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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Self Development Network Writing Courses: Complete List for 2013!

As you may be aware, this blog is sponsored by The Self Development Network (previously WCCL), the Internet's leading publisher of downloadable writing courses and resources.

SDN (as I'll call them for short) produce a wide range of courses and other products to assist writers, so I thought it might be helpful to list them all here.

I'll start with courses I've written for SDN myself. All are available as instant downloads unless otherwise stated...

Write Any Book in Under 28 Days - This is my original, top-selling course on how to write any book in the least possible time. It's published on CD-ROM.

Quick Cash Writing - This course is for anyone who wants to start earning money from their writing as soon as possible. It covers a huge range of potential outlets, from readers' letters to articles, greeting card slogans to movie concepts.

Essential English for Authors - This course is aimed at anyone who wants to bring their written English up to a publishable standard in the least time possible.

How to Win Contests - This course, which is aimed primarily at people in the UK and Ireland, reveals how to win cash and prizes from consumer contests, and especially from devising 'tie-breaker' slogans.

The Wealthy Writer - This course, which I co-wrote with online writer and publisher Ruth Barringham, covers all the main ways of making money writing for the Internet.

The 10-Day E-Book - This course takes you step by step through devising, writing, editing, publishing, and selling your very own profitable e-book, using the ClickBank publishing platform.

Kindle Kash - This popular course reveals everything you need to know to write, edit, format, publish and sell money-making e-books for the Amazon Kindle.

Blogging for Writers - My latest SDN course sets out everything you need to know to leverage your writing skills through the medium of blogging. Whether you want to raise your profile, attract more clients, sell more of your (e-)books, or simply make money as a niche blogger, Blogging for Writers will show you step by step how to do it.

Other Courses and Products

The rest of the SDN writers' range is listed below. I have also included a link to the post on my blog where I have reviewed the product in question.

Lou Darvas Cartooning Course - Learn how to draw cartoons with famous cartoonist Lou Darvas. REVIEW.

Movie in a Month - Write a Hollywood blockbuster in a month or less! CD-based course. REVIEW.

Self-Publishing Secrets - Cut out the middle-man and publish your book yourself. REVIEW.

Book Backup Software - The only backup software designed by and for writers. REVIEW.

The Ultimate Copywriter - How to become a highly paid online copywriter. REVIEW.

Book Proposal Secrets - Sell your book idea to a publisher with a compelling proposal. REVIEW.

Novel in a Month - Plan and write your novel in 28 days or less. CD-based course. REVIEW.

Travel Writing Secrets - Get paid for visiting exotic destinations. CD-based course. REVIEW.

The Best-Seller Secret - A step-by-step plan for making your book into an Amazon best-seller. REVIEW.

How to Write a Children's Book - Secrets of writing for children. REVIEW.

How to be Funny - This course, which is not just for writers, aims to help you 'tap into your inner comedian'. REVIEW.

Writer's Block CD - Use the power of 'binaural beats' to entrain your brain to its most creative frequencies. This product is provided on an audio CD. REVIEW.

The Ultimate Podcasting Kit - Create your own highly professional audio podcasts using free software, and find out how to publicize/promote them. REVIEW.

Obviously, as an SDN author I may be a little bit biased, but I do think they produce resources of a consistently high quality.

Unlike many other products sold online, they are all professionally written, edited and designed. Unlimited technical assistance is on hand 24/7 if required from their support website at www.myhelphub.com. All their products carry a money-back guarantee if they fail to live up to their promises. And they are all, of course, very reasonably priced anyway!

If any of the subjects mentioned above interest you, therefore, I highly recommend checking out the product or products in question. I've seen all of them, and can therefore promise that they WILL help you to achieve your writing goals.

Also, if you have a blog or website yourself, you might like to consider signing up as an SDN affiliate. You can then promote their products and courses yourself and earn generous commissions for any sales generated via your links. Here's a link for more information about the affiliate program and to sign up.

Finally, I'd just like to mention that SDN also sponsor a wide range of free products and services for writers. As well as this blog, they also include my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com, the online radio station WritersFM, and the free Smart Writers newsletter. Do check them out as well!


