I’m learning a lot these days as I prepare to become an ebook author. My latest discover is #samplesunday on Twitter. It’s an indie author thing. Enter #samplesunday as a search term and you’ll find links to samples of writing by people intending to self-publish. I shall be joining in from next week.

Two great websites I’ve recently discovered are Kindle Obsessed and Writinghood. These are packed full of info and tips. Check them out.

 

Right, I’m really getting somewhere with my author platform. I invested very wisely in Jason Matthew’s How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks, All For Free and I’m working steadily through. So I now have a LinkedIn account – under Stephanie Dagg – and Chris is currently setting up two websites for me. One is www.headsabovewater.fr for my non-fiction travel memoirs about moving to and living in France, and the other is www.somethingfishy.fr for my racy fishing mystery series.

I’ve joined two Facebook groups, Writing Kindle Books and How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks, All For Free. There’s lots of inspiration and camaraderie out there.

And I’m finally getting my writing more organised. I had a tendency to sit and panic at my desk and not know where to start on the several projects I have underway. I do drama Queen, I’m afraid. Anyway, now I just set to without the agonising, and if I’m really undecided, then I get on with typing out one of my children’s books. I don’t have the original files any more, but I have the copyright, so I’m updating and revising as I go and will rerelease them as ebooks. First up will be Beat the Hackers, an exciting read that never got the attention it deserved first time round, in my opinion!

So plenty to be getting on with …

Tweeting (I’m @booksarecool23) has made me realise I am out of touch with cyber slang. Abbreviations are crucial when you only have 140 characters, plus it makes you look more cyber savvy. So, a trawl around on the net and I’ve found this very good guide. And here’s another more Twitter specific one.

Now all I have to do is learn them and remember to use them!

Less than a fortnight ago I wrote about the Kindle Million Club’s seven members. Well, there’s an eighth member now – John Locke. He’s the first self-published author to join the club, so it’s all very inspiring for those of us looking to go the Kindle self-publishing route.

John Locke writes the Donovan Creed series of mystery-thrillers. He sells these on Kindle priced at 99 cents, and makes 35 cents in royalties per book. Since he’s selling a book every 7 seconds every single day, he’s doing rather well!

I for one shall be snapping up his non-fiction book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, which is priced a little higher at 4.99. But it could be money well worth paying if I can pick up some hints on how to be as successful as he is!

I was horrified to read on Publishing Perspectives that thanks to a video course called Autopilot Kindle Cash (details here), spammers are uploading bogus e-books onto the Amazon Kindle bookstore. One tactic is to copy an ebook that’s doing well, give it a new title and cover and launch it at a slightly different market. This sort of pirating should be relatively easy to pick up. However, other so-called authors are using content that can be brought very cheaply online, repackaging it and selling it as a book, often for 99 cents. Reading the comments on Warrior Forum where, Autopilot Kindle Cash is advertised and discussed, goes to show that none of the people who think it’s “wow” have given a thought as to where the content is actually coming from.

The claim is also made about AKC that “It is TRULY a hands free, increasing, monthly income”. The “hands-free” part of that is intriguing. If you read the product description, you find this: “With this brand new … course, YOU just hand the video course to your spouse, your assistant, your brother… heck – even hand it to your 10 year old kid! They’ll be posting 10 or even 20 new Kindle books to your account EVERY DAY!” One of the commenters on the forum talks about paying his “office girl” to do the work for him. So somebody somewhere is doing something with their hands to churn out these “books” – just not necessarily the person who buys the package. And they’re certainly not being creative in the way real authors are.

So do beware when you’re buying stuff on Kindle bookstore. Always download a sample first. I do, and I’ve weeded out what I now realise were probably examples of this sort of cobbled-together publication. Sadly there’s the very real danger that the material worth reading may start to disappear under the piles of substandard junk produced by these sorts of means.

 

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 …

I’ve just signed up to Shelfari. I came across a mention of it in a tweet as being a good idea for authors to get involved in. So I had a look at the site. Shelfari is owned by Amazon, so I used those account details when it came to signing up.

It’s a ‘social cataloguing website’ for books. Any the wiser? Nor me initially. I had to think about it. OK, you build up virtual bookshelves of books you’ve read to rate, comment on, tag and discuss. You can create groups with other members to discuss certain books, topics etc and build wish lists etc. I think its value will come from seeing what other people think of books you’ve read and have your own opinion on, or are thinking of readin.

I joined the French books group

Shelfari automatically goes to your Amazon.com purchases to create your bookshelf once you’ve joined. I clicked about half of the 26 that showed up for me. A lot of mine are freebies and I didn’t want to appear too mean!

The next step was to find friends. It said to look in my address books for gmail, yahoo, aol and Windows msn but I have not knowingly got any friends there. I use Opera as my email so it looks like I’ll be friendless for a while!

Shelfari then suggests you join groups. Had a look but wasn’t immediately grabbed by any. However, I guess whole thing is about being in groups. I must be more sociable. So after another search I joined the Travel books group, the French books group and Publishing.

I’m still puzzled by the friends bit. I looked up members in France as a starting point but most of those hadn’t posted in the last 2 years so not much point contacting them!I’ll keep working away on this front.

One of the few suggested books I actually like!

Next, for comparison’s sake, I went to Goodreads which looks very much the same as Shelfari. I signed up, skipped the friends bit for the above reasons and carried on. First came a book compatibility test. I like tests so this was fun. You had to rate certain books or click if you wanted to read them but hadn’t already. However, the list that came up wasn’t inspiring. There were a lot of books I hadn’t read and didn’t want to, and a lot I didn’t like (e.g. The Shining, Animal Farm, Dickens etc! Maybe I’m not cut out for this! It then offered me a list of the current favourite books  but I refused to cooperate! Actually, not may of them appealed. I’m going indie on this one. So I selected some titles independently to go on my shelf. I soon saw that any book you put on your shelf, Goodreads offers to sell you via Amazon or worldcat etc.

My enthusiasm fading fast, I quickly joined the Kindle Group and then logged off.

I shall persist with both these sites to see what comes of them. I wasn’t a Twitter fan for a long while, but after several attempts I got the hang of it. I imagine the same will be true of Shelfari and Goodreads. Time will tell.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed reviewing books. I used to do it regularly for the Cork Examiner back in Ireland, predominantly children’s books. I’m doing it for myself these days regarding books about life in France – go to the book reviews section of this website. And, via Twitter, I’ve picked up on calls by publishers for people to review their books for their blogs. This has led to me reviewing Expat Women, and I’m currently impatiently awaiting a copy of Armand Cabasson’s The Officer’s Prey by Gallic Books to read and review.

I have also joined the Reader’s Favorite team of reviewers. The first book I reviewed for them was 33 Days by Bill See. This wasn’t a book I might have picked off the shelves otherwise, and that would have been a shame, since this is a very gripping, inspiring book. Here’s my review of it.

33 days by Bill See is the fascinating account of what turns out to be a life-changing tour by young, hungry rock group Divine Weeks, who get into their van in 1987 and go and look for fame. Dave, George, Raj and Bill, organized by Ian, yo-yo between gigs with a handful in the audience, to packed-out venues. One moment they’re having TV and radio interviews, the next they are literally begging for food. There are highs and lows, good times and bad. They meet some great people but brush shoulders with the sleazy side of life too. They give their all on the stage. They fall asleep at the wheel. Sleeping on floors or in the van, the band does what it takes to achieve this ambition of getting out there and being necessary, being relevant. Sure, there’s drinks and drugs and groupies, but the overriding note of this book is triumph and achievement.

Along the way, someone asks them what happens if the tour is a flop. The author replies: “We’re more concerned with what happens if we don’t try.” This is a book about going for it and giving it your all. It’s written in diary format that cleverly weaves in flashbacks to childhood times and reflects on moments in the author’s difficult relationship with on-off girlfriend Mary. It’s not just an account of a road trip but of a spiritual journey too. For Bill See, the tour was about “deliverance, redemption and transcendence”. Things would never be quite the same again afterwards.

This book contains swearing and adult scenes.

 

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.

 

 

Gallic's big summer read for 2011

Five years ago Jane Aitken set up the publishing house Gallic Books with fellow Francophile Pilar Webb with the aim of introducing British readers to French literature. A bold move in a country where works by foreign authors make up less than 3% of the market. But it seems to be a gamble that is paying off.

Every year around ten French books make it across the channel and end up on Britain’s bookshelves. The publishers specifically look for books that will make the transition well. Amongst the first books they published were detective novels and historical fiction. However, now anything contemporary goes, after the runaway success of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Books have to prove themselves in France before Gallic Books will consider taking them on.

Marketing is of course extremely important, and Gallic Books uses all the tool it can lay its hands on – including Spotify, posters on the Tube, postcards, and tours by authors. It all works closely with book bloggers, book clubs and indie bookstores. And they are beginning to produce Kindle editions of some of their books, very reasonably priced, so that gets a huge thumbs-up from me!

This is the perfect publisher as far as I, a British expat in France, am concerned. I’ve been wanting to read French literature but have struggled with it in the native language and quickly given up. I’m a French speaker, rather than a French writer and reader. I will start with Armand Cabassson I think, in paperback since his Quentin Margont books look like being exciting reads. And in the meantime I  may succumb to a Kindle book too, probably one of the Hector’s journeys series or Anna Sam’s Checkout – A life on the tills. Décisions, décisions !