I’ve just happened across this rather interesting software for writers. It’s called LitLift and its aim is to keep you organised as you create your masterpiece. It’s not a wordprocessing package, but a helpful tool to help you keep on top of the details of your creation. It was developed by Brad Marsh, a UX designer and developer who is also a writer. And he’s made LitLift available for free.

So how does it work? OK, first you create your account with your name and password. The main page comes up with tabs for Books, Characters, Settings, Items and Tools.

Books: you enter the title and a description of what it’s going to be about.

Characters: there are three tabs to start with – All Characters, Major Characters and Minor Characters. Highlight the category you want, and then click on the New Character box on the right. This brings you to a page where you enter the name, their status (major, minor etc) and a description. There’s a useful list of features to consider in your description eg  hobbies, education and so on. If you’re stuck, there’s a button that will generate a character for you! I was offered Wayne Hall, Cullen Ross and a couple of others. Rather useful, that.

Settings: you give a name and description of your setting.

Items: this is to help you keep track of who last had what – the murder weapon, the heiress’s poodle … it’s easy to lose tabs sometimes so this is a nice little feature.

Tools: this is the character generator I talked about earlier. There’s a note saying more features will be coming soon, but I’m not sure how recently that was put up.

I shall be certainly give LitLift a whirl with my next new fiction venture (starting imminently). I find I lose track of characters quite easily, and when it comes to naming them, I seem to have a fairly small pool of names that spring to mind. I end up with multiple Robs and Simons.

Thanks Brad – this is a well thought out and handy program.

My three 99 cent books have still not made any sales on Smashwords, whilst my freebies have been downloaded 1,574 times between them. So, I’ve generated coupon codes for two of  ‘pay for’ books to see if that helps. If you enter the code when you purchase the book, you get it for free.

Beat the Hackers – the coupon code is TQ44P. I’ve Tweeted about this several times but still no takers.It’s valid till 15 November so grab your free copy while you can.

Oh Grandad – LP43H will get it for free for you. I generated that yesterday and have had one ‘sale’, yippee! This runs to 5th November.

So, I’ve been a little despondent. But Chris cheered my up by saying he didn’t think free ebooks would endure for a long time. In the early days of the Internet, everything was free. It wasn’t the done thing to charge for software and information at all, but now you generally have to pay. He’s pretty sure the same thing will be true with ebooks. Gradually people will realise it’s not reasonable to expect to have reading matter supplied for free, given all the work that’s gone into it. And the authors will decide that enough is enough and want some recompense.

But until then, it seems a good bandwagon to jump on in the hope that it will lead to sales of future books. Lots of us believe this. If you type ‘Smashwords coupon code’ into the search bar on your Twitter page, you’ll find plenty there that will allow you to get some free samples. And if you do, please think about supporting the author by buying another of their books at some time. Especially mine … !

 

I’m delighted to host my first ever guest post. Jo Parfitt, expat author, has just released her latest book, Sunshine Soup which I’ll be reviewing in a few days’ time.

Jo has some inspiring advice for all would-be authors:

Inspired by La Grande Rue

Many years ago I lived in France. I studied French at university and spent my year abroad as an assistante in a school in Normandy. I don’t know whether you know Neufchatel-en-Bray, but it’s pretty small. I was the only English girl of my age living there and I found it rather lonely. I love to eat and so that was how I whiled away the hours. I would wander up and down the high street, looking in the shop windows.   I particularly liked the patisserie.

One day, as I gazed at the tartes aux myrtilles and tartelettes au citron, the words French Tarts popped into my head. That would make a great book title, I thought.

Now, as I had told you, I was a bit bored and I loved to eat, so I hatched a plan. I would ask the people in the town to invite me to dinner and make me a tart and, in exchange, I would put their recipes in a book I was writing. I really believed this would happen, and so, it appeared, did my potential hosts. I got my recipes and solved my social life problem in one go.

Back in my dingy flat above the school boiler, I had no kitchen, in fact I could not even cook, but I was determined to write that book. After graduation, I did a little research and sent a synopsis to a publisher called Octopus. They accepted my proposal and about 18 months later, French Tarts was published in French and in English. I had never written anything before but this lucky break led me to believe that I could follow my dream and become a writer. Today, 25 years on, I have written 28 books, hundreds of articles, teach writing and am a publisher in my own right. I specialize in publishing books by and for people who live overseas.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because I believe that if you have a good idea, lots of passion and some self-belief, you too can achieve your dreams, even against the odds and even in a foreign country. My book succeeded because it was a good idea, with a catchy title, that came at the right time.

Without French Tarts I doubt I would have become the writer and publisher I am today. Neither would I be a decent cook. Living in France back then I would never have believed that I would go on to live abroad for the rest of my life. I have lived in Dubai, Oman, Norway and am now in the Netherlands.  I have become a pretty decent cook too, and wrote a second cookbook when I lived in Oman, called Dates.

