Saturday, 6 December 2014

How to save a life with a comma - "Let's eat Grandma" or "Let's eat, Grandma"

When you are writing, your word processor highlights and often auto-corrects many of your mistakes. As a second line of defense/defence, (US/UK English is worth a whole new blog,) many authors use a grammar checking service such as, ginger or You can also purchase programs such as Whitesmoke to run a check on your work. The question is how good are these? Here's a sample of text you can copy and paste into the grammar checking program to find out. 
This is a text document designed to test the capabilities of grammar checking programs of which there are a multitude of different versions available as both plugins for MS Word and as web applications to be used by pasting the text into a web page so that you can check the grammar of your documents and find examples for things like passive phrase use and run-on-sentences.
Their ahh off cause many words witch can bee ewes wrongly. Does the grammar checker draw attention to this? 
What about typos? Doed hte gramar cheker cop welll width then? Word spelling and grammar checker auto-corrects every word in the last sentance and fixes the ‘a’ in ‘sentance.’
Do yous no that you can use ewes  but 'yous'  isnt a propar wurd. I
What about how it will coped with sentences was the wrong tense? Does the grammar checker spotted these?
Does your grammar grammar checker spot repeated words or phrases spot repeated words or phrases?
What about punctuation. That was a question. If; for example, a semicolon is used instread of a comma. does it draw attention, to non-capitalization and comma,s in the wrong place? Should it detect the Oxford comma and the none use of it? What about it’s ability to correct ‘its’ and “should punctuation fit inside or outside parenthesis”?
Underground would you find a led mime?
On a beech would you find a see shell?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. Does it detect plagiarism?

Of course I've only touched the surface with this text. I invite you to add your own grammar and spelling mistakes in the comments below. Those 'liked' the most will be added to the text above.

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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Got that image in Twitter the correct aspect ratio?

Update August 2017 Since this blog was first posted most of the social media platforms have changed their image sizes. It's now possible to post square images without them being cropped. Experiments by 'Buffer' show the ideal size of images are as follows:

Facebook – 1,200 x 628

Twitter – 1,024 x 576

Instagram – 1,080 x 1,080

LinkedIn – 552 x 368

Pinterest – 600 x 900

Google+ – 800 x 320

Click the name of the social media platform to go to the current details. I've left this post in place because it may provide you with ideas for how to make a clickable image reveal a punchline.

Did you know Twitter pictures will be cropped if they are the wrong aspect ratio? Twitter displays images 526 pixels wide on screen and will scale their width to that size. They will only show half that width vertically though, and will crop the image if it's taller than wide. Just to confuse you, they will show YOU the full image rather than the cropped image everyone else sees.

Here's an example of an image with the wrong aspect ratio:
 The original image is 403 pixels wide by 800 tall. Twitter will scale the width up to 526 pixels wide which would make its height 1044 pixels. That's 843 pixels too tall and it will be cropped. Here's what you get:

The top and bottom of the image have been cropped. In this case the result is not too traumatic since the part shown is dramatic enough to catch attention. If you really work at it you can use Twitter's image cropping to good effect deliberately rather than accidentally as in the above image. Here's an example of a tweet which uses Twitter's cropping to give the element of surprise, so essential to humor:

When the image is clicked the reader sees the image in full and gets the punchline:

If things go wrong...

Sometimes, as in the above cases, it's useful, but mostly what the post author wants you to see is completely destroyed. Here's an example showing that.

...and here's the image the tweep wanted people to see:

(For all those Democrats rubbing their hands in glee - don't gloat - I can find Democrat posts much the same.)

Fixing the image

If an image is cropped then whatever the result you are relying on tweeps knowing that they must click the image to see an uncropped version. You should remember that is not always the case. A better solution is to make your images twice as wide as they are tall. Here's an example of my 'I see you and Satan sees you' image like that:

...and a second example using space at the right for a promotion message:

So remember - if you want tweeps to see your entire image make it twice as wide as it is tall! 

