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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Interview with Author and Illustrator Tina Howe

Today I'm pleased to bring you an interview with successful science-fiction/children's book author and illustrator Tina Howe (pictured, left)

The interview is by Francine Silverman, who also conducted the recent interview on my blog with author and book publicist Patricia Fry.

Over to Fran, then...

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Tina Howe is the author of the first two sci-fi books in a series and a children's picture book.

The audio version of Alysa of the Fields, the first book in The Tellings of Xunar-kun Series, won Mom's Choice and Reader Views awards (2011) and a Readers Favorite award (2010).

The second book, The TrailFolk of Xunar-kun, won The Written Art (2009) and Readers Favorite (2010) awards.

The children's book, which she also illustrated, Snailsworth, a slow little story, won Readers Favorite awards in 2013 for both the book and audio book.

Tina has been writing screenplays for the last few years and has won or placed in several competitions.  She has also outlined the third book in the sci-fi series but hasn't yet begun the real writing.

FS: How often do you write? Articles? Essays? Or Books?

TH: I'm an extremely visual writer. I've been working more on scriptwriting these days and work on a script every day which includes various aspects of story creation - concept, character development, outlining, dialog, rewriting, and rewriting.

FS: What inspires you?

TH: The need to tell a story that both I and others will relate to inspires me. It's often things in the news that bother me that are a springboard. My stories can be based in fantasy, dramatic, or comedic situations. Mostly I like the "what if" of a story, creating characters and situations that will play that out. "Snailsworth," a story about believing in yourself, was inspired one evening as I sat on my back steps. The scene in my book is nearly identical.

FS: What do you do first? The writing or the illustrations?

TH: When I'm working on a story, I work on several versions of an outline first. It's in this stage that I get ideas for illustrations and create a storyboard that offers more than the literal depiction of the story and goes beyond the words. 

FS: Which is harder?

TH: When I was creating the picture book, I worked back and forth between writing and illustrating. I don't think that one is more difficult than the other. Switching off does the other side of my brain a rest and also brings story enhancements to mind. Writing and illustrating are never "easy" but then I don't gravitate toward easy.

FS: Do you have a vision of what the characters will look like?

TH: Yes. When I'm writing either a novel or a screenplay I try to place either A-list actors or people I know in the character roles. If I need a character that nobody, including myself, has seen before, I make them seem as realistic as possible to fit the role and work at them until they're clear. In Alysa of the Fields, I created a type of monster I've never seen before.

FS: Your first sci-fi book won first place in an art award contest. Did it propel you to greater heights?

TH: Yes, but I think the cover for the second book turned out better than the first. Doing the covers for both books helped me see the world more clearly.

FS: Would you consider working for other writers who need artists or illustrators?

TH: I don't have time to offer illustration work to other authors but I wouldn't rule it out.

I did learn from the first cover that had only Alysa on it that people thought it was a girl's book; although a girl's in the lead role, there are many important men, including her love interest. So I put both him and Alysa on the second book's cover (below).

Tina was interviewed by Francine Silverman, editor of Book Promotion Newsletter, an online publicist, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and host of a weekly radio show, Fraternizing with Fran - where interesting people come to chat.

You can visit her website at and blog at

* * *

Thank you to Tina and Francine for an interesting interview. Do check out Tina's homepage at and Francine's radio show (links above).

As ever, if you have any comments or queries for Tina or Fran (or for me), please do post them below.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: One Month Small Reports Mastery
One Month Small Reports Mastery is a new guide which has just been launched by Garry M. Sayer as a special offer on The Warrior Forum.

It's been generating quite a lot of buzz (and sales) so I bought a copy myself to see what all the fuss was about. Here's what I found...

As the title indicates, One Month Small Reports Mastery is a guide to quickly creating and publishing short reports (no longer than 30 pages) and selling them online. It takes the form of an 85-page PDF manual.

The manual is well written and appears to have been professionally edited. It is divided into 30 bite-sized chapters, each of which is meant to take a day to work through (though most wouldn't actually require a whole day). The entire list is as follows...

