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Friday, August 30, 2013

Amazon KDP Want Your Tax Information Now!

Tax by Phillip, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Phillip 
I got a slightly worrying email from Amazon this morning. This is how it started:

"In order for Amazon to comply with U.S. tax reporting regulations, it is required that all KDP publishers provide valid taxpayer identification. Our records are showing we haven’t received valid tax information for your account yet. To ensure you may continue selling on Amazon, please complete your tax information by 10/25/2013."

So Amazon are now saying that if you have published any Kindle e-books using Kindle Direct Publishing, unless you provide the tax information they need to satisfy the US tax authorities, your titles may be removed from sale. This applies even if (like me) you are not a US resident or citizen and not liable to pay US taxes.

To be honest I have been a bit slow to get my full tax details onto Amazon's system, since I use my Kindle e-books more as a way of generating leads and interest in my courses rather than a major income stream in its own right. Still, I do intend to publish more on Kindle and had been intending to update my tax info anyway, so this email gave me all the incentive (and more!) I needed to get the job done.

What Amazon want you to do, it transpires, is complete an online "tax interview". That's a scary-sounding way of putting it, but it basically involves completing a series of online forms. These start by establishing where you live for tax purposes. According to how you answer, you are then taken to an online version of the appropriate IRS tax form. In the case of a non-US citizen like me, this will probably be form W8-BEN (see below).
 The form appears on the Amazon site pre-populated with the information you provided earlier in the "interview". If you are happy with this, you can opt to have Amazon submit it electronically on your behalf. I was slightly confused at this point in the process, but it appears you do NOT need to enter your name on the online tax form itself (although it appears possible to do so) but just click below it to confirm. An electronic signature form will then appear on which you can enter your full name and a few other details. This is apparently deemed sufficient to qualify as a signature for tax purposes.

And that's it, basically, although there does remain the vexed question of withholding tax. As you may well know, even if you are a non-US citizen and your country has a tax treaty with the US (many do), you will still have to provide a US taxpayer identification number or 30% tax will be deducted from your US sales. (Incidentally, I only just discovered that if you live in the EU, they won't deduct US tax from your sales in Europe, even if you don't have a US TIN. I'm not sure if that was always the case, or it's a recent change.)

Anyway, if you're not a US citizen and want to avoid having tax deducted from your US sales, you will need to contact the IRS and get an ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number) or an EIN (employer identification number).

The consensus nowadays is that an EIN is more straightforward to obtain, and you can get one even if you are a sole trader. You don't need to be set up as a company or employ anyone else. I discussed this a while ago in this blog post, which is still pretty much how things stand. I am now even more confident than when I wrote that post that applying for an EIN is the way to go.

For non-US authors, incidentally, the most comprehensive guide I have seen to this subject comes from an Italian author called Giulio Sanguinetti and is called Royalties for Your Books: How to Avoid Withholding. This Kindle e-book covers applying for an EIN by fax or letter as well as by phone (the quickest way, though some do find ringing the IRS in America a bit daunting). You have to make allowance for the fact that English is not the author's first language, but nonetheless I found it a very useful source of information.

If you have any comments or questions about registering your tax information with Amazon, please feel free to post them below. I can't promise I will be able to answer your question, but maybe another reader will!

UPDATE: Check out also this post by UK writer Caroline Gebbie on how she applied for an EIN by phone and successfully completed the Amazon tax interview, in order to avoid paying the withholding tax.

See also this excellent post by Amanda Martin on how she applied for her EIN by fax.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Create a Single Global Link for All Your Amazon Titles with A-FWD


Like many writers, I have a growing range of books and e-books available on Amazon.

One problem I've had to face, however, is that Amazon has stores in many countries, and you need to be at the right store for your country to make a purchase. If you're in the UK you can't even buy a Kindle e-book from Amazon.com, for example, although with online delivery you might think it would be simple.

This creates a particular problem when you're trying to promote books and e-books on Amazon, whether your own or as an affiliate. If you don't provide a link to a visitor's home store, your chances of a sale are much reduced, and your chances of an affiliate commission are zero.

