On Top of The Covers


No, it’s not a title for an erotic novel, although it could be.

As any author will tell you, apart from a good story there are a couple of other important aspects when creating a book.

Good formatting to make the book look professional and easy to read, and of course, a decent price to attract sales are two areas to think about. A catchy, accurate title is in the running of important things to consider.

My attempt

Where do you first find the title?

Oh yes, on the cover.

I’ve been writing since 2007 and self-publishing since 2013. Yes, I know to some people it seems longer, but there you go – those are the facts.


How have I dealt with covers so far?

I produced covers myself in the early days and though I thought they were okay at the time, I never considered them to be good. I had this misconception that as long as there was a cover to bear the title and the title did its job – that was enough.

Not so, and anybody with experience of buying books or trying to sell books will know.

Would I buy a book with an amateur cover?

Not usually, so I shouldn’t expect anybody to buy mine if they have an amateur cover. Yes, there are some people out there who are not professional cover designers and they’re doing a good job, but many of the indie eBook and paperback covers are badly finished.

I paid for a professional book cover designer to produce a cover for Beyond The Law (as it was prior to becoming first in a trilogy). I later had the cover updated at no cost. The point is, that I saw my book sell and inside three months the price of the designer was covered by those sales. My return was such that the sales paid for the same designer to deal with Ten Days in PanamaAmsterdam Calling, A Taste of Honey and the other two books in the Beyond The Law trilogy.

Do I make exceptions?

Yes, I continue to work hard at designing covers for my short story and poetry anthologies, because those types of books are recognised as being low in the sales market. For the past three months, my five-part series A Life of Choice has been selling well. To ensure the series was spotted by a target audience I created the covers with actual photographs from my military service mounted on a background of the regimental colours of the Royal Corps of Signals. I also design the covers for my erotica titles because although they sell, I consider them an extension of the joy of sex writing.

My efforts may not attain professional standards but I aim to maintain a brand feel by using continuity within any series. We all know that recognition plays a big part in marketing and it’s an area we should strive to understand.


What’s my next step?

Form the outset I’ve formatted my eBooks, although I have depended on beta readers to improve the end product. I recently bought a licence to use Vellum Press, which means I will now be able to format for a paperback.


As I write this, my cover designer is working on a paperback cover for Amsterdam Calling. I’m confident Aimee (the designer) will produce a good solution for me, and I’ve spent many hours working on a revamped version of the book’s formatting.


The results of our combined efforts will be here for all to see when I’ve got my first paperback in my hands. I’m nervous about taking such a step but I promised myself I would only go paperback if I saw sufficient sales of my eBooks. On top of the sales, I’ve had a lot of interest from people contacting me who for one reason or another cannot deal with eBooks.


I hope my words have sparked interest. Remember, if you do decide to pay somebody else to design your covers it will require effort from both parties, or as I suggest on another of my personal covers a little bit of Give & Take


Thank you for visiting my blog and as usual, any comments are welcome.


Marketing by Stealth

An Amazon Author Page

An Amazon Author Page

This is not one of the thousands of articles … ‘Ten Things to Do to Increase Sales’
In my post last time which was about the results of my three weeks of non-marketing, I said I’d come back to mention a couple of simple ideas that I believe help to encourage sales.


It may be accepted that we’re not going to buy a small island in the near future, but we want sales, and reviews, and recognition for our efforts. Whatever our reason for writing, if we publish, either traditionally or self-published, we’re not doing so for the exercise. It is a means to an end. We want success.
Personally, success with my writing is more important than money or fame.


Why are eBook samples important?
It’s an obvious answer. It gives the prospective reader an insight into the story they may, or may not buy. Keeping that in mind, we must tease and please the reader with a worthwhile sample.


How can we improve the sample?

Only have the essentials in the front pages of a book:
1. Cover
2. Title
3. Copyright
4. Acknowledgements
5. Dedication
6. Table of Contents


That is a minimum of six pages / screens before your new reader has seen your writing.
The odd one out is ‘Dedication’, because it is not essential, but it is usually found at the front if it is to be included.
Immediately after the Table of Contents, we should expect to see the Preface if there is one and then Chapter 1.

If using a Preface, try to keep it short. I read one recently that stole a lot of the space that would otherwise have allowed me to read more of Chapter 1. A typical occasion for using a few words before the first chapter might be because the book is a sequel.

I will repeat – the Preface is an introduction so keep it short and let the story do the work.


What information would I suggest leaving out of the front pages?

1. A word from the author
2. About the author
3. Also by the author
All of those subjects and even the dedication can be placed in the back pages.


How do the back pages help with marketing and sales?

A lot of readers like to know about the person who wrote the story, so a page dedicated to a short bio at the back is a good idea. If the reader doesn’t want to look at it, they have a choice. If they do – it’s there for them.


A word from the author

This can be whatever you like, but good ideas are to say something about the story the reader has just finished.
1. What inspired the story.
2. Any interesting research that was done.
3. If there are plans for a sequel
It is up to the individual author how this area is used.


