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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kindle Video Hurricane Review

Kindle Video Hurricane is a new guide to creating videos to promote your Kindle (or other) books, publishing them on YouTube, and boosting them to the top of the search-engine rankings for your desired keyword/s. It's by Andreas Quintana and Andrew Zirkin.

The product has just been launched quite cheaply on the Warrior Forum (under $9 at the time of writing). I want to get more into video myself, so I decided to buy a copy to see whether I (and my readers) could benefit from it.

Kindle Video Hurricane comes in the form of a concise (22-page) illustrated manual in PDF form, and an accompanying short video.

The manual starts by discussing keyword research. Obviously, if you want your video to attract search visitors, it's important to ensure it ranks highly for relevant search terms. The authors have enjoyed considerable success at doing this themselves, and their advice makes sense and is worth reading.

I don't suppose I'm giving away too much if I reveal that they recommend using the free Google Keywords Tool for this. That's fine, but I would just note that Google are currently phasing this out and replacing it with Adwords Keywords Planner. This can be used in a very similar way, but you will need to have an Adwords account and be logged into it in order to use it. There are lots of other free and paid-for keyword research tools out there, of course, so I don't see this as a major issue. The main thing is to know what keywords you want to rank for, and roughly how popular they are.

After that, the manual sets out some suggestions for creating your video. Don't expect in-depth advice on this subject. It suggests two different methods, both of which again can be applied using free tools. I wasn't wild about the first method, if I'm honest - it involves creating slideshows using stock images. Personally, I would sooner use images from the book itself, but the method (and resources used) could easily be adapted for this. The other method is even more straightforward.

Really, though, the key advice is not to agonize too much over making your video. The real point, according to the authors, is to get something up in the shortest possible time, so you can then start benefiting from it.

The manual goes on to discuss search-engine optimizing and promoting your video, and this is really where the most valuable advice is to be found. Andrew and Andreas take you through everything you need to do to ensure that your video is indexed by the search engines and ranked as highly as possible for your chosen keywords, focusing particularly on the title, description and tags. I found the step-by-step explanation of how to write your video description especially eye-opening.

Finally, the manual lists some free and low-cost methods you can use to give your video an extra promotional push, should you need to. Again, there are some very useful resources listed here, none actually costing more than five dollars.

As mentioned, you also get a video. This shows you how to link to your book's Amazon sales page, shorten the link with bit.ly, and how and where to post your link for maximum impact on your YouTube video page. All good stuff, although of course experienced online publishers will be familiar with much of this information already.

Finally, I should mention that in addition to Kindle Video Hurricane, there is a "one time offer" of a multimedia course titled Kindle Wealth Formula. I didn't get this, as much of the content sounded familiar to me, but I've heard good reports about it. If you're looking for an all-in-one introductory course in writing for Kindle, it may be worth considering at the offer price (along with my own Kindle Kash, of course!).

To sum up, Kindle Video Hurricane is a useful quick guide to creating a promotional video for your book and (especially) getting it to the top of the search-engine rankings. Clearly, it will be most relevant to niche non-fiction authors, as people tend not to search for novels or short stories using keywords. Video book trailers can still be effective tools for promoting fiction, of course, and I recommend Book Trailer Treasure Map by Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum for advice in this instance.

Anyway, I'm going to try out Kindle Video Hurricane myself with my non-fiction e-book Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay, and will let you know whether I succeed in getting my video to the top of the Google search rankings or not!

If you have any questions or comments about Kindle Video Hurricane, of course, please do post them below.

 

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why the UK Government is Forcing Me to "Opt In" for Something I Don't Want


This week the news media here (and across the world, I gather) have been awash with stories about the royal birth.

While I wish young Prince George and his extended family all the very best, it does mean that an announcement on Monday by British Prime Minister David Cameron hasn't attracted the attention (or scrutiny) it deserves.

That is the decision to force all UK internet users to "opt in" if they want to access adult content, otherwise known as pornography, on their computer.

While the intentions behind this move are obviously worthy - to protect children from accidentally stumbling across inappropriate content - I have severe reservations about how it will work in practice. In particular, as it is almost impossible to define what constitutes pornography, I expect internet service providers to adopt a cautious approach and block anything where there is any room for doubt.

The consequence may well be that if you don't opt in, you will end up with access to little more than half the internet. It is, for example, quite easy to imagine that my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com will end up on the "blocked" list. Although we do not tolerate extreme content of any type, we do not automatically block the use of strong language or moderately explicit sexual content.

As for websites dealing with relationships, sexual health, breast cancer, and so on, the chances of many being wrongly blocked by the censorware that will do this job (it being too much for human beings alone) are very high.

