Saturday Morning News Briefs

Shadows in the Stone Permanently Free at Amazon

FREE eBook Read Everywhere

Many years ago, before self-publishing really took, the goal for many writers was to get a book permanently free at Amazon. It was relatively easy back then but for the past six years, Amazon has been reluctant to set books at permanently free. I was told the only way to do it was to set it for free at other vendors and hope (or scheme) customers would tell on you and Amazon would price match it. However, I’ve tried this several times over the years without luck. Until now.

I checked my sales record this week and discovered the book was being sold for free starting on May 9th. Yet, the book still showed a price of $0.99. Confused, I let it play out, watching my books be purchased for an invisible free price sticker. Last night, I checked again, and the Amazon sites finally revealed the true price: FREE.

Why do authors want a book permanently free? In my case, it’s because I want the first book in the series free in hopes the second book will be bought. Next spring, I hope to publish book 3 in the series, and with this boost in ‘sales’, it should do well. At least that is the hoped for outcome.

You can download Shadows in the Stone at Amazon Canada and Amazon US.

Who’s Pointing at Your Book at Amazon

Last week I shared David Gaughran’s experience with Also Boughts at Amazon. Since then, he’s written a post to share more information on this subject from a different angle. Gaughran’s experience in analysing data such as this helps explain some of the mysteries behind how Amazon works. Read more about this in David Gaughran’s post Who’s Pointing at You.

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5 Words that Weaken Your Sentences

Used when needed, these words can be powerful, but when they are used unnecessarily, they can weaken a sentence and undermine the impact the writer wants to deliver.

Identifying these words and testing to see if they are truly necessary is one of the keys to writing powerful sentences.

Some

In general, this determiner means an unspecified amount of something: an object, of people or anything that can be measured or not measured. It’s also used as a pronoun: Some of us left early. The unspecific nature of this word makes it detrimental to sentences when used unnecessarily.

Compare these sentences…

  1. “I want some candy,” said Becky.
  2. “I want candy,” said Becky.
  3. “I want one candy,” said Becky.
  4. “I want your bag of candy,” said Becky.
  5. “I want all the candy in the world,” said Becky.

In this instance, sentences two through five indicate how Becky is feeling and may hint at her personality. Is she indecisive, watching her sugar intake, greedy or unrealistic? By choosing another word or leaving out some altogether, the sentence becomes stronger and reveals more about Becky.

A few more examples of when you can eliminate some

  • Without some additional funding, the idea would never fly.
  • Without additional funding, the idea would never fly.
  • I enjoy my day when some family come to visit.
  • I enjoy my day when family comes to visit.

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First 5000 Words Evaluation

Over the years, many writers have asked me to provide an evaluation on a piece of their writing, not a complete manuscript, only a section of it. I knew this was a great idea because I’ve done it myself with my beta readers. I’ve sent a chapter, a scene or a passage and asked, “Does this work?”

The feedback provided by my wonderful, honest and no-holding-back beta readers has helped me grow as a writer. Because of them, I am a better writer today than I was ten years ago. But it’s not a one-way street. I read their material and provide an equally honest evaluation.

This relationship is what every writer should have, but I know they don’t. I didn’t until about 15 years ago. Although I knew my beta readers since the late 1990s, we didn’t get around to reading each other’s work until the mid-2000s.

I understand the difficulty in connecting with a beta reader, so that’s why I’m offering to be that person, to provide an honest, unbiased evaluation of the first 5,000 words of your story.

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Amazon’s New KDP Print Feature is Bad News for CreateSpace Users

The first news I heard about KDP Print was in an email from Amazon on February 15th. Since then, I’ve read articles, blog posts and comments about it and watched the praise given by Amazon for this service dwindle quickly.

In the email, Amazon announced they were making print book publishing easier for writers. They stated, “KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties, so you don’t have to pay any costs upfront or carry any inventory.”