Day 1: Welcome!
Day 2: How to Choose a Market for Your Small Reports
Day 3: How to Find the Perfect Idea for a Small Report, Part 1
Day 4: How to Find the Perfect Idea for a Small Report, Part 2
Day 5: How to Create a Great Title for Your Small Report
Day 6: How to Write a Small Report Using the P.A.G.E.S. System, Part 1
Day 7: How to Write a Small Report Using the P.A.G.E.S. System, Part 2
Day 8: How to Write a Small Report Using the P.A.G.E.S. System, Part 3
Day 9: How to Package Your Small Report, Part 1
Day 10: How to Package Your Small Report, Part 2
Day 11: How to Pick the Right Price Point for Your Small Report
Day 12: How to Position Your Product for Mega Success, Part 1
Day 13: How to Position Your Product for Mega Success, Part 2
Day 14: How to Create a Compelling Sales Letter, Part 1
Day 15: How to Create a Compelling Sales Letter, Part 2
Day 16: How to Create a Compelling Sales Letter, Part 3
Day 17: How to Create a Compelling Sales Letter, Part 4
Day 18: How to S.E.T.U.P. a Website, Part 1
Day 19: How to S.E.T.U.P. a Website, Part 2
Day 20: How to S.E.T.U.P. a Website, Part 3
Day 21: How to Market Your Small Report, Part 1
Day 22: How to Market Your Small Report, Part 2
Day 23: How to Market Your Small Report, Part 3
Day 24: How to Market Your Small Report, Part 4
Day 25: How to Market Your Small Report, Part 5
Day 26: How to Market Your Small Report, Part 6
Day 27: Become More Productive Using This 7-Step Checklist, Part 1
Day 28: Become More Productive Using This 7-Step Checklist, Part 2
Day 29: Become More Productive Using This 7-Step Checklist, Part 3
Day 30: 21 Red-Hot Ideas for Your Next Small Report, Part 1
Day 31: 21 Red-Hot Ideas for Your Next Small Report, Part 2

As you may gather from the above, this is NOT a guide to creating Kindle e-books. Rather, the emphasis is on creating PDF manuals, which you can then sell from your own sales page using PayPal or a self-publishing platform such as ClickBank.

In that respect One Month Small Reports Mastery reminds me of my own 10 Day Ebook, which is basically all about writing an e-book and publishing it on ClickBank.

Whereas 10-Day E-Book gives you step-by-step advice on ClickBank publishing, though, One Month Small Reports Mastery sets out some alternative options and recommends that you read the help pages of the service concerned for detailed advice. It's a reasonable approach, but if you were expecting a comprehensive guide to every aspect of writing and publishing a short report you may be a little disappointed

On the plus side, One Month Small Reports Mastery does include lots of good tips and resources for self-publishers. I particularly like the advice on creating an online sales letter, for example - this is something many non-specialist copywriters struggle with. I also like the way the whole process is broken down into 30 small steps - always a good way of making a big task more manageable.

Apart from the main report, there are some "unadvertised" bonuses. I put unadvertised in quotation marks as their presence is actually advertised on the sales page. It doesn't say what they are there, though, so I suppose I should excuse that!

Anyway, without giving too much away, I can reveal that the bonuses are a mixed bag. There is one very good PDF manual on the subject of pricing, and another which I felt was largely padding. You also get a number of e-book templates that come without any instructions or explanations. You may find these useful or you may not.

Overall, I thought One Month Small Reports Mastery was a good-quality product that will give you an actionable plan for completing your own short report for sale on ClickBank or similar. As I say, it covers similar ground to my 10-Day E-Book, so if you already have this you probably won't need One Month Small Reports Mastery as well.

If you don't have 10-Day E-Book, One Month Small Reports Mastery is a decent alternative that is currently available at under a third of the price. It's not as detailed as 10-Day E-Book, but it will certainly teach you enough to get started in this field (which in recent years has been rather overlooked in the obsession with all things Kindle).

If you have any comments or questions about One Month Small Reports Mastery (or The 10-Day E-Book) please do post them below.

P.S. One other thing I should maybe say is that the core method Garry sets out could equally be used to create non-fiction Kindle e-books as well. Obviously it won't tell you how to format a Kindle e-book (as my Kindle Kash course does) but the advice on niche research, writing, marketing and so on would definitely still apply.

The 10 Day E-Book - New Guide Unveils All

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Ten Commandments of Typography (Infographic)

Today I'm sharing an infographic from the DesignMantic website.

Typography is a subject that writers never had to worry much about in the past, but the Internet has changed all that.

Nowadays most writers are inevitably drawn into decisions about typography, whether it be in Kindle e-books, book covers, publicity posters, blog images, Facebook banners and logos, and many more.

The infographic below won't make you an expert in typography, but it will at least set out some basic principles to guide you.

You can see a full-sized version of the graphic by clicking on it. Use the Back button on your browser to return here.

I must admit I learned a few useful things from the graphic, and I will try to follow these guidelines when choosing fonts in future. I'm afraid I might still be tempted to use Comic Sans on the very rare occasion, though!

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

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to Use Social Media to Jumpstart Your Freelance Writing Career

Today I'm pleased to bring you a syndicated guest post by Kayla Matthews of Modern Life Blogs.