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Monday, June 24, 2013

My Review of Grammarly Automated Proofreading and Grammar-Checking Service

Grammarly is a service that promises to help improve your written English. Their website says it corrects up to 10 times more mistakes than popular word processors. Other features they highlight include...
  • Instant proofreading
  • Instantly find and correct over 250 types of grammatical mistakes
  • Context-optimized vocabulary suggestions
  • Improve word choice with context-optimized vocabulary suggestions
  • Plagiarism detector
  • Avoid plagiarism by checking your texts against over 8 billion web pages
The producers of Grammarly were kind enough to grant me one month's trial access to their service so I could review it, so here's what I found...

First, you can use Grammarly in various ways. Once you are logged in to the website, you can either copy and paste text for checking, or you can choose a file from your computer and upload it. Copy-and paste didn't work for me for some reason (maybe browser related), so I uploaded documents for checking instead.

There is also an option to download a Grammarly plug-in for Microsoft Office, which allows you to check documents within Word by clicking on a button in the main menu. For testing purposes I stuck with the online checker, but I did test the plug-in as well and it appeared to work as described.

Once you have uploaded or (maybe) copy and pasted your document, Grammarly gives you a choice of six stylistic options: general, business, academic, creative, technical, and casual. It wasn't that easy to decide which category would be best for the type of writing I do, so I started with the general category (which is also the default).

Click on Start Review, and Grammarly begins its analysis. For a typical 1500-word article, I found this took about 30 seconds to complete.

You are then presented with the results of the analysis. For a sample article about crowdfunding websites that I had recently submitted to a client, it listed 99 issues, which I found a bit depressing. I've copied the summary list below.


As always, you should be able to view a larger version of the image above by clicking on it.

Clicking on any item in the list will show you all the issues in that particular category one by one, or you can click on 'Next' to see the issues in the order in which they occur within your document. As an example, here is the full explanation of the issue that Grammarly found with respect to 'Use of Articles'.


As you can see, you can have long or short explanations. The sample above is a short one. The longer ones typically go into more detail and have more examples to illustrate the points made.

In the example above, as I appreciate it is not too easy to see it in the screen capture, the sentence where the issue was identified was as follows:

That got you too many perks to list here, but included a co-producer credit and chance to appear in the film, eight seats at the cast and crew premiere, assorted Frank Sidebottom memorabilia, and so on.

Grammarly felt that perhaps there should be an article ('a' or 'the') before 'chance'. That would not be incorrect, of course - but as an 'a' has already been used in front of 'co-producer credit', I felt there was no need to include it in front of chance as well. I chose to elide it for the sake of conciseness, in other words.

Going through the other issues identified, I actually found very few I would have wanted to incorporate, and some that were obviously wrong. Take this one, for example...


Grammarly wants to change 'Don't rely on Kickstarter alone' to 'Doesn't rely on Kickstarter alone', which is clearly incorrect. This sort of thing is just a waste of time, I'm afraid.

On the other hand - and to be fair to Grammarly - some of the issues the software highlighted did make me think. While it didn't find anything that was clearly and unambiguously 'wrong', it did find one or two instances where I had to admit there was room for improvement. Take this one, for example...


The sentence in question is 'If your project does not get enough pledges there is no charge'. While I don't agree that this is definitely incorrect (in British English), I can see that the sentence might work better with a comma after 'pledges'. That is especially so because the following sentence does have a comma after the introductory clause ('If it does, you will pay a fee of around 10 percent of the money raised.').

Thirty-three of the issues identified by Grammarly with my sample article concerned stylistic issues. This turned out to be mainly due to the informality of the tone, the use of 'you' to address readers, and the use of contractions such as 'can't' and 'won't'. This is in keeping with the style of the newsletter I was writing for, however, and I wouldn't therefore have wanted to change it.

I did, as a matter of interest, try analyzing the document again with the 'casual' style selected instead, and no such issues were then identified. So I guess that if your own style is predominantly informal, this might be a better option to go with!

My test article didn't have any deliberate mistakes in it, so I did try it as well with some other articles I had seeded with errors. Grammarly did pretty well at picking up spelling mistakes, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) didn't flag up the use of 'form' where it should have been 'from' (e.g. in the phrase 'a refund form the bank'). I was, though, quite impressed that it spotted the incorrect use of 'frictional' and suggested the correct word in context, which was 'fractional'.

Overall, I'm on the fence about Grammarly. As a professional freelance writer, I found it produced too many time-wasting 'false alerts' to be of value to me in my regular work, where time is of course money!

