Archive for category Computers & Technical

Benefit of the Pinned Tweet

Twitter gives you the functionality to ‘pin’ a tweet to the top of your profile. Any visitor to your Twitter profile will see the ‘pinned’ tweet first, followed by all your other tweets (including those that you tweeted after the pinned tweet).

There are two benefits to a pinned tweet:

  • Gaining new followers. Any one looking at your profile can immediately see one of your own ‘best’ tweets rather than a host of re-tweets that you’ve kindly done for other people or spurious thoughts that you’ve tweeted at random. This helps people decide what you’re about and whether or not to follow you.
  • Getting more and better re-tweets. When you RT someone, they may re-pay the favour by RTing one of your tweets. But it can be pot luck what they chose to RT, it may be something irrelevant. However, if you have a pinned tweet this is likely to be chosen because it’s easy to spot right at the top of your profile. So, with a pinned tweet, the RTs you receive become better quality.

It’s easy to ‘pin’ a tweet. Go to the tweet that you want to pin. Click on the three dots. Select ‘Pin to your profile page’. Note – you can only have one pinned tweet at a time, not several.

I picked this tip up last week at an event on book marketing organised by Lizzie Lamb and the Leicester RNA. There were several interesting speakers and lots of advice thrown in from the floor too. And, as always, it was good to spend a day with other writers.

Anyone else have any good Twitter advice?

, ,

13 Comments

Cover Reveal for ‘House Guests’

Let’s have a drum roll … followed by a few oohs and aahs from the audience. Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the cover reveal for my third e-collection of short stories!

Put your hands together for the cover of House Guests and Other Stories!

House Guests and Other Stories

There are four different ways of obtaining an e-book cover:

  1. Design and create it yourself. Unless you’re a whizz at graphic design this can be very time-consuming. I give some advice on DIY (based on my own experience) in this guest post for the Writers’ Bureau.
  2. Use Amazon’s Kindle Cover Creator. This is very easy but the covers can’t be used on other e-book sales platforms and there’s a danger of them looking formulaic. I’ve written about this here.
  3. Use one of the cover designers on Fiverr.com. All services on Fiverr.com cost $5 plus a 50c processing fee (currently around £3.62). I’ve done this several times.
  4. Use a ‘proper’ bespoke cover designer. This will probably give you the best result but will also be significantly more expensive than the other options – meaning it will take longer to make a profit from e-books sales.

The cover for House Guests and Other Stories is from pro_ebookcovers, a designer on Fiverr.com. This designer worked differently to the others that I’ve used previously from the site. She asked for links to two e-books on Amazon with cover designs in a similar style to what I wanted (so I looked at short story collections that seemed to be selling well and had covers with a warm and friendly style). Then she asked me to choose a cover image from http://depositphotos.com (or I could’ve supplied my own). I chose something that I felt was vaguely applicable to the title story. The designer then downloaded the image and did the necessary fiddling to get it to the right dimensions and added the lettering.
I felt this way of working made things easier for both parties. I didn’t have to struggle to explain the type of image I wanted and the designer didn’t have to struggle to interpret my brief or spend time finding a suitable picture.
I recommend pro_ebookcovers and will use her again in the future.

So, back to House Guests and Other Stories. It’s a collection of fifteen short stories, many with a twist and most have appeared in either The Weekly News, My Weekly or People’s Friend. There’s also a couple of competition successes in there plus a special guest story by a prize-winning author!

I’ll reveal the guest author in a later post when I launch pre-orders for the book. I’ve never used pre-orders before and I’ve never had a guest author before so it’s exciting – watch this space!

, , , ,

14 Comments

A New Look For My Website!

I’ve been blogging for almost five years and have never given myself a makeover – until now!

