Thursday, December 29, 2016

Headtalker as a FREE Promotional Tool for Authors

In my ongoing efforts to find affordable, namely FREE, methods of promoting my books and novel, I discovered Headtalker. The closest description I can find of what Headtalker is would be a crowdsourcing site.

It allows you to send a message to an enormous number of at one time. This can lead to a huge spike in whatever behavior you are trying to encourage. If you are trying to promote a book, we all know Amazon rewards steady sales, but a big spike can help you climb in the rankings long enough to really generate some notice for your book.

To make use of Headtalker you have to set up a campaign on their website. You schedule a date in the future and create the message you want to promote your campaign. The next step is to invite people to join your campaign.

Anyone who wants to join then picks the social media outlets they want to send your message to. They can pick one or more of their social media accounts to support your message.

On the selected date at the appointed time, the message goes out to all of their followers.

The potential to reach thousands via social media outlets is considerable, making it worth your time to check out Headtalker.

Headtalker provides metrics for each campaign, allowing you to evaluate your campaign. Metrics include:
  • Message Analytics
  • Headtalker Updates
  • Supporter Dashboard 
Possible social media sites include:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumbler
I have started my own campaign in an effort to generate support for my Amazon Kindle Scout campaign for my novel The Predator and The Prey.

While I would greatly appreciate your support with either of my campaigns, click here to check out what a campaign looks like on Headtalker.

Please Note: It takes a minimum of twenty-five people to commit for your campaign to be launched on the launch date. Having said that, if one person commits to using four platforms (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest) that counts as four of the required twenty-five commitments.
To learn more about the FREE and paid for support, along with anything else you might want to know that I didn't answer visit the FAQ page which answers more questions than most FAQ pages.
I found several writing groups on the site as well that have been good sources of information. The site is worth browsing for a little bit just to see what others are doing to promote their books, music or films.

When my campaign on Headtalker is finished, I will offer my opinion on how I think it went and what I learned in a future post. I am optimistic about the potential for this site. In less than twenty-four hours I have received a commitment from seven supporters.

Since I'm asking for support, please consider participating in one or both of these campaigns.

Click here to nominate my novel for its Amazon Kindle Scout campaign.

Click here to support my Headtalker campaign.

This seems to be a site with great potential to expand your social reach to promote your book or other campaign using social media.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Plan Your Marketing Approach In Advance - Narrow Your Audience First

Indie and self-publishing authors often take two approaches to marketing their books, neither of which are very successful. Many authors are more than happy to upload their files to CreateSpace and Amazon KDP and let Amazon do it's magic. I've been guilty of that myself.

Others don't like the idea of marketing their books. It seems somehow, beneath an author. 

If you want to make money with your writing, you must accept the fact self-publishing is a business and treat it as such.

If you don't like the idea that self-publishing, or being an indie author, is a business, then you need to stop and ask yourself do you want your books to be read or readers to find and fall in love with your stories?

Besides, marketing for authors is not the same as large corporations. In fact, I have learned the hard way, it shouldn't be.

Large corporations engage in massive campaigns designed to create brand awareness. They have time and money individual authors will never have. Can you really answer the question of which commercial convinced you to buy that pair of running shoes? Or what made you decided to be a Mac instead of a PC?

On the other hand, I bet you can point to a specific add or promotion that led you to a small or medium sized business that solved the exact problem you needed solving or pointed out a book to you that was exactly what you wanted to read.

Amazon, yes, the giant Amazon, engages in both types of marketing and do it extremely well. In fact, they are so good at pointing out books we want to read to us that as authors it is tempting to leave all the work to Amazon.

Let me point out why neither approach, doing nothing at all or leaving it all to Amazon, is not a good idea. Both approaches fail for some of the same reasons.

First, ask yourself, how does Amazon know what I want to read?

It collects data and it's algorithm's figure out what you're interested in over time. The more data Amazon can collect, the better it can predict what you will be interested in considering buying.

If you do nothing to promote your book, nobody will ever discover it. If nobody discovers it, how can Amazon collect any data about your book?

What's more, you want the right people to discover your book. If Amazon gets the wrong data, it will suggest the book to the wrong readers. Nobody will buy your book and Amazon will move on, letting your book fall in sales ranking, never to be suggested again.

Chris Fox, in his outstanding book The Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books, points out the need to drive early sales and reviews for your book to a targeted niche of customers. This way, Amazon can hone in like a laser on the right niche of readers!

Using the broad marketing approach like major corporations is like simply scattering seed everywhere. Some of the seed will fall on fertile soil. The rest won't. When it comes time for the harvest, the farmer won't have enough to live on for the year.

Zeroing in on your ideal reader and doing everything you can to drive early sales and draw reviews from those very readers gives Amazon the right data to target the largest possible audience of ideal readers for your book.

Having said that, how does an author identify the ideal reader?

For my non-fiction books, it was easy. I knew exactly who my reader was, what problems needed to be solved, what the source of their pain was and the jargon they spoke. I still missed the mark at times and in doing so, missed readers and sales.

Fiction is even more difficult, at least in my mind.

To get the process started, you have to research who your intended reader is. I had a good idea for my non-fiction books. I had at best a fuzzy idea for my novel.

Knowing I had to zero in on my target audience before I launched my novel prompted me to try to find ways to identify my ideal reader.

The Predator and The Prey is a mix of SciFi and Hardboiled Crime Noir. 

When I started the novel, I had no idea if there would be an audience for a cross genre story like mine. I counted on the fact the cult TV show Firefly, a Space Western, found an audience, even if too small and too late. If the millions of Browncoats out there found Firefly, there has to be some readers who love The Maltese Falcon AND Star Wars.

But how was I supposed to identify the actual reader who would want to read my story?

