Monthly Archives: November 2015

Ana Spoke to interview bestselling author Matthew FitzSimmons!

Have you ever wanted to ask a celebrity author a question? Like, I dunno, maybe the author of Short Drop – the #1 bestseller OVERALL on Kindle Store? Do you wonder how his debut novel hit big time in the oversaturated fiction market?

Well, believe it or not – you can! Unexpectedly, Matthew stumbled across our heated discussions over the reviews of his yet to be released book – which turned out to be available via Kindle First. Matthew was kind enough to post several comments and so we already know that he was picked up by Amazon’s own publishing house through an agent, and that indeed Short Drop was available via Kindle First during the entire November and that’s how it now has 1,352 reviews. Short Drop will be released to the general public on 1 December and is set to make waves, with a sequel already in the works.

That in itself was pretty amazing – I’m personally blown away that he is engaging with readers directly and not via a publicist. I was so encouraged, that I boldly asked if he would be interested in an interview on my blog. You, know, all casual and the like. Whatevs.

He replied and said he would be “delighted” to do an interview! This is when I thought of you – my dear readers and followers – you, who keep pushing my site traffic to record numbers almost every day. Without you, who would’ve noticed this blog? Certainly not a bestselling author! So it’s only fair that you get to interview him, in a way.

So here’s the plan: post your questions in the comments below, I will collate them until midnight on Tuesday, try to combine any repetitive/similar ones, and will come up with a list of 6-8 or so. I’ll get the ball rolling with these:

  1. What is the one most surprising thing you’ve learned about the traditional publishing industry?
  2. What marketing strategies are in place for Short Drop, once it goes live?
  3. Is it hard to concentrate on writing the sequel with so much going on at the moment?

Post away! You have about 24 hours to come up with a perfect question! Don’t miss this opportunity!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Matthew FitzSimmons himself stops by to explain the mystery of Short Drop reviews!

It was late last week when I posted Riddle me this! – a question about how it could be possible for a book to have a ton of reviews before its release. The book in question was Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons, an overall #1 on Kindle, with 1,388 reviews at the writing of this post, and the release date of 1 December.

I was not the only one confused – the post generated quite a discussion and a number of hypothesis, but it was a consensus that the reviews were a result of the book getting picked up as Kindle First. Is this the first time you’ve heard of Kindle First? Well, that makes two of us.

Screenshot (26)

Visit Kindle First website to learn more. Just don’t get too excited if you, like me, are in Australia – for some reason it’s not available down under.

My post generated so much discussion, that I’d decided to post an update – Mystery solved, explaining how it was possible and asking if anyone knew how to get onto the program (which is probably impossible for self-published newbies). Imagine my surprise when I was scrolling through my Twitter notifications and a familiar name caught my attention:

Screenshot (27)

Whaaat? I jumped over to the blog, and there was the comment, waiting for approval:

Screenshot (28)

I have replied, of course, and had the balls to ask how he got to this point – and he replied! For reals:

Screenshot (29)

So there you go folks – a mystery solved, new lesson learned, and another proof that you should never, ever give up on your dreams. I’m off to do some writing. I hope you do the same.



Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Mystery solved (I think) and a quick update on the marketing blitz

Hi, everyone,

Shizzle, Inc got up to #34 on Amazon’s Satire Bestseller list! If you are not following the live tweeting of my biggest marketing campaign to date, here is a quick recap:

  1. Robin Reads started strong, but was a disappointment at 19 sales, at a cost of $25.
  2. Indie Book Promo was a complete dud, at maybe 1 sale (I had 3 total, but 2 were from my constant tweeting about it).
  3. Book Gorilla is currently on fire!

Screenshot (25)

I will post a complete report on Monday. Wish me luck!

Now, I’d like to venture an explanation for the mystery surrounding the 1,200+ verified purchase reviews on a book yet to be released – as previously mentioned in Riddle me this!

First of all, I’d like to thank the following detectives:

  1. Nancy Glynn of Nancy Glynn – thank you for sharing the loophole allowing reviews on a yet-to-be-published book by “tricking” CreateSpace.
  2. Isabella Belucci of Isabella Belucci – thank you for sharing your experience reviewing and ARC (Advanced Review Copy) for another author.
  3. Mykl Walsh of Secret Agent Man – thank you for scouring the Internet for clues!
  4. Tim Vicary of Tim Vicary – thank you for checking the suspect’s Goodreads profile 🙂
  5. Prospero of Prospero’s Island – thank you for digging up an interview with the mention of Kindle First!