In her post, Kayla sets out some great tips for any writer aiming to use social media to build an online platform for themselves...

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How to Use Social Media to Jumpstart Your Freelance Writing Career (via ModernLifeBlogs)
Most writers remember the day that they said aloud, “I want to be a writer.” If you don’t remember one momentous occasion it’s because it happened several times. You had to convince yourself, and everyone else around you, that it was a possibility…

* * *

Thank you to Kayla for a helpful and interesting article.

I know some writers are dubious about the value of social media, worried that they will be a time-wasting diversion from their actual writing.

While I understand this concern, my own belief (and experience) is that used in moderation social media can be a great resource for showcasing your writing talents and reaching out to potential clients, readers, publishers and editors.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions on this subject, please feel free to post them below.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Earn a Sideline Income From My Publishers!

If you have a website and/or a blog, did you know that you can earn yourself a sideline income helping to promote my courses including Essential English for Authors, Blogging for Writers, and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days? Not to mention the huge range of other courses and products sold by my publishers, WCCL (also trading as the Self Development Network).

The way you do this is by signing up as an affiliate with WCCL, which you can do on their affiliate sign-up page. Once you are a WCCL affiliate you can promote any of their products, and will receive a commission of up to 50 percent for each item sold to someone who arrives at the sales page via your link. Commission is paid by Paypal a month after the sale has been made (assuming the buyer has not subsequently requested a refund).

It's very easy to become a WCCL affiliate. You complete the simple application form on the affiliate sign-up page and submit this. Within a short time your application will be checked and (probably) approved. You will then be able to obtain the HTML code for a wide range of banners and text links, all with your affilate code embedded. All you have to do then is copy and paste this code into your web page in the appropriate place/s. Trust me, it's not rocket science!

Another reason for joining now is that the affiliate program has just been relaunched with a dedicated affiliate manager, Brad Johnston. Brad says that, in association with WCCL's new Director of Operations, Ilan Artzy, he is looking forward to implementing many new initiatives in the next few months.

In the short term Brad says affiliates can expect prompt replies and solutions to their needs, an open ear to their suggestions and ideas, consistent bi-monthly affiliate payouts (1st and 15th of the month), and new product launches and updated material in the affiliate program. The latter will include my forthcoming course, Writer's Cashpoint. So now really is a great time to be joining the WCCL/SDN affiliate program!

If you do decide to sign up as an affiliate, can I offer a few quick hints and tips from my own experience:

1. Just putting a banner on your web page is unlikely to generate many sales. It's better to put a review of the product in question with your affiliate link at the end, so that people wanting to buy as a result of your recommendation will click through this to the sales page.

2. If you're going to write a review, try to make it reasonably objective. Yes, you want people to click through your link and buy the product, but if your "review" appears to be more of an uncritical hype, some people are likely to be put off. So praise the product's good points, by all means, but if there is anything you dislike, don't be afraid to say so. People will trust your judgement more.

3. Consider offering an extra incentive of your own to secure the sale. For example, you could offer an extra mini-report on a topic not covered in depth in the product you are reviewing, or simply a list of relevant websites. Obviously, you will need to ask people to send you a copy of their email sales receipt so that you can send them their bonus after they have bought the product.

Finally, if you sign up to sell one or more of my courses AND publish a review, please do write and let me know. I will then give your review page a mention in my blog, forum and/or newsletter. This may or may not generate extra sales for you, but it will certainly bring you extra traffic you wouldn't have had otherwise.

Good luck, and welcome to the team!

Blogging for Writers

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Translation Publishing Treasures

Translation Publishing Treasures is the latest product to be launched by the prolific duo of Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum.

I've mentioned some of Amy and Debbie's other quality products such as Vintage Publishing ProfitsPublisher's Review Accelerator 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.

Translation Publishing Treasures is a brand new course for authors on how they can boost their profits by translating their books to other languages such as German, French and Spanish. It also discusses creating new books in foreign languages.

As Amy and Debbie say, this approach has many attractions for authors. Most importantly, it opens up huge new marketplaces, many of which have far less competition than English language markets. There are also benefits in terms of boosting your reputation as an author.

Translation Publishing Treasures has just been launched at a low special offer price, and will be available at this price for a limited time only. Amy and Debbie were kind enough to allow me pre-launch reviewer access, so here's what I found...

As is the case with most of Amy and Debbie's products, the content is accessed via a WordPress membership site. This has the advantage that products can include a variety of media (PDFs, videos, spreadsheets, and so on) and can be easily updated/expanded in future. Just be sure 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 view and download the course content. This comprises three PDF manuals and one video.