In a way, though, I think my experience serves to highlight the fact that no automated service can ever replace the attention of a skilled proofreader and editor. Grammarly themselves admit this, and say their service should be regarded as simply 'another pair of eyes'. If you have the time and patience to go through all the 'issues' it identifies, you are likely to find some some genuine opportunities to improve your work, among a lot of other items that are probably best ignored.

Grammarly is sold on a subscription basis. You can try it free of charge for seven days, but you will have to provide payment information before you can access your free trial. If you decide it's not for you, you can cancel your membership within seven days and you will not then be charged. I can see why Grammarly do this, though personally I would be happier if they provided a 'no-strings' trial, maybe just for three days, before requesting your credit-card number.

If you have any comments or questions about Grammarly, please post them below and I will do my best to answer them. Thank you again to Grammarly for giving me the opportunity to review their service.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Update: You CAN Post Images in Kindle Sales Page Descriptions - But ONLY if You Use Author Central!


In this post last week I wrote that Amazon had stopped users posting images in the description area of Amazon sales pages.

This information came direct from Amazon KDP help, and I reproduced their message to me in the post concerned.

It turns out this wasn't the whole story, though. According to this blog post by Andy Makar, you CAN still put images in your Kindle e-book descriptions, but ONLY if you do so via Author Central. To quote from his post...
"...if you are looking at adding images for graphical appeal or for conversion tracking, you’ll want to continue to use Author Central. Author Central also provides additional features to augment your book description and further help sell your book. Editorial reviews can be added in Author Central rather than your entire book description."

One important point to bear in mind is that if you edit your book description in Author Central even just once, all future updates will have to be made there as well. Any updates you make via the KDP Bookshelf editor will not show up on your book's sales page. You will have crossed the Rubicon!

I'm not sure whether Amazon will be closing this "loophole" as well, but for the time being I've checked myself and it definitely works. So if you want images in your descriptions, you can still have them (for now).

I do find it bizarre that Amazon has two different sets of rules about what you can put in your e-book descriptions, according to where you edit them. It really is a bit like Alice in Wonderland, isn't it?

I should maybe also clarify that if you are working in KDP Editor you don't have to use Amazon HTML any more. The following standard HTML tags can be used: "b", "br", "em", "font", "h1", "h2", "h3", "h4", "h5", "h6", "hr", "i", "li", "ol", "p", "pre", "s", "strike", "strong", "sub", "sup", "u" and "ul". The h2 tag gives the familiar bright orange heading, incidentally.

In Amazon Central you DO have to use Amazon HTML. This is where you enter the ASCII code equivalents of the angle bracket signs (< and >), so the browser interprets the code as HTML tags. Andy Makar has another useful article about this here.

Incidentally, Andy is also the creator of the excellent Better Book Tools software, which provides an easy method for formatting and updating your Kindle sales page descriptions. Andy says he will keep updating Better Book Tools to address the "moving target" Amazon creates for writers. If you want to take advantage of the formatting opportunities offered by Amazon sales pages, in my view Better Book Tools is well on the way to becoming an essential resource.

I hope you find this update helpful and it dispels any confusion caused by my post last week. If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please feel free to post them below!

* Don't forget - my original Kindle Kash course on how to write, edit, format, publish and promote a Kindle e-book is available at half-price until the end of June! This post explains how the offer works and includes the necessary coupon code. This is a special offer for KindleFever, although you don't need to be taking part in this to take advantage of the discount.

Photo by kodomut on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 licence.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to Get Out of Creative Blocks

Get Out of Creative Blocks

I'm pleased to bring you today a guest post from freelance writer and blogger Michelle Fach.

Michelle has some excellent tips for any writer who is suffering from a creative block...

* * *
 
Everyone has to deal with creative blocks sometimes, and I do mean everyone. Not just the tortured souls that create the masterpieces of the world, but every single person living on this planet.

Creativity is a key element of most of our lives. You might have a presentation to give at work, or you have to brainstorm ideas for decorating that spare bedroom in your house. You may be working on a team and having trouble contributing the number of ideas that the others are, leaving you feeling useless and unhelpful.

High stress, emotional pain, personal problems, mental fatigue, incompatible work processes and more can contribute to creative blocks. Which may end up taking a serious toll on your life and productivity, leaving you drained. Here are a few ways that can help you break through to the other side.