Found any good examples of an image not giving quite the right message? What about images which use Twitter's cropping to good effect? Perhaps you could post a link to them in the comments?

Twitter now seems to have changed the image displayed size to 455x227 pixels. Still twice as wide as high.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Your author blog needs a 'Call To Action'

What's the purpose of your author blog? Isn't it to get people to buy your books? If so then at the very end you need a clear 'call to action' - something to leave your readers with an immediate 'Yes, I must do that' thought.
Want an example? I'm happy to oblige - just scroll down to the end of this post.

So what should be in a CTA?

  • Keep it short
  • Provide a link to what you want your readers to do
  • Add a graphic to draw attention
  • Clearly separate it from the rest of your blog. 
  • Add it at the very end
I use a table for mine. It's easy to construct using some simple HTML. Uh huh I can hear some of you thinking, I don't know HTML. How do I do that? Easy. I'll show you how to do this in Blogger but if you use Wordpress, the process is similar.

Adding a CTA as an HTML table

Step 1 - At the position in your blog where you want your CTA add a placeholder - something easy to spot like:
Step 2 - Copy from here the following HTML:

<table border="2" style="width: 90%">
<table border="0" cellpadding="5" style="width:100%px;">
<td align="left" valign="middle">
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<br />
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
<td valign="middle" width="160">
<div style="clear: both; text-align: center;">
<a href="" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img alt="Look - a FREE e-book" border="0" src="" title="Call to action" />

Step 3 - Click the HTML button of Blogger and scroll through the page code until you find the CTA placeholder you added '===CTA===' Highlight just that placeholder. Here's what Blogger shows
Step 4 - Paste in the HTML you copied so that it replaces the ===CTA=== placeholder
Step 5 - Return to the normal 'Compose' screen. You'll see a CTA box which you can now edit to show your own text and links.
Step 6 (Optional) - If you wish change the blue arrow picture with an image of your own choice which may be more in keeping with your blog style. Here's a few more which you can copy and use if you wish.

More images


If you use this one you'll probably have to swap it into the left side of the CTA like this:

Put your call to action and link here

You can even use animated images and put them either side of the call to action:

Put your call to action and link here

Have fun with your calls to actions. Adding one will have an effect on your 'clickthrough' rate and get you more sales hopefully. Please feel free to add your comments and if you find this helps with your promotion please come back and tell us about it. (You can even add a link to the page you've put a CTA on.

There are two things left for me to add. The first is a 'thanks' due to Molly Green, whose blog post 'How to build a perfect blog post' reminded me that I've been meaning to write about 'Calls To Action' for some time and the second is, of course, my Call to Action.

If this post has helped or entertained, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Read this guide before making or choosing your book cover.

They say 'Don't judge a book by it's cover,' so it doesn't really matter

What complete rubbish! Getting a book cover right is vital because unless it catches the eye of someone looking for a book, they will never read the description, never read a sample and never make a purchase. If you are an indie author your cover will make a huge difference to your sales.

The Cover Image

Few books are successful without some sort of cover image. A good cover image should give the reader an idea of the book content. Look at the image used without any title or author text. Does it give you an idea of what to expect? Take a look at the five covers shown above. Do any of them match this book description?
With her mom in prison, and her father AWOL, ..... is sent to live with a squeaky-clean family who could have their own sitcom. She launches a full-scale plan to get sent back to the girls’ home when she finds herself in over her head...and heart. 

