Tag Archives: publishing

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

How I plan to take over the world…

…of publishing, that is!

You would not believe it, but after many an eye roll, back-an-forth negotiations, and general pouting, management approved my long service leave! Five months! Yay! (At half pay…Okay…I can deal with that…).

Five months to write and publish two sequels to Shizzle, Inc. Five months to give this writing career one hell of a try. Can I do it?

Only Microsoft Project can tell! Well, based on the following assumptions:

  1. That I can write 20K words per week (not all of the time will be spent writing).
  2. That I will have 40K words written by Feb.
  3. That I will have the first cover designed by 29 Feb.
  4. That I will do proofreading myself (and rely on “early readers” to suggest structural changes). This way I hope to reduce costs, compared to the fortune I’ve spent on Shizzle, Inc.

I tried staggering writing of both sequels, to allow for other (many!) tasks. This is what I came up with:

Book #2:Plan for Sequel #2

Book #3:Plan for Sequel #3

Microsoft project says I can do it!

Let me know what you think of my assumptions and timelines 🙂


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

It’s here! The paperback is finally here!

What a world we live in! Just last Thursday I’ve uploaded the latest files to CreateSpace, then on Friday got the green light to order a proof for review. I paid $26 to have it express shipped to Australia and it was supposed to arrive this coming Thursday. That would have been amazing, but I was not holding my breath, what with the customs and all. So imagine my surprise when the package arrived today! Five days after uploading the files!

What a wonderful, amazing world, full of possibilities!

It’s beautiful! I was worried for some reason that it would look cheap, but it’s gorgeous – it looks just like any book in a bookstore. I chose glossy cover and cream paper and I love the result. The glossy cover makes it feel quite solid, and the pages feel great, like firm paper with a soft feel – the best way I can explain it. The cover colors look just like on my monitor, not like the crappy prints I did myself. The red leather looks very realistic, and I’m once again happy I went back to the gold leaf overlay for the title. If you are interested, I will post a few photos on the weekend – it’s impossible to photograph under artificial lights.

I spent a couple of hours reviewing the interior. They say you’re supposed to read it three times, but I just couldn’t do it. I’ve had multiple professional proofreads, and the Kindle edition has been out for three months. Surely, one of the 18 reviews would have mentioned if I had glaring errors? I also would love to continue tweaking the cover art, but at one point you just have to stop. Just stop and move on, and issue another edition in the future, if need be. Otherwise, the sequel will never get finished.

So I’ve approved it for publication. The message said that it will be available on Amazon in 2-3 days. Not bad. Then I’d decided to check Amazon. You know, in case they were just managing my expectations.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Stupid, unwarranted hope. Which sometimes leads to unexpected results:

Screenshot (31)

It’s here! I mean, there, in cyberspace! It’s already available on American Amazon website and appears on UK Amazon, although not yet available to order. It doesn’t yet appear on Australian Amazon, but that’s not surprising – we are ahead of the US by about 16 hours and behind by at least 16 years. It has not yet linked to my author page, or to the Kindle edition – I would appreciate if anyone could advise how to expedite the process. I would love to get them linked in time for my upcoming 5 December promo with Bargain Booksy. That way people may read a digital edition and decide to buy a copy or two as gifts. Cause, you know, nothing beats laughs as a Christmas gift, right?

I Skyped my parents and we clicked glasses to our respective webcams. Mom cried. Dad predicted my brilliant future and tried to tell me some new jokes for the sequel. I drunk my white wine and thought about the last two-an-a-half years of writing, editing, and publishing. It was all worth it.

What a world we live in…



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

Ana Spoke to interview bestselling author Matthew FitzSimmons!

Have you ever wanted to ask a celebrity author a question? Like, I dunno, maybe the author of Short Drop – the #1 bestseller OVERALL on Kindle Store? Do you wonder how his debut novel hit big time in the oversaturated fiction market?

Well, believe it or not – you can! Unexpectedly, Matthew stumbled across our heated discussions over the reviews of his yet to be released book – which turned out to be available via Kindle First. Matthew was kind enough to post several comments and so we already know that he was picked up by Amazon’s own publishing house through an agent, and that indeed Short Drop was available via Kindle First during the entire November and that’s how it now has 1,352 reviews. Short Drop will be released to the general public on 1 December and is set to make waves, with a sequel already in the works.

