Sally Jenkins

Selling Secondhand Books Online

Where do you stand on disposing of secondhand books? Any that I have in perfect condition I usually donate to our cash-strapped libraries because that helps both the library and the author (PLR). The others go to charity shops.webuybooks.co.uk

Recently I tried something different: WeBuyBooks.co.uk

Simply type an ISBN into the website and you get a monetary offer for the book. It’s not a lot, often just a few pence and the site won’t accept every title. But I found the process of keying in the numbers to get a valuation addictive. They buy DVDs and CDs too. Once you have a collection of goods with a total value of £5 or more there is the facility to print a label giving free postage to WeBuyBooks via the parcel people Hermes. It took a lot of books to reach £5 and then there was the job of parceling up and taking them to my nearest Hermes collection point (or they can collect from you).

A couple of days later I had an email from WeBuyBooks to say my parcel had been received and then, two days later, another to say the payment for my books had been deposited in my bank account.

Was it worth it?

Financially, probably not. My books were mostly novels and didn’t fall into the site’s most sought after categories i.e. cookbooks, travel guides and text books. A charity shop may have netted more for the books than I received.

More broadly, yes it was worth it. I got carried away with wanting to know what my books were worth and sorted through a lot! Many of the books refused by WeBuyBooks I then took to the charity shop anyway. And my mind feels clearer now more clutter is gone. So it was a win-win result!

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Three Free Competitions

I’ve got three competitions for you today. Two are short fiction and one is a giveaway on Twitter.

First up is the Writers’ HQ Flash Quarterly Competition. It’s an open theme, 500 words limit and, as the name suggests, it runs every quarter. The next closing date is 30th June. First prize is
12 months Writers’ HQ membership plus 3 free writers’ retreats (cash value £450). Second prize is 6 months Writers’ HQ membership and 3 free retreats (cash value £270). Third prize is
3 months Writers’ HQ membership and 3 free retreats (cash value £180). The writing retreats are 10 am to 4 pm in various UK cities. Writers’ HQ membership gives several benefits.
Make sure you read the full rules before entering.

The second competition is the Reedsy Short Story Contest which runs every week and has a $50 prize. The story must be written to fit one of a selection of weekly prompts and should be between 1,000 and 3,000 words long. In order to get the prompts each week (which can be used as general inspiration and ideas – you don’t have to enter the competition) you need to sign up for the contest email (sign up form should be on the right of the screen).

Finally, if you have a Twitter account, you can enter a giveaway for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners. Public Speaking for Absolute BeginnersSimply, go to my Twitter Account, read the pinned Tweet (i.e. the first one visible), follow me (if you don’t already) and retweet that pinned tweet. You can also find me by searching for @sallyjenkinsuk. But be quick; the competition ends at midnight tomorrow (4th May 2019).

 

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Using HTML in Amazon Book Descriptions

This is a post for those of you who have self-published on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or are planning to do so.

KDP requires a Product Description for each book. This is the equivalent of the blurb on the back of a traditional book and it is very important in selling the book. These short paragraphs help readers decide whether or not to buy the book. Therefore the product description must be set out in an easy to read format. This is not as straightforward as it sounds because Amazon doesn’t provide any formatting options within the box where the the product description is keyed i.e. it’s not possible to use bold or italics or bullet points. This means the product descriptions of many self-published books appear flat and uninteresting.

But there is a way to slip formatting into the product description and thus make it more attractive. HTML can be used. HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and is the standard markup language for web pages. DO NOT GLAZE OVER OR RUN AWAY! This is simpler than it sounds.

For example, to make the word ‘thriller’ appear in bold in a product description, use <b> and </b> immediately before and after ‘thriller’.

And, to make the word ‘scare’ appear in italics, use <i> and </i> immediately before and after ‘scare’.

Put ‘A <b>thriller</b> guaranteed to <i>scare</i>.’ in the product description box and it will appear as ‘A thriller guaranteed to scare.’ on the Amazon page.

It’s also possible to use HTML to underline, create lists and give other text effects. This page lists the HTML acceptable in the product description.

To complicate matters, when publishing in paperback through KDP, the product description has a tendency to lose the line breaks. Use <br> to manually indicate where the line breaks should go and use <br> <br> to create a blank line between paragraphs.

Why not experiment with HTML to liven up your book descriptions?

 

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Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners

I’ve been beavering away on a couple of projects recently and am pleased to announce that one is now complete. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is now available on Amazon Kindle and paperback. It brings together everything I’ve learnt about addressing an audience over the last five years. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners

Who should buy this book?

  • Anyone who has to speak in meetings (work or otherwise), on a committee or any other group scenario such as a book club or writing group.
  • Anyone who’s been asked to speak at a wedding, funeral, family party or similar occasion.
  • Anyone with something to promote. That something could be a business, a favourite charity, a political or community campaign, a sports team in need of a sponsor, a club appealing for new members or anything that needs someone to pitch for publicity.
  • Anyone who’d like to be paid for talking about their passion. (I receive a small fee when talking about writing to community groups).
  • Anyone not included in the above. Remember those times you’ve felt awkward introducing yourself at a writers’ workshop, ‘selling’ yourself at an interview or making a complaint in a shop? There are times when we all lack confidence but being able to organise our thoughts and speak calmly makes these situations much easier.

As the title suggests, Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is aimed at those with no or very little experience of addressing an audience – that was the starting point for my journey in public speaking when I joined Sutton Coldfield Speakers Club in September 2013. The club is part of the Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) and in 2018 I represented the Midlands in the national final of the ASC Speech Competition. Back in 2013 I had no desire at all to enter a speech competition and never expected to find myself, a few years later, speaking in a competitive situation on a stage in a packed hall at the ASC Annual Conference. It’s amazing what we can achieve with a bit of encouragement, self-belief and hard work!

But far more important than the competition, several people have commented on how much more confident I’ve become in everyday life since learning to speak in public – and I think that is the real benefit to me from the last few years. I wrote Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners to minimise the fear that we all feel when asked ‘to say a few words’.

I hope it will help you grow in confidence too.

Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is available on Kindle and in paperback.

 

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Save a Life – Learn to Use a Defibrillator

A defibrillator has been installed in my area and I went to a session run by Community Heartbeat on how to use it. A patient’s survival rate following a cardiac arrest is much improved by the use of a defibrillator rather than just CPR (from around 7% to 28% if I remember correctly) so it’s great that increasing numbers of these machines are appearing in public spaces.

Use of Defibrillator

If Someone Collapses Follow These Instructions

The important takeaways from the session were:

  • Unless you hit them over the head with it, you can’t hurt anyone with a defibrillator – the machines are programmed to only deliver a shock when/if one is needed.
  • A defibrillator applies a current of electricity to the heart to stop it and thus allow it to reconfigure automatically. Our instructor said it was a little bit like rebooting a laptop when the screen has locked up.
  • The defibrillator gives audible instructions on what you are required to do.
  • When you dial 999 you will be told where the nearest defibrillator is and the code number to access it
  • If the nearest defibrillator is too far away and you are alone, you will be talked through performing CPR only. If you are not alone, one person will start CPR whilst the other fetches the defibrillator.
  • When the defibrillator arrives, one person should continue with CPR while the other sets everything up.
  • There are scissors and a razor in the defibrillator pack. This allows you to cut the patient’s clothing (including the bra on a woman) in order to bare the chest. The razor is for shaving a square of skin on a hairy chest. The pads through which the shock is delivered won’t stick to very hairy skin.
  • CPR must be continued in between allowing the defibrillator to monitor and possibly shock the patient. Give 30 compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute followed by two breaths. You will need to press hard with two hands on an adult patient and you may break one of their ribs. I would prefer someone to break my rib but save my life rather than leave me to die with ribs intact.
  • The defibrillator will tell you when to stop touching the patient so that the machine can monitor the heart.
  • Do not stop CPR when you see the ambulance. The paramedics will always say, “You’re doing a great job. Keep going.” This is because they need a minute to set up and therefore need you to keep going just a little longer.
  • You may or may not find out what eventually happens to the patient. Do not be disheartened if he dies. It does not mean you did anything wrong – look again at the survival percentages at the top of this post.

Every life is precious and deserves saving. Don’t walk by on the other side because you’re afraid of getting involved.

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Sutton Coldfield BookFest

Sutton Coldfield BookFest took place yesterday, billed as, ‘a new festival for children who love stories’. I was involved as a volunteer and found it a great learning experience.

Winnie the Witch

Korky Paul’s Prize Winning Golden Raffle Tickets

My role was to check people’s tickets as they entered one of the library areas set aside for the performances of the authors and illustrators. This meant, once everyone was inside, I was able to stand at the back and watch fantastic sessions by author/illustrator Steve Smallman, Winnie the Witch illustrator Korky Paul and animal storyteller BB Taylor. They were all a great hit with the children and I took away the following points:

  • It’s harder to face an audience of children than an audience of adults. Even when bored, adults will sit still and quiet and look at you. Children have a habit of interrupting with questions, walking around, touching things and fidgeting.
  • In front of an audience of children a speaker has to exude energy, drama and enthusiasm. Speaking half-heartedly or without animation loses audience attention.
  • Visual aids and fancy dress are a must in front of youngsters. Between them the three performers had a viking helmet with chicken accessories, a wizard’s hat and a purple wig. BB Taylor brought along live animals: an armadillo, tortoise, millipede and a parrot.
  • Audience participation should be encouraged. Ask questions of the audience, get children up to the front and have prizes – children like to take things home!

So how does this help those of us who write for adults? It made me think about what I like to see in a speaker and it’s the unusual which ignites my immediate interest. And it’s the energy and enthusiasm of a performance that maintains that interest beyond the initial few minutes. So, thanks to three great children’s entertainers, those are the points I’ll be working on in my own author talk. Thanks guys and gal!

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When you win the Booker …

When you win the Booker, and the champagne has been drunk, the interviews given and the books signed, how will you spend the £50,000 prize money?

There was an interesting piece in last week’s Sunday Times about how some previous winners have spent the money. In 1986 Kingsley Amis said he was looking forward to spending the money on, “booze, of course, and curtains.” Four years later AS Byatt spent her prize on building a swimming pool at her home. The 2018 winner, Anna Burns, is using her winnings on something far less frivolous but, hopefully, life changing. Her prize money will fund back surgery to stop the chronic pain which stops her writing.

If I was in receipt of that £50,000 cheque, I’d use it to ‘buy’ more writing time. This might mean a combination of reducing my hours at the day job and/or paying for help around the house. However, more time doesn’t always equal more writing productivity. It would be up to me and my self-discipline to use that extra time wisely rather than in procrastination or in madly tidying up the house before the cleaner arrived!

What about you? Would the £50,000 buy something pleasurable or sensible or both?

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