CreateSpace requires the selection of a BISAC, an industry standard category to fit your book into. The closest BISAC category The Predator and The Prey falls into is Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Hard-Boiled.

It's certainly written in the style of books that fall into that category and my protagonist, Inspector Thomas Sullivan is as cool and ruthless as Sam Spade or Lt. Harry Callahan of Dirty Harry fame. The problem is, I don't know if readers who enjoy that type of book will want to read a crime noir story with a science fiction twist to it.

The BISAC categories for Science Fiction and Fantasy don't include an option for Mystery & Detective/Hard-boiled. This led to a series of e-mails back and forth with CreateSpace who finally provided me with good advice on how to get The Predator and The Prey listed under Science Fiction and Fantasy as well. The one catch, I have to wait until the book has been published and listed on Amazon.

Why is that an issue? Remember the targeting of early sales to specific readers? The need to garner those all important positive Amazon Reader reviews as early and frequently as possible? That missing category will delay readers who may love my book from finding it, providing Amazon with the data it needs to find other readers in the same niche.

More frustration.

I moved on to Amazon keywords. Here was where I found a way to zero in, regardless of Category to the ideal reader for my book! CreateSpace will allow you up to five keywords and Amazon KDP seven. The only problem was I didn't know what keywords to pick. Here is what CreateSpace had to say about keywords:

Not much help. Here's what Amazon KDP says about keywords:

Still no closer to having an exact idea of how to narrow my search for the best keywords.

Fortunately, I stumbled across a great blog post by Dave Chesson, the Kindlepreneur! This led to a software program named KDP Rocket. I reviewed this in an earlier blog post on The Self-Publisher's Notebook.

KDP Rocket sells for $67 and was money well spent in my opinion. Keep in mind, I've wasted a lot of money on a wide range of gimmicks and scams, so I hope I'm not leading you astray if you decide to purchase this product (I am not an affiliate for this product).
The learning curve is not terribly steep. In a short period of time you can start researching keyword results based on data from Amazon. After several hours of doing this, I had a long list of over 100 keywords with data about each keyword.

I shortened the list to ten and finally narrowed it down to seven by testing all ten. By typing in the targeted keyword I was able to generate Amazon search results for each. Using the Check the Competition feature I researched each of the first titles that Amazon pulled up.

I was delighted to discover there is a market for SciFi Crime Noir Thrillers!

This entire approach took some time on my part. Hopefully, by sharing the process I went through I will save you hours of thinking and surfing the net to arrive at the same point I did.

Armed with my two Categories (well, one category and the knowledge of how to get CreateSpace to get Amazon to add another category) and lists of keywords, I am that much closer in my marketing plan to being able to target those niche readers for my book when it goes on sale.

Despite the fact the files for both versions of the book, POD and ebook, have been finished, checked, double checked and are ready to upload, I am glad I have waited to publish until I had a better handle on the marketing for the book.

If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to nominate by novel, The Predator and The Prey, on Amazon Kindle Scout. If the book gets enough nominations, the "Scout Team" might consider purchasing the Kindle/ebook rights!

The process will take less than a minute. Just click here to nominate my book! You'll need to use your Amazon account.

I described this process in an earlier blog post.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Please Nominate The Predator and The Prey for Kindle Scout!

With a few simple, easy clicks you can nominate The Predator and The Prey for publication by Amazon's Kindle Scout!

The "nomination campaign" runs from December 26th to January 24th. I would appreciate it a great deal if you would take a few moments to click on any of the links in this post to visit the preview page for The Predator and The Prey on the Amazon Kindle Scout site.

The Amazon Kindle Scout program gives readers a chance to nominate books they would like to see published. Each title has a 30 day run in the program, giving readers a chance to review each title and nominate three books they think are worthy of being published by Amazon Kindle.

At the end of the 30 day period, if a book has enough nominations, the Amazon Scout Team will decide if the book is worthy of being published by Amazon Kindle.

If a book is selected, the author receives a $1500 advance and 50% royalties on each Kindle unit sold. At the end of five years, rights revert back to the author. The author retains paperback rights.

If the book is not accepted, I can still publish it myself on KDP.

This is a great opportunity and I hope The Predator and The Prey makes the cut and is selected by the Scout Team for publication via Amazon Publishing. The smaller royalty is more than worth it to me. Amazon will be the entity promoting the book during its initial 90 days.

Because The Predator and The Prey is the first in a series, good initial sales should help the launch of the second book in the series, currently with a working title of Last Train to Nowhere

What's in it for readers? Free BOOKS! If one of the books you nominated is selected for publication by Amazon Kindle Publishing, you will receive a FREE copy.

For the readers of this blog who have not heard of the Scout program before, you can read all the details here.

Be sure to read ALL of the details in the author agreement as I did not list the bulk of them in this post.

So, for a final time, I would appreciate it a great deal if you would take just a moment to go to the Amazon Kindle Scout page for The Predator and The Prey and nominate my book!

Also, if you really feel like helping, please post the link to the nominating page to your social media accounts and tell your friends.

If my book is fortunate enough to be selected for consideration by the Scout Team, I will know within 15 days of the end of the 30 day nomination period if it will be published or not.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fiction, Keywords, Amazon Searches and KDP Rocket

The non-fiction books I authored are very niche in their nature and I had a specific target audience in mind when I wrote them. The keywords I provided to CreateSpace and KDP when I uploaded my files for publication where jargon specific to the targeted audience. Several of my books became Amazon Number One Bestsellers for specific categories and keywords. I was lucky in a way due to the nature of the niche audience and the fact I was well versed in the professional jargon.

Fiction is an entirely different animal.

I am a huge believer in proactive planning. You cannot control everything nor can you prevent every problem that might crop up from happening. But sound planning and proper execution of that plan can go a long way in creating success for your endeavor.

It has been written repeatedly that for a book to be successful the author must start marketing it before the book is completed. 

Taking that statement to heart, I began planning the marketing for my first work of fiction, The Predator and The Prey. I'm not as far along as I need to be despite the fact the book's cover is done, the manuscript is finished and the interior files uploaded. All that needs to happen is hit submit and publish and if a few days the book will be available for sale to the general public via Amazon.

Unfortunately, I still have a lot of work to do. Work that stops me from clicking on submit and publish.

I have been focused on learning as much as I can about two very specific topics. The first is obtaining those all important Amazon Customer Reviews. My goal is to obtain 100+ Reviews, preferably of a nice 4 or 5 star variety. One piece of research I stumbled across was fairly disheartening. For every 100 Amazon Reviews, the author needs to ask for 900 reviews. 300 hundred readers will agree to read the book (a free copy) and of those 300 only 100 will actually write a review. 

That's a lot of free copies of my book. It's also a lot of e-mails and thank you notes. Nor is it easy to control the timing and effort of people who are doing you a favor for the price of a free book. A book they may or may not have wanted to read if it were not for the fact you gave them the book.

On a more positive note, Amazon's use of keywords is something you, as the author, do have more control over. Selecting the right keywords is essential for the successful marketing of your book. Amazon after all, is essentially just a big search engine for books and other products that are for sale.

As I mentioned earlier, selecting the keywords for my non-fiction books was easy. The topics were very niche and had a specific jargon that buyers would use to search for books related to that niche.

Selecting keywords for a cross-genre fictional novel? That's a different matter. How do I get my book in front of the Amazon customers most likely to want to read my book?

After quite a few hours researching the topic with no success, I stumbled across a website run by a self-published, entrepreneurial author of both non-fiction and fiction by the name of Dave Chesson. The website is

Dave had written an excellent post on his blog about the use of keywords as a selling strategy on Amazon.

Dave makes an excellent argument for his strategy and I decided it was worth trying. The problem is, it takes a lot of data to discover which keywords will produce the desired results and I had no way of generating and collecting that data.

Enter KDP Rocket.

Let me say right now I don't get any affiliate commissions if you decided to invest in this tool. It will cost you $67.

Having wasted a LOT OF MONEY trying to learn how to run my tiny self-publishing business, I have learned the hard way to always be skeptical. 

After several days of considering how to generate the best possible list of keywords and not being able to come up with a single strategy, I finally broke down, got out my plastic and made the purchase.

One very long night later (the software is very easy to learn how to use), I had seven pages of possible keywords, along with the number of competing titles, the average earnings in the sales of the top five selling titles and a score indicating how difficult it would be to compete for that keyword.

$67 and all those hours later, I was still not completely sold this KDP Rocket thing was worth the time and money I had invested.

Culling out the ten most promising keywords from the several hundred I had collected the data on, I pulled up my Amazon account and typed the first keyword in.

Instantly a scifi crime noir thriller appeared. Along with several pages of other books in the same cross-genre vein.

Another keyword and the same result.

Did I mention that eight of the top ten keywords I would NEVER have thought of on my own? In the process of testing the keywords you type in, other similar keywords come up and you start to generate keywords on your own you would never have thought of.

It gets better.

You can research the competition with a feature specifically designed for that!

So, how did I do selecting the keywords for my non-fiction books?

Actually, pretty good, but not as good as I thought for several of the titles. I'm happy to report since changing some keywords, a couple of those titles have sold a few more copies than normal this past month.

Check out KDP Rocket yourself and make your own decision.

While I'm pretty sold at the moment, the real test will come when my novel goes on sale. I'll report back then when I have enough data to determine if my investment was worthwhile.

Monday, December 19, 2016

There's a Novel In All of Us

When I published my first non-fiction book I never thought I would write, let alone see published, a novel. My wife was the first to put the idea in my head and encourage me to take the plunge. I think she mainly just wanted to keep me occupied and out from under foot around the house, but that's okay.

Now, some ten years later, I find myself working through my list of tasks each day in order to have everything ready for the book's launch sometime in early February. Today, I was asked a couple of questions about the book and after some reflection answered a few of them on my author's site.

If you are interested in learning a little more about how The Predator and The Prey came about, please feel free to read the few questions I responded to in writing. To read more...

Anyone who reads this blog who writes non-fiction, if you feel the itch to try your hand at a novel, go ahead. Scratch that itch! It was a fun challenge for me and if I can do it, you certainly can too.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cover Design by Robin Ludwig - Final Cover Art Is Ready for The Predator and The Prey

Things are coming together slowly but surely for the February 2nd release of my first novel, The Predator and The Prey. I received the cover proof for approval for the final design from Robin Ludwig of Robin Ludwig Design. Her website can be found at

Ms. Ludwig produced a design that was better than what I had envisioned. Of course, I'm not that creative visually so that might not be the best recommendation for her work. Having said that, she was faced with the challenge of producing a cover that conveyed the gritty sinister feel of a classic crime noir novel with a hint the book was a science fiction story as well.

Fog and snow are used regularly in the story to foreshadow an attack on the streets of Capital City by the story's villain. The two moons of Beta Prime appear in the star filled sky, giving a nod to the novel's science fiction component. The sinister appearance of the villain and the woman who seems to be the titular prey communicates the story's potential for violence and crime in the great tradition of crime noir storytelling.

Somehow, Ms. Ludwig managed to capture the feel of both genres. Not an easy task to accomplish in my opinion.

A visit to her website will give you a chance to look at other examples of her work as a cover designer and graphic artist. In addition to book covers, both POD paperback and ebooks, Ms. Ludwig designs a wide range of items for authors ranging from bookmarks and business cards to graphics for your author website.

