. Once you've had a long hard look at your time management and you've figured out where you're going wrong, see if there's anything you can outsource.

It may be that book cover designing takes you far too long. So it would be better to pay someone else to do it so that you can get on with your writing.

5. Pretend to hire staff. If you wear a lot of different "hats" every day (bookkeeper, cover designer, web page designer, editor, etc) try this simple, yet effective trick.

Write out a job description for each of these roles. Write it as though you’re actually planning to use it to hire someone to do the work. Include their duties and how many hours a week they'll be working.

Then use this list to understand what you need to do in these roles yourself and see how much (or how little) time you really need to accomplish each one.

And when you eventually do want to hire someone, you'll have a job description ready.

6. Work out a marketing schedule. Now you know exactly what you need to do and when, you’re going to be a writing and publishing dynamo. So the next thing you need to plan is a marketing schedule.

Map out how you’re going to market yourself, and have an ongoing plan of action.

Marketing only works if it's consistent. You have to figure out how you're going to keep putting yourself in front of new and existing audiences for one whole year.

7. Optimizing your website. Is your website fulfilling its purpose? Do you know what you are actually trying to achieve with your website?

If you can afford it, having an SEO professional audit your site can be a real eye-opener as to why your website is or isn’t performing well.

If you can't afford to hire a professional, look at other websites in your niche and see what keywords they’re using and how they present their information.

8. Update your business. What products do you use to run your business? Is it time to buy new software or to automate or delegate certain tasks?

Look at how you run your business and see if there are things you can buy to help grease your daily workflow. Simplify your productive time by having the right software and systems that will save you time and frustration.

9. Read more. If your mind doesn't grow, it stagnates. And in the online world, things change rapidly, so you need to keep up to date with the business world you live in.

But don't read too tightly in your niche. If you're a writer, read technology sites and newsletters, hang around readers forums, know what celebrities are up to.

Reading more broadly helps you to be more creative and have more ideas, and makes it easier to keep track of what you need to know.

10. Check your social media habits. If not done correctly, social media can be a real time vampire. If you blindly spend time on social media without a clear objective, you're wasting your time.

Create a plan of what you want to achieve with social media and how you're going to implement it.
And then monitor and measure what you do to make sure it's working. And if it's not, see what needs to change.

11. Learn something new. In life, if you're not growing, you're dying. So make sure you're always learning. And learn something big...
  • Learn how to market more effectively.
  • Learn and implement better time-management strategies.
  • Learn SEO.
  • Learn how to write HTML code or CSS.
  • Take a writing course.
  • Learn how to use book cover creating software.

12. Plan more learning. It's not only the big stuff you need to learn. You can plan out a whole year’s worth of seminars you want to attend, audios you want to listen to, and writing courses you want to take.

How about planning one every month?

Think one a month is too much? It’s not if you’re really serious about your writing success.

13. Write for print magazines. There are thousands of opportunities to write for print magazines. Find a good list of writing opportunities and start sending in queries.

Just remember that magazine editors plan their content 6 to 9 months ahead. So if you want to write a seasonal piece for their Christmas issue, send it in before June.

Writing for magazines really helps because it brings in money quickly, and listing all the places you've been published looks great on your resume.

And if you're good, it can turn into regular work.

14. Collect emotions and memories. This really helps when you're writing for magazines. It’s hard to write about a snowy Christmas Eve in the middle of summer. And it's just as difficult to write about hot summer days when a snow blizzard is beating against your window.

So at seasonal times and events, keep a written record of smells, sights, sounds, feelings and emotions. It will make your writing easier when writing out of time for the season.

And that's the 14 most important things you need to be starting right now, especially if your writing career still isn't where you want it to be.

But you need to start immediately. Passive reading won't help you, but action will.

Will you take action?

The question really is, how bad do you want it?

If life is getting in the way and you don’t feel that you have the time to implement such big bold plans, then why not let The 12 Month Writing Challenge do the work for you?

This is a massive course that leads you step-by-step through 12 months of writing and earning money, with no planning required.

Just download the course and you can begin straight away.

And the best part is that the course is designed so that the writing that you do in the next 12 months will carry on earning you money for years.

So download The 12 Month Writing Challenge now.

About The Author: Ruth Barringham is a freelance writer and online marketer and has been writing professionally since 1999. She started her own publishing company in 2007 where she publishes all her books and ebooks. She also has an inspirational website for writers at

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Thank you to Ruth for an inspiring and thought-provoking article. I agree with all the points she makes, although I must admit I have never tried writing job descriptions for the different "hats" I have to wear during the course of a working week. Probably I should!

I particularly agree with the advice about outsourcing, though. In my experience freelances don't do this nearly enough, and some have an almost pathological aversion to spending any money at all on their writing business.

I think this is misguided. Time is money, and if writing is what you do best, it often makes sense to outsource other necessary tasks to people who have the relevant skills, leaving you more time to focus on your own core skill of writing.

If you have any comments or questions about Ruth's article, as always, please feel free to post them below.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

GeoRiot: An Alternative to A-FWD for Creating Universal Amazon Affiliate Links

In the last few days I have been trying out a new (and free) web-based tool called GeoRiot.

Like A-FWD, which I have mentioned on this blog before, GeoRiot is designed to provide a solution to the problem of how to direct visitors to your website to their own national Amazon store. With Amazon's own links, you can only send people to one store, e.g. or Amazon UK. If you send them to the "wrong" store they won't be able to buy there and you won't receive any affiliate commission.

Both A-FWD and GeoRiot let you create a single link that will automatically direct visitors to the appropriate page of their home store, with your affiliate code embedded if you have one for the store in question. This should help maximize your Amazon affiliate income.

Like A-FWD, GeoRiot does not charge users, but it takes a proportion of clicks via your link as "payment". If these individuals make any purchases, the service in question rather than you will receive the commission.

The way the two sites do this is somewhat different, however. In the case of A-FWD, 1% of visitors/clicks are tagged with their affiliate ID instead of yours. A-FWD say they will also add their ID if you don't specify one for a certain Amazon store your user is redirected to (if you run an English-language website, for example, you might not consider it worthwhile to join the affiliate program for Amazon France or Amazon Germany).

The rules for GeoRiot are a bit more complicated. I've copied the relevant details from their info page below...
You assign up to 15% of the clicks we help you earn to GeoRiot. That doesn't include the revenue you're already earning in your base country. You always keep 100% of that. In fact, we go to lengths to help you maximize your affiliate revenue.

Our Clicks As Currency payment model involves Passive Click Share and Active Click Share.

Passive Click Share

We start by earning our clicks where you can't. There are always countries from which you don't see enough traffic to make it worthwhile to go through the affiliate process. Maybe it's Japan or Brazil. We earn our clicks from these countries first, taking 100% of the affiliate revenue. If collectively, those clicks add up to 15% of your total affiliated clicks- and they often do for our clients- you're done. If they don't, Active Click Share kicks in.

Active Click Share

With Active Click Share, we earn clicks from the affiliate programs you've signed up for. So, for example, if your base country is the United States, and you're signed up in Canada, we get a portion of the clicks you earn through the Canadian program. However, we never employ Active Click Share on accounts earning less than 100 clicks in a 24-hour period in order to help you maximize earnings. Again, once a total of 15% (between the passive and active clicks) is reached, you're paid up in full.
Calculating which of these services offers the best deal overall is not straightforward, as it depends in part on the distribution of the clicks you get. To take an admittedly extreme example, if all of your clicks come from your home country, you would never have any clicks taken by GeoRiot, whereas 1% would be taken by A-FWD.

On the other hand, if (like me) most of your clicks are divided between Amazon UK and, then if you get over 100 clicks a day you would probably be better off with A-FWD. But with under 100 clicks a day, again, GeoRiot would offer the better deal.

Of course, there are other considerations too, and both services have their pros and cons.

Taking A-FWD first, this scores for simplicity and ease of use. All you have to do is enter your affiliate ID for any Amazon stores you are signed up with, and the ASIN (unque Amazon product identifier) for whatever you want to link to. Your link is then created instantly for you.

On the minus side, the A-FWD links are rather long and ugly (though you can of course put them through a URL-shortener such as TinyURL). In addition, no stats are provided, so you won't get any feedback on who is clicking on them.

GeoRiot is a more "professional" looking tool than A-FWD. You get various stats and reports on who is clicking on your links. This is valuable information to have when planning and fine-tuning your campaigns. I have copied below a couple of sections from the GeoRiot dashboard concerning the link to my Kindle e-book Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay (and yes, that IS the GeoRiot link in question!).

As ever, if you click on these images you can view a larger version. Use the Back button on your browser to return here.

Incidentally, I was interested to see the high proportion of clicks/visitors to compared with UK (where I am based), and also that I was getting some clicks that resolved to non-English language sites.

Other advantages of GeoRiot include the fact that the links are short and don't need passing through a URL-shortener, and they take visitors straight to the relevant sales page (A-FWD links take users to a search results page which they then have to click through to get to the main sales page - you can see an example here).

One other plus regarding GeoRiot is that as well as Amazon you can also create universal links to products in the iTunes Store and the App Store. This is not something I have tried personally, but it would obviously be useful if you promote products from these stores.

On the minus side, I have not found GeoRiot as user-friendly as it ought to be. There is no quick and simple option to add ASINs, as provided by A-FWD. Rather, you have to go through a somewhat laborious process of adding product-specific links, and trying to ensure that these are in a form the software likes. Amazon store links, as anyone who has ever tried to promote them will tell you, come in a wide range of shapes and forms.

I also found the process of adding my affiliate IDs a bit hit-and-miss. The first time I did it a message congratulated me on adding them successfully, but it transpired that they had not been incorporated into my GeoRiot links. On my second attempt everything worked fine, but there have been one or two incidents like this that suggest to me that not everything at GeoRiot is working as smoothly as it should. Of course, it is still early days where this service is concerned.

Overall, these are both valuable services to anyone who promotes Amazon products, and I have certainly noticed an increase in my commissions since I started using A-FWD a few months ago. Admittedly, now is the best time of year to be promoting your Amazon links but even so, compared with previous years, my results have been significantly better.

For the time being I will continue to use both services for my Amazon links and monitoring which gives me the best results overall.

If you have any comments or questions about GeoRiot (or A-FWD) please do post them below and I will do my best to answer them!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Kindle Researcher

Kindle Researcher is new software for Kindle authors that has just been launched on The Warrior Forum at a discount price.

I'm always interested in new Kindle tools, so I bought a copy myself to evaluate it. In a moment I'll tell you what I thought, but first of all I should explain what exactly it is.

According to the sales page, Kindle Researcher aims to assist writers with a number of tasks that can help maximize their profits from Kindle publishing. These are to:
  • gather information and statistics regarding your topic
  • analyze the competition
  • find the right price
  • uncover phrases and words that NEED to be in your book's title and description
  • find reviewers that can vouch for your ebook
The software has five modules that perform these functions, though it is worth noting that the module that finds reviewers is a separate "one time offer" and currently costs slightly more than the main offer itself. As I already have software for finding reviewers on Amazon (KD Suite and also the dedicated Publishers Review Accelerator) I didn't purchase this, so my review only covers the main product.

Kindle Researcher does not install to your computer. Rather, you have to double-click on a .exe file any time you want to use it. This is not the most professional approach to software creation, but it works well enough. You do just need to be sure you save the file somewhere you can easily find it again, such as on your desktop.

Once you start the software, you will see the box below...

To see a larger version, just click on the image above and use the back button on your browser to return here.

To begin, you enter your chosen keyword in the box at the top left and click on the green "Start" arrow. All the modules then start working simultaneously. This is a good time-saving feature, and an aspect of the software that I like.

As an example for the purposes of this review, I used the search term "container gardening". After I had entered this in the keyword field and clicked the start button, the following list of titles appeared on the Competition Analyzer page. Apparently titles are listed according to relevance.

As well as the titles themselves, various statistics about them are revealed, although you have to scroll horizontally to see them. It is one of a number of minor irritations with the software that it is not possible to enlarge the display. If you try to maximize, the box remains the same size but the rest of your screen goes black. Anyway, here is a further screen capture showing the stats you get...

As you will see, you are shown the price, average rating, number of reviews, title and description length, number of pages, and Amazon best-seller rank. You can rearrange the display by any of these criteria by clicking on the relevant column heading.

This is useful research information and will save you a lot of time compared with searching on Amazon directly. I would just comment that the information is similar to what you get with KD Suite and the similar AK Elite, though not quite as detailed. So if you bought either of these products in the past, you probably don't need Kindle Researcher as well.

The Bestseller tab is where you aim to optimize your book's title, description, price and length. You can see a screengrab below.

As you will see, a suggested price and page count are provided, which I assume is based on an average of the best-selling books in your keyword search. You can enter your own book's proposed price and page count beside them, and click on "Calculate Best Seller Rating". If the software likes your suggestion, green ticks will appear in the Results section on the right. This is useful as a rough guide, though I'm not sure how scientific it is. Still, if nothing else it will ensure that your book's length and pricing is not wildly out of step with other books in the subject area concerned.

Also on this tab you can enter your proposed title and sales page description, and get suggestions on what to include in both. I found this interesting, but also a bit frustrating. Once you have drafted your title and description, you can click on "Calculate Best Seller Rating" as before, but getting green ticks for both of these is a lot more tricky. And it doesn't help that no guidance at all is given on why the software doesn't like your suggestion. With another proposed book I tried many different versions of the title and description and grew increasingly frustrated as the red icons stubbornly refused to vanish. I'm not convinced that this feature is really any great help to an aspiring author.

The HTML Exporter tab is referred to as the Fiverr Cash Cow on the sales page. Essentially, all this does is let you format the list of competitor titles from the first tab and export it to an HTML file. The suggestion is that you could offer to do this for other would-be authors and charge them $5 a time on I can't really get too excited about this, I'm afraid.

Finally, the Keyword tab extracts the most used keywords and phrases from the titles and descriptions of competitor titles. A screengrab is shown below.

I thought this was quite a good feature. It will give you some ideas for your title, and also help ensure that you cover all the essentials in your description. Whether you can call this search optimization is questionable, as the data used comes from existing book descriptions rather than customer searches. Nonetheless, if you include all the essentials from every similar book in your own title and description, it should certainly assist the discoverability of your book.

As I said earlier, there is also an optional extra module that helps you find potential reviewers for your book. It does this by searching reviews of competitor titles and extracting contact details for the reviewers where they are provided. I haven't checked this myself, but from other reviews I've seen I gather that it works well enough. Of course, there are other products such as Publishers Review Accelerator (mentioned above) which will do this as well.

Overall, I thought Kindle Researcher was a reasonable product with some good features, but some aspects could certainly be improved on. Aside from my criticisms above, it's a little disappointing that there is no user manual and not even a quick-start guide. OK, the software is pretty intuitive to use, but a bit of guidance on how to make the most of it wouldn't have gone amiss. There are no help files, and neither is there a link to an online helpdesk. There is a five-minute video on the sales page that takes you through the main features, so I've copied that below. That aside, you are pretty much on your own!

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

To be fair to the developers, I should add that items are sold at a discount on The Warrior Forum on the understanding that they may not have all the features of the final, full-priced version. They are sold at a discount to get testimonials but also to get feedback on how they can be improved, so some allowance should be made for that.

If you already have Kindle Suite or AK Elite, it's pretty clear that you don't need Kindle Researcher as well. If you don't have either of these products, I recommend considering KD Suite (my personal favorite), although it is quite a bit  more expensive than Kindle Researcher even with the add-on module.

Otherwise, Kindle Researcher at its current discount price is worth thinking about if you're serious about making money from Kindle. It will certainly help you research competing books and optimize your titles and descriptions. Just don't believe some of the more extravagant claims that are being made for it!

If you have any comments or questions about Kindle Researcher, please do post them below and I will do my best to answer them.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kindle Countdown - A New Promotional Tool for Kindle Authors

Amazon recently launched Kindle Countdown, a new tool to help authors promote their Kindle e-books by offering short-term discounts on Amazon.

The program is open to any self-publishing author who has enrolled their e-book in KDP Select. As you probably know, this is the scheme that makes your e-book available for lending free to US Amazon Prime members in exchange for a fee paid by Amazon per loan.

KDP Select has become best known among Kindle authors because it allows you to offer your title free of charge for up to 5 days in every 90-day period. Many authors have used this tactic to get extra downloads and reviews and boost the ranking of their books.

The way Kindle Countdown works is that during the promotional period (which can be from an hour to seven days) your book is advertised at a discount of at least $1 (£1 on Amazon UK) from its normal price. A "countdown box" also appears on the sales page showing how much longer the discounted price will be available (see example below).

During the promotional period your book will also be listed on a special Kindle Countdown Deals page, which should help boost its discoverability.

You can either set one discounted price for the whole of your promotion, or you can choose to have up to five price steps.

For example, you could set a price of 99c for day 1, $1.99 for day 2, and so on. This type of promotion is popular in internet marketing circles (you see it used a lot on The Warrior Forum, for example) and there's no doubt it can be effective in generating sales from people who don't want to miss out on a "bargain".

Kindle Countdown is clearly an attractive proposition for customers, and should help boost the sales (and sales rank) of participating authors. And one other attraction is that if you are on the maximum 70 percent royalties, Amazon will continue to pay you this even if the promotional price falls below the usual minimum for 70% royalties eligibility of $2.99. (You only get the 70% on the actual price the customer pays, though - Amazon aren't THAT generous!)

There are, however, one or two restrictions about how you can use Kindle Countdown that may reduce its attractiveness to authors a bit...

First of all, as mentioned earlier, you have to be enrolled in KDP Select, and you can only do this if you do not list your title anywhere else. That means you can't have it on sale at Smashwords at the same time, for example. Also, in order to be eligible for Kindle Countdown, your book must be priced between $2.99 and $24.99 (for US authors) or £1.99 and £14.99 (for Amazon UK).

In addition, you can only use it once in each 90-day term with KDP Select, and if you use it you can't have any free promotional days in that same period - it's one or the other.

A further restriction is that the book must have been enrolled in KDP Select for 30 days or more, and the regular list price must not have been changed for 30 days or more. And finally, the latest end time for Kindle Countdown deals is 14 days before your KDP Select period ends. For more information, check out the Kindle Countdown Deals FAQ page.

If you're a Kindle author and can live with all the restrictions, Kindle Countdown is a tool that looks worth a try at least. You can sign up via the KDP dashboard. You should see a link that says Manage Benefits next to all the titles you have enrolled in KDP Select. Click on this and then click on  Kindle Countdown Deal. You can then enter all the necessary details for your deal, including:
  • date/s and time
  • number of price increments (maximum five)
  • starting price
  • duration of the deal (minimum is one hour and maximum is 7 days)
  • level of discount (minimum is $1)
Once you have set all the necessary parameters, click on Add Promotion. And that's it - your Kindle Countdown Deal is all set up and ready to go!

If you decide to try Kindle Countdown, or have already done so, please do leave a comment below on the results you obtain. And, of course, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them below and I will do my best to answer them!

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: Content Transformer by Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum
Content Transformer is the latest product to be launched by the prolific duo of Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum.

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

Content Transformer is a software tool intended to help you repurpose written content in various ways, most commonly as a slideshow presentation. It's just been launched at a low offer price, and will be available at this price for a limited time only.

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

As is the way with most of Amy and Debbie's products, the content is accessed via a WordPress membership site. This has the advantage that it can be easily updated/expanded with content of various kinds, though don't forget to keep your log-in details somewhere you can easily find them again!

Once you are in the members area you will be able to download the software and 17-page user guide (PDF). There are also five training videos, which are probably the quickest way to get up to speed with the software.

I should perhaps clarify that Content Transformer is actually the latest version of a product called Recycled Riches Automator, which was previously only available as an optional extra for people buying Debbie and Amy's Recycled Riches product (which I reviewed in this blog post). If you already have Recycled Riches Automator you don't therefore need Content Transformer as well, though you may want to check that you have been upgraded to the latest version.

Content Transformer runs on the Java platform, so it should work on both Windows PCs and Macs. You will, though, need to ensure that you have the latest version of Java on your computer. Helpfully, a link for downloading this is included in the members area.

The software is saved as a .jar file and you can launch it at any time by double-clicking on it. I would therefore strongly recommend saving it somewhere you can easily find it again, such as your desktop.

Content Transformer is a simple (and easy to master) tool that helps you turn books and articles into PowerPoint or Open Office presentations. You can also use it to create Mind Maps, and as an outlining tool. The video below, created by Debbie and Amy, takes you through how Content Transformer works and some ways you can benefit from it.

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

As you will gather, Content Transformer lets you quickly mark up and edit the headings in any Word or other text file, and then export the file into your choice of presentation software, where you can finish editing it if necessary.

I've embedded below a quick presentation I created using Content Transformer from my recent course Blogging for Writers. I chose this as an example as it allowed me to showcase one of the new features I like, the ability to include images in presentations, just by marking them as Heading 2.

As I noted above, if you're receiving this post by email or RSS and can't see the embedded presentation, you will need to visit my blog to view it.

As I hope you will appreciate, there are lots of things you could do with this. You could use it for a real-world presentation, upload it to SlideShare, add it to a training course, offer it as a bonus with some other product (or affiliate offer), put a commentary over it and upload it to YouTube, and much more. You could also - as Debbie and Amy suggest - use it to create a course on the popular Udemy website.

Also in the members area you will find a link to a one-hour webinar that Debbie and Amy gave that goes into more detail about ways you could use Content Transformer (click on the "Promotional Training" link in the right-hand column - I must admit I missed this at first).

There is also an optional upgrade for Content Transformer Bootcamp, an in-depth four-module course on creating content, which the authors claim will "accelerate using the software to its greatest potential".

Finally, don't forget to click on "Unannounced Bonuses" in the members area, which includes links to free online PowerPoint tutorials, recommended Fiverr gigs for getting your presentations made into videos, and so on.

Any criticisms? Well, one small problem I experienced with my review copy was that when I opened Microsoft Word files in the software, I found that words were sometimes getting squashed together, meaning I had to reinsert spaces between them. I reported this to Debbie and Amy, so hopefully the problem will have been rectified in the finished version.

That one small reservation aside, I found Content Transformer a useful and surprisingly versatile tool, backed up by the excellent training I have come to expect from these vendors. If you are looking for a quick and straightforward way to boost your online presence and generate additional traffic to your blogs and websites, it's well worth a closer look.

If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please do leave them below.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Participle Primer: How to Avoid Common Mistakes with Participles and Participial Phrases

Today I have a syndicated article for you from the excellent WriteDivas blog. It's written by Shay Goodman.

The article looks at participles and participial phrases. This is an area of English usage where novice writers often struggle, and even experienced writers can easily trip up.

As my old English teacher Mr Sanders might have said, read, learn and inwardly digest!

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Featured Article: Participle Primer (via
Today the Divas discuss participial phrases, how they function, and how to fix them when something goes wrong. Participles are wonderful. In fact, many authors love them. But as with most things we love, excess can lead to problems. This is especially…

Thank you to Shay for allowing me to republish this excellent article. If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please feel free to post them below.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Covermania: A New Tool for Creating Cover Images for Your Kindle e-books

If you're a Kindle author, you'll know already that having an eye-catching cover image for your Amazon sales page (and other purposes) is very important.

As most authors are not artists or designers as well, this can present a problem. One solution was offered by Amazon itself earlier this year with its Cover Creator facility in Kindle Direct Publishing. I used Cover Creator to produce the cover for my latest e-book Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay.

Cover Creator is a useful, free service, but for novels especially it has its limitations. In particular, only a very limited range of designs is available, and they tend to have a distinctive "look" to them. It's getting to the point where I can recognise a cover made with the KDP Cover Creator as soon as I see it!

You can of course make your cover design a bit more original by tinkering with the colour scheme and such like, but ultimately if you want your e-book to stand out from the pack, you might prefer to use something completely different.

Covermania from Tracey Meagher is a new product that may fit the bill for you - it has just been launched on a special low price offer on The Warrior Forum. What you get is sixty ready-made cover templates for a range of book types. All you need do is edit the text and you can have an attractive cover in just a few minutes. You can of course do some additional tweaking as well, but this is not essential. Editing can be done using PhotoShop if you have it, or the free alternative The Gimp (which I use) if you don't.

You can also mix and match elements from different templates to create totally unique designs, by adding speech bubbles, changing background colours, inserting cartoon characters (supplied), and so on. Full training is provided in the members area, but it's not rocket science.

I've copied one of the cover templates at the top of this post, and a couple more below. Hopefully you will agree that they look very professional. To see more, click through any of the links to Covermania in this blog post.

The sixty cover templates are specifically produced for Kindle, but twelve 3D templates are also supplied, for those who want to produce 3D-effect covers for their own blog or website (Amazon doesn't allow 3D images on its sales pages).

In my view Covermania is a great-value alternative to using the rather generic cover images produced by KDP Cover Creator or spending potentially a lot of money commissioning a professional designer. And it also has the advantage that any covers you create with it can be used across other platforms such as Smashwords as well (which is not allowed with KDP Cover Creator images).

If you have any comments or queries about Covermania, please do post them below.

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Friday, November 08, 2013

Beat Stress and Boost Your Writing Skills with Hypnosis!

I'm slightly off-topic today, but I did just want to tell you about an online event that may be of interest to some of you.

I've mentioned my friends at the self-development and brainwave-entrainment company Inspire3 before. Among other things, they produce the popular Brain Evolution System and Brain Salon products (both of which I use myself and recommend).

Well, they have just launched their massive new Hypnosis Live website. Through this they are selling self-hypnosis MP3s designed to assist with a huge range of issues, from boosting your intuition to stopping smoking.

There is even a session titled Be a Better Writer, which uses the power of hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to boost your writing skills and "unleash your inner Shakespeare". I guess it worked for their copywriter anyway ;-)

There are almost 200 different sessions on offer, in the following categories:
  • Mental SkIlls
  • Mindset
  • Emotions
  • Fear, Worry, Anxiety
  • Health
  • Self Growth
  • Personal Improvement
  • Body Improvement
  • Adult
All sessions are professionally recorded by qualified hypnotherapist and master NLP practitioner Julie-Ann Amos. They are available as instant MP3 downloads as soon as you’ve purchased. Most sessions last 40 minutes, and there are no further payments after you’ve bought the session. There is an FAQs page here if there is anything else you need to know.

To celebrate the Hypnosis Live launch, the company have asked me to mention that they are currently giving away a free "Eliminate Stress" MP3, a free copy of the (excellent) e-book The 18 Rules to Happiness by my old friend (and former publisher) Karl Moore, and a 10 percent discount voucher for any purchases you may like to make. Just click through this link to claim this free offer.

Naturally, there is no obligation to buy anything. The aim of this promotion is simply to raise awareness of the new Hypnosis Live online store. Take a look today - they have been offering some great deals on specific sessions recently.

As always, comments or questions are very welcome - please go ahead and post them below!

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kindle Ebook Descriptions - Amazon Changes the Rules (Again)

I know many readers of this blog are published Kindle authors, so I thought you might appreciate a heads-up about the latest changes to the formatting Amazon allows in the description area of sales pages.

Until recently, if you knew what you were doing, it was possible to add pictures, videos, and other multimedia content to your e-book descriptions. This involved adding HTML tags via the KDP editor or your Author Central page (with different rules for each!).

It appears that Amazon has now decided that they don't want authors to have this degree of flexibility where descriptions are concerned. Several authors recently received an email beginning as follows: "The book description contains unsupported HTML tags. While we’ve allowed this HTML in book descriptions before now, after November 2, 2013, we no longer support it..."

A few authors took this to mean that no HTML formatting whatsoever would be allowed, including bold and italic, but that is not the case. Amazon KDP has published a list of those tags they are still allowing, which I have copied below...

Clicking on this image will open a larger version. Click your browser's Back button to return here.

As you will see, you are still allowed to use bold and italic and some other features such as bulleted lists. What you can't do any more is add images (which some people were also using as a way of tracking visitors to their sales pages). And embedded videos and such like are definitely out!

You can, however, still use h1 to h6 weightings, which means you can get the rather snazzy-looking Amazon orange headings by simply applying h2 tags to the text in question.

One other thing to note is that the above list ONLY applies if you are using the KDP editor. At one time it was possible to get many more formatting features by editing your ebook's description in Author Central, but now you can only apply the most basic formatting there (bold, italics, and lists). As before, though, if you edit a title's description in Author Central, you can't subsequently edit it in the KDP editor.

As things stand now, therefore, the best policy seems to be to format descriptions using the KDP editor only. If you have already edited your description using Author Central and want to regain the ability to edit with the KDP  editor, you will first need to ask Amazon to delete your book from your Author Central page, there being no way of doing this yourself. Welcome to the wacky world of Amazon publishing!

Incidentally, if you would like the facility to format your Kindle e-book descriptions without having to use HTML, I strongly recommend the Better Book Tools app by Andy Makar. This will help you format your descriptions for the KDP editor with the minimum of fuss. You can also preview your descriptions within the software to see how they will look on Amazon, before uploading them via the KDP Dashboard.

Andy regularly updates his software as Amazon changes its rules, and also has a blog on which he documents changes as they occur. If you want to make the most of your e-book descriptions, Better Book Tools is a very handy resource to have at your disposal (and one I use regularly myself). It also works with CreateSpace book descriptions, incidentally.

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

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Monday, November 04, 2013

Yes, I'm on Twitter (and More Besides!)

I had an email the other day from a fellow writer telling me about the benefits of being on Twitter and urging me to open an account.

I was cut to the quick, as I have been on Twitter since 2008, and since then (a quick check tells me) I have sent out over 25,000 updates. Wow, that's a lot of tweeting!

Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to list all the main social networks I'm active on, so you can follow me if you like (or, at least, not send me invitations to join those I'm already in!). Here they are...

Twitter -

As you may gather, I'm an active Twitter user. As well as my own blog posts and other comments, I regularly retweet other people's updates, and links to writing-related resources I think will interest my readers. Please note that I do not auto-follow, so if that is your sole motive for signing up you might prefer to look elsewhere.

Facebook -
This is my Facebook business page, also known as a fan page (though I don't like that name and don't call it that myself). I publish links to all my blog posts here and links to other interesting resources, as well as the occasional bit of light relief. I'd love to get a few more conversations going on, so please feel free to reply to any of my posts or add your own.

Google Plus -
Although it's (still) not nearly as well known as Facebook, I have around three times as many people following me on Google Plus compared with Facebook, and I'm sure it will grow further in importance as Google tightens its grip on the internet. I use it in a similar way to Facebook, although I find it has a slightly more serious vibe so I don't share as many humorous updates. Again, I welcome comments on any of my posts here.

Pinterest -
I joined Pinterest, the visual social networking and bookmarking service, a while ago and created half a dozen boards in an initial burst of enthusiasm. Since then I haven't done much with it, apart from adding all my blog posts to the My Writing Blog Posts board. I'm sure I'm not really harnessing its full potential, but there we are - there are only so many hours in the day!

My Writers Circle -
My Writers Circle is the forum I run on behalf of its owners (and my publishers) The Self Development Network. We have over 43,000 members world-wide, and it's a great place for networking with other members, getting feedback on your work, asking writing-related questions, and so on. And all for free, of course!

E-Writer Updates -
This is my subscription-based email newsletter. I send it out anywhere from two to five times a week, depending on how busy I am and how much I have to say! In E-Writer Updates I share information about markets and competitions for writers, new writing products and resources, special offers and freebies, and so on. I'm currently giving away two free reports to anyone signing up, so do take a look. There is also an archive of back issues here. Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time.

So those are the networks (and networking resources) I am most involved with. I do belong to one or two others as well, but as I don't use them actively I haven't listed them here. As I've said above, there are only so many hours in the day, and I do have other things to do as well, so I focus on the networks and services that work best for me personally. I hope you will check out at least some of the links above, and sign up if you like what you see.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions, please do post them below!

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Friday, November 01, 2013

Review: FB Fiction

FB Fiction
FB Fiction is a new guide for fiction authors who want to use the power of Facebook to promote their work. It's been launched this week at an ultra-low ($7) price.

This is the latest release from Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum. I've mentioned some of Amy and Debbie's other high-quality products such as Publisher's Review Accelerator, Book Trailer Treasure Map and Non Fic Pic Pro here before. I also recommended their report on "underground" promotional methods, which you can still pick up via this blog post for free if you haven't already.

Amy and Debbie were kind enough to allow me a review copy of FB Fiction, so here's what I found.

The product comprises a 19-page PDF manual with seven videos (linked from the PDF). Some of these videos are publicly available via YouTube (if you know where to look). Others - the most interesting, in my view - are privately hosted and you have to enter a password to watch them. Passwords are provided in the manual, of course.

As you would expect with Debbie and Amy's products, the manual is well written and produced, with screengrab illustrations where relevant. It's a quick and easy read, though obviously being 17 pages long it doesn't go into great depth. In the how-to section in particular, readers are directed to the linked videos for detailed instructions. The videos take you through specific processes, such as how to brainstorm your audience.

FB Fiction is basically a guide to using Facebook fan pages to promote your work. Debbie and Amy do this themselves - here's a link to their main joint Facebook page - and they have some very interesting and potentially profitable ideas to share.

One section that caught my eye is where they discuss setting up tabs on your Facebook fan page, which you can use for special offers, newsletter sign-up forms, free gifts, and so on. This technique is not widely used, but Debbie and Amy appear to be applying it to good effect, and in FB Fiction they explain how they do it.

I was also impressed by the linked video from Charity Cason, where she talks about how she uses targeted Facebook advertising to bring her books to the attention of readers of a certain best-selling author who writes in the same genre. Yes, this does involve spending a little money on ads, but once you set the ball rolling, Amazon's own marketing should swing into action on your behalf with 'you might also like recommendations' and so forth. If you write genre fiction especially, you will definitely want to see this.

There is also a section on monetizing your fan pages which sets out a range of possibilities - it's not just about boosting sales of your book. Some eye-opening ideas are set out, although I did feel that a little more detail would have been welcome at times.

For example, one paragraph reads, 'You can also market CPA (Cost Per Action) products where you get paid every time someone performs an action (filling out a form, making a call, etc.' No other information is provided about this interesting-sounding option, however. Oh well, I guess you can always research it online!

Although FB Fiction is being marketed as a guide for fiction writers, the techniques discussed would work just as well with non-fiction (and indeed some of the examples in the manual refer to non-fiction).

Overall I think FB Fiction is another good-value guide from Debbie and Amy. It's quite concise and probably won't tell you everything you could ever want to know about Facebook marketing, but it will definitely give you some ideas to follow up. At the launch price of seven dollars you can't really go that far wrong.

If you have any queries or comments about FB Fiction, as ever, please do post them below.

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