The main manual weighs in at 45 pages and takes you through the process of translating or creating a foreign language book. The authors make the point that translating a full-length novel (for example) to another language would inevitably be quite expensive (though potentially worthwhile if it is already selling well in English).

What they particularly recommend, though, is translating or creating short, illustrated books. This would obviously include children's books, but could also include how-to guides, recipe books, and so on. Obviously, if a book only has a thousand words or so, it will be a lot cheaper to translate than an 80,000 word novel!

Amy and Debbie take you step by step through their recommended method, sharing useful tips and resources as they go. They cover everything from niche research for foreign language markets, through where to hire translators and proofreaders, to how to publish your book. There is also a bonus chapter on how to source images.

As well as the main guide, you get an eight-page case study showing how Amy and Debbie created and published an illustrated Kindle e-book about dinosaurs in German. It's fascinating to see how they applied the advice in the main manual to create a foreign language e-book of their own (neither speaks a word of German!).

The third PDF is a two-page checklist of Kindle publishing and promotion tips. I didn't find any real surprises in this, but if you're new to Kindle publishing in particular you may find some of the tips helpful.

Finally, there is a five-minute video about what the authors call "The Hybrid Method". I'd better not give away too much about this, but it is basically a clever way of cutting your translation costs by tapping into a little-known free service that has only just been launched.

One other thing I should mention is that during the buying process for Translation Publishing Treasures there is a one-time offer for Non Fic Pic Pro Automator, a software tool created by Rob Howard and Lina Trivedi.

Non Fic Pic Pro Automator is designed specifically to help you create children's picture books ready for upload via KDP in the shortest possible time (though it could also be used for other illustrated Kindle e-books such as recipe books). If this is something that interests you - and it is certainly the type of book that would work well with the strategy set out in TPT - it's worth picking up at the discount price. You can read my full blog review of Non Fic Pic Pro Automator here if you like.

Translation Publishing Treasures comes with an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee. Customer support and advice is also available via In my experience, Amy and Debbie always respond quickly and helpfully to any queries.

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

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Interview: Patricia Fry on Book Promotion

I'm pleased to bring you today a syndicated interview with successful writer and book publicist Patricia Fry.

The interview is conducted by Francine Silverman, and as you will see it refers extensively to Patricia's latest book of promotional advice for authors (pictured above).

Over to Francine, then....

* * *

Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 41 books, including 11 related to writing/publishing/book promotion.

Her latest book for authors is Promote Your Book--Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author. She is executive director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers' Network), and speaks on such topics as successful book promotion and how to promote your books though article writing.

Patricia has more than 40 years' experience marketing her own self-published and traditionally published books, consults with clients on issues of book promotion, edits manuscripts for authors, teaches an online course on book promotion, and writes a monthly newsletter that focuses on book promotion.

Q: What should we do before even putting pen to paper?

A: I always recommend that hopeful authors study the publishing industry before getting involved in this highly competitive business. Most new authors consider publishing an extension of their writing--something they can ease into once the writing is done.

But while writing is a craft, publishing is a serious, complex business. Before ever entering into it, an author needs to know something about his or her publishing options, the possible ramifications of their choices, and their responsibility as a published author. Nearly 78% of all authors fail--that is, they sell fewer than 100 books in total. And the two main reasons are, they do not fully understand their publishing options and, either by choice or ignorance, they do not put enough effort into promoting their books.

Q: You state in your book that "by getting your stories published, you are creating a landing an article writing assignment in appropriate magazines and newsletters you will get attention from your target audience." (You write for my newsletter - does it get you attention?)

A: You're talking about building the authors' platform. The key is to become known in your field or genre so that when your potential readers happen across your book, they will be more apt to purchase it. If they read your published articles and stories and enjoy them--if they consider you credible in your field or a good storyteller in a particular genre--they will be more interested in reading a book you wrote.

You can create a following (build your platform) in a number of ways--go out and speak on your topic/genre, run workshops, create and maintain an active blog site, and (my favorite) submit articles or stories to the publications and websites read/visited by your potential audience.

Do my articles published in The Book Promotion Newsletter get my audience's attention? Most certainly. But writing for just one publication probably isn't enough. You want your name to appear alongside good stories (for a novelist) and credible articles (for a nonfiction author) in numbers of magazines, websites, newsletters, e-newsletters, blogs and so forth. Successful book promotion is a full-time job.

Q: In your chapter about press releases you write that when seeing an article about you and one of your books, people often ask "How did the reporter find out about you?' Your answer is "I contacted them and asked for an interview." Can you give an example from your own experience how this worked?

A: Many authors assume that all they have to do is write the book and people will find it. Some also believe that if the book is good, reporters, interviewers, radio personalities, etc., will come to them.

The reality is, however, that, unless you put yourself out there in front of your potential audience numbers of times and unless you start contacting journalists and interviewers, you probably won't receive any such invitations for interviews, reviews, etc. At least in the beginning of your author's journey you will need to make the contacts. YOU must spread the word about your book. YOU must approach conference organizers and ask for a speaking platform. YOU will have to contact reporters and blog hosts to request publicity. It is up to the author, YOU, to get publicity for your book.

Q: In the chapter heading, "Position Yourself As An Expert," you write that because you're the author of the most comprehensive local history book about your community you are known locally as an historian and are frequently asked to comment on an aspect of valley history. You have also been quoted numerous times about writing, publishing and book promotion, which have come about from your many published articles, active blog and your book. This sounds reasonable for non-fiction authors. But what if you're a novelist who has written a love story? Does that make the author an expert on love? Or a murder mystery? Are you then an expert on murder?

A: Funny! I wouldn't say that, but if your story is well-received by your particular audience, you are certainly gaining a name as a darn good writer in that genre.

I've recently started writing fiction. I'm writing in the cozy mystery genre (or sub-genre). And my stories all involve cats. I know a lot about cats and have had a lot of experiences with them. But I'm not an expert on cats. However, I'm striving to become known within the realm of mysteries and cats. Along with the three Klepto Cat Mysteries I've published so far, I've written a book of cat stories and I have a blog featuring cats and fiction-writing. This is in addition to my publishing blog. I'm also on Facebook with fun things about cats and mysteries.

Q: You have an "active blog" and talk about using your blog to promote your book, but how do you promote your blog? You encourage pings. What are they?

A: I'm coming up on my 2,000th post at my publishing blog. I post every day most days. And I promote my blog through my handouts, bookmarks, brochures, in my new enewsletter (Publishing/Marketing News and Views), in the promo tag at the bottom of my articles and at Twitter and Facebook. And I talk about it when I go out and speak.

While it is important to promote your blog, it is also critical to offer viable content. It isn't enough to have a blog. In order to attract the audience you want, you must provide the information or entertainment that will draw them and, as Fran indicates in this question, promote that blog so your readers know about it.

Byline: Patricia was interviewed by Francine Silverman, editor of Book Promotion Newsletter, an online publicist, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and host of a weekly radio show, Fraternizing with Fran - where interesting people come to chat. Check out her website at and her blog at

* * *

Thank you to Patricia and Francine for an interesting interview and some helpful tips. Do check out Patricia's latest book on this subject as well for further advice and information.

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

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Crowdfunding for Authors - An Interview with Ken Foster of Fictivity Press
Today I am pleased to bring you an interview with Ken Foster of Fictivity Press.

Fictivity is a company that specializes in helping indie authors raise money to publish their books to the highest professional standard using crowdfunding.

The interview (well, most of it) is conducted by author Pete Oxley, whose first novel The Infernal Aether is currently in development with Fictivity. I published an article by Pete about The Infernal Aether in this blog post a few weeks ago.

Over to Pete then...

* * * 

After having run the demoralising gauntlet of agents and authors with no success, I finally settled on self-publication as a way of thrusting my debut novel on an unsuspecting public.

I am not alone; once a fringe outlet for “failed” writers with substandard books, the internet has loosened the major publishers’ control over what we can read.

However, all things come at a price and, whilst you can chuck something up online for minimal cost, if you want to do it properly then you’ll need to engage professional editors, cover artists and other specialists. Even in the wonderful world of the internet, these things cost real money.

Shortly after I decided to self-publish I bumped into Ken Foster, who was in the process of setting up a new venture called Fictivity Press. This venture is targeted at helping unsigned authors like me, who want to produce and market a professional book but lack the funds to pay for it outright.

A fair few months later, and Ken and I are over halfway through the crowdfunding campaign to fund the editing and marketing of my debut novel. This continues to be a huge learning experience, and I thought it would be interesting to interview Ken to understand why he thinks there is a gap in the market and what firms like Fictivity Press aim to do to help fill that market.

Pete: What are the key challenges facing new/unpublished writers?

Ken: As if writing a novel wasn’t hard enough, I think there are at least three other major challenges for new indie writers:
1) Getting noticed. Indie writers have to stand out from an ever-larger crowd, establish a readership out of thin air and amass a band of loyal fans who are champing at the bit for each new work to come out. 
2) Getting the manuscript polished for a successful launch.
3) Meeting the other two challenges while still managing time to keep writing. You can’t continue to be a rock star if you never get back into the studio.
These three challenges are all the more intimidating because being an outstanding writer doesn’t necessarily translate into success in any of these other arenas, which is why I might add a fourth challenge: not becoming overwhelmed with it all and quitting in frustration.