Accept Limitations

To-do list

You probably have a lot of things you want to get done in a day, and you have planned accordingly. But having too much packed into a day can drain your energy and your focus, leaving you struggling to focus. Whatever good intentions you might have, your plans could be seriously impacting your ability to be creative.

To get past this problem you have to accept your limitations. Time is not your only factor; you also need to be able to relax and let your mind unwind a bit. So try to cut some things out of your schedule when possible. Don't be too rigid with what you say you will do, even if it does feel counter productive.

Look For Inspiration

When I am feeling blocked, I love to settle down with a good book or watch a movie. These things are full of creative inspiration, jump starting my brain and giving me ideas that I can work from to create my own. This works every time I am failing to meet my creative milestones, and I have done some of my best work after seeing what someone else has made.

Everyone has something else that inspires them. Maybe it is music or nature. Perhaps it is discussing ideas with someone else. Whatever the case, you should regularly seek out ideas from outside your own head.

Just Do It

Just Do It

Sometimes your creative block is not caused by external forces, but internal. When you are dreading sitting down and getting to work, you are more likely to avoid it. This can feel like a block, but it is really just your own desire for procrastination. Especially when what you have to do seems overwhelming or like it may take an emotional toll on you.

If you are finding it hard to get yourself to sit down and actually work, then force yourself to do so. Beating your mind into submission can be incredibly helpful, and once you are done it can feel quite therapeutic.

Create a Calming Environment

Stress is the killer of all things creative. Yes, emotional or psychological trauma can spark some incredible work. But being unable to concentrate on the task of completing it is not nearly so effective. So you should always have a place to go without distractions, where you can make an environment best suited to your needs.

For example, when I have work to do I will go into a room where no one can bother me. I turn off my phone and turn on some music that best fits the mood of the work I am doing at the moment. I always have a cup of black coffee beside me, and I make sure my chair is comfortable. Without fail, this eliminates much of the stress that is holding me back.

Be Healthy

It might sound cliche, but being physically healthy is important for your creativity. Your mind has to be free to roam, and you have to be able to focus at all times. Proper diet and regular exercise give you energy, keep you from falling ill and make you feel all the more positive in yourself. Which will ultimately help dictate how you work in all aspects of your life.

Besides, you can get some great ideas while you workout or just go for a walk.

Conclusion

Everybody suffers from creative blocks every once in awhile. Some of us suffer from them more often than others, because of the creative nature of our every day work. But you can beat these blocks and come out with something incredible for your efforts. It just takes a little bit of preparation and dedication to do it.

Do you have tips on fighting creative blocks? Let us know in the comments.
Featured images:


Michelle Fach is the social media junkie and blogger at Manifest Connection, the multi-author productivity blog. Michelle likes creating tool lists and playing with those tools too!

* * *

Many thanks to Michelle for an interesting and thought-provoking article.

I do agree in particular with her "Just Do It" mantra (wouldn't that make a great advertising slogan, lol). Often I find the worst thing about writing is getting started. It can feel like getting blood out of a stone at first, but if I grit my teeth and persevere, almost always the words start to flow.

Another tip of mine is to check out the Writer's Block CD from my blog sponsors, The Self Development Network. This uses cutting-edge "binaural beats" technology to entrain your mind to its most creative frequencies. It could be just the thing you need to jolt you out of a block and get your creative juices flowing!

As Michelle says, if you have any other tips or advice for beating creative blocks, please do share them below.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Official: Amazon Confirms No More Pictures in Kindle E-Book Sales Page Descriptions

A recent trend among Kindle publishers has been to format their Amazon sales page descriptions more attractively using so-called Amazon HTML. And one thing many authors have done is add photos or other images.

I did this myself a few months ago with my illustrated sci-fi novella The Festival on Lyris Five. I included a couple of images from the book, created by my talented illustrator Louise Tolentino. Here's how the description area used to look...


Pretty snazzy, I thought. Then one day I opened this page in my browser and the images had gone. I checked the page source code and established that the HTML for the image files appeared to have been stripped out completely.

So I raised a query with Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). And here is the relevant section of their reply I received...
Hello Nick,
Thank you so much for your message. I understand that you'd like to know why there are no images displaying on the product description of your ebook.

We've recently restricted the types of HTML tags allowed in product descriptions, which is why your formatting isn't displaying like it was before.

