Monthly Archives: February 2016

The full-time writing gig is almost here, plus pics of my writing room

With just a couple of days left till I’m a full-time writer (for five months, but still!), I’m feeling the pressure of my ambitious writing plan. To be honest, I have not been writing much lately, partially due to some traumatic personal stuff I’m going through at the moment, and probably because I’ve been deferring writing for this time when I will be free from work stress and thus magically transformed into a writing machine. As a result, my tracking spreadsheet looks like this:

Bad writing record

The zig-zagging red “goal” line shows that I have twice already given up and reset my goal, only to fall short again. This can’t happen over the next five months, otherwise I would have wasted my long service leave, which I’ve been accumulating for eight years…it can’t happen!

So, I have started by setting up my environment. Virginia was right – oh, what a difference a room of one’s own makes…and here is mine!


Terrible photo, sorry, can you tell how fabulous is the desk? Made even more so by the fact that it set me back just $10 on eBay. I mean, $10 AUD! That means it was practically free in American dollars! And the chair was just $25 from a garage sale.

My Italian Greyhound approves…everyone, meet Bubbles:


I have managed to write a thousand words today, which is a far cry from the 3-4K I mean to write every single day for the next three weeks or so. Still, having a space to go and sit at the desk, all official-like was better than my usual lounging in bed or on the couch, which inevitably led to Internet surfing.

I plan to also dangle a carrot in front of my nose, for further motivation – I just made a deal with myself that if I complete my weekly plan, I will get a 45-minute massage at the end of the week. If I overachieve the plan by at least 25%, I will get an hour-long massage. And if I don’t complete it…well, there will be an extra grueling gym session on the weekend. Oh, I didn’t mention – I plan to also lose a couple of kilos during the five months. These are quite possibly pipe dreams, but who knows? I am trying to pound into my cerebral cortex a message of “your life could be like this every day.”

Speaking of pipe dreams, here’s another one. I finally unpacked an artist’s easel and a huge canvas I’d bought about a year ago:


The big white canvas is just as frightening as my current word count and the number on my weight scale. Still, with a plan and daily discipline, I should be able to do it all, right? I started by taking stock of the “current state”, as I usually do at work:

  • Published books: 1
  • Drafted words: 33,330
  • Paintings: 0
  • Kilos: 62.6 (that’s 138 pounds)
  • Klout score: 61 (more on Klout in the next post)

Let’s see where I get to by 1 August 2016!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

A Wild and Crazy Ride

Thank you, Kathy, for this review of Shizzle, Inc! Glad you’ve enjoyed the ride 🙂

Source: A Wild and Crazy Ride

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Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Cruz have endorsed my book!

That, of course, is an outrageous lie. What’s true, is that I have come up with the craziest marketing idea to-date. See for yourself:

What do you think? So far these videos are responsible for exactly one confirmed sale – funny enough, from someone who was initially upset over my Twitter post of Donald Trump, but then got the joke, and the book!

I did it with a phone app called Face Swap Live. Youngsters at work were having a blast one day swapping faces, and once I saw it, I had to have it. I was on the couch that night, making myself look like Beyonce (that hair!), when it occurred to me that I could use it for business as well as for procrastination. Long story short, I made the videos above. I’ve played with lighting and makeup, so while it may look “slapped together”, each one took quite a bit of work. More will be coming, since you can literally import any photo you like. If you want to see what I come up with next, subscribe to my brand new YouTube channel.

Speaking of “any photo you like”, how about animating your book cover?

The possibilities are truly endless!

Have fun!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

January marketing update – Choosy Bookworm and BookHearts disasters, plus other fun facts

Hi, everyone, just a quick update on the book marketing companies I’ve tested in January. It was only a few, since I wanted to make sure that the results I was getting were due to a specific promo and not an overlap.