This month I launch my first foray into fiction. Sunshine Soup is a novel about expats and expat life. Its protagonist is a cook and there are 20 recipes at the back of the book. French Tarts is no longer in print, though you can buy second hand copies on Amazon.

If you have a dream, however crazy, I urge you to go for it. You never know what may happen.

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt  – author of Sunshine Soup, nourishing the global soul. Out now. Price £8.47 and available on Amazon. Find out more at www.joparfitt.com, www.summertimepublishing.com and www.expatbookshop.com

I’ve decided to follow Alex Adena’s lead and do a weekly summary of my sales figures, warts and all. I hope it will be interesting for other indie authors to see how their fellows are getting on. In rather a lot of the authoring-related forums and groups, there are plenty of whoops of joy on a good day, but a lack of transparency on the not so good! Of course, no one’s obliged to divulge what their sales actually are, but it may help create a more realistic view of actual numbers of books that can be moved in various genres. A lot of people come in to publishing with way over the top expectations. Generally results are fairly steady and mundane.

So, to get going I’ll do this report every Monday morning, at more or less the same time (farm chores etc etc permitting!).

To get the ball rolling, here are my sales to date i.e. 17.10.11:

 

Amazon Kindle

Oh Auntie! (99 cents)     9 (US 3, UK 6)

Beat the Hackers (99 cents)         4 (US 1, UK3)

 

Smashwords

Oh Gran! (free)                                                757

The Witch’s Dog (free)                  336

Escape the Volcano (free)            235

Oh Auntie! (99 cents)     24 samples downloaded, no sales

Beat the Hackers (99 cents)         7 samples downloaded, no sales

Oh Grandad! (99 cents)                 9 samples downloaded, no sales

 

It’s fairly clear – and disappointing – to see that people like free books and find even 99 cents a bit of an imposition! Now, so far I’ve only epublished children’s books, which I haven’t put illustrations in. (The original printed versions had them, but I only have the rights to the text, not to the illustrations so can’t reuse them in my ebooks.) Children’s books for younger readers without pictures aren’t the most attractive, it has to be said. So really, results have been better than expected. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, listing my books on www.getfreeebooks.com has given them a significant boost, as has their appearing in Barnes and  Noble’s Nook bookshop.

Let’s see what this week brings.

My three ebooks are currently being downloaded at a very satisfying rate from Smashwords. The later two, The Witch’s Dog and Escape the Volcano, have just had a very nice boost after appearing on www.getfreeebooks.com. That is definitely a site for indie authors offering free ebooks to know about. It certainly gets results. I’m hoping for another significant jump in downloads once the books get onto Barnes and Noble Nook bookstore.

None of the three books have made it as free books in the Amazon Kindle stores yet, which is a little disappointing. I hadn’t realised it would take so long for them to be distributed to Amazon from Smashwords.

However – despite people helping themselves to the freebies, they’re not splashing out 99 cents to buy my other books. At least not yet! As of Sunday evening, 746 copies of good old Oh Gran have been downloaded, but only 24 samples of Oh Auntie and 9 of Oh Grandad. I’ve yet to make a cash sale on Smashwords!

For me it’s not too drastic since these are backlist titles that I’m getting up and out there mainly to build my profile. I’ve already made some money out of these books when they first appeared in print back in Ireland. But I’d be very happy to be earning a little bit of money from them – as I’ve mentioned on my other blog, I need to keep my student son in pasta!

Then again, I’m just happy they’re being read. All we writers put so much effort into our work with the intention of entertaining and/or informing our fellow human beings, it’s nice to think it’s being consumed, hopefully with appreciation. It’s not an economically viable attitude obviously, but I’m not realistically expecting to make a living from my writing. And since moving to France and drastically changing our lives, taking downsizing to ridiculous extremes, we’ve got used to managing on not very much.

Readers are getting used to being able to obtain ebooks for free. It’s now an expectation. I feel I’m getting my name known, and I think that’s what other indies put their faith in too when they make their work available free of charge.  Will it pay off in the long run? Or we all shooting ourselves in the foot by being over generous and over-obsessed with counting our downloads.

Time will tell …

I love GelaSkins. I’ve mentioned them in my other blog, Blog in France, here. GelaSkins are removable covers for various electronic devices, from phones to laptops, including, of course, the Kindle, amongst other ereaders. (Naff name ereader – can you think of a better one?) As well as prettify your otherwise rather dull gizmo, they protect it from scratches, and from fading due to sunlight.

My kids clubbed together and bought me a GelaSkin for my birthday. Knowing that I’m a Vincent van Gogh fan they chose the skin featuring his ‘Almond Blossom’ design. It looks fabulous on my Kindle.

Admire the GelaSkin, and oh look - it's showing my free ebook!

Here are a few more very attractive GelaSkin Kindle covers to tempt you:

This design is, not surprisingly, called Books

I love Klimt artwork. Here’ his famous Kiss transformed for Kindle:

Another van Gogh design:

The famous café

Here’s the Orion nebula:

And finally another van Gogh (not that I’m biassed or anything):

Starry Night

(All the above pics apart from my photo taken from the GelaSkins website.)

There are loads more designs. I just picked a few of my favourites. And I can vouch for the quality of the covers. My Kindle gets heavy use, and a few months down the line, the GelaSkin looks as good as new. It’s not peeling anywhere, or been scuffed or anything.

I think this a really good product and well priced at $19.95. Treat yourself!

Wow! I was astonished to discover just now that this post was going to be number 100. Quite a landmark! And co-incidentally, I reached 100 copies downloaded of The Witch’s Dog this afternoon too. I’m very pleased about that, and even more so about the 617 downloads of Oh Gran!  I’d be even more delighted if I was getting money for them, but I’m convinced that giving away free books now will be a good move for the future. And quite simply it’s nice to have people reading what I’ve written.

Since Books Are Cool got started, I’ve had visitors from 70 countries. I think that’s awesome! How wonderful to have people from Azerbaijan, Chile, Myanmar, Nepal, Barbados and Lithuania visiting my site – and from all the other 64 countries too. Most of my visitors are from the USA and the UK. Thank you for visiting.

I started out with only a very vague idea of what direction this site would go in. It was partly intended as a showcase for my books and ebooks, but also to look at ebook and publishing issues. However, there are a lot of excellent sites that already do that so I’m still looking for a niche to fit into. That said, posts that I’ve talked about epublishers and discussions of well known things such as Twitter and the Kindle Million Club have done well, as have writing advice posts. You’re not so keen on Sunday Sample pages or certain book reviews.

Plenty to think about there.It looks like you want fewer reviews and samples and more informative or art of writing articles. I’ll see what I can do. I’d like to get some guests posts on this site, and perhaps interviews with authors and publishers too.

And while I’ve been writing this, 3 more Oh Grans have been downloaded!

I’ve been spending time on this wet and windy October afternoon to update the My Ebooks page on this website. We’ve gone straight from summer to winter this year. Autumn is usually short in this part of France, but we’ve taken it to extremes this time around!

Anyway, all my ebooks are now listed. There are three free ones – Oh Gran!, Escape the Volcano and The Witch’s Dog. Of these, Gran is doing best! She’s zoomed ahead with 557 downloads (via Smashwords) as at this precise moment. There was a sudden surge on 1st October which tied in with me listing the book at www.getfreeebooks.com and with it appearing in the Barnes and Noble Nook store.

Fantastic!

I was lucky to get the great photo I did for The Witch's Dog cover. There were plenty like this where Nessie wouldn't co-operate!

The Witch’s Dog has had 70 downloads in its first 48 hours up on Smashwords. I’ve submitted that to getfreeebooks.com as well, and it will trundle its way onto the B&N site in a couple of weeks. That should give it a nice boost. It may be a little late for Halloween – I should have been better organised. But we’ll see. Hopefully people will want to read it anyway. It’s a sweet little story.

Next book up will be … hmm. I would like to get a free non-fiction out there before releasing Heads Above Water. The book will be ‘Best of Blog in France’, a selection of posts from my first two years’ of blogging. Blog in France goes from strength to strength I’m pleased to say. I’ve even had people pay me to put adverts up on the site!

And Something Fishy isn’t far behind …

I was going to  jump on the bandwagon and blog about the French Kindle store being open now. This is great news! Finally I can get 99 cent books for 99 cents, and not $3.44. There won’t be quite as many English language books available as on amazon.com but probably enough to keep me going for a while!

This afternoon I got another book up on Smashwords. The Witch’s Dog is available for free from here. I’m delighted to say it’s already had one 5-star review. It’s for 5 to 10 year olds, roughly. It’s a non-scary, happy, fun witchy story. No ensuing nightmares, I promise!

I hope you like the cover. I did this one! Caiti is rather busy with homework at weekends at the moment, so it was up to me. I wanted to get this book out for Halloween. I’ve left it rather late as it is…

The dog is our Nessie. I took loads of photos of her, but since she kept rolling over, this was the only one that worked!

Ebook reader isn’t the most exciting name, is it? It’s appropriate and logical but rather pedantic. I think that’s why we tend to use the trade names for our readers, such as Kindle or Nook. They have a feeling of cosiness about them – like the idea of curling up with a good book.

The French word used most often for ebook reader is ‘livrel’. ‘Livre’ is French for book, and ‘el’ is the first syllable of ‘electronique’. But this is France where there are several ways of saying the same thing! So we also have ‘livreuse’ and ‘bouquineur’ for ebook readers. I think they’re all rather catchy.

So what would be a nicer generic term than plain old ebook reader?Here are my suggestions:

Portabook

ELF – Electronic Literary Faciliatator

EARTH – Electronic Apparatus for Reading Texts, Hooray

Pocket Library

Tex-port

ELBORG – ELectronic BOok  Reading Gizmo

Hmm. Not massively inspiring, but of the list I like ELF best!

What would your suggestions for a new name for ebook readers?