That in itself was pretty amazing – I’m personally blown away that he is engaging with readers directly and not via a publicist. I was so encouraged, that I boldly asked if he would be interested in an interview on my blog. You, know, all casual and the like. Whatevs.

He replied and said he would be “delighted” to do an interview! This is when I thought of you – my dear readers and followers – you, who keep pushing my site traffic to record numbers almost every day. Without you, who would’ve noticed this blog? Certainly not a bestselling author! So it’s only fair that you get to interview him, in a way.

So here’s the plan: post your questions in the comments below, I will collate them until midnight on Tuesday, try to combine any repetitive/similar ones, and will come up with a list of 6-8 or so. I’ll get the ball rolling with these:

  1. What is the one most surprising thing you’ve learned about the traditional publishing industry?
  2. What marketing strategies are in place for Short Drop, once it goes live?
  3. Is it hard to concentrate on writing the sequel with so much going on at the moment?

Post away! You have about 24 hours to come up with a perfect question! Don’t miss this opportunity!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Matthew FitzSimmons himself stops by to explain the mystery of Short Drop reviews!

It was late last week when I posted Riddle me this! – a question about how it could be possible for a book to have a ton of reviews before its release. The book in question was Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons, an overall #1 on Kindle, with 1,388 reviews at the writing of this post, and the release date of 1 December.

I was not the only one confused – the post generated quite a discussion and a number of hypothesis, but it was a consensus that the reviews were a result of the book getting picked up as Kindle First. Is this the first time you’ve heard of Kindle First? Well, that makes two of us.

Screenshot (26)

Visit Kindle First website to learn more. Just don’t get too excited if you, like me, are in Australia – for some reason it’s not available down under.

My post generated so much discussion, that I’d decided to post an update – Mystery solved, explaining how it was possible and asking if anyone knew how to get onto the program (which is probably impossible for self-published newbies). Imagine my surprise when I was scrolling through my Twitter notifications and a familiar name caught my attention:

Screenshot (27)

Whaaat? I jumped over to the blog, and there was the comment, waiting for approval:

Screenshot (28)

I have replied, of course, and had the balls to ask how he got to this point – and he replied! For reals:

Screenshot (29)

So there you go folks – a mystery solved, new lesson learned, and another proof that you should never, ever give up on your dreams. I’m off to do some writing. I hope you do the same.



Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Mystery solved (I think) and a quick update on the marketing blitz

Hi, everyone,

Shizzle, Inc got up to #34 on Amazon’s Satire Bestseller list! If you are not following the live tweeting of my biggest marketing campaign to date, here is a quick recap:

  1. Robin Reads started strong, but was a disappointment at 19 sales, at a cost of $25.
  2. Indie Book Promo was a complete dud, at maybe 1 sale (I had 3 total, but 2 were from my constant tweeting about it).
  3. Book Gorilla is currently on fire!

Screenshot (25)

I will post a complete report on Monday. Wish me luck!

Now, I’d like to venture an explanation for the mystery surrounding the 1,200+ verified purchase reviews on a book yet to be released – as previously mentioned in Riddle me this!

First of all, I’d like to thank the following detectives:

  1. Nancy Glynn of Nancy Glynn – thank you for sharing the loophole allowing reviews on a yet-to-be-published book by “tricking” CreateSpace.
  2. Isabella Belucci of Isabella Belucci – thank you for sharing your experience reviewing and ARC (Advanced Review Copy) for another author.
  3. Mykl Walsh of Secret Agent Man – thank you for scouring the Internet for clues!
  4. Tim Vicary of Tim Vicary – thank you for checking the suspect’s Goodreads profile 🙂
  5. Prospero of Prospero’s Island – thank you for digging up an interview with the mention of Kindle First!

I did some research myself – and it all seemed to point to Kindle First. For example, all 1,200+ reviews have been posted during November, in line with Kindle First offering the book a month before its release on 1 December. For those not familiar with Kindle First – it is an offer of free or discounted bestsellers (I think just four of them a month), chosen by Amazon’s editors. I have searched madly for any clues on how to get on the list, but it seems to be either a secret or an impossible feat, even though most traditional publishers are currently not supporting it.

Any detectives want to take on this new mystery??


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

No, thank you, I will do my own marketing research

Why is book marketing so hard? There are many reasons why – too many books being published, authors giving away books for free, social media noise, you name it. I won’t go into all of them, but I do want to dissect one:

Bad advice.

