Sunday 1 May 2022

How to become a successful author

The most important factor in author success is one you can't buy—Luck. Despite that there's an old saying which applies—The more I practice, the luckier I get.
Here's what I consider you can do to get lucky as an author:
  • Use the right keywords/tags. If you have problems here, steal them from the top selling books in your genre. To do that create a blank book in calibre and in the meta tag ID section paste in the ASIN number of a top ranking book in your genre. Then download the meta data. You'll get the tags and the book description. This works if the eBook was originally an EPUB file. For a more detailed keyword discovery process try here
  • Get a remarkable cover which attracts the attention of readers browsing for books. Few can do this themselves, lots can't even recognise what makes a good cover, so it is worth spending money on this. A good cover will give a book browser the interest to check out the book. You need something which is still eye catching at postage stamp size. More details...
  • Spend a huge amount of time and effort getting a book description which makes the reader think "Wow! This is a book I have to read." Your description should use emotive language and use your keywords. Try running the sentences through a headline analyser.
  • Make sure your book starts with a powerful hook to keep the book browser reading. Your book's first three pages should be gripping. Do you know how to make a 'Look inside' link for Amazon?
  • Create promotion pages for your book which get high rankings on Google. If you are not discovered on the first three pages of search results when you enter a keyword and your book's title, you never will be discovered. Use an incognito browser window when doing this. (See http://authorbookpromotion.blogs...)
  • Video, pictures, headlines and subheadings are effective in promotions in that order. Run headlines and sub headings through checkers for emotive language such as and This works for Tweets and Facebook posts too.
  • Make sure promotion pages have a clear 'call to action'.
  • When you provide links to your books use a link shortener service and customise the link to make it typing friendly. I recommend books2read links because they are easy to create, will find your book at all the leading retailers and will automatically add any affiliate codes you have. For example is a lot easier to type than and also allows the user to select a different retailer to Amazon.
  • Get the price right. If you've already published your book at Amazon, try Amazon's book pricing beta service. To get to that select your book from the Amazon KDP bookshelf. Find the book you want to modify and in the "Book Actions" column, click "Edit book pricing." Next scroll to the 'Royalty and Pricing' header and under KDP Pricing Support (Beta), click "View Service."
  • Recognise that a promotion at best will produce a spike in your sales but you need to sustain that spike for at least a month for it to produce a rise in your sales rank at Amazon. You'll need to stagger effective promotions.
  • Know that not all promotions are effective and some are downright scams. There is no point in tweeting to fake accounts or putting book links on sites with no visitors. See this post. Learn how to recognise the fakes and how to use UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes to spot those sites which work.
  • Facebook adverts work but NOT 'Buy my book' adverts. Instead make an attractive offer which people can get if they add their email address to your mailing list. Email lists are effective at selling books.
  • Twitter posts work but not until you have 10,000 real, active followers. Few will see your posts. People will unfollow if your posts are solely 'Buy my book' posts. These should never make up more than 10 - 15% of your feed. DON'T auto follow-back because you'll end up with fake followers; vet your followers. Never send out 'Thanks for following me' direct messages; instead retweet one of their posts. Aim to get 100 new followers per day. Remember people are only on Twitter for short periods of time so the vast majority of your tweets will be unseen. That's why you need a LOT of real followers. Make sure you have a pinned post there so that authors you retweet can reply in kind..
  • Twitter and Facebook are NOT the only social media platforms. Get a presence on Tumblr, LinkedIn (if you write nonfiction), Google+, YouTube also. There are also vital forums such as Kboards.
  • Although I dislike Goodreads, it's an essential platform for an author to be on if you want recognition as an author. BUT never sign in to Goodreads using your Facebook account! If you do then Amazon is likely to link the two and may reject reviews from some of your friends on Facebook. Be careful what you say on Goodreads—lots of Trolls there.
  • Amazon paid advertising appears to work.
  • Pre-orders work for new books, especially if you follow them with promotion during the release week.
  • If you are not using affiliate accounts you are wasting an opportunity to earn at least 4% extra at Amazon and much more elsewhere. You can use this as a sales tool too.
  • Remember there are only 24 hours in a day and you can't do all of this at once. Some can be automated though.

