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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Opportunities for Dark Fiction Writers with Crystal Lake Publishing

I have mentioned Crystal Lake Publishing, an award-winning independent publishing house specializing in the horror genre, on this blog a few times before.

Crystal Lake is run by South African Joe Mynhardt, who is a long-standing member (and former moderator) of my forum at

Crystal Lake have been going from strength to strength recently, and they have just announced their first-ever open call for submissions. They are looking for anything in the dark fiction genre, including novels, short-story collections and non-fiction.

I've copied the main details below from the comprehensive information on the Crystal Lake website...

We’re looking for DARK FICTION, be it horror, suspense thrillers, fantasy, action adventure, sci-fi (no space operas, please), supernatural, or noir. We’re interested in reading your novels, novellas, short story collections, non-fiction books linked to dark fiction topics, and poetry collections. All books should be above 60,000 words, preferably below 110,000.

That’s a pretty wide spectrum, so here are some of the authors and books we enjoy (that does not however mean that we want you to rewrite their work or copy them. Be original. Be yourself):

Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Elizabeth Massie, Joe Hill, Ramsey Campbell, Jonathan Maberry, Richard Laymon, Robert McCammon, Adam Nevill, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien, Bram Stoker, F. Paul Wilson, Charles L. Grant, Mary Shelley, John Connolly, Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Algernon Blackwood, Dean Koontz, M.R. James, Joe R. Lansdale, Jules Verne, Cormac McCarthy, William Peter Blatty, Thomas Harris, Alexandre Dumas and Roald Dahl.

We are not looking for reprints of previously published or self-published books, although up to 50% of your collections can be reprinted stories or poems. Novellas that form part of a collection my be reprints, as long as the majority of the collection are original stories. Please make sure the rights to all reprints have returned to you.

Simultaneous submissions are okay, but please withdraw your story immediately if it is accepted elsewhere.

Your book does not have to be finished at the time of your pitch, as long as it’s at least 70% complete and you can provide the opening chapter plus any other two chapters when asked.

Everyone wants to know about remuneration, and the good news is that  - somewhat unusually for a small independent publishing house - Crystal Lake are paying an advance ($200-$400) and royalties (25 to 40 percent). Here are the exact terms from the website...

You will be entitled to lifetime royalties on sales, or until a mutual agreement to withdraw the book is reached.

Advance: $400 against royalties

$200 for anything other than a novel

Royalties: 40% of net profits on all online sales (Amazon etc.)

25% of net profits on all bookstore sales

Your book will be available to bookstores for a period of two years, after which it will be available via online retailers indefinitely.

Novels will also receive a $400 marketing budget you can spend as you please, as well as a lot of online publicity from us. Anything else receives a $200 marketing budget and the same treatment from us.

You will also receive 5 contributor’s copies before the book is launched.

Submissions will be accepted from November 15 2014 to December 15 2014, and they say this will most likely become an annual submission window.

They emphasize that they are only looking for your pitch and synopsis during the submission window. You are allowed to submit two or more proposals if you wish, but each one must be pitched separately

For more information, including formatting requirements and how to submit your pitch(es), visit the Crystal Lake Submissions Guidelines page.

Again, remember that the submissions window does not open until November 15 2014. That means you have around six weeks from today to prepare and polish your pitch (or pitches).

Good luck, and I hope to see your name on Crystal Lake's list of authors soon!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Prize Flash Fiction Contest

In writing by matsuyuki, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  matsuyuki 

With the nights now drawing in (in the northern hemisphere anyway) we've decided it's high time to hold another Prize Flash Fiction Contest on my forum at

To enter, you have to submit a story of exactly 100 words, including three specified words (jade, conduit, effervescent). In addition, you should give your story a title of up to 15 words. The words in the title will not count towards the 100 words in the story. A maximum of two stories may be submitted per author.

The winners will be chosen by novelist, illustrator and long-time MWC member Patrick Fox (known on the forum as Foxy). I have included a short biography of Patrick (in his own words) below...

"I was born and brought up in Coventry in England. I now live in south Wales with my wife. Our children have both grown up and flown the nest, but they still continue to make us proud. I worked in the computer games industry for over twenty years as an artist and games designer. 

My debut novel draws on my experience of the industry. I now work as a graphic artist/illustrator, and some of my work can been seen on the covers of various books available on Amazon. 

In my spare time, I'm a keen amateur detective, and can often be found searching for clues in the local bars and pubs."

You can read Patrick's blog here, and see samples of his artwork here. Here is a universal link to his novel Trinity on Amazon.