First off, let’s have a look at the sales. As you can see, Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1) is back with Kindle Select, and can’t be happier about the additional action:

January sales

As usual, I’ve updated my Super-Duper, Exhaustive and Comprehensive List and the January highlights are below:

  1. BookHearts, a subsidiary of Choosy Bookworm, had a second chance on 9 January, but something went wrong and I only got 2 sales. I’d contacted them and they agreed to run the promo (whether the first time or again, not sure) on 18 January. See for yourself- I got 5 sales. The cost was $5, which is not much, but the result is still disappointing. What was even more dissapointing is that I’ve tried to contact Jay from Choosy Bookworm/BookHearts a number of times, and never got a response  OF ANY KIND. Makes me want to start a “blacklist”.
  2. On 14 January  it was BKnights via Fiverr turn. I paid $5, even though I saw mixed reviews. I got 4 sales and didn’t bother to ask why.
  3. On 16 January it was Choosy Bookworm. I got the “Guaranteed Feature” on sale for $19. Sold 11 copies. I contacted Jay, just like I did for BookHearts – no response. I can’t be more disappointed – blacklist it is!
  4. 19 January – I screwed up and did 2 giveaways. I will need to re-run and re-test Buck Books – the link is to their policies, but to apply to advertise you actually need to contact Jennifer directly on Claim to have 42,000 subscribers. Cost – $12. I also did eReader News Today again, at $30. Total sales were 44 on the day, plus about 2,000 pages read in the next few days.
  5. 31 January – Betty Book Freak. Cost: $12. Sales – zero (if you don’t count the pages read). To give Betty credit, she promptly refunded my money.
  6. 2 February – eBook Soda. Cost: $15. I got one sale. Once again, they refunded my money, so I will leave them in “try for yourself” category.

I have not scheduled any other promos yet, a bit burned out (it takes a lot of time) and also, this month I’m playing with Amazon pay-per-click promos. Ever wondered if it’s worth it, what to set as per-click price, and whether to use categories or associations with other products?

Results in a couple of weeks!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

The differences (however slight) between CreateSpace and Lightning Source paperbacks

Have you worried yourself sick over which one of these companies to pick as your PoD? Well, the good news is that there’s no need to stress – if you are planning to publish a fiction novel without graphics (as in the case of my book), then, in my opinion, one is as good as the other.

I have now published with both, mainly to:

  1. Save on shipping costs. When I run Goodreads giveaways, I can now send a book to the winner directly from either publisher, depending on which option is cheaper. I also get to order cheaper, locally printed copies for my promotional mayhem in Australia.
  2. Lightning Source allows a “return” option, which means I stand a chance of having my book ordered by bookstores, even though I take a risk of them returning my books at my expense.

Publishing with both was extremely easy, although Lightning Source does charge a small fee upfront (was $50 AUD for me). There are very slight differences in appearance of the paperbacks, and I’ve tried to document them below.

Let’s start with the first impression. Can you spot any differences? The Australian Lightning Source (ALS) version is on the left, the American CreateSpace (ACS) one is on the right:


The ALS version (left) is slightly lighter/brighter – noticeable in the red and gold of the title. Ignore the spacing between my first and last name and the position of the small gold line near the spine – I did those tweaks. The slight difference in color can also be seen on the back cover:


In both cases the printing is crisp – any differences/fuzziness of the font is purely due to my poor photography skills. The interiors are also very similar, if not identical (again, ALS is on the left/top):


The paper feels identical, although maybe, just maybe, the ALS is slightly smoother and ACS is slightly softer. The only (annoying) difference was that ACS did not want to lie flat, whereas ALS opened easier. This may be due to the differences in binding.

Speaking of binding, this is where I finally noticed a difference. In the photo below ALS is at the back (so the top of the photo). The ACS is next to my thumb.


ACS is thicker! Not by a huge amount, but it is probably due to the thickness of paper, so please make your own conclusions. For me, this is good news for when I mail signed books – both can be mailed as a “letter” at 248 pages (6×9 inch format), but it may mean that if my next one is slightly thicker, I may still be able to pay cheaper postage for the thinner book. The thicker book, on other hand, may appeal to others as more substantive? Also, not sure if it will last longer – but does that really matter with fiction paperbacks?

One last small difference in binding is the groove along the seam. ALS is on the bottom/left:


The groove is much more pronounced on ACS and is further from the spine (which explains why it is harder to keep ACS open). Does this mean it’s a better/more secure binding? I don’t know, but so far it doesn’t seem like either one will be losing pages soon.

So there you go, more info for you to mull over. Or, perhaps, to ignore? I’d say take a plunge and publish with either one – you won’t be disappointed 🙂



Filed under Shizzle, Inc.


