Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Got a new e-reader? Here's where to get the free stuff at Amazon

Amazon don't always make it easy to find free books - and there are lots of them. To make it easy for you here are links to a number of free genres

Best Sellers in Action & Adventure Fiction

Best Sellers in Action Thriller Fiction

Best Sellers in Crime Action Fiction

Best Sellers in Fantasy Adventure Fiction

Best Sellers in Fantasy

Best Sellers in Genetic Engineering Science Fiction

Best Sellers in Historical Fiction

Best Sellers in Horror

Best Sellers in Humor & Satire Fiction

Best Sellers in Men's Adventure Fiction

Best Sellers in Mystery Action Fiction 

Best Sellers in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Action Fiction

Best Sellers in Paranormal Romance

Best Sellers in Romance

Best Sellers in Romantic Suspense

Best Sellers in Science Fiction

Best Sellers in Science Fiction Adventure

Best Sellers in Science Fiction & Fantasy

Best Sellers in Suspense Action Fiction

Best Sellers in Technothrillers

Enjoy your reading but remember that somewhere there's an author who devoted a lot of time to providing you with free entertainment. You can repay them by writing a review for those books you enjoy. You may have hated writing book reviews while you were at school but that's not the sort of review needed. Here's another link to a guide to writing book reviews.

One last link. You can get a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' at Amazon, Smashwords and elsewhere.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Getting Word to display odd pages on the right

Like most authors, I use Microsoft Word and rapidly discovered one of it's limitations. Word insists on starting any new document on a left hand page in a two page layout. There is nothing you can do to change this. Microsoft tell us that Word isn't a publishing program and apparently expect us to import Word documents into a program such as Publisher before printing. Now that, for us authors, is the last thing we want. We want a single program on which to create our work and format it for printing. Word can be made to do it - almost.

So this is how to set up Word 2010/2007 to produce a layout suitable for self publishing through Amazon's Create Space publishing or Lulu.

First. If you have an existing correctly formatted document then create a new document using that existing document. It will be a lot quicker.
In Word 2010 the procedure is File → New → New from Existing

If you do not have a document to copy then you'll need to create one as follows. To illustrate it, I've used examples from our book 'Immortality Gene':

  1. In Word choose File → New → Blank document

  2. Select 'Print Layout' view

  3. From the Page layout tab select in the Page setup group the 'Size' button and then at the bottom of the dropdown 'More Page Sizes'

  4. Using the 'Paper' tab, select what size pages your book will have. I use a custom size of 13.33 x 20.32 cm (5.25 x 8 inches) which is one of the standard book sizes. Your self publishing firm will tell you what standard sizes are available. I suggest you take a trip to your local library or bookstore and measure a few books too.

  5. Still in the 'Page Setup' window, 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 1.0 cm; gutter of 0.95 cm; Gutter position Left (greyed out); Portrait; Multiple pages should Mirror margins; Apply to Whole document. This setup is good for a book of up to 600 pages. If you have less than 400 pages you can reduce the gutter and if you have more than 600 pages you'll need to increase the gutter. For those who don't know 'gutter' is a printer's term for extra space added to the fold of a book which allows text to be read easier.
  6. Still in the 'Page Setup' window, on the 'Layout' tab select Section start New Page; 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; Under Page select vertical alignment Top. Then click OK.
  7. Turn on the ruler and set it as shown in the image above with no indents.
  8. Double click the page area where the header would be (i.e. above where the cursor is currently flashing)
  9. Check 'Different Odd & Even Pages'. You should now see 'Odd Page Header' at the header and 'Odd Page Footer' at the footer.
  10. Close the Header and Footer view
  11. A little down the page type in CAPITALS your book title and center it. (This is NOT your main Title Page)
  12. Insert TWO page beaks . If you are looking at the document in Print Layout view, two pages per screen your first page will appear on the left
  13. The next page will be your main title page where you put the title, the author. I also add at the bottom the location and year of writing. Format this page as you wish it.At the end of the page insert a Page break.
  14. Your next page will be a copyright page and if you have one, put your ISBN/EAN number here. Example text - customise and space appropriately:

    John and Sheila Chapman have asserted 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 © 2010 John & Shelia Chapman

    All rights reserved under International and Pan-American

    Copyright Conventions.

    ISBN 1-456-30018-0

    EAN-13 9781456300180

    Add a page break at the end of this.

  15. Your next page will contain any acknowledgments you wish to make or will be blank. Add a Page break then a Section Break (Odd page) at this point.
    The 'Section Break (Odd Page)' is the crucial step!
    Note - Inserting a section break (any type) will add a little extra space before the next heading - this is normal practice. Subsequent headings won't have this extra space.

  16. You are now ready to start the text of your book, to reset the ruler, to add a page header and a footer with page number 1. If your book has contents pages add them at this point. Contents pages should always be an even number of pages so add a page break if needed then a 'Section Break (odd page)' so that Chapter 1 of your book always appears on a right hand page.
  17. 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. Center it.
  18. 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' (Right click the number to find 'Format Page Numbers...').
  19. In the Navigation section of the Header & Footer toolbar click 'Next'.
  20. In the Navigation section of the Header & Footer toolbar again make sure 'Link to Previous' is NOT selected.
  21. In the Header add in capitals the author's name and center it. In the footer section again make sure 'Link to Previous' is NOT selected and add a centered page number at the bottom. Select and right click the number and choose Format Page Number. It should be set at 'Start at 1'. The actual page will show page 2.