Again, this could be interpreted in a variety ways – and I would not claim to know what is good and what is bad. Things that have worked for someone with a romance novel may not work for an author of horror. Things change all the time, so for example it’s known fact now that if you give your book away for free and climb to the top of Top 100 Free Bestseller list on Amazon, once you switch to Paid, your rankings will fall dismally, because you have sold exactly zero paid copies during your free promotion days. Oh, you didn’t know that? Well, this post has been a winner already!

There’s lots of other advice I find questionable, such as:

  1. “Just write a good book and it will find an audience.” When? When I’m dead?
  2. “Set your price high and don’t budge.” I did that. Readers did not budge, either.
  3. “Grow your social media presence.” I did that, too – 30K + followers resulted in just a handful of sales.

So far I’ve been able to prove that one sure way to increase exposure is with paid marketing. I hope to test the theory that writing a series is a way to success very soon. Meanwhile, I would advise everyone to do their own research. Test me on my assumptions – please! And certainly, check that if you are taking advice from someone else, that they know what they are doing.

This brings me to the controversial part of this particular post. I have been following a number of author blogs, and was especially impressed by an author who has published a number of fiction books as well as a number of self-help books on the writing business. I was about to buy one, on how to market your book, when I’d decided to have a look at how the fiction books by the same author were performing, specifically the overall Amazon rankings. The answer?

150K-plus to 7-million-plus.

I was in shock. This author wrote not one, but several series of fiction books, with awesome flashy covers, lots of reviews, you name it. I would imagine a book ranking at 7 million on Amazon has not sold a copy in what, months? Years? How could someone with such dismal fiction sales record sell a book on book marketing? Oh, and what was the ranking of the marketing book?

Top 100 in it’s category.

I’m not going to reveal who it was, as I’m afraid to get eaten alive, so let me just leave you with this message: once again, do your own research, find your own way, and if some bad advice is not working for you, be brave and throw it away.



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

Grammarly is not that grammar-worthy

Ok, so it’s not entirely true. I don’t regret buying a subscription, but I’m not perfectly happy either. It is better than Word’s  built-in grammar checker, but it won’t replace the proofreader. What can I say, it’s complicated.

It started during the last-minute jitters of finishing endless editing rounds of Shizzle, Inc. I was oscillating between the highs of being happy with my copyeditor to the lows of stressing over the proofread.  Thanks to one of you, who suggested trying Grammarly, I decided to have one last go at proofread myself.

Originally, I was going to get a year-long subscription, but when the time came to pay up, I got second thoughts. What if I tried it and it turned out to be worthless? Grammarly warns you everywhere that charges are not refundable. In the end, I’d decided to do a $29 trial month, and I’m glad I did. Short story is that I won’t subscribe for a whole year, although I will probably do another “trial month” to check my second manuscript. Here’s why:

The good:

  1. I downloaded it as an add-in to my Word, so I could do all editing without the need to upload the file to Internet. This means you can use Grammarly as you write and not get confused with multiple versions. Just watch out – autosave is disabled when Grammarly is enabled, so you have to remember and save manually. Good thing I’m paranoid and do it every five minutes anyway.
  2. Grammarly caught a few embarrassing misspellings (did I mention I’ve had three independent, highly qualified editors look at this thing?). It’s “cozy homes”, not cosy. Isa avoided going outside altogether, not “all together.”
  3. It agreed with me that a comma is not necessary  before “and” in sentences such as “she said and asked for my license”. Of course, you may hate it for that same reason.
  4. It caught British spellings in what was supposed to be an American text (I would kiss it for that alone). Again, after a bazillion rewrites, there were “spiralling”, “dialled”, and “wolly” with two “l”s, as well as monologue, criticising, realising, and moustaches.
  5. It’s consistent. Human editors missed the same bits that they previously highlighted elsewhere in the document. Grammarly was often wrong, but at least it was 100% consistent in doing so.
  6. It gives you explanations for all its decisions. That helps making the final call on whether or not to accept a change.