Until recently, my only solution was to provide links to the title on Amazon UK (my own national Amazon store) and Amazon.com. That covered my two biggest markets, but still meant I was potentially losing many sales to customers in Canada (Amazon.ca), France (Amazon.fr), Germany (Amazon.de), and so on.

Last week, however, I discovered what appears to be an excellent - and free - solution to this problem. A-FWD is a web-based service that allows you to create just one 'global' link for your Amazon book or e-book that automatically directs visitors to their own national Amazon store using geo-tracking - optionally with your affiliate/tracking ID included as well.

You can visit the A-FWD website here.

If you want to see how A-FWD works, here is a link to my Kindle e-book Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay. Click on this and you should be taken to the book's page at your own national Amazon store. If by any chance it doesn't work, please let me know!

A-FWD is entirely free, and you don't even have to register on the site to use it. They make their money by changing a tiny proportion (1 percent) of click-throughs to their affiliate ID instead of yours. They also add their own ID if you don't specify one for a certain Amazon store your user is redirected to.

As they say in their FAQs, if you are writing in the English language it makes sense to sign up for the affiliate programs for Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca. You may or may not think it worthwhile signing up to the non-English-language stores' affiliate programs as well.

Admittedly the A-FWD global IDs do look a bit cumbersome, but you can convert them to something much neater and more concise by using any URL shortening service, such as Tinyurl or bit.ly.

So far I am very impressed with A-FWD, and plan on using it whenever I link to one of my own books on Amazon from now on. And yes, in case anyone wonders, there is no objection to using affiliate links to your own titles. Indeed, there is much to be said for doing so, as you will then also earn commission on any other purchases a visitor makes at the same time.

If you have any comments or questions about the A-FWD service, please feel free to post them below.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Recycled Riches


Recycled Riches is a new product for authors and entrepreneurs showing them how to repurpose their content with a minimum of effort.

It's just been launched at a low offer price, and will be available at this price for a limited time only.

This is the latest release from 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.

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

As is common these days, 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!

Once you are in the members area you will be able to access the training. This comes from a range of experts, including Nicole Dean, Rachel Rofe, Dennis Becker, Barb Ling, and many others (including Amy and Debbie themselves, of course). The training covers 21 different media and content outlets. Here's the full list...

1. E-books and Infoproducts - Rachel Rofe
2. Physical books - Teresa MIler
3. Blogs - Nicole Dean
4. Mindmaps - Amy Harrop
5. PowerPoint Presentations - Amy Harrop
6. Videos - Mike Stewart
7. Glossi Content - Amy Harrop
8. Apps - Caleb Spilchen
9. Udemy and Video Courses - Amy Harrop
10. Podcasts and Radio Shows - Sean Kaye
11. Facebook Pages - Debbie Drum
12. Google Plus - Sue Worthington
13. Pinterest - Eleanor Marks-Prior
14. Tumblr - Barb Ling
15. PLR - Sharyn Sheldon
16. Audio Interviews - Dvorah Lansky
17. Membership Sites - Dennis Becker
18. Google Hangouts - Daniel Hall
19. Audiobooks -Kate Lucella
20. Teleseminars - Connie Ragen Green
21. Infographics - Amy Harrop

I was pleased to discover that this is NOT just a set of interviews. Rather, each expert has presented training in their specialist subject in their own preferred way.

As is the current vogue, much of the training takes the form of videos, but in some cases audio files and/or PDFs are used instead (or as well). In the case of apps, for example, you get a 22-page PDF by Caleb Spilchen explaining how to turn your book (or other content) into an Android app, using a free website that greatly simplifies the process.

By contrast, the training about audio books by Kate Lucella - unsurprisingly, I suppose - comes in the form of four audio files, plus a cheat sheet.

All of the training is concise but useful and practical. I am still working my way through it, but overall am very impressed with the quality. In effect, what you are getting here is twenty different courses from a range of experts, for a price that is currently under ten dollars.