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 80,000 words though you might like to insert a 'Section break (odd Page)' rather than a standard 'Page Break' to force this.

A word of warning about something which MS Word gets wrong and which can cause problems with CreateSpace. Word allows italic text to overflow slightly into the gutter and CreateSpace will reject this.
To solve this problem, which only occurs if you use italics in your text, reset the style so that the text is indented 1mm

If this post has helped or entertained, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from http://smarturl.it/avi
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
Look - a FREE e-book

Monday, 7 October 2013

Twitter for Authors

Every indie author needs a Twitter account. It's a vital tool for promoting your books. When you first use it though it seems a little pointless. Many people start an account and then drift away because they just don't know what's going on. I wrote this author's guide to Twitter as part of my book 'A Guide to Getting Published'.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is like mini-blogging. In a blog you are not limited in length. On Twitter you are allowed just 140 characters – including spaces and punctuation. You need to build a Twitter following. When you start using Twitter it will invite you to add those people who have Twitter accounts on your email contact list and those on your friend list at other social media sites. It will also invite you to follow the accounts of celebrities. You don’t have to know the ‘Tweep’ as they are called. Just start with your email and other ‘friends’ and see what they are posting on Twitter.

The image above shows a typical tweet. The original tweet has been re-tweeted twice. As far as authors are concerned this is the power of Twitter. A post can be tweeted and quickly go viral if it strikes the right chord.
You can get Twitter account at http://twitter.com. It’s possible to sign up for more than one account but you will need a unique email address for each. There’s also an app available for smartphones, Android tablets (including the Kindle Fire HD) and iPads. These apps are free.
So how does one start? The answer is first to build up a following. There’s a useful application which will help you do this – Crowdfire (formerly JustUnfollow). Find it at https://www.crowdfireapp.com/. Although its old name suggests it is a tool for getting rid of followers, it’s far more useful for finding new people to follow. Crowdfire has a web page that you can use with a desktop computer but also has a mobile app which can be put on a smartphone or Android tablet from the Google Play Store. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available at the Amazon App Store. 

Don’t get suckered into buying followers! A word of warning – there are many webpages which claim you can buy followers by the thousand. Doing this is against Twitter’s user policy and most of these ‘followers’ will be useless to you.

Who not to follow

I suggest you don’t follow:
·         People who have not tweeted for more than two months.
·         People who only tweet quotes.
·         People who never re-tweet others.
·         People who only tweet links to things to buy.
·         People who post only pictures.
·         People who never respond to others – look for tweets starting @....
·         People who don’t have a profile picture.
·         People whose tweets always start with “I….”
·         People who don’t appear to speak your language.
·         People who follow very few people compared with their number of followers. Follow these only if they interest you. There is a sneaky trick you can use here though.
Note - for every one of these guidelines there is an exception that says ‘…unless they are really interesting.’

Who to follow

Look for people who are active on Twitter. Try to gather followers interested in what your book is about. Find people who read and especially people who review the books they have read.
By all means follow me - @JChapmanAuthor but I suggest you don’t until you follow at least 200-400 other people. I tweet an awful lot and don’t want to monopolise your Twitter feed
If you follow John Locke’s promotion system beware of acquiring a following which consists purely of authors. Try to get a varied audience. Authors do buy books though and they will help you by re-tweeting your posts and coming up with good ideas. Help them back! It pays.
A process I’ve found useful in finding Tweeps (The name of Twitter users) is to look at the ‘follower’ list of others. You can do that using an application such as JustUnfollow or do it directly by selecting the followers of someone from their profile page. To get to someone’s profile page just click their Twitter handle – the bit starting @.... At the top left you’ll find a link ‘Followers’. Click that to get a list of them. In the image below I show doing that with one of the people I follow – Karin Cox (@Authorandeditor). Karin’s tweets show she thinks in the same way as I do and I’m pretty sure that people who follow her will be worth investigating.
You can also check the list of people a Twitter friend follows. That’s not possible in JustUnfollow though.
Whichever system you use I suggest you don’t try to follow more than 125 people in one go. Even then it’s wise to spread that over several hours. Twitter may think you are spamming and freeze your account for a while.
Click the Twitter name of each and check the posts in their profile. Don’t follow blindly! Use that list of who not to follow above as a guide for weeding out people who won’t be of use to you. Aim to add 25 people to your ‘Following’ list each day Spend a few minutes scanning through posts each day and check out the tweets of those who follow you. Keep this up until you are following 2,000 Tweeps. At this point a Twitter limit will kick in and you’ll find you can’t add more to your ‘following’ list. To add more you’ll need to have a 90% followers to following ratio. If you want to have that 2,001st person you must be followed by 1,801 people. To follow 3,000 people you must be followed by 2,700 people. At this point Crowdfire will really become your friend.

What to tweet

Tweet a variety of items. Read the tweets of those you follow, respond or re-tweet those which strike a chord with you, browse the web and tweet pages you find of interest. There’s a useful browser extension you can get - Buffer at http://bufferapp.com which will help you do that. (You can find more information on Buffer and its alternative, HootSuite online.) Read the news; post interesting items and make meaningful comments. If you find an interesting or funny quote then by all means post it - just not endless quotations. Use Twitter to point people to your blog and website.
Place advertisements for your book in posts but do so very sparingly. You should not make more than 15% of your posts links to your books. Never make ‘Buy my book’ posts. Instead post ‘I came across this while I was researching my book…’, ‘I wrote about this in…’ or links to blog articles with subtle book references. Ask questions - ‘Want a #free #technothriller? ….’

Twitter – a snapshot in time

Whenever you go to Twitter you’ll see a snapshot of recent tweets. As the number of people you follow grows that snapshot becomes a tiny window through which you look at a huge panorama. When you are following a thousand Tweeps there will be new posts every few seconds. You will not see the vast majority of the tweets people you follow post. Neither will your followers see most of your tweets unless you put their twitter username in the post. My friend Aaron Hatman - @aaronhatman probably won’t see a post like this:
‘New topless Rhianna picture! pic.twitter.com/bAZLbuKL (pic)’ (For those of you who are shocked – it’s not quite what you think).
Aaron would see it if it was posted as ‘@aaronhatman - New topless Rhianna picture! pic.twitter.com/bAZLbuKL (pic)’. Even if Aaron is not using Twitter when the post is made he will see it when he clicks ‘@ Connect’ on the Twitter toolbar
Not only will Aaron see the post but it will also appear on the Twitter feed of anyone who follows Aaron and that’s useful! (Dirty Twitter trick coming up) If you want all your followers to see the tweet start it with '.@'.

Twitter Spamming

Some Twitter users set out to build a huge Twitter following by following everyone they come across, waiting a few days and un-following all those who have not followed them back. If they run out of follow rights then they make space by un-following even those who have followed back. These people just want followers – they are not interested in taking part in conversations. Once they have built up thousands of followers they will usually start posting nothing but adverts – Twitter spamming. If you identify such a person is now following you. Don’t follow them back – respond to their following message with a message such as
‘Thanks for the follow @selfishtweep. Check out my pyramid #technothriller Stones,Stars & Solutions http://amzn.to/16osMxN
Not only will this appear on their feed but it will also appear on the feeds of all those who have been silly enough to follow @selfishtweep.

Making your tweets work for you

An average Tweep won’t spend long on Twitter each day so the chances of them seeing your post are small but there are several things you can do to increase the odds.
1.       Tweet more often. Professional marketers make posts up to six times an hour 24/7. Of course that’s quite impossible to do if you also want to write books, sleep, eat and enjoy life. The answer is to use an automatic tweeting service such as Buffer or HootSuite to tweet on your behalf.
2.       Use hashtags to make your tweets more discoverable. I used the hashtag #technothriller in my post above. Hashtags are keywords used by groups of Tweeps. They can be normal words or a collection of symbols. Try to use two hashtags. That gets you 21% more attention. Using more than three has the opposite effect. If you must use three then put two together and the third as far away from them as possible. Don’t start your tweet with a hashtag.
3.       Try to keep your tweets to less than 120 characters. Shorter tweets draw more attention
4.       Re-tweet the posts of other authors. They often respond by re-tweeting your posts. There are Twitter groups which you can join which do this. Find them on Facebook or at Goodreads. One such group is ASMSG – Author’s Social Media Support Group (http://on.fb.me/18KucG0)
5.       We are told Twitter works best at the weekend. I’ve found that to be true. You can check this for yourself after you’ve been on Twitter a while by getting a Tweriod report (http://www.tweriod.com/) which will tell you the best times to tweet.

Helpful websites for Twitter are:

Happy tweeting... and if you can think of anything I've left out which may be of use to authors... why not add it in the comments below?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Re-tweet those who re-tweet you

Do you as an author help people who help you? I do. I keep track of those who help me and make darn sure I help them. Here's how I do it.

Keep an eye out for those who re-tweet posts useful to you. Those tweets you make which lead to your books in some way. Pick out and re-tweet posts they make which will help them – you owe these people and you’ll want them to continue to support you.
Here’s how I keep track of this – I use the Thunderbird email client (It’s free) However most email clients will allow you to do this so you don't have to use Thunderbird.

How to keep track

Every time someone re-tweets you Twitter will send you an email (if you have not turned this off in settings). I set up an email filter to collect all these tweets in a separate folder.
Periodically I step through the emails in that folder and pick out those tweets which mention my books or blog posts and add a star to them.
Want to see my post about the Last Supper painting? Just click.
I don’t add a star to those re-tweets which won’t help my book promotion. For example news items I tweet or quotes.

Use #FF Follow Friday

On a Friday I then sort my folder of re-tweets first by sender’s name and then by star by clicking the column headings. This sorts everything and I can easily see who has helped me the most. At the time I wrote this here are my top Tweeps who re-tweet my promotional tweets the most.
Click to go to Niki Savage's Twitter page
Of course I make sure to repay the favour and these people are the ones I add to my tweet list for regular re-posts.
Of course that’s not to say I’m not grateful for all the other re-tweets since anyone re-tweeting my posts helps grow my following. I often re-tweet other people's posts like that which I have found entertaining. Sometimes I'll add those too to my tweet list.

Does this seem a little calculating? Perhaps not in the spirit of social media? Perhaps, but if I don't do everything I can to promote our books then they'll remain unknown, no matter how good they are. If that means I must help others because of profit rather than altruism then so be it. .oO(...but it does make me feel good to help others where I can.)

What do you think? Is preferential  re-tweeting the promotion of those who help you being too mercenary?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Taking advantage of spammers on Twitter

I really hate spam and when I get spamish followers on Twitter I don't follow back. Can you make use of them though? Yes you can. Here's an extract from a guide I'm working on:

How Twitter posts work

Whenever you go to Twitter you see a snapshot of recent tweets. As the number of people you follow grows that snapshot becomes a tiny window through which you look at a huge panorama. You will not see the vast majority of the tweets people you follow post. Neither will your followers see most of your tweets unless you put their twitter username in the post. 
My Twitter friend Aaron Hatman - @aaronhatman probably won’t see a post like this:
‘New topless Rhianna picture! pic.twitter.com/bAZLbuKL (pic)’
 (For those of you who are shocked – it’s not quite what you think).
Aaron would see it if it was posted as:
 ‘@aaronhatman New topless Rhianna picture! pic.twitter.com/bAZLbuKL (pic)’
 Even if Aaron is not using Twitter when the post is made he will see it when he clicks ‘@Connect’ on the Twitter toolbar.

Not only will Aaron see the post but it will also appear on the Twitter feed of anyone who follows Aaron and that’s useful! (Dirty Twitter trick coming up)

Twitter Spammers

Some Twitter users set out to build a huge Twitter following by following everyone they come across, waiting a few days and un-following all those who have not followed them back. If they run out of follow rights then they make space by un-following even those who have followed back. These people just want followers – they are not interested in taking part in conversations in the Twitter community. Once they have built up thousands of followers they will usually start posting nothing but links to products for sale – Twitter spamming. 

Dirty Twitter Trick

If you identify such a person is now following you - let's say their Twitter handle is @selfishtweep - don’t follow them back – respond to their following message with a message such as:
‘Thanks for the follow @selfishtweep. Check out my pyramid #technothriller
Stones,Stars & Solutions http://amzn.to/16osMxN

Not only will this appear on their feed but it will also appear on your feed as an 'un-spamish' post and the feeds of all those who search for @selfishtweep. 

Now the question is 'Is this ethical or am I adding to Twitter spam?' What do you think?

Monday, 29 July 2013

The BEST time to download a FREE ebook?

The last 3 days of the month and very beginning of the next month are for some reason a poor time for people to buy ebooks. Could that be because people are waiting to be paid at the end of the month and busy paying bills at the month start? If that's the case then the end of a month would be the best time to give away books.

So here's my contribution to help you out, Here's a free Top 20 ebook so you don't have to stop reading  
http://smarturl.it/avi (If you read on an iWhatever try http://smarturl.it/iavi) That's it at the bottom of this page.

There are loads of other free ebooks available - Here's the Amazon links to find them:

NOW is a GOOD time to get FREE ebooks.

Why would an author give away a book?

  • Book 1 in a series is often given away - the author hopes you will like it and go on to buy the rest of the series (That's my free series book 1 ebook below) 
  • New authors need to get their name out there. They hope you will talk about the book to your friends and maybe write a review?
  • Free books are by far the most popular on Internet. Each one downloaded raises the book's standing in the popularity lists and that makes it more visible, even when it isn't free.
Of course this all assumes people are struggling for money at the end of the month. That's not true for everyone. It may be that as well as giving away free books you should also offer your most expensive books. What do you think?

About the book: If someone told you that the Earth would be destroyed by collision with a rogue planetoid in the year 7141 you would not be very concerned. 'I'll be dead then - the people alive then can sort out the problem' you would think. Our children would think the same, and their children, and... so on. There would come a time though when those alive in the year 7000 would find it's too late to do anything about it.

Enter Sir Richard Triplet into the equation. He has a plan and he's started work on it already in secret. One of his key elements is to start research into greatly extending human lifespan. After all - if you were to become immortal would you feel that planetoid problem is a little more urgent?

Immortality Gene is the first book in a series. It's based on technology which is beginning to be available now. Book one of the 'A Vested Interest' series is free and covers the development of a virus which 'infects' everyone with immortality. Along the way it deals with corporate jealousy at the highest levels, greed, spite, vengeance, conspiracy, advanced technology, medicine, love and betrayal, and, of course, the very essence of life itself.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Is there a best time or date to promote your books?

For the last six months I've been monitoring ebook sales statistics by the hour and believe I now have enough data to draw some conclusions. Take a look at this chart:
What's immediately apparent is sales at the end and beginning of the month are either low or non-existent. Granted this only covers the first 6 months of this year but I perceive a pattern! Why would this happen? Could it be that my readers run out of money at the end of a month and probably pay most of their bills on the first day of each month? If that's the case then giving away free books then should be a good idea.

