Well, Oh Grandad! is up on Smashwords now.That’s my fourth book there. As I wrote the other day, I’ve finally got to grips with how to format files for submitting to Smashwords’ meatgrinder for conversion into the various ebook formats. The confirmation came today – Oh Gran, Beat the Hackers and Oh Auntie have all achieved Premium Status which means they’ll be accepted by Apple and Barnes and Noble, who are rather picky about the quality of the formatted texts they’ll take. Let’s hope I’ll see sales soar once my books hit their ebook stores. Ever the optimist!

I published Oh Auntie and Beat the Hackers directly to Kindle myself, but with the other two, I’ve opted to allow Smashwords to distribute them to Amazon for me. The advantage of doing this is that I save a little bit of work (although it wasn’t too tricky to upload the books) and that I’ll get paid my royalties via Smashwords. This is good because Smashwords pay via Paypal whereas Amazon will only pay overseas authors like me with a cheque, which isn’t at all convenient.

Do check out my Smashwords page and try one or all of my books!

 

 

 

I think chapters should always have titles. It tends to be essential in non-fiction books, and in my opinion it’s as important in fiction.  And even more so with the advent of the Kindle. There is nothing more dull than having two full screens or so at the start of the book merely listing Chapter 1, Chapter 2 etc. OK, these are hyperlinked to the relevant chapter, although I can’t actually see why you’d use that facility much, since Kindle remembers where you got up to, and opens the book on that page next time you call it up. You don’t have to go back to the chapter list to find where you were. And anyway, only a very organised person would remember the number of the chapter. You’d be far more likely to remember its name – our brains are built that way.

So why are so many authors reluctant to give a short name to each chapter? One word will do to act as a reflection of its content? A taster of what’s to come? Either would be far more appealing than Chapter X. Thrillers and mysteries often use time and dates to break up the text. That’s good too. Children’s fiction generally uses chapter names, so we’re all used to it. I can’t see any justification for dropping the practice when we progress to YA and adult works. There’s no logic to it.

I’ve had fun naming the chapters in my two forthcoming big projects, Something Fishy, a racy fishing mystery (fiction) and my non-fiction travel narrative Heads Above Water. For the latter I’ve incorporated a relevant French quotation too at the opening of each chapter, one that ties in with the heading. It didn’t take long and I think it adds a further level of enjoyment for the reader. For my fiction work, I’ve simply used a punchy gerund that best reflects the action of the chapter e.g. Meeting, Catching, Drowning. It wasn’t too demanding!

So, bring back chapter headings I say. Readers appreciate them. They’re memorable, entertaining and a lot more interesting than just a number.

I’m in a quandary and temporarily disheartened. I really don’t know what to do regarding promotion and marketing. I’ve been spending hours on Twitter and various author platform websites such as Author Outbreak, Goodreads, Library Thing etc. But I’m seriously starting to wonder what’s the point. It seems the only other people out there are other authors. I’ve bought some of their books, and a couple of people have bought mine – but if we only ever sell to each other, I don’t think we’ll do very well. Writers don’t get much time for reading on top of self-promoting and writing, and they’re not the wealthiest folk either.

How do you get out there to the readers? Maybe through reviews on Amazon and Smashwords? However, people will only find those if they look you or your book up i.e. they still need to know about you first. But how to get them to that stage?

I’m guessing that the personal website is the key starting point. If you can build up followers to your website that will hopefully turn into buyers for your books, then at least you’re spreading beyond the fellow indie author market.  So I shall cut down the time I spend on social media for a while and put more time and effort into my websites. And my writing. I still think it’s best of all to keep writing and fit the marketing activities around that, and not the other way round.

Following on from my post about prompt cards  to make sure you don’t waste any valuable writing time dithering, this next tip on being organized is to do with managing your author platform. Here is how Joanna Penn defines author platform: “The author platform is how you are currently reaching an audience of book-buying people, or how you plan to do so. It is your influence, your ability to sell to your market. It is your multi-faceted book marketing machine!”

I talked about building my platform here. It’s increasing almost daily. For a while I managed with the relevant details scribbled on bits of paper, but that soon proved to be insufficient. I was forgetting exactly who I’d signed up with. I now use a répertoire or address book to keep on top of which websites and forums and showcases I’ve joined and this way it’s easy to keep track. I note down on the appropriate page the name of that particular platform, then my user name, the email address I use for that account and the password. I colour code these with highlighters so they’re easy to pick up. This is a French habit I’ve picked up, I’m afraid. We all love highlighters in France!

 

I regularly work my way through my book to update each platform, and I’m almost constantly adding new entries to it.

It works for me. Perhaps it will help you keep on top of your platform too.

My prompt cards to keep me busy

I’m not a very organized person. I’d like to be, but it never quite seems to happen. I’m nearly there, but that’s as close as I get.