There is also the worrying possibility that commercial websites will attempt to use this to have rivals blocked. This could even happen with forums such as my own. It would be very easy, for example, for a malicious individual to attach a pornographic image to an old forum post and then report to the authorities that the site was publishing adult images and should be blocked. The Law of Unintended Consequences will undoubtedly rear its head in many forms, of which this will be just one.

As a heavy internet user myself, I therefore find myself in the bizarre position where I will have no choice but to 'opt in' to access pornography if I am asked by my ISP. I have no wish to view the objectionable material the government is so concerned about, but otherwise the risk of having content I want and need to access blocked will be far too high. I presume that as a result I will probably be placed on some "watch list" or other. I resent my government forcing me into a position where I am in effect being treated as a criminal, simply because I don't want my internet access subject to wholesale censorship.

I just hope that everyone in Britain (and anywhere else such a policy may be under consideration) fully understands the implications of this move, and they think very carefully before accepting it. It seems ridiculous to advise people to "opt in" to access porn sites even if they don't want to, but otherwise you risk having hordes of perfectly legitimate websites blocked, while many objectionable sites are likely to be misclassified and remain accessible.

It's not just me who thinks this, either. Last year the author Cory Doctorow wrote a lengthy article about this subject for the Guardian newspaper, which is partly reproduced on his Tumblr blog. He wrote:
Consider a hypothetical internet of a mere 20bn documents that is comprised one half “adult" content, and one half “child-safe" content. A 1% misclassification rate applied to 20bn documents means 200m documents will be misclassified. That’s 100m legitimate documents that would be blocked by the government because of human error, and 100m adult documents that the filter does not touch and that any schoolkid can find.
In practice, the misclassification rate is much, much worse. It’s hard to get a sense of the total scale of misclassification by censorware because these companies treat their blacklists as trade secrets, so it’s impossible to scrutinise their work and discover whether they’re exercising due care.

I would add to this that the censorship will be applied by the ISPs themselves. They will have no financial incentive to do this efficiently or effectively - rather, it will be a gigantic millstone around their necks. I expect vast numbers of sites to be misclassified, and webmasters to be queueing up to launch appeals regarding bans. I shan't be at all surprised if at some point I am among them.

And equally, anyone who thinks that passively accepting this censorship will ensure that they and their children never see a racy website again is being dangerously complacent. As Cory Doctorow says in his article, even if they achieve a (frankly highly implausible) misclassification rate of just 1%, that would still leave 100 million legitimate sites blocked and 100 million objectionable ones remaining accessible. And, of course, millions more pages are being added to the web every day.

So far as protecting children is concerned, a much better option, it seems to me, is to give them their own Windows account with filters to block adult content and monitor how they are using the net. This is quite simple in Windows 7 and (especially) with Windows Family Safety in Windows 8. I'm no expert on Macs, but I assume similar options must be available. This is surely far better than relying on ISPs to do the job in a one-size-fits-all fashion.

To sum up, if this misconceived piece of electioneering by David Cameron and his colleagues actually goes ahead, I do hope ISPs will make very clear to their customers the implications of accepting their across-the-board censorship and the risks that it entails. I hope they will make it easy for people who opt out initially to opt back in when they realise how seriously their internet access has been damaged. And I hope that a very high proportion of people "opt in" from the start, not because they want to see porn, but to send a very clear signal to the government that this type of swingeing censorship is not the right way forward so far as the internet is concerned.

I appreciate that this is a controversial topic and all comments are welcome, of course - please feel free to post them below.

UPDATE: If you agree with me that this ill-conceived initiative should be stopped in its tracks, please take a moment to sign this electronic petition by the Open Rights Group, which is open world-wide.

Photo by Perrimoon on Flickr, reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 licence.



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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Description Detective by Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum


Description Detective is a new product and manual for authors who want to improve their book or e-book descriptions on Amazon and boost their sales. It's been launched today at a low (but slowly rising) offer 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 Fast and Cheap Storybooks 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.

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

The software itself is simple to download and install. When you launch it, you can see an eight-minute video tutorial that takes you through using the software step by step.

It really is straightforward, and for once there genuinely is no need for an instruction manual. The short promotional video below shows you what it does...



As you can see, Description Detective is pretty intuitive. You start by entering one or more keywords related to your chosen niche, then choose whether to search for Kindle e-books only, print books only, or all types. You can also set the maximum number of results you want displayed, then click on the search icon.

You will then see a list of books and their descriptions in Amazon sales rank order, with the best-selling ones at the top. Here's a screen capture of the results I got when I searched the Kindle store for "Plotting a novel"...


