Posts Tagged E-book

Choosing a Book Title for KDP

Most of us have a working-title whilst we’re writing, whether it be a short story, novel or a work of non-fiction. Usually it’s the first word or phrase that came to mind as we sat down to begin our masterpiece.

And that’s the way it should be. Too many writers waste time trying to find the perfect title before starting to write – and then never get anything down on paper. A scrappy working-title is fine but take some time to refine it before sending the manuscript out into the big wide world.

If you’re intending to go through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), it’s worth bearing the following points in mind:

  •  For non-fiction don’t be too clever, simply focus on the benefits the book will bring to the reader – for example, Fast Weight Loss or How to Grow Cacti.
  • The title should give an indication of what the book is about. In 1925 ‘Fleece of Gold’ by Gautier sold 6,000 copies. It was then re-titled ‘The Quest for a Blonde Mistress’ (which is a much better description of the story) and in 1926 it sold 50,000 copies. (I know this was way before KDP but it illustrates the importance of choosing the right title)
  • Try a brainstorming session with a couple of friends and note down all the ideas that come out. Review them a week later and see which still seem good.
  • If possible, try to include in the title any keywords that a reader might use on Amazon to search for books, for example if your work is similar to Fifty Shades of Grey you might want to include ‘Billionaire’ in the title

When you’ve dreamt up something plausible, put your title to the test  using a clever tool provided free by Lulu.com. Go to lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php and simply fill in the boxes. The tool will give your title a score of between 9% and 83% chance of bestseller success. Obviously there are no guarantees but it’s worth a try if you can’t decide between two or three different titles.

Anyone else have any tips on how to create a great title that will respond well in Amazon searches?

Finally, a writing prompt for you based on something I saw this week. On a visit to the supermarket, I used the ladies’ toilets. In the cubicle was an empty pregnancy test packet – someone obviously couldn’t wait until they got home to find out if she was expecting. Who was she? What was the result of the test? Was it the result she wanted? What happened next?

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A Free Writing Course and Other Things

I’ve got a few bits and pieces to share this week.

Do you fancy a free ‘Start Writing Fiction’ course?
The Open University are running an eight week course, three hours per week starting on the 28th April. It’s all on-line and the blurb says, “This practical, hands-on course aims to help you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.”
The full details are here. The course is part of the FutureLearn programme which offers lots more free on-line courses in all sorts of subjects.

And talking of courses, a fellow member of Lichfield and District Writers, David Gough, is running a ‘Photography for Writers’ course at Weetwood Hall in Leeds  from April 11th to 13th, as part of the ‘Relax and Write’ 2014 programme. We all know how important it is to offer photographs as part of an article submission package and this is the course to help you take those photographs and thus, hopefully, sell more articles (by the way, I stayed at Weetwood Hall last October and the accommodation is lovely).

If you like filling your Kindle with free and discounted e-books, take a look at Debbie Young‘s Facebook group, Debbie Young’s Kindle-loving Friends. If you like what you see, drop her a message to join the group and be notified of the latest offers – or maybe even promote your own Free Days or Countdown Deals.

Finally, has anybody else read ‘The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul’ by Deborah Rodriguez?
Kirkus Reviews said, “As if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner.” I totally agree with that description. The book is about Sunny, an American woman, who runs a coffee shop in Kabul and the women who come into her life. The story touches on the difficulties and atrocities facing Afghan women today but I felt it glossed over them, rather than allowing the reader to fully appreciate how terrible life can be for females in that country today.
The book is very readable but definitely more Maeve Binchy than The Kite Runner.

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Amazon’s Kindle Cover Creator

In preparation for my next e-book release, I’ve been playing with Amazon’s Cover Creator.

This can be found within the Kindle Direct Publishing process, at the point where you would normally upload a cover that you’ve created elsewhere.

Designing with Cover Creator is far, far easier than trying to do it with GIMP or any other such design software (unless you happen to be an expert – which I am definitely not!).

