I published my short story collection Ten Twisted Tales a few months ago on all the e-tailers and on this site. I put it up on Goodreads and a couple of kind souls were willing to read and review when the book was on free promotion on KDP. And someone from a group I signed up with on facebook read it as well. I had some nice reviews from the people I know, but they are not easy to please. Actually, they are extra tough on friends, which is a good trait. While it was nice to receive good reviews from them, it was even more encouraging to get 4&5 star reviews from people I've never seen in my life, and probably never will. Thought I'd share them here. Ten Twisted Tales, a collection of short stories with unexpected endings, can be bought here. Let me know what you think. If you want a free copy for review, email me at email@example.com
I enrolled my fiction, Ten Twisted Tales, a collection of short stories with a twist, a la Roald Dahl and O.Henry, on KDP Select three months ago just to test it out. KDP Select, if you’re new to the term, means you tie your ebook to Amazon for three months; it’s an exclusive contract which prevents you from selling your digital books on any digital media. You can of course sell your physical copies.
I chose KDP Select after reading that there were many authors for whom it made a lot of sense and money and turned them into Kindle millionaires while making them irresistibly attractive to supermodels and blessed them with telepathy and other super powers. For the rest, it delivered as much as a dishonest politician does for his country. It did the latter for me.
I followed the guidelines to the ‘t’, scheduled free giveaways, spaced them out, advertised the promo online through facebook and Adwords but didn’t do much in terms of downloads. All together, the downloads were about hundred and fifty. I was a bit surprised at first as some author accounts waxed lyrical about how the entire population of the hemisphere where the sun was shining while they (the authors, not the population) were asleep had downloaded gazillion copies, and how their ebooks raced up the ranking to the number one spot faster than Usain Bolt. I wasn’t disappointed as it was an experiment. And as experiments go, it was useful in the sense it taught me never to try it again. Like playing golf in a thunderstorm.
I’m back to selling it from my website, and other etailers. I’m currently promoting Ten Twisted Tales through Goodreads advertising. Fair amount of views but no click throughs (also known as close but no CTR). Apparently it works better for giveaways, perhaps I’ll try that.
After signing up for Udemy, a fantastic site that makes learning anything from computer programming to creating your own website, easy, I was intrigued by some of the courses on self-publishing. Barring a couple of really good ones, I discovered that a lot of them focus on becoming an overnight success as a self-published author.
Now, if you've been in the business of writing, whether it's advertising or journalism, for a reasonable amount of time, you'll know that there are no short cuts to making money or becoming a best seller on any platform, no matter what an odd success story tells you. And an odd success story is just that, an aberration.
But a few of the courses on the site held nothing back in goading aspiring authors to just start writing, mainly 'how-to' ebooks. Subject no bar, apparently. 'Do research, if you don't know the subject, that's what the internet is for', said a confident person in a course. I'm sure hundreds of hopefuls are right now searching for 'brain surgery in 3 easy steps' as we type/read, so they can make tons of cash. Advice is dispensed with reckless abandon and I'm quite sure it's taken with sincerity and optimism as well.
Maybe they were targeting aspiring millionaires who wanted overnight success at any cost so they can retire in the secret millionaire's club after their first book. Someone even suggested just writing anything and getting it out there; even if there were typos, it was ok, the person declared.
Which goes completely against established, successful authors such as King and Bradbury, who, if you read their books on writing (not 'how-to books' I might add), stress in no uncertain terms the importance of mastery over the language and attention to detail. But these seem to be minor details to be glossed over in the age of get rich while you sleep. That's another favourite phrase these guys use, 'you know, you can make money while you sleep?'. Logic being, someone, somewhere is buying your ebook as you lie in your bed dreaming of your favourite cocktail with your favourite Hollywood heroine. But that has been happening for a long time. I don't think successful authors stay up all night, every night, wondering who is buying their books. Even the vampire book guys don't do that I suspect.
Point is, like with anything in life, you have to learn the trade, apply yourself, follow good role models in whichever field you fancy, and give 100% to just doing the job. You can resort to advertising, social media messaging, creating awareness through blogs etc, but you can't just write any drivel and expect to become a success. Even if you did, as truth is stranger than fiction and how-to books with typos, people are not going to wait with bated breath for your next ebook.