I did some research myself – and it all seemed to point to Kindle First. For example, all 1,200+ reviews have been posted during November, in line with Kindle First offering the book a month before its release on 1 December. For those not familiar with Kindle First – it is an offer of free or discounted bestsellers (I think just four of them a month), chosen by Amazon’s editors. I have searched madly for any clues on how to get on the list, but it seems to be either a secret or an impossible feat, even though most traditional publishers are currently not supporting it.

Any detectives want to take on this new mystery??


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Riddle me this!

Hi, everyone,

Another day, another browse through the Amazon’s Top 100 – and I’ve noticed something I can’t explain. Can someone with more experience and insight explain this phenomena?

How can a book that is yet to be released have 1,200 positive reviews? From verified purchases? Have a look at Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons.

Ok, I understand the need to create pre-release buzz and actually plan on doing the same with the sequel to Shizzle, Inc – but how could there be reviews? I’d like to believe they are not fake…if so, how does one go about getting reviews on Amazon before the release day?


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! The marketing blitz starts tomorrow!

I can’t believe it’s only a day away!

To remind you, I will run three promos on three consecutive days between 26-28 November. There was going to be a fourth, but I’d messed up and did not follow up on it. Proof that you have to have a plan and write things down.

Speaking of plans, I just heard an awesome quote along the lines of “The difference between confidence and arrogance is a plan.” So let me lay out my plan on getting Shizzle, Inc to #1 in Amazon’s Satire Bestseller List this weekend:

  1. 26 November. We start with Robin Reads targeted mail-out. Cost: $25.
  2. 27 November. There might be some sales generated by Robin Reads, hopefully supported by Indie Book promo. Cost: $25.
  3. 28 November – we finish off with a biggie – a proven performer, Book Gorilla. Cost: $50.

I am so excited about it that I will be posting live sales charts throughout the weekend on twitter. So, if you are interested, and are not yet following me – follow @spokeana on Twitter now! You don’t want to miss the races!

This is the current sales chart:


Sales on 25 Nov


And here are the current rankings:


Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,319 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Let’s see what happens tomorrow!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

Win a free book cover custom designed by Ana Spoke!

UPDATE: please review the entries below and then vote for who you think should get a free cover design:

Only one vote per person/computer is allowed. Voting will close on 24 January.


Omg, you guys – I had the most genius idea ever. You’ve been so nice and supportive while I’ve been going through the ups and downs of trying to hire not one, but two designers, getting sorely disappointed and then designing both the ecover and the wrap myself.  Just to remind you of what I can do, here is the wrap:

Shizzle paperback final for production

A lot of you took the time to comment on the process – thank you again! Several of you have also mentioned hiring me as a designer. To be honest, I don’t want to branch into that – it’s a stressful job, takes a long time, and just thinking of taking somebody’s money and then disappointing them gives me the heebie-jeebies. So I just answered those comments with jokes. Sorry.

But then I had a light bulb moment. Sure, I don’t want another job, and I don’t have the time to create covers for all of you, but I can do one, for free! Then my marketing brain jumped on it, and I came up with an awesome win-win idea: a free contest!

So here it is: until the end of the year, I will accept pitches from anyone who has written a book, or has an idea for one, or wants to publish their NaNoWriMo creation. You don’t have to have the book ready for publication or even written – perhaps having a ready cover hanging over your desk will keep you motivated to finish that dream project?

Here are the rules:

  1. Write a pitch. Imagine that you are submitting your book to an agent – write a blurb/pitch that will hook the reader. Remember, people will vote on it (more on that below).
  2. Post the pitch on your blog or website. If you don’t have one, post it in the comments below.
  3. Let me know about it – in a comment below, with a link to your post.
  4. Make sure to post it any time before midnight on 31 December!

That’s it! After the contest closes, I will create a voting page which will be live during January. Everyone and anyone will get to vote on your pitch. The voting will close on 31 January and the winner will be chosen based on the number of votes – I will stay out of it!

