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Konrath Challenge Shorts: Reviews

So Joe Konrath did a challenge that I mentioned a while back in a blog post (to write a book, edit it and design its cover in less than 8 hours). I have finally got around to reading the first 5 of those that I picked up and thought I’d review them all together (I grabbed quite a few so there will probably be another review of 5 to come at some point).

This was my first choice in reading and I have to admit it really surprised me. I expected something quite silly, especially from the title (I also expected knitting to be more of the focus). This was a cute, feel good story that had a touch of romance and a quirky main character.

If you read none of the other Konrath challenge shorts, read this one. I really enjoyed it and think others will too. My favourite of the lot but only just. (also included in the kiss anthology, which is free at the moment).

 

My next one was 31 ways to not be a douchebag. This one had me laughing out loud. Packed full of good advice with a funny, slightly angry focus (these things all seem to have happened to the author and when you read them the anger is perfectly understandable).

At several points I found myself cringing at how anyone can do the things mentioned and I’m sure some of you will too, but it does say these are all true stories. If nothing else, reading this made me very thankful for my friends and gave me a few laughs at the author’s expense.

My third read was Horror Stories of a computer tech and has a similar feel to the previous short, in that it recounts stories of things that have actually happened. I also found myself laughing out loud at a couple of the stories in here. There are several, not quite so smart people out there.

There were also a few that I found were quite grim and I soon felt sorry for our computer tech storyteller. It sounds like every trip to a customers house is a potential for a crazy story. I’d have liked to see more that were funny over the ones that were gross or strange, but that may be a personal preference.

 

The fourth of my Konrath shorts was probably the most useful of the five (although I can’t eat macaroni or cheese at the moment, unfortunately. In here was an honest mum’s guide to feeding your kids with the quick useful ingredients in your kitchen cupboard, without breaking the bank or taking too long to cook. Many of the ideas were concepts I’d never have thought of, although I couldn’t try any of the recipes to see if they were any good, unfortunately (I definitely wished I could).

I also highly recommend this one for those who want a quick way to spice up their kids food on days when they are exhausted.

And finally, the fifth of the shorts I picked up to read. This one probably has the weakest cover but don’t let that put you off. This was one of my favourites. It’s a story format like the first and good for the younger readers to enjoy.

I especially thought this one was good imagination wise. For such a short space of time to create a book this was by far the most imaginative and the up sise is that if your kid likes this one, then there are several sequels listed in the back.

That’s my reviews folks. It’s hard to list these in any particular order as they are all rather different and all have their seperate uses and reasons to like them. Not disappointed with the Konrath challenge, that’s for sure.

The Kiss, An Anthology: A Review

So I know I wrote a story for this anthology and have been plugging it a lot recently, but I just finished reading all the other stories. I got to read many of them before they came out but a few slipped past me in the massive outpouring.

There are 29 stories other than my own, The Slave Who’d Never Been Kissed (the last one). And I have to say I gulped down every single one of them. They vary in length and in theme. Some of them very romantic as the title would suggest but others playing on the title with interesting results.

I don’t want to spoil the surprises held in each story but there is a little something for everyone in pretty much every genre that exists. Several also have sequels by the same author for you to continue with if you like what you’ve read so far, making this a great introduction to some fantastic new authors. It really is a privelidge to be part of this anthology.

If you haven’t got a copy yet you can grab it free on Amazon

New Stuff in the Sherdan World

The anthology I was part of recently has finally been made free on Amazon.co.uk, so all those kindle readers out there can grab a copy and check out the 30+ authors contained therein.

In this collection I’ve got a short story about Sherdan and some of the people close to him, called Sherdan’s Road. It’s not long but it gives a bit of a glimpse at his future and the people in it at that time.

The rest of the collection is also pretty awesome and they are all themed around the title. That does mean quite a few of them are sad but they are well written and there’s more than a few that have happy moments and other awesome things in them.

It also gives a great overview of the sort of stuff all the authors write so it’s a great way to find more authors in different genres without risking any money.