  • Ask people to help you promote! Hey if you have not already downloaded one of my free ebooks (Immortality Gene and Raging Storm) please do so. Even if you don't read them it will help my sales rank.

Darn that all sounds complicated. Maybe there should be a magic promotion button. I'm working on it but it's not quite finished yet. Take a look here.

Wednesday 2 March 2022

Your readers have a choice of where to buy eBooks so why aren't you making it easy for them?

 It never ceases to amaze me that book promotion sites and authors, who write in English, provide links only to Yes - that's probably the biggest market but it's far from the only market. There are many countries where the use of English is common and as a result English books are available all over the world.

So why limit your links to .com addresses only? Yes, you can change a link such as to and the link will then work just fine, but that's especially fiddly on a tablet or phone. Many people just don't bother.

What Amazon sites sell books in English?

Just considering Amazon alone these sites sell eBooks and print copies in English. The site is in English.

  • United States -
  • United Kingdom -
  • Australia -
  • Canada -
  • India

  • These sites are NOT in English but offer English versions of eBooks and Print copies in English
    • Brazil -
    • France -
    • Germany - A multi-lingual site offering German, English, Czech, Dutch, Polish and Turkish languages. Currency can be Euros and a wide variety of others (but not USD)
    • Italy -
    • Japan - A trilingual site offering Japanese, English and Chinese
    • Mexico -
    • Netherlands -
    • Spain - A bilingual site in Spanish and Portuguese.
    • Poland - printed books in English
    • Singapore - printed books in English
    • Sweden - Offers an English language version of the website. eBooks are sold via
    There are Amazon stores in these countries too but due to government restrictions content is curated. Ex-pats can usually still buy amazon eBooks using a VPN and their home country Amazon store
    • China
    • Egypt
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Turkey
    • United Arab Emirates
    What about other book and eBook retailers? Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and now Draft2Digital (via Smashwords) are major retailers selling books worldwide but as well as these there are numerous smaller e-retailers such as Angus & Robertson in Australia.

    Your readers have a choice of where to buy eBooks so why aren't you making it easy for them?

    The answer to this problem is to use a link shortening service. There are lots of them available. My own personal choice is which allows:
    • country specific links for retailers - someone in the UK will go to an page while someone in Canada will go to
    • Affiliate links automatically added - if you are not using affiliate links you should be! At amazon for example it gives you an extra 4% royalty. Affiliate links are usually country specific and sorts that out for you.
    • You can customise the link to make it easy to type in. For my book 'Immortality Gene' my link becomes; for 'Dark Secrets' it's
    • I enter the link to one website and Books2Read automatically finds the book at other e-retailers so my link at finds the book at these e-retailers

      A books2read link offers...

    For readers, this link allows them to select the store they will buy the eBook at and a link such as is far easier than a link to The reader can also opt to be automatically directed to their favourite e-retailer's store directly.

    Books2Read is a website run by Draft2Digital and it's free for authors to use.
    If this post has helped or entertained, will you help me? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from
    Even if you never read it (but I hope you will) - it will help my rankings.
    As to this post - it will be added to the new edition of 'An Illustrated Guide to Getting Published.' 
    Look - a FREE e-book

    Tuesday 8 June 2021

    Adding your book content


    Starting Chapter 1

    Before you start the text of your book you should add appropriate headers and footers. The header will contain the book title on odd pages and author name on even numbered pages. The footer will contain a page number. Chapter 1 of your book always starts on a right hand page.
    1.      At the top of the Chapter 1 page (or first contents page if you have one) double click the header area. In the Navigation section of the Header & Footer toolbar make sure 'Link to Previous' is NOT selected. make sure ‘Different Odd & Even Pages’ IS checked then add the book title in capitals[1]. Center it.
    2.     Double click the Footer area of the page (or click the Footer button on the toolbar.) Use the Page Number button to add a page number either centered or at the right. Format the page numbers so that they start at '1'. Then close the Header and Footer design ribbon.

    Save your document at this point!