Is there any sort of formula for judging a cover image? I would suggest looking at it without the text. Does the image give any idea of the book content? I'm judging them on Amazon's thumbnail size - what a reader will see first.
  • Silent as the grave - A large, old house, possibly an institution of some kind? Certainly NOT a castle as the book description indicates - Expectation: Ghost? Horror? 
  • Fresh doubt - Looks like a derelict factory. No clues here other than a man is standing in it - Expectation: Business venture?
  • In between - A young girl, obviously not well off. She's going somewhere - Expectation: New situation for a teenage girl
  • To kill for - This image is too dark to make out at this scale. If you examine the book preview you can make out the object in it is a blood splattered tyre ('tire' for US readers) wrench. It can't be made out clearly at the thumbnail size though. Pretty useless as an image. It's the author name and title text which will sell here - Expectation: Something 'dark'
  • Where there's smoke - Someone with a lamp overlooking a desert or sea; it could be either at this scale. The clothing doesn't look western style - Expectation: Story about Africa or Asia

Author Name

Of all the text on a book cover, the most important bit is not the book title but the author name! Take a look at the top five free e-books at Amazon UK (4:00pm Saturday 30th August 2014)

Notice how clear the author’s name is in each case? Many new authors make the mistake of selling a book title when they should be selling their brand. Once you’ve bought and read a particular title you wouldn’t buy it again but you might search for other books by that author. An author’s name is their brand. Make the author name clearly visible even at Amazon's smallest thumbnail size of 58 x 87 pixels. Here's an example at that size:

The Title (and sub-title)

A good title is one which will catch interest without a cover image helping it. Consider these titles:
Do any of them grab your attention? My analysis is as follows - I'll explain EMV in a moment.
  • 'Silent as the grave' suggests to me a paranormal death experience - EMV without the subtitle 0% but with it 41.67%
  • 'Fresh Doubt' suggests something to do with a criminal conviction - EMV score with or without subtitle 0%
  • 'In Between' suggests a change of lifestyle and the use of 'production' in the subtitle possibly indicates a theatre or film. - EMV score without subtitle 0%, with 50%
  • 'To Kill For' suggests a murder. The use of 'family' and 'trust' makes it much more interesting - EMV score with subtitle 60%
  • 'Where There's Smoke' suggests the reader add 'there's fire' at the end and implies one event suggests another - EMV score 0% even if you include the 'there's fire'
Two things you need to know - 
  1. According to Mark Coker of Smashwords, fiction books with shorter titles tend to do better. The top 100 best selling books average 4-5 words
  2. EMV stands for Emotional Marketing Value. Words in various languages have been analysed for their emotional impact. Normal English has about 20% words which carry emotional marketing value. A really good title would have 40%. 60% is excellent
Of course you want to know how to measure the EMV of your title. It's easy to do on-line at Enter your headline in the box and select 'Media & Communications' as the category. Your title must be at least four words (and less than 20). If your title is shorter than that, add some neutral words such as 'as', 'the', 'and' or 'if' until you have four words. Remember - as the 'Fresh Doubt' and 'Where there's smoke' books show, it's possible to have a successful book with a low EMV score but you'll need an exceptional cover image or a recognised author name for that.

Getting a cover made for a low price

If you’re really stuck for cash and you can’t produce your own cover then consider getting a cover from This site will put you in touch with a number of people who will produce a cover for just $5.00. Use caution here though – make sure any images they use are not copyright.

What are your views?

I used the five top free ebooks at Amazon as my examples. I have not read any of them (yet) so I can't honestly suggest you read/don't read any of them. If you are interested, I've added a link to each which takes you to your local Amazon. There is no guarantee they will always be free though - check before you download.
I would be interested to find if you agree with my analysis of the images and titles though. Feel free to add your own interpretation in the comments


It’s more than two years since I recorded the position of those books at Amazon UK. Where are they now? (September 2017)
Silent as the Grave is no longer free (£1.99). It ranks #210,656 in paid books. It’s no longer given a ‘bestseller rank.’
Fresh Doubt is no longer free (£1.99). It’s doing quite well at #20,762 in paid. It’s now #274 in International Mystery & Crime.
In Between is still free and performing strongly at #267 in free books. It’s #2 and #3 bestsellers in three romance genres
To Kill For is still free and #1,192 in free books. It has a new cover It’s #5 bestseller in Crime Fiction > Noir

Where There’s Smoke is no longer free (£0.99). It ranks #3,214 in paid books. It’s now #62 bestseller in Women's Literary Fiction

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And here's the cover - see what you think:
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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Getting your e-book price right - And the Amazon / Hachette war

Will Amazon bury the hatchet?

Until recently there was a war about e-book prices going on between Amazon and Hachette. Authors were stuck in the middle and those published by Hachette were losing sales and income. Indie authors stood to benefit if Hachette won though.

What Amazon wanted.

Amazon, a multi-billion dollar on-line sales empire, wanted to lower e-book prices because they've found that lower prices mean more sales and although each sale makes them less money, the increase in sales more than makes up for this. In a letter to KDP authors they stated:
Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.
It's rare for Amazon to give authors useful information like this. What they are saying is that if you reduce the price by 2/3rds you'll get a 75% increase in sales.  It's not just Amazon who say this, Mark Coker of Smashwords has given facts and figures which say similar things.

What Hachette wants

Hachette, a multi-billion dollar, publishing empire wanted the right to sell their books at whatever price they think fit. In general that means up to $15.00 but in practice their top 14 books sell at an average price of  $8.49 ranging from $12.99 to free

So who was being unreasonable?

Hachette obviously agree with Amazon that reducing prices leads to more sales and higher earnings. If they didn't, then their prices would have a higher average. But, they wanted the right to charge more for new ebooks from their top authors. This allows them to charge more for their paper books which would otherwise lose sales to e-books. They are obviously protecting their printing business. Amazon liken this to the introduction of the paperback book which in its day had its vitriolic opponents but which turned out to increase publisher's profits. Amazon say there is no justification for high e-book prices nor is there justification for the royalty share from e-books given to authors. Both sides are right. Both sides make valid arguments and neither is being unreasonable from their point of view. That isn't the same point of view for the reader or author though.

So where did this leave authors?

If you currently publish independently through Amazon their ebook price policy makes a big difference to the royalty you receive.
Minimum price - $0.99
$0.99 to $2.98 you get a 35% royalty
$2.99 to $9.99 you get a 70% royalty less a delivery charge
$10.00 upwards you get a 35% royalty
Here's what that means in terms of real money in your pocket. I'll assume an 80,000 word novel with a delivery charge of $0.10.

 As you can see, once the price is $10.00 or more you'll actually earn less money per book sold until your book has a price of $20 or more. This chart doesn't take into account total book sales however. If you include that you get a different picture. Fortunately Amazon have started offering a 'KDP Pricing Support (Beta)' service which attempts to predict authors optimum price. To get this prediction for your book at Amazon navigate to your dashboard at KDP. Click the 'Bookshelf' link at the top. Find the book you want the prediction for and at the right choose  'Edit Rights, Royalty and Pricing.' Click the button 'View Service' in section 8.

Here's what Amazon predict will be the effect on author earnings of changing the price of an e-book selling 40 copies per month at $3.39.
It seems Amazon suggest authors should increase their prices here.
Taking a different book selling just 22 copies per month at $3.99 Amazon suggest:
This time they suggest a price reduction.

Whether this new beta service will work remains to be seen. There are a lot of variables involved. In the case of the two books above for example, they are both part of a series. If sales of the first book drop there will be a corresponding drop in the sales of the second book. Perhaps a slight price rise to $3.99 would be justified but $7.99? If this was the first or second book in a series it would be likely to kill the rest of the series. Reducing the price of the other book is well worth considering though. The great thing about being an independent author is that you are free to change prices to find the best level as often as you wish.

What about authors publishing through one of the big five publishers?

All bets are off here. Amazon appear to negotiate different royalty rates with the big five. That 70% rate may hold for e-books retailing at more than $9.99 Neither Amazon nor the big five are telling but what we do know is that authors are getting as little as 25% of e-book sales as a royalty. Amazon suggests this is too low a rate.

What if Amazon wins the dispute?

For readers, the price will come down. Authors established with the big five publishers will see their earnings go up. Independent authors will see increased competition and a consequent drop in their earnings.

What if Hachette wins the dispute?

Prices will remain much the same. The best possible outcome would be for Amazon to extend their 70% royalty rate to cover books costing between $2.99 and $14.99. That might lead to a gradual price rise which would benefit authors as a whole. In the meantime high prices for e-books from the big five publishers mean independent authors can undercut established authors to get their foot on the first rung of the success ladder.

So what should Indie authors do?

Amazon suggested we all write to Hachette supporting Amazon. Do they honestly think that Hatchette will take notice of authors who are not using their services? If Hatchette were to do the same, would indie authors increase their prices and demand Amazon pay a 70% royalty on books $9.99 to $14.99? My personal opinion is the best thing we can do is stay out of this one. What's your view?

This dispute is now settled

Although the dispute is settled, it's not obvious who the winner was. Mark Coker of Smashwords said:
According to carefully worded statements this week by Amazon and Hachette - neither of which boasted of victory - Hachette will retain Agency pricing control yet conceded to certain unnamed Amazon demands that will incentivize lower pricing from Hachette.
It seems that Hachette got most of what they want which is good news for indie authors. Sadly that doesn't mean Amazon will extend their 70% royalty rate. That's good news for readers though.

If this post has helped or entertained, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from
Even if you never read it (we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
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Sunday, 3 August 2014

Why are so many authors making things difficult for themselves?

Making things difficult
I periodically return to my list of authors and go through it to add genre and location to my spreadsheet. I also add other authors I come across. I'm amazed at the number of authors who make things difficult for their readers to find out information.
  • Lots of authors don't have a website or blog
  • Lots of authors don't use Facebook or have their page set as 'private'.
  • Lots of authors don't use Twitter
  • Lots of authors don't have a Pinterest page
Where an author does have a discoverable website or blog they often fail to mention their Twitter name - mine is @JChapmanAuthor, Facebook page - mine is, Pinterest page - mine is Some don't even give a clue as to the genres they write in; we are supposed to guess that from the book covers.
Of those who have a discoverable Twitter presence, I'm amazed at the number who hamper their followers by using TrueTwit - If you are one of them, I suggest you read Mary C Long's 'How TrueTwit Helps You Help It Make Money – And Waste A Ton Of Time' at

I'm astonished that some authors make their Twitter accounts private. By all means make a personal account private but your author account should be made public and shouted from the rooftops!

I'm amazed by the authors who think it's good to respond to being followed with an auto-message promoting a book. While on the subject of automessages, some authors seem to think it's OK to automatically auto-unfollow those who unfollow and auto-tweet that information. Have they never heard that Twitter sometimes unfollows people? If you are going to unfollow - wait a month or so and autotweeting that '5 tweeps unfollowed me. Know who your latest unfollowers are? Find them at...' simply proves you are a vengeful person and maybe not a nice person to follow in the first place.

I'm amazed by authors who obviously buy Twitter followers and make that fact public by promoting buy follower posts. I can only think of one possible excuse for buying followers - to get round Twitter's 2000 followers rule. Any followers you get from purchasing will be otherwise useless and are likely to destroy your reputation. I usually block those who post these messages.
As to Facebook, some author accounts are simply a list of books and 'What I did today' posts. No interaction, no sharing. Boring and no fun!
Are you guilty? If so, then I think you are shooting your book sales in the foot. I doubt if I've covered everything. Can you think of some other examples of bad author practice?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Why does Word sometimes override bold and italics when I change a style?

If you need to change the style of your text but have added direct formatting to it; bold text or italic text, beware! MS Word can really mess it up.

Here's an experiment to try to explain what I mean

Set up a document containing these two styles:
Font: (Default) Times New Roman,
11 pt,
Indent: First line:  0.5 cm, Justified
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

 Now type this in in 'Normal' style:
Using ‘Normal’ style, copy these two paragraphs of text into MS Word. Make this first paragraph italic.
Using Normal style, copy these two paragraphs of text into MS Word. In this second paragraph make just the last word italic.

Now select the first paragraph and change its style. I’m going to make it, my style of ‘No Indent’.
Now select the second paragraph and change its style. Again change it to ‘No Indent’.  
Before – as ‘Normal’ style:

After applying ‘No Indent’ style to each separate paragraph:

Now undo the ‘No Indent’ style changes, select both paragraphs and then re-apply ‘No Indent’ style to both at once. You get:

Notice what happens to the italics? The same thing happens for any other direct formatting you apply whether it’s a font, a font size, bold, italics, color… whatever.
Apparently the rule is meant to be that if a paragraph has less than 50% of direct formatting then this will be retained if the style is changed. If it has more than 50% then the direct formatting is lost.
…but it’s not consistent!
Select more than one paragraph and all the direct formatting is changed.
…but even that is not consistent!
If you have a document with multiple styles and you wish to change just one of them, then right clicking the style, selecting all X instance(s) and then changing the selected items may give you either effect.

So how do you do it?

I had a book which used a ‘Publisher’ style. I wanted to change this to a ‘Normal’ style. The trouble was I had used italics for emphasis, the remote ends of telephone conversations and thoughts. Simply selecting all occurrences of the ‘Publisher’ style and replacing them with ‘Normal’ style lost lots of the italics – too many for me to want to go through and change them all back manually. Here’s what I did:
Step 1 – find all the italics using search & replace and highlight them in green. To do that
  • Select ‘Replace from the Home toolbar
  • Use Format > Font and select ‘Italic’ in both the find and replace boxes.

  • Select green highlighting from the home toolbar.
  • Select Format > Highlight

Here’s what you get:

Step 2 – Select all instances of the style you want to change and change them to the new style. Some of the italics will be lost but the green highlighting will remain.

Step 3 Use the replace menu to find all instances of green highlighting and replace them with italics and no highlighting.

Once you have used ‘Replace All’, your style will be changed and the italics back to normal.

This method can be used if you’ve used bold, colored or any other direct formatting within a style. You might want to use a different highlight color for each.

What a tedious chore! I can understand why Microsoft did this but it would have been so much nicer if they had given us a checkbox labelled ‘Change all direct formatting within style.’

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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

What can publishers do next?

Imagine you walk into your local bookshop and start browsing. You look at several titles but nothing catches your eye. You look at your watch - almost time for your train home. The book you have in your hand looks interesting. You look at your watch again.

The store owner sees you are pressed for time. He takes the book from your hands and tears off the front cover and the first fifty pages. "Here. Take it with you and read it. If you like it,  come back and I'll sell you a full copy."

Stunned, a little horrified at the concept of ripping up books, and  at the unusual sales technique you read the part book on your way home and decide that you will buy a full copy tomorrow.

A month or two later, after you've purchased a few books in a similar way from this bookripper, he grins and hands you a full paperback with a difference. It's free, made up of the first fifty pages and front cover of a number of different books - ten of them. After each book section there's a page with what would normally be on the back cover and a QR code. Scanning the QR code with your smartphone allows you to buy the e-book version or you are offered a discount paper book at the bookshop.

The bookstore manager tells you the story behind this unusual book. "I get a lot of books on sale or return. I have limited shelf space so most of the books which are delivered end up being returned. The publisher usually ends up pulping them. Rather than pulping the entire book I asked the sales rep if I could return just part of the book and give the rest out as a promotion. He asked his boss and he agreed.  I've been doing this for a while and my booksales are up quite a bit. The end result is this new book of samples. If you decide to buy an ebook version - just enter the code on the sticker from the back cover and I'll get sales commission on that too. Enjoy"

Now wouldn't that be nice?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Using SmartURL to promote your book

It's a pain to have to change an Amazon URL to make it work in a different country. Several link shortening services offer a single link which will take the user to Amazon's site in their country. SmartURL seems the pick of the bunch for authors.


  • A single, easy-to-remember link to your book at Amazon which works in all countries.
  • Earn an extra 9% from Amazon by adding affiliate codes.
  • Add keywords which raise your book's popularity rankings
  • Change the link easily, for example if your free book is taken out of 'price matched' in one country you can direct readers to a site where they can get it free.
  • Experiment with different keywords - even having different keywords for each country.
  • Works with iTunes and others too!
  • Track clicks on your links.
  • You can even get a QL code.

How this works. is a link shortening service which is very effective for producing a single link which takes the reader directly to the Amazon site in their country. It allows authors to add affiliate links and keywords to the link. You can also request a particular, easy to remember link.

What you'll need

1. A smarturl account - it's free get it at
2. Amazon affiliate accounts in at least the US, UK and Canada. You can sign up for more if you wish. To get those you'll need to have a website or blog with enough traffic to make it attractive to Amazon. Don't worry if they don't accept you as an affiliate yet but you'll miss out on the extra 9% offered in affiliate payments.
3. Some spare time to research effective keywords at Amazon. For how to do this - spend some money and buy 'Make A Killing On Kindle (Without Blogging, Facebook Or Twitter). The Guerilla Marketer's Guide To Selling Ebooks On Amazon' by
Michael Alvear Let me warn you though - although you can learn valuable stuff from this book, I don't agree with Michael that we are wasting our time promoting using social media. Getting the keywords right will help your book sales but it's more effective if you use social media as well.

Ready? Here's how to do it.

Let me show you how I made the link to the book I just told you about.
  1. Go to and log on. Click the 'create smartURL' link, (in the black bar)
  2. In a different tab go and find the book or product you want to link to. I suggest you enter the book ASIN and the keywords you want to use in Amazon's search box. Don't forget to add the author name as keywords too.
I'm going to use Michael Alear's book mentioned above as an example; it's ASIN is B007XVWEIU - I used the following keywords in the search box
B007XVWEIU Make a killing on Kindle Michael Alvear marketing Kindle keywords selling books e-books on Amazon
Notice I didn't use any commas to separate them.

  1. On the results page click the link to Michael's book. Your search parameters will follow you and you'll get the URL
  2. Copy the URL from your browser and paste it into a text editor (not MS Word - use Edit or a text editor you like such as EditPlus)
    You could probably edit out keywords such as 'a' and 'on' but it isn't worth the bother.
  3. If the book is NOT free then, to this URL, add your affiliate tag for I usually bury it somewhere inside it just before '&keywords' Mine would now read:
    Remember - only add an affiliate tag to books which are NOT free. Amazon don't like you using tags for free products and may penalise you.
  4. Now look in the URL for a part starting &qid= followed by a number. Delete that entire section! In my example it will now read:
  5. Now copy the link and paste it into the Default URL box in your smartURL tab
  6. Now you need to get the URL for Amazon UK and Amazon Canada and add affiliate tags if you have them. You can either go through the whole process again or just modify the link in your text editor. I find it's easier to modify the link since all you have to do is change '.com' to '' for the UK and '.ca' for Canada. You'll need to change the affiliate tags too.
  7. Once you have the URLs enter them in the section 'Country Destinations'. You'll need the country code for the 'Country' box. For the UK it's GB and for Canada it's CA Click the + to add more alternative countries. If you don't know the code just type in the name of the country. Add as many as you like/have affiliate codes for. Any you don't add will be added automatically  from your default URL by smartURL but they'll use their own affiliate codes - this is how they make the money to run the site.
  8. Now add a custom alias to the link. I add a three letter one. In the case of the book above I used 'mak' (from Make a Killing...). Not all of these are available so if someone already has that - try another. Don't forget the URLs are case sensitive so 'mak' is different to MAK, MaK and Mak.
  9. Add a description of the link if you wish. This helps you remember what it is when you come back to it.
    It's also possible to enter someone's email address which allows them to change the links. (If Michael Alvear reads this I'll be happy to add his email address if he sends me it - he could probably come up with better keywords)
  10. Once you are happy with everything click 'Save' and start using your new link.

What's that bit about tracking clicks?

Above is an image of the control panel you get if you click the 'my smartURLs' link. At the right you'll see a mini pi chart. Click one of those and you'll get:
So that tells me: 
  • that the book was more interesting to Russian visitors than to the UK
  •  I need to check
  • just eleven clicks happened at Twitter and Facebook - that's 4.5% - maybe Michael is right after all? What do you think?
  • What went wrong on Wednesday 5th March  and Thursday 13th March?

Do you know of a similar free service which offers more? I don't. The only downside I find in using it is that like all link shorteners it can be abused and sometimes gets an orange circle from Web of Trust.

If this post has proved useful to you would you do me a favour in return? Download a FREE copy of the book I co-author - a romantic technothriller called 'Immortality Gene'. Even if you don't read it it will help our ratings. You can get it at and if you want to read it, you can use a phone, a tablet, a computer or even a Kindle.

Monday, 17 March 2014

An Agent Rejected Your Submission?

One thing you should be prepared for though; agents are absolutely inundated with submissions. They probably will take a while to look at what you wrote and may very well return your submission. Few are accepted. If that happens – don’t give up, try a different agent. I've seen reports that an average agent accepts just 2% of authors who approach.
The chances are that sooner or later you’ll probably get discouraged by rejections. At that point you should take a serious look at what you've submitted.

Five points you need to check:

  • Does it have that ‘hook’ to catch interest? In other words does it catch your interest in the very beginning? Think of how you browse for books in a bookstore. Would you buy your book based on the content of the first three pages?
    Here’s the opening paragraphs from ‘The Power Trip’ by Jackie Collins as an example:
      The couple on the bed had sex as if it was their final act. And for one of them it was.
      Neither of them heard the door slowly open.
    Would that make you want to keep reading?
  • Get someone else to read the synopsis you include. Do they find it interesting?
  • Does it have a prologue? If so get rid of it. For many agents a prologue is an instant turn-off. Oh – before someone points out that those Jackie Collins lines come from the start of a prologue, it seems a very short prologue – more like a very short chapter which Jackie didn't dare call ‘Chapter 1’.
  • Is the story the right length? It should be 60,000 -120,000 words. Any shorter and publishers will be reluctant to publish it because setting it up will be too expensive. Any longer and it will be too expensive to edit and they’ll be reluctant to invest so much in an untried author.
  • Is your accompanying letter good enough? Try including in your cover letter a one paragraph story synopsis starting with 'When..' and using this formula. 
    [Protagonist] who finds himself/herself in [situation] from which he/she tries to free himself/herself by [goal]. However, the [antagonist] wants to stop [protagonist] from this, and if successful, will cause the [protagonist] to experience [disastrous result].
    Here’s an example of its use:
    When a young girl moves to live with her father in a small town in Washington, she meets the boy of her dreams. He has a dark secret which she discovers. In doing so, she finds herself at risk of death from people like him. She is rescued by her new boyfriend, but still is at risk from others like him who want to kill her. She knows that all will be solved if she shares her boyfriend’s secret, but he is reluctant to allow this since he fears it will turn her into a monster.
    Recognize the story? Twilight?
If you are confident that you have met all these requirements, continue making multiple submissions to agents at the same time rather than one at a time. Agents don’t really like you doing this but often it’s the only way to cut submission times from years to months.
The one thing you shouldn't do is to allow yourself to be discouraged to the point where your book is never published ‘because it isn't any good’. Repeated rejections are quite normal. Few authors ever find success immediately. I know of one successful author who bound all her rejection letters into a long roll and when she’s asked to speak about the process dramatically allows it to unroll across the room.

By the time you've had 30 rejections it's time to consider going down the self-publishing route. Maybe you should have done that first?