As ever, you can see a larger version of the screen capture above by clicking on it.

And yes, the list includes my e-book Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay, with a respectable sales rank of about 30,000. You didn't think I was going to miss the chance of giving it another plug, now did you?

The software allows you to copy the book description to your clipboard, and you can also export all the descriptions to a CSV (comma separated values) file. Finally, you can click on a link to open any book's Amazon sales page in your browser.

And that's it, basically. It's a simple but useful tool, that lets you quickly find, read and compare the descriptions of other books in your niche. By this means you can evaluate the competition and maybe borrow some of their best ideas when composing your own descriptions!

The software is only half the story, though. You also get a 35-page PDF guide to writing better book descriptions and formatting them according to Amazon's rather challenging rules and guidelines.

This is the most detailed account I have seen yet of how to create and format Amazon descriptions. It reveals how to incorporate the range of permitted features using KDP Dashboard and Amazon Author Central (the rules are actually quite different in each case). You will also learn how you can add quotes, reviews and "book extras" to descriptions using Author Central, and much more.

One small point I would make is that while the PDF is bang up to date at the moment, Amazon do have a habit of changing the rules every so often. If you are serious about building your Kindle publishing empire, therefore, I recommend getting Andy Makar's Better Book Descriptions tool as well. This will take care of formatting in both KDP and Author Central for you, and Andy has promised it will be updated any time Amazon change the rules. I wouldn't be without this now!

Nonetheless, I do highly recommend Description Detective as well. For a software tool combined with an informative manual, it's amazing value at its current launch price. And the sooner you buy, the better value that price will be.

As ever, if you have any comments or queries about Description Detective, please post them below and I will do my best to answer them!

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Monday, July 22, 2013

An Interview With Fantasy Author David Litwack

Today I'm pleased to bring you an interview with author David Litwack, published as part of a whirlwind blog tour organized by Novel Publicity to promote his books Along the Watchtower (pictured, left) and There Comes a Prophet.

In the interview, David talks about the inspiration for his books, including his fascination with fantasy role-playing games, his own favourite classic books, how as a busy author and self-publisher he finds balance in his life, and how he likes to unwind!

Both of David's books are on sale all this week at discounted prices, and all purchasers are eligible for a range of prizes, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and five autographed copies of each book. For full details, please see below.

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Please enjoy this interview with David Litwack, author of the gripping contemporary novel, Along the Watchtower, and the deep, dark dystopia, There Comes a Prophet. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

1. Along the Watchtower is a powerful blend of contemporary fiction and fantasy that demands the reader's attention from start to finish. What was your inspiration for writing this work, and for combining World of Warcraft with a casualty of war and a dream world?

I’ve always been fascinated by how we perceive reality. Think of the film Rashomon, the classic exploration of multiple realities, where several witnesses to a crime describe events completely differently, each bringing their own life experience and biases into play. But it’s when we’re ripped from our normal life and placed in extreme circumstances that our reality becomes totally fragmented. Such is the case with hospitals and war.

At the same time, I’d become engrossed in playing the online fantasy game, World of Warcraft, with my son, an avid player. With me on the east coast and him on the west, he suggested we meet weekly in the fantasy world of Azeroth—an invitation I could hardly resist. For several months, we had a Wednesday evening appointment, where our avatars would meet in this virtual world and go on quests together. I was struck by how totally immersed I could get in the game, how quickly time passed, and the surreal mood of wandering around in castles and crypts, solving riddles and following quests.

The fantasy gaming experience has a dream-like quality to it. And I began to wonder: how would this experience affect the dreams of someone whose reality has been fragmented by war, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.

These concepts—war, hospitals, and the fantasy world of online gaming—came together in Along the Watchtower. The video trailer (below) graphically illustrates how in the novel the two worlds become intertwined.



2. Without giving away too much, can you introduce us to the main character Lieutenant Freddie, and tell us how he's similar and different in both worlds he inhabits?

When Freddie comes out of his medically-induced coma in the VA hospital, he’s nearly given up hope. Everything he had to live for was gone, and he was racked with bad memories and guilt, in addition to his physical injuries.

Prince Frederick doesn’t have the luxury of giving up. If he yields to despair, the kingdom that depends on him will fall into darkness. Because of this, he’s more willing to struggle through his trials. It’s through the prince in the fantasy world that Freddie is finally able to confront and overcome his personal demons in the real world.

3. Your first novel, There Comes a Prophet, explores the roots of the dystopian fiction category while also reinventing it for a younger generation of readers. This genre boasts many great classics including Slaughterhouse V, 1984, and Brave New World to name a few. What are your favorite classic books?