The emphasis throughout is on 'repurposing' your content. It's not about simply copying content to other media (which would be boring and probably pointless).

For example, you could turn your e-book into a video or slideshow presentation. The benefits of doing this for a writer are threefold (at least). First, you will be building your online profile, and potentially reaching a new audience who might not find you on your current platform/s. Second, if you have a mailing list or newsletter (and you almost certainly should), it will give you additional opportunities to attract subscribers to this. And third, of course, it can give you other income streams, e.g. by publishing your Kindle e-books as printed books on CreateSpace and other platforms (as discussed by Teresa Miller in her segment).

Any criticisms? Not particularly. Many of the experts have their own products they also take the opportunity to promote, which I imagine is how Debbie and Amy got them on board in the first place. I'm not really criticizing this, as it's how such things are done, and the training you get is still perfectly valid. And many of these other products do look genuinely interesting. Still, it's something to be aware of!

Also, in one or two cases the content was already familiar to me. Barb Ling's segment on repurposing content using Tumblr is basically an updated version of her Tumblr Crusher guide, which I reviewed earlier this year. Mind you, Tumblr Crusher sells for $27 on its own, so if you haven't bought it already, you are actually getting it much cheaper here.

Finally, I should mention that when buying Recycled Riches, you will also be invited to purchase some software called Recycled Riches Automator (along with some additional training modules).This is optional, obviously.

Debbie and Amy were kind enough to let me try this as well. Recycled Riches Automator is a fairly simple (and easy to master) tool that helps you turn books and articles into PowerPoint or Open Office presentations. I haven't seen anything quite like it before.

Basically, it 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. It's not revolutionary, but it's a clever and useful tool. I've embedded below a quick presentation I created from RRA about peer-to-peer lending sites, from an article I wrote about this recently for one of my clients...



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 something like 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. It's certainly given me food for thought.

Overall, I thought Recycled Riches was a valuable and comprehensive training course in repurposing your content, and well worth the current sales price of $9.99. The Recycled Riches Automator software is worth considering as well, although I'm not sure exactly what they are charging for this.

If you have any comments or questions about Recycled Riches, as ever, please feel free to leave them below!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bloggers: Sign up as a Host on this Blog Tour with over $750 in Prizes!

Render A Recompense 600x800Today I have a guest post from from my friends at book promotion specialists Novel Publicity.

They are offering anyone with a blog the chance to receive a free YA adventure novel (e-book) and compete for over $750 in prizes, just by posting about the book on their blog.

It's very easy to participate in the blog tour. Read on for the full details...

* * *

Novel Publicity is currently recruiting for one of our gigantic whirlwind tours. YAY! Each whirlwind tour boasts hundreds of dollars in cash prizes and autographed books, sometimes even Kindle Fires. NP also provide eBook copies for all reviewers. This time, they're touring the debut YA novel by Stephanie Fleshman, Render.

Choose to be one of the first to read this awesome new book, or, instead, host an excerpt, interview, or guest post. That’s right, you don’t even have to read the books to participate–although that's definitely an option. Novel Publicity will provide your choice of a pre-formatted excerpt, interview, or guest post to make participation easy.


Tour Dates: September 9 to 13, 2013
Genre: Paranormal YA
Page Count: 399
The Prizes:
  • $100 Best/ most creative entry
  • $100 Random commenter prize
  • $50 Rafflecopter (2 prizes)
  • $50 Random blogger award
  • $50 GoodReads party prize
  • $50 Facebook sharing contest
  • $100 in the special author contest
  • Kindle Fire in the special author contest
CLICK HERE TO SIGN-UP!

About Render


A betrayal born of blood
A curse for a gift
A love worth saving

Koldan Holdt knows what he wants. The problem is his future was decided the day he was born—a future void of everything he has ever known.

Days before summer vacation, Koldan’s grandfather suddenly dies, leaving the consequences that have followed him since he fled his country to fall to Koldan. As Koldan learns about his new fate, he must accept the terms to which he is bound and live without the one person he wants, or remain true to who he is and risk both their lives repeating the choices his grandfather made.