I’ve made three changes:

  • A brand new ‘theme’ (i.e. the overall ‘look’)
  • The initial website ‘landing page’ is now the ‘About Me’ page, so that anyone searching for me on the internet (unlikely, but you never know – it might happen!) will immediately see ME rather than a spurious blog post about a writing competition or someone else’s book
  • A new domain name. An acquaintance told me that they never visit websites with ‘wordpress’ in the URL because it flags up ‘amateurism’. I don’t want to give an amateur impression so I’ve paid for the domain http://www.sally-jenkins.com (hyphenated because sallyjenkins.com wasn’t available).

So, I hope you like the new professional look!

In other news:

If you are planning on entering either the Flash 500 competition or the Writers’ Bureau Short Story competition then you might like to take a look at this blog post by Iain Pattison. He is judging both these competitions and talks about his likes and dislikes in short story competition entries.

Kobo are offering e-books for half-price until Monday August 31st. If you have a Kobo e-reader or fancy downloading the Kobo App, simply key in the code SALE50 (can be used as many times as you like over the weekend) when you download a book. This is a chance to buy Old Friends – 13 Coffee Break Stories for 75p – less than half the Amazon price!

, , , ,

15 Comments

BookLinker

A year ago I told you about GeoRiot, a service which creates universal Amazon and iTunes links. These universal links detect where visitors live and redirect them to their own national Amazon store. For example, a customer clicking on the link in the US will automatically get directed to Amazon.com and a customer in England will see the equivalent Amazon.co.uk page.

Using these universal links when promoting an e-book online gives both a professional image and a smoother customer journey in two ways:

  • There is no need to list different Amazon links for different countries
  • The customer always lands on the Amazon page where he or she can make an immediate purchase, without having to re-route themselves from Amazon.co.uk to Amazon.com or vice versa.

When GeoRiot first started it was essentially a free service, funded by taking a small percentage of Amazon affiliate earnings. However recently GeoRiot introduced a charge. The first 1,000 clicks per month are free and then the cost is $10 per 10,000 clicks. This charge doesn’t affect the very small user (I haven’t yet paid anything) but all users have to give their credit card details to GeoRiot.

But there is now an alternative which is always free and may suit indie authors better. BookLinker is also managed by GeoRiot but directed specifically at indie authors using Amazon (it will not convert iTunes links). Like GeoRiot, BookLinker provides statistics so that you can see how many clicks you are getting and from where in the world. BookLinker is more basic than GeoRiot but, for most writers, will do the job just as well. I intend to move over to it in the near future.

If you are an Amazon affiliate, both GeoRiot and BookLinker will allow you to include your affiliate code in the links.

There is more useful information about using BookLinker on Nick Daws’ blog, Entrepreneur Writer.

My original post, explaining how universal Amazon links work, is here.

, , , , , ,

11 Comments

Updated for 2015 – Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners

In February 2014 I pulled together everything I’d learnt about publishing a Kindle e-book and produced Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners. This concise e-book covers everything a writer needs to know in order to publish their first Kindle e-book and it’s written in simple language. Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners

But nothing stays the same and over the last twelve months there have been some changes over at Amazon KDP. For example, UK writers who enter their National Insurance number in the Amazon on-line tax interview (not as scary as it sounds!) no longer have 30% tax withheld on their US royalties, pricing for EU Amazon sites is now inclusive of VAT (see my previous blog post for more information) and it’s now possible to allow pre-orders of a new e-book before it is published.

Therefore, I have updated Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners to reflect these changes plus a few more bits and pieces, such as the advent of Kindle Unlimited allowing e-books enrolled in KDP Select to be borrowed and earn royalties and the ability for authors to run paid-for ad campaigns on Amazon.com.

So, if you’re thinking about e-publishing a collection of short stories, a ‘how-to’ book or a novel then Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners will show you the way – and it currently costs less than a nice coffee (but I’m toying with the idea of putting it up slightly to reflect the extra work that’s gone into it).

And remember, the nice thing about e-publishing is that anything goes! There’s no rules about genres or word counts – as long as the product description and price reflect the content.

