Monthly Archives: February 2017

Quick How-To: add bold and italic text to your Amazon book description

I’ve promised a hurricane of activity leading up to my Literary Speed Dating date on 24 June, and one of them is updating book blurbs. Content is king, of course, but even a king could benefit from a little mascara. Just ask Johnny Depp.

So, speaking of using the equivalent of a Kohl pencil to give your book description that extra impact, have a look at Shizzle, Inc’s updated book blurb. What do you think? Have you always wanted to bold the hell out of your tagline but never knew how to do it? I have good news – it’s easy.

As it turns out, KDP’s supports some HTML for book descriptions. I’ve only used bold and italic so far, but it’s good to know where to go for reference if I ever want to add a horizontal line or something else fancy. If you’ve come across a beautifully composed book blurb, please share!

Back to the nitty-gritty. This is how Shizzle, Inc description looks in HTML, when I paste it into the “description” field of KDP form:

<b>What could possibly happen when a gloriously dippy millennial becomes the right hand of an equally clueless playboy billionaire?</b>
Be prepared to face-palm as you follow Isa Maxwell on a dizzying ride through the world of corporate intrigue; roll your eyes at the dubious business advice of Mr. Hue, the owner of Shizzle, Inc.; cringe as you are sucked into the Maxwell family drama.
Praised as “not only a hysterically funny romp through corporate practices but an astute satire on current American culture,” Shizzle, Inc. offers a hilarious escape from reality.

<b>Praise for Shizzle, Inc.:</b>

Writers Digest:
<i>”I loved this book. It has everything that we want to see in a great story. The situation is unique. The character is relatable and likable. The opening was fantastic. It drew the reader in and made them want to read more. The production values would stand up to any book being published by New York today.”</i>

<b>Independent reviews:</b>
<i>“Ana has delivered a fresh and completely novel, pun intended, novel. If you are up for a joy ride with all the bumps, crashes and with the characters running around like something right out of the Keystone Cops, this novel is for you.”
“This is smart kind of humor – blondes would not be able to understand it.”
“Funny beyond words! Sort of like Forest Gump but with a higher IQ.”
“The top-notch humor hides poignant critique. This is a very intelligent silly story!”
“Some of us fancy ourselves more evolved than Bridget Jones, others don’t. Either way, Ana Spoke got you.”</i>

Try it for yourself. If you make a mistake, it’s easy to change, but it’s a good idea to compose your text first in this Try It Editor to quickly work out any issues.

Have fun, but beware: just like with makeup, more is not necessarily better.

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My best rejection yet – from Writers Digest Self Published Book Awards

It was sometime last year that I have applied for Self Published Book Awards competition by Writers Digest. It’s a pricey competition, with $99 fee if you apply by 3rd of April or $110 if you wait until 1 May. If you are interested in applying, note that this competition is for published paperbacks – the ebook timelines should be announced later in the year.

Please also note that it takes them forever to assess the books, so it’s no use to continuously check your inbox. Once you forgot all about it and least expect it, you will, eventually, finally, get an email response. Mine was a rejection, which included an assessment from an anonymous judge:

  • Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
  • Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
  • Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
  • Plot and Story Appeal: 5
  • Character Appeal and Development: 5
  • Voice and Writing Style: 4

Judge’s Commentary:

I loved this book. It has everything that we want to see in a great story. The situation is unique. The character is relatable and likable. The opening was fantastic. It drew the reader in and made them want to read more. The production values would stand up to any book being published by New York today. I don’t have much negative to say at all. My only comment was that because of the fact that your last name is also a verb, I thought at first that “Ana Spoke” was the title. Easily fixed by putting “by Ana Spoke” in future editions! With all that praise, I hope you’re not surprised that I passed this on to the next round of judging in the contest. It’s well-deserved.

At this point, I would really focus on the marketing aspects of the publishing process. You have the great book; now you need to talk it up. I would hope that you’re beginning to accumulate cover quotes from authors and contests. I think that was the one thing missing from the back cover that might persuade more people to buy the book. It’s a great story, and I think it just needs more push to become a very popular title.

I was in a dark and dingy, “I’m giving up on writing” place when I received this review/rejection, but reading it now, after the BookBub news, it’s a completely different story. The judge “loved” my book! In fact, he or she sounds in love with it, comparing Shizzle, Inc to “any book being published by New York today.” Seriously, could it get any better? It suddenly occurred to me that I can USE IT AS A QUOTE in my blurb. Why didn’t I think of that right away? Well, that’s simple – when my mindset was negative, I could not see the silver lining in this particular cloud, but as soon as I found my regular upbeat mojo, the possibilities are shouting at me from every turn.

So here’s to mojo! It should be nurtured and fed on a regular basis, and lovingly maintained as a valuable asset. I’m about to take it over to Amazon and once again spruce up my blurb, just in time for that BookBub.

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I GOT A BOOKBUB!!!!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I actually screamed when I got the email – Josh thought someone horrible happened. Instead, something almost miraculous did.

For those of you that may not know, BookBub is the holy grail of e-book advertising, for both self-published authors and traditional publishers. It’s head and shoulders above any other online marketing tool, and I have tried them all, as you may already know if you’ve seen my Super Duper List. The only one that I haven’t tried was BookBub, not because I couldn’t afford them, but because they didn’t want me or either one of my books. Believe me, I’d tried. I have been applying on nearly monthly basis for about eighteen months, and have been getting stock-standard rejections. I have tried different categories. I have tried getting BookBub followers (I have 27 of them now). I did everything I could to increase the number of reviews (Shizzle, Inc has 82 reviews). I even tried replying, begging for feedback. Still, “not at this time” was all they said.

