Tag Archives: self-published

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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Storyteller UK competition and why Shizzle, Inc is no longer free

UPDATE: please note that the book has to be published between 20th February and 19th May 2017, so Shizzle, Inc is ineligible. However, I can still publish my collection of short stories (the prequel “This is Why”) by 19 May and enter it.

Shizzle, Inc is now back to $2.99USD, and it’s the Storyteller UK competition to blame. That, and partly the negative reviews that come from readers grabbing a freebie without even reading the blurb. Oh, and the fact that in June I’m going to pitch it to a dozen publishers and a $2.99 book may look better than a free one. Lastly, because I will try to get Bookbub for the US and hope discounting a book to free temporarily will get it more attention.

Wait, slow down, what’s that Storyteller UK competition you’re talking about? Glad you’ve asked! Let me take a breath…

Do you have a self-published book in Kindle Select and available in print format? Well then, if you just add “StorytellerUK2017″ as a keyword, your book will be featured in a list of entries to win a $20,000 pounds! That’s $24,936USD, at least at the moment. Interested? Then visit Kindle Storyteller page for more details. Hurry, it’s open only until 19 May 2017!

Good luck!

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You didn’t write the book I wanted

Well, it’s been eight whole days since my International BookBub ad went live and I just hit 6,000 free units downloaded! Wippee! That’s more than twice of what was predicted by BookBub themselves (2,500)!

The sell-through has not been great, with just 7 full-price copies of Indiot have been purchased and the equivalent of additional 4 copies read through KU. Still, I could not wait to apply for the US distribution, and then could not believe my eyes when I was promptly rejected. But…but…why won’t you let Americans have a free copy of Shizzle, Inc? Everyone else in the world loves it!

Well, that’s not entirely true. Yes, I did get at least one new fan, who’d not only inhaled Shizzle, Inc in just a day or two, he or she immediately posted a glorious review:

And then, just a couple of days later, he/she posted a review of Indiot:

Aw, shucks…I was practically glowing, but then this one dropped:

I’m not sure who was the prince that supposedly saved Isa, and I’m also not sure what that person expected from a book with a tagline of What could possibly happen when a gloriously dippy millennial becomes the right hand of an equally clueless playboy billionaire? Of course, with any free giveaway, your book is bound to end up in the hands of people who didn’t read the description and I know I should be all cool about it by now, but my hand just ached to respond to the comment…

I slapped that hand away and undertook immediate damage control. Once again, it helps to keep this blog, because I’ve already been through the pain of a 1-star review and have written A Simple Guide to Overcoming 1-Star Review Grief. It reminded me that my hope was one day to have tens of thousands of 1-star reviews, just like the bestsellers in the above Simple Guide. So this particular one just brought me one review closer to the goal.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter so much. In fact, I wanted to share some of the other 1-star reviews of Shizzle, Inc that I hope you might find amusing. Keep in mind, these were written about a book from a “defining series of a generation!” if you believe one of the 5-star reviews:

  • “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.”
  • “There are just too many screwballs in this book. Everyone is a screwball or a screw-up.”
  • “Good gods, this was stupid.”
  • “The main character is an idiot, her employer is an idiot, and I think the story might be set in an alternate universe. Otherwise. . .wow. just wow.”
  • ” I’m not sure if Shizzle, Inc. can be classified as satire because it bears so little relation to the real world of corporate greed and weirdness.”
  • “Other reviewers either are being nice and writing fake reviews or they were of low intelligence to begin with and easily amused by letters and words.”
  • “Had this been a paper book, I would have burned it to save another reader the 1.5 seconds they might spend reading the title and thinking it might be worth opening the cover.”

Yeah, so other than a slight eye twitch, I’m no longer affected by those and I hope you feel a bit better about any 1-star reviews you might have gotten of late. I have just over 30 bad reviews now, across the different platforms, so still not close to the tens of thousands.

That’s okay, though – I can apply for the US BookBub in 29 days.

 

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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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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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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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This is why you should complain to KDP

Let me start with a disclaimer: I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist. Perhaps it’s because I was never invested in the causes: I don’t really care if the moon landing was real or who killed JFK. But lately, one conspiracy has been getting under my skin, and it’s Amazon’s glitchy system, specifically KENP.

Quite a few authors have complained online that their pages read count went down. My own count was zero for the entire month of October, but at first I chucked it to the pathetic sales figures in general. Then, after I published the blog the other day and seeing a number of comments mention the issue, I decided to complain to KDP. I told them that it’s impossible that I would have zero pages per day for the whole month because a friend of mine tested the system by downloading the book and reading a few pages.

Ok, so that was an outrageous lie, but look at what I saw this morning:

kenp-on-1-nov

Coincidence? Maybe, but I suddenly remembered that this scenario happened before, a few months ago. That time I complained after about two weeks, was promptly told that there’s nothing wrong with the system, but the pages showed up immediately and kept showing up every day. It’s been less than 24 hours since my latest complaint and I have not heard from KDP, but I expect another assurance that everything is fine.

So if you are an author with a book in KDP Select and you feel that your pages count is down, don’t beat yourself up. Complain to KDP and see if the count jumps within 24 hours. And if it does, please let me know.

Oh, and my apologies to conspiracy theorists out there. Keep up your good work. Somebody has to.

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