There are only three steps:

  1. Choose Design – select an image from those available within Cover Creator or upload an image of your own.
    There is a reasonable selection of images available and they are split into sections such as Animals, People, Architecture, Food and Drink etc. I found a picture which I felt was a reasonable likeness to the heroine in my tale.
  2. Style and Edit – select the layout, colour scheme and font.
    There are a limited number of each of these. The layout dictates whereabouts on the cover the title, subtitle and author name will appear. Colour scheme and font are self-explanatory.
  3. Preview – see how your design will look in the Amazon store.
    This is the only part of the process that caused me problems. When I tried to Preview I kept getting the message, ‘Cover Creator has encountered an error. We recommend you refresh your browser.’ So I contacted Amazon. They suggested that I use Firefox as my browser instead of Internet Explorer. This worked but first I had to delete everything I’d already done in Internet Explorer and start again.

At any point in  the Cover Creator design process you can save the cover and come back to finish it later. And you can design in Cover Creator before your book is ready to be uploaded.

Inevitably there are some disadvantages to Cover Creator, the principle two being:

  • The limited number of variables available (i.e. images, layouts, colour schemes etc.) However, I would guess that Cover Creator would become much more difficult to use were there to be an infinite choice. Just be prepared for someone to have a similar cover to yours!
  • Covers created within Cover Creator cannot be used outside of Amazon. So if you intend selling on other platforms, source your cover elsewhere. Initially, my next book will be exclusive to Amazon so I’m not going to worry about this at the moment.

Here is a sneak preview of my proposed cover design. Any comments gratefully received!

Maxine's Story

To put my design in context – this book is intended to be the first in a series of stories (each around 8,000 words long), all of which will be set in The Museum of Fractured Lives. Each e-book will feature a different donor to the museum and tell the story of the object they are donating. Maxine is the heroine of the first book.

It was loosely inspired by The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb which I told you about here. However, I should emphasise that everything in the book is totally fictional. I have never visited the museum.

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KDP Select – Is it worth it?

Enrol your e-book  in Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select program and you get two advantages:

  • Amazon Prime members are able to borrow the book for free and this will generate a royalty payment for the author
  • The book can be offered free for 5 days in every 90. Offering a book for free is supposed to generate large numbers of downloads which will then convert into reviews of the book on Amazon, which in turn will drive an increased number of sales.

There is also a downside to joining KDP Select – the e-book must remain exclusive to Amazon i.e. it cannot be sold on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo etc.

Many e-book authors swear by KDP Select and its advantages. They don’t see exclusivity as a disadvantage because Amazon is by far the biggest retailer of e-books.

I’m not sure. I’ve had e-books available in KDP Select for just over three months now and I’ve had only one Amazon Prime loan (it was in the US). So that doesn’t seem a massive benefit. Are any of you Amazon Prime members? I don’t know anyone who is.

I’ve run one free promotion. In the five days that One Day for Me was free, I had 135 US free downloads, 93 in the UK, 2 in Germany, 1 Japan and 1 Canada. As far as I can tell, only one review (it was in the UK) was written as a result and I noticed no increase in sales. This was despite spending an age adding my book to the many websites and Facebook pages that offer to list free e-books.

But I didn’t remove that book from KDP Select after the first 90 days, mainly because whilst I was dithering about what to do, the Amazon automatic re-enrol swung into action.

Looking on the bright side – maybe next time I’ll do better!

Which brings me nicely to my next KDP Select Promotion.

My second anthology Old Friends is free on all Kindle platforms for the next three days. Old Friends is a collection of 13 short stories. There are tales with a twist, stories about the ups and downs of family life plus a little romance. Perfect to enjoy with a cup of coffee and a biscuit! If you’re in the UK click here or in the US click here, otherwise search for ASIN B00BJIKIBI on any Amazon platform.

And as a special treat, One Day for Me is half price for the next three days too. One Day for Me is a collection of 8 short stories that have either won or been short-listed in UK writing competitions. If you’re in the UK click here or in the US click here, otherwise search for ASIN B00B4XCYJC on any Amazon platform.

I look forward to the reviews rolling in, followed by a tsunami of sales!

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Publishing an E-Anthology – Is It Worth It?

This question appears in Della Galton’s column in the current Writers’ Forum magazine. I thought I’d try to answer it using my own experience, with two anthologies published over the last six weeks or so.

I published One Day For Me on 23rd January and, as of 6th March, I have sold 63 copies, 3 on Amazon.com and the rest in the UK. Of the UK sales, 58 were at 77p each (giving me a 26p royalty each) and 2 were at £1.53 (giving me £1.03 royalty each). This has given me total UK royalties of £17.14.

I published Old Friends on 22nd February and, as of 6th March, I have sold 20 copies, all in the UK at 77p each. This has given me total UK royalties of £5.20.