Let's zoom in and see what a day of the week chart looks like:
There isn't a vast difference but it seems weekends are the best time to sell books and Thursday is a quiet day.

Let's zoom in further and look at the hours of the day. I'm based in the UK so I've used UTC time:
Now remember this represents total sales over six months. I don't sell 80 books an hour! (yet?)
It would seem there are good and bad times to promote.
12:00 am (midnight) UTC means: In the UK people may be reading in bed, In the US they are getting home from work, In Australia and New Zealand it's lunchtime
5:00 pm UTC means: many people in the UK will be commuting home; The US is just staring lunch; Australia is asleep and New Zealand just about to wake up.
At the other end  2:00 am UTC: The UK is asleep apart from the person who read all 9 of our A Vested Interest series (1.2 million words) in a 4 day marathon; The US is travelling home from work; Australia is busy working and New Zealand has just finished lunch.
It does seem that 2:00 am and 7:00 am UTC are not the best times to schedule Tweets but not promoting then will mean you miss some sales.

What about weekends - Do you get different results?

 Pretty much the same apart from 3:00 pm UTC when the UK and US are at work weekdays, Australia is going to bed and New Zealand is fast asleep. It seems weekdays at 3:00 pm is the worst time to promote.

Where and how did I get this data? I subscribe to http://www.novelrank.com This is a free service which will track book sales. I registered all my books and subscribed to their RSS feed. Each time a book is sold I get an email message with the details something like:
"Dark Secrets (A Vested Interest)" by Shelia Chapman, John Chapman (Kindle Edition) has sold 1 book on Amazon.co.uk on Monday, Jul 1, 2013 at 3am (GMT) Western Europe Time, London, Lisbon, Casablanca.
It has jumped to a new Amazon SalesRank of 21,492 from a previous SalesRank of 41,322.    
I took all these emails for the last 6 months and tweeked them to fit a spreadsheet.

If you do this your results won't be exactly the same of course. We write a series and give away the first book free. I think it takes the average reader 10-20 days to read the first free book - at least, when we do a promotion, that's how long it takes for the second book's sales to start rising.

We sell more books than the average indie author but still not an astonishing number - not enough to live on. To get a more accurate picture we should compare our results with a few moderate sellers and a few top 100 indie authors. That would be possible since you can track other author's sales too. I just don't have the time though. Anyone want to help?

Monday, 24 June 2013

Ready to create an ebook? Check again.

Making your ebook Word file

If you thought you were ready to start making an ebook, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Word makes a horrible mess of its files which may look fine but will totally confuse ebook conversion programs. Before you can make an ebook you’ll have to correct this. The method I use works for Amazon and Smashwords. The first step is to clean up the styles used.
Stage 1 in creating your file should be to remove all the hidden data and personal information in Word documents.
Make a copy of your document and remove the unwanted stuff from the copy. To do this in Word 2007+, use the Document Inspector.

 1. Open the Word document copy that you want to inspect for hidden data and personal information.
2. In the copy, click the ‘File’ tab, and then click ‘Info’.
3. Under ‘Prepare for Sharing’, click ‘Check for Issues’, and then click ‘Inspect Document’.
4. In the Document Inspector dialog box, select everything found
5. Click ‘Inspect’.
6. Review the results of the inspection in the Document Inspector dialog box and click each of the ‘Remove All’ buttons.
7. Save your document.
Stage 2 is to make sure your document offers the minimal styles favoured by ebooks. These are the styles I use for a novel:
Normal - Font: (Default) Garamond, 11 pt,
Indent: First line:  0.5 cm,
Line spacing: single,
Widow/Orphan control,
Style: Quick Style
No Indent - Indent: First line: 0.01 cm,
Style: Linked, Quick Style.
Based on: Normal.
Following style: Normal
Heading 1 - Font: Cambria, 12 pt, Bold, Font color: Black, Indent: First line: 0 cm, Centered,
Space Before: 18 pt, After: 12 pt,
Level 1, Style: Linked, Quick Style, Priority: 10
Based on: Normal
Following style: No Indent
Separator Centered,
Style: Linked, Quick Style
Based on: Normal
Following style: No Indent

For a non-fiction book such as this one I also use:
Heading 2 - Font: Cambria, 11 pt, Bold, Font color: Black, Indent: First line: 0 cm,
Space Before: 16 pt, After: 11 pt,
Level 2, Style: Linked, Quick Style, Priority: 10
Based on: Normal
Following style: No Indent
Heading 3 - Font: Cambria, 11 pt, Bold, Font color: Black, Indent: First line: 0 cm,
Space Before: 14 pt, After: 11 pt,
Level 3, Style: Linked, Quick Style, Priority: 10
Based on: Normal
Following style: No Indent

Stage 3 is to remove the unnecessary styles. Word has a nasty habit of using lots of styles which seem identical but will stop your ebook formatting properly. There are three methods of correcting this. You can either remove all formatting, then apply just the styles you want (what Smashwords calls the nuclear method) or you can go into Word, select each style in the document and remove that style if it’s unused or change the style to one of a restricted selection. Finally you can remove unnecessary styles after you have created an epub file by using the Calibre editor.
Use the first method if you have only used a single style in your book. Use the second method if your document is more complex like this one. Use the third method to 'fix it later' if you've already created an epub file or submitted a document to Smashwords and it refuses to go through 'Meatgrinder' or pass epubcheck.
Smashwords Nuclear method: Open your file in Word, select all the text (Ctrl A), copy it (Ctrl C) and paste it (Ctrl V) into a text editor such as Windows Notepad. Close and then reopen Microsoft Word to a fresh new Word document, then copy and paste the book from Notepad back into Word. You can then re-apply the minimal necessary styles.
The Style removal method: This method is much more complex but might be preferable if you have used bold text, italic text or have a large document. In our novels we use italic text for thoughts, stressed spoken words and for the remote side of telephone conversations.