I’m the same as a writer, but, since the time I have for all things writing related is at a premium, I’ve had to do something to make sure I don’t waste any of it wondering what to do. Any time I start to dither when I sit down in front of my computer, I now pull out one of these little cards at random.

And I do what it tells me. I’m finding it to be a very good system for stopping me from having a ‘I’m not getting anywhere’ crisis, for which the whole family is very grateful!

My current ten prompt cards are:

  • 30 mins research for a non-fiction project
  • Write a book review
  • Write 1,000 words fiction
  • 30 mins work on author platform
  • 10 minutes on Twitter
  • 1 hour writing – anything
  • Find a new blog to follow and comment on a post
  • Get up to date on Facebook
  • Outline a non-fiction project
  • Edit one chapter

 

Obviously, adapt this list to suit your own portfolio of projects. If you’re on the disorganized side, you might find it helps. Do please let me know.

 

There’s hope for me yet!

You’ve probably heard of Anna Sams, a check out girl who became a bestselling author by writing about her irritating customers. The book has been translated into English and published by Gallic Books (who promised me a copy of an Armand Cagasson book to review – hope it comes soon). It’s called Checkout: A life on the tills.

All being well I’ll get a book out of our last set of anglers. (We run a gite and carp fishery here in France, with a little light llama trekking on the side!) This post in my other blog shows you what we had to deal with. Sometimes working in the hospitality trade is more like working in the hostility trade. But, there’s worse ways to make a living.

So watch this space!

 

There are so many time-related writing ‘challenges’ out there – 30 days to better blogging, write a novel in 28 days, 6 days to write an ebook, and so on. Here’s another – Ruth Barringham’s 12-month Writing Challenge. The subtitle is: One Whole Year of Writing Consistently and Earning Over 36,000 Dollars. The author reckons you should be looking at earning 100 dollars a day. (I can’t get the dollar symbol on my European International Keyboard I’m afraid so have to keep writing it out.)

Now, I was sceptical about this book, since I recently invested in The Wealthy Writer’s Guide by this author and Nick Daws, and I have to say that so far I am very disappointed in it. I wasn’t expecting to make the 100,000 dollars it claims you can, but I did anticipate more practical advice. However, I’m continuing to work through it in the hope I will get something more useful out of it.

But this seems a different proposition altogether. From the start there’s no beating around the bush. To earn money from writing, well, you have to write. There’s no magic wand. The author’s words are: “But you have to write. And you have keep on writing.” (Did you spot the author’s error – there’s always something gets through in every script.) This is reinforced by the observation that you will never FIND time to write, you have to MAKE time to write. That is so true.

The field is narrowed to non-fiction writing that will be published on the Internet. The whole challenge is designed to make you rethink how you write. By the end of it, the author predicts you’ll be writing every day, enjoying it and making money from it.

publicdomainpictures.net

It emerges clearly that you need to be methodical and keep good records of what you’re writing and sending where. A large diary is essential, and this is something I’m going to implement at once. You can jot down when to add or remove things from your website, politely chase up a submission, renew your domain name – that kind of thing. An organised writing space is important too, something I’ve found to be true as well.

You can start the challenge any time you like, not necessarily 1st of January. But whenever you do, please, the author begs, see it through. Don’t wimp out after a few weeks. And it’s not going to be easy. It is a challenge after all. The first month’s task is to make 30 submissions in 30 days. See? That’s not a walk in the park. But the author offers lots of practical advice and points you in the direction of sites with info about writers’ markets. In this recycling era, it’s good to know you can recycle and reuse articles too. Give them a different angle and the same material can be repackaged a number of ways for different markets.

Other months are devoted to creating your own website, writing an ebook, writing articles, publishing on Amazon, guest-blogging and writing for newsletters, to give a few examples.

There’s a lot of inspiration and information in this book. This could be one that really produces results, so long as you’re prepared to devote a year to concentrating on your writing and putting the necessary time into it.

The accompnaying website is here.

Excerpt of the challenge available here

I’m steadily working my way through Jason Matthew’s excellent ebook How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks. It’s aimed at people like me who aren’t the most informed about all the Internet tools out there that we can use to produce and sell our books. It’s a positive goldmine of information. There’s a Facebook group that Jason has set up too. I’ve joined that and am cyber-meeting some very enthusiastic and talented writers.

I’m very positive and excited about producing my ebooks. I’m mugging up on SEO at the moment. Up to now my eyes had glazed over every time I’d seen it mentioned and thought there was no way I could ever get the hang of it. However, I’m starting to see how it all fits together, thanks to this book, and I shall try harder to be less of a Luddite!

I’ll review this book properly when I’ve finished it, but so far I’m really impressed and am finding it invaluable.

And it’s Sunday, so here’s this week’s#sundaysample. The first chapter of Oh Auntie! (for 7-11 year olds).