Extract from one of several 5* Amazon reviews:
“The field of e-publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is full of tall grasses and hedges, but Sally’s straightforward advice offered a tidy path for my first foray into becoming an online author! Easy-to-read, this guide is clearly written by a writer who has experience with the format, and can either be read as a standalone account or dipped into as you’re on the Amazon website.”

, , , , , , ,

4 Comments

Amazon Asked Me to Change My Book Title

Regular followers of this blog will know that I published my first Kindle e-book, One Day for Me – 8 Award-Winning Stories, two years ago. It’s a collection of short stories, all of which have either won or been placed in UK writing competitions. One Day for Me - 8 Coffee Break Stories

A few weeks back I received an email about this book from Amazon. It told me that the book’s title contained ‘extra descriptive content ‘ which was not allowed. It said that this extra content could be ‘distracting or misleading to our customers’. I was given five days to change the title of the book or have it removed from the Kindle store.

Initially I was confused about was wrong with the title and queried it. Amazon replied that I must remove the words ‘Award-Winning’. My first reaction was to argue the point because I feel justified in using these words since all the stories have done well in competitions. But I decided it would be a David and Goliath contest and David would probably end up with all his books being removed from the Amazon store.

So, I complied and changed the title to One Day for Me – 8 Coffee Break Stories. Then I realised that I didn’t know how to change the cover image to reflect this new title. The cover was all my own work (following some wonderful advice from many of you about what worked and what didn’t)  two years ago but since then I’ve forgotten how to get back in and edit it. I decided time was too precious to waste trying to sort it out so I’ve had a new cover created by Helen Measures on http://www.fiverr.com. It’s quite different from the first cover so I’m hoping that it will attract readers who dismissed the book first time around.

I post this as a warning to those of you thinking of publishing on Amazon KDP. Don’t put any spurious claims or words such as ‘free’ or ‘best’ in your title. If you do you may be asked to remove them.

, , , ,

22 Comments

Self-Publishing Tips from Hilary Custance Green

Hilary Custance Green is the author of Border Line, recently published in both paperback and e-book format.Border Line by Hilary Custance Green

I was lucky enough to read the opening chapters of the novel last year when Hilary was still working on it. The idea behind the book is intriguing:

‘Grace, racked with guilt, is searching online for ways to die and she finds Daniel. Like a pied piper he leads her and nine other people on a trek across Slovenia. For twenty-one days they share stories and secrets, play games, surprise themselves with laughter… and make their final decision.’

I will definitely be downloading Border Line to my Kindle because I want to know what that final decision is.

Hilary self-published the paperback version of Border Line, doing all the work herself and not using CreateSpace. She’s very kindly put together some pointers to help anyone else thinking of doing the same:

Last December (2013), I found myself at a Christmas party explaining that yes, I had written a third novel and also a non-fiction book on POWs in the Far East, and no, neither had been published yet. The truth is I had been looking for an agent for both the novel and the non-fiction book for several years. I had had nibbles, but no bites. I resolved that no further Christmases would pass without a publication.

There are multiple self-publishing routes, mine was total DIY. This is a possible, but not necessarily a wise thing to do. I took the name Threadgold Press in 2008, for my second novel, and floated, rather liked flotsam, through the self-publishing process. Things have changed since then. Today, unless you are writing about food outlets in a three mile radius, or walking on your local hills, you are going to need both print and eBook. The simplified basics for print are:

• Give yourself a name and apply to Nielsen books to buy ISBNs.