Dystopia literally means dysfunctional utopia, not necessarily an evil, power-hungry regime oppressing its people, but a well-intentioned system that has lost its way, resulting in a world gone awry. My favorite such dystopian is Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars. In this near perfect world, there’s no disease, hunger or poverty, and people are effectively immortal. But all are afraid to venture outside the walls of their city or even look beyond them. The thought of the open expanse of stars in the night sky terrifies them. All of this had been put in place to protect them from some past too horrible to mention. Yet the unfulfilled aspirations of a single individual drive him to discover the lost truth and let humanity move forward again.

Lois Lowry’s The Giver is another great example. In a simple but beautiful writing style, she tells the story of a seemingly perfect world where bad memories have been abolished, except for one person, the keeper of memories. But the people are left unable to feel anything much—good or bad.

4. People read books for many different reasons. Of all the different reasons you've seen in reviews, can you relate one story that really stood out for you about a reader's experience?

One reviewer read Along the Watchtower and it brought back memories of being a young college student, witnessing the twin towers fall on 9/11. The book touched him deeply, because it reminded him that, as a result of that tragic event, we’ve been at war his entire adult life. The shock he felt on 9/11 all came back to him in reading the struggles of the recovering Lt. Freddie Williams.

Interestingly enough, that same reviewer had a powerful reaction to the dystopian world of There Comes a Prophet. In that book, a ruling power limits learning and growth. This reviewer associated my story with the courageous young Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who the Taliban tried to kill for advocating education for women.

5. Along the Watchtower features a veteran's healing process on the physical, emotional, and intellectual levels. What role do you think fantasy role-playing games and dreaming can play in a healing process?

When we’re confronted with trauma too terrible to comprehend, our mind sometimes shuts the experience out to let us heal. But the memory still lingers in our subconscious. Sometimes it’s easier to confront those feelings through fantasy, like dreams or video games, rather than facing them head on in the cruel light of reality. Then once confronted, we’re better able to move on.

6. Symbolism and description play a huge role in the opening chapters of Along the Watchtower. As the lines between reality and fantasy become more and more blurry, did you find it difficult to remember which 'character' you were talking as?

Freddie and Prince Frederick were undergoing the same trials at an emotional level, even though their circumstances differed. The hardest part in writing the two was to maintain a distinct voice for each—for Freddie the gritty language of the VA hospital and for Prince Frederick, more of a high fantasy tone. This difference was important to make each world believable. But since the book was written in a first person point of view, it was also critical to quickly alert the reader whenever there was a switch in worlds.

7. Ocean imagery features prominently in your book Along the Watchtower. What's your favorite place to visit, and what scenery do you find most inspiring as an author?

I almost hate to mention this because it’s such a well-kept secret. But my favorite spot is a place called The Knob in my home town of Falmouth. It’s a raised spit of land rising up dramatically into the harbor onto a domed rock, reachable only after a half-mile walk through the woods. I’ve actually used it as a setting in my upcoming novel, The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.

8. You run a very active blog and website, though the demands of marketing yourself can be overwhelming for many authors. How do you find balance in your life, and time to enjoy your surroundings in a highly technical world? Coming from a software background, I'm sure you might have unique insights on balancing the 'real' world with the technical one.

I’ve spent most of my adult life in front of a computer, first as a software engineer and now as an author. The key is to take advantage of non-computer time to get out and enjoy yourself. But all writers want to be read, so you have to spend time reaching out to readers. The software equivalent was that I used to enjoy taking a break from developing software to visit customers and see how they were using what I’d developed.

9. You've published two books, Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet. Is there anything you'd like to share with readers and your future writing plans?

I’m in late stage edits with an alternate world story called The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. It’s about a world divided between the Blessed Lands, a place of the spirit, and the Republic, whose people worship at the altar of reason. A mysterious nine-year-old girl from the Blessed Lands sails into the lives of a troubled couple in the Republic and seems to heal everyone she meets. She reveals nothing about herself, other than to say she’s the daughter of the sea and the sky. But she harbors a secret wound she herself cannot heal.

I’m also currently planning what will be a sequel to There Comes a Prophet. I’ve always wondered what happened to Orah and Nathaniel after their world changing heroics and what became of the contemporaries of the keepmasters who had crossed the ocean. Stay tuned.

10. What do you like to do to unwind? You know, in those rare moments when you're not writing!

Since writing and social networking are indoor activities, I try to get outside as often as possible. I go for long walks on the seashore, play some golf, bicycle, and generally try to stay active. I’m fortunate to be able to split my time between Cape Cod and Florida, both beautiful places in their respective nice seasons.

Watchtower Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale at discounted prices this week.

