Archive for category Self-publishing
Short Story Writing Tips & a Launch!
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Promotion, Self-publishing, Short Story, Successes on October 28, 2022
I’ve been busy with the feather duster in my Dropbox repository and have rediscovered several of my favourite short stories that missed their target. These are the stories which didn’t land on the right editor’s desk at the right time or failed to catch the imagination of a competition judge.
This exercise made me think about two things: What are the best tips or rules for short story writing? And how can I best utilize these short story ‘misses’ in this age of recycling and ‘waste not want not’?
Here are the five top short story writing tips I came up with:
1. Have only a few characters. Any more than three or four makes it difficult for the reader to get to know them in a short space of time. Make sure all their names begin with a different letter – this makes it easier for the reader to differentiate between them. Don’t give names to ‘walk-on’ characters such as the postman or policeman – this will only add to any confusion in the reader’s mind.
2. Be clear whose story it is i.e., from which character’s point of view are you telling the story. That person should have the most to gain/lose from the action. Ensure the reader becomes emotionally invested in that person.
3. Have the action take place in a short timescale. Focusing on a single moment in time works best because the story is ‘immediate’. Avoid a long buildup of backstory. If back story is essential, drop it concisely alongside the action.
4. Conflict should be at the centre of the story. The main character should be facing a dilemma or decision of some kind. This character should solve the dilemma himself rather than have it sorted out by someone else, coincidence or fate.
5. Edit! Give the story more impact by removing words like ‘very’ and ‘just’. Replace adverbs with more specific verbs, for example ‘run fast’ becomes ‘sprint’. Combine characters, for example does the heroine need two friends or will one work just as well and make the story neater?
And what’s happening to those short story ‘misses’? They are now getting their fifteen minutes of fame in Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories. I’ve mixed the stories up with others that DID land on the right editor’s or judge’s desk at the right time, and I challenge YOU to decide which were hits and which missed their target.
Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories is now available on Kindle, in paperback from Amazon and on Kobo.
It would be lovely to get the comments started on the book’s Amazon/Kobo Review pages to indicate whether or not you agreed with those editors and judges.
On Submission! (Again)
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Non-fiction, Self-publishing, Successes on November 23, 2021
For the greater part of this year I’ve been working with my wonderful agent, Juliet Mushens, to get my current manuscript into tip-top condition. She is now happy with it and last week it went out into the big wide world of publishers. My fingers are firmly crossed but, as I know from my experience two years ago, there is many slip between cup and lip. I’m not saying much about the actual story except there are no murders and it’s infinitely more cheerful than Bedsit Three or The Promise.
Juliet recently re-opened to submissions if you’re currently querying agents and think she might be a good fit for you.
I’ve also continued writing occasional articles for The People’s Friend and was asked to pitch ideas this week for Christmas 2022! As I’ve said before, finding the ideas is by far the hardest part of article writing. Correction: finding ideas that haven’t already been covered in some shape or form by a magazine with such a long history is the hardest part of article writing. The good part about writing for The People’s Friend is the quick response to most pitches – I usually get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ within a week to ten days and the ‘pitch black hole’ of many publications is non-existent.
There are submission guidelines on The People’s Friend website if you fancy having a go at writing features for them.
Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners was selected by Amazon as one of November’s Kindle Deals. Amazon have discounted the book to 99p and given it a little bit of a push. So far it has sold about three times more than in October which is good! And it’s currently got orange bestseller flags in both the Amazon Electronic Publishing and Digital Media categories. But at 99p my royalty rate drops to 30% so financially I won’t make any more money, however I’m hoping the boost the Deal has given me will generate a head start for December when the price returns to normal.
If you’d like to nominate any of your books for an Amazon Deal, go to your Amazon bookshelf and click the Marketing tab along the top of the page. Scroll down to see the option to nominate your e-books. It’s free of charge and so worth a try. There’s more information on the Amazon help pages.
Now I’ll stop typing so that I can cross my fingers again!