That’s what CreateSpace does. Sort of. I believe CreateSpace takes the cost of the printing of the book from the sale price, then takes a cut of the royalties. Until I see the numbers and do the math, I am unsure which service will offer a better financial deal for authors.

The message also stated, “It also enables you to receive consolidated royalty payments for paperback and eBook sales. You can view combined reports and manage your print and eBook publishing from one website.”

Except, I’m okay with visiting two sites to get my sales reports. In fact, I prefer CreateSpace’s sales report much more than I do Kindle’s. Kindle’s is not straightforward and too clunky to find answers quickly.

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A New Formatting Tool for eBooks

The world is always changing, and nowhere is that more prevalent than the publishing world. What was once great last year, no longer works this year, and the tools we use are constantly upgraded and changed to accommodate this rapid evolution.

When I first began publishing eBooks, I formatted them myself in MS Word. But I could not format ePubs. I’ve tried Scrivener to format the file, but I was unhappy with the results. Then I tried Calibre for ePubs, and that worked great for a few years. Last spring during my six-month review, I found formatting issues with eBooks available at a few online retailers. There were no issues with the files I had manually formatted, but the ePubs were a mess.

So I took the leap and rented InDesign. There’s a large learning curve, but once I conquer it, I’ll be able to create eBooks and print books professionally.

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Scattered Stones Cover Release and Proof Order

The novel I conceived in the second half of 2009 is now in the birthing canal.

Yesterday I placed an order for a proof copy of Scattered Stones. After I hit the CONFIRM button, I sat back and thought about the journey to give me a better perspective of what I had done.

In May 2010, I had written the last 60,000 words in a rush to reach the end. Then the manuscript went through multiple edits, being read and sporadically edited by beta readers. I edited and revised when I found time, often between stints of working outside the home. For six months in 2014, I barely had a chance to look at it because I worked six to seven days a week, putting in ten-hour days at a garden centre. This sort of schedule doesn’t leave much time to eat, sleep and say hello to the kids, let alone hours bellied-up to a computer to edit a novel.

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Register Now: Online Indie Author Fringe Event April 15th

The first online Indie Author Fringe Event of 2016 kicks off at 10:00 am on Friday April 15th. This is London, England time, so in Nova Scotia, that’s 6:00 am (fours in the difference).

There’s an amazing line-up and many will recognise some of the names from the self-publishing industry:

  • Mark Coker (of Smashwords)
  • David Gaughran
  • Joanna Penn
  • Jane Friedman
  • Bob Mayer
  • Roz Morris

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Writing a Book Acknowledgement

Scattered Stones Diane Lynn McGyverThere are many sections to a book. The two important parts that need the most attention are the story and the cover (in that order). For the past several months, I have focussed on these two things; without a doubt, I want them to be as close to perfect as humanly possible.

As launch day approaches for Scattered Stones, book 2 in The Castle Keepers series, I need to start playing with the other parts that go into a printed novel, the little details that occupy the spaces between the front cover and the story, and the back cover and the story. Playing is the exact word I want to use.

This time around, I want to be less formal and allow a slither of my silly side to lighten and brighten these little details. I love fun, funny and silly. And I love putting a twist into things that readers don’t expect. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I have never written an acknowledgement for any of my books, but I’ve seen many books that include them. In essence, it is a few words to thank the people who provided a helping hand to bring the book to life. This might be direct or indirect help.

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How to write a killer book description to attract readers

Lessons in Self-publishingDuring my Sunday morning reading, I came upon a podcast by Libbie Hawker posted by Johnny Walker at Author Alliance. Hawker spoke about writing book descriptions.

I loved the way Hawker broke down the process into five easy questions. I recall a similar discussion on promoting books last year by someone else. It’s so simple anyone can do it.

At the moment, I’m writing, revising, tweaking, second-guessing and editing the book description for my next novel, Scattered Stones. It’s an epic fantasy story, so I have to have an epic description.

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Readers, help us solve a few mysteries about your reading habits.

Recently, I confessed to not reading prologues. I’m not sure when I stopped reading them, but I believe it was in my late teens. Why? From what I can remember, I thought they were boring and unnecessary to the story. In my mind, they kept me from getting to the story, stalled my progress, and that was something I was unwilling to do, particular if I really wanted to read the book.

It’s been so long since I read a prologue, that I truly can’t remember if those books in the 70s and 80s had boring prologues. In some cases, they were merely information dumps, something the author couldn’t creatively inject into the story.

Or perhaps it was the books I was reading, not the period. Maybe the books were written in the 60s or 50s or before then. I can’t say.

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Books with Table of Contents in the back of eBooks targeted by Amazon

New FlashAmazon is an extremely innovative company – and usually quite responsive to self-publisher’s concerns – but sometimes it gets things very wrong too.

Today is one of those times.

I’ve received several reports from writers threatened with having books removed from sale, and heard even more worrying stories from others who had their titles actually removed from the Kindle Store without notice.

What were these authors guilty of? What crime did they commit for Amazon to adopt such heavy handed treatment? Something completely innocuous: the Table of Contents was at the rear of their books instead of at the front.

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Marketing: Results from Paid Promotion of 99 cent-eBook

Lessons in Self-publishingFor one week, my epic fantasy eBook Shadows in the Stone was reduced from $3.99 to $0.99. To help promote it, I added the book to Betty Book Freak’s mailing list. I didn’t put it on any other site because I wanted to gauge the results of the paid ad.

Readers of this blog will remember I’m working on my marketing skills, running experiments and testing promotional ideas. The two posts I previously wrote about on this subject are:

Marketing Results

Like all marketing campaigns, many things influence results—day of the week, day of the year, number of subscribers to mailing lists, full moons, a horrible book, a terrible blurb, Trump stealing the spotlight, ghastly book covers, vacations, hens laying…you get the picture—so what did or didn’t work one time might be completely opposite the next time.

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Important Information if You Plan to Publish a Colouring eBook

Lessons in Self-publishingThis year—I’ve been told—is the year of the adult colouring book. I’ve seen them around in local stores. My first reaction was to giggle. Colouring books for adults? Seriously?

Then I flipped through them and thought, “They’re complicated. I’ll stick to my kids’ old colouring books.”

You see, I don’t think it’s horrible for adults to colour. I’ve been colouring all my life. With crayons. Coloured pencils. Markers. And whatever I could get my hands on. I think colouring is a great relaxing exercise, and it’s a great physical exercise for your hand. It also sparks imagination, and trust me, I’ve got lots of imagination to prove it works.

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Marketing: Results from Paid Promotion of FREE eBook

Lessons in Self-publishingOn Friday, my adult Christmas romance eBook Twistmas – The Season for Love was reduced to FREE for two days. To promote it on the first day, I added the book to Betty Book Freak’s mailing list. You can read about that here.

I took readings at each hour (Well, not each hour. I did sleep during the 24-hour span). I recorded the free downloads and the rankings on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com to get a feel on how the book sale performed.

Betty Book Freak’s email arrived in my inbox at 10:00 am Atlantic Standard Time (Nova Scotia time). By that time, seven books were already downloaded. My rankings for Free in Kindle Store were 21,332 (Amazon.com) and 18,810 (Amazon.ca).
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FREE eBook and The Year of Marketing (Help for Self-published Authors)

Lessons in Self-publishingI’ve reached many milestones in the past twenty years in my writing career, but there are still things I want to accomplish and things I need to learn.

One of the things I’m working to improve is my marketing abilities. I’ve done minor things to promote my books, but that’s not enough. In 2015, I attended farmers’ and craft markets to increase my exposure and, well, sell a few books. Obviously one-on-one sales increased; that was a no-brainer.

However, I saw an increase in online sales too. I can only assume it was due to meeting people, giving them my business card and introducing them to my books.

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