1. Click the Styles menu button – the tiny icon at the bottom right of styles section on Home ribbon.
2. Click the ‘Options…’ link at the bottom right of the ‘Styles’ window.
3. Set 'Select styles to show’ to ‘In use’.
4. Right click each style you DON’T want and select ‘Select all X’. Word will select all text which uses that style and you can now select the appropriate style from the minimal styles you wish to use.
Getting rid of unwanted styles

5. Reselect the style and delete it once nothing is using it.
Save your document.
The 'fix it later in Calibre' method. If you've come here to find out how to fix a document which simply refuses to go smoothly through Smashwords Meatgrinder and Epubcheck this is what to do first:
  1. Add your Word document or Epub file to Calibre.
  2. Add the cover and Meta information if you have not already done so.
  3. Add a table of contents if you have not already done so.
  4. Create or re-create an epub file
  5. Right click the document in Calibre and select 'Edit Book'.
  6. From the 'Tools' menu select 'Remove unused CSS rules'. You'll probably find it useful to then select 'Fix HTML - all files' also.
  7. Save your document.

Stage 4. Create the front content of your book.
On separate pages create the following at the beginning of your book. Some are optional:
1.       Title page – Remember the maximum font size used here should not exceed 16 pt and you should not use four or more consecutive new lines.

2.       Copyright notice – Follow the format used in this example from the book ‘A Vested Interest’ I co-author: The bits you need to alter are in square brackets.

[John & Shelia Chapman] have asserted [their] right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author[s] 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 © [2014 John & Shelia Chapman]
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American
Copyright Conventions.

3.       Dedication (optional)
4.       List of figures (optional)
5.       Foreword (optional)
6.       Preface/Introduction (optional)
7.       Acknowledgments (optional)
8.       Prologue(optional and probably undesirable)
9.       Table of contents (Probably desirable in non-fiction but optional in fiction)
10.    Main body – Your book text
11.    Back matter (optional but desirable, see ‘Promotion’)

Note. An ebook may contain two table of contents. One visible at the front of a book and one not normally seen unless called up from the menu in an e-reader. This latter type has to be present in ebooks. The easiest way to create it is to use calibre.

Done all that? Use ‘Save as…’ to save your document as a Word 97-2003 document (*.doc) file if you want to publish on Smashwords or as a docx file if you want to send it to Calibre to create an epub file for KDP. Hint - don't use any spaces in the filename! It will save you a lot of problems later.

Now you’re ready to create an ebook!
If this post has helped, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from http://smarturl.it/avi
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
Look - a FREE e-book

Saturday, 1 June 2013

My Take on Mark Coker (Smashwords) Indie Author Survey

Mark Coker of Smashwords

Smashwords Survey 2013 findings

I'm hugely gratified by the results of Mark Cocker's recent survey results on indie author publishing. It reflects conclusions Shelia and I have already arrived at and put in place with our 'A Vested Interest' book series. Here's Mark's main findings:

  • Longer Books Sell Better
  • Shorter Book Titles Appear to Have Slight Sales Advantage
  • $2.99 is the Most Common Price but $3.99 is the Price Sweet Spot
  • Giving away a Free Book 1 in a Series is Effective 

So how does that fit in with our books?

Book length -  It seems that in the past readers were reluctant to buy a really thick book since it was heavy to hold and difficult to carry around. With the advent of ereaders though this size and weight restriction has been removed and readers are happy to buy a longer book. Presumably people see it as value for money. I know I feel cheated if I buy a book which turns out to be 30,000 words or less - no matter how good it is. Amazon often give a page count but in practice it's often unreliable. Today, before I buy an ebook I download the sample or look at the preview. It represents 10% of the book so if it's short - expect a short book.

We currently have nine books available in our series. Here they are with their word counts:
A Vested Interest - 265,708 words
Dark Secrets - 135,542 words
No Secrets - 98,918 words
Stones, Stars and Solutions - 144,964 words
Leap of Faith - 93,053 words
Regret and Retribution - 102,770 words
Consequences - 98,998 words
Ashes to Ashes - 137,740 words
Blood of the Rainbow - 167,526 words

As you can see all of our books are longer than the former 80,000 word 'standard' length.

Book titles - According to Smashwords survey the average word length of the top selling ebooks was 4.2 words or specifically 25.2 characters long. This seems to make some sense. A shorter title is easier to remember. In fact I can only think of one long title I remember and I remembered that one because it was so long - a track on Pink Floyd's Ummaguma album - 'Several species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a pict.'