An Update on Me
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Books, Lifestyle, Non-fiction, Self-publishing on August 9, 2021
What’s been going on in my writing life recently?
At the end of June I completed the second round of agent edits on my current WIP and submitted the manuscript again. Over the last few weeks I’ve been biting my nails while I wait to hear if more work is needed or whether the novel has reached the standard for submission to publishers. You may remember that a previous manuscript went out to publishers a couple of years ago but failed to sell.
While I wait for the verdict I’ve found it difficult to get back into fiction (a new novel or short stories), so I’ve been doing bits and pieces of non-fiction writing.
I’ve taken the opportunity to update Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners. The book was first published back in 2014 and has consistently been one of my best-sellers. Every year or so, I’ve re-read it and made changes/additions/deletions to reflect the ever changing landscape of self-publishing on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format. It contains lots of useful information if you’re thinking of self-publishing for the first time.
I’ve also written a few articles for The People’s Friend. The hardest part of this (like any writing, I think) is generating ideas that are appropriate to the readership and haven’t already been covered in the magazine before. The magazine holds weekly editorial meetings and so I usually get a ‘yes’ or, more likely, a ‘no’ on ideas quickly. The downside is it’s no longer possible to earn any ALCS money on articles or short stories published in the magazine.
In June I had my first post-lockdown holiday. My husband and I walked the first five stages of the Cost to Coast. We started at St Bees and finished at Kirkby Stephen five days later. Physically it was much more difficult than we’d envisaged but great to finally get away. I took notes along the way and am currently turning those notes into a short e-book. It will be partly a personal experience narrative and partly resources for those planning to do the walk themselves. If you enjoy walking (or are just nosy about what other people get up to on their holidays) watch this space!
Finally I’ve recently got into the crime novels of Jane Harper. Jane was born in the UK but now lives in Australia. Her novels are set in the Australian outback which gives them quite a different feel to more urban murder stories. I started with The Lost Man and am now half-way through The Dry. In 2014 a short story submitted by Jane was included in the Big Issue’s annual Fiction Edition. This inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously. Big things from little acorns grow!
A Facelift for The Promise
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Books, Promotion, Self-publishing on June 7, 2021
The rights for psychological thriller, The Promise, have reverted from the original publisher back to me.
To celebrate, the Kindle version now has a shiny new cover and new, lower, price point. I’m also delighted to say, the e-book is available on Kobo for the very first time and, fingers crossed, it will qualify for one of Kobo’s Mystery & Thriller promotions soon.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been possible to carry the reviews across from the old version of the book. But they are currently still available against the secondhand hand editions of the original paperback.
I haven’t yet had time to sort out a new paperback version of the book – that is a project for the coming months.
“Jenkins spins a web of intrigue” – Judith Cutler
Olivia has recurring nightmares about the murder of a man which took place when she was a teenager.
Petty criminal Tina is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
With the clock ticking, Tina needs money and a wife for her younger brother, Wayne.
The discovery of a forgotten letter from an ex-cellmate puts Tina on the trail of Olivia – with devastating consequences.
The Promise is a psychological thriller set in north Birmingham, UK.
Get Your Book into More Categories on Amazon
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Self-publishing on March 25, 2021
Amazon KDP only allows the selection of two categories at the time of publishing a book and it can be difficult to decide which two categories are most important. For example, with Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners, I toyed with, ‘Speaking and Speech Writing’, ‘Communication’, ‘Assertiveness’ and ‘Practical & Motivational Self-Help’ amongst others.
But there is a way to get a book into up to ten categories after publication.
There are two main advantages to a book being in more categories:
• Increased exposure on Amazon. The more categories a book is in, the more people will see it.
• An increased chance of the book gaining one of those coveted little orange ‘bestseller’ badges for a particular category. Some categories are small and therefore the number of sales required to win this badge will be correspondingly fewer.
Before we start, an explanation about categories:
The categories available for selection during the KDP publishing process do not exactly match the categories seen by buyers on Amazon and these categories seen on Amazon can differ between countries and between book formats (e-book, paperback etc.) The categories available during KDP publication are based on the Book Industry Standards and Communications Code. The categories you select are used, along with your keywords, to place the book in Amazon’s own categories. It is Amazon’s own categories that we are interested in for the purpose of this exercise not the BISAC ones.
The steps required to access more Amazon categories are listed below:
- Decide on the most appropriate Amazon categories for the book.
Go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/ and on the search bar change ‘All’ to ‘Kindle Store’. Click on the Search icon.
On the left side of the page click “Kindle eBooks” under “Kindle Store” (which is beneath the Department heading).
Scroll down a little and the available categories will now be available on the left, beginning with Arts & Photography.
Click on a category to view subcategories. Choose the most suitable ones and make a list of category paths. As an example here are the first three entries in my list for Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners:
1. Kindle Store/Kindle eBooks/Education & Reference/Words, Language and Grammar/Public Speaking & Speech Writing
2. Kindle Store/Kindle eBooks/Education & Reference/Words, Language & Grammar/Speech & Pronunciation
3. Kindle Store/Kindle eBooks/Education & Reference/Words, Language & Grammar/Communication
- When the list is complete: Within your KDP Bookshelf, click the Help tab at the top of the screen. On the next screen, scroll down and click ‘Contact Us’ on the left-hand side of the screen. On the next screen, click ‘Amazon Product Page & Expanded Distribution’ and then select ‘Update Amazon Categories’. You will be presented with a form to fill in with your selected categories, book format, ASIN/ISBN and market place. Press submit.
- When your request has been actioned, you will receive a confirmation email and this comes from a real person! The first time I did this I wasn’t explicit enough about the categories and was asked to confirm exactly what I wanted, so pay attention to detail.
- It will be necessary to repeat the above exercise for other territories/book formats as you wish. However, for the time being I’ve concentrated my efforts on my UK e-books because that’s my greatest market share.
Do let me know if broadening Amazon categories results in better sales for you. Fingers crossed!
An Update on Me
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Competitions, Self-publishing, Writing on March 9, 2021
I’ve been rather quiet about my own literary endeavours of late, so here’s a quick update.
At the beginning of February the first three chapters and synopsis of last year’s NaNoWriMo manuscript generated a call for the full manuscript from my agent. Since then I’ve been working on bringing the rest of the manuscript up to scratch. Today I pressed ‘send’ and now have around six weeks to wait for the verdict.
I’ve also completed a training course (via Zoom) to become a Shared Reading Group Leader. I’m looking forward to the end of restrictions and the opportunity to get a real-life group started.
So what do I do while I wait for the above two things to come to fruition? I’ve made a little list of possibilities. They won’t all get done but, hopefully, the list will mean I don’t waste too much time procrastinating:
- Complete article commissioned by The People’s Friend
- Chase up pitches outstanding with other publications.
- Attempt to win my way to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School by entering their short story competition.
- Publish my short story collections on Kobo when the relevant KDP Select enrolments end. This will involve sourcing new covers. Kobo cited the existing covers as a factor in stopping the books being accepted into their promotions.
- Investigate whether I have enough short stories to publish another collection.
- Revisit the categories/keywords on my existing KDP publications.
- Update Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners.
Watch this space to find out how I get on!
What’s everyone else working on? Are you a list-person or do you just go where the whim takes you?
Indie Publishing: No Barriers, But Plenty of Responsibility
Posted by Sally Jenkins in Resources, Self-publishing on January 23, 2021
Today I have a thought provoking post from long-time indie author and publisher, Elizabeth Ducie plus a heads-up about her free and discounted books on the Business of Writing – essential reading for those serious about making an income from their writing.
Over to Elizabeth:
I’ve been an independent publisher for more than a decade now. And by that, I mean I am responsible for publishing my own books, in a variety of formats, using a variety of tools and platforms; and for the ongoing marketing and sales.