UPDATE: I revised it as best as I could, given my still too-limited skills:

Ok, just look at it! I’ll tell you all about how I did it and how much it cost (in terms of time and lost hair) right after, I promise!

What do you think? I really wanted to make BDSM appear first and the explanation later, but to tell you the truth, this was so difficult that I will need a week to recuperate before I’m ready to try again…

So, how did I do that? How much did it cost? Did it make any impact on sales?

I made the clip myself, at a total cost of $0 and about 10-12 hours of customising, watching tutorials and searching self-help forums. The clip was created with Adobe After Effects CC, and I started the process with a free template from After Effects Templates and added  “Playing to Win” soundtrack from Free Stock Music.

Easy-peasy, right? If you don’t mind, I’m just gonna whine a bit now. If you’d rather focus on the positive stuff, just skip the following paragraph.

(Oh, my God, it hurt! I’m all for “you can do it!”, but in this particular case I have to warn you – it was hard! If you are pretty good with Photoshop, then definitely go ahead and try – just please don’t brag about how easy it is (like the kids in tutorials, seriously!). If, however, you don’t understand Photoshop layers, then save yourself from this stress. Not only the software is hard to understand, it was a nightmare to try and upload the clip directly to Twitter. After hours of trying, it turned out that while Twitter technically allows MP4 and MOV files, you can’t upload MOV from the desktop, only from mobile. What? And  for whatever reason, my After Effects does not have the option of saving the file as MP4 (perhaps because it’s a trial version). Then if you think you’re so clever, and you email the MOV file to yourself with the intention of saving it to your phone and uploading to the app, the phone refuses to save the file, as it is apparently unsupported. What? I’ve managed to start a YouTube channel and posted a YouTube link to Twitter, but it just looks like a boring link on the phone, and no matter how hard I’ve tried to figure out how to embed a YouTube link, I couldn’t. If anyone knows, really knows how – please help!)

Ok, back to the positive. I HAVE A BOOK TRAILER!! Yay! I have uploaded it to my Goodreads author page (easy YouTube link and instant upload) and Amazon author page (direct upload and up to 24 hours of processing). I don’t know if I could ever tell if this makes an impact on sales, but it sure gives Shizzle, Inc an aura of a professionally published book…

Once my nerves settle, I may try it again – in fact, I was thinking of perhaps running one of the free giveaways with the option of either a book cover or a book trailer. Again, if this interests you, make sure to sign up for the Don’t Miss It! email list (see the floating banner on the right).

Gotta go look at the trailer one more time…nope, it does not get old!


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

What do you meme?

If you know how to pronounce “meme”, you should get the jokey title. And if you don’t, don’t worry – you’re not alone! I kept calling them “me-me” up until the last week, and why not? Please, somebody, explain, why is it that a new word gets invented in this day and age, which is hard enough as it is, and for some reason it has to be pronounced exactly counterintuitively? I’ve made my peace with “choir” and “sixth”, and “knife”, because they were invented by your ancestors back when there was no electricity or canalisation. (My ancestors invented Russian, and yeah, it’s not for beginners either).

But why now? Why do you have to remember that a word spelled “meme” is actually pronounced “meem”? Is it to separate those “in the know” from late adaptors? Anyway, enough ranting, let’s get to what I actually was very excited to tell you – despite my pronunciation shortcomings, I now meme with the best of them.

Oh, and if you have not come across the term before – meme is basically something that goes viral, like a funny picture with an even funnier caption. Basically, every LOL CAT ever made. Here is my favorite one of all time:

raccoon meme

I was posting quotes from Shizzle, Inc to my Buffer account, which feeds my Twitter, when it occurred to me that I could easily turn some of those quotes into memes. I was so excited with visions of the Internet exploding with all the sharing of Isa’s dubious wisdom, that I made a few of them right away:





I was so excited, that I even made a few with Mr. Hue:

Meme #5A - smaller Mr HueMeme #9 Mr HueMeme #6 Mr HueMeme #7 Mr Hue

So, have they gone viral? Well, not exactly (yet), but I’ve had a lot more “engagements” with these memes instead of the same quotes, which I’ve twitted before with links to Shizzle, Inc Amazon sale page. My average engagement rate with quotes was 1-2%, but the memes got 3-8% engagement.

The only issue was, memes did not get retwitted as much, so the number of impressions was lower. Still, where my quotes got 2-3K impressions and 20-30 “engagements” each, memes got anywhere from 1k to 2K impressions, but 30-80 engagements each. Not only that, my average sales per day (without any other promos) went from an average of 0.5 books per day to 1.5 books per day during last week. Not huge numbers, but enough to have me excited about making more of these…maybe introducing other characters as well?

Of course, I have to share lessons learned, the major one being the size and orientation of the photo. The very first meme I made looked like this:
Meme #3

I thought it was pretty good at the time, but the problem was that when it got uploaded to Twitter, it ended up looking like this in the feed:

FullSizeRender (2)

That was a lesson in “don’t do anything without research”. I had a look at the suggested photo proportions and found that 1:2 was recommended, or 512×1024 pixels. I reformatted my meme. Close, but no cigar:

FullSizeRender (3)Finally, after a few trials, I figured out a perfect size: 512 pixels high by 908 pixels wide. The 1:2 ratio may have been true once, or maybe it’s a simplified version of 512:908, but I do believe my ratio is better:

FullSizeRender (4).jpg

I am using Photoshop to create my memes, but you can also use free online software – just google “free meme maker”. I can’t recommend any, unfortunately, because I have not tried them. If you do try a meme or two of your own, please let us all know how it has worked for you.

Have fun!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

February’s Guest Storyteller, Ana Spoke

A big thank you to Sarah Potter for featuring me in her “Storytellers” series. A great idea that has resulted in a fascinating collection of short “stories within stories” – from fantasy to horror and, of course, comedy. Have a read of a Shizzle, Inc excerpt and other writers’ work – nothing is over 600 words.

Sarah Potter Writes

AnaSpokeAna Spoke is a self-published author and an unbridled enthusiast. She currently calls Australia home, but you can always find her on

FINAL COVER September 5

Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome Ana as this month’s guest storyteller to share with us a snippet from her hilarious chic-lit novel, Shizzle, Inc.

Here are a few comments from my review of her book on Goodreads and Amazon, where I awarded it five stars.

This  humour novel is quite different from my normal reading material, but then that’s probably because it is quite different, full stop! …Initially, I decided to read it because the author connected with me via blogging and I admired her sense of direction re Indie publishing. …This début novel is the first in an intended series and I fully confess to looking forward to the next of Isa Maxwell’s escapades. …Shizzle, Inc kept me so fully engaged for a…

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Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

This is how to get your book into a bookstore’s front window

If you walk past St. Kilda Readings today, you may notice a familiar cover in its window:

Book in front shop window sideways

No, not The Martian! Right next to it, look!

Book in front shop window close up

Yep, there she is, looking a little freaked out to be in such distinguished company. How did she get there, you ask?

Turns out that all you have to do is ask.

This has gone a long way to power up my batteries – I’ve been feeling a little down lately and ended up reading a few ugly articles thrashing self-publishing, one going so far as to declare that self-published authors are “neither published, nor authors”. Well – up yours, dear critic. If it looks like a book, and it reads like a book, and, gosh darn it, people like it and are willing to display it on the top shelf next to a bestseller – well, that means I’m a published author. And the fact that I did it all myself makes it that much more special.

Aaaaahhh…Isn’t life grand?


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

Design for the free cover contest winner revealed!

Whew! I was quite a bit nervous when I started working on the cover for the Free Cover Design Contest winner – Amir Ghazi of The World of Horror. I mean, I love Stephen King just as much as every other person on this planet, but I can’t come up with a horrific image! Not unless it involves a cockroach in a soup or something…

I’m relieved to report that after a couple of mock-ups and a lot of back-and-forth discussion, I came up with a design that made Amir happy. Here it is, in paperback wrap and Kindle format:

The Nightmare wrap - final.jpgThe Nightmare Kindle version - final.jpg

And the best thing is, after the initial jitters, I had a ton of fun working on it! It was practically an addiction for a couple of days, I’ve learned new tricks, and can’t wait to start working on a final version of the cover for Indiot. Originally I was going to run this contest again in maybe six months, but now I think I might do it sooner – so if you are interested in submitting your pitch for a free design, sign up for my Don’t Miss It list.

Let me know what you think!


Filed under Win a free book cover!