The other piece of news in the Sherdan world is book 2! It’s being launched this Saturday via facebook as usual. There’s going to be the normal party with some quiz type stuff and prizes. The full list will be posted in the event when it’s finalised.

Here’s the blurb for anyone interested, although you don’t want to read it if you don’t want some of the first book’s plot spoiled:

Now that Utopia is established Sherdan has a full time job as a diplomatist. Everyone wants to know how his country is protected and whether they can persuade him to part with his secrets, but he has other things on his mind. Has Utopia come at too high a price?

When Anya left Utopia she expected to fit back into her old life, but too much has changed and God is not finished with her. Did she make the right choice in leaving, and will Sherdan let her return, even if she wanted to?

The second book in the Sherdan series continues the journey Sherdan’s Prophecy started, bringing the world closer to the end and whatever might follow.

So there’s the two new Sherdan things and Saturday is the big launch day. Do come join the fun!

DRM, Copyright and eBooks

There’s been a lot of talk lately to do with DRM on ebooks. This mostly comes about because self-publishing authors get the choice to DRM their kindle books on amazon or not as they see fit. However, there seems to be some beffudlement as to what DRM actually is and does and how this works with the copyright of the origional works, so I thought I’d explain.

DRM

This stands for Digital rights management and is a piece of code that is attached to the kindle books (in this case) and tries to prevent anyone who’s bought the kindle file from converting to another file, moving the file and using it on another kindle, or selling it on. I’ve said tries for a very specific reason. Mostly it doesn’t work. It’s very easy to find software on the internet to strip the DRM off a file.

You might wish for DRM on a product to stop pirating and this is why it was invented. Sadly it only slows them down, and then, only by a few minutes. And it doesn’t protect the copyright. This is where some confusion comes in, but I’ll come to copyright and what it is in a few paragraphs.

Also, if say, someone who owned a nook really wanted to buy your book and put it on their ereader but you only sold through Amazon. If you had DRM enabled they wouldn’t be able to read your works. If you disabled DRM then they could convert your kindle file to the epub and put it on their nook to read. I’m sure authors wouldn’t mind this as the person has paid to get the kindle file. There are other circumstances like this where having DRM can actually hamper legitimate customers but I want to move on.

Copyright

This is the term for what protects the authors work from being sold by anyone unauthorised to sell it. This is often donated with the little © symbol or just the word copyright and then the name of whoever holds the copyright and the year the product was published. Copyright is automatic on written works. Officially and legally you own the copyright on everything you’ve written unless you legally transfer it over to somebody else. You can also retain copyright but grant related rights like publishing or movie rights to others which is what happens in most traditional publishing deals.

To defend a copyright it does help if you put the copyright notice on all work and print books tend to have a copyright page which lists all sorts of useful things, including the copyright of the current edition and the first edition if that applies. If you want to sue someone for making money off your copyrighted works and want to claim royalties they’ve earnt or anything like that, most courts in most countries require more proof of copyright. This is usually best obtained by paying your countries copyright office a small sum of money to keep your original manuscript tucked up and dated somewhere. It’s not necessary to claim the copyright unless you think you might have to go to court to claim money off someone else (which most authors would never be able to afford to do anyway) but it gives a lot of people peace of mind to have that precaution.

DRM has almost nothing to do with copyright. It’s more about the companies like amazon and apple protecting their formats for ebooks than it is about stopping people selling your work, and it sucks at both of those anyway.

So in short, my advice is to not bother with DRM. It doesn’t work and only aggravates some customers that want to use your book on multiple devices. Or families that would normally share a book or music cd from being able to do the same with an ebook.

And if you are worried about your copyright, make sure you have your copyright notice in the ebook file somewhere, and if really worried send a copy off to your copyright office as soon as the final draft is ready and get your comfirmation from them before you publish the book.

How to have a successful book launch

With ebooks it’s harder to have a proper book launch. Amazon doesn’t let you put an ebook up for pre-orders unless you’re one of the big 6 publishers. The rest of us just have to pick a day and upload it and that becomes our published date. Then you have to wait for the Amazon bots to process the book and publish it, which can take anywhere between 6-24 hours.

This makes it quite hard to build a hype towards the launch date to get the boost from initial sales to all the loyal fans waiting for the next book. There is, however, ways around this.

So far I’ve had a fair amount of success in picking a day about 1-2 weeks after the ebook appears for sale on amazon and making a facebook event for this day. This becomes the books ‘official’ launch day.

Having it so far after the upload day gives people time to get a few reviews, build hype and also make sure as many people as possible hear about it. (believe it or not, not everyone is on facebook) So here’s my step by step guide to a good book launch once the books published.

Step 1

Set up your facebook event. Use the front cover as your event picture and ‘the name of the book- book launch’ as the title. Location, the internet and fill in the details of the event with the date you want everyone to buy the book, why that day (it makes the amazon advertising robots go into overdrive if you have lots of sales in one day) the blurb of the book and the link to it on amazon. Also if you have any reviews already you can add choice comments from those, making sure to credit the reviewer.

Once your review is set up, consider having a friend to help you on the day and invite them and make them a host too. This is optional but it can be tiring running the event by yourself the entire launch day. Tag teaming with someone can be a great way to keep the buzz without having to be glued to the computer for 15 hours of the day. Do make sure you trust them to be encouraging and not rude while also singing your praises too.

Invite all your friends on facebook, and I really mean all. If they don’t like being invited by you beause you’re happy you’ve published a book and take offense at it they aren’t worth having as friends, in my personal opinion. Obviously use your discretion if you’ve got some friends on facebook that are actually only business contacts. I’ve assumed all your friends on facebook are all friends, family or non business acquaintances in some kind of way.

Step 2

Email anyone else who isn’t on facebook that’s a friend or family member and give them the details in your facebook event and the link to amazon. Let them know the date and thank them for their time. Also if there is anyone else you know who might be interested and you’ve not got them on facebook (or other social network) and email then send them a text with the details and the name of the book, again thank them.

Step 3

Ask 3-5 people right away to read and review the ebook, provide free copies if necessary. Make sure they’re not going to just be friends gushing about how long they’ve known you and that they always knew you’d be successful. You want honest reviews from people who know how to review well to get you started. This is easier when you’ve had a few books out because you an approach people who’ve reviewed earlier books but in the case of the first book, try any other authors/writers you know and make sure you point out you want an honest review. Getting loads of friends to give you 5 star reviews regardless won’t actually help at all. People see through it!

Step 4

Every day or two post something in the event on facebook. Ask friends who are coming to invite any of their other friends who might be interested. Post links and excerpts from the reviews as they come rolling in and chase any slow reviewers a couple of days before the event.

Step 5

The 3 days before do a count down on the event and I don’t mean hourly just the number of days to go. It’s also a good time to post a link to something like the list of kindle apps on amazon and remind people they are free and also work on computers. It’s surprising the number of people who don’t know this. I’ve been published over a year and posted the link to the apps a number of times but I still find at least one person every couple of weeks who doesn’t realise they can read my ebooks.

On the day before the event check all your reviews are on amazon where people can see them and post on your blog about the launch event. Also text everybody who’s only reachable that way again and towards the end of the day send another gentle reminded email to your email invitees. Then get a good nights sleep and put the bottle of champagne in the fridge to chill. Include reviews if you’ve not done so already.

If there are one or two friends you know really well who are going to buy the book really early, maybe even just after midnight, ask them if they’ll read the book quickly and post in the event when they’ve done with a small snippet of what they thought, even if that’s later evening on the actual day.

Step 6

Launch day. Get up reasonably early, depending on the day. You can get up later on the weekend but you want to be up before most of your attendants so you can post to the event page and tell people it’s time to start buying. You can also coordinate this with your helper if you have one. I’ve been a helper and got up first so posted that message for the author. It doesn’t matter as long as people know it’s time.

So far I’ve always found there’s quite a spike in the mornings about the same time as the initial message. Then every couple of hours I post the amazon rankings (check them every hour and note them down somewhere, or take screenshots), especially if they shoot up quickly, making sure to thank people. Don’t start with the overall ranking unless that’s all you’ve got to go with. It sounds a lot better to say I’m 69th in the fantasy section of kindle. If your ranking gets above a few thousand then by all means include it, even point out the million or so books it’s out of.

Also like and thank any time anyone puts that they’ve bought it on the launch page. It will encourage others to do and make the person who has realise how grateful you are.

Finally if it gets to about 4-5pm in the afternoon and no ones posted to say they’ve finished reading, check on your few friends who you asked before to read quickly. Give them a very gentle nudge to post something, possibly even if they’ve not finished. This can often boost sales from the people still making their minds up. The ones who stilla ren’t quite sure that you’re the amazing author you say you are.

When others start enthusing they will be more likely to buy it. I had a lot of success with this on the last book launch I did, about 3pm someone posted they had finished and that they loved the book. Less than two hours later another couple posted the same thing and there was another very large sales spike, almost as big as the starting spike which catapulted the book up the rankings a lot further. I’ve no doubt that it wouldn’t have happened without the recommendations coming in.

Step 7

At the very end of the day, just before the event is going to close, post the highest ranking you achieved that day, maybe a new reivew or two and a thank you message to everyone who helped. This bit’s all about good manners and that triumphant we did it feel. Make sure it’s toned to say ‘we did it’ rather than ‘I did it’. Then go crack open that bottle of champagne in the fridge and as a very awesome guy (Ben Cooley from Hope for Justice) I know said recently, celebrate what you want to replicate.

Step 8

Yup, you’re still not done. A few days later when some people have had time to read your new ebook (give different lengths of time depending on the length of the book, but no longer than a week) post a status asking thos readers who bought it and have read it to give some reviews. Stress being honest again and that you are very grateful.

That’s the job done. With any luck it will get your book off to a good start though you probably can’t expect your book to stay that high unless you’ve had a few successful books already. All I’ll say is this has worked well for me. I hope it works for others too.

Of course Print book launches done yourself are a whole other kettle of fish and not one I feel qualified to speak on yet.

Elsa’s Reality book launch

My publisher Red Feather Writing has just published the first ebook by the amazing author Andrew Bellingham so I wanted to share a little about it. Here’s the cover and nice short blurb.

Elsa grew up listening to her father’s tales of a witch who nearly destroyed her home town. As strange occurrences start happening again, Elsa, Mama and Father are moved to a new home. The Man in Red says Elsa is sick and as she tries to get better she can’t help thinking that Mama’s temper, Father’s fear and their moving are somehow all her fault.

The ebook is so far up on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. Hopefully it will also appear on Barnes and Noble, Kobo (WHSmiths ebook provider) and Apple’s ibookstore within the next month or so.

Tomorrow, however, is the official book launch day and the author is asking everyone who would consider buying the book to do so tomorrow, via either of the two links above. The aim is to shoot the book up the hourly calculated rankings on amazon and get the amazon robots to kick in and help market the book.

I’ve had a fair amount of success with this method as well so I’d like to ask anyone interested in the book to also join in the launch plan and buy the book tomorrow.

Giveaways Galore!

Quick update to let you all know about the giveaways running currently for my ebook, With Proud Humility. You can enter to win a copy on my facebook fanpage just by commenting. Nice and simple.

For something a little harder but for chances to win other ebooks and prizes as well The Romance Reviews blog has a summer event going where you can answer questions to earn points and be entered for all sorts of different prizes, one of which is my ebook.

I’m also going to be chatting live in the lounge at The Romance Reviews on Friday from midday. Come on over and have a chat if you are about.

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Pirates!

I’ve always been mildly fascinated with pirates, I love the adventure and romantic aspect of them. Needless to say I also really liked The Pirates of the Caribbean films. It was only natural really that my first novel should have some in (even if they are the badguys in my book).

Last night I, like a lot of other peeps in the Uk, went to see the fourth Pirates film. I’ll do my review here in a few days so watch out for that one as I’ll probably go quite in depth.

In celebration of having a new pirates film(based on the book On Stranger Tides), however, I have lowered the price of my own tale of swashbuckling adventure to only 99 cents or 70p. For 87k words and approx 250+ pages that’s a bargain price. At the end of the month I’ll be raising the price again, so if you’ve not bought it yet now’s the time.

Smashwords

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

The Plan: May 2011

Last month’s progress:

Last month my aim was to do some t-shirt designs, finish my front cover for the print edition of my book and work on the graphic novels. I mostly made good progress in all three areas but didn’t get any of them finished. What I did do, however:

  • Finished polishing and emailed to my uncle 8 complete t-shirt designs.
  • Gathered everything for my front cover bar the hemp rope and mahogany table.
  • Worked a small amount on the language for one graphic novel.
  • Spent approx 40 hours networking and promoting the book.
  • Wrote 5k words of the new book
  • Typed 20k words (including emails and blogs)
  • Started planning my third book
  • Worked approx 10 hours for Flight
  • Spent approx 20 hours reading

As a result of promoting the book, it’s now listed as a featured ebook on the digital catalogue site Digycat. These guys have all sorts up here so if you are interested in browsing for new books it’s a good site.

There are also going to be two opportunities to win free copies of my ebook during TheRomanceReviews summer competition as well as a lot of other fun stuff and prizes. Click the picture to head to their blog and keep tabs on them. I’ll link and blog again closer to the date as well. They do have smaller contests running in the meantime, however.

I’ve had a review from another author as well with a few more in the pipeline. With the book being considered for a Top Indie book list as well as being on the ‘to review’ list for three other blogs. I’ll link all those from the blog here as the appear. My best quote so far though – “The plot takes off from the first page and never lets go. Great fun!” – Lisa Deckert.

Finally, I’ve also been interviewed for the blog Freelance and Fiction and they also have lots of other author interview, book reviews and events. While new this blog shows a lot of promise so please go check them out and watch out for my interview.

This month the plan is to finish the first draft of the newer novel, as well as continue to make progress with both graphical novels. I’d also really like to have the final t-shirt designs done and ready for the launch of the website and company. I’d like to find time for some more of the work on the third novel as I’m hoping this will be the start of a series of novels. More on that when I’ve finished plotting.

 

Best Fiction Books From Indie Authors: Interview with Patrick

While I’ve been browsing my way through the secret hidden forums of the kindle publishers/authors world I’ve met quite a number of authors and a few have stuck out to me. I’d like to introduce you to Patrick, just one of those authors, who is working to create a list on Amazon.com and .co.uk populated by the best books from indie authors. This is the first of many projects Patrick is working on as he also has a website being created called The ePublishing Consortium

I asked Patrick some questions about him and the list he is creating and thought I’d share some of what he said.

How long have you been publishing as an indie author/interested in indie ebook publishing?

I have been publishing books since 2007 when I released Legacy Inheritance in paperback.  I wrote the manuscript and donated the first printing to a nonprofit as a fundraiser.  I have been writing books since 1993 as a hobby.

What exactly is the list and what made you decide to invest your time effort and money into other authors by creating it?

The list is designed to find the best authors and promote their works in an otherwise difficult-to-find environment.  Most new eAuthors and their books are the hardest to promote due to being an ‘unknown quantity’.  There is a strong struggle for these authors as they do not know their way around the industry due to being new/inexperienced at it.  The List is a tie-in to the ePublishing Consortium where works can be shown, the best can be promoted, the Consortium selects their award recipients and authors can promote their books to increase sales.

The reason this effort is being focused on a solution for all eAuthors is due to its real need.  The publishing industry is undergoing a major evolution right now.  It is somewhat in a state of flux and chaos.  It is during the times of chaos where the most change occurs.  The need for independent, as well as veteran, authors to publish their own work has come.  There will always be a nostalgia about paper books.  But, the direction is clear… electronic is the format of the future.  We are seeing the cutting edge of this evolution now.

What do you hope to gain from the list both personally and for others?

I have always had sort of a Robin Hood complex wanting to help those who need it.  My life has not been perfect and there is a learning curve with each new venture, but, there is nothing like the power of people working together to build something.  There is a strong personal satisfaction derived from being part of that.

You can check out the list on Amazon.com here and .co.uk here.