But do I do everything myself? Of course not. There are aspects I can’t do: cover design for one; proofreading for another; or production of physical copies. There are experts I contract in for that, and I pay for their services. But I take full responsibility for, and maintain full control over, the project.
One of the biggest benefits of indie publishing to me is the absence of barriers to entry; or gatekeepers. The technology is available for all, at a low cost, or even free in some cases. There are no agents to turn down that manuscript you’ve spent years getting right. There are no publishers to decide your book isn’t on trend. The decision to go ahead with the project rests solely with you, the author.
Conversely, one of the biggest disadvantages of indie publishing is also the absence of barriers to entry; or gatekeepers. Just because it’s possible, even easy, to get your book out there, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Not until it’s ready.
That’s where the responsibility comes in. I once had a conversation with a member of staff for a well-known retailer. He picked up a copy of my debut novel, which had been runner-up in the previous year’s Self-published Book of the Year awards and said “wow, it looks like a proper book!” As you can imagine, I didn’t know whether to be proud or insulted!
There should be no difference for the reader between an independently published book and one that’s gone down the traditional route. The cover should be professionally designed; the content should be correctly formatted; the text should be free of typos and other errors. The quality requirements are the same however a book is published; the only difference is who takes ultimate responsibility. Actually, there’s no difference there, either. In both cases, it’s the publisher. The only difference is that as an indie, the author is also the publisher.
Self-publishing, as being an indie is sometimes called, used to be a really dirty word in our industry. It’s less so these days, as more people realise it’s not the route of last resort, but a viable option. And frankly, I don’t believe most readers ever notice, or care, who’s published something. But there’s still a number of books out there that aren’t ready and shouldn’t have been published.
If you are considering going down the indie route, I wish you good luck; it’s a fun time to be an indie. But please, please, please take it seriously and take responsibility for the quality of the finished product. Your readers, and fellow indies, will thank you for it.
Elizabeth Ducie is the author of The Business of Writing, a series of books on business skills for authors. This week, her books are all on special offer:
Part 1 Business Start-Up is free until 27th January.
Part 2 Finance Matters; Part 3 Improving Effectiveness; and Part 4 Independent Publishing are all on Countdown deals and are available today at 99p / 99 cents each.
For members of Kindle Unlimited, the entire series is free to download at all times.
Posted by Sally Jenkins in public speaking, Self-publishing on December 30, 2020
So, we’re in that weird time between Christmas and New Year when we eat chocolate, watch TV and wait for the world to start turning again (or not, depending on lockdown restrictions where you live).
But this is also the time to get inspired for all those great things we’re going to do in 2021, whether it be write a novel, exercise more or increase our confidence. Following the disaster of 2020, many of us have high hopes for 2021, so let’s use out current enthusiasm and inspiration to get started on that journey towards a new skill.
On that note, I’m pleased to say Kobo has included Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners in their ‘Be Inspired‘ promotion which runs from January 1st to 14th in Canada and the U.S.
I don’t want my UK Kindle readers to feel hard done by, so I’ve already lowered the Kindle price of Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners to only £1.50 for a limited time (and the paperback is not bad value at £5.49 if you’ve had an Amazon gift card for Christmas).
Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners will give you everything you need to know in order to face an audience, whether that be a handful of people in your writing group or work team, or a larger gathering at a book launch or other event. You will learn how to craft an attention grabbing speech, banish self-consciousness, use gestures, inject humour and finish speaking with a persuasive call to action. And it will improve your confidence in everyday situations as well.
For those who prefer to write rather than speak, I’ve also reduced the price of Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners to just £1.50. This book takes the reader all the way from e-publishing first principles to accessing Kobo promotions and marketing suggestions. So no excuse not to get your book in front of readers during 2021.
Finally, A Happy New Year to all of you and a massive thank you for sticking with this blog and supporting me through the last twelve months. May you all enjoy health, happiness and success in the coming year.