What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each 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. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  4. Visit the featured social media events
  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.
Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes.

There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes.

David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the fantastic. Visit David on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.


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Thank you to David Litwack 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. As stated above, anyone leaving a comment here will also be automatically entered to win the $100 random commenter prize.



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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

An Apostrophe Conundrum at my Writing Blog


The other day a reader contacted me to ask why I referred to my blog as Nick Daws' Writing Blog. She felt it should really be Nick Daws's Writing Blog.

The question of how you turn a name ending in an 's' into a possessive is one that crops up quite regularly. Like many such issues, there is no clear right or wrong answer.

The rule I have always followed is that either option is acceptable, and it really comes down to how you want it pronounced.

In my case, I would much prefer to have my blog's name pronounced "Nick Daws Writing Blog" than adding an unnecessary extra syllable to make it "Nick Dawsiz Writing Blog" (excuse my phonetic spellings). For that reason, I prefer it as Nick Daws' Writing Blog.

On the other hand, there are plenty of occasions when I prefer the apostrophe-s ending. For example, in a short story I was reading recently about Wallis Simpson, I came across the sentence, "It was as though a veil of composure had passed instantaneously over Wallis' previously fraught and tense face."

I would have written Wallis's here, as that is how I would pronounce it. "Over Wallis previously fraught and tense face" (again writing phonetically) just doesn't sound right to me, though I'd never say it was definitely wrong. The problem I have with it is that it immediately strikes me as odd, and because of that I am temporarily propelled out of the story to ponder matters of grammar and punctuation.

There can also be house style considerations. AP style favours leaving off the extra 's', for example, while the Oxford Manual of Style recommends adding it. The excellent Grammar Girl website had a useful discussion on this point a while ago.

This is therefore one of those issues where it is impossible to be correct in everyone's eyes all of the time. Unless you are instructed to follow a particular house style guide, therefore, my advice is to consider which version sounds more natural and more euphonious, and punctuate according to this. And, obviously, be consistent when using the same phrase later in the same work.

And yes, I am happy to confirm that I will be using the version Nick Daws' Writing Blog for the foreseeable future!

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Niche Sites Revenge

I recently received a review copy of a new low-cost course called Niche Sites Revenge by London-based Martin Kratochvila. This has just been launched as a low-priced special offer on The Warrior Forum.

Niche Sites Revenge comes in the form of a PDF manual and various bonus reports, also in PDF. It's quite refreshing to see a course that comes in written form rather than a series of videos these days!

The main manual is a well written and comprehensive guide to setting up your own network of affiliate sites on the WordPress platform. It's not therefore a writing-related product of the type I usually review here, but as I know many of my readers are interested in other sideline opportunities as well, I thought it was worth featuring. Plus the key to Martin's method is creating websites based around articles, so writers should have an advantage here.

The manual takes you step by step through Martin's system, with screen captures included as appropriate. Keyword research is central to the method, and Martin explains exactly how to perform this in order to unearth potentially profitable niches and subniches. He also reveals how to assess the level of competition in any niche and decide whether you can realistically hope to rank high enough in the search engines to attract people searching for the keywords in question.

Once you have chosen a niche, Martin walks you through setting up a (self-hosted) WordPress site targeting the relevant keywords. Setting up a WordPress site is pretty straightforward if you use a specialist WordPress hosting service such as HostGator (which he recommends). He also advises you to install some (free) plug-ins for search engine optimization, sitemaps, comment spam filtering, and so on. This is important information, of course, although regular WordPress bloggers may find the recommendations have a familiar ring to them.

The guide goes on to discuss adding content to your site, building backlinks to help boost its search engine rankings, and monetizing it. Martin recommends using either Google AdSense or affiliate links for this purpose. He reckons that his method has given him around an 80 percent success rate, i.e. four out of five sites he builds generate a net profit. The profit per site might not be huge - $100 a month appears typical - but of course this can continue for many months, and you can continue adding new sites to build your total income.

Martin does recommend some paid resources (e.g. for building backlinks to your sites), but I was pleased to see that in most cases he suggests free alternatives as well. He also recommends low-cost Fiverr gigs that will perform some of these tasks for you. This is very helpful for people who are testing the water and don't want to spend a lot initially on extra software and services.

There are two bonus reports on niche research and keyword research, both of which are informative and complement the main manual well. You also get a separate case studies report, which features two other sites that Martin has set up, with the actual URLs, visitor statistics and earnings reports (where the site has started making money - in the second case he hasn't monetized it yet).

It's worth noting that all of Martin's examples are in the health/medical sphere, and this is one that Martin specifically recommends targeting. In principle there is no reason why you couldn't target other markets as well, though.

Finally, you get a short but practical step-by-step action plan.

Overall, I think Niche Sites Revenge is a realistic, actionable guide to earning money from keyword-focused affiliate sites. If this is something that interests you, in my view it is well worth the modest launch offer fee.

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


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Friday, July 12, 2013

Kindle Worlds Opens for Readers and Writers

As mentioned in this blog post a few weeks ago, Kindle Worlds is a new initiative from Amazon, allowing authors to publish (and profit from) fan fiction based on selected properties.

Kindle Worlds is now officially open to both readers and writers (though you must live in the US in both cases). They have also added nine more properties to the three specified originally. The complete list is now as follows:

The Foreworld Saga
Gossip Girl
The Vampire Diaries
Pretty Little Liars
Bloodshot
X-O Manowar
Archer & Armstrong
Harbinger
Shadowman
Wayward Pines
Silo Saga
John Rain

Click through any of the above to find out more about the property in question and see the writers' guidelines. Here are some FAQs from the Kindle Worlds site about sales, royalties and payments.
Where will readers buy my story?

Stories will be available on Amazon.com and in a new Kindle Worlds store, as well as on Kindle devices and via Kindle Free Reading apps on iOS and Android devices, PCs and Macs, and Kindle Cloud Reader.

What price will Kindle Worlds charge readers for stories?

Amazon Publishing will set the price for most works between $0.99 and $3.99.

What kind of promotion will I receive?

Kindle Worlds stories will benefit from being in a new section of the Kindle Books store on Amazon.com and Kindle devices. We expect to support many titles that sell well and receive strong customer reviews with additional promotion.

What Kindle royalty will I receive for my work?

Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to both the World Licensors and the author. Your standard royalty rate (for works of 10,000 words or more) will be 35% of net revenue. As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue on customer sales price less customer returns, delivery and transmission costs, and excluding taxes rather than the lower industry standard of wholesale price. Royalties will be paid monthly.

What will the royalty be for a shorter Kindle Worlds story? 

Amazon Publishing is piloting an experimental new program for particularly short works – between 5,000 and 9,999 words. For these short stories—typically priced less than one dollar—Amazon will pay the royalties for the World Licensor and pay authors a digital royalty of 20% of net revenue. The lower royalty for these shorter works is due to significantly higher fixed costs (such as credit card fees) per digital copy.
There is already a growing roster of Kindle Worlds e-books available, and new properties are set to be added soon.

All the early indications are that Kindle Worlds will be another success for Amazon, and if you're a US author it's well worth checking out the opportunities available. In principle, any new title should have a big potential readership among fans of the book or TV series concerned.

It is, though, important to note that - unlike standard Kindle e-books - acceptance of KW titles isn't automatic, as Amazon and the licensors are keen to ensure that the relevant guidelines are followed and standards maintained.

Also, as I noted before, it's disappointing that non-US writers are still excluded from contributing to Kindle Worlds, and I hope Amazon will open it up to authors world-wide soon.

In the mean time, it seems to me that there is an opportunity for entrepreneurial US authors (or even non-authors) to partner with ghostwriters outside the US. The latter could write Kindle Worlds books and submit them to the US authors, who could then publish them under their own name and split the income as agreed. If Amazon continue their US-writers-only policy, I would expect such collaborations to become increasingly common.

UPDATE: I asked Amazon why non-US authors were excluded from Kindle Worlds. Here's the reply I received:
At this time, Kindle Worlds stories are only available on amazon.com, and we require Kindle Worlds authors to provide us with US banking and tax information.
We are working hard and hope to expand to other countries and marketplaces in the future, and your feedback has been noted.

Please don't hesitate to contact us back should you have any further comments or questions.

Thanks for your interest in Kindle Worlds.
So there appears to be some prospect that eventually Kindle Worlds will be opened up to authors world-wide, but for now I wouldn't hold your breath!

If you have any comments about Kindle Worlds, I'd love to hear them. Please post them below as usual.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

AK Elite vs KD Suite: Two Powerful Tools for Kindle Authors, But Which is Best?


A few weeks ago a software tool called KD Suite was launched by Bobby Walker.

It's a powerful tool for analyzing Kindle best-selling titles and search terms, and also has features to help you find reviewers for your e-book, and to promote them in Amazon search.

This week, if your experience is anything like mine, your inbox will have been flooded with emails promoting a new software tool called AK Elite by Brad Callen, which basically claims to do the same things. So if you're on the fence about this, how do you decide which of the two to choose?