Hilary Custance Green

Hilary Custance Green

• Allocate one ISBN to your print book and another to your eBook.
• Choose a printer and get estimates. A litho print run (min 300) is expensive up front, but cheaper per copy then Print on Demand (POD).
• Think of a publication date (ideally 9 months plus ahead), subtract the months that are bad for publishing books, add 2 months for things to go wrong (they will), and register with Nielsen book data. You will need blurb, price (when dreaming up the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) don’t forget the cost of postage), BIC code (category of book) etc ready.
• Set the text. I bought a soft version of Adobe InDesign and taught myself.
• Create cover – actually don’t – spend the money on professional design.
• Edit. Once again, professional is best. Failing that, find your most educated friends and bribe them to read with a red pen in their hands. Anything they have to read twice, or makes them gag, yawn or feel uncomfortable, needs your attention – listen and believe.
• Proof read. That means read it yourself and correct, print out a copy, hand it to a friend, make corrections, print again and find a new victim, and so on many times. Again, better still, pay someone.
• Send MS to printers, renegotiate number of pages, correct e-proofs etc
• Join Amazon Advantage – a nightmare and they take 60% discount, so you sell at a loss, but if you don’t join them, Amazon take many weeks to deliver your books.
• Create an Advance Information Sheet (AIS), with all the basic book data.
• Create a Press Release, an up-to-date website, cook up a launch party, find somewhere to sign copies on the publication date.

Finally, you are legally obliged to deposit a copy of any new publication with the British Library within one month of the publication day.

Remember, if you choose this route, writing will stall for some months. Almost every action, depends on information that is not yet ready. You become a designer, proofreader, editor, marketing manager, salesperson, IT consultant, office girl, driver… BUT you end up with a physical copy of your book for minimum outlay.

Hilary – I’m in awe of what you’ve achieved! It sounds like a phenomenal learning curve but what a feeling of achievement when you hold that physical book in your hand and then people start buying it!

Visit Hilary’s website to read about how she’s promoting Border Line.

, ,

12 Comments

Twitter for Writers

At the weekend I attended the annual Writers’ Toolkit in Birmingham, organised by Writing West Midlands. One of the sessions was Making the Internet Work for You with Sathnam Sanghera and Kate Feld.

Many interesting questions were asked about making social media work as a promotion tool for writers. The outcome of the session was that Twitter is an essential part of a writer’s toolkit.

It shouldn’t be used to post family & friends stuff – Facebook is the place for that – and it shouldn’t be used to continually shout ‘buy my books!’ I get the impression it’s purpose is to engage in sensible conversation and to follow those who may be tweeting useful information such as agents, publishers etc.

I think I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve yet to dip my toe into Twitter and perhaps I’ve dragged my feet so much that by the time I string together my first tweet, everyone else will have disappeared off to the next big social media thing.

So, I’m asking all you Tweeters to give me your advice:

  • What do you tweet about and how often? Is it OK to repeat yourself on Facebook and Twitter (as long as it’s not a cat video or other ‘silly’) or do you attract the same audience on both platforms?
  • How much time do you spend tweeting and/or reading other people’s tweets?
  • How do you get followers?
  • Is it expected that you will follow everyone who follows you? (I believe there is a ‘mute’ button if you want to switch people off).
  • Do you think Twitter is beneficial and if so, in what way?
  • Anything else I need to know?

Please feel free to put your Twitter handle in your comment too.

On a different subject and to show that writers come in a multitude of guises, at the Toolkit I came across someone who used to write labels for museum exhibits and someone else who used to write Ceefax pages for the BBC.

, , , , ,

30 Comments

Four Lessons in E-Publishing by Emma Jordan

Emma Jordan got in touch with me recently after using Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners to publish her first e-book, 119 Style Boosts from the Size15Stylist119 Style Boosts

Emma runs the fashion/shopping blog Size15Stylist and I asked her to share with us the lessons she learnt during her e-publishing experience.

This is what she told me:

Lesson One – Format
Keep it clean; don’t worry about tables and images, unless they are really necessary. There are books to help if you want to incorporate images and tables (Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide; Steve Scott’s Kindle Publishing Package) but when you are converting your Word document to HTML (web page) to upload to Amazon, a lot of your formatting will be lost. To emphasise your points, use different font headings and use spacing well. Amazon Author Natalie Penna uses spaces beautifully in her YA novels, encouraging readers to read on.

Or, put simply:

An e-book screen is smaller than a paperback.

You don’t want to read too many chunks of texts.

It halts your story.

Spaces keep the reader reading.