Even better, her prices are very competitive and for this author, a bargain for what I paid for. She was very patient with me, a novice at this type of cover design (all of my previous 20+ book covers were for non-fiction - a different animal entirely) and steered me to the final design, which was much better than my original vision for the cover.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Resources for Authors

Time is something authors have too little of. Most of us have full time jobs that prevent us from being full time writers (if only we could have that one big best seller!). For those of us who self-publish, there is the not so little matter of having to do almost, if not all, everything ourselves. 

Simply taking the time to find the information and resources necessary to make the entire enterprise work can cut into already limited time for writing.

Here are some new sites that provide valuable information and/or services for authors. Let my time spent looking for and finding these sites save you some time.

How To Do It Frugally - Carolyn Howard-Johnson's site

I always find myself returning to this site. Carolyn keeps it updated and is constantly providing valuable information on a wide range of important topics for indie and self-publishing authors. To name just a few:
  • The process of ethically (and frugally) obtaining book reviews.
  • Editing your own work effectively.
  • Promoting your work (frugally as always).
  • Background information on how the publishing industry, self and traditional, works.
  • Educational/learning opportunities for writers.
Writer Advice - Managed by editor Lynn Goodwinn

This site is worth spending some time surfing around. You'll find:
  • Information on writing contests.
  • Author resources - lots of them.
  • Brag Board and Announcements page.
  • Markets
  • Author interviews - archived
  • Manuscript consulting
Writer to Writer - Award winning site devoted to providing information about earning a living as a writer.

Newsletters for authors:

Peter Bowerman's The Well-Fed Writer

Once a month I get this newsletter. While I'm not a professional copywriter, there is a lot to be learned about making a living as a writer in this newsletter.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Predator and The Prey Will Be Available for Purchase February 2, 2017!

The cover art design has been approved and will be delivered soon! The interior layout is finished! All that remains is for the table of contents to be done for the ebook version and both the POD paperback version and ebook version of The Predator and The Prey will be ready to upload!

I still have plenty to do between now and the actual publication date of February 2, 2017. Still, I'm excited to see everything coming together for this, my first novel. It is always exciting for an author to see their latest work in print and this is no exception.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Are Blog Tours Passe as a Means of Book Promotion?

For the past three years I have been doing my homework while I worked up the nerve to convince myself to venture into the world of indie fiction. One of the strategies often suggested is doing a blog tour to promote your new book.

On the surface it is certainly a sound idea. Since I have a limited, meaning none, budget for marketing and promotion, I liked the idea. It would cost me only my time and effort. So, I found the site It is easy to use and after an hour I had generated a list of thirty-five blogs to contact concerning guest posting or doing an interview.

I was surprised by the response.

Every blogger and author who replied was very polite. They all, so far, have declined my request. Each e-mail politely explained the blogger no longer did guest posts or interviews. They simply did not generate any traffic or interest for the blogger's site. 

Most offered to mention my new book, The Predator and The Prey, on their social media. 

I certainly plan to take each up each blogger who offered this option to me on their offer. It is a generous one and will take me much less time than writing a guest post would. I simply need to send a jpg of my cover, a link and a few details about the book.

I still like the idea of guest blogging.

It simply might not be practical for works of fiction. I do think guest posting in the realm of non-fiction will work. It should draw readers to the blog hosting the guest post and generate traffic. If you need information and your search turns up the guest post, you'll go to that blog.

I have an idea for a non-fiction book that I plan to start work on late this spring. I have included on my list of pre-publishing activities to be done set up a blog tour.

In May or June I should be able to answer my question concerning whether blog tours are better suited for non-fiction.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Could Paper Books Make a Comeback? Two Reasons They Might

From a business perspective it makes sense to have your book available in as many formats as possible and distributed as widely as possible. While ebooks, especially Amazon's Kindle, have been a huge boon to self-published authors, it makes sense for several reasons to offer books in POD print editions as well.

First, it would seem the so-called "digital natives" prefer to read books in print over digital ebooks by a considerable margin, especially when reading for pleasure. Of course surveys that conclude this type of results are controversial, particularly among the serious adopters of technology. Reading the comments are sometimes as informative as the actual story.

Then there is the issue of whether or not we should be creating "digital natives" before their brains have matured physically. As a high school teacher for the past 30+ years, I can assure you the reading ability of the average student has made a serious decline.

Others simply argued any evidence I had was anecdotal and could not be validated. That is until brain researchers discovered all the digital usage by today's youth has in fact changed how their brains develop and not always for the better. One of those negative effects has been a serious deterioration in the brain's ability to process written language.

Given the fact school administrators have moved towards digital textbooks, and with good reason when you see the amount of money spent on textbooks, this is bound to be a controversial topic in the coming years.

As a school teacher and grandparent, this topic is of great interest to me. To read more, click here.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Association of Independent Authors

It doesn't matter if you are published traditionally or you choose to go the indie route and self-publish.  It can be lonely and frustrating as an author. Like any human endeavor, author's need encouragement and a source of help and information.

Joining local writing groups can certainly serve as one source of encouragement and information. Joining a larger regional or national group can serve the same purpose and often provides additional sources of aid and information.

One such group is the Association of Independent Authors. You can become an Affiliate Member for FREE or become a full member for a $69 membership fee.

The AIA offers a range of services and sources of support for authors, most of which will cost you some money. Like any other choice you have to make as an indie author that involves money, buyer beware and do your homework.

Still, an Affiliate membership is FREE and you can tool around the AIA's website and learn a few things. This is not an endorsement of the AIA, I'm simply pointing out the organization's existence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review of How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

If you're like me, you have to run your self-publishing business on a shoestring budget. With daughter Number One just out of college and daughter Number Two a freshman this year, every dime has to be accounted for and spent wisely. What could be reinvested often has to go to pay bills or for college.

All the more reason to invest what money you have budgeted for research and educational purposes in the "Frugal" series of books by writer and author Carolyn Howard-Johnson. These books are well worth the money you will spend and the time you will need to invest to read, take notes and digest all the information presented in the books.

The series includes:
  • The Frugal Editor: Do It Yourself Editing Secrets
  • The Frugal Book Promoter (in its second edition now)
  • How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically 
I'm planning my book launch for my first work of fiction, The Predator and The Prey, and I wish I had started reading CHJ's (Ms. Howard-Johnson refers to herself in the text of her book this way) treatise on obtaining reviews two months ago. Even when self-publishing, you need 12-16 weeks lead time for many reviewers. You also need a physical copy of the book to send to be reviewed!
The time saved in research in a single area of book promotion/reviews alone is worth the price of the book. For example, I was aware of only two bloggers who write in the genre my book is in. In less than two hours, using the information in the book, I now have a book blog tour mapped out for the entire month of March.
Book reviews are a scary topic for authors. I know I hate trying to solicit them. It some how feels like I've become a politician or a used care salesman. Ms. Howard-Johnson addresses all the reasons why authors need to get over this and do the work necessary to solicit reviews in the first section of the book.
The second section of the book deals with planning how to obtain reviews. Of particular emphasis is the need to start early and do your homework. Thus my wish I had started reading this book two months ago.
Section three deals with a wide range of ethical, and low cost methods of obtaining reviews. Many of these ideas would never occur to the average writer. Ms. Howard-Johnson's years of experience as an author and wide range of contacts in the industry have provided her with a wealth of information she thankfully is willing to share with other authors. Of particular help is the chapter dealing with the all important Amazon.

Section four deals with putting all those great reviews to work for you, helping as many readers as possible find out about your work. Section five covers the practice of writing reviews to broaden your author's platform and create credibility as an author.

Section six covers putting together a media kit and planning for the future of your book. The successful future of your book. It also covers using reviews for when the sales of your book began to slide.

I purchased the Kindle version of this book. I would like to point out Ms. Howard-Johnson went to the trouble to create a functioning index for the book, making it as easy to use as a traditional paperback version. This is no small feat. 

Also included in the book are examples which can be found in the appendices of the book.

If you're frugal, out of necessity or by nature, this book is well worth the price of purchase.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Indie Arthor Skills - Using Book Design Templates Part II

The good folks at are the creators of a product called Book Design Templates. In my last post I encouraged authors to consider learning how to create their own interiors for their books. Specifically to use this product created by Joel Friedlander and his partners.

As mentioned in my previous post, this product is Word based. If you can use Word, you can master creating your own book interiors. Tracy Atkins, the software genius behind these templates, can easily do the interior of a book in an hour.

I will confess, it took me longer than an hour to do the POD interior of my first work of fiction, The Predator and The Prey.

Here is what I can say about using the template I purchased. It was the easiest book interior I have ever done. It took me just over two hours, the fault of which must be placed on me. I got smart and formatted my original Word document in an effort to speed up the process of loading it into the template. All I did was create a good 45 minutes of work for myself. The template would have handled the features I was trying to create.

My absolute favorite feature, the template set up the page numbers and headings on the pages automatically! Talk about a tedious task made easy.

Even better, my ebook version was created by using the Save As feature on Word. A few changes and the creation of a functional table of contents and the file will be ready to upload to my Kindle Direct Publishing account. Since I hate dealing with ebook table of contents, I am going to happily pay the $47 to have The Book Designer folks create my TOC for me.

I purchased a multi-use license, enabling me to ensure every book in my Inspector Thomas Sullivan Thriller series will have identical interiors, both the print and ebook versions.

For authors who need to save money producing their own books, this is a way to save money, produce a quality interior, and you won't have to learn how to write code or study design in the process.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Consider Developing These Skills as an Indie Author - Part I: Simple Interior Design

Being an indie, or self-published, author has meant learning skills I never thought were a necessary component of an author's skill set. Like the vast majority of self-publishing authors, my budget to produce my books is very limited. In fact, once my books began to gain traction on Amazon and sell, I needed the money to pay bills for the family. 

Lesson learned. This is not a hobby, at least for me. There are skills authors today need that extend beyond craft. Without a doubt, the most important element of any book's success is a well written manuscript. Without a topnotch manuscript, no book will succeed despite all the other bells and whistles being topnotch.

Traditional publishing provides skills most authors don't have. Skills such as editing, interior design, cover design and for some lucky authors, marketing. Editing your manuscript yourself is not wise, thought it can be done.

Designing your interior is another skill that is best left to creative professionals. Having said that, there is an easy way to go about producing the files necessary to have your finished manuscript published in paperback and ebook formats. You don't have to learn the first thing about coding for ebooks or actual design elements for paper and ebook interiors.

Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer, and his partners at Book Design Templates have done the hard work for you. You simply have to select, and yes, pay for the template that features the interior design you believe best fits your manuscript. 

I have used these for multiple editions of my non-fiction books and successfully saved hundreds of dollars while producing quality book interiors! Yes, there is a learning curve. But, the good folks at Book Design Templates have provided the means to teach yourself how to use these Microsoft Word based templates.

You select the type of license you want to purchase, single or multi-edition. A commercial option is available as well. When finished, hit save and make a duplicate copy. I have found there are a few things I want to change for the two versions, one for paper and one for ebook. When finished, you are ready to upload your interiors for publication.

Once you master the process, you can format a 60,000 word book in a couple of hours. Books with images, graphs, etc, take longer.

If you hit a snag, for a reasonable fee, you can pay for help to either tutor you in the process or actually fix the problem for you. In one of my first efforts, I managed to mess things up so badly it took them awhile to repair the damage I had done. They did it with a smile and sent me my finished file ready to upload.

Please note! If you use these templates correctly, there is NO NEED to have your interior file converted to upload to Amazon's KDP or Nook's ePub. Your book, minus the cover, is ready to go! I have successfully used my files for Kindle, Nook and Draft2Digital who distributed my ebooks to iBook, Kobo and other ebook retailers.

Yes, this approach does cost some money and you have to invest the time to learn to use the templates. The positive is your book file is ready much quicker than if you paid someone else to do the work. Purchasing a multi-use license is still cheaper than paying to have a professional to design and produce your interior file and it is a one time fixed cost. You also do not have to pay for having the files converted for either POD or ebook editions.

I'm sold on this product/service produced and sold by Joel Friedlander and his partners. It is a skill indie/self-publishing authors should consider mastering.

For More Information

How the Business of Self-Publishing Has Changed - Authors Have to Embrace the Business Side of Self-Publishing

When I bravely ventured into self-publishing some eight years ago, I read Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon. This self-publishing classic still has a lot of valid advice for authors considering taking the plunge into the world of Indie publishing. Print-on-demand publishing through first Lightning Source and then Amazon's own CreateSpace made it possible for authors to publish their work and make money. Morris Rosenthal's Print-on-Demand Book Publishing was also required reading back in those days. Aiming at Amazon provided authors with a detailed marketing strategy using POD to publish and print books and selling them on Amazon. 

The focus of Aiming at Amazon was marketing, particularly the idea of driving all print sales to Amazon and ignoring brick and mortar bookstores, and provides still valuable insight into how Amazon works as a means to promote and sell books..  Print-on-Demand Book Publishing provided authors with a detailed understanding of how the entire POD model worked.

Of course, this was all before the ebook revolution, in particular Amazon's Kindle. With the bar to publish lowered, thousands of authors took advantage of the opportunities provided by Amazon and other ebook publishers. The result, to the dismay of many, was a dramatic increase in competition as the number of new books being published has mushroomed with the advent of ebooks.

I was able to compete quite effectively when POD was the only option available to authors who self-published. Following the advice and strategy provided in Aiming at Amazon, it was possible to drive your book up the all important sales rankings and generate a reasonable return on your efforts as an author.

Today, the process of entering the business is quite a bit more complicated. Simply writing the best possible book, editing it, getting a great cover with a well designed interior and publishing it are no longer enough to produce sales. Truth be told, it was never that simple, but it certainly seemed that way.

For a book to succeed financially, meaning sales, an author must delve into the business side, or at least the marketing side, of publishing. Regardless of how your book is published, traditional or indie, today's authors are responsible for marketing their own book. Only proven best selling authors receive any marketing help from traditional publishing houses.

Marketing a book has to start long before it is ready to be published. As I am in the process of having my first work of fiction edited (The Predator and The Prey: Book I of the Thomas Sullivan Chronicles), I have been focusing on what has come to be called building my Author Platform. In theory, this process will allow me to provide my book with the best possible launch.

In order to meet my self-imposed deadline of publishing The Predator and The Prey in February of 2017, I sat down and made up a list of tasks that have to be accomplished. For the benefit of authors new to this process I have included this list below:
  • Obtain domain name 
  • Register with hosting company
  • Website/Author platform
  • Obtain custom e-mail for domain name
  • Register with e-mail service - find a free one to start
  • Rewrite after receiving manuscript back from editor
  • Finish first chapter of next book in series for inclusion in The Predator and The Prey
  • Interior design - POD
  • Interior design/conversion - ebook (mobi, ePub and Smashwords)
  • Back cover copy for POD edition
  • Cover design - POD and ebook
  • Amazon Author Central Page
  • Kindle Keyword research
  • Write book synopsis for Amazon and other online book retailers product page
  • Research ebook promotion sites
  • Obtain ARC POD copies to send out to potential reviewers
  • Research generating ebook edition reviews (behind on this)
  • Have ebook file for uploading on Smashwords professionally formatted - upload after KDP exclusive period ends.
This is not a complete list and I have done a reasonable amount of items on the list. I have also already made my decisions on an editor and cover designer.  

All of this takes time, and in my case involves a learning curve. In order to save money to invest it where it will do the most good (editing and cover design) I am going to really stretch myself and build my own website using WordPress. Supposedly, it's easy. I've heard that before.

I am quite certain I have left tasks I don't yet know I need to accomplish off my list. When I first started in 2008, I only wrote my manuscript, made the corrections asked for by the editor and approved the cover design. I uploaded my files to CreateSpace, wrote the book description and waited for the 24 hours for the book to go on sale.

Things have changed.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Chronicles of Inspector Thomas Sullivan

Trial and error takes time and it can prove to be a costly way to learn. Fear of making mistakes and the need to be perfect on the first attempt is paralyzing and leads failure more often than not. Trying my hand as a fiction author has certainly proven trial and error is unavoidable.

Still, I am hoping many of the lessons I learned as a self-published author of non-fiction will reduce the number of errors to be made as I prepare to launch my first novel. Hopefully, in February of 2017 The Predator and The Prey: An Inspector Thomas Sullivan Thriller will be available.

Until then, the learning curve continues. For the readers of this blog who might be considering testing the waters of the fiction world, please visit the blog for my new series. The Chronicles of Inspector Thomas Sullivan is the blog I will be using to support my new fiction series.

In my efforts to build an authors platform for my plans for a multi-volume series, I plan to use this site to provide additional background for readers interested in learning more about Capital City and the planet of Beta Prime. Also to be included will be backstory for the governing structure known as the Interplanetary Alliance and the Space Marines, the branch of military service my protagonist Thomas Sullivan served in as a member of the Shore Patrol, the military police arm of the Space Marines.

Please visit and if you have suggestions I love to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sell More Books Using Your Author Website by Radu Balas - A Review

I gave up television seven years ago and haven't regretted it once. I spend all that newly found free time either reading or writing. With the advent of Kindle, I find myself reading more than ever before. In particular, I find I am a bit of a sucker for "how-to" books, especially in the area of writing and publishing.

If you are like me, you have found that many of the books marketed as a great source for ideas on how to sell more books or improve your writing are little more than Kindle spam.

As I am moving ever closer to the launch of my first work of fiction. I have been working hard to learn as much as I can about a launching a work of fiction, something I have discovered is quite different from launching a non-fiction book.

In the case of non-fiction, you have a well defined idea of who your target audiences is (if you don't you might find there is no market for your book). A work of fiction might fight nicely into a specific genre, leading you, the author, to believe correctly labeling your novel in the right categories on Amazon is all you need to do to find an audience.

It's not that simple. You have to build an audience for a work of fiction. It's a different approach than what I used to successfully market my non-fiction books.

As I work to ready my launch and build my author website, I am finding just how much more I have to learn. One of the few books I have found that has been helpful, in large part because the author, Radu Balas, has gathered so much practical information into one book, is Sell More Books Using Your Author Website.

One of the ideas he suggests is writing book reviews of books in the same or similar genre you write in and posting them on your author website. What a great idea!

Readers looking for honest, or at least independent, reviews of books in the genre you write might find your website while in search of a review. Granted, they might not buy your book(s), but you have gained exposure for your brand. Write good reviews that are helpful, and the reader might be inclined to bookmark your site and return. Repeated positive contact should eventually result in some book sales.

This one idea alone made the book worth purchasing. I don't know if it will work, but it is a new idea, to me at least, and because I read so many books, I might as well give it a try. As new authors, we need exposure. Book reviews is one way to draw readers who enjoy the genre you write in to your site.

Mr. Balas covers a wide range of topics about building an author website ranging from the blogging process to the SEO process. He discusses WordPress and e-mail list building. I'm not a fan of social media, but he has good ideas for those who want to include that as part of their marketing/branding mix.

Blogging. We all know we're supposed to blog as authors, but few of us really know how to create an effective blog to build our brand as an author. The chapters on blogging with the idea of creating an audience (tribe) and building your brand as an author were the most helpful parts of the book for me. Topics covered in the blogging chapters:
  • Benefits of blogging for authors
  • Writing effective blog headlines
  • Dealing with blogger block
  • Becoming a respected influencer
  • Keeping visitors on a page
  • The need for unique content
Branding is a strange concept for many authors. We just don't see ourselves as a brand, like Nike or Ford. But we are and we need to develop our brand. Mr. Balas has some simple actionable ideas to help any author understand what an author brand is and how to build one.

Finally, for those of us on a limited budget but who have no coding skills or knowledge of HTML, the author covers how to build interesting and effective sites that will attract and retain the interest of readers.

Sell More Books Using Your Author Website is one you need to add to your author library. You can find books that are in greater depth and provide more information about each individual topic covered in the book. The value of Sell More Books is it gathers together in one place everything you need to know to get started. As you learn and develop your skills in marketing and branding yourself as an author, you can research the areas you need to grow in.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Building Your Own Website For Your Author's Platform

Author's read it all the time. Experts all tell them they need one. An author's platform that is and one of the key components is a functional website. If you're like me, the first thing you think about is how much is one going to cost.

I've had a custom website built for me. It wasn't cheap but it was well done. It had lots of functionality and eventually it paid for itself. I have nothing but good things to say about the company that built the site for me.

But, like I said, it was expensive.

As I prepare to enter the world of fiction writers, I don't want to spend money on a website. I'd rather invest what money I do have for this new enterprise is to cover design. Covers that look good on a POD version of the book, the ebook version and the all important thumbnail image.

I still need a website.

I lack programming skills. If it is up to me to code the programming for the website I'd like to have, it's not going to happen. So I'm back to paying a lot of money.

That's still not an option.

Fortunately, there are ways Indie authors can create their own websites affordably and not have to learn how to program and write code.

You need three things, all of which fortunately are either inexpensive, if you look, or free. 

To build your website for your author platform you'll need:
  • a domain name
  • server hosting
  • a Wordpress Theme
A domain name is nothing more than the URL address for your site. is a domain name. is the domain name for the author platform I am building to promote my fictional novels as an author.

Server hosting is the actual device that hosts your data for your website. These devices are expensive and require specialized knowledge to set-up and maintain. Spend the time to find a reliable company that provides regular back-ups for your site. I suggest Bluehost. I've used them and had a good experience.

That leaves a Wordpress Theme.

Wordpress is an open source program originally designed for blogging and later expanded to include website design. A theme is nothing more than the design of the home page and the functionality the site will provide. 

Wordpress themes are available for free and more advanced themes can be purchased at reasonable prices.

Plug-ins and Widgets allow for easy additions to be made to your Wordpress based website, adding functionality, SEO and other features. Most are free and simple to add to your website.

For those authors who are interested in learning how to set up their own Wordpress based website and in the process saving money for other important things, like cover designs and editing, I'd like to suggest the following book, How to Create a Website Using Wordpress: The Beginner's Blueprint To Creating A Website or Blog in Less Than 60 Minutes by Brian Patrick.

The Kindle version of the book has links to numerous sites and examples of what the author describes. The links alone are worth the $4.99 you'll spend on the book in regards to the time you'll save.

Mr. Patrick writes in an easy to read style. In a month or so, I'll post the link to my new author's platform! That's how confident I am after reading his book.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Books Are Judged By Their Covers or Are They Judged By Their Thumbnail Images?

My first attempt at a novel is nearly half finished. With over 20 non-fiction books under my belt, I've decided to venture into fiction and I'm slowly working my way through my check list of tasks that have to be finished in order to meet my target publication date.

Having a cover designed is my most important, and probably expensive, task to complete. It doesn't matter how well written my novel is nor does the book's interior design matter if nobody buys the book. No buyers equals no readers and no income for me as an author of fiction.

I have invested quite a bit of time examining covers of books in genre's similar to mine. What I have found coincides with what the experts say. A great cover generates interest to investigate the book further to see if you might be interested. Even more important, the cover must look great as a thumbnail image on the retailer's website, be it the all-important Amazon or other popular ebook retail platforms.

Going through my collection of over 700 ebooks on my iPad, I discovered I liked almost every cover design of very book I have purchased. In the rare instance of a book with a cover I didn't like, I found there was a specific reason I obtained the book, namely it was non-fiction and I wanted the content provided in the book. 

In the case of fiction books, I liked every single cover.

I'd never taken the time to examine all of the covers of the fiction books I've collected before. Going through the covers a second time, I looked for novels I'd started by not finished. A quick read of the first few pages again invariably reminded me why I didn't finish the book.

The fact remained though, the cover had enticed me enough to eventually download a book that did not hold my interest.

I spent nearly an hour on several occasions examining covers on Amazon. I picked a genre and went down the page, examining every cover of each book. Sadly, what I discovered was a lot of covers that looked terrible, or uninteresting, as a thumbnail image. When clicking through to the product details of each book, I was able to see a much larger version of the cover. Sometimes a cover that held no attraction for me as a thumbnail attracted my attention when I was able to see a larger version.

Now that I am in the process of searching for cover designers, one of the things I am going to insist on is that the cover design look just as good, if not better, as a thumbnail image as it does as a full size cover.

It would be a shame if I write a fantastic novel with a great cover design and it never sells because the cover lacks enough appeal as a thumbnail image to draw readers to the product page.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Want to See if You Can Write Fiction?

It is one thing to write non-fiction. It is an entirely different matter to write good fiction. Many successful nonfiction writers have tried and failed to succeed in the competitive arena of fiction. 

About a year ago the fiction bug bit me. I began researching what I could find about the writing fiction as opposed to non-fiction. It was daunting. Nearly every author of fiction who wrote about their early experiences said their first novels were trash and have never seen the light of day.

I have no illusions that I will write The Great American Novel. I do want to recover my costs in getting the book to market. That means I have to sell a few copies at a minimum.

Rather than self-publish a series of terrible novels and ruin any potential brand I might eventually be able to build for myself as a fiction author, I followed the advice of one individual and tried my hand at writing fanfiction. It was a far better endeavor than trying to write my first novel from scratch.

By borrowing a universe and characters created by someone else, you can write stories and concentrate on your storytelling and writing skills. You don't have to invent everything yourself.

Haven written a dozen stories and over 500,000 words in the past year, I took the time to sit down and read my stories in chronological order. I cringed as I read the first story, which at the time I had thought was pretty good. The reviews were critical of my writing but not the story I told.

As time passed, my writing got better and the stories were much more readable. The reviewers, many of whom stuck with me, praised my writing when it was better, pointed out errors that needed to be corrected and cheered me along in the process.

Is this approach for everyone who would like to try their hand at writing fiction? Probably not. But it has been a big help for me in shortening the learning curve.

Want to try your hand at this approach? Visit

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Building an Author Platform - Some Lessons Learned

I have a reasonable grasp on how a built a successful Author's Platform for a non-fiction series of books. Now that I have decided to take the leap and enter the world of writing fiction, I have to start the process of building an Author's Platform to support my new writing endeavor. 

Based on my own experience, I have started a new blog to serve as a focal point for my planned series of fictional novels. The blog will serve two primary purposes for potential and actual readers of my fictional universe and characters.

The first function, and perhaps most important to readers, will be to serve as a source of backstory information about the characters, the universe they live in and from time to time, short stories in the current time frame the stories take place, filling in story or simply ideas that won't fit in a novel but are fun for the readers, if I can attract them, so the readers can follow their favorite character's lives outside of the story line of a novel.

The second function will be to announce when new books, short stories or updates are available. Sales, free books, etc. will be announced on the blog, all in an effort to increase readership of my books, boost those Amazon sales rankings, and in general market my books as they become available.

As time allows, the blog may include some brief looks into my thinking about the characters, stories and how I view the universe I have created for my stories to take place.

E-mail lists can get expensive. Experience with so called free e-mail lists has not been positive. In time, as sales permit, I will start an e-mail list that will support the blog. Or I may not. Many fiction authors do send out e-mails, primarily to announce new titles or special offers.

For that reason, I am leaning towards building an e-mail list as time and money allow me to.

E-newsletters can eat up a lot of time and motivation. For that reason, I am going to take a wait and see approach.

Facebook and Twitter (Instagram, etc.) are not platforms I spend anytime on at all, either as a creator or consumer. I tried both and did not see any benefit in sales from all the time I invested on those two platforms. So for now, I'm not going to enter the world of social media. I'd rather spend my time writing and engaging in marketing efforts I have been successful with.

This is not to say I won't take up social media in the future. Right now, I need to get the first two novels done and in print. Time is a limited commodity. There is little doubt social media can be an effective marketing tool, I just don't have the energy and time at the moment to master the skills necessary.

For those of you who were friends of the sadly short lived Sci-Fi series, Firefly with the follow up movie Serenity, you might be interested in my novels. While not a western style sci-fi space opera, my stories will be a cross between classic noir detective stories and science fiction.

Inspector Thomas Sullivan, a tall, scarred veteran of the Space Marines and a no no nonsense cop with a past filled with secrets has been sent to the planet Beta Prime of the Beta System. Ostensibly his job is to clean up the crime ridden planet and the corruption rampant there. Others have something else in mind for the gritty, tough Inspector with a past that haunts him.

If you like science fiction and gritty noir detective stories, this might be a series you'd like! To follow my efforts, please visit Thomas Sullivan: Lawman of Beta Prime.