Be the Smarter Artist: Iterate And Optimize Book Review

iterateThis was the inspirational kick ass non-fiction read on indie publishing I had been waiting for. With a week’s break planned in Cornwall I decided to buy and read this on the train journey. I’ve been following Johnny, Sean and Dave since the early days of their SPP podcast and avidly devoured ‘Write, Rinse, Repeat’, the prelude to this fine tome.

I’m currently working for the journey of writing and building an imprint publishing business so this fly on the wall focus on their Sterling and Stone is a compelling insight into all the growing pains, mistakes and the successes that have marked their journey since conception.

All the potential pitfalls are here and if you’re a self-published author (let’s call it indie author) or thinking about going that route you should heed the trio’s ‘smarter artist’ approach; the authorpreneur way of doing things. We’re in a world where the disruption of book publishing hasn’t even started. Traditional pre-conceptions of the industry should be put aside as you peel back the first page in your sunken armchair.

Let’s be clear, the SPP guys elaborate in their antidotes, history and examples (which I love) and if you allow yourself to go with their journey you will be hugely rewarded.

Highly Recommended. Buy here *(unless you haven’t read Write, Rinse, Repeat yet. In which case buy that first).

* I may make millions if you buy through my affiliate link

2015 roundup and publishing in 2016

Another new year and another new blog post (Yes I must and will try harder)

It’s been a year of slow growth; a few more titles have been added to the bonafide media stable but not as many as I would have liked.

Around March we started production on our first fiction audiobook more recently a new Jay Tinsiano thriller was released. There were no non-fiction releases at all which is a bit disappointing to me but the fiction has been the main focus in 2015 and will continue to be this year.

So, what’s my masterplan for this year?

It’s becoming more and more apparent that a change is needed in how I make time to produce and write the amount of books that I want to write. Ideally I need to complete and publish 2-3 full length novels from for an upcoming series in 2016. The target for the first one is to have a skeleton draft by the end of February.

Myself and my business partner would also like to move towards setting up a publishing imprint using the Lightning Source distribution network later this year. Using this system will enable the books to be available to more bookstores and libraries and is the preferred method for high street booksellers. However this will involve buying ISBNs but it would be worth it to be able to push titles to bookstores. Createspace is great for getting books Amazon but bookshops don’t like ordering from them.

Audio transcripting. I also read that Dragon software have something out that transcribes your recorded voice into editable text. Using this should improve productivity for first draft writing. Whether it works out or I feel comfortable with this process remains to be seen but I want to try it out.

2015 update in Publishing

kindleAnother year flies by and I have suddenly realised I haven’t blogged since June! There has been a lot of changes in the indie publishing world (or self publishing world, if you prefer).

Amazon Kindle continue to add changes with the latest roll out of their CPC programme, where an author can run an ad campaign and have their books show up on other author’s Amazon pages. There is a minimal spend of $100. I personally won’t be trying it until I have some more inventory out there as pushing one book will probably end up as a loss maker. A first book of a series might be another matter. Here’s a good blog post on the ins and outs of the programme. Joanna Penn mentioned in her podcast recently that she hadn’t been able to spend much money – i.e. very few clicks. We’ll see how it pans out.

Last year, Kindle Unlimited added possible opportunities to get paid for free downloads. As usual there’s a mix of success reported by various authors and I can’t say I have great success with it.

I’m swaying in the camp of ‘getting your books out across as many platforms as possible – mainly because of the increase in the number of those platforms. There is Scribd, Oyster, which are looking like cool platforms but the main contender to Amazon is hot on its heels. Apple ibooks is reportedly growing in market share.

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Tracking eBook Sales

update: Unfortunately Vook are no longer offering this service

Recently I daydreamed about a platform that could import and merge sales data from all the major self-publishing platforms: KDP, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords etc and make sense of it. Industry pioneers; Amazon and Apple can only offer downloadable spreadsheets that are hard to navigate and a generic dashboard bar chart.

Investigating further I found App Annie that supplies an intelligent app analytics as well as ebook data for Amazon, iTunes and Google Play. Unfortunately there is no option for Kobo and Nook or any other ebook publishing service.

Moving on I found Vook. Now this looks like a great service and can import account sales data from the following:

Amazon Kindle
Createspace POD

You just add your account details and the system imports your data. You can then sort sales by book, platform, display and date range.


My only gripe is there’s currently no real-time updates and it doesn’t include draft2digital as a platform. Still, it’s a step in the right direction and I highly recommend!

I would be interested to hear about any other similar services for self publishers.

Permafree eBook Publishing

10073486_sIt can be really hard promoting your book, especially if it’s a one off. I’ve heard more than once the saying: “The best way to market your book is the write a second book” and I have to agree.

Writing and publishing a second book (or even better: a series) is the sure fire way to expand visibility for your brand of books.

With tens or hundreds of thousands of self-pubbed titles published every day as writers we have to get creative and importantly keep writing and producing titles. The more entry points to your titles the better, which brings me to the freemium or permafree model as it’s better known in book publishing circles.

If you’ve been ebook publishing for any period of time you’ll know that the Amazon Kindle Select programme isn’t half as effective as it used to be. For those who don’t know this is where offer Amazon exclusivity and you can promote your book free on Amazon for 5 days out of every 90. Getting a lot of downloads would increase your visibility on Amazon and push your sales rank up. But those days are gone, unless you can get tens of thousands of free downloads but even then I’ve heard this be now completely ineffective.

The strategy I’m adapting is to be available on as many ebook/book platforms as possible. You can get great coverage with Smashwords but as mentioned in my last post Speedy Publishing can get huge coverage including the big ones (Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Apple).

Once distributed you can sit back and wait for the money to roll in right? Wrong! Unless you already have an eager audience or the rub of the green you still have to build your author brand on the web, build a relationship with your audience, get an email list going (and make sure you offer a nice carrot) as well as a myriad of other traditional book marketing strategies. Pretty daunting.

However you can offer bite sized preview of your book, a short story or the first book in your series for free (permanently) then you may find a steady stream of customers providing they dig what you’ve produced. It gives them a chance to sample your work and if you’ve done a good job, hook them into your world. This isn’t about taking anyone for a ride – you’ve providing value in your work and readers get the benefit.

I have done this with a pen name series and am just finishing up a short story to help get eyes on what will be a thriller series.

The next step is to make this permafree.

Upload to Kindle Direct and price as low as you can (0.99c) then publish either through Smashwords or your usual methods and make it free. Once it is available on other platforms at the $0.00 price you can then prompt Amazon to pricematch down to zero via a request link on your book product page, or just let their spiders find your book free naturally (although this might take a while).

Obviously you’ll want to list your other titles with links in the back of this permafree book. (So Amazon links to the titles on the Amazon store etc) You can only do this if you directly publish to the platforms of course. The rest will have to be a generic ‘Search where you purchased this’. Let me know if you have any better solutions, I’d be interested to know.

Catch you next time..

Writing and Publishing Fiction

19149215_sFor the last year or so I have been focusing on writing fiction, which is something I always loved doing, especially the story creation process.

Having read and been inspired by other writers and self publishers, especially J.A Konrath (well worth checking out his blog) I decided to go for it and completed my first novel under a pen-name last year (a conspiracy thriller).

From what I’ve learned, and I guess this is true of any product based business, you need a series in the genre you’re publishing to really capitalise and build an audience, so I’ll am busy writing a follow up book as well as planning spin off series involving characters from that Universe. Comics and Science fiction have done this for decades and now fiction writers are beginning bring this element into their strategy.

I am doing this in my own time so outsourcing is key, whether it’s the actual writing of content and ghostwriting, ebook formatting, book cover design, marketing or just administration. Most of my distribution has been done direct to the big platforms: Amazon Kindle, Createspace, Nook and Kobo. For me, submitting directly to Apple iBooks is more tricky as you need a mac so I’ve done this via Draft2Digital and Smashwords.

I’ve also joined Speedy Publishing (affiliate link) who offer a fantastic library of training for those serious about self publishing as well as distribution to over 38,000 ebook retailers including online libraries. If you sign up to their distribution service they will promote your books too via their wide range of book imprints. I’ve only just signed up but I will share my findings on this blog and let you know how it works out.

So back to fiction. Creating strong characters is key as well as a storyline that makes the reader want more. Key points in the stories, such as the hook, game changers and page turning techniques all contribute to the quality of your product. I highly recommend reading J.A Konrath’s book: The Newbie guide to publishing, Write, Publish and Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Turant and also follow Joanna Penn’s blog on writing fiction.




Draft2Digital takes on Smashwords

A new publishing aggregator to rival Smashwords is in town.

Within the last few years e-books have become more and more popular and the publishing industry has gone through some big changes. Digital distribution has made it easier than ever before to bring your book to an audience and Draft2digital is the newest tool for budding indie authors.

Created by self-published writers, Draft2digital is a new online publishing service that is free to sign up to. There’s no charge for uploading any of your books or for publishing them online.

Draft2Digital claim to give you a very high level of quality formatting in both e-book and paperback at no upfront cost to you.

You can upload a .doc,docx or a .rtf and add details onto the same page with ease. These are features like title, back cover, info and which BISAC categories you want the work to be listed under.

You can also upload your own cover art and chapter titles.

Draft2digital gives you the option to add dedication pages, a copyright page, a title page and a about the author page. They’re automatically generated so you actually just have to press a button and it’s done for you.

Once you’ve done all the uploading and tweaks you can save it and download it to make sure it looks the way you want it to.

What you now have is an e-version that can be used on all these platforms:

Then you publish and your book is ready to sell.

It’s not just the quick and easy publishing that is attractive about this site. There are many more positives to the site in general.

It’s a very author-friendly website, easy to navigate with a clutter free look. It has recognition that helps you create the chapter titles and headers. With these it then creates a table of contents with making it easy to work on different sections of your work. Meta pages (copyright etc) are very simple to create, these are usually forgotten about by writers because they’re focusing on the story and the mechanics of the book itself. Draft2digital makes it quick and easy to do these and takes the stress out of it.

An obvious but very well done feature to the site is you can preview your book for each type of e-reader. If you don’t have the specific software to do this it also gives you a link to the software that makes previews possible.

After you have uploaded and published your work it gives you the opportunity to group your books by series. Giving you and others to add to a collection in the future.

Unlike smashwords there isn’t any specific style you have to adhere to and the over all user experience seems to be easier for first time e-publishers.

It’s early days but this new platform looks very promising.

For more information click here

Author: Clare Lowe

Bring on 2013

Firstly a belated Happy New Year. I hope your masterplans for 2013 are shaping up. It’s flying by already!

I am definately rethinking my life at the moment. There’s so many things I still want to do and it’s not all related to business and marketing. I want to turn this blog into something that reflects more me, than just marketing and epublishing stuff, so you may see some changes here soon.

2012 saw the publication of my all ages graphic novel Doxi in Ambienceworld, which is a story that has been pretty much around in my head most of my adult life. (It was rewritten and drawn several times before this version, which took over 10 years to complete!). More info on all the comics stuff here..

Last year also saw a continuation of our web design and marketing agency with some exciting projects in the bag.

So what’s in store in 2013 for Mr H? There are some very exciting changes ahead, which I can’t even talk about..and a lot more ePublishing! I have recently re-found my love of writing fiction and will be publishing a novella pretty soon.

What’s your masterplan for 2013?



Playing around on the Kindle

It’s been an interesting few months. I’ve recently enjoyed playing around with the Kindle marketplace, publishing a few guides and documenting the results on video, along with some strategies to get higher rankings on Amazon for Your Internet Pie.

I also finally finished a book, previously shelved for many years, that I had been working on for almost 15 years!

The reason it took so long, apart from bad time management, is that this tome is an all ages graphic novel, or 50 page comic strip adventure for the childrens/teen market, that is all written, drawn and coloured by myself. I can’t describe the feeling after actually finishing it!

This comicbook is already on the Kindle and I’m looking at getting it out to a wider ebook market through an excellent looking platform called Graphicly, followed by a printed version.

There are so many possibilities on the Kindle. I believe there is always a way you can harness this huge marketplace to your business, no matter what it is.

If you offer particular services, a helpful and informative guide to your industry. If you’re a retail outlet selling food then how about a receipe book? A DIY store? a DIY guide. Just think outside of the box. It doesn’t have to be a best seller, even if you get a physical version published through CreateSpace it will impress the hell out of your clients. I recently heard of several examples where this tactic had converted prospects into clients fast.

Then, of course, there’s the option of just being a publisher and bringing a range of titles to that marketplace. A series of ebooks that focus soley on summarizing existing books is doing pretty well., Quicklets being one example.

With eBook sales predicted by experts to reach $10 billion by 2016 and the Kindle accounting for 75% of those sales this cannot be ignored.

Whatever you’re into, do something on the Kindle.

Big Ideas in 2012

flickr by orkboi

Well it’s been a fast-paced start to the year and I just noticed I haven’t blogged for a few months..oops.

This has mainly been down to focusing on building the Internet Pie brand with the book and membership but I’ve also been doing a lot of Kindle research and testing out some ninja tactics.

This is all part of my big idea.

I think it’s essential to any kind of success to have a big idea that defines where you are going, what your roadmap plan is and where you want to be. Sounds obvious but very much overlooked by so many.

I made the mistake, many times, of taking on too many projects and not giving any any one of them my full undivided attention. This just ends in lukewarm results and you soon get frustrated, besides why not create something of quality?

There is so much crap been pumped out on the web it’s frightening. Whether it’s a product, a book or a service by stepping back and asking yourself whether the end user is getting their money’s worth you can make a huge difference to your reputation as well as your bottom line.

Yes I intend to focus on my big ideas a lot more this year and not get bogged down in crap and details.

What’s your big idea in 2012?