Monthly Archives: April 2016

And just like that, I’m an author of a series

Well, not quite yet – but as of today, Indiot (Isabella Maxwell’s Escapades Book 2) is available for pre-sale on Amazon. This was my plan, all along – to make it available well before the release day, which I have scheduled for 16 July, but for some reason I was in a state of analysis paralysis when it came to deciding when to upload and when to schedule the launch day.

You see, Amazon lets you upload a book for up to 90 days before the release, but if you miss the date, or don’t upload the final draft 10 days prior, you will be banned from pre-releasing anything else for a whole year.  Not only that, they want you to upload a “final draft for review”. You can read the full details in Kindle Preorder guide. They do say that the “final draft” may still need to undergo copy-editing, but it’s not clear what they would be checking or how raw of a draft it could be. At the same time, I see books on Kindle all the time that are slotted for release in six or more months – how is that possible?

Another reason I was not ready to upload was that I just could not figure out how to finish the draft cover. To remind you, this is what the mock-up looked like:

Indiot Mock up 1

The main issue I had with the mock-up was the title, as usual. I liked the idea of the diamonds, because a certain diamond necklace is featured in the plot, but when I started working on the final version, the diamonds were competing with all the other embroidery and textures. So I set it aside. For about three months, until I finally had a breakthrough today. It’s a diamond necklace, duh!

FINAL Indiot Kindle cover

Once I had the new design figured out, the adrenaline went through the roof – suddenly I was decisive and confident. In a matter of a couple of hours, I registered the ISBN, had the draft text formatted, and the cover and manuscript uploaded to KDP. I spent a few nail-biting hours worrying that KDP would come back with “You have a bazillion spelling mistakes” until I saw that Indiot was available on Kindle. It took another couple of hours for my Author page to be updated, and then an hour-long exhausted nap, as I collapsed in a wake of a realisation so enormous, I still have to pinch myself.

I’m an author of a series.

Okay, so it’s short, at two installments, but it finally gives me the marketing leverage I’ve craved for so long. I’ve already made Shizzle, Inc free on Kobo, so if you have a moment, could you please help me make it perma-free by telling Amazon to match the price? The “tell us about a lower price” link is under Shizzle, Inc ratings (you will also need the Kobo link above):

free Shizzle

I even made a new banner for the blog, to finally make it look like a proper author page – what do you think? The next thing on my list is a similar banner for Twitter. I can almost taste the new marketing, starting with a whole wave of the new quotes. More ads, too –  and if you’ve read Shizzle, Inc but have not yet posted the review on Amazon, could you pretty-please do that? I’m at 37 reviews at the moment, but supposedly I have to be at 60 to get the attention of BookBub. I have some other crazy new ideas, which I will hatch in a separate post.

And finally, if you are waiting on the beta-version to read, I’m still tinkering with it 🙂 But I will definitely email it on 1 May – thank you in advance for so generously donating your time!

This is all. One hell of a day, and the one thought that keeps going through my mind is – why was I so afraid to list it for pre-order in the first place? It was not hard.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

A simple guide to overcoming 1-star review grief

I briefly mentioned in my last post that free giveaways are notorious for attracting random readers that just don’t get your novel. Also, you may or may not know that the average Goodreads rating for any given book is usually lower than that on Amazon. This may be due to a few reasons, one of them being that people can rate your book without ever reading it.

So it’s not that much of a surprise that someone posted a 1-star review of Shizzle, Inc on Goodreads today. Still, it was a kick in the balls that I don’t even have, to read words such as “heaving pile that’s hard to swallow”, “poorly developed characters and an equally poorly thought out plot”, and finally “I’m sure the author is planning an equally stomach-churning sequel.” Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Normally I think of myself as having thick skin, but the review derailed me, and after a pretty good day, too – I penned 1,300 words of that stomach-churning sequel and even had an idea for another Donald Trump video spoof. Suddenly, I didn’t feel funny at all. Felt like an idiot for taking time off work to do this, and a whole bunch of other very unhelpful thoughts. I had to reverse the nosedive before I crushed. I tried watching TV, but it was all bad news, as usual. I poured myself a glass, but it only made me feel closer to tears. Then I struck onto a brilliant idea, and it worked like a charm. I decided to put it down in writing for future reference, as alas, I’m sure I’ll have even more bad reviews on my path to developing Isa into a bestselling sensation. I hope it may help you, too.

Life is all about perspective, isn’t it? I was actually pondering that just a couple of days ago, as I wrote this sentence in Indiot’s draft:

Everything is relative, and everyone is familiar with that concept – it’s the one that causes your ass to appear either huge or toned, depending on whether you’re in a yoga class or Burger King waiting line.

So for a bit of a reality check, I decided to peruse Goodreads reviews of some of the world-famous books that are known as epic bestsellers. Below are some stats on those books, complete with juicy quotes lifted from 1-star reviews:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling. Number of 1-star ratings: 59,343. Most striking quote: “Awful in every way.”
  2. The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) Number of 1-star ratings: 33,017. Most striking quote: “Tolkien can’t write. He can’t build character. He can’t advance a plotline.”
  3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S. Lewis. Number of 1-star ratings: 15,800. Most striking quote: “Well,all right.I have to say that this book is terrible…In fact I haven’t read this book before but I’ve heard from other people that this book had ruined their childhood… :(“
  4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Number of 1-star ratings: 96,578. Most striking quote: “If I could give this book a zero, I would. I absolutely hated it.”
  5. The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon #2) by Dan Brown. Number of 1-star ratings: 68,541. Most striking quote: “Whoever edited this drivel ought to be sewn in a sack with a rabid raccoon and flung into Lake Michigan.”
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy #1) by Stieg Larsson. Number of 1-star ratings: 47,572. Most striking quote: “This is a book so bad that it doesn’t deserve a review.”
  7. 1984 by George Orwell. Number of 1-star ratings: 35,943. Most striking quote: “Not really for me. Where’s the action, where’s the romance?”

I was going to do ten of these, but I feel a whole lot better now and would rather return to writing that sequel. I have a lot of work to do before I can earn tens of thousands of 1-star reviews.

Hope you’re feeling a whole lot better too.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Who wants to beta-read Indiot?

Hi, there, everyone. Whew, what a rollercoaster few days I’ve had! The free giveaway on Kindle is over, with 3,974 copies given away. It’s only been a few days, so it’s too early to give you a full report, but I got my first new review just two days into the giveaway, and boy, what a gem it was!

New review

This is a huge relief, as free giveaways are apparently notorious for attracting bad reviews – people grab freebies without regard to genre, read them, don’t “get them”, and feel disappointed enough to complain. I hope more will come in the next couple of weeks as I have actually seen a huge spike in KENP – more than 2,500 pages read over the last four days. If it was anyone reading this, could you please post a review on Amazon? Apparently I need to get to about 60 to attract BookBub’s attention, and I’m now at 33.

I have no explanation for this KENP spike, by the way. I have contacted Amazon and they have confirmed that during free days people with KU get my book outright – so why such an influx? Sadly, I shall never know, as I have now taken Shizzle, Inc off Kindle Select – I plan to make it permafree in about a month, to celebrate the preorder launch of Indiot.

Speaking of which, I would like to get about 3-5 beta readers for Indiot, is anyone interested? This would be different from an Advanced Review Copy – if you’ve registered for my Permanent ARC list (see the floating banner to the right), you will automatically get a copy. This is more about helping me work through the current draft. I myself have never been a beta reader, and I have not done that with Shizzle, Inc, but I’ve given some thought to who I’d like to help me:

  1. Beta readers get to read and privately review a book before it is copyedited. This could be exciting, or disappointing, depending on how you look at it. You will not have a chance to be surprised at reading the finished book. (By the way, each beta reader will get an autographed paper copy as a thank you, when it’s released in July.)
  2. You generally like humor and chicklit, and you’ve read Shizzle, Inc and liked it enough. If you didn’t “get” it, you will probably be disappointed with Indiot. Not only the storyline relies on the knowledge of the previous events, it is similarly unrealistic and off the wall. That’s just what I do…
  3. You will have time to read about 70,000 words in the first two weeks of May. Sorry for the tight timeline, but I’m only looking for a high-level review, there would be no need to do copyediting – I will hire a professional editor to do that.
  4. You would be willing to critique my work in a constructive way – “this is shit” and “this is perfect” would be equally unhelpful. I’m looking for things like “this did not make sense” and “why did she do X when she said Y just before?” and maybe “you should develop the scene Z more.”
  5. I would give preference to Americans. Sorry! It will depend on how many people express interest, but I might have to make this call, as the novel is set in the US and I need all the help I can get, being a Russian-Down-Under. By the way, comments such as “Americans would say bla-bla instead of blah-di-blah” would be very welcome.
  6. Sorry for the #5. On the more inclusive side, any gender or age is welcome. I’m still blown away by how many guys have left reviews on Amazon – could this be the beginnings of dudelit?

This is all I could think of – if you have any questions or suggestions, please ask away! If you want to beta-read Indiot, please email me on ana.spoke (AT)

Thank you in advance!



Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Give it away, give it away, give it away NOW!

How you guys doin’? I’m flying high – not only cause life on [read: near] the beach is sweet, but because my latest promo is doing even better than I expected. In my last post, I bemoaned the lack of sales, which was all my fault, anyway. All writing and no marketing makes Ana a poor-selling author. I didn’t moan for very long, though, before I decided to do something about it, namely stage a massive, promoted free giveaway.

The last time I made Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1) free was in September, about two weeks after it was released. I didn’t advertise it, other than on the blog and Twitter, as it was intended to be just a thanks to my followers. With no sequel in sight, giving it away made no sense. Over the two days, about 150 people downloaded it.

This time around, the sequel is so close, I can smell it. Okay, so it still smells a bit raw, but at half-edited 63K words, I’m very close to the finish line. In fact, the plan is to pre-release it in just about a week! So I’m now ready to do what a bunch of authors have done before me – give away the first book in the series for free. I will make it permafree as soon as Indiot is available, but for now, I tried a KDP 5-day free giveaway.

I didn’t know what to expect, so I made an arbitrary goal of giving away 3,000 books over the whole period and sneaking my way into top 100 Free in Kindle store. I advertised it as follows:

11 April: Reading Deals – $15.

12 April: Kindle Nation Daily – $99.

13 April: eBookasaurus – free; Manybooks – $25; AskDavid – free.

14 April: AskDavid – free (they tweet multiple times).

15 April: none.

So what did I get for my investment of $139?

Well, it’s not even finished yet, but I’ve already given away 3,100 copies!

Screenshot (43)

Of course, a lot of people just stuff their Kindles with freebies, so I’m gonna assume that most of these copies will never be read. Of those that will, some will probably not get it and hate it – that’s just the risk I have to take. But then! There will be others, who will get hooked on Isa’s escapades and will buy the next installment at the full price of, say, $2.99. If it’s 10% of the above, I would make my money back, and then some. Will it work? I will let you know, of course…

And how about the rankings? I have a new addiction, a tracker tool supplied for free by Kindle Nation Daily:

KND tracker

You can see that Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1) has come close, oh so close, but those thousands of free books were not enough. After this experiment and a lot of stalking of my competition, I am convinced that the only way to get onto the first page of Free Kindle Store is with BookBub. Trouble is, apparently everybody already knows that – the competition for promos with BookBub is fierce. So far I’ve applied twice and was rejected as many times, but from reading other people’s blogs, it seems that the ratio of applications to successful placements is close to 10:1. Those same people have reported anywhere between 20-100 THOUSAND giveaway copies as a result, so I just need to buckle up and keep trying. In the meantime, I’m thinking of printing this for my inspiration board:

Sales rank 108

I know that some of you are against giving your work away for free, and I completely understand why – common sense tells me not to give away something that cost me $3,000 and two years to make. But I slap it back down because the big picture demands that I do just that. Time will tell if it will pay off.

Hey, Ana Spoke from September 2016, what do you think? Have I made the right choice?



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

Demystifying Amazon Giveaways

Of all the marketing tools, Amazon giveaway is one I have not yet tried. One of the reasons for it was that at the time I last checked, you had to give away a physical copy, and I doubted that the ROI would be worth it.

Turns out that you can now give away a Kindle book – and not only that, you will get the royalties back! Read on for the step by step details…I know I will be trying it as soon as my current Free Days are over.