Patrick will select the winners from a shortlist selected by MWC moderators Mairi (Ma100), Dawn, and Jeanette (Distant Sun). The closing date to enter is Friday 10 October 2014 at 10 am EDT / 3 pm BST.

The contest is free to enter, and all the prizes have been kindly donated by our forum sponsors (and my publishers) The WCCL Network.

The first-prize winner will receive a copy of the CD-based course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, also known as the Nick Daws Course. The second prize will be a copy of the downloadable Blogging for Writers, while the third prize winner will receive a copy of Essential English for Authors. All shortlisted authors will receive a $10 discount voucher that can be used against the price of any WCCL course or product.

For the full rules, including how to enter, please visit this forum topic. Note that this contest is for members of myWritersCircle only, but it is very easy (and free) to join if you haven't already. Just click on Register near the top of the forum homepage and follow the on-screen instructions.

Good luck, and have fun writing your story!

Nick Daws Course

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Friday, September 19, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 Is Coming Soon!

Once again, it's that time of year to start planning for NaNoWriMo.

For anyone who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month, and it comes around every November.

From humble beginnings in 1999, when there were just 21 participants, NaNoWriMo has grown into a world-wide phenomenon. Last year 310,095 people took part, and the numbers this year are expected to be even greater.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are always welcome), and no prizes either. Essentially, it is a challenge to help you write that novel you had always meant to write but keep putting off.

By registering with NaNoWriMo, you are joining a world-wide community of writers who are all seeking to achieve the same end, and are thus able to encourage and support one another.

This year a number of members of my forum at have registered for NaNoWriMo already, and more will no doubt follow. If you are looking for some 'buddies' to share notes and compare progress with, check out this forum topic.

Although there are no prizes for completing a novel for NaNoWriMo, if you do (and you have to prove it by uploading your work to the NaNoWriMo site), you will be able to download an official 'Winner' web badge and a PDF Winner's Certificate, which you can print out.

And, of course, you will have the first draft of a novel you should be able to polish and submit for possible publication (or publish yourself).

There are lots of useful resources on the NaNoWriMo website, including wordcount widgets, web badges, flyers for downloading, motivational articles, and much more. There is also a busy forum where you can compare notes with other participants.

NaNoWriMo is also, by the way, a great opportunity to apply the techniques taught in WCCL's Novel in a Month course, or indeed my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

I'd like to wish you the very best of luck if you do decide to register for NaNoWriMo. Please post a note below if you succeed in completing the challenge!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Free Meditation MP3 from Inspire3
I've mentioned my colleagues from self-development company Inspire3 once or twice before on this blog.

They produce the excellent Brain Evolution System and Brain Salon products (both of which I use myself and recommend) and also run the Hypnosis Live website.

They produce cutting-edge brainwave entrainment products, which use a variety of techniques to help users control and alter their mental state.

I wanted to let you know today about a special giveaway Inspire3 are running this month. They have just launched a new flagship product called Zen12. This is a set of 12-minute audio MP3s, which use brainwave entrainment to help users achieve a state of deep meditation quicker than ever before.

The full Zen12 product is a year-long meditation program at twelve levels. At each level you can choose from guided meditation, relaxation music, sounds of nature, or white noise. You can also mix and match among them, to ensure you never have to get bored listening to the same thing.

The benefits include stress and anxiety relief, greater relaxation, better focus, enhanced creativity, and more.

Right now you can download a free sample MP3 that will give you a flavor of how Zen12 works. My friend Karl Moore, who helped develop Zen12, says that in his opinion it's Inspire3's best product yet.

Download your free Zen12 meditation MP3 here

As with all brainwave entrainment products, it's best to listen through headphones or earphones. If you do, I'm willing to bet that you will notice a definite beneficial effect, even from the sample session alone. There is, of course, no obligation to make any purchase.

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

* If you are interested in meditation, I should also mention that my sponsors The WCCL Network have a product called The Meditation Program which offers similar benefits to Zen12 (although they are quite different programs). Do check it out as well!

Meditation program

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Transition from Squidoo to HubPages

A few weeks ago in this post I discussed the fact that the self-publishing platform Squidoo was being taken over by HubPages.

As I said in that post, the general idea was that all active Squidoo lenses would be migrated to the HubPages platform. You could ease the transition by setting up a HubPages account yourself, which is something I did at the time.

I also took the precaution of giving both my current Squidoo lenses a promotional boost. This helped move one of them from work-in-progress to featured lens status, which in turn improved its chances of being chosen for migration to the new platform.