The bad:

  1. Grammarly is not a writer. It constantly complains that my sentences are too long and that I use a passive voice.
  2. It doesn’t have a sense of humor and therefore doesn’t get that redundant and inappropriate words are part of the comedy.
  3. It is annoyingly politically correct. I mean, it suggests “undocumented migrants” instead of illegal aliens. Really, Grammarly? Wait, Grammarly hates every occurrence of “really”, too.
  4. It highlighted about 1,200 potential errors in my manuscript. About a thousand of them were dead wrong, and it took me a whole day to get through all of them.
  5. It needs an Internet connection at all times, otherwise it falls out.
  6. It did not pick on that many verb tenses, even though I suspect I have a few errors here and there. This was the main drive behind buying the subscription, because I find verb tenses so difficult.
  7. It constantly thinks that I’m addressing people and demands more commas. For example, in “we need a grinder guard” it thinks someone is asking Guard for a grinder.
  8. Some of the comma suggestions just did not make any sense and would have changed the meaning of the sentences. In the end, I’ve ended up going with my gut on the comma suggestions – if it felt right, I put one in, and if it didn’t, well – don’t judge me too hard on it!

I was going to have “The ugly” section, but I’m feeling a lot more accepting and zen about it all now. If you are interested in a second opinion, here’s a much more thorough and almost scientific post from Grammarist.

The bottom line is that I think $29 was worth catching a few embarrassments and giving me a bit more assurance in comma placement.  So there you go – although we’re taking a break now, I have a feeling I will be getting back together with Grammarly for the next book. Even if it’s just a one-month stand.


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

Marketing gimmick #2, in which I slash prices and @&# everyone.

Shizzle, Inc is $0.99 for a limited time!

Did any of that get your attention? Hope so, cause my gimmick #2 got me no results whatsoever. Or maybe it did, if you consider negative a result. The rankings added zeroes – and of course, that means the sales didn’t. The stats went south and someone blocked me…

Before I continue with this pity party, I do have some amazing news to report. Shizzle, Inc now got six reviews on Amazon, all 5-star! This may not seem like much, compared to proper bestsellers, but from reading other people’s blogs, I gather that it is quite an achievement for the first three weeks of a self-published title. I have read each one at least a dozen times, and it sounds like there will be a few more within a week – people have messaged me to say that they are reading it and laughing. Sweeter words have not been written…

So, back to my gimmick #2, what was it? As the title says, I’ve spent last week #-tagging and sending @ messages to reviewers on Twitter. It was suggested in one of the comments, and as soon as I read it, I was overwhelmed with a vision that it would work. After all, I’ve seen celebrities madly hashtagging their every sneeze, and if celebrities do it, it must be working for them, right?

My plan was simple:

  1. Add hashtags to my quote+link tweets sent out four times a day via Buffer. I’ve used some of the ones from 44 essential hashtags for writers. I have personally used #comedy, #humor, #Kindle, #ebook, and #chicklit.
  2. Send @ messages to 20 Twitter reviewers. I sent quotes+link tweets to all reviewers still active on this Best Twitter Reviewers list.
  3. Refresh stats at least once a minute.

A week has passed. Stats have been refreshed at least ten thousand times, and the results are in. So, how did I do, and what have I learned?

  1. Hashtags seemed to reduce the number of link clicks for the week! Here are the last two weeks worth of engagements and link clicks:

Link clicks

The week before, I got 285 link clicks. This week it’s back down to the usual 131. Is that the hashtag’s fault? Or is everyone seek of seeing my quotes? Is there a “quote fatique” going on?

In addition, the number of profile visits went down, even though the number of engagements is way up (for the last 28 days):

Tweet impressions vs profile visits

When things are not working, one must change, and pronto. For this current week, I have stopped hashtagging and even including links, and the stats have actually improved! So far, I am getting a lot more retweets on my quotes, which may mean that people automatically hate hashtags or links – they know you’re trying to sell them something…I will provide a full update in a week.

2.  Sending @ messages resulted in zero responses from the reviewers, it’s like they didn’t even see it. Oh, wait, one did – I got blocked in a hurry! I kind of understand, because nobody has the time to respond to every single message, and maybe mine were properly spammy. I then tried again, sending more personal messages to those who did not block me and actually asking to review the book, rather than passively-aggressively sending a quote and a link. So far I got one polite “sorry, I’m too busy” and no other blocks. But no interest, either.

There you go, not all marketing ideas are good. For my next trick, I have reduced the price of Shizzle, Inc to 99 cents! get it quick, before I decide to test what a $9.99 will do to my royalty figures!

In my next gimmick reveal I pinky-promise to tell you:

  1. How many sales it took to get to #72 on the PAID Amazon Humor Bestseller list.
  2. Sales figures before and after the free ebook giveaway a couple of weeks ago.
  3. The impact of this latest $0.99 sale on the sales figures.

If you have any particular questions about marketing of a freshly-self-published novel, ask away and I will answer them in the next post.


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