The winner will get the following:

  1. A shot of endorphins at the news of having won a contest.
  2. One custom cover (ebook or paperback wrap, your choice), including:
    1. Up to three initial concepts to choose from (or your concept, developed).
    2. Up to three images from Shutterstock, your choice (regular license, up to 500,000 prints). You get the images to keep.
    3. Detailed design with up to three “fixes” (sorry, I will have to draw a line somewhere!).
    4. Final, layered Photoshop file uploaded to Dropbox – unlike designers, I won’t keep it to myself! This way, if you ever want to tweak a word, or add a “bestselling author” stamp, you can easily do it yourself or get someone local to do it for you.
    5. My relentless perfectionism.
    6. A free value of (according to quotes I got from designers) up to $750!
  3. A special blog post on my site, announcing the final design, with a link to purchase (if available).
  4. That warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishing a goal.

I hope you are as excited about this as I am! let me know what you think 🙂

CURRENT ENTRIES (in the order received):

  1. Ninja at Law by Jim Peacock

Ninja at Law (Ages of the Seed, vol. 2)

Life at the tail end of the 24th cee is fairly righteous. The advent of Stringtech mere centuries ago revolutionized the world. Hunger and disease are concepts of the past. Free energy is here for the taking of it and mankind enjoys an unprecedented period of largess, peace and growth.

Tobe Sparkles is about to fuck all that up.

2. Head on a Grave by Terry Nelson

While on vacation in 1927, Hollywood screenwriter Chet Koski and his wife Eveleen, both amateur sleuths, antagonize a divided small town, unravel a kidnapping, discover a timber scandal, and Chet fears his cousin may be a killer. These things happen when finding a head on a grave.

3. The Nightmare by Amir.H.Ghazi

When fourteen-year-old Allen Foster is diagnosed with parasomnia, a sleep disorder evoking vivid nightmares, he begins journaling each haunting dream on the advice of his psychiatrist, keeping the notebook safely hidden in a floorboard — that is until a new family moves into the Maine house. When Rita, the daughter of the new owners, discovers the book and begins experiencing Allen’s old nightmares, she tracks him down in an effort to rid herself of the misery, only to find he has no memory of writing them.

4. Mark My Soul by Abby Cashen.

An age old tradition. A few offline cameras. Shadows in the alley. 

Lance works in a busy city, watching out for disturbances and things out of the ordinary. He has no idea just out strange things have gotten until he looks into a missing child case and discovers dark secrets in the shadows. Inhuman creatures seem to appear out of nowhere and are devouring the city. And the only way to stop them…is a tradition no one believes in anymore.

5. The Puzzle by Nick Langis.

It knows your darkest thoughts, your deepest secrets, and your hidden desires. All you need to do; put the puzzle together. Richard and Vivian Cordova discover the puzzle when they move into their newly bought home. One thousand pieces wedge their way between the newlyweds putting their vows and their lives to the test.

6. Confessions of a Good Mother by Kathi Tesone.

Diana, a lonely and neglected, middle age, wife and mother decides to end her loveless marriage of thirty years. On her own for the first time in decades, she struggles to adjust to her new single life, dating and overcoming a devastating diagnosis of  mental illness. Can she learn to love herself so she will be ready to find love with the right man or will she continue to get the thrills her illness demands by engaging in increasingly risky behavior? Will she get the help she needs to live a more fulfilling life before her mental illness wins and she decides to commits suicide?

7. The Hiding Place – By J.K.Tevis.

The bugs were unmerciful in their quest for food. The ants were the most vicious. Her hiding place was their home and she was an intruder. The dried blood on her feet seemed to have driven them into a feeding frenzy making it look as though she wore a pair of black boots. Even though the earth under her was cool the sun had turned the fallen stones over her into an oven. As she drifted in and out of consciousness she kept remembering her mother’s last words…. “RUN,THEY’RE HERE !”

8. Chrysalis by Sharon Gerdes

Joyel is a weapon, a genetically engineered ten year old. When the ruthless faction leader Anson kidnaps Joyel she must fight to save her soul. Anson spends ten years brainwashing her, demanding that she view him as father, embrace a new identity as Joy, and to kill for him. But Joy is determined to be subject to no man.

Cutting is how Joy copes with the years of abuse, etching her hatred of Anson into her skin until the time to mete out revenge has come. Despite her rage, now twenty-year-old Joy struggles to strike out against the man she calls father. Discovering Anson’s plans to restart the genetic program she was spawned from in order to raise an army forces Joy to act. To no longer be a pawn, she must kill Anson and destroy the monster she has become. If she doesn’t, she will never be free.

CHRYSALIS asks which is more important: to know who you are, or to whom you belong?

