After all the wonderful advice I got on my previous post about cover design, I thought I’d got things under control in that department. But my attempt at a cover for my third book was so abysmal that I daren’t even show it to you here. Compared with similar books already on Amazon it looked very basic and most definitely amateurish.
I think this is because the book is non-fiction and therefore requires a very business-like cover to get anywhere near competing with the hundreds of other books on the same subject.
So I decided to call in the professionals. I used the website Fiverr. This site features hundreds (or maybe thousands even) of sellers offering their services for just $5. The range of services is vast from personalised greetings cards, translations and bespoke bedtime stories. But there are also lots of e-book cover designers on there too.
I picked one of the top-rated designers (like on EBay, buyers have to leave feedback on the service they received) and told her the title of the book, what it was about and a brief suggestion about the type of image that might be suitable (it is also possible to send the designer a specific photo if you have one that you want to include on the cover).
Two days later my cover design was delivered and you can see it on this post. It’s much better than I could produce. I’ve borrowed the title from a ‘column’ on the Open Writing website which runs an extract from this blog each week (the site includes lots of other writing from around the world, too).
A Writer on Writing is a compilation of 14 of my articles that have appeared in the UK writing press, such as Writing Magazine & Writers News, The New Writer, Writers’ Forum and Freelance Market News. They cover subjects as diverse as generating ideas, writing articles with an anniversary ‘hook’ and flash fiction.
As I did with my other books, I have set an introductory price of 77p - with a view to increasing it when I see how sales go. Setting the perfect price point to encourage buyers without devaluing the work involved in producing a book is very difficult. 77p is the lowest price point available to independent authors.
I’ll keep you posted on how my e-publishing empire is growing (or not as the case may be!).
This question appears in Della Galton’s column in the current Writers’ Forum magazine. I thought I’d try to answer it using my own experience, with two anthologies published over the last six weeks or so.
I published One Day For Me on 23rd January and, as of 6th March, I have sold 63 copies, 3 on Amazon.com and the rest in the UK. Of the UK sales, 58 were at 77p each (giving me a 26p royalty each) and 2 were at £1.53 (giving me £1.03 royalty each). This has given me total UK royalties of £17.14.
I published Old Friends on 22nd February and, as of 6th March, I have sold 20 copies, all in the UK at 77p each. This has given me total UK royalties of £5.20.
So, financially, I say it has not been worthwhile. BUT I still have a lot to learn about e-book marketing and the inner workings of the great Amazon machine. So I’m hoping that once I get my head around that and also publish a couple more books that I have ideas for, sales will improve. In the meantime, if anyone knows how to get a foothold in the US market – please let me know!
Forgetting the financial side of it, there have been many other benefits from dipping my toe into e-publishing.
I’ve had lots of positive feedback from people who’ve read the books, particularly One Day For Me, in the form of Amazon reviews, emails and face to face. Also, I’ve learnt that those outside the ‘writing industry’ often don’t appreciate the importance of leaving reviews for books they’ve enjoyed – and many simply don’t know how to do it.
But the best thing to come out of this experience is the new respect that family, friends and work colleagues have for my writing. It is no longer just ‘a little hobby’. Instead it is something that has a tangible product which is on sale worldwide and which they can buy. This has made me feel more professional and less guilty about claiming to be a writer.
So, in summary – YES, the anthologies have definitely been worthwhile.
And if you buy one, I think you’ll find they’re a worthwhile read as well!
One Day For Me: 8 Award-Winning Stories - these stories have all either won or been shortlisted in UK national writing competitions.
Old Friends: 13 Coffee Break Stories - these stories have all previously appeared in UK magazines
The text has been formatted, uploaded to Amazon and checked in their ‘Preview’ function.
But producing the cover has been a battle (see the image on the right – I’m not sure the font is clear enough - what do you think?).
In the end I’ve created the simplest of images by taking a free photo from Stock Free Images (in return for this credit at the front of the book – © Vojsek | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos) and used GIMP software (free to download) to add the book title and my name. If anyone else is thinking of doing this, be warned that GIMP is not easy to use – I spent much time searching for help elsewhere on the internet. But it’s probably like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve listed some of the links I used at the end of this post.
Now I need to decide on the pricing structure. Do I sell it cheap or dear?
If I price the book between 75p and £1.49 then I get 35% royalties, if I price higher than £1.49 then I get 70% royalties. So, by my calculations, pricing at £1.50 would earn me £1.05 per book and pricing at 75p would earn me around 27p per book.
Do you think if I go cheap I will sell four times as many books – or am I merely devaluing the writing?