We chose shorter book titles the shortest being 'No Secrets' and the longest being 'Stones, Stars and Solutions'. Our titles average 2.8 words, 16.3 characters.

Book Price - Some time ago I came across a complicated formula which attempted to back engineer the Amazon book rank formula. One of the factors it included was the price Amazon perceived as the book's 'normal' price. In most cases that was the price the book was initially sold for. Now it just so happened that I had two books which had sold about the same numbers and were released at about the same time but were different prices $2.99 and $3.99. The $3.99 book had a much higher rank! It makes sense I suppose for Amazon to rank books at higher price better than those at lower price - it will after all, make them more profit.

It seems to me that $2.99 is not the best price even though lower prices tend to lead to increased sales. Mark Coker's survey tends to confirm that the best price for an author's book is $3.00 to $3.99 rather than the most common $2.99. It seems that most authors are charging about one cent per 300 words.

And our books? Ours average $3.95 with the most expensive being Stones, Stars and Solutions at $5.01 and the least expensive being No Secrets, our shortest book. Dark Secrets, book 2 in our series, is probably under-priced at 0.75 cents per 300 words.

Giving away a free book - Back in April 2012 we joined Kindle Select and gave away free copies of our series book 1, A Vested Interest. The response was incredible with over 2,000 copies being downloaded in the three days it was free. Ten days later sales of our other books took off and by the end of the month we had sold eight times as many books as we sold in the previous two years! Why the ten day lag? That's the time an average reader took to read it.

It was clear to us that giving away book one of our series worked as a method of boosting sales. For every 16 books we gave away we could pretty well bank on someone buying more of the series.

The trouble was that after that three day period sales steadily decreased and we used the remaining two days we had for freebies to boost things again. It helped only slightly because half way through April Amazon changed it's system of book ranking so that free downloads no longer counted with paid sales when working out book ranks. The solution was to withdraw our books from Kindle Select and publish them at Smashwords where we could make book one free all the time. It took a while for Amazon to price match but now book one - A Vested Interest is free all the time at Amazon.com and free most of the time at Amazon.co.uk. In total we've now given away (as of 1st June 2013) 18,128 free copies of A Vested Interest and are convinced the policy works for a book series.

You can read the full Smashwords 2013 survey at http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html If you're an author - you should read it.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Creating Book Covers - 1

If you search the Internet you'll find lots of advice on how to write and also lots about how to get published. Up to now the route has always been:
  • write the book
  • edit it
  • submit it to an agent
    • get rejected
    • submit to another agent
    • get rejected
    • revise the book
    • repeat 'submit to an agent
  • Either give up or self publish or, if you are one of the lucky few, negotiate a contract
  • Agent submits to a publisher.... and so on
Now however E-books have made it possible for many new authors to publish work that would otherwise end in agents and publisher's slush piles. You can test the water by releasing your book as an e-book, publicize it yourself (For how to do that read John Locke's excellent book 'How I Sold 1 Million... ') and then, if there's a demand, produce a paper copy. I wrote an e-book on the process of producing both the paper copy and the e-book version. You can either buy it at Amazon or get it free here.

Somewhere along the line though you'll need a book cover and there the advice stops. Granted there are websites which offer template solutions but most of them leave a lot to be desired and frankly - a book is judged by it's cover.

We've written and published five books so far in our A Vested Interest series and in the hope that our experience will help, here's what was involved in designing the covers. In a future blog post I'll cover the technical side of creating the covers.

We wanted the cover of this book to reflect what the story was about so we had to include:
  • DNA to indicate this was about medical science
  • A semi-transparent mechanical bug to show that technology was involved
  • A castle to represent the location Langston Castle in the book and to show there was a bit of history involved
  • An old mine tunnel to represent the secret underground base
Now Shelia and I are not bad at using graphics programs - we picked up that skill when we spent three years as illegal immigrants in Canada, supporting ourselves by building websites. So we took some pictures using a very basic digital camera and started putting together a cover. The actual process I will detail later but here's the result:
The original background image was a picture I took of Blackett Level near Allendale, Northumberland. It was a little overpowering so I faded it out by putting a semi-transparent white layer over the top. Into that I merged a picture I took of Langley Castle and that DNA picture. The 'bug' was inspired by those in the film 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'. On the e-book copy we moved that to the other side. Later we added the Triplet family coat of arms to help identify the book as part of a series. Now this cover is  in the 'It's OK' class. and after a year we decided it needed re-working. At the same time we took the opportunity to change the title to give readers a better idea of what to expect. The main theme of the book is the development of a genetic 'fix' which allows mankind a much longer lifespan. That being the first step in taking humanity to the stars. We kept the original title as the book series title and changed the title to Immortality Gene. Here's the second version of the cover:

The plot of this book involved an unpleasant secret buried in the family for almost a thousand years. The secret was revealed in an old diary. To reflect this we created a cover looking like an old book and featuring the coat of arms of the Triplet family. The old book was to be dark colored to reflect the title but when we got the first proof back from the publishers it was almost black. The final version was a lot lighter. For the old book I scanned an old copy I have of Uncle Tom's Cabin and then removed the text. With the aid of my son Adam we created a 'coat of arms' and then turned it and the book cover text gold.