Seventeen-year-old Raya Whitney thought she knew Koldan…until a sudden turn of events threatens both their lives. While she is not willing to give up without a fight, she knows it is a deadly game to stay together.


* * *

Thank you to Novel Publicity for sharing this information. I have signed up to participate in this tour myself, as I have previously done with several others (here's an example). 

I don't actually review e-books on this blog so I will probably publish an interview with the author instead. But as the article says, either option is possible, and if you do opt to review the e-book, you will of course get a free copy.

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




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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gmail's New Tabbed Inbox and What It May Mean for You


Are you a fellow Gmail user? If so, you may have noticed that your inbox has changed recently.

Incoming messages are now being allocated to tabs, the defaults being Primary, Social and Promotions. You can also activate two other tabs, Updates and Forums, by clicking on the small "+" tab to the right of them. Here's a picture of what the top of my inbox now looks like..


As ever, if you can't see this image clearly, you can click on it to open a larger version, and use the Back button on your browser to return.

Which tab any email is allocated to is decided by Google, at least initially. Typically, any newsletters or mailings you may have subscribed to (including my own E-Writer Updates) will be delivered to your Promotions tab, where you may or may not get round to reading them!

So my first tip is that, if you don't plan on checking your Promotions tab regularly, you might want to ensure that any mailings you especially want to see go straight to your Primary inbox in future. You can do this easily with any message that is currently under the Promotions (or any other) tab. Just click on the email in question and drag it to the Primary tab to move it there. You will be asked if you want all such messages to be routed to Primary in future, so click on 'Yes' and - hey, presto! - all messages from that sender should appear in your Primary inbox from then on.

This won't work retrospectively, though, so you may just want to check you haven't missed any earlier gems from the same sender by scrolling down the list under your Promotions tab.

You can also remove tabs entirely if you like, so that Gmail goes back to how it was before. To do this, just click on the small plus tab to the right of the others, and the box below will appear...

All you need to do then - as it tells you - is deselect all the categories, and your old inbox will be restored. Personally, I think it's worth giving them a try at least before you do this, though :)

One other thing you may have noticed in the box above is an option to include starred messages in Primary. This is a useful feature, and I recommend leaving it checked. What it means is that if you 'star' a message by clicking on the star symbol at the top right, then regardless of what tab it is under, it will henceforth appear under your Primary tab as well. This is great for keeping track of important messages you want to follow up.

Even if you don't use Gmail yourself, it's important to know about this change if you run a subscription-based newsletter or mailing list. Gmail is now the most popular and widely used email service, and it's a near certainty that some of your subscribers will use it. It may therefore be a good idea to write and let them know about the changes, and gently encourage them to take the action set out above to ensure that your mailings always arrive in their primary inbox.

From a personal perspective, I do like the new tabs, although I would prefer it if it was possible for users to choose and configure the categories themselves, rather than have to accept the defaults. Still, I gather this feature may be in the pipeline.

One effect Gmail's new tabbed inbox did have on me was to make me more aware of the large number of promotional mailings I was receiving. It was somewhat daunting to open Gmail in the morning and discover that the Promotions tab had over 50 new messages since I last visited!

Consequently, I spent some time going through all these messages and unsubscribing to a lot of mailing lists that I didn't feel were providing sufficient value for me.

I'm pleased to say that these numbers are under control now, and most of the messages that appear under my Promotions tab I do genuinely wish to read. So I can see that one possible consequence of the Gmail changes is that a lot of marketers will have to raise their game or risk a lot of people unsubscribing. Which is no bad thing for the rest of us, of course!

So that's my view, but what do you think? Are you a Gmail user, and if so do you like the new tabbed inbox or hate it? I'll be intrigued to hear your views. Please post any comments below as usual.

Photo by opacity on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons licensing.

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Friday, August 09, 2013

Try the new Nitrofocus brainwave entrainment tool without charge today

I've mentioned my friend Karl Moore and his colleagues at Inspire3 on this blog before. They create cutting-edge products such as the Brain Evolution System and Brain Salon, which use the power of brainwave entrainment to help users to achieve a particular mental state.

Well, they have just released their latest product onto the market, and to celebrate the launch I've been authorized to let you "test-drive" it yourself for free.

The product in question is called Nitrofocus. As the name suggests, it's designed to help put you into a state of total focus: get more done in less time, enter 'The Zone', clear your inbox, blast through work, and even zip through household chores - all faster and with more intense concentration than ever before.

For those who may not have experienced Inspire3's products before, Nitrofocus is an audio MP3, but it's not self-hypnosis or anything like that. As mentioned above, it uses a technique called brainwave entrainment to help users to achieve the brainwave profile associated with a desired mental state.

And as a reader of this blog, until the end of August you can download a 15-minute session from Nitrofocus, free and without obligation, to experience exactly what it can do for you. If focusing on your writing (or anything else) is sometimes difficult for you, I highly recommend giving it a try.

How Nitrofocus Works

So how do Nitrofocus and the other brainwave entrainment products in Inspire3's range work?

Various techniques are used, but perhaps the most important is binaural beats. To explain this, I need to start with a bit of theory.

If you've studied psychology (which I have - a long time ago!), you'll know that scientists can measure the electrical activity in our brains using a device called an electroencephalogram (EEG). It has been known for a long time that different mental states are associated with different patterns of electrical activity.

Someone who is fully awake and alert will exhibit relatively high frequency, low amplitude, electrical activity patterns (15-40Hz), known as beta waves. Someone resting or meditating will produce lower frequency alpha waves of 9 to 14Hz. This state is often associated with creativity, and is the frequency that the Self Development Network's Writers Block CD (which also uses binaural beats) aims to entrain. Below that are theta waves (5-8Hz), associated with daydreaming and free-flowing thoughts - this is also a highly 'creative' frequency. And finally, there are delta waves (1.5 to 4Hz), the lowest frequency waves that occur in sleep.

Unfortunately, you can't just entrain someone's mind by playing them sounds at these frequencies, as in general they are below most people's hearing thresholds. However, it has been discovered that if you play sounds of slightly different frequencies to each ear, they combine within the brain to create a low frequency resonance. If you play a tone of 320Hz in one ear and 330Hz in the other, for example, it will create a resonance at a frequency of 10Hz - the difference between them. 10Hz is an alpha wave frequency; so by using this method, your brain can be entrained into a high alpha state.

This does mean that to get the best results from Nitrofocus you should really listen to it via headphones so that the binaural beat effect can work optimally. It's not essential, however, as other entrainment techniques are used as well, and if you listen via stereo speakers you will still get some of the binaural effect.

I hope you will download the Nitrofocus sample session yourself while it's on this free offer. I'm a big fan of the other products from Inspire3, especially Brain Salon and the Brain Evolution System, and look forward to putting Nitrofocus through its paces in the coming weeks as well!

I'd love to hear any thoughts you may have about Nitrofocus and brainwave entrainment more generally - please do post them as comments below.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Guest Post: How to Get an Agent in Seven Simple Steps


Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post by successful UK-based author and consultant Harry Bingham.

In it, Harry sets out a practical, step-by-step strategy for getting a literary agent to represent you.


* * *

Getting an agent is easy. Follow the rules below and you WILL get an agent. It's even better news than that, in fact, because of the seven steps that follow, only one of them is a tiny bit difficult. So, without more ado, here's how it works.

Step One
Write an amazing book. If you write a good one – one that your friends family, and writing group think is really good – then that's not enough. Publishers are cutting their lists, perhaps by as much as 40% over the past few years. And those publishers aren't ditching existing bestsellers, which means that the space available for debut writers is shrinking even more markedly. So 'good' is not good enough. Your book has to be amazing. A fantastic concept, brilliantly executed. Nothing less will do.

Step Two
If you've completed step one properly, everything else is simple. Your next challenge is simply to determine which agents to approach. You're looking to compile list of no more than a dozen names. There aren't, realistically, more than a dozen or so possible publishers for your book, and editors are inevitably more selective than literary agents. So if you can't convince roughly one-in-ten agents that your book is worthwhile, you won't convince the publishers either.

In terms of finding your agents, you can use static directories (like the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook or Writer's Market) or online ones that allow you to set your own search filters. What you're looking for is agents who are enthusiastic about your genre, who are keen to build their client lists, and ideally where you sense some kind of fellow-feeling: perhaps they represent authors you love, or perhaps they've expressed interest in the themes you write about.

Step Three
Next, you need to draft your covering letter. On the one hand, you need to remember that it's the manuscript that matters, not the letter. On the other hand, your letter is the first thing the agent's eyes are going to fall on, so for heaven's sake make sure that it's a reasonable advertisement for your writing. No horrible typos. No clumsily phrased sentences. No mention of a 'fiction novel' or confusion between 'its' and 'it's'.

But if you're a half-competent writer, these things shouldn't alarm you. Just keep your letter short, simple and businesslike. Nearly always, your letter will be no more than a page. Perhaps more literary writers may extend to a second page. But really, all you need to do is introduce the book and yourself in two or three short, clean paragraphs. Easy, huh?

Step Four
Yikes! You need to write a synopsis. This is a good news / bad news issue. The bad news is that most writers find writing synopses only marginally pleasanter than cleaning the oven. The good news is that most agents don't really care about the synopsis. Just write about 500 words that relates, in neutral non-salesy language, the basic plot of your book. If you don't want to give away the very ending, then don't. Otherwise, just say what happens. It really isn't difficult.

Step Five
Revise your manuscript! Most writers send their work out long before it's ready. Professional authors revise and rewrite obsessively. They hold their own work to an exceptionally high editorial standard. If you don't mimic those standards, you won't get published and frankly don't deserve to. It is not an agent's job to edit your work for you. It's yours. So go back to your book. Read, and re-read it. Change what you need to.

Step Six
Get your work out to your list of agents. The normal submission package is covering letter, synopsis and three opening chapters (or roughly 10,000 words, if your chapters are of unusual length.) But do remember to check on each agent's precise submission requirements, and do adapt your package to meet them. Do tweak your letter, if appropriate, for each agent, but don't do this in a mechanical way. I know one agent who represents one notably starry author among a long list of fine quality ones. He tells me that at least one in three letters he receives tells him, 'I am writing to you because I love [Author X] whom you represent...'

Mostly, though, your job is simply to get your material out. Then wait without going crazy. Allow about six weeks, perhaps eight at busy times.

Step Seven
Respond intelligently to the feedback you get. If after eight weeks you have heard nothing from some agents and some straightforward rejections from the rest, then (perhaps after allowing another couple of weeks for the non-responders to get back to you) you need to accept that there is something not yet right about the material you are submitting. If, on the contrary, you are getting requests for the full manuscript, or getting back personal, warm and regretful rejections, then you may well be encouraged to resubmit elsewhere.

But getting an agent is not a numbers game. It's all about quality. Step one is hard; the rest is easy. Work hard, write beautifully – and good luck!

Harry Bingham is a novelist and non-fiction author, currently writing crime fiction for Orion. He also runs an editorial consultancy for new writers. You can find the Writers’ Workshop’s literary agent advice library here and try using Agent Hunter – an online database of UK literary agents – here.

* * *

Thank you to Harry for a useful and encouraging article. If you're looking for an agent, following this step-by-step advice should definitely shorten the odds in your favour. Though Step 1 is by far the biggest challenge, of course!

If you're looking for an agent (or publisher) in the UK, I also strongly recommend checking out Harry's Agent Hunter website. The cost is a modest 12 UK pounds a year, but you can try it free for seven days to see if it meets your needs.

If you have any comments about the article, or questions for Harry (or for me), please do post them below.

Wordcloud by courtesy of Wordle.


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