My own situation is that I bought KD Suite when it was first released, and reviewed it for my clients at More Money Review. Unfortunately my review hasn't yet appeared on the site, though hopefully it soon will. But if anyone would like to see my full, 1400-word review now, just drop me a line via my Contact Me page and I'll be happy to email it to you.

The gist of my review is that, with only a few minor reservations, I was highly impressed with KD Suite, and have already been putting it to good use (e.g. with my new Kindle e-book "Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay", which made number one in the Writing category on both Amazon UK and Amazon.com).

Nobody so far has commissioned me to review AK Elite (or offered me a review copy) - and as I already have KD Suite, I don't feel any need to buy AK Elite as well. Nevertheless, by searching online and checking out the sales page and other reviews, I've come to my own conclusions.

First off, there is a substantial price difference between the two products. AK Elite costs $147, compared with $97 for KD Suite. I was also disappointed that you can't even find out the price of AK Elite without supplying your email address. As I don't want to end up on yet another marketing list, I had to get this information from a third-party source.

Both KD Suite and AK Elite will show you what keywords and keyword phrases visitors to Amazon's Kindle Store are searching for, and what titles they see listed when they do. They also reveal how many copies these books are selling (estimated figures - Amazon don't release this exact information publicly) and much more besides. This data can be used to identify niches that are ripe for exploiting, and suggest keywords you can use in your description and publicity (as well as your e-book's title) in order to top Amazon's rankings for the search term in question.

KD Suite has a number of additional features that AK Elite doesn't (as far as I know), however. One is that it will help you find potential reviewers (with contact details) in your chosen niche. Another is that it will create special links you can use to promote your e-books on Amazon and boost your Amazon search rankings for any search term you choose. I'm a big fan of the latter feature in particular.

One small drawback with KD Suite is that it is actually three separate programs: KD BestSeller Analyzer, KD Search Analyzer and KD Ebook Marketer, and each of these has to be set up and used separately. In the overall scheme of things this is pretty minor, though.

Overall, then, KD Suite seems the better choice to me by a clear margin. Essentially, for $50 less than AK Elite, you are actually getting a more powerful and versatile tool. The one argument for AK Elite that might carry some weight is that there are some good bonuses bundled with it, including Hands Off Books by Rachel Rofe, which I reviewed a while ago in this post. Still, you could buy this separately along with KD Suite if you liked, and it would still cost you less than AK Elite in total! And KD Suite has two excellent video courses on Kindle publishing bundled with it as well.

So my advice at the moment is that if you have one of these programs, you almost certainly don't need the other - but if you don't have either, then KD Suite would get my vote.

Still, I'm open to persuasion, so if you have any comments or questions on either program, please do post them below!

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Friday, July 05, 2013

Review: Fast and Cheap Storybooks


Fast and Cheap Storybooks is a guide for authors to creating illustrated children's books, even if you have almost no artistic or graphics skills. It's currently on offer at a low launch price on the Warrior Forum.

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 $5 Book Promotion 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.

Amy and Debbie were kind enough to allow me reviewer access to Fast and Cheap Storybooks, so here's what I found...

The course content is accessed via a WordPress membership site. This has the advantage that it can be easily updated and expanded, though don't forget to keep your log-in details somewhere you can easily find them again!

The training is mainly in the form of videos, narrated by one or other of the authors. This makes sense, as the subject matter is largely visual. You do, though, also get various other resources, including spreadsheets and mindmaps.

Examples are included as well, one being a PDF of a book called Three Little Lost Aliens by Amy Harrop. This is great for giving you a sense of what may be possible, even (meaning no disrespect to Amy) without possessing any particular artistic skills.

The main course content is set out in four modules. Module 1 is titled Idea Generation. It comprises a 10-page PDF, which is basically an introduction to the course, and three videos. All the videos are based on screen captures, and are clearly presented and narrated.

The main emphasis of Fast and Cheap Storybooks is on using 'found images' which you can (legally) copy and manipulate for your own books. The first module also spends some time looking at the market for illustrated children's e-books and how you can come up with winning ideas.

Module 2 is titled Image Resources. You get a PDF for this as well, along with image resources and image management spreadsheets, which you can adapt and use for your own projects.

There are also two videos. One is about searching Wiki Commons for images you can use, and the other is an overview of illustration and public domain sites. Obviously, if you are going to use other people's illustrations to create your own e-books it's important to do it legally, and this module suggests plenty of websites and resources you can safely use.

Module 3 is titled Image Manipulation. This is where we get to the heart of the course. Nine videos illustrate various techniques you can use to adapt and manipulate your found images, e.g. removing and replacing backgrounds, resizing images, inserting illustrations, and so on. Using layers is also covered in some detail. The videos mostly use Pixelmator, a mac application, but the authors say you could just as well use PhotoShop or the free, open source GIMP or online Pixlr Editor (among others).

Module 3 uses as an example an e-book by Debbie called My Dad Has Superpowers, and it's fascinating to see how this book is created from public domain images cleverly manipulated. In Module 4 you can see the finished e-book.

There is also a further module titled Creative Book Layouts (which I personally think should have been called Module 5!) It sets out various ways you can create book layouts that go beyond the standard pictures and text.

I particularly liked Found Footage Creation, where you use stock images for your backgrounds and simply superimpose your characters on them. This is the method that Amy used in Three Little Lost Aliens, incidentally. As the authors admit, this method has some limitations - but once you have your character images created, you could produce a book very quickly indeed using it.

The Creative Book Layouts module has seven videos, including one that takes you through exporting and publishing your book to Kindle, and a mindmap of the entire process. As mentioned earlier, you also get a copy of Amy's Little Lost Aliens book with this module.

And that's it, essentially. Fast and Cheap Storybooks sets out some very do-able techniques for creating illustrated children's books for this fast-growing market. It will undoubtedly help if you have at least a passing familiarity with graphics software, but their example shows that you definitely don't need to be a professional artist or designer to create attractive books that will appeal to young readers (and their parents).

Any criticisms? Well, you won't find a great deal about the actual writing in Fast and Cheap Storybooks. The emphasis here is very much on the graphics. Of course, with this type of book there is much less text than adult books, and the stories are generally best kept simple. Though I guess you could also invest in Write a Children's Book in 14 Days from my sponsors The Self Development Network if you need a little help in this department ;-)

Overall, I was impressed with Fast and Cheap Storybooks, and it opened my eyes to ways anyone can produce illustrated children's books, even with very limited artistic and/or graphics skills.

Fast and Cheap Storybooks is currently available for just $9.95, though like their previous Kids Kindle Magnets it may be withdrawn from sale at any time, or the price may be raised. If writing for children is something that interests you, it's definitely worth snapping up now at the low launch price.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

KindleFever - Congratulations to The Magnificent Seven!

Well, KindleFever, the challenge on my forum to publish an e-book to the Kindle platform in June, is now over. Thank you to everyone who took part, and congratulations to those who successfully completed the challenge.

In this post I'll list all the successful participants and their e-books. Obviously, it would be great if you could check the books out, give them a mention in social media, add them to your Amazon wishlists, and maybe even download and review them. None is expensive, and several are currently on free promotions or will be soon.

As this is my blog, I hope you'll excuse me mentioning my book first! I had to change my plans slightly after events conspired to ensure I had less time to devote to the challenge than I hoped.

The book I originally planned to adapt for KindleFever had some quite tricky formatting, and I could see I wouldn't have the time to do it justice. So instead I adapted one of the reports I currently give away to people signing up for my free E-Writer Updates service.

So my new Kindle e-book is called Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay - it's based on content from my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course. Here's a link for the Kindle e-book on Amazon.com and here's a link for Amazon.co.uk. For any other national Amazon stores, just search for the ASIN B00DP8HKLQ.

Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay costs the minimum 99c or 77p (plus VAT), but I am offering it free until Sunday 7 July as a launch promotion. Even if you have already seen my original report, I'd still be very grateful if you would download the new Kindle version and/or leave a short review. Thank you very much!

The other successful participants in KindleFever are as follows...

Terrance Bramblett ('TheDude' on MWC) with his story 'Changes' - Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk. This is on a free promotion until Saturday 6 July.

Sally Jenkins with 'Maxine's Story - The Museum of Fractured Lives' - Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk 

Rohi Shetty with '200 Humorous Tweetable Quotations' - Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Glynis Scrivens with 'The Flying Scotsman Down Under' - Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Caroline Gebbie with her dark psychological thriller 'One by One They Disappear' - Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Ronald E. Newton with 'Build Kindle Mobi and Epub E-Books' - Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Margaret Bemrose with her children's book 'Aunt Bessy and the Runaway Poem' - Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Congratulations again to our Magnificent Seven, and I wish them every success with their new e-books. If you want to check when (or if) any of them are on free promotions, keep an eye on this topic on the forum.

Incidentally, a lot of useful ideas, tips and advice were shared during KindleFever, and I've already been asked not to close down the board but keep it for future reference. To avoid clutter and confusion it will probably need to be archived at some stage, but I'm happy to keep it open for a while. If you're interested in writing for Kindle, but maybe didn't have the time or inclination to join in KindleFever (this time), you might still enjoy browsing the various topics on the KindleFever board.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions about KindleFever, or writing for Kindle in general, please do post them below.

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