On this one we didn't put the coat of arms on the spine since it was already on the front cover and the spine is much narrower.

Book 3 - No Secrets
No Secrets was very much a continuation of Dark Secrets so we decided to use the same layout. Obviously we couldn't use the same image on the front so chose a Celtic knot instead, symbolizing eternity. Of all the covers it's the one we are least happy with and it may change.

Book 4 - Stones, Stars and Solutions
In this book the Triplets travel the world visiting pyramids and other locations while following clues left in an ancient document. One of the locations is Death Valley, another is the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico. We started with a black and white picture of Death Valley which we colored dark blue. To that we added the pyramid viewed through a 'window' on the front cover and framed in vegetation from the jungle in Mexico. On the back we added our idea of the power mechanism revealed at the end of the book.
People liked this cover so much they asked if they could use it as a screen background. We obliged with a version without the text, coat of arms or vegetation. Find it here.

Book 5 - Leap of Faith
In this book there's a location Spirit Canyon in Arkansas. It was one of the places mentioned in Stones, Stars and Solutions and also appeared in No Secrets. Spirit Canyon features a stone cabin which you can only get to through a cave and a waterfall. We wanted to show this place on the cover. The problem is that though we know it's location, the actual place doesn't exist so we had to make it with bits and pieces of other pictures.
For a book cover you need high resolution pictures because the file you send to a printer is 5,700 by 3,900 pixels in size although the image I need is 3,510 by 2470 pixels. I start with a template document from the printer. It's actual size depends on the size and thickness of the book. If you use CreateSpace as your publisher this template is worked out for you when you upload the book contents. It can be a little difficult to find but it's there.

Here's what we started with:

  • a picture of a log cabin in Texas
  • A cave in Arkansas
  • A woodland picture in Arkansas
  • A stone cottage near where we lived
  • A picture taken inside the old lead mine at Swinhope Moor, England
  • a blue eye

   ...and here's what we ended up with
In case you wonder, here's where the joins are...

Now this picture is a little busy for a book cover and it's not perfect. I chose to add text with a semi transparent background to hide the imperfections.

Making a cover like this isn't hard. You just need a computer with lots of memory and a decent painting application which can use layers, masks, feathering and  b├ęzier text. The industry standard program is PhotoShop, but there are others such as Corel PaintShop Pro or The Gimp which can do the job and are much less expensive. There are lots of tutorials available on the web explaining exactly how to merge images so I don't plan on explaining this here.

 I'm still not happy with the front and spine text on the cover since although it's fine on a printed book it fails to stand out in the smaller versions used for e-books and at Amazon. The spine text could be made clearer by turning it through 90 degrees but I, for one, hate having to turn my head sideways to read the text on book spines. I'm also a little dubious of the base of the stone cabin which doesn't quite fit on the ground correctly. I probably need to add some weeds here to cover the join.

What's wrong with this cover?
  • It's too busy
  • The text fails to stand out against the background
  • The author names are too small. At Amazon's thumbnail size they are unreadable.
This one desperately needed a new cover. My son Adam worked on it and produced a new image for it which I cloned sideways to make it wider and then added text to it. Here's the new cover:
The cover shows the moment when Kate and her five year old son Tom take the 'Leap of Faith' from which the book get's its name. Now tell me, what emotion do you think Tom is feeling?

Regret and Retribution

We've now added an additional book 'Regret and Retribution'. In this book some of the action occurs on the top of a mountain in Arizona where the characters come under attack by a hostile alien. Fortunately, the alien  takes human or animal form, so I didn't have to come up with what he/she looks like. I used a modified sky scene from Death valley (used already in Stones, Stars and Solutions) and to that added a mountain top scene. The actual mountain used was Helvellyn, a mountain of England's Lake District. In fact I used it twice, once in the background and again, mirrored and stretched in the foreground. On the rear mountain I superimposed a modified picture of  a galaxy. The whole thing was darkened and a faint blue glow was added at the edge of the foreground mountain.. Finally I added the cover text. The trick here is to make sure that it's readable even at a thumbnail size used on Amazon's website. Here's the result:


Consequences was released at the end of July 2012. It's cover shows a moment when Donna was released from a 'mindstorm'. It's dusk, raining hard and misty. The helicopter searching for her is driving the rain and Donna holds her hair to prevent it lashing her eyes. She spots something on the ground and reaches for it. We used the same mountain top but added storm clouds. The figure of the woman caused a few problems, it's actually made up of four different images. She's making an unusual movement - reaching with her left arm over her right knee. I would have swapped arms but Shelia, who has long hair, told me 'Once you have your wet hair in a strong wind under control, you don't risk letting go.'

Ashes to Ashes

Here's our most recent book cover for 'Ashes to Ashes'. We start this book with the aftermath of an alien possessed woman running wild in the mine complex. Death plays a big part in this book at it's beginning and that is reflected in it's cover. I think, with practice I'm getting better at doing these covers and this one is very effective both on a paper book and as an ebook, even when shown as a tiny thumbnail. What do you think?
Here's just the front of the book: