Monthly Archives: January 2016

Sequel to Shizzle, Inc – title and cover mock up reveal!

I was working on mock-ups for Amir, the winner of the free cover design contest, when it occurred to me that I should go ahead and create a cover for my sequel, even before it’s finished. That way I can do the same thing that Amir is planning on doing – pin the cover over my desk and use it as the motivation to finish the draft. Also, you guys were amazing in helping me develop the cover for the first book, so I feel comfortable revealing the rough draft and asking you for comments.

So here it is, the mock up for the second installment in Isa Maxwell’s escapades:

Indiot Mock up 1

This is very rough, with images I have not yet bought, so that’s why the resolution is bad and there are some remnants of Shutterstock watermark – that will improve once I buy and download full-size images. I would love for you to comment on:

  1. Title of the book. Isa continues to be…let’s say “naive” in India, hence the “Indiot”.
  2. The overall concept for the cover.
  3. Using “diamonds” for title.
  4. Making “N” in the title different. I will make it look like empty settings, from which diamonds have been stolen.
  5. Should I put “Isa Maxwell’s escapades” on the title? I kinda like the minimalistic look and that the covers are not too matchy, but everyone seems to love series covers that look like versions of the same and tell you exactly which book in the series it is…
  6. Anything else!

Thank you, as always ūüôā


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

New Rafflecopter giveaway – win one of 25 digital copies of Shizzle, Inc!

Thank you to whomever mentioned this idea in comments! I’ve decided to take a plunge, although a free one at first, and created my very first giveaway on Rafflecopter. It was ridiculously easy to set up and the giveaway is free of cost to everyone – I am on the free plan with Rafflecopter, and giving away ebooks, so it will be just a matter of time to send files to the winners. The giveaway will run for 10 days and, as always, I will update you on the stats. I will also post my thoughts on whether or not I will upgrade to a monthly plan.

This time, in addition to more reviews, I hope for an impact on social media – in order to win, one would have to either follow me on Twitter, or tweet a message (or both, if they want to increase their odds of winning). I think multiple entries are allowed, so lets see what happens – currently I have 38, 705 followers.

Have you done one of these yourself? Was it worth it?

I will also test Amazon giveaways shortly, and will write a comprehensive comparison of all three soon.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

And the winner of the free cover design competition is…

…Amir Ghazi of World of Horror! Let’s hear it for Amir, whose pitch entitled The Nightmare gathered an amazing 527 votes!

vote results

Just to remind you again, this was Amir’s winning pitch:

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 ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôs 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.

You can read other pitches on Who will win the free cover design? or the original post.

Thank you again to all who have participated, either by submitting a pitch or by voting for your favourite. I will run another contest in August – if you’re interested, sign up for my Don’t Miss It list (see the banner on the right).

I now have the difficult task of reaching deep down, switching my brain from the usual jokey mode, to produce the creepiest and most striking cover this book so justly deserves.

Wish me luck!


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

Best Goodreads Giveaway yet – #24 on Most Requested list!

I still can’t believe it! My second giveaway for Shizzle, Inc lasted two weeks and it was requested by 1,699 people – enough to make it onto the front page of the Goodreads Most Requested list, and even climb up to #24 (there are 30 on the first page). Thank you all who’d entered – especially those who answered my plea on Twitter earlier today, when it was 37 requests or so away from making it to the front page. Amazingly, nearly 300 people requested it today alone.

As promised in the post about the results of the first giveaway, here is the comparison of the two:

Goodreads giveaway 2 results

I have added a new column to Shizzle Goodreads giveaways spreadsheet, to track how many followers I get РI was not paying attention to that number before, big mistake! I have not filled in the total cost to me Рwhich will be huge, since the winner is in Romania and I have to get the book there within 4-6 weeks.

Also, I had a lot of fun checking my book stats:

Shizzle stats on 24 Jan 16

Did you know you can look up this chart for any book on Goodreads? It’s in the top right corner of each book’s page – look for “stats”. Just today, 175 people added it to their “to read” shelves!

So, what did I learn from comparing (ahm, staring at the charts) the two giveaways? My data seems to confirm that:

  1. You should open the giveaway to the entire world. Interestingly, the second giveaway started slower, but had more daily adds in “the middle”, the normally dead time.
  2. It is better to have two short giveaways than one long one. Heck, my short one doubled the performance of the long one! Any guesses why? Is it because it was open to all countries?
  3. I have another guess – it is actually better to give one copy than multiple. I know, I know, everybody says to give as many as you can, but I spent hours looking at most requested and least requested books, and I have a gut feeling that giving multiple copies (some people give away 25!) creates a feeling that the book is not that special. Giving one, and preferably autographed, copy creates the opposite effect – that you are competing for something rare and special.

Another thing I’d learned from looking at other people’s giveaways, that they don’t do one, or even two of those – some of the very popular titles have been on practically constant giveaways. I’m about to schedule another one, and want to test one of the factors – I’m thinking another two weeks, all countries, one copy, but this time unsigned. Does the word “AUTOGRAPHED” have any effect on the numbers?

I will let you know in about three weeks!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

How to make a “floaty” banner in

Did you know that if you pay for the Premium account, you not only get rid of pesky third-party ads, you also get a list of benefits you are probably not using? Like CSS, or custom design?

I’m kind of excited and scared at the same time – I’m one of those people that knows how to drive cars and use computers, but not exactly sure how the cars or computers work. Still, I’m not gonna fall behind the times – I have to regularly force myself to try something new. Like buying a Surface Pro, even though it means a week of crying “Where did my file go?” and “I want my Grandpa PC back!”

This time it will be “Oh my God, what have I done to my website?”

By the way, have you noticed what I’ve done? It’s in the right top corner – see the invitation to buy my book? See how it won’t go away, no matter how fast you scroll? Cool, huh…do you want one for your website?¬†I will walk you through it step-by step while it’s still fresh in my mind.

I started with¬†WordPress support post on Custom design. I didn’t understand half of it, except that you can “try it now” without purchasing an upgrade, which is a good news for those with the free accounts.

I then read through some¬†of the CSS Customization Forum, backed away from the computer, and cried quietly in the corner. That’s my process, okay? You should have seen how much I cried over essays in highschool…anyway, the Forum will be a good resource later on, when I start getting all fancy with my trickery. For now, I will climb the mountain ¬†one step at a time. The first step I’d decided to take is create one of those (mildly obnoxious) floating invitations to buy your book or sign up for an email list.¬†I have to credit¬†alfageek¬†with generously sharing the original code for an¬†invitation to buy a book. Turns out that once you have a base to work from, learning CSS can be a lot of fun as you tinker with¬†values and then refresh madly, to see what your tinkering has done.

Ok, now for the promised easy steps:

STEP 1. Make a widget of your banner Рhave a look at how to create a widget for your Amazon book or how to create a widget using Amazon affiliate link.

STEP 2. Once you have a working widget, go to the wp-admin version of your site, and click on Appearances-Customise-CSS. This is what my CSS looks like now, with custom code beginning on line 6:

CSS code

STEP 2. Copy this code and paste it to your CSS window:

#text-4 {
font-weight: bold;
position: fixed;
right: -2px;
top: 120px;
margin: 0;
background: white;
border: solid 2px #ddd;
padding: 4px;

#text-4 h3 {
font-size: 16px;
line-height: 140%;

STEP 3. Almost finished! Change number “4” in lines 6 and 17 above to the order of your widget in the sidebar. So, if your widget is at the very top, change it to read “text-1” and so forth.

THAT’S IT!¬†Now, the fun part! Play with the code line-by-line and see what it does:

6. “text-4” refers to my widget being #4 in the sidebar. Change number to reflect the order position of your widget.

7. optional line – if you delete it, the font will not be bold.

8. “fixed” position means it will stay put while you scroll through the page.

9. “right” can be replaced with “left” – that’s where it will appear on the page. -2px refers to how far it is from the edge. Mine¬†has a 2px (2 pixels) border around it, so -2px shaves off the border on the right.

10. “top” can be replaced by “bottom”. Play around with the pixel number until you get it to the exact spot you want.

11.”margin” – add a margin, if you wish. I have none.

12. “background” – I have white. Have a look at¬†CSS Tricks¬†for codes to some alternative colors.

13. “border” – change pixel number to make it thicker, or delete this line if you don’t want a border. Change color code to match your website.

14. “padding” – controls the amount of background space around the text. Increase the number to make your banner larger, while the text stays the same.

15, 16 and 17 – I have no idea, just leave as is or play with it.

18. “font size” – did not seem to make a difference, perhaps it’s a combination of font size and line height (line #19).

19. change line height to make font larger.

Have fun!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Don’t fear HTML…make it work for you, one step at a time!

I was re-reading reviews of¬†Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1)¬†the other day. I do that quite often, actually – nothing like reading a good review of your book to get you out of the bed and to the keyboard. One of the reviewers mentioned that my book was somewhat similar in style to Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, No 1). I personally think that it’s more like The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel or maybe Bridget Jones’s Diary. In any case, it was great¬†to see my book compared to a bestseller.

You know what else is great? How easily I was able to sneak affiliate links into the paragraph above! Each one of these links is attributed to my affiliate account and could make me 4-6% on each sale.¬†I was so excited about it, that I went back to my interview with Matthew FitzSimmons and replaced the links to his book The Short Drop¬†with affiliate ones. It’s been months since that post, but a dozen people a week still find it from a google search for the author. It’s about time that interview started making me some money…and while I’m at it, why not sell Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Animal Designs? It looks like SO much fun…

Okay, okay, I got it out of my system now! Back to my original promise – to teach you how to go nuts using affiliate links in your own posts. If you have not yet, read my how to create an affiliate link¬†post first. Once you got an account with Amazon and can figure out how to get a link, the rest is easy – turns out, all I have to do is switch to HTML in the editor window – usually I just use the default “visual” setting. This is what the above paragraph looks like in visual (notice the highlighted “Visual” button in the top right corner):

Visual draft

…and this is what the same paragraph looks like in HTML:

HTML draft

Scary mess, right? Actually, not scary at all. You can write the entire post in “visual” setting, if you wish, then switch to HTML and plaster affiliate code in the right places. Switch back to visual, check that it looks ok, and voila! You’re in business. Literally.

If you want a bit more info on how to use HTML in, visit this WordPress support post.

Have fun!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Even more fun with WordPress widgets: how to create an Amazon affiliate link and make a ton of cents!

So I was procrastinating today and watching my sales creep up with eReader News Today, when I noticed that they are an Amazon Affiliate. How genius, huh? Not only they take our money to advertise, they get paid by Amazon, too. Not that I mind – of all the advertising websites I’ve tried, they’ve so far delivered the most value for the money…

They also gave me an idea – I’ve decided to become an Amazon affiliate too! Cause, you know, thousands of people are clicking on the Shizzle, Inc link…well, not thousands, just 100-200 per month, but that’s a start, right? So why not make the link an affiliate one and earn 4% on whatever sales happen as a result? At least it’s an experiment and something new to learn.

First things first – sign up to be an affiliate. Because I’m already registered with Amazon, it was ridiculously easy. Took about 5 minutes and I have no problems to report, or lessons learned – just make sure to have your tax number ready. The only bugger was that I can’t get paid by direct deposit, as I’m not in the US – so I’d opted to be paid with a gift certificate.

Next it came to creating a link – all you have to do is search for a product of interest, which in my case was Shizzle, Inc:

AA search results

Once I’d found it, I clicked on “Get link” and chose “text only” – to make long story short, I could not get image and text html to work and have found a work-around.

AA html

Then, I created a new “text” widget on my website – for more advice on creating links with text widgets see my¬†MailChimp explained post. This is what this new widget looks like:

AA widget

The tricky bit was how to make the link stand out. Previously, I’d¬†created a link to Amazon using an image widget, which worked well and was easy to use – just click on the image and you are there. I didn’t want to have a “naked” link only and as mentioned before, when I pasted in “image and text” html, I ended up with a lot of code visible to everyone. So I cheated: I put a text widget with HTML in the sidebar first, followed by the image widget, but without title or url link:

Two widgets

And here you go РI now have a working affiliate link in my sidebar, which should be earning me a cool 4 cents each time someone buys a book via my website! Yay!

Have fun ūüôā


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

The coolest marketing idea yet!

Well, at least I think so! What makes it so good is that it should help me solve several problems most start-up authors face, namely:

  • How do I get more reviews?
  • How do I generate pre-release buzz?
  • Ho do I get people to sign up to my email list?
  • How can I do that at low or no cost?

Are you excited yet? Do you want to know what it is? Okay, okay! It’s simple:

Create a permanent ARC list.

What’s that, you ask? Let’s start with ARC – Advanced Review Copy. If you want a detailed explanation, have a look at Between The Covers. It’s basically a copy of the book made available to reviewers before the release. Using ARCs to promote your book is a well-known marketing strategy, and other blogs, such as¬†Savvy Writers and eBooks Online¬†or Finish Your Book have posted detailed instructions on how to do that.

Oh, you say. So then what’s so special about your idea?

Glad you’ve asked! The one thing I could not figure out was whom should I send these ARCs? I’ve even started compiling a list of book review blogs, but it turned out that lots of them have gone quiet. It was frustrating to spend so much time looking through their posts to try and figure out if they’re active, if they have a following, and how to contact them. Then it hit me.

I already have reviewers.

I have my own group, who have discovered me, bought Shizzle, Inc¬†and posted reviews. They’ve been asking for a sequel, which means that they are the most likely people to read and review any of my future stories. Eureka!

Get to the point, you say? Okay, okay! Here it is:

If you have written a review of Shizzle, Inc and have posted it on or Goodreads, or both, I will send you an electronic copy of all my future books for free.

I’ve created another MailChimp list using the steps explained in my previous post. To sign up, click the link at the top of the sidebar or click here. You will need to provide a link to your review – sorry, this is the requirement to get on this super exclusive list. I reserve the right to delete any applications without a valid link. I also reserve the right to stop offering subscription to this list, so get in early!

I know what you think, how crazy am I to offer the books for free, in perpetuity. I don’t know if this is crazy or genius – time will tell, I guess. My hope is that it will get me the reviews and the buzz I need to get the momentum going. It’s also a great way to say “thank you” to the people who have taken time not only to read the book, but to help spread the word. Thank you, guys!

The sequel to Shizzle, Inc will be published in May – I will email¬†copies with Uncorrected Proof watermark to the ARC list¬†in April, while the sequel is on pre-order.¬†¬†Let me know what you think of this plan ūüôā



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

MailChimp signup for WordPress explained, plus get a free prequel to Shizzle, Inc!

Thank you, everyone, for providing advice and tips on how to get started with MailChimp! It motivated me not only to get my list and signup form organised, but also to finally publish a short story compilation. It’s a collection of three short stories that begin to shed some light on how Isa came to be the character that she is:


What do you think of the cover? I was in a hurry, so will play with the title font more some other time. I found another image of the same model on Shutterstock – and by the way, I found a coupon for 10% off an order online, and it worked! The coupon code is “SS10”, in case you are interested. Anyway, back to This Is Why: this little book is NOT AVAILABLE ANYWHERE else – I will not be publishing it on Amazon, at least not until I come up with another half-dozen or so stories. It is my gift and bait to get you to join my brand new email list :-).

Speaking of which, yay! I already have 6 subscribers! That all happened while I was busy writing this post – and even before I’d made promises of the free stories. Wow, thank you guys so much – and if you didn’t get a copy of This Is Why, let me know, and I will email it to you. I promise not to spam you – the purpose of the list will be to make sure you don’t miss out on time-limited opportunities, like the next free cover giveaway, or a new book going on sale or given away for free. If interested, please click here or on the link at the top of the sidebar – I’m calling it my hush-hush VIP list…

It feels good to join the ranks of marketing gurus…and, as promised, this is how you can do it too:

I’d started by trying to use step by step instructions in this¬†Ultimate Guide to Using Mailchimp and WordPress, but the code for the text widget did not work for me, instead displaying the naked code for all to see. An HTML-fluent person could fix it, but I certainly couldn’t.

So then I’d tried Aniko Carmean’s instructions¬†and they worked beautifully! NOTE: make sure there’s no duplication of quote marks, or anything like that – at first my link sent me to an “oops” page, but I managed to resolve it by removing one duplicated quote mark. Technology…

Just to make sure we’re on the same page,¬†this is what my Text Widget looks like:

Widget text

Clicking on the link will take you to this signup page.¬†I called it Ana Spoke’s supporters – because that’s what you guys are to me:

Signup page

I chose to only ask for the email and first name, no last name or anything. As simple as possible. I also didn’t mess with any formatting, because, luckily, the font and color scheme fit nicely with my blog theme. Aniko’s directions do talk about formatting, just in case youre interested.

Next, I had to figure out how to provide the free prequel copy with the signup. At first it was a headache, because I knew which form to use, but could not figure out how to attach a file to it. Luckily, MailChimp has a guide on how to do just that – I can’t post a link for some reason, but just search MailChimp Help for “send a file to new subscribers” and you’re in business. Basically you need to start a “final welcome email”, click on the suggested sentence in a red dash-line box, which opens the editor similar to WP one. Write the message, then highlight the words you want to turn into the link to your file, click on the link icon above (again, so similar to WP), and choose “file” from the pull-down menu. After the user confirms their email subscription, they will receive a confirmation email that looks like this:

Screenshot (41)

Someone suggested setting up the gift in Instafreebie, which I think is a good idea. I’d decided to just send a pdf, as I’m not too worried about the copyright in this instance and wanted to keep things as simple as possible. If you decide to send subscribers a whole book, do look into Instafreebie and let us all know how it works for you.

Speaking of keeping things simple, I’d decided not to use CAPTCHA. I opted for it at first, but then, when I did a test subscription myself (which I highly recommend you do as well), I found it extremely annoying to have to pick which of the collage of photos have pancakes. Please! I wonder how many subscribers I’d lose at that point…

WORD OF CAUTION: apparently by law (CAN-SPAM Act) you’re required to display your physical address in every email and even when people subscribe! You can’t opt out of this requirement – believe me, I’ve tried. The address can be a P.O. Box, but it has to be a valid one, where you can receive mail. For now I’m using a friend’s P.O. Box, and will set up my own this week. You can put a fake address, probably, but why risk a $16,000 fine?

So there you go – it’s possible, relatively easy, and it works! I will keep monitoring the progress and keep you updated, as always. Thank you all so much!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

So I got myself a MailChimp…

Question is, what do I do with it? Everybody and their grandma seems to advise building an email list, but is it really that different from “subscribe to blog via email” ? I mean, would anyone want to get a newsletter from me, considering that I already document every step and event along the way? Not to mention, I can’t even figure out how to add the sign up to my WP theme…

Does anyone have experience building an email list, and if so – was it worth it? And how do I get a signup form into a template?

Sorry for this completely uninformative and uninspiring post. I promise to make it up with the next one!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing