Archive for category Computers & Technical
The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps and Helping Your Business Win
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Books, Computers & Technical, Non-fiction on July 7, 2016
If (like me) you work in IT Operations for a largish organisation then you’ll find this novel interesting. If you don’t then you probably won’t.
A lot of IT Operations work is fire-fighting. Things go wrong, the users of the software that’s failed jump up and down and shout, then (hopefully) IT Operations fix the problem and everything goes back to the status quo. The things that go wrong are classified according to their impact on the business. For example a ‘P1’ might be a major failing in the software that allows customers to place orders on the internet – no orders means no profit for the business and this issue would receive the highest priority. In contrast a bug found on a little-used report would receive the lowest priority, perhaps ‘P5’.
The Phoenix Project opens with Bill (who is newly promoted) facing a ‘P1’ issue in the payroll software. He has to find a way of making sure people still get paid and thus avert a labour force walk-out. The stress that Bill is under leaps from the page and, if you’ve ever had to sort out major software problems as part of your job, your heart will increase, you will start sweating and you will empathise fervently with what Bill’s going through.
But the clever thing about The Phoenix Project is that it’s a novel-cum-textbook, so readers learn something too. It is written by three advocates of the DevOps movement (if you’re not in IT don’t worry about that term) and takes the reader on a journey with Bill as he improves the IT landscape for his organisation. It explains the thought processes and practice behind encouraging software developers to work more closely with IT operations colleagues in order to streamline the implementation and testing of new programs.
WARNING: This book should not be taken on holiday or read at bedtime because it will increase not decrease your stress levels.
To 99.9% of you this book will sound deadly boring. But it is a bestseller in its genre. At the time of writing it is #4,052 in the whole UK Paid Kindle Store, out of the four million plus Kindle e-books available. I’m not aware of any marketing for this book – it seems to be all word of mouth from colleague to colleague.
We’re always told to write what we know and to utilise our everyday experiences and working lives. But I’ve always shied away from stories set in computer departments (apart from one Christmas story published by My Weekly last year) because most people would find them tedious. However, The Phoenix Project shows that, with some clever thinking, it is possible to turn the mundane into a successful book.
I wish I’d thought of it first!
Publishing on Smashwords
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Computers & Technical, Promotion, Self-publishing on June 2, 2016
This week I spent a few hours uploading the psychological thriller Bedsit Three to Smashwords.
Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of independently-published e-books. It also sells directly to the public in a variety of e-book formats. I decided to use Smashwords in order to make Bedsit Three available for libraries to add to their e-book collections. Many libraries worldwide use Overdrive to source their e-books and the only way for an indie author to make a book available on Overdrive is to go through Smashwords (as I mentioned before in my post about the 2016 Self-publishing Conference).
Smashwords accepts a Word document which it then puts through its ‘meatgrinder’ to change into .epub format – so no great technical knowledge is needed on the author’s part. However, I hit a couple of snags during the uploading process.
Firstly I tried uploading a .docx document, this was rejected because Smashwords only accepts .doc documents i.e. those created by older editions of Word. So I had to use the ‘Save As’ function to save my document and change it from .docx to .doc.
Secondly, when I previewed the .epub produced via the ‘meatgrinder’ there was a blank page between every chapter. It took me a bit of fiddling and Googling to solve this one. I had to remove the page breaks between chapters (which Amazon and Kobo had seemed quite happy with) and replace with a few carriage returns. I think this is because Smashwords automatically inserts its own page break when it comes to a chapter heading.
The Overdrive catalogue is updated from Smashwords each Tuesday, so Bedsit Three should appear there by the middle of next week. If you’d like to read Bedsit Three for free please ask your library to add it to their e-book collection.
Incidentally, authors don’t receive PLR on borrowed e-books, they only get the one-off royalty for a single sale.
A girl has been buried in a shallow grave. Rain starts to wash away the earth covering her.
A used pregnancy test and a scrap book about a suicide are abandoned in a bedsit.
Every mother tries to do her best for her child. But sometimes that ‘best’ creates a monster.
Bedsit Three is a tale of murder, mystery and love. It won the inaugural Wordplay Publishing/Ian Govan Award and was shortlisted for both the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition.
Available on Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords.
Kindle Instant Book Previews
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Computers & Technical, Promotion, Self-publishing on January 25, 2016
Thanks to Nick Daws of the Entrepreneur Writer for bringing this new Kindle marketing tool to my attention.
Amazon has introduced a new feature to help authors generate book sales from their websites and social media activities. A Kindle Instant Book Preview can be embedded into a webpage using HTML or shared as a link via email, text and social media. This enables readers to preview a book (in a similar way to the ‘Look Inside’ feature found on Amazon product pages) with only one click and without leaving the webpage they are currently browsing.
Try clicking on the book cover image below left and you’ll see what I mean.
If the reader likes what he sees there is a direct link to purchase the book from Amazon. A Kindle Instant Book Preview retains traffic on an author’s website because books can be viewed without diverting your website visitor to Amazon.
To obtain the Preview link, search for the book on Amazon.com (not UK), click the ‘Embed’ link on the right next to the other sharing options, copy the URL or embed the HTML code onto your website.
N.B. It’s not possible to embed the HTML into a wordpress.com site (like this one) because wordpress.com doesn’t allow certain HTML codes such as ‘iframe’. So I’ve displayed the book cover image with the Preview link behind it.
Full details can be found at http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=13489836011&tag=viglink20273-20
If you’d like to read more on Nick’s original post, you’ll find it here.
Benefit of the Pinned Tweet
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Computers & Technical, Promotion on October 8, 2015
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?
Cover Reveal for ‘House Guests’
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Computers & Technical, Promotion, Resources, Self-publishing on September 5, 2015
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!
There are four different ways of obtaining an e-book cover:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
A New Look For My Website!
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Computers & Technical, Promotion on August 29, 2015
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!
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Computers & Technical, Promotion, Resources, Self-publishing on May 12, 2015
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.
Amazon Asked Me to Change My Book Title
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Computers & Technical, Self-publishing on February 24, 2015
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.
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.