The real one bounces The real one bounces

Amazon got into the “giveaway” business about a year ago, and they have been tweaking and tuning and changing them ever since. As a result, any research you do on whether they are a good promotional tool is going to turn up a lot of outdated information. If it isn’t Spring 2016 as you read this, then consider this post outdated too. Go look for a better source.

One of the recent changes was allowing you to give away Kindle books. That seemed like an interesting new approach to raising awareness. If you follow this blog, you know awareness is the only problem you have as an author promoting your books. But there are so many questions! So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sciencing the fuck out of these giveaways, to try to get some answers.

How an Amazon Giveaway Works

You start…

View original post 2,352 more words


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

New marketing plans, a magic hashtag, and a free giveaway

I’ve been  trying diligently to get the first draft of Indiot finished, which has been at the expense of blogging. I won’t lie, there have been long morning walks on the beach with the dog, a few massages, and more than few renovation shows in the mix. Maybe even an occasional Real Housewives of Whatever, but I consider that research – in the third instalment, which is currently under plotment, Isa gets into more filthy rich drama than she could ever imagine.

I’ve also done a presentation on self-publishing basics to my writer’s group – it was so successful, I’ve been asked to do it again in a couple of weeks. I was incredibly nervous, so much so that I forgot to tape it! Such a bummer, too, because I was on fire, with the show turning into a bit of stand up. People were laughing AND taking notes, what more could I ask for? I will be more composed and better prepared next time and hope to post a decent video on YouTube.

As a result of all this sidetracking, sales are down. Boo! I mean, boo-hoo, poor me:

Sales on 7 april

Of course, I’ve learned something from this experience, the most important lesson being is that you can’t go into a house flip without a proper plan and budget, or expecting to do all the work yourself when you don’t even know how to hold a hammer. Secondly, you can never stop marketing your book, because the snowball effect doesn’t happen unless you keep pushing it along. Thirdly, you can get a massage for cheap at you local massage school, and yes, two massages a week are okay – after all, you’re helping students learn. Good on you.

There’s another small but pretty amazing discovery I’ve made last week, which I’m happy to share with you. Have a look at the above graph – do you notice anything? Specifically in the blue “Normalised Pages Read” part? Over the last four weeks both graphs were pretty much dead, with just a few sales and pages read thanks to my regular tweets of quotes with links. It was especially slow over the last two weeks, when I became so destructed, I forgot to top my Buffer account on most days. Then, a few days ago, I made one small change which resulted in a big spike on the blue graph.

Hands up – who wants to know what it is?

Believe it or not, I just changed a Twitter hashtag. Instead of a useless #humor and #kindle and fairly useless #amwriting and #IndieBooksBeSeen, I now make sure each tweet is accompanied by this little beauty:


That’s it. Honestly, I have no idea why I have not targeted subscribers to Kindle Unlimited before – Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1) is as good as free to them, but I get about $2 each time someone reads the whole thing, as compared to the $0.35 royalty I get with each $0.99 sale. I’m so excited about this discovery! I’d love to figure out how to target and find more Kindle Unlimited customers – if anyone has experience or ideas, I’d love to hear them.

So back to the lack of marketing action. Not only did it result in lack of sales, but the old enemy doubt has started creeping in and whispering various ugly thoughts. I know they are not true and that Isa will one day hit the big screen, but it’s demotivating. So it’s time I kill them dead with the next big marketing effort.

For this new experiment, I chose to do a solid 5-day free giveaway of Shizzle on Kindle. It will be on 11-15 April, inclusive and I have the following promos planned, some with companies I have not tested before. I will update the list below as confirmations come in, and, as usual, I will update the Super Duper List with the actual numbers, once the promos are completed.

11 April: Reading Deals – $15.

12 April: Kindle Nation Daily – $99.

13 April: eBookasaurus – free; Manybooks – $25; AskDavid – free.

14 April: AskDavid – free (they tweet multiple times).

15 April: none.

Submitted, awaiting confirmation:

  • AskDavid
  • eBooks Habit
  • eReader News – sold out.
  • Free Kindle Books and Tips
  • Ignite your book – not sure if my submission was successful
  • Readcheaply
  • Zwoodle books

Fingers crossed – I hope to get to #1 in Free Bestseller List in one of the categories. Will let you know what happens!



Filed under Self-publishing and marketing