Pete: Doesn't self-publishing just lead to more substandard stuff being thrust on the public?

Ken: In a word, “yes.” One of my favourite quotes is of Robert Wilensky, who said: “We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”

Of course, there are plenty of talented indie writers, but it’s near impossible for them to swim to the surface while rushing down an Amazon River of Schlock. If a reader happens to spot something shiny bobbing in the torrent, something magical must happen to coax that reader into stopping for a moment to investigate further. If that magical moment slips away, there’s a disconnect, and both reader and writer lose.

Pete: How did you come up with the idea for Fictivity Press?

Ken: In short, I failed miserably as an independent editor mainly because I found I couldn’t sell my services to indie writers. Good editing can be extraordinarily expensive, and the typical indie writer simply can’t justify the cost. I had talked with too many writers whose sales had never even covered the cost of editing and cover design, whereas they might have actually turned a small profit otherwise.

I’m a solution-oriented guy, so I turned this over in my head, trying to figure out a way to bridge the gap between writers who couldn’t afford to pay more and editors who couldn’t afford to charge less. I had already recommended crowdfunding to several authors as a way of defraying upfront costs, but I hadn’t yet put two and two together until one day a light just turned on in my head. If it didn’t make sense to expect writers to do their own editing or cover art, how could I expect them to become overnight crowdfunding experts? I started scribbling the first sketchy plans for what I now call “guided, crowd-subsidized self-publishing.” A mouthful, I know.

Pete: What does Fictivity Press do differently?

Ken:  Well, I suppose the crowdfunding component is the most visible difference. Another difference that sometimes confuses and even startles authors is that we don’t actually publish anything. Instead, we arrange for all the work to get done and then hand the finished product back to the author for self-publication. Authors retain a great deal of creative control over the project as well as complete ownership of the finished work and get to keep all of the royalties they have coming to them. Authors are free to publish elsewhere at any time; in fact, we encourage it.

However, I think one of our most innovative ideas is in embracing the unpredictable nature of crowdfunding by adopting a scalable project scope for each book. Our providers (editors, artists, etc.) submit multiple tiered proposals for each component of the project, so if the crowdfunding campaign doesn’t pan out as hoped, we always have ready alternatives which won’t compromise on quality.

Pete: What do you see as being key to its success?

Ken: It might be too early in the game to be declaring success, but the reason I think we have a winning concept is this whole model of putting the writing at the center of a group project that naturally attracts people with an interest in seeing the entire project succeed. From the crowdfunding backers to the reader, it’s all designed around giving every stakeholder what they want. Writers write, editors edit, artists make art, and everyone gets paid for their efforts because readers are given the opportunity to take an active role in making better fiction.

Byline: Pete Oxley is a freelance writer and business manager who lives in the English Home Counties. His crowdfunding campaign for his debut novel, The Infernal Aether, is currently live on this page of Indiegogo, in conjunction with Fictivity Press.

Fictivity Press is an entirely new approach to self-publishing, designed from the ground up to provide indie authors the professional services they need at little to no cost. This includes soliciting prioritized proposals from a team of editors, artists, and other publishing professionals, making a plan, establishing a budget and even creating and managing a crowd-funding campaign to defray or even eliminate the author’s costs.

* * *

Thank you to Pete and Ken for an eye-opening interview.

As I've said before, I can see huge potential in crowdfunding for independent authors, and I'm intrigued and impressed by the way Ken has set up Fictivity Press to help authors capitalize on the opportunities crowdfunding offers.

After reading Pete's interview a few more questions occurred to me, so I passed them back to Ken, who was kind enough to answer them...

Nick: If the authors keep all the royalties in their books, how does Fictivity make its money?

Ken: Our fee is 10 percent of the budget for editing, artwork, and the like (not including project overhead such as card processing and crowdfunding platform fees). The fee is rolled into the project budget and, ideally, is covered by the crowdfunding proceeds.

Nick: What sorts of book are Fictivity interested in?

Ken: We are primarily interested in science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and related subgenres, but we will consider any good story.

Nick: If a reader of this blog is interested in submitting work to Fictivity, what should be their first step?

Ken: Writers can submit their work via

Thanks again to Pete and Ken for taking the trouble to explain how Fictivity works. I hope you will also check out the recent guest post by Pete about his book The Infernal Aether. There is still time to contribute to his crowdfunding campaign and receive any of the range of perks set out on the website!

If you have any comments or questions for Ken, Pete or me, as always, please feel free to post them below.

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Friday, April 04, 2014

Guest Post: Promoting With Raw Links Leaves You Hungry

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post from Jesse Lakes, CEO of the link management service GeoRiot, which I talked about in this blog post a little while ago.