    You now need to copy and paste the entire original book you wrote, minus any title page you used, into this new book document. Once you’ve done that, save it again.
    If you look at your document, now that it’s got the book text in it, you’ll find that there is no page number on page 2.
    3.      Double click where the page number should be to open the header and footer design view ribbon. This time make sure  'Link to Previous' IS selected. Insert a page number which you will find appears as ‘2’.
    4.      In the header section of page 2 type in capitals the author name/s. Your book will now have headers and footers something like this:
    You should now find that from your 'Chapter 1' the pages will be displayed on the correct side in 'Print Layout' view. If you Add the 'Print Preview Edit Mode' button to the Quick Access toolbar (22) you'll find on using it that all pages (in a two page view) are shown on the correct sides. Extra blank pages will be inserted to make sure the main title page and Chapter 1 pages are on the right hand side.
    Following chapters should each start on a new page but usually it is not important that they should start on right hand pages. If you have a short book of less than 60,000 words though, you might like to insert a 'Section break (Odd Page)' rather than a standard 'Page Break' to force this.

    [1] In general, it’s not a good idea to write in ALL CAPITALS (upper case). The words lose their shape and are more difficult to read. (Could that be why lawyers write the important bits of legal documents in capitals?) On Internet, it’s considered SHOUTING and bad manners. Book page headings seem to get away with it though.

    Creating your book’s front matter

    Creating your book’s front matter

    Front matter is that part of a book which is found before the main content. Some of it is optional and it’s up to the author to decide what should be included. These are the sections normally found in it.
    • Half title– The book title. This page contains the title of the book, usually written in CAPITALS at the top of the first page. It’s the first page you see when opening the cover. Follow this with a 'section break (new page)' if you are using a frontispiece. If you are not using one then use a ‘section break (odd page).
    • Frontispiece - (optional) A full page illustration on the verso of the half title and facing the title page.
    • Title page The title, subtitle, author and publisher of the book. May also include the year of publication and location of the author. This is always a right-hand page of a two page spread. This pace  should be centre aligned vertically. See this page for how to align a page to the top/centre/bottom (and justified).
    • Copyright page On the verso of the title page and containing copyright notice, edition information, publication information, cataloguing data, legal notices, and the book’s ISBN number. This page should be bottom aligned.
    • Dedication - (optional) Top aligned page.
    • Table of contents - (optional, especially in fiction) This should always start on a right hand (odd numbered) page and should be top aligned.
    • List of figures/tables - (optional) This should be a top aligned page.
    • Epigraph - (optional) A quotation or poem. This may be placed on the verso of contents, list of figures, or facing chapter one. Epigraphs may also be placed at the start of each chapter.
    • Forward - (optional) A short piece written by someone other than the author possibly explaining the context of the book.
    • Preface - (optional) A short piece written by the author explaining the context of the book and how it came about.
    • Prologue - (optional and often undesirable) Sets the scene for a fictional work and should be written in a character’s voice rather than the author’s voice.

    And finally! Chapter 1 – always starting on a right hand (odd) page. Normally this will be numbered as page 1 of the book.