Anyway, I was pleased this week to receive an email from HubPages confirming that both my lenses had been successfully migrated to HubPages. Here are links if you would like to see what they look like now...

Greece Travel Tips -

How To Write a Book -

As you may notice, the sites look a bit different now. In particular, some of the modules in Greece Travel Tips haven't survived the transition so well. I will need to research this and see what I can do to restore them or add something better.

I am finding the HubPages back end quite user-friendly, though. In particular, I have already configured all the monetization options, including adding my Google AdSense code, and signing up for the HubPages Amazon and eBay affiliate programs.

The latter two are not the same as any existing affiliate accounts you may hold with these companies, incidentally. You are allowed to use your own Amazon affiliate code if you prefer, but HubPages recommend using theirs, so for now at least I have done that. They say that earnings tend to be better if you do this, so unless I discover otherwise I will believe that! In any event, doing this ensures that any Amazon earnings are added to my other HubPages income, which is more convenient all round.

I also added my tax information. Being a non-US resident, this proved quite straightforward. It was basically just a matter of confirming that I didn't live in the US and didn't have any employees or business activities there. I did not have to provide any UK tax information.

The stats available from the HubPages homepage are similar to those that were provided by Squidoo. I have posted a screen capture below.

As ever, you can click on the image to see a larger version. Use the Back button on your browser to return here.

In addition, HubPages makes it easy to include all your hubs (sites) in Google Analytics, so I have done that as well. This gives you access to more detailed statistics such as bounce rate, and also provides independent corroboration (hopefully) of HubPages' figures.

I still have a lot to learn about how HubPages works, but will be delving into it in more detail in the coming weeks.

If you have any tips or advice on working with HubPages, I'd love to read them. And obviously, if you have recently completed the transition from Squidoo to HubPages as well, I'd be interested to hear about your experiences. Please post any comments below.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Publishing Money Trees

Publishing Money Trees is the latest product to be launched by the prolific duo of Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum, together with a third author, offline publishing expert Brenda Trott.

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.

Publishing Money Trees is a bit of a departure from their other products in that it is aimed at people who want to make money by offering publishing services to other people and businesses (especially small local ones).

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

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

Once you are in the members area, you will be able to access the content. There are five main sections, as follows:

1. Getting Clients
2. Your Own Published Book to Market Your Service
3. Creating Client Book Content
4. Formatting and Publishing Client Books
5. Providing Additional Services

Each of these sections contains at least one PDF manual, and most also include videos, screencasts, spreadsheets, Word documents, and so on.

Part 1 discusses ways to find clients for your publishing services. In addition to training videos and manuals, you also get other resources such as a flyer about the benefits of self-publishing to show potential clients, and advice about charging and invoicing. The section also has links to model publishing agreements you can use.

Part 2 features a complete book you can adapt and publish in print form to market your services to local businesses. The authors recommend that you publish it on the CreateSpace platform and order copies as required. Note that you are not allowed to sell this book yourself on Kindle or other platforms.

What you get in Part 2 is a comprehensive (72 page) book, which is well written and edited. It takes readers step by step through the self-publishing process, and makes a very interesting read. It is provided in the form of a Word (.docx) document, so you can edit and personalize it yourself. You also get separate cover templates for CreateSpace, along with training on customizing and using these.

The book should do a great job of establishing your authority in this field to potential clients. My only slight concern would be that it is so comprehensive the client might just decide to do all the work him/herself rather than hiring you!

Part 3 features a six-page guide to creating a book for your clients. It sets out some different approaches you could use, and includes advice on interviewing clients, copyright, using PLR content, and so on. It is obviously quite concise, but links are included to various useful resources and online articles.

Part 4 is where you get down to the nitty-gritty of formatting and publishing client books. This is clearly a big subject, and there are three PDF manuals, along with screencasts, spreadsheets, and so on. Both Kindle (e-book) and CreateSpace (print) publishing are covered. The resources also include a Kindle template (in Word format) that you can use as a starting point for Kindle e-books, and another template for print books.

Part 5 features another PDF that sets out additional services you could offer to your clients. There is actually a surprising number, from setting up an Amazon Author page to building their social media presence. It's food for thought, although don't expect massive amounts of detail. There are, though, also lists of outsourcers you could use if you don't want to take on all these tasks yourself.

Overall, I thought Publishing Money Trees was another quality offering from Amy and Debbie (and Brenda). I appreciate that it won't really appeal to people who only want to write and publish their own books. But as the authors demonstrate, there is huge money-making potential for enterprising writers who are willing to get out there and offer this service to local businesses and individuals.

If that sounds like something that could interest you, Publishing Money Trees is well worth checking out. It is currently on sale at a launch offer price of $47, which will be rising to $97 in ten days' time. As with all Amy and Debbie's products, there is an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee.

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

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Why You (Probably) Don't Need an Editor

2008-01-26 (Editing a paper) - 19 by Nic
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Nic's events

A trend I've noticed recently among writing blogs and websites is a growing consensus that to succeed as a writer, you MUST engage an editor for your work.

This is an assertion that I feel needs to be challenged. Yes, a good editor is a wonderful thing to have, but there are two major stumbling blocks.

First, finding a good freelance editor isn't as easy as you might think. Bear in mind that anyone can call themselves an editor. As well as the genuinely good ones, there are plenty of deluded amateurs and some out-and-out fraudsters. Sorting out the good from the bad and the ugly is by no means a simple task.

And even if you are lucky and find a good editor, their services aren't cheap. For a full-length book you can expect to pay several thousand pounds or dollars. If you are self publishing - on Kindle, for example - you need to think carefully whether any boost in sales that may result will cover this.

Self-publishing authors sometimes believe that a freelance editor will be able to help them with the deeper, structural aspects of their book as well. This is akin to the role performed by developmental editors in traditional publishing houses. Whether a freelance editor can realistically offer this service is in my view very doubtful, however.

Developmental editing tends to be a slow, iterative process. The editor typically reads and reflects carefully on the manuscript, then raises queries and offers suggestions to the author. The author duly reflects on this and gives his/her reactions, and so on. This can work very well with a salaried editor who is employed by a publishing house, but it is not really compatible with freelance editing, where you are charged by the page or the hour. If you hire a freelance editor, what you are basically getting is a copy editor. They may (or may not) make the odd structural suggestion as they go, but it is a long way from the in-depth feedback you will get from a developmental editor in a publishing house.

My advice is therefore to ignore anyone who tells you that you MUST hire an editor. Instead, I recommend a two-pronged approach. First, be sure you are fully up to speed with the basics of grammar and punctuation (my course Essential English for Authors might be helpful here - just saying!). Aim to be your own best editor (and proofreader) rather than relying on someone else.

And second, make full use of free and low-cost resources such as beta readers (other authors are often happy to reciprocate in this role) and online forums such as myWritersCircle. Off-line resources such as writers' groups can be a big help as well. By this means you can get a lot of valuable feedback about your work without spending a fortune.

If you hear of a good editor and can afford their services, by all means use them too. But be realistic about how much benefit you are likely to get from their input, and weigh this carefully against the costs involved.

Remember, also, that with e-book (or POD) publishing, if someone tells you about a mistake, it is a very simple matter to correct and republish. Getting everything 100 percent correct before publishing, while still desirable, is therefore no longer so essential.

Of course, if you're aiming to get published by a traditional publishing house, some of the above comments may not apply. But still, bear in mind that in-house editors provide their services free of charge if the publisher sees potential in your work. Your objective as an author should therefore be to ensure that your manuscript demonstrates such potential. No freelance editor will be able to 'fix' your manuscript if it is basically unpublishable. But that won't stop them taking your money, of course.

So that's my view, but what do you think? Should all aspiring writers be told to hire an editor for their work, or is this (as I think) unrealistic in many cases? Please post any comments you may have below!

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Amazon launches Kindle Kids' Book Creator

If you write illustrated children's books for Kindle, Amazon have just released a new (and free) software tool you may like to check out.

Kindle Kids' Book Creator is designed to allow (and encourage) children's authors to create illustrated Kindle e-books that take full advantage of the extra possibilities afforded by KF8.

This new Kindle publishing format gives authors a range of additional tools and features. The idea is that they can use them to produce e-books that take full advantage of the capabilities of the new generation of Kindle readers, e.g. the Kindle Fire HD and HDX.

The new KF8 features are especially relevant to children's picture book authors. Among other things, they allow the use of higher-quality images, fixed layouts (both horizontal and vertical), and pop-ups. More about that shortly.

Although I'm not a writer of children's books myself, I'm always interested in new developments where Kindle is concerned, so I downloaded the software myself and had a little play with it.

When you first launch Kindle Kids' Book Creator, you will see the screen below. This is basically an introduction to using the software. Most importantly, it explains that you can either import a complete book in PDF format, or else you can import images (in various formats) one at a time. Note that you can't import Word files into KKBC. You can, however, import a PDF with text, and/or add text to images using text boxes in the KKBC editor.

Click on continue and you will reach the page below, where you add a few basic details about your book - all pretty straightforward.

Click on Continue again and you will arrive at the page below, where you are invited to choose your page layout. This is, of course, where you can opt for the standard vertical layout, or one of various horizontal layouts. The latter may well be more suited to illustrated children's books.

Click on Continue again and you will be able to upload your PDF or image files.

Once you have made your choice, you can click through to start editing. Here's what the editing page looks like...

You can insert text anywhere in your images by adding a text box. You can also include a feature that Amazon seems very keen to promote, the use of pop-ups.

The way these work is that when someone is on the page in question, for ease of reading all or any of the text can be made to stand out in a larger box. You can also have two or more pop-ups on a single page.

In Kindle Previewer pop-ups appear when you double-click on the text concerned. I suspect that on Kindle e-readers it may work a little differently, but as I only possess an ancient Kindle Keyboard, I can't verify that.

I have, though, posted a screen capture below which may give you some idea of what a pop-up looks like. In case you're wondering, this is from a demo e-book I created in a few minutes using some old photos.

Note that this screen capture was taken from the KKBC editing tool. In a published e-book you would only see the original (smaller) text or the pop-up, not both at the same time.

Once you are happy with your e-book, you can save it for publication. The software will then convert it to a .mobi file, ready for uploading via Kindle Direct Publishing (having first checked how it looks in Kindle Previewer, which you can download from the Kindle Kids' Book Creator page at the same time)

As you might expect from a company the size of Amazon, the software appears highly professional and in my testing it worked well. It's pretty intuitive, but there is also a PDF user manual if you need any extra help.

If you have any illustrated children's books on Kindle already, you may well want to think about passing them through this software. Not only will it give you many additional formatting options, Amazon themselves are highlighting children's e-books with pop-ups. Here's an example of the message you can already see on such e-books' sales pages...

To view a larger version of this, just click on the image. Use the Back button on your browser to return here.

It seems pretty clear that such e-books will have a marketing advantage in future, and Amazon may well choose to promote them preferentially as well.

Good luck if you decide to try out Kindle Kids' Book Creator yourself. I'll be very interested to hear about your views and experiences with it. Please post any comments or questions below as usual.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Email: Be Careful What You Authorize

4 Days of Spam by cogdogblog, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  cogdogblog

I'm a bit off topic today, but I wanted to share some thoughts about a problem I've experienced recently with my Gmail account.

What has happened is that on three occasions recently, spam emails have been sent in my name to people who are (or were) on my Gmail contacts list. Many apologies, by the way, if that includes you.

You might assume this means my account has been hacked, but that doesn't appear to be the case. There are no spam emails in my 'Sent Items' folder, and on my Gmail security page there is no evidence of any log-ins other than those I have made myself. It seems pretty clear that my identity in the spam emails was spoofed (which is of course very easy to do).

I was still puzzled by how the spammers got hold of my email contacts list, though. Initially I wondered if the Gmail servers had been hacked, but this seemed unlikely, and I hadn't heard any similar-sounding reports. After the third time it happened, I pretty much discounted that possibility.

I still don't know for sure, but after I visited the Google Account Permission page, a more likely explanation became apparent. As you may know, this page lists all the applications that have permission to access any component of your Google Account (which of course includes Gmail). There were about eight on my page, most of which appeared legitimate, including Chrome, Picasa, Feedly, Mail by Microsoft, and so on.

There were one or two that looked dubious, however, including Quora, a sort of social networking service I joined a year or two ago and soon lost interest in. Quora got a bad reputation a while back, when they were found to be sending emails to the contacts of existing Quora members urging them to join up as well. I could see from my Account Permission page that I had (inadvertently) given them permission to access my contact lists as well.

Obviously I can't prove that Quora were to blame for my contacts list getting into the wrong hands, but it is certainly a possibility. So I immediately revoked their access permission, along with a couple of other services I thought less likely (though still possible) candidates. I also changed the vague 'Access for Less Secure Apps' on the Security Settings Page from Enabled to Disabled. I am hoping that these measures will prevent any further breaches, although I can't guarantee this if some evil spammer has downloaded and saved my contact list and plans on using it again.

So what is the moral of this story? If you have a Gmail account, I strongly recommend that you head over to the Security Settings Page today and check (in particular) the account permissions you have granted. If there are any applications listed you aren't happy to have access to your account, you can disable them with a single click.

I'm not exactly sure how other web-based email accounts such as Yahoo email work, but if possible I would recommend checking the security settings and permissions on these as well. Who knows, it could save you the embarrassment of having all your friends and other contacts sent spam in your name like me!

If you have any comments or questions on this post, as ever, please feel free to post them below.

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