GeoRiot is a service that lets you create "universal" links that will take anyone clicking them to the relevant page of their own national Amazon store (it also works with iTunes/iBooks).

The links can include your affiliate code if you wish, so that you will be credited with commission for any sales in stores where you are signed up as an affiliate.

GeoRiot has many other benefits for writers and affiliates as well, but I'll let Jesse explain about these below...

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Promoting your books in an international online marketplace can be challenging for indie authors in the iTunes or Amazon ecosystems. Today we discuss one crucial tool that should be in every author's toolbox - a link management platform.

"Raw links" is the term we use for links that go directly to a third party storefront, such as Amazon or iTunes. Generally, these links are great for one thing: sending customers to a specific item in a specific store. While using raw links when promoting your materials has been the industry standard since the dawn of self publishing, it's no longer best practice for a number of reasons.

The current norm for sending your readers to the Internet's largest stores is to use a "link management" platform. These services can be as basic as using a URL shortener (like, leveraging a WordPress plugin or by using a specialized platform (like GeoRiot) where the purchaser-facing link is first pointed at the link platform, then redirected to the appropriate book or series.

The gist is that when you put an additional layer between a click and the final destination, you gain long-term control of the link, get insight into your marketing efforts, and depending on the platform, can unlock some incredibly beneficial tools.

Future Proofing

Using a good link management platform with your promotion efforts gives you a fair amount of insurance, as they offer you the ability to edit the final destination URL for your link. This is a lifesaver when your marketing efforts include promoting your content via social media, email, press releases, blogs, and/or articles published by third parties where you either have no ability to edit the original link or there are significant delays involved.

Instead of having to reach out to those third parties, or manually change the link for each individual promotion you've done, you can instead just edit the destination once, and the links you've already marketed will automatically use the new redirect.

A few examples of when this comes in handy include when a new edition or enhanced copy of your book becomes available after you've already started your campaigns, or you end up going with a new publisher, or marketplace. All you'd need to do is add a placeholder URL from your link management tool and update it to point to the proper URL once the new one is available.

While it may not be an everyday practice, you'll thank yourself for the forward thinking if you do find yourself in a pinch and need to quickly update your links to make sure your existing promotions aren't a complete waste.

Watching Your Traffic

Keeping a pulse on your promotions is an essential step to becoming a better marketer, which is key to selling more of your books. Being able to answer a question like which campaigns or social media channels are sending the most clicks is important to helping with the decision on where to invest your time and resources. Unfortunately, with raw links, you won't get any of that information, which leaves you in the dark about what's working and what's not.

Most link management tools offer at least basic reporting on things such as referrers (websites that sent traffic to those links), the geography of where your clicks are originating, and a overview of the type of device used when clicking the link. Insights into knowing which social media avenues or campaigns result in the most clicks, or seeing that your iBooks links are often clicked from Android devices, are good indicators for optimizing your marketing efforts. 

Specialized Tools

A specialized breed of link management tools offer even more benefits in a number of areas. These can include incorporating Amazon and iBooks's affiliate program parameters to help you earn commissions, localizing and translating links for a global audience, and giving deeper insight through advanced reporting and tracking.

Both iTunes and Amazon have affiliate programs that reward people for sending traffic into their storefronts. Leveraging these affiliate programs is a no-brainer for independent authors as it pays them for an activity they are already doing - sending traffic into these stores.

The challenge, however, comes from the affiliate programs that require different tracking IDs for different regions. At this point some intelligence is required to determine when to use the appropriate affiliate ID, since it depends on the traffic's geographical location. When choosing a link management platform, be sure to pick something that at a minimum supports affiliate links, and ideally one that incorporates support for all of a retailer's affiliate programs. Then, use those affiliated links in all of your promotion and social media efforts to send traffic to your books, but also make commissions off anything else your traffic purchases within a specific timeframe.

One massive advantage of selling/marketing both physical and e-books on the Amazon or iBooks platforms is that you reach a truly global audience. This means potentially more sales if you promote correctly by sending users to their local storefront, something raw links don't accomplish. The reason for this is that sometimes a link for your work differs between regional storefronts due to different distribution and licensing agreements, or issues such as language and currency differences. Either way, when an international user clicks a link that directs them to the incorrect storefront or the link errors out, your chances of converting that click to a sale go down significantly.

Intelligent link management platforms alleviate this problem by "localizing" a link, which is where the service sends each user to their own local storefront instead of whichever store the original link is from.