9. Ember’s Heart by Charca Molson

For Ember Rehksskari, a hated dragon and last princess of a fallen kingdom, there are two kinds of place in the world: those where the people will try to kill her, and those where they’ll try harder. Yet, fleeing from the second to the first, she may just find a third.

The kingdom of Salshira has no interest in hosting a dragon, any dragon, especially not one pursued by the Vohrskrain, but Ean Tavarin, crown prince and engineer extraordinaire, has a plan to make a home for this one…if he can deal with a best friend who wants all dragons dead, a father looking out for the rest of the kingdom, and a romantic interest he didn’t know he had.

It really shouldn’t be this hard to make one damsel safe!

But if Emperor Vohrskrain has anything to say, none of them will be until Ember is dead.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Win a free book cover!

New and improved paperback cover

Hi, everyone,

Just a quick update – I finished fiddling with my cover and uploaded all files to CreateSpace! To remind you, this is what the old cover looked like:

Shizzle, Inc paperback cover 14 November

This is what I’d ended up uploading:

Shizzle paperback final for production

The main changes are:

  1. I went back to a gold leaf title – it doesn’t look flash in a thumbnail, and I will probably leave ebook cover as it is – but it makes more sense when printed, improves the illusion that it is the title embossed into the leather cover.
  2. Darkened back half – it looks more dramatic somehow. Hey, matter of preference.
  3. Fiddled endlessly with the rip – see if you can spot the change!
  4. Could not get the quotes on the back to read properly when printed in red – the only drawback of the darker version.
  5. Gave the leather “cover” a more pronounced “spine”.
  6. My photo is smaller and bio wording slightly changed.

I was all set to publish, but unfortunately CreateSpace picked up a major oops on my part – I’d left the ebook ISBNs on the copyright page, instead of the paper version ones. The problem was, I had the document formatted by somebody else and so now it would be an additional cost and a day or two of delays. I couldn’t have that, of course, so, like any old school Russian, I found a workaround. For some reason Adobe would not let me change the text, so the final solution involved extracting the pdf page into Photoshop, finding a close enough font, fixing it up in Photoshop, saving as a pdf and inserting the updated page back to the original pdf. Whew!

There’s another little bit to sort out with CreateSpace – I bought my own barcode, but there was no prompt to upload it, like I thought. I’m now not sure if I’m supposed to add it to the cover myself, or if I will just go with the CreateSpace barcode, even though I have my own ISBN. Aargh!

So now I’m waiting again for CreateSpace to review and approve the files. If I get an email thumbs up tomorrow, I’ll order a proof copy – with expedited shipping, it will be in Australia in 3 business days! This means that if all goes well, the paperback will be available for sale in just about a week! Can’t quite believe it…


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

Review: Shizzle Inc by Ana Spoke

Just woke up to another surprise review of Shizzle, Inc – thank you, NiaLisabeth!

The Most Sublime Things



Isa Maxwell is an average busty blonde, a recent graduate of a community college, and rap-loving, gun-toting, self-proclaimed badass. More than anything else, Isa wants to be discovered, so that she can solve her financial woes and win back Brad, the love of her life.
Thanks to her clumsiness, street smarts, and an unbelievable bit of luck, Isa lands a dream job at Shizzle, Inc. Things start to look up when Mr. Hue, the playboy billionaire owner of Shizzle, Inc takes Isa under his wing. Isa even gets a number of new love interests, but all is not what it seems. In fact, absolutely nothing is what it seems.
Can Isa survive the tough world of corporate intrigue and constant looming bodily harm? Or will her efforts be the end of Shizzle, Inc and possibly her life?

First things first, I absolutely adore the cover of this book…

View original post 449 more words


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

No, thank you, I will do my own marketing research

Why is book marketing so hard? There are many reasons why – too many books being published, authors giving away books for free, social media noise, you name it. I won’t go into all of them, but I do want to dissect one:

Bad advice.

Again, this could be interpreted in a variety ways – and I would not claim to know what is good and what is bad. Things that have worked for someone with a romance novel may not work for an author of horror. Things change all the time, so for example it’s known fact now that if you give your book away for free and climb to the top of Top 100 Free Bestseller list on Amazon, once you switch to Paid, your rankings will fall dismally, because you have sold exactly zero paid copies during your free promotion days. Oh, you didn’t know that? Well, this post has been a winner already!