Links to Gimp Tutorials
Last week I went to an E-Publishing seminar with the lovely ladies (and one gentleman) from the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. It was run by one of our members who has been successfully publishing her erotica in e-book form for the last 12 months (unfortunately we didn’t have time in the seminar for her promised session on erotica - so that treat is still to come!).
I came away with my head buzzing with jargon such as .mobi, .epub, Smashwords, US Tax Identification Numbers and lots more. I was tempted to throw up my hands and pay a professional to format, design a cover and distribute the modest project that I have in mind. But I’ve decided to have a go myself for three reasons -
- I doubt that I’ll earn enough from the book to recoup the costs of a professional
- E-publishing is definitely the future and therefore as a writer I ought to get to grips with it
- I’m a computer programmer by day, so if other people can master e-publishing – why can’t I?
So the other day I started. The first thing I did was download the Smashwords Style Guide to my Kindle. This is the e-publishing ‘bible’ and, as well as giving lots of background information, it describes how to format a Word document so that it is acceptable to Smashwords. This is supposed to mean that the format will be acceptable for Amazon Kindle too.
Although Amazon still has the largest share of the e-book market, it’s important to make your work available on Smashwords as well. Smashwords sell e-books directly to the public and they also distribute to many of the other e-book retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple.
I found the Smashwords Style Guide very useful. It shows how to get first line paragraph indentation correct (get rid of those naughty tabs and spaces if you’ve used them), how to ensure that the whole document is the same style and how to do a linked table of contents . One thing slowed me down – the Guide gives instructions for different Word editions up to 2007 but doesn’t mention 2010, which I am using, so sometimes I had to play around for a bit until I found what I was looking for.
Now I have my document formatted (I think – I won’t know it’s right until I try to upload it), so it’s time to do the cover. I’m feeling nervous about this. The Guide recommends hiring a professional cover designer (and will even send you a list of low-cost cover designers) because first impressions of a book are important. But our wonderful seminar leader does it herself and gave us lots of tips.
So that’s my next step …
By the way, if anyone’s got any e-publishing tips, I’d be most grateful!
Following on from my last post – my Kobo e-reader prize has arrived and has turned out to be more of an android tablet rather than a simple e-reader. It is the Vox model and has lots more functionality than I expected, so what choice did I have but to keep both it and the Kindle?
I find the Kindle easier on the eye for sustained periods of reading and it has a longer battery life. But the Kobo will drag me into the world of tablets and Apps – something I’ve had no experience of until now.
The first App I downloaded was A Quick Read (as mentioned in this month’s Writers’ News), which is a collection of short stories for reading on the move. Have a look at the website for how to submit your own stories for inclusion.
I’ve rooted out some prize draws if you’d like to win your own e-reader or some good old-fashioned book tokens:
- For the chance to win a Kindle Fire, click here
- For the chance to win WH Smith vouchers that can be used to buy a Kobo, click here
- For the chance to win some Book Tokens, click here.
I already have a basic Kindle (without the keyboard or any of the fancy stuff) and I’ve just won a Kobo e-reader in the monthly flash fiction competition in Prima magazine (my story is in the December issue). The Kobo hasn’t arrived yet so I don’t know which model it will be but it’s supposed to be worth £149.
I’m trying to decide whether to tear open the packaging of the Kobo when it arrives and have a play with it, or whether to keep it all brand-spanking new and advertise it on eBay.
Because of its price, I’m assuming the Kobo will have a much wider functionality but what about the selection of books available? Does it have as many titles as the Kindle? I know that many authors who self-publish, only do so on the Kindle but the file format used by the Kobo is supposed to be more ‘open’.
Which screen is easier on the eye and is the page turning functionality as good on the Kobo as it is on the Kindle?
There’s an interesting article here from the MoneySavingExpert team. It recommends Kobo if buying for oneself but Kindle if buying as a present – but only so that you don’t appear a cheap skate by giving a less expensive Kindle substitute.
So what do you think? Is one better than the other – or should I keep both (I’m thinking that if I ever get round to self-publishing an e-book it might be useful to see what it looks like on the two devices).
I’m in the middle of switching email addresses – and it’s causing me a lot of grief!
I’ve used the same web mail address since we got our first home PC back in 1999 and for most of that time it’s worked fine. But over the last few months the service has been crashing out, refusing to load my inbox and freezing when I press ‘send’. I’ve been reluctant to switch to a new provider because:
- I liked my email address (it didn’t include any annoying numbers or dots to make it unique from every other person with my name)
- Like most writers I always have ‘stuff out there’ which obviously has the old address on as a contact point
- I guessed it would be a lot of hassle to change
However, there was only so many times I could put up with losing a carefully drafted email plus we’ve recently upgraded to BT Infinity at home – so I decided to bite the bullet and join the @btinternet.com clan.
I was lucky with my new email address – all I had to do was slip in my middle initial to make it unique and still appear businesslike. Then I jumped for joy when I saw that it was possible to import contacts from other email providers – but sat down heavily again when I realised my old provider was not amongst those listed as compatible. It looked like I had a long ‘copy & paste’ job ahead of me.
But there was good news when I found an option to get mail forwarded from other email addresses. I filled in the prompts and clicked ‘new mail only’. At least now it wouldn’t matter if I forgot to keep monitoring my old email - all those competition wins that are bound to come in over the next few months would be automatically forwarded to @btinternet.com!
Then, before my very eyes, my new inbox filled up with over 2,000 emails.
Every single email from my old address had been imported to the new!
This had advantages and disadvantages. I could open messages and click to add the sender to my new contacts list but a massive deletion job is now necessary. And I’m not finding it easy to delete whole page after whole page because I keep spotting something that might be useful…just like when I try sorting out books for the charity shop.
Somehow I reckon this job is going to drag on and on. Maybe it would be easier to go back to sending messages via pigeon or even in a bottle (which explains the odd illustration to this post – just in case you were wondering!)
Despite all this I can still be contacted via the ‘About Sally Jenkins’ page of this blog or please leave a comment below.
Over the last couple of weeks the computer gremlins have invaded our household, throwing up the ‘blue screen of death‘
on the desktop PC and various funnies/frozen screens on my daughters’ laptops. This made me nervous and I decided we needed to have a proper back up copy of everything. I’ve mentioned the importance of regular backups before on this blog (see here) but I’ve still been bumbling along with a memory stick for documents and the occasional backup of photos to CD when we remember to do it.
So off we went to buy an external hard drive. But the nice man in the shop talked us out of it and into buying a Cloud back up instead. This would mean we could access our data from any PC, it would be equivalent to an ‘off-site’ backup and my elder daughter wouldn’t have to cart yet another bit of kit off to university with her. It seemed a great idea so we bought it and set it to save everything that was on my elder daughter’s laptop – music, photos, university work etc.
It took hours and hours and hours and sent us way over our internet usage allowance (I suppose if I’d thought about it I would have realised this would be the case). Then we had trouble trying to determine whether the scheduled hourly scan & save for changed documents was actually happening. I tried phoning the Cloud support line but a machine told me all queries must be logged via the website.
We concluded the Cloud was a bad idea and went back to the original, external drive idea for the other PCs. It was so much easier! A few ‘copy and pastes’ and everything was saved and we could easily see it was there.
I’ve previously used the limited free cloud storage provided by Dropbox (and recommended by Simon Whaley) for some of my documents and will carry on using it. But it seems to me that if you have large amounts of pictures or music then an external hard drive is the better choice (especially since they don’t tend to change very often and it’s easy to remember to back them up each time you download a new bunch of photos or an album).
Does anyone else have experience of Cloud backup – am I the only one that struggled with it?
Do you make regular backup copies of your work?
We all know how temperamental computers can be – one minute they’re working fine and then the next they freeze up and refuse to do anything. Usually the ‘turn it off and back on again’ method brings the machine back to life and everything is hunky-dory again but just occasionally the PC is dead and has taken with it folders full of precious work that can no longer be accessed – unless you have a backup copy.
Some of the more common backup methods to consider are:
- External Hard Drives – this is a similar type of hard drive to that found inside your PC but it is mounted in a separate enclosure. It can be connected to your PC via a USB port or wirelessly. If you have an Apple Mac, an automatic wireless backup can be provided by a Time Capsule.
- USB Stick - very small, easy to use, portable device that plugs into a USB port – but they are known to have a limited lifespan.
- CD/DVD - CD-R, DVD-R, and DVD+R can be written to only once but there are other types of disk that can be erased/rewritten.
- Online Storage Facility - this allows storage of data on a 3rd Party server. This may require a manual copy of the selected files from PC to the server or there may be the option to schedule an automatic backup. An example of this is the BT Digital Vault.
- Email - set up a free hotmail account and periodically email work to this account. If your own computer is unusable, this email account and your documents will be accessible from any other PC.
But before choosing a backup method there are a couple of questions that you should ask yourself:
- Do you need a backup copy kept away from your home? An external disk drive sitting next to your PC will go up in flames with the rest of the house.
- Do you regularly work on more than one PC – i.e. do you need an easy way of transferring your work in progress from one computer to another?
- Are you saving a finished piece of work that won’t be touched again or one that is being constantly updated?
As a computer professional I feel that I should be using a failsafe hi-tech backup method but actually I use a USB stick on a daily basis and periodically email my larger pieces of work to myself.
What backup methods does anyone else use? And have you ever had a computer disaster and lost data (or successfully recovered it from backup)?