However, what happens if your item has distinctive IDs in the different country or region specific storefronts? In this case, you'll need something even more powerful - a tool that not only localizes, but also translates the link to use the appropriate ID when necessary. Both localizing and translating links give your users the best possible experience, which makes it much more likely for them to purchase.

Another benefit of the more advanced link management platforms is sophisticated reporting and tracking capabilities. This functionality, coupled with using the affiliate programs, can lead to some really cool information. What if, instead of just seeing total clicks from different social channels or promotions, you could also measure how efficient your different links were at making a sale? Actionable information, when acted upon, can boost the efficacy of your next promotion and save you time.

If you are curious to learn more about the differences between raw and well-done links, shoot us a note and we can discuss over e-meal (feel free to cringe now).

Also, if you are actively marketing your books inside the iTunes or Amazon ecosystem, we encourage you to check out or reach out at  My team and I have been working hard on building the best link management platform that we can, and we'd love your feedback on how we are doing. 

Thanks - Jesse

Byline: Jesse Lakes is the CEO of GeoRiot, a company that provides industry-leading affiliate linking capabilities to indie authors. With a single, unified link, Amazon and iBooks traffic is directed to the appropriate, geo-specific item in that user's local storefront to improve international user experience. Additionally, the GeoRiot service allows authors to leverage the many country-specific affiliate programs simultaneously, typically doubling their affiliate commission simply by sending traffic to purchase their books. GeoRiot has served over 2 billion clicks for thousands of clients worldwide.

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Thank you to Jesse for an interesting, in-depth article, that sets out the benefits, to independent authors especially, of using a link management platform such as GeoRiot.

I have been using GeoRiot for some months now and highly recommend it. Not only does it make life much simpler to have a single link you can use for any Amazon product, it has also boosted my income from Amazon's affiliate program considerably.

A further benefit I hadn't previously considered is set out in Jesse's article. This is the fact that if you need to change the destination to which a link points retrospectively, using a link management platform makes this very easy. As Jesse says, if you publish a new edition of your book (with a different Amazon ASIN) you can ensure that even people clicking on old links that may be outside your control are automatically forwarded to the new edition.

One point I should probably address is the cost. The good news is that you don't have to pay anything to join or use GeoRiot. Rather, they take payment in clicks. A certain proportion of these (up to 15 percent) will have their affiliate code embedded rather than your own.

The system is explained in detail on this page of the GeoRiot site. Overall, though, it is designed to have as little impact on your own affiliate commissions as possible.

For starters, all clicks to your 'base country' (the one you used to create your GeoRiot link originally) are always credited to you. In addition, GeoRiot take clicks to any national stores you don't have affiliate arrangements with initially, so you won't lose out at all there. If these amount to 15 percent of all your clicks, you are fully paid up and won't have any more taken. Even if you do end up having a few clicks taken by GeoRiot, in my own view (and experience) the benefits far outweigh this.

If you would like to see what a GeoRiot link looks like, here is one to my Festival on Lyris Five illustrated novella: Feel free to click through and it should take you to the relevant page of your own national Amazon store. And yes, if I'm an affiliate there, my affiliate link will be automatically embedded!

If you have any comments or questions for Jesse or for me, as always, please feel free to post them below.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

New myWritersCircle Poetry Anthology Released
I wanted to let you know today that a new anthology of poetry by members of my forum at has just been published.

The anthology is titled "As the Kettle Wolf-Whistled". It is dedicated to long-time MWC member and moderator Skip Slocum, who passed away suddenly earlier this year.

The book is available from in both PDF e-book and printed form, and you can order from anywhere in the world. It runs to a substantial 220 pages.

I wrote a foreword to the book and therefore had the chance to read a pre-publication copy. Although I'm not a huge poetry aficionado, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. As you might expect from the group's diverse world-wide membership, the poems are extremely varied - by turns amusing, thought-provoking, and/or bringing a tear to the eye.

All the poets in the book have donated their work free of charge. Neither is the forum making any money from it. All profits are being donated to Unicorns for Addy, a grass-roots charity supporting Addalyn, a four-year-old cancer patient. You can read more about Addy on this Facebook page. So you can be sure that your money will be going to a very worthy cause!

Finally, I should like to mention that this anthology was entirely a members' project, conceived initially as a tribute to Skip. Thanks must go to everyone involved, but especially to Siobhan McKenney (510bhan on the forum) who acted as co-ordinator and ensured that the project was brought to fruition in an amazingly short time.

For a complete list of everyone involved and what they did, please check out this forum topic.

I do hope you will consider buying a copy of "As the Kettle Wolf-Whistled" and spread the word to anyone else who might be interested. It's great value for money, and all money raised will help make a young girl's life just a little bit easier as she goes through two years of gruelling chemotherapy.

Thank you!

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