So, financially, I say it has not been worthwhile. BUT I still have a lot to learn about e-book marketing and the inner workings of the great Amazon machine. So I’m hoping that once I get my head around that and also publish a couple more books that I have ideas for, sales will improve. In the meantime, if anyone knows how to get a foothold in the US market – please let me know!

Forgetting the financial side of it, there have been many other benefits from dipping my toe into e-publishing.

I’ve had lots of positive feedback from people who’ve read the books, particularly One Day For Me, in the form of Amazon reviews, emails and face to face. Also, I’ve learnt that those outside the ‘writing industry’ often don’t appreciate the importance of leaving reviews for books they’ve enjoyed – and many simply don’t know how to do it.

But the best thing to come out of this experience is the new respect that family, friends and work colleagues have for my writing. It is no longer just ‘a little hobby’. Instead it is something that has a tangible product which is on sale worldwide and which they can buy. This has made me feel more professional and less guilty about claiming to be a writer.

So, in summary – YES, the anthologies have definitely been worthwhile.

And if you buy one, I think you’ll find they’re a worthwhile read as well!

One Day For Me: 8 Award-Winning Stories – these stories have all either won or been shortlisted in UK national writing competitions.

Old Friends: 13 Coffee Break Stories – these stories have all previously appeared in UK magazines

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Old Friends – 13 Coffee Break Stories

Coffee, cake and a chance to unwind for a few minutes with an absorbing story – who can say no?Old Friends - 13 Coffee Break Stories

So choose your favourite caffeine fix – latte, cappuccino, mocha ….

And which cake do you fancy? Lemon drizzle, chocolate fudge or fruit cake?

If you’re sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin.

Or I would if this was a ‘real’ instead of a virtual book launch. Then I could have the pleasure of meeting you all in the flesh and thanking you for all the support and positive comments about my first e-anthology. Plus I could read you one or two stories from the newly released Old Friends.

Instead I’ll just tell you about my second book and then you can visit Amazon and ‘Look Inside’ or download the sample to get a real flavour of it…

Old Friends contains 13 short stories that have previously appeared in My Weekly, People’s Friend and The Weekly News. I’ve included tales with a twist, stories about the ups and downs of family life plus, of course, a little romance.

I hope this collection will bring a little escapism to your coffee break!

It’s available from Amazon.UK and Amazon.COM at the introductory price of 77p/$1.19.

Or find it on all other Amazon sites by searching for ASIN B00BJIKIBI.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

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Getting to Grips with E-Publishing 2

I’m making progress on my e-publishing project – it’s an anthology of 8 short stories that have either won or been shortlisted in UK writing competitions.One Day For Me Cover

The text has been formatted, uploaded to Amazon and checked in their ‘Preview’ function.

But producing the cover has been a battle (see the image on the right – I’m not sure the font is clear enough – what do you think?).

In the end I’ve created the simplest of images by taking a free photo from Stock Free Images (in return for this credit at the front of the book – © Vojsek | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos) and used GIMP  software (free to download) to add the book title and my name. If anyone else is thinking of doing this, be warned that GIMP is not easy to use – I spent much time searching for help elsewhere on the internet. But it’s probably like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve listed some of the links I used at the end of this post.

Now I need to decide on the pricing structure. Do I sell it cheap or dear?

If I price the book between 75p and £1.49 then I get 35% royalties, if I price higher than £1.49 then I get 70% royalties. So, by my calculations, pricing at £1.50 would earn me £1.05 per book and pricing at 75p would earn me around 27p per book.

Do you think if I go cheap I will sell four times as many books – or am I merely devaluing the writing?

Links to Gimp Tutorials

To Get Started

Re-sizing and stretching the image

Adding Text (1)

Adding Text (2)

 

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Getting to Grips with E-Publishing

Last week I went to an E-Publishing seminar with the lovely ladies (and one gentleman) from the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. It was run by one of our members who has been successfully publishing her erotica in e-book form for the last 12 months (unfortunately we didn’t have time in the seminar for her promised session on erotica – so that treat is still to come!).

I came away with my head buzzing with jargon such as .mobi, .epub, Smashwords, US Tax Identification Numbers and lots more. I was tempted to throw up my hands and pay a professional to format, design a cover and distribute the modest project that I have in mind. But I’ve decided to have a go myself for three reasons –

  • I doubt that I’ll earn enough from the book to recoup the costs of a professional
  • E-publishing is definitely the future and therefore as a writer I ought to get to grips with it
  • I’m a computer programmer by day, so if other people can master e-publishing – why can’t I?

So the other day I started. The first thing I did was download the Smashwords Style Guide to my Kindle. This is the e-publishing ‘bible’ and, as well as giving lots of background information, it describes how to format a Word document so that it is acceptable to Smashwords. This is supposed to mean that the format will be acceptable for Amazon Kindle too.

Although Amazon still has the largest share of the e-book market, it’s important to make your work available on Smashwords as well. Smashwords sell e-books directly to the public and they also distribute to many of the other e-book retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple.

I found the Smashwords Style Guide very useful. It shows how to get first line paragraph indentation correct (get rid of those naughty tabs and spaces if you’ve used them), how to ensure that the whole document is the same style and how to do a linked table of contents . One thing slowed me down – the Guide gives instructions for different Word editions up to 2007 but doesn’t mention 2010, which I am using, so sometimes I had to play around for a bit until I found what I was looking for.

Now I have my document formatted (I think – I won’t know it’s right until I try to upload it), so it’s time to do the cover. I’m feeling nervous about this. The Guide recommends hiring a professional cover designer (and will even send you a list of low-cost cover designers) because first impressions of a book are important. But our wonderful seminar leader does it herself and gave us lots of tips.

So that’s my next step …

By the way, if anyone’s got any e-publishing tips, I’d be most grateful!

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E-book Erotica – the way forward?

On Saturday we had a really interesting meeting of the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. There were 8 of us around the table in the Edwardian Tea Rooms of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and one of our member’s exploits took up most our discussions.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery - Edwardian Te...

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery – Edwardian Tea Room (Photo credit: ell brown)

She shall remain nameless, since for obvious reasons she writes under a pseudonym, but she is making around £800 a month selling her erotic e-books, mostly to the US markets. Bear in mind that she fits this around a full-time day job and a family -it makes me wonder why I am slogging away trying to get the odd story accepted by a women’s magazine or shortlisted in a competition!

Our successful author currently has 67 stories for sale, ranging in length from 3,000 to 10,000 words. Apparently the secret of her success is to keep up with the latest trends in erotica – for example monsters are the ‘in thing’ at the moment (the mind boggles!).

She self-publishes the e-books, formatting them and designing the covers herself. As you can imagine, we were all agog to learn her secrets and she has promised us a workshop in January…

Talking about the mind boggling, I caught the tail end of a Radio 4 program – ‘When Harry Potter Met Frodo’ – about Fan Fiction this week. The presenter was talking about Slash Fiction. This is a sub-genre of Fan Fiction and involves choosing 2 of your favourite male characters from existing works of fiction, bringing them together and letting them have an affair (at least that’s my polite way of putting it!).

So, if you want to write what the market wants – now you know!

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Kindle versus Kobo

I need some advice. Which is best – Kindle or Kobo?Prima December 2012 Winning Story

I already have a basic Kindle (without the keyboard or any of the fancy stuff) and I’ve just won a Kobo e-reader in the monthly flash fiction competition in Prima magazine (my story is in the December issue). The Kobo hasn’t arrived yet so I don’t know which model it will be but it’s supposed to be worth £149.

I’m trying to decide whether to tear open the packaging of the Kobo when it arrives and have a play with it, or whether to keep it all brand-spanking new and advertise it on eBay.

Because of its price, I’m assuming the Kobo will have a much wider functionality but what about the selection of books available? Does it have as many titles as the Kindle? I know that many authors who self-publish, only do so on the Kindle but the file format used by the Kobo is supposed to be more ‘open’.

Which screen is easier on the eye and is the page turning functionality as good on the Kobo as it is on the Kindle?

There’s an interesting article here from the MoneySavingExpert team. It recommends Kobo if buying for oneself but Kindle if buying as a present – but only so that you don’t appear a cheap skate by giving a less expensive Kindle substitute.

Conversely, Steve Fenton has written a great blog post here which compares the two in detail and comes out in favour of the Kindle.

So what do you think? Is one better than the other – or should I keep both (I’m thinking that if I ever get round to self-publishing an e-book it might be useful to see what it looks like on the two devices).

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