Chapter 1: Auntie Arrives

 

Cover artwork for Oh Auntie!

“Auntie’s here!” yelled Robyn as a sleek, silver Porsche pulled into the farmyard.

She had been watching out of the kitchen window with her younger brother Paul.

“At last,” cried Dad. He and Mum were already late setting off. They were heading away to a big conference about organic farming, up in the city. And so Auntie had come to babysit for the weekend.

Auntie was Mum’s big sister. Her name was actually Jane but she’d never liked that, so she kept changing it. Over the years she had been Jade, Joy, Janet, Jemima, Jasmine, Judy and Jennifer. It was very confusing so that was why everyone, even Mum and Dad, just called her Auntie.

Auntie was very rich. She had an important job in the city. She drove fast cars and had a huge wardrobe of designer label clothes. She was tall, elegant and beautiful. But she wasn’t much fun. Robyn and Paul were reckoning on having a very boring weekend with her.

Auntie picked her way carefully across the muddy farmyard in her crazily high stiletto shoes. She was wearing a Ralph Lauren lilac trouser suit and a matching Deva pashmina with glittering crystals on the tassels. She shimmered into the kitchen. Mum gave her a hug. Auntie winced.

“Don’t crumple my suit, there’s a dear,” she said, smoothing imaginary crinkles out of the fabric. “George, run and get my suitcases. And don’t scratch the car.”

Dad went outside grumbling. He didn’t like Auntie much. She was very bossy. It took three trips to bring all Auntie’s matching Burberry suitcases and bags into the guest room.

“Goodness, whatever’s all that for? You’re only here for a couple of days!” laughed Mum as Dad staggered by with the last of the luggage.

Auntie glared at her. “I assure you, it’s all essential.”

Mum shrugged and winked at the children. “Right, we need to go. Be good for Auntie please.”

“And do keep an eye on Barbie,” said Dad. “She shouldn’t calve just yet, but if she does, tell Billy at once. OK?”

Robyn and Paul nodded wearily. Dad had told them what to do at least fifty times already that day. But Barbie – named by Robyn when she was a little girl – was his favourite cow and Dad was a bit of a worrier. Billy was the farmhand and he lived just down the road.

“Time we went!” said Mum.

And after lots of kisses and hugs and more sets of instructions from Dad they did.

After dithering for a week or so over whether to invest in a much-trumpeted ‘write a book in 28 days’ course, I finally gave in and decided to give it a shot. My CD for the Nick Daws course came yesterday so I installed it at once and had a look.

First glance, I wasn’t that impressed. There didn’t seem to be a great deal of material there. However, sitting outside the judo dojo in Boussac while Caiti tussled with and threw blokes around for an hour, I had a much more thoughtful look through. And … frankly, I’m a convert. I’ve already drafted out two non-fiction books I intend to write, inspired by the ideas of how to go about it on the CD. I’ve seen how to improve on Heads Above Water, my living in France book, big time, and maybe now even get two or three books out of the idea. And there’s advice on fiction too which I shall study this afternoon while the Saturday judo class takes place, once I’ve done a quick shop at Simply Market of course. Now that the two teens are home for the hols, apart from a couple of days of exams back a lycée, food shopping becomes a regular and very tedious pastime, the downside to having them at home all the time. But a price worth paying!

So, I’m very enthused with writing ideas at the moment. So enthused I hardly slept a wink last night due to buzzy brain syndrome. The CD should come with a health warning. I’m going to introduce my office hours for the hols ie times when I will sit and write and mustn’t be disturbed (by others) or distracted (by the Internet,and darned if I can’t produce my book in 4 weeks! Watch this space …

Mindmapping is all about avoiding the disadvantages of making a list i.e. thinking in a non-creative, linear way. It’s about emptying your brain to get ideas which you can tidy up later. This is what makes it such a great tool for creative people e.g. authors. It’s inspirational and keeps those brainwaves pulsing.

If you’re not sure how to construct a mindmap, then look here for a walkthrough.  Using colours and little pictures along the way keeps both sides of your brain busy and therefore you’re working more efficiently.

How many mindmaps do you need? As many as it takes. Perhaps one for the overall plot, and then more detailed ones for each main facet of the plot. I do one for the overall dramatis personae of the book I’m working on, and then one for each character so I know him or her inside out and will always give the correct shoe size or hair colour when it crops up! The moment writer’s block threatens to descend, I rustle up a mindmap to keep me functioning.

Non-fiction benefits as much from mindmapping as fiction, and it doesn’t end there. Do a mindmap for marketing ideas and another for promotion strategies. A third for publishers and agents to contact.

Once you start using mindmaps to help your writing, it’s hard to stop. They’re a very valuable, effective tool that give a great boost to your creativity.

Here’s a list of some mindmapping software packages.