'Keep writing' is the advice great writers leave aspiring authors with, but if you are aspiring for overnight success, good luck with that.
There is a person, or God forbid, a group of persons, that goes around turning phrases in a template-driven, ‘look how clever I am’ type of way to impress the common man and woman who are easily wowed by such attempted cleverness. By phrase turns such as, ‘Meditation is not about finding a quiet mind, a quiet mind finds itself in meditation’, or ‘life is not about learning from hard knocks but knocking hard on doors of opportunity’ or like the one my cousin forwarded to me today, ‘dream is effortless sleep, aim is sleepless effort’. Really twisted attempts at turning a phrase, playing with words to convey nothing but a bloated sense of vaingloriousness.
Compare this pathetic convoluted attempt to something simple and elegant like, ‘Happiness is what you are, stress is what you want to be’.
That’s’ the difference between cleverness and intelligence. Any piece that draws attention itself usually smacks of cleverness. Intelligence guides you, stands aside and lets you absorb the essence of what it’s communicating without attracting attention to how the message is phrased whereas cleverness stands in its gaudy offensive garb on the sidewalk of mediocrity soliciting attention like a streetwalker for a few words of praise from the citizens of Easily Impressed country.
Intelligence communicates the meaning of the message. Cleverness focuses on itself.
Communication is not about how clever you are; it’s about how best to get the message across and how much or little the other person knows.
In other words: Intelligence is more about wordless meaning, where as cleverness is about meaningless words, to coin a phrase.
I did a lot of research before I built this site a while ago, and did some more research last few weeks as my wife wanted a site built. I chose Weebly then and I chose it again last week. Before we get to why I opted for Weebly, a bit more about the alternatives:
These are more than a handful of website builders, they are: Weebly, Wix, Jimdo, SquareSpace and Edicy. I tried all of them and deliberated a week deciding between Jimdo and Weebly before finally settling for Weebly.
All of them work on drag and drop method of building your site, and give you a choice of templates to decide the look and feel of your web site. Here are my observations:
Squarespace. Personally, I found SquareSpace a bit clunky to work with. You can’t immediately see what you are working on (‘no live preview’) as you have to work on the page and refresh for it to show what you’ve done. And the templates were limiting, at the time of writing they had a dozen or so. Also, they were a bit pricier compared to the rest. It's at 8USD a month, see http://www.squarespace.com/pricing/
Jimdo. I quite liked it.It was a close competitor to Weebly in my reckoning. But I found it a bit clunnky for some reason and not as easy as Weebly although Jimdo is optmised for e-commerce.It's 8USD a month.
Wix. It’s quite funky, and interesting site but when I discovered that you can’t change your template once you settled one, I gave it a wide berth. It's around 4USD a month. See http://www.wix.com/upgrade/website
Edicy. I really liked the simplicity and user friendliness of Edicy. Elegant, uncluttered and simple. But pricier, and doesn’t fully support e-commerce and the storage is 5GB. It's also at 8USD a month or 6 euros. See http://www.edicy.com/pricing
Weebly. I liked Weebly and still like it although it’s only been over a month since I signed up with them. It’s simple, easy to use, user friendly, has good customer support, a live chat that works on weekdays but I find their email support pretty good. Read more about why I chose Weebly in the chapter.
I like Weebly as I mentioned earlier because I find it simple to use. It’s truly drag and drop, with unlimited storage space and you can add up to 10 sites (of course these additional sites will be subdomains, as in yoursite.weebly.com). Weebly provides its own stat tracking system. The support is quite prompt, I see that they have a live chat desk but I haven’t tried yet. There are enough resources to reach out to in case you have a question or an issue. They also have a Facebook page where you can post your questions and someone is bound to answer your query. Weebly's started plan is at about 4USD and a bit less if you are an existing customer.
The downside: There are bound to be as there are no perfect site builders. There are a couple with Weebly too. One is Weebly doesn’t give you an email address. I was using my personal id till I discovered Namecheap's promo which gave me a free email id at my domain for about 3USD a year with the first year free! I checked with them recently, and the price is now 9.88 USD a year, still not too bad.
After trying Weebly for free for a while, I decided to upgrade to Pro version. I pay about US$99 annually and I’m quite happy with them so far. Weebly has come up with a Business plan which includes e-commerce facilities. Bit pricey but they are giving a version of it free to existing customers. I use Gumroad to sell my ebooks, you can find the article here http://www.guruswriting.com/1/post/2013/10/how-to-add-gumroad-to-your-weebly-site.html
I also use Paypal checkout.
Their service is good but could be better. They tend to respond quicker if you post on their facebook page as their email replies take longer. Apparently they are a small set up. Otherwise, I find them very good.
There is nothing drastically wrong with the others, it was a matter of personal choice and how it resonated with me. Luckily, as mentioned earlier, they all have a free trial period so you can check them out and draw your own conclusions.
Sign up for Weebly Pro.
Once you sign up with Weebly at www.weebly.com, you will taken to the page to choose a theme. After you choose a theme, you’ll have to fill out your domain name (if at this point you don’t have a name and just want to test out the site, you can enter any name you want to, and it will be a subdomain of weebly, for example, www.yoursitename.weebly.com).
Point your domain to Weebly.
Once this step is done, you will have to go to Namecheap (or whichever domain registrar you chose) and point your domain name to Weebly otherwise your domain name won’t be recognised. The process is simple and is explained clearly in the knowledge base section of Namecheap (I’m sure othes have this section too). You can also do a Google search if you want. If you really can’t do it, then you can check with the live chat support team and they will help you, just give them the necessary details, at least that’s what I was told.
Choose a theme and start building!
Weebly works in blocks. Blocks of text, images with text, images, header, footer, block quotes … you name it, you can drag and drop to build your website.
The interface gives you basic options you can build on. You add pages using the Pages tab, organise them according to your structure, choose a template using Design tab, drag and drop the necessary elements using the Build tab, and use Settings tab to edit users, add codes from search engines, password protect a page etc.
Here are a few tips that might help you.
Always have a plan as to what you want to show on your site.
Have a clear idea as to what you what you want to achieve with your site (eg, promote my ebooks, sell my products or services, raise awareness about my products etc).
Keep the number of tabs to four or five as anything extra will go under the ‘more’ tab and will not be available on first glance. Ideally, it should be Home, About me, Products, Services, Contact. And you can have sub-pages to feature relevant stories under the respective tabs which are created with Add Page button.
IMPORTANT: Once you settle on a template and start building your pages, make sure to select the ‘Save to this page’ option, otherwise whatever change you make on one page will override any change you may have made or any look you may have chosen for the other pages. This could be very annoying and frustrating especially if you have built a whole site, and decide to make some change on one page and discover that it has changed the whole site. If, after you’ve designed the site you are not happy with the look, you can always change it to something else.
Useful links to help you decide which one is better for you:
Well, for starters, you and I write them. And we are complete non-entities in this ever-growing sea of self-published authors. I must tell you why I’m writing this piece. A newly published author in a facebook group I belong to, was expressing his frustration at his e-book not selling to his expectations. A familiar story, you’d agree.
So I told him we are all in the same sea and all we can do is just keep writing as many books as we can; make sure the stories are well thought out, well written, proof-checked, and properly formatted; advertise, get the word around and leave the rest to the Universe.
I told him that I have written a short story collection, two children’s story, (with 50% of the proceeds going to elephant conservation as the main character is a baby elephant), a ‘how-to’ book on creating an e-commerce website, and another short story. I have advertised on facebook, Google Adwords, Bing and posted on my facebook status page. I put them up at all the major e-tailers, and created a dot com website from which people could buy direct. Let me tell you, I am not laughing all the way to the bank yet. It’s still at a frown stage, hopefully, it will crease into a smile, then widen into a maniacal laughter at which point the security guard at my bank might want to check my sanity before letting me in.
The point is, we are writers. And like a lot of the now-famous authors say about the days before stardom sought them out to the bestseller list, a writer writes, no matter what. Stephen King wrote in a trailer park. Ray Bradbury on borrowed typewriters in local libraries. Joseph Heller took eight years to write the masterpiece Catch 22 which was ironically rejected 22 times. You should read the list of famous rejection letters if you want inspiration.
The reason we must keep writing, is that it’s unwise to stop at one. Even if it gets picked up by the publishers in a freak coincidence, what next? Are you going to say, ‘Sorry, I could only do one?’ So the more you have, the better the chances of selling. At least people checking out your profile on social media and e-tailers might be impressed enough to try one of your offerings, and if they like it, they might even buy more.
Like someone said, there are two situations in life: one where you can control and another where you can’t. And in the latter scenario, the only thing you can do is control how you react to them. Tearing your hair out, getting frustrated and yelling out the window will not help. It might give temporary relief, but, in the long term, it will drag you down.
Another anecdote comes to mind, about this student who was impatient to learn the art of sword fighting from a Zen master. Student asks the master how long it would take him to be good at it. Master says ten years. Student says he doesn’t have that much time and that he needs to learn quickly. To which the master says in that case it will take twenty years.
One last dip into the philosophical river to shore up the morale. It’s from the Bhagavad Gita, Song of the Lord, a sacred Hindu text (part of the epic Mahabharata), where Lord Krishna, Bhagavan, tells Arjuna the reluctant warrior that his duty is to fight and leave the fruits of it to Him. The essence of it was expressed in the Rober redford movie titled the Legend of Bagger Vance with Will Smith playing Bagger Vance (Bhagavan) and Matt Damon the reluctant golfer was R.Junuh (Arjuna).
So keep writing and let the sales happen as and when. If we focus on the writing, the rest will take care of itself.
Hello, a quick post to say Happy New Year to all you guys. Hope you brought in 2014 with your friends and family and had fun while you were at it.
I spent my new year in a hill station near my hometown in South India, in Coonoor with my wife, in a magical, misty(cal) place called Tea Nest (should have been Tea Mist). Absolutely wonderful. There are places and experiences that defy description, that all the synonyms in the Thesaurus can’t do justice to; like the Blue Grotto in Capri, an evening in Taormina, sipping mountain tea by the seaside in Mykonos, trekking up the volcanic incline in Santorini, and a stay at Tea Nest. Ineffable, if that’s the word I’m looking for (to paraphrase P.G.W) comes pretty close to describing it.
Funny how much time and effort we spend trying to come up with the right word when the very words fail to describe a beautiful experience. Great sages and saints have been recorded to observe silence when facing some of the most important questions about the life, the universe and the meaning of life. Not because they were at a loss for words but because they knew the limitations of words. Yet, a clever turn of phrase here, a tongue in cheek pun there, makes most writers giddy with a sense of achievement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, to quote Seinfeld out of context, for if we don’t know our own worth and indulge in a bit of self-congratulation, who will? But at the same time, we should keep in mind the limitation of words as well as their power. Wish you a happy new beginning again, and hope success finds us this year, however you define it.
Why Amazon is better than Apple?
I’ve been using Apple products for over two decades now and that’s what makes it hard to come down hard on a brand one is so usually passionate about. But that’s what Apple has driven me to, and I’m sure other self-publishers might agree.
Formatting for Kindle is a breeze. You just follow the simple guidelines, use manual page breaks in Word for each chapter, include pictures, create bookmarks, use hyperlinks, save and fill out the form on Amazon (after creating an account, obviously), and within a day, a day I repeat, your ebook is up for sale. And if you want to publish to Kobo and Barnes & Noble, Apple and you don’t mind shelling out a small percentage, you can use Draft@Digital, a very effective way to get your books online. They also help you publish to Createspace and Amazon, but I prefer uploading to Amazon on my own, and use D2D for the rest.
Why Apple sucks?
Apple, on the other hand, makes life so difficult and painfully frustrating that you want to spend the next hour ranting to them about how difficult and painfully frustrating it is to publish through Apple.
First, you have to go through a fairly long process to download the iTunes producer (it took me a couple of weeks to get it ‘approved’ if I remember right). Once you have that, you fill out the fields, upload your story and cover images, and no, it’s not voila! it’s up for sale. More often than not, it will return some error, the answers to which will take a lot of Googling and re-submitting.
Then Apple will take a while. A long while to get back.
I had submitted two ebooks, one of which went through, and the other was rejected because it didn’t have a TOC. Btw, they don’t send you a notification, you have to keep logging into your account to check the status. I wrote to them stating that it was a children’s book and it was one short story, and as such didn’t warrant a table of contents, but their formatting follows some bizarre NCX or whatever that doesn’t accept your submission if it doesn’t have a TOC.
So I created a TOC, and still it was rejected. While I was arguing my point that my other ebook went through without any TOC, that was rejected too. And recently, another ebook of mine was rejected, get this, because the title was in all caps.
I gave up on submitting direct to Apple, wrote them my heartfelt disappointment at the fact that they are making life so difficult which is the antithesis of any Apple product. I told them they should transfer the brand values of simplicity, ease of use and cool factor from their hardware into publishing.
And iBooks Author. I personally found it to be the clunkiest software to handle. It’s rigid, doesn’t let you add a TOC easily, creating chapters is messy … the list goes on.
On the whole, Apple’s epublishing process and the software just suck big time. At this rate, they might make Windows look cool.
Maybe there’s some truth to the No Evil motto of Google after all.
I received a couple of emails from Google Adwords recently informing me about their welcome service which is something they extend to first time advertisers. Initially I thought it was a routine email they sent to everyone which meant nothing but decided to give it a try and called them only to be pleasantly surprised.
The people there actually worked out my ad campaign, picked effective keywords, wrote out the ads they felt would work for me and sent it to me. All I had to was to check if the information was correct, make whatever changes I wanted to (I just changed the target segment for one of my ads), and authorize them to proceed.
It’s a nice gesture from a megacorp like Google, considering I’m just a writer promoting my website to attract visitors, and not a multimillion dollar company. I emailed them to thank them for helping even a small timer like me and they replied thanking me.
Nice again. I like that. It’s good to know that even big corporations do think of the smallest customers. Kind of gives you hope.
The other company that’s on the ball when it comes to helping you out is Paypal. So far I’ve had pleasant experiences with them, they always revert within a day and ensure the issue is sorted.
Thank you Google Adwords, and Paypal (Blanch would be grateful in this street car named online campaigns).
I don't know about the results from my Google Adwords yet but the process seems very interesting, and scientific as I mentioned in my previous post. I ran 3 ads to promote my children's series, in which I published a second ebook, and there was a huge spike in the number of visitors to my site. And I could deduce from the keyword tool in Google, the Paid Search button StatCounter and Weebly's own stat tab, which keywords people were using to come to my site. And accordingly, I could edit the keywords that were not producing optimal results. Google lets you add 'negative words' to weed out wrong placement of your ad. I saw that some people searching for free short stories were being directed to my site, so I put that in my Negative Word field. It's funny writing very functional, very sparse, very direct ads and is challenging writing to the character limitation set by Google. Funny because I am an advertising writer, and been in the copywriting business for over two decades, I still do freelance. Forget long copy, story telling, crafting your lines, and ensuring that the last line loops back to your healdine. Adwords takes economy of words to a new level (this is true to some extent in FB ads too).
I just signed up with Yahoo Bing yesterday and out out two ads, one for my short story collection inspired by Roald Dahl and O.Henry, called the Ten Twisted Tales (available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F2FF2M4).
And the other was for my children's series from which I donate 50% to elephant conservation. Strangely, my Google ad with the headline, 'Save the elephant' didn't pull in as many people as 'short stories for kids' did. (As I write this line, I get a sense of deja vu that I've written this very same line before.)
While I found it a bit difficult to simply resume my ads that I had paused with Google, Bing has an easier solution: it provides a 'pause' and 'resume' button, and I when I hit 'resume; after importing from Adwords, I was up and running. You have to make sure you pay a certain amount before your account becomes active, so remember that.
With Adwords, I kept looking for the simple resume button, couldn't find it, followed the steps and enabled the ads, but it showed as 'campaign ended', so had to copy and redo.
Will keep you posted on the difference between Bing and Adword. Till then, have a good week.