Category Archives: Self-publishing and marketing

Storyteller UK competition is now OPEN!

I’ve had the calendar reminder for this since the last year and still almost missed it! Entries opened since 1 May, but luckily the competition remains open until 31 August 2018. What is it, you ask? It’s an opportunity to get your book professionally published, get a $20,000 pounds prize, and travel to London to be recognized in a special ceremony. Do I have your attention?

You can get all the details on the official entry page, but here are the main points:

  1. The book must be in English, previously unpublished. It goes without saying that it has to be your original work, although you could have a co-author.
  2. It must be published during the above entry period using Kindle Direct in electronic and paperback formats (you can also use CreateSpace). It HAS TO BE BOTH formats.
  3. The book must be enrolled in KDP Select during the entry period.
  4. You MUST use a special keyword when publishing (in metadata, the keywords you choose when setting up your book) – “storytellerUK2018” (without the quotes).
  5. You are not eligible if you live in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria or Region of Crimea. Also, the Competition and these Official Rules are void in Mexico, Brazil, Tasmania, Quebec and where prohibited by law, and are subject to applicable laws. Whatever that means.
  6. You can submit multiple books.
  7. Looks like porn or sexually explicit content would disqualify an entry.
  8. Your book could be as short as 25 pages.
  9. By entering, you do agree to enter into an exclusive publishing agreement. Do read the whole set of rules for more details.
  10. In addition to the $20,000, there are other prizes, including an Oasis for each finalist

It also looks like you may get additional exposure because the above entry page lists all the entries submitted and omg, I may actually finish that draft I got lying around. Or even write a new one, although the previous winners look to be very well made. Don’t know if that was before or after winning, though. All entries will be considered, even if you submit on the last day.

So what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

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Quick How-To: add fifty hashtags to your Twitter or Instagram post with just one click

Ok, so it’s more like one shortcut word rather than one click, but one click sounds better, right? And since adding fifty hashtags would constitute shameless self-promotion, I figured that a shameless title would suit. Not that I condone or advise adding fifty of them, but have you found yourself typing in the same hashtags over and over, making typos, or forgetting which ones you’d used before? Well, have I got a solution for you, which can be done in three easy steps!

The steps below are for iPhone, sorry Android users. You might need to look for “shortcuts” or something similar under the “settings”. You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.

Step 1. Open “Settings” and navigate to “General” > “Keyboards” > “Text Replacement”. It probably already contains a shortcut for OMG. Because OMG, your mind is about to be blown.

Step 2. Click on the “+” in the top right corner:

text replacement plus sign

Step 3.

This is the longest step, requiring some thinking. Technically, it’s two steps, but “in four easy steps” just didn’t sound good, sorry. See above, about the shamelessness and whatnot.

Anyway, you will see the following blank form:

text replacement blank

This is where you should pause and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What hashtags do you want to add? Ideally, you should already have a list of carefully researched hashtags that deliver the highest engagement. If not, don’t worry – you can always add and edit later. Put whatever hashtags you want into the “Phrase” window, separated by a space.
  2. What short but memorable word or abbreviation do you want to use as a shortcut? It has to be one word, no spaces. Type it into the “Shortcut” window.

Here’s one I’d prepared earlier:

text replacement

You can create as many as you want. For example, you might have separate ones for Instagram and Twitter. Or one for LOLs and one for your promo posts. You may want to make a list of “influencers” to annoy. You may even create a shortcut for your texts, something that you use often and don’t care to type every time, like “I told you this would happen” or “You left the garage door open. Again.” Whatever makes your life easier.

So how do I use this, you ask? Easy. The next time you need to spam the Internet, just type your chosen shortcut below the message and you will see the preview of the expanded phrase appear above the keyboard:

tag.jpg

Now press the “space” key and voila!

tag expanded

Depending on how many hashtags you want to add and your posting rate, you have just added anywhere between a day and a year to your life.

You’re welcome!

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Once again, BookBub delivers

If only I could have a BookBub every week…I could have a free lunch. It’s been seven hours and eight days since the International Feature promo ran in UK, Canada, Australia and India, and I’m still getting $10-15 of sales and reads per day. It has long since earned the $38 fee and even covered the $50 I wasted on running a simultaneous BookBub ad (don’t do those, but more on that later).

Here is the pretty graph:

BookBub results April 2018

While I’m very happy with the result, the number of free downloads is less than it was the first time around. Last year I got 5,094 downloads in the first three days, and this time it was 3,501 over the same time. Unfortunately, I did not include in the last year’s post the buy through, or basically what I sold as a result. Not to make the same mistake, here are the results over the last 8 days:

  1. Shizzle, Inc: 9 copies sold at $2.99 and just under 8,000 KENP. Approximate return of $58.
  2. Indiot: 2 copies sold at $2.99 and 2,900 KENP. Approximate return of $18.50.

I have also ran the BookBub ad for full-priced Indiot, spent $50 and sold 9 additional copies, at a loss of $32. So after all of that and $38 for the BookBub, I have made a total of $6.50! In the black, baby!

I could still make more, if KENP continues to move along. With the last BookBub I was wide, which did not pay, since I got hardly any sales through Smashwords. I also did not get to enjoy the sustained spike in KENP, as you can see above. I’m continuing to run an AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) ad and so some of KENP could be due to that, but the ad has been running for several months, and there were hardly any pages read before, an equivalent of maybe a copy per week. That’s one problem with AMS – you can’t tell when your ad and click results in a borrow.

I do have a theory – the book was $0.99 during the last few months and maybe, just maybe, not deemed “worthy” by KU owners. Now that it’s $2.99, maybe it looks like a better value to borrow on a KU plan? The only way to confirm that would be to check the stats a month from now, when there’s no chance that any sales or borrows are generated by the BookBub afterglow.

I have promised to write a post about AMS and will do so next – I’m on annual leave right now but not going anywhere, only painting walls and canvasses.  Writers need hobbies too.

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Need a quick, FREE cover design? Try Canva templates

Hi everyone,

You may or may not remember my endless trials and tribulations over design of Shizzle, Inc and Indiot covers, which have started with concepts by professional designer, went through a number of versions and online feedback. In the end, I have designed them myself, using Photoshop and images from Shutterstock. It was a costly exercise, to say the least, so it doesn’t surprise me when authors opt for a pre-designed cover, which a number of designers sell for just $50-100. At least you can see exactly what you are getting.

But what if you don’t have even $50 to risk? Until now, your options were limited. Either try to enter a contest and win a free cover design, or opt for embarassing yourself with one of those home-made covers that become the laughing stock of the Internet. If you are lucky, beg a friend for a favor.

Turns out there’s another option! Apparently, Canva has a whole range of pre-made, FREE cover templates. I have not personally used them, but Canva is a simple, drag-and-drop, design software that’s completely online and free to use, so it’s not much of a risk to try. You can choose from literally thousands of book cover templates, add your own text and be on your way in less time than it would take to read Adobe’s terms and conditions (and believe me, you have to read them, unless you don’t care that they will keep charging your credit card with the monthly subscription fee, and charge 50% of remaining fees if you decide to cancel.)

Have fun and let us all know if you’ve given it a go.

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Mr. Hue finally comes to life

Well, sort of.  I have not sold the movie rights, at least not yet. But as promised, here’s the result of the last Crash Test Drafts event. Note that the actor had just one hour to rehearse the monologue, that’s why he has the text in his hand.

If anyone lives in Melbourne, I highly recommend connecting with Crash Test Drafts on Facebook, either as a writer, director or writer. I have learned a lot from the judges’ feedback, and surprisingly most of it from the feedback given to other writers. The one bit of advice that really stuck with me was that we as writers have to make the reader care about what’s happening to the characters, care about what they are going through, and why. Elicit a response. The most intricately plotted novel would fail with flat characters.

The next Crash Test Drama event is on 3 June, so there’s still time to submit your play or excerpt. And if you are not in Melbourne, why not start your own?

Next on my list of promises was a stand-up routine. I have not done that yet. Because I’m scared, that’s why. But I will.

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Drumroll…BookBub results! Spoiler…they are awesome!

I’m not one to wish that every day was Christmas or my birthday, but I wouldn’t mind reliving the 6 March 2017 a few times. Well, 7 March, actually, because even though my BookBub promo was international, in Australia the email didn’t go out until 1am on 7 March. I spent the entire prior day checking the stats and telling myself to just calm the hell down, while worrying that something went wrong. I didn’t need to worry – when I woke up the next morning, I could see that long-awaited spike. Over 2,000 copies were already downloaded in those first six or so hours, and the green line keeps moving since. It has completely dwarfed my prior stats, which were in 5-10 per day range (without advertising). Isn’t it beautiful?

That’s a total of an amazing 5,094 downloads over the first three days. The breakdown per country is as follows:

  • UK: 2,698
  • Canada: 1,172
  • Australia: 754
  • India: 329
  • The US: 139

Three things surprised me: first of all, that more than twice as many books were downloaded compared to the BookBub’s own estimate of 2,500. Secondly, even though the US was excluded from the promo, somehow 139 copies were downloaded via the amazon.com site. Thirdly, that despite including Kobo and Nook in the promo, I had no spike whatsoever in my Smashword sales. Maybe the data is delayed, and I will check again in a week, or maybe I should just concentrate on Amazon.

I’d spent the last three days marveling at the stats and trying to decide what to do next: should I make Shizzle, Inc full price and hope a few people actually buy it? Should I pull it from wide distribution and enroll in KU? Should I finish the third book in the series instead of going down the path of the new one? After much deliberation of myself, I kept everything as is and applied for the US promo in hopes that the excellent result will convince BookBub to give me a fair go. I’d also submitted Indiot as a $0.99 deal. I should know in about a week’s time if either deal is accepted.

Meanwhile, I’d updated my Super Duper List of Book Marketing with the results. When I first announced that after 18 months of trying I was offered a BookBub promo deal, a few people on Twitter mentioned how expensive BookBub is. Well, just compare the cost and the result to anything on that list – no other company comes close. If you are so lucky as to get a deal with them, just take it. Take out your credit card and just ask “How much?”

You won’t regret it.

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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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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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Who can call Mr. Hue a douche now?

I was flipping through the channels today, trying to find anything but the commentary on the US election, when I had a strong deja vu feeling. I went back to Amazon and looked through the 1-star reviews of Shizzle, Inc. until I found its source:

“…the behavior of Mr. Hue was unrealistic and quite frankly, shockingly rude. A complete douche. If this were reality, his company would have gone down in flames before it ever got off the ground.”

Sorry, dear Gloria Louise. Turns out that if Shizzle, Inc. was set in reality, Mr. Hue would now be President-elect of the United States. So what if he spouts dubious business advice, insults people, or fires loyal employees? If anything, he’s not controversial or shocking enough. I mean, these quotes are almost polite when compared to some of the stuff that has come out of Donald Trump’s mouth:

Meme #9 Mr Hue

Meme #8 Mr Hue

Meme #6 Mr Hue

So guess what? I’m gonna bring him back! Somehow, I’m gonna use this recent drama to spin and sell more copies of Shizzle, Inc., because, as one extremely successful man has taught us all, you “can never be too greedy.” Mr. Hue probably won’t be groping anyone or making lewd comments about his own daughter, but maybe he can, I don’t know, call someone “fat and ugly” before firing them, that kind of thing. Maybe he will deport the Japanese instead of merely taking advantage of them. This may anger a lot of people, but what does that matter if I get to push my own agenda and sell more copies of my book? And in any case, who cares what people think about Shizzle, Inc., as long as I “got a young, and beautiful piece of ass.” Sorry to drag you into this, Joshy.

Not sure what I’m gonna do yet, but I have a feeling it’s the perfect time to try the New York agents again.

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How to catch a Moby Dick

UPDATE: how truly awful, I didn’t know that Gillon Aitken has died just a couple of days ago. I can’t stop reading about him being “the true gentleman” and “literary giant.” RIP, Mr. Aitken.

If anything, the news gave me the shake I needed – life is short and I better get going. The plan still stands, although I will have to find another literary giant to help make my dreams come true.

ORIGINAL POST: I don’t know why, but after a year and a half of self-publishing game, I am once again dreaming of the elusive white whale of traditional publishing. It could be the exhaustion of all the marketing effort that has gone into promoting my books, or the recent confidence boost from finally nailing a big fat dream job. Suddenly I want to change everything: the pricing strategy, the plot of my third book, the marketing buget. It’s been a big few months and I have all the excuses to take it easy, but I just can’t. I feel like I need to take the writing dream by the collar and shake it until it wakes up and gets going again.

As previously lamented, a couple of years ago I started with an attempt to break into the traditional publishing. That time, I went with “cast the net wide” strategy. I penned about 70 applications and sent them off to American agents and a few big-name publishers. The best reply I got was “it’s funny, but we don’t know if there’s an audience for it.” It felt like a whole lotta effort for nothing and it felt like my dream of being a published author was dying. That’s when I decided to give it a great big shake by self publishing my first two books.

Now the dream once again feels like its flatlining, and I need to shock it back to life. I’m thinking adreanline. I’m thinking a big dream, hence the Moby Dick. This time, I won’t cast my net wide, instead zeroing in on one big target. Here he is:

gillon

Yes, the literary agent of Helen Fielding. And why the hell not? As soon as I had this insane/brilliant idea, I fired off an email to Gillon asking if he’d be interested in having Isa Maxwell series republished with a traditional publisher. The way I figured, he’d probably say no. This is where my strategy will differ from the previous salmon-like application spawning.

I shall not take no for an answer. I will not move onto another agent until I am absolutely sure that I have bothered Mr. Aitken enough to at least have a look at Shizzle, Inc. Here’s my multi-step plan of ever-increasing pestering:

  1. Send an email (already done).
  2. Send copies of physical books.
  3. Contact other agents in the same agency asking how to get to him.
  4. Find him on social media and fire off @ messages until he figures out how to block me.
  5. Start an online petition of “Mr. Aitken, please read Shizzle, Inc!”
  6. Start a website http://www.mraitkenpleasereadshizzleinc.com and publicise it on social media.
  7. TBD. Something viral, preferably.

The way I figured, what do I have to lose? Okay, so I may eventually piss him off, but is that really worse than him not knowing who I am? On the bright side, what if he finds all this nonsense hilarious and decides to check on who the hell is this mad woman Spoke? Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, that’s the plan. If you have any crazy suggestions for the mad woman Spoke, let me know. Cause I’m doing this!

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