    How to create and insert your front matter

    The instructions below refer to Word 2016 and later. If you have an earlier version—Word 2010 or later, I’ve placed instructions for that version in an earlier blog – Making Word 2010+ display odd pages on the right If you have an even earlier version I suggest you upgrade. Paying monthly for Microsoft Office 365 is fairly painless and you'll get some important bonuses such as lots of cloud storage to keep backup copies of your work. You'll also get the rest of the Office Suite of programs.
    The numbers on the illustrations refer to the steps listed here.
    1. Word choose File → New → Blank document
    2. Select 'Print Layout' view
    3.  From the Layout tab select in the Page setup group the 'Size' button and then at the bottom of the dropdown 'More Page Sizes'
    4. If you have started by modifying a template downloaded from a print-on-demand publisher, the book size will already be set – skip forward to number 6 in the instructions. Otherwise, using the 'Paper' tab, select what size pages your book will have. I use a custom size of 13.97 x 21.59 cm (5.5 x 8.5 inches) which is one of the standard book sizes. Your self-publishing firm will tell you what standard sizes are available. I suggest you measure a few books too.
    5. On the 'Margins' tab select a top margin of 2 cm; bottom margin of 2.54 cm; inside margin of 1.27 cm; Outside margin of 1.27 cm; gutter of 0.95 cm; Gutter position Left; Portrait; Multiple pages should Mirror margins; Apply to This section. The ‘Gutter’ refers to extra space added to the center of a book to make it easier to read. The thicker the book is, the more gutter space which will be needed. When you upload your book your print-on-demand service should warn you if you have too little gutter space.
    6. On the 'Layout' tab, double click in the white space above the text “This is the 5.5 x 8.5 Basic…” This will open a ‘Header & Footer Design’ tab. Check in the Header and footers tab ‘Different odd and even’; Un-check ‘Different first page’; set the header and Footer to 1.25 cm from the edge; You should now see 'Odd Page Header' at the header and 'Odd Page Footer' at the footer. 
    7. Close the Header and Footer view
    8. If rulers are not shown turn them on using the ‘View’ tab and selecting the ‘Ruler’ checkbox.
    9. Half title page - Type in CAPITALS your book title. Center it. This is NOT your main Title Page it’s known as a ‘Half title’—the first page you see when opening the cover.
    10. After the title press Return then insert a 'Section break next page' 
    11. On the Home ribbon turn on ‘Show/Hide’. You will now see formatting codes normally invisible. I leave this on all the time but if you find them distracting you can turn this off later. Even with show/hide turned off, you may see small black squares at the left of the text indicating ‘Keep together’ is on.
    12. Frontispiece? If you are using a frontispiece—An illustration facing the title page—then add the ‘Frontispiece’ image now.
    13. Whether you are using a frontispiece or not, Insert a section break - odd page. This will ensure that your title page is an ‘odd’ left facing page. You can use the icon from the Insert ribbon but since you’ll probably use this a lot, you may find it useful to add the ‘Insert Page and Section Breaks icon’ to your Quick Access toolbar and use that. Here’s how to do that and add some other essential icons.
      Right click a blank area of the ribbon and select ‘Customize Quick Access Toolbar…’
      Select ‘All Commands’ at the top
      Select and add the icons listed below. Navigation Pane allows you to quickly toggle the navigation pane on and off. This gives you more space on your screen. Save, Undo, Redo and New File do just that. Touch/Mouse Mode is useful if you have a touchscreen It spaces the commands in the ribbon out more. Insert Page/Section Breaks is a quick way of inserting breaks without having to go through multiple menus. Speak Selected Text is an essential tool for checking your document while editing. Print Preview Edit Mode allows you to quickly preview the document as printed out. Using the Section breaks icon on a quick access toolbar makes inserting that ‘Section Break – Odd Page’ a lot quicker.
    14. Main title page The next page will be your main title page where you put the title, the author. I also add the location and year of writing. Format this page as you wish it. At the end of the page insert a ‘Section Break – Next Page.’ Want an example? See this page.
    15. Copyright page Your next page will be a copyright page and if you have one, put your ISBN/EAN number here. I’ll give you two example texts - customize the areas in square brackets [ ... ] and space these appropriately. The important line, which you must not change is the ‘Copyright © [year] [name]’ statement.
      Copyright Example 1 – Non fiction book
      [Name] has asserted [his/her/their] right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the [author/authors] of this work.
      All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
      may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
      without the express written permission of the publisher
      except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

      Copyright © [year] [Name]
      All rights reserved under International and Pan-American 
      Copyright Conventions.

      ISBN-10: [Your ISBN-10 number]
      ISBN-13: [Your ISBN-13 number]

       Copyright Example 2 – Fiction book
      [Name/names] [has/have] asserted [his/her/their] right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the authors of this work.

      This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

      Copyright © [year] [Name/names]
      All rights reserved under International and Pan-American
      Copyright Conventions.