 
Lesson Two – Front cover
I spent precious writing and editing time searching for a cover (and trying to get my head around rights’ issues) and even tried to create a front cover on Publisher software; silly me. Sally rightly points out that Amazon’s Cover Creator offers thousands of options and I created my front cover, for free, in less than a few minutes.

Lesson Three – Triangul-edit
I detest editing, although I realise this is how you shape your words to reach your readers. I am always more motivated to write during the planning stages; coffee, computer, no deadlines. I learned how to reduce the editing process so that it’s manageable and now triangul-edit:
1 – Content (do I have enough words, and are my words explained?)
2 – Grammar (can I say my words better in another way?)
3 – Typos and Format (has spell check picked up a wrong word? Are there problems with spacing?)

My ebooks so far have been around 10,000 words (a novel is around 80k, depending on author) so when I have accumulated around 30 pages of single space text then I start to edit. I head for the nearest coffee shop with my print out and trusty pencil-case.

Lesson Four – Technically, you’ll be okay
I put off self-publishing for years, because I just didn’t know if I was technical enough. But I bumped into Sally’s book, Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners and after I read the book a few times, I realised the technical details were within my capabilities. On publishing day (pyjamas and no distractions), Sally’s book sat by my laptop, so I could refer to common sense during the uploading process.

When it comes to converting your Word doc to a web (html) doc, as per Amazon’s requirements, you cannot check formatting enough – after 10 saved web documents on my hard drive, I still discovered a wayward additional space in the final Amazon published version. Note: delete each copy of the web document as you amend, and save under a new name if necessary – you don’t want 10 copies of a web doc lurking near the upload button.

The paramount wisdom I unearthed – You are Your words. Do not rush your self-publishing journey in a hurry to see your name listed as an Amazon author. And, pressing the (self)Publish button is only the start of your journey. You are also your own Marketing department.

 
Author Biography
Emma Jordan is a freelance writer and creator of the Size15Stylist blog.Emma Jordan

When she’s not blogging or writing, or entertaining her toddler-daughter, she can be found undertaking research in the shops.

, , , , ,

5 Comments

Proofreading and How to Send Documents to the Kindle

Does anyone else use their Kindle for proofreading?

I find this very helpful if I’m writing something longer than just an ordinary short story. It means I don’t have to sit staring at my computer screen for ages whilst I work my way through the whole manuscript and nor do I use large amounts of paper and ink printing the thing off time and time again (although I do use this method when I think I’m almost there).

Proofreading on the Kindle means I can curl up in an armchair with a mug of coffee and pretend I’m reading a ‘proper’ book. I find it lets me judge my writing in a different way and I’m less likely to skip over words.

The disadvantage is that I can’t edit as I go along and I can’t scribble and cross things out either. But depending on what stage you’re at, this can be a good thing because it forces you to read the whole manuscript from beginning to end without wasting time trying to perfect a single sentence. This makes it easier to see the whole story arc and judge whether or not it works.

But in order to be able to proofread in this way, the manuscript needs to be sent from PC to Kindle. There are a couple of ways this can be done. You can either email the document to the Kindle (yes, every Kindle has its own email address!) or plug the Kindle into the PC and ‘drag and drop’ the file across.

There are detailed instructions on how to use both of these methods over on Molly Greene’s Blog so I won’t repeat it all again here. In her post Molly doesn’t specifically mention that Word documents can be sent in this way but I know from experience that they can and there are comments at the end of the post which confirm this. Molly also gives some instructions for the iPad too (I’m not lucky enough to own one of those).

This method of sending stuff to the Kindle can also be used for PDF documents – but I’ve never worked out how to increase the font size of a PDF when it’s on the Kindle and so end up having to use my reading glasses.

And it’s useful to be able to transfer files in this way if you’re ever asked to beta read someone’s work before publication or if you get sent an early review copy.

Please do let me know if you’ve got any proofreading tips or experience of sending stuff to the Kindle.

, , ,

16 Comments