There’s lots of other advice I find questionable, such as:

  1. “Just write a good book and it will find an audience.” When? When I’m dead?
  2. “Set your price high and don’t budge.” I did that. Readers did not budge, either.
  3. “Grow your social media presence.” I did that, too – 30K + followers resulted in just a handful of sales.

So far I’ve been able to prove that one sure way to increase exposure is with paid marketing. I hope to test the theory that writing a series is a way to success very soon. Meanwhile, I would advise everyone to do their own research. Test me on my assumptions – please! And certainly, check that if you are taking advice from someone else, that they know what they are doing.

This brings me to the controversial part of this particular post. I have been following a number of author blogs, and was especially impressed by an author who has published a number of fiction books as well as a number of self-help books on the writing business. I was about to buy one, on how to market your book, when I’d decided to have a look at how the fiction books by the same author were performing, specifically the overall Amazon rankings. The answer?

150K-plus to 7-million-plus.

I was in shock. This author wrote not one, but several series of fiction books, with awesome flashy covers, lots of reviews, you name it. I would imagine a book ranking at 7 million on Amazon has not sold a copy in what, months? Years? How could someone with such dismal fiction sales record sell a book on book marketing? Oh, and what was the ranking of the marketing book?

Top 100 in it’s category.

I’m not going to reveal who it was, as I’m afraid to get eaten alive, so let me just leave you with this message: once again, do your own research, find your own way, and if some bad advice is not working for you, be brave and throw it away.



Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

You’re on your own. Sorry.

Let me start yet another controversy by saying:

Winning a writing competition or landing a traditional publisher is not a guarantee of author success.

Ok, ok, stop shooting! I know, those were my goals not long ago, and they are traditionally equated to striking gold and really “making it” as an author. And yes, winning a Pulitzer, perhaps, can make a difference. Or, you know, landing a million-dollar deal which gets you a ton of publicity. However, I now know the simple fact that publishers would invest very little into promoting your book, unless you are Stephen King.

Before we get into the argy-bargy of traditional vs self-publishing, let me illustrate my point with some evidence.

Exhibit A: Pitch Week

I just found out about this competition and I was actually going to write this post about it and encourage everyone to apply. Then I’d decided to check the current sales ratings of past winners. See for yourself:

Death by Roses by Vivian Probst is currently hovering around one million overall ranking on Amazon.

Stony Kill by Marie White Small is around 300,000 with the best category ranking at 13,000-plus.

Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir by Lisa Smith is getting published in another six months.

The winner announced in July of this year is yet to be published.

“But this is probably some small potatoes award,” I hear you say. “Surely, something like Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award means publicity and big bucks?” Lemme check…

Exhibit B: Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award

Remember, winners of this award got a traditional publishing contract and a hefty advance, plus ongoing publicity through the Amazon listing of past winners. This was a HUGE competition, even though it has now been discontinued. So how did the winners fare? Yeah, ok, some of them became bestsellers, but lets examine the less fortunate ones:

Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda – current rank #173,062 Paid in Kindle Store. Worse than my self-published debut.

Catcher, Caught by Sarah Collins Honenberger   current rank #233,775 Paid in Kindle Store. Much worse than mine.

Stalina by Emily Rubin  – current rank #245,024 Paid in Kindle Store. Ditto.

Fresh Kills (Berkley Prime Crime Mysteries) by Bill Loehfelm current rank #1,058,230 Paid in Kindle Store. Whaaat???

Fully Involved: A Firefighter Story by Jackson Harris current rank  #1,144,996 Paid in Kindle Store. OH. MY. GOD!

I didn’t have the strength to continue. Have a look for yourself at the long list of Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award past winners. But before you go and start slashing your wrists, let me say this:

You can be a successful author.

I truly believe in the above statement, qualified by “if you are willing to work hard enough for long enough.” In a way, I felt liberated by my findings – they made me realize what I already knew – there’s no point in hoping to win an “author lottery” and spend years chasing a traditional publishing contract. I’d spent a year sending query letters to over 70 publishers and agents, and the best response I got was “it’s funny, but we don’t know if there’s a market for it.”

So don’t give your power away by believing that someone else has to judge your book worthy. Do your own research. Become a better writer. Become your own publisher, marketing guru, PR rep, and cheerleader. You are the best suited person to mange your business. Yeah, that’s right, I said it – treat it as your business, work on it, invest in it, and grow it.

Like, now would be a good time!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.