      ISBN-10: [Your ISBN-10 number]
      ISBN-13: [Your ISBN-13 number]

      After your copyright statement add a ‘Section Break – Next Page.’
    Those of you with an eye for detail might have noticed that so far, the pages used have three different layouts. 
    1. The half title page was vertically aligned at the top. 
    2. The title page was vertically aligned at the center 
    3. The copyright page was vertically aligned at the bottom:
    It’s not immediately obvious how to do this in Word. It's important that this isn't done by using the Return key to add blank lines! To achieve it each page must end with a section break.
    First place your cursor on the page you wish to change.
    Next from the layout tab (1) select the small icon (2) at the bottom right of the Page Setup section of the ribbon.
    Select the Layout tab (3) in the window which opens.
    In the Page Vertical alignment section (4) select the alignment you want. ‘Justified’ incidentally will space out the paragraphs of a page to fill the entire page.
    There's a more detailed guide to vertical alignment in MS Word here.
    1.      Dedication/Acknowledgments/Epigraph page Your next page will contain either a dedication, or acknowledgments you wish to make or an epigraph—a quotation or short poem. Or if you don’t want to use any of these then leave this page blank. Add a Section Break (Odd page) at the end of this page. I add a dedication here.
    2.      Next comes the Contents page if this is a non-fiction book. Contents must always be an even number of pages so end this area with a ‘Section Break (Odd Page)’. Fiction normally don’t have contents pages. (unless you are using a description of chapter contents.) Word has a tool for creating a ‘Table of Contents.’ It uses the headings of your book. Find this under the References tab of the ribbon.
    3.      If your book contains multiple illustrations, you can add a ‘List of illustrations’ next if you wish. Again, end this with a ‘Section Break (Odd Page).
    4.   If you have an odd number of contents/list of illustrations/tables pages you will have a blank page at the end. I often use this page to insert an epigraph.   

    You are now ready to insert the content of your book

    Save your document!

    Monday 21 December 2020

    There are times when an ebook makes more sense.


    About five years ago I finished reading a hardback book I'd had since 2009. Stephen King's 'Under the Dome.'  Six years to read a book! Actually it took me six years to start reading it. I had not read it because it is a massive book, 1093 pages. It weighs 1.3 kilograms (2.3 pounds) - too heavy to read unsupported. (Enjoyable book if you want to read it.) I'd looked for it as an e-book but due to the Amazon/Hachette dispute couldn't find it. In the end I read it in bed before sleeping, with it supported on my knees.

    The trouble with big books is that they are heavy and bulky They are certainly not the best choice when going mountain climbing. If you are an older reader then you may find reading a heavy book can be a painful experience.

    A Vested Interest Omnibus 1

    Yet people seem to like longer books; especially if the book is science fiction or a thriller. People also like books in a series and are fond of those bargain 'box sets.' My co-author and I have produced such a collection. It contains the first three books of our 'A Vested Interest' book series and has over 1,400 pages. An average reader would take over 37 hours to read it - great for keeping you occupied while shut in at home during a pandemic. It's ONLY available as an ebook despite the picture. Your wrists will thank us.

    What's it about?

    It's a techno-thriller. We started writing it in 2007. The concept is that in 5,000 years the earth faces the ultimate apocalypse when a wandering planetoid will collide with it. The impact will be similar to the one which created the moon 4.5 billion years ago. Nothing on earth will survive. We can't destroy or stop this planetoid - it's too big. To survive we must move and we must take with us every living thing on earth. BUT it's five thousand years in the future and even though we know it will happen we do nothing since it's, "not my problem."

    Book 1 of this collection is Immortality GeneTo save the world the solution is simple we must make everyone immortal so that it is their problem. It's normally free. It's been  #1 in technothrillers, #1 in Science Fiction genetic engineering, #1 in science fiction adventure. It's long and involved featuring lots of technology we are developing now - including the immortality. It has medical advances, romance, murder, mystery and conspiracy. And it's ending will leave you hanging so you really need the second book.

    Book 2 in the collection is Dark Secrets. It features a pandemic spreading a virus. We wrote this back in 2010 and it's eerily similar to how the Covid-19 pandemic spreads. Our pandemic makes people immortal though. It fixes their DNA so that genetic damage - the sort that makes people old - can't occur. old senescent cells are destroyed and replaced with young cells. People start to get younger! Eventually they reach an optimal apparent age of about 25 and there they remain. Does this seem far fetched? The reality is that the first person to live to age 1,000 is probably alive now and is probably considered old now. But that title? There's a conspiracy governing the world that has been a dark secret since the crusades.