We only allow certain types of HTML tags to be used when formatting content in your "Product Description".

The approved HTML tags are: "b", "br", "em", "font", "h1", "h2", "h3", "h4", "h5", "h6", "hr", "i", "li", "ol", "p", "pre", "s", "strike", "strong", "sub", "sup", "u" and "ul".

You'll need to update your content using only the tags noted above. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this causes.
The reply was prompt, helpful and courteous, but the bottom line remains that images are no longer allowed in product descriptions.

No explanation was given for this change, but my best guess is that Amazon were concerned that authors putting images in descriptions might spoil the look of sales pages and have a harmful effect on the company's branding.

While that is their prerogative, the result is that authors are deprived of a powerful method for improving the appearance of sales pages and making them more eye-catching and compelling.

A further drawback is that some authors were using pictures (including invisible single-pixel images) to collect visitor stats from Amazon pages by using link shortening services such as bit.ly. This could be a good way of gathering data on how many people were viewing your sales pages, so you could assess how effective they were at turning visitors to buyers. Sadly, that option has also now been removed.

On the plus side, it is still possible to format your sales page descriptions using bold, italics, different heading styles, bullet-point lists, and so on, and I recommend doing so.

I also recommend making good use of the maximum 4000 characters Amazon allow. Don't make the mistake of putting just a couple of unformatted sentences! Take a look at some of the best-selling books in the Kindle store and see how they use the description area (and formatting) to good effect.

Finally, formatting descriptions can be a little tricky, as Amazon uses a variation on normal HTML which I have seen variously described at Amazon HTML or HTML entities. This forum post has a list of the main codes you can use when formatting descriptions (though obviously image codes are no longer allowed). For reasons I may discuss in another post, I strongly recommend using KDP edit when formatting descriptions rather than going via Author Central.

I also recommend (and use myself) an application called Better Book Tools (affiliate link) by Andy Makar. This generates the necessary Amazon codes automatically for you and lets you see how your description will look before you upload it via KDP. It has various other cool features as well. Check it out!

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

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Thanks to Andy Makar from Better Book Tools for pointing out that you CAN still have images in your descriptions, but only if you edit via Amazon Author Central. Please see my latest post for more details about this.

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Friday, June 07, 2013

How to Leave Readers Rolling in the Aisles...

Today I'm pleased to welcome my old friend and sometime Writers Bureau colleague Iain Pattison to my blog.

In his guest post Iain, a successful humorist and author of Cracking The Short Story Market, explains why penning funny stories is always a serious business to him, and shares his top tips for successful comedy writing...

# # #

I adore satire. I love reading anything that makes me laugh. I really appreciate a clever one-liner and or a fiendishly ingenious piece of word play. If you can make me smile I'll follow you anywhere. If you can make me chortle out loud I'll be your slave! And if you make me split my side, I'll ... well, we better not go into that!

The reason I'm so ready to become a funny writer's acolyte or worse is that I understand just how damn difficult it is to be amusing on paper. It's one of the toughest gigs you can tackle as a scribbler. You have to be every bit as entertaining as a comedy club stand-up, have the same crucial exact timing and sense of verve and daring, but without the opportunity to instantly "read" your audience and fine-tune your material - or the fallbacks of facial tics or stage antics to rescue you if a joke falls flat.

Which means no second chances. Your comic writing has to be as perfectly honed and rib-tickling as you can make it. A duff witticism at the beginning of a tale or a silly bit of slapstick that seems contrived and the magic bubble bursts; and you've lost your readers for good.

I've been lucky in the 18 years that I've been writing quirky short stories and pastiches. I've sold a respectable amount, had some on BBC Radio 4 and managed to grab the occasional competition prize or two, but it's never guaranteed. The Gods of Mirth are cruel masters and like to keep our feet firmly on the ground when we get too cocky.

But I've learnt a few rules stumbling along the way and I'm happy to share them with you. Of course, humour is subjective. No two writers tackle it in the same way, so if you don't like my pointers, feel free to ignore them. (I'll get over the rejection eventually!)

Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Always appreciate that the plot - the storyline - is the most vital part of any story. The japes are subsidiary. They're merely the oil we add to assist the flow of the narrative. Your tale should still be gripping, dramatic and make sense - even if all the jokes are stripped out.
  • Also, it's useful to realize that stories don't have to be packed with one-liners to be funny. Some of the most hilarious tales I've ever read (and hopefully written) were deadpan all the way through until an unexpected and ironic twist in the last sentence. Sometimes the laugh comes from the reader's delight at being taken by surprise.
  • Remember that wit is like a gossamer thread - stretch a joke or comic conceit too far and it snaps.  So the writer's rule LESS IS MORE counts double for comedy.  The shorter the length of the narrative, the better. Sometimes a funny will work more effectively as a flash fiction piece than a full blown short story.
  • Ground your humour in reality. Let it emerge naturally from the situations that people find themselves in. Extra-ordinary things can and do happen to ordinary people. But these must be plausible and logical. Forced or contrived jocularity will seem false.
  • Shun crudeness, gross-out shock tactics, profanity, smut and toilet tomfoolery. They may get you a cheap laugh - but they won't win you devoted fans. Don't be afraid to offend - but don't make it your mission.
    Use puns sparingly. Think of them as silver bullets. They can be hilarious but over-pun a story and it rapidly goes from jesting to jaded.
  • Be discerning about your choice of wordplay. Make it clever. Saying: "keep your friends close and your enemas closer still" is an amusing reworking of a famous quotation, but suggesting: "there was an explosion at the pet shop - it was cat-astrophic" is just lame. Stay away from Christmas cracker material.
  • Don't give characters and settings stupid or outlandish pantomime names. It smacks of desperation, of trying too hard, and signals that this is a writer who isn't confident. It also runs the risk of patronizing adult readers who associate this kind of thing with children's fiction.    However, don't be afraid to use mundane names in unexpected or incongruous situations. You can get a good chortle from a demon called Dennis - especially if he is self-conscious and grumpy about it!
  • Even if you can think of three different jokes on a topic, only include one - the best one. Don't let competing gags cancel each other out. You can always use the others in future stories.
  • Never repeat a joke in the same story - even if you think you've cleverly reworked or reworded it. You only get one giggle per gag. The second version WILL fall flat.
  • Avoid over-explaining jokes. Let the reader come to you. Give them a moment's work to do. If, for example, I was having someone being taken on a tour of an ancient library, they would be shown a room where scribes called Colin were creating the texts on geography, scribes called Kevin were penning law tomes, but the histories were being written by the Victors.
  • Always be aware of the dangers or sending off funny stories too soon. When you've just written something you think is hilarious, the adrenalin will distort your judgment. Stick it in a drawer and reread it three weeks later. If the story makes you laugh after the buzz of the original creation has faded, then chances are it will be a winner.
  • Most importantly, trust your gut. If you dream up something that makes you smile - chances are it will make others grin too!   
# # #

Many thanks to Iain Pattison (pictured, right) for an informative article and some great tips!.

I would just add that Iain is one of the most naturally gifted short-story writers I know, and I very much admire (and recommend) his work.

I agree with him too that humour (or humor if you're that side of the pond) is very hard to write well, in addition to being quite personal and subjective. It's a tough challenge to take on, but if you can master it there will always be a market for your work.

Iain's humorous e-book Is That A Pun In Your Pocket?  21 Short Stories To Tickle Your Fancy is available now from publishers Middle England Media. It's also available in Kindle format from Amazon UK or from Amazon.com (both links go directly to the sales pages).

You can learn a lot about the art of writing humorous short stories from Iain's book, or just read it for fun and relaxation. And if you're planning to enter the forthcoming Writers Bureau Short Story Contest (closing 30 June 2013), you might want to note that Iain will be the judge!

If you have any comments or questions for Iain (or me), please do post them below.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Review: Your Book Monopoly by Rachel Rofe


Your Book Monopoly is a new guide by successful author and online entrepreneur Rachel Rofe.

It promises to reveal a variety of ways you can boost your income from your book or e-book many times over.

Rachel was kind enough to allow me reviewer access, so here's what I found...

Once you have registered as a Your Book Monopoly member, you are taken to the membership site. Here you can access all the course content, section by section, via a menu that runs across the top of the screen.

Alternatively, you can download it in conventional PDF format. That should cater to most preferences! Bear in mind, though, that Rachel is still adding extra bonuses, so if you simply download the PDF and never return, you may miss out on these.

As well as an introduction and conclusion, the course has five main sections. These are Physical Books, Libraries, Bookstores, Audiobooks and Translations. Each section reveals how you can use the approach in question to boost your total book sales.

The content is well written and presented. Screen capture illustrations are included, and the occasional video as well. None of the sections is particularly long - no "fluff" or padding here - but all provide enough information to apply the method in question.

In the section titled Physical Books, Rachel explains why you should have a printed book as well as one on Kindle. She looks in particular at the two most popular options for self-publishers, Amazon's own CreateSpace and Lightning Source. She makes a compelling argument for using BOTH of these services, and declining the free ISBN from CreateSpace.The strategy she recommends makes a lot of sense to me.

The Libraries section reveals how you can get your book into libraries. There is quite a strong US bias here, but many of the methods would be equally applicable in other countries with a public libraries service. It's not mentioned in Your Book Monopoly, but might be worth adding that in countries such as the UK and Australia, a further advantage of getting your book into libraries is that you can then benefit from the PLR (Public Lending Rights) payments that are made by the government to compensate authors for library lending.

The Bookstores section has some good tips on getting your print book into bookshops. Again, there is quite a strong US emphasis, but it is equally true that the recommended approach could easily be adapted to other countries. Advice is given on selling to individual bookstores and also large chains. You also get a publicity flyer template to assist with this.

Converting your work to audio format is growing in popularity. The Audiobooks section focuses mainly on the Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX for short. Rachel says she prefers to use this service, as they distribute, at minimum, to customers on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes. Those are the three leading retailers, and distribute to the great majority of audiobook listeners.

In the section Rachel discusses recording your audiobook yourself (which sounds a little daunting to me) or outsourcing it. You also get transcripts of a conversation between Rachel's assistant and the narrator of one of her audiobooks, which shows how the outsourcing method can work in practice from start to finish.

The last section is Translations, and this is probably the one I found most interesting of all. Rachel discusses the value of having your books translated to other languages such as Spanish and Chinese, and sets out some great tips for getting this done cheaply but to a high standard. When you consider the size of these non-English-speaking markets, and the fact that many have far fewer book titles to choose from, the sales potential for those making the effort to do this appears immense to me.

There are also, at the time of writing, three bonus sections. One is about making the most of the Smashwords self-publishing platform, the second is about breaking up your book and distributing it as podcasts or videos, and the third is a guide to formatting your work for CreateSpace, by Teresa Miller. These are all well worth reading too, although you can also access Teresa's report free of charge via this archived newsletter issue if you like.

Overall, I thought Your Book Monopoly was an excellent product, and one that more than lives up to Rachel's usual high standards. If you're a US author, it's a no-brainer. If you live elsewhere, some of the information may need to be adapted a bit, but much of it will apply the world over (the advice on audiobooks and translations, for example). At the current low launch price, you can't really go too far wrong.

As I really like Your Book Monopoly, however, I'm throwing in not one but two extra bonuses of my own. If you buy via any of the (affiliate) links in my review, just forward your email receipt to me at NickDaws+YBM-AT-gmail.com, changing the -AT- to the usual @ symbol (alternatively, copy and paste your receipt into my Contact Me form with the subject line BONUS CLAIM).

I will then send you my report on how to apply custom formatting to your Kindle e-book description so it looks much more professional and compelling. And I will also send you Underground Book Promotion, a great 11-page report from Amy Harrop and Debbie Drum on lesser-known ways to publicize your book or e-book (which has some excellent advice on using Goodreads, in particular).

I hope you found this review helpful. If you have any comments or questions about Your Book Monopoly, of course, please post them below and I will do my best to answer them!

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Monday, June 03, 2013

How Kindle Worlds Might Change Fan Fiction


Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post from Jonathan Bailey, syndicated via Repost.Us.

Jonathan looks at how Amazon Worlds - which I discussed in this recent blog post - may have a dramatic effect on both fan fiction writers and readers.

How Kindle Worlds Might Change Fan Fiction (via www.plagiarismtoday.com)
Yesterday, Amazon announced the launch of Kindle Worlds, a new initiative aimed at letting fan fiction (sometimes falled fanfiction or fanfic) authors profit from some of their writing by making it available for sale in the Kindle store. The idea is both simple and bold. Amazon has partnered with rightsholders…

Thank you to Jonathan for a thought-provoking article. If you have any comments, please do post them below...

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