Until now! Look at it! Look!!

bookbub-offer

I have confirmed and paid – Shizzle, Inc will be one of BookBub’s Featured Deals on 6 March! As you can see from above, there’s a catch, though – it was NOT selected for the US market, which is only, you know, my target market, but hey! I got my foot in the door, and every time I’d managed to do that before, I eventually got the rest through. The subscriber list will be Humor and it’s 200,000 strong. The estimated number of downloads is 2,500, which is not too flash, but let’s see what actually happens. The cost is $36 USD and I hope for at least a few buy-throughs to Indiot. But mainly, I hope that sometime in the future I get the whole world covered in free copies of Isa Maxwell’s Escapades.

It’s a sign. I mean, I don’t believe in these things, of course, but what else can it be? I have a crisis of confidence, take a three-month hiatus, return, and finally land the coveted prize. Oh, wait. It’s persistence. That’s right, that dogged persistence does eventually pay off. Maybe not the first or seventh time, but you never know, it could be the next one.

Just keep going. I will too.

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Literary Speed Dating

Did you know such thing even existed? No, it’s not authors dating authors, although maybe that’s not a bad idea either. It’s an event organised by an author society, where about a dozen publishers get to hear 3-minute pitches from writers that want to traditionally publish their books. I’ve known about the one organised by Australian Society of Authors for years now, but it has always sold out in a matter of days if not hours. This year, however, I get to go!

How did I do it? As usual, with dogged persistence. When I missed out last year, I went ahead and put a recurring reminder into my calendar to check the website for the next year’s announcement. Because I was told it would happen “early next year,” the reminder started on 1 January and repeated every day until now. I kept checking the website and was starting to lose hope when voila! There was the announcement and the web form. I tried to submit it a couple of times, but it didn’t work. When I called them, the staff member was in shock because she did not know it was already published on the web, it was supposed to get her approval or something. She took my credit card details (the event costs $50 AUD) and after much begging from me, sent me an email confirming that yes, I’m in.

So yay! On 24 June I get to finally meet those elusive publishers who so far managed to hide behind their assistants and template rejection letters. I have four months to finish my new book and to plan my assault. Me thinks I will be pitching not only the story, but myself too – the doggedly persistent author of not one, but three books. Gimme a contract for three novels over two years! I will deliver!

I will be posting about my experience, of course, and whether the event was worth the $50 (plus the membership with Writers Victoria). If you live in Australia, you may want to put a reminder in your calendar for next January or get onto the waiting list. If you live elsewhere, contact your local author society to see if they are doing something similar, or suggest that they do.

I know it’s a long time away, but the deadline got me even more energized to continue writing, and that alone is worth the fifty bucks. So far I’d managed between 800 and 1,100 words per day over the first three days, and that’s after long, hard days at work. let’s just see what happens over the weekend.

Hope you are well and that the Muse has visited you too, if not in the shower, then maybe in your dreams, or in the long boring meeting. Whenever it is, invite her in.

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I have a dream. Again…

Look who’s back! “Who dis?” I hear you say, and yes, you have every right to forget me – I’ve been gone for three months. In cybertime, that’s like a generation. I’m sure new Twitter stars have managed to rise and implode since then, but I wouldn’t have known. I was too busy getting married and starting my new job.

Speaking of getting married – look at this happy couple!

registry-steps   walking-in-cbd   nighttime-in-cbd-2

You almost can’t tell that it was 39 degrees Celsius, which is just over 100 degrees Fahrenheit…crazy, but that’s the January in Melbourne for ya! I know that some of you can’t feel your toes right now, but trust me – you wouldn’t want to feel like you are cooking alive, either.

And yes, I’ve been at my new awesome job for almost three months, and yes, it’s incredibly demanding, but enough excuses already. I want to tell you about a wonderful thing that happened yesterday.

I came home late, as usual. Good thing that Josh cooks, because if not, I’d be surviving on tuna cans and stale bread. Early to rise and late home from work makes Ana one tired woman. So tired that a mere thought of sitting down to finish that third book or even write a new blog post creates involuntary spasms in my legs, which usually results in a couch faceplant, supplemented with trash TV. Every now and then I would also feel intense regret that the writing dream is over, and then pass out to start the early-to-rise cycle all over again. Sounds familiar? Yeah, it sucks.

I’ve tried beating myself up, writing daily plans, and setting up a reward system, but nothing was working. That is, until yesterday. I was in the shower, trying to wash off the daily stress, when I sort of spaced out. I was fantasizing about how my life could be different, when a story idea came to me, as vivid and real as one of those hallucinations I had when I was high on opiates in the hospital bed. When I came to, the bathroom was full of steam and my mind was full of plot twists, characters, and whole scenes.

My sister-in-law came over to have dinner and watch “Married at First Sight,” so I had to play hostess for a couple of hours, but all I could think of was the new story. I could not wait for the stupid show to be over, so that I could write down the idea, I was that afraid to lose it. I jumped onto the computer as soon as I could and did not get off the chair until Josh started yelling from the other bedroom that we had to get some sleep. I could not stop thinking about it this morning. I told my sister. She liked it. In fact, her exact words were: “Yep, here we go again!”

Yes, indeed. Here we go. A completely different new novel, a psychological thriller with little comedy, if any. A male protagonist. More character development, although I’m in love with the plot too. And I have a feeling I will be able to spill it onto the page in a couple of months – last night I could barely keep up with typing out the ideas as they were flooding in.

I don’t know what you’ve been up to in the last three months, and sorry again for disappearing, but if you’ve been self-beating and self-hating over a writer’s block, perhaps it’s time to try spacing out in a hot shower. Let me know how you go.

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