    Book 3 in the collection is No Secrets. It reveals more of the dark secret governing the world and brings together people forced apart by it. It does the very opposite of book 2 where a protagonist turns out to be evil and makes an antagonist turn good.

    Get the collection - It will keep you entertained for hours and it costs less than getting the books individually, even if one of them is free.

    Sunday 29 December 2019

    Be careful about what you post on social media

    I've said many times that authors should take care not to offend anyone on social media since a vindictive person you offend can have a disastrous effect on your book sales with a bad review. There's another side to this though. Social media is getting flack from government over hate speech and fake news and has had to develop ways of combating this. Enter the social media algorithm.

    Facebook is a classic example. As a social media platform it is huge. it has become more powerful than the traditional print, tv and radio media as a source of information. Unfortunately it's also a source of misinformation and hate speech.

    To police Facebook would require an army of people constantly scanning posts and checking facts. That's simply not possible so an algorithm is used to seek out offending items and flag them for action. Even that is too much of a task and would still require an army of human checkers. Result? The algorithm takes action itself and inevitably it makes mistakes.

    That happens quite often so Facebook gives those the algorithm has targeted to option of appealing the decision. Handling the appeals is less of a task and is more manageable - in theory. However it can still go wrong as happened to me over Christmas 2019. Here's what happened.

    I made this post (You may notice the subtle use of an affiliate link to the film at Amazon):
    Nothing too innocuous here and facebook didn't object - yet. here's the comments which followed:
    I entered into a discussion about religion, something that along with politics is best for an author to avoid. However I've frequently discussed this with this Facebook user and we agree to disagree while remaining friends. Here was the killer follow-up though.
    ZAP - Facebook's algorithm kicked in and decided the meme of Hitler was hate speech. It removed the comment and gave me a three day ban on making further posts. Naturally I disagreed and made the appeal.

    Someone at Facebook looked at the offending comment and decided it had been mistakenly identified as hate speech. They apologised nicely and restored the comment.

    But here human error kicked in. Although they had restored my comment they forgot to remove the three day ban on posting which went with it awarded on 23rd December 2019. When I discovered this on Christmas eve I naturally clicked the 'This is a mistake' button.

    TOO LATE! The Christmas holiday had kicked in and my 'This is a mistake' didn't get attention.

    No big deal perhaps? Not to me. It meant I couldn't post to various author groups, especially author retweet groups, over Christmas and that will have cost me lost book sales.

    So let me reiterate that warning.

    Be careful what you post on social media - especially if you plan on promoting in the next few days.

    If this post has helped you  will you help me? Download a FREE copy of books 'Immortality Gene' from or/and Raging Storm
    Even if you never read them (but I hope you will) - it will help our rankings.

    Want to comment?
    Look - a FREE e-book

    Monday 4 November 2019

    Amazon - Should I choose the 35% or 70% royalty rate?

    There seems such an obvious answer here. If you are selling an ebook for $2.99 then the 35% royalty rate would be $1.04 and the 70% royalty would appear to give you twice that - $2.08

    Except it's not quite that simple because Amazon make a delivery charge if you use the 70% rate. They subtract that amount before calculating the 70% royalty.

    This delivery charge is based on file size and for a normal book, file size is something like 2 megabytes. The download charge for that would be about 30 cents. That means your 70% royalty rate would give you ($2.99 - $0.30) x 0.7 or $1.88

    But suppose you have a book with lots of images? Such a book could have a large download size.
    Here's a book like that:
    As you can see this book earns a higher royalty by selecting the 35% rate because you are not charged that delivery fee.

    So the answer to the question posed is really - Not always.

    Other retailers don't make this download charge. Most offer a 50% royalty and that can make a big difference if there is no download charge. Sixty percent of $2.99 is $1.74. That's much better than the $1.05 the above book would get at Amazon. best of the bunch appears to be Smashwords which offers up to 85% royalty rate.