About the author

A short bio. Practise writing your bio, but keep it between 50 – 100 words.
Once again, what is said here is an individual choice, but good ideas include:
1. Use it as a writing bio, whether you are a novice, or if you have any track record.
2. Perhaps mention your nationality, and the country where you now live.
3. Family? Some do, some prefer to leave it out.
4. Pastimes when not writing.
5. Interesting careers you’ve had.


Also by the author

A key area for marketing by stealth.
At the back of all of my books I have the titles and the blurb for all of my other books.
I believe that this is a crucial part of creating substance for your brand.
If you are new and using this in the back of your debut novel – use it to talk about your next piece of work.
If a reader likes the story and style of what they’ve just read – don’t have them going on search engines to find your name and other titles – tell them here, right after they’ve been impressed.

If you haven’t already set up an Amazon Author Page – consider setting one up on Amazon.com and also on Amazon.co.uk


Remember, even though the prospective reader sees the sample and hasn’t read the back pages information yet – it is listed in your Table of Contents, so they know it will be there.

The ideas above are not a quick-fix, but I believe I achieve initial sales and follow-on sales by using them. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and theories – now if you haven’t done so already, please have a look at my author website:


Come what? May … Results

Sales and Borrowing

I posted on 10th May to say that I was intending to conduct one of my regular experiments. Before I continue, I should say that the only ‘regular’ thing about my experiments is their frequency. I don’t believe indie writers learn anything by sitting still, observing, and waiting for the world to come to them.


What was I up to this time?

My personal challenge was to refrain from daily promotion of my books for the remainder of the month, which effectively would mean 20 days of not using any of a variety of platforms to ask people to check out my work.

Contrary to what some folk might think, I’m not an ‘in your face’ type person, so the whole ‘self-marketing’ idea was alien to me when I started out as an indie writer. I learned with my debut title that if I didn’t shout about my work, then nobody else would.

I got on with it, and it produced results. Okay so moving on, nothing mind-boggling, but after a change in my attitude to the sometimes embarrassing act of self-promotion I had a few sales, and I realised the truth – if I waited silently, nothing would happen.


Did I have work in progress during May?

Having a variety of projects on the go at the same time is my preferred method of working. As May got underway I was already working on two novels, and making notes towards the commencement of a third.

I had to attempt a couple of things to make my idea work:

1. Restrict my visits to social networking sites to a couple of short visits per day.

2. Compel myself not to check my sales and lending figures on a daily basis.

3. Remind myself that I was trying this thing for more than one reason.
a) Primarily, it was to free up more writing time.
b) Secondly, it was to see how much effect it would have if there was a lack of daily promotion.

Apart from my own interest, both of those targets were for the benefit of any fellow indies who read my posts, either as subscribers, or by extension when I offer my thoughts on social media.


How did it go with social networking visits?

I managed for the most part to keep to two or three visits per day. There was an anomaly in this area, because I continued trying to keep up to date with the first charity anthology by the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook. I’m proud to be both a member of that particular group, and a contributing author to the anthology.


What is that very important collection of stories?

You’re Not Alone by Ian D. Moore and friends.

To be published as an eBook on 11th July 2015.

An anthology of short stories produced to raise funds in aid of the Macmillan Nurses

An anthology of short stories produced to raise funds in aid of the Macmillan Nurses


Apart from that, how did I get on?

Otherwise, I feel I did well. I avoided getting tangled into the threads on Facebook, forums on LinkedIn, or keeping up with comments on Google+. I have to be honest and admit that Twitter irritates me, so although I use it, I cannot spend good time reading bite-size chunks and random thoughts.

Now having said that about Twitter – I do actually stop and check out books that are advertised on Twitter, which is why I still use it myself, obviously thinking that there might be like-minded souls out there.


Were there any sales, lending, or slumps?

Yes, and there was no discernible pattern or reason.
— I had sales of various levels except for five days.
— I had lending except for six days.
— There was a two day period when there were neither sales nor lending.


Did I learn anything else?

Yes, and it’s for the benefit of those indie authors who presently have one, or even two titles out there and are feeling a little disheartened. I’m not a big name, but in only a few years of self-publishing I can say that without a shadow of doubt – more titles means more sales.

That might sound simplistic, but in a blog next week I’ll elaborate on that area. What I have to say in that post may be of interest not only to those of my peers with one title, but also those with low sales figures.

What else have I achieved with my latest experiment – if anything?

1. In that period of 20 days when I was abstaining from advertising, reading mind-numbing messages, and getting involved in conversations and debates – I completed the first draft of seven more chapters of my latest crime thriller, Acts of Vengeance.
If you know how hard I work at my craft you will appreciate that was a feat.

2. Those chapters might not sound too remarkable, but to put them in perspective, I also started work on and completed the first two chapters of my first erotic novel, Give and Take.

3. Again, it may not seem like much, but the exercise has given me a boost in confidence in my own brand. I know there are those who do not believe that an author’s name is a brand, so for you guys, please think about this question:

Would you consider any of the following as brands?

Wilbur Smith, Jackie Collins, Stephen King, Lee Child, Katie Fforde, or James Patterson.

It was just a thought …


Where do I go from here?

As I assess the positive and negative aspects of my trial, I have to say that I’m happy that I tried such a thing. My initial thoughts are along the following lines:

1. Maintain my writing output as best I can. I’m in the enviable position of only working in a ‘day job’ for three days per week, so I can feasibly get in at least three writing days.

2. Get back to self-promotion, but only on a weekly, or possibly twice-weekly basis:
a) Promotion on Facebook groups which exist for the purpose of reading, reviewing and self-promotion.
b) Promotion on Twitter, because it is done automatically by the Independent Author Network, of which I am a member.
c) Promotion on Google+ because I’m a member and I check out other members news.

3. Blogging activity:
a) Try to write at least one blog post per week.
b) Allocate time to read other blogs. I supposedly have 140+ ‘followers’ but I tend to mainly visit those who I know make an effort to visit mine. It may not be often, but I do get there.

4. Continue to read and review as many Indie Author Review Exchange members’ books as possible.

5. Maintain a ‘maximum of 3 x 15-minute visits per day’ policy for social purposes on Facebook. There is a tendency to get involved in discussions on social networking sites, but time disappears when we’re in touch with those that we regard as friends.

There is a slight twist in that previous comment. I admit openly that I do not socialise in the regular sense these days, and have not for some years. The term ‘friend’ is used freely on social networking by many, but that is effectively where any of my present friendships exist.

Yes, since leaving the military in 1992, I have become something of a social hermit, but I don’t mean that in a pathetic way – it is fact, and through personal choice.

Thank you as always for taking the time to visit and check out my musings. I appreciate all feedback.


Oh yes, there’s a P.S.

In the last 24 hours I completed the first full draft of Acts of Vengeance. I will now let it ‘rest’ for at least a week. While that manuscript is resting I’ll be active with some more chapters on Give and Take, my secondary work in progress.

I will also be reading, editing, and critiquing work for my peers. One of my favourite background roles is acting as mentor for a fellow writer.

I know it’s still early days, but I already feel that if you enjoyed my anthology Coming Around and other erotic stories, you will enjoy the novel Give and Take.

Thanks again for reading my posts.


Come what? May …

Come what? May …

Well, it’s the month of May, and I’ve decided to try an experiment, as we indie authors are known to do on a regular basis. This particular indie author is always experimenting.

I’ve just returned with my wife from a week in the Netherlands. I would say Amsterdam, but we are in the habit of getting out and about, so although we spent a lot of time in the beautiful city in which we were based, as usual, we ventured further afield.

Delft - the Netherlands

Delft – the Netherlands

Anyway, I digress.

Whilst away, I spent at least an hour every day working on my latest novel. I wrote several new passages and reinvented one of my fictional abodes. I also introduced a new character for the team of bad guys, so I was pleased with my progress.


What else came to mind?

What else indeed. There were four main things:

1. Like any indie author, constantly promoting their own brand, pushing their back-catalogue, their latest release, or keeping up with social networking – I lose a lot of actual writing time.

2. The result of the constant marketing activity may be tedious to the author concerned, but I believe that it is as we often refer to it – a necessary evil. I consider social networking to be a promotional activity, although to a lesser degree.

3. There are occasional comments on social networking sites that demonstrate quite clearly that there are some dissenters concerning the self-promotional posts. It may be one comment, or one comment that prompts others to voice an opinion, but they will always be there.

4. I wondered about ceasing my promotional activity for the remainder of this month. When I got home after my break, I checked social networking contacts and my Amazon sales activity for the most recent 30-day period.

There were some surprising results.

a) I had in excess of 90 Facebook notifications, (of which, at least 30 posts involved me). I’ll refrain from including Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, emails, etc.

b) In the week up to 9th May, I had a book on promotion; reduced to half-price – but it sold less than my other work.

c) In the month up to 9th May, I have only had two days where I have had no sales or lending.

d) My sales over the most recent two months are only marginally higher than my lending rate. Keep in mind, if books are borrowed there is still a royalty payment.


My intention now is to concentrate on my writing for the remainder of May, which will mean 20 days without self-promotion. I am a member of the Independent Author Network so as part of their agreement with authors they will promote my brand occasionally on Twitter, but as I don’t believe Twitter is an effective platform for book promotion I’m not concerned about that area.

I will of course continue to pay one or two daily visits to social networking sites on the off-chance that there is a conversation in which I would benefit from taking part.

Instead of a regular update on the topic here on my blog, I’ll leave the next three weeks to run their course and then I’ll write a blog post to report on my findings.

Now at the risk of repeating the title of this article….
Come what? May….

As always, I appreciate any views and comments.


Amazon Bitch – the results

Amaazon author page - crpdAmazon.com Author Page   Amazon.co.uk Author Page

In October 2014 here on my blog, I produced two posts related to self-publishing, and my experiences. For those of you like me who have an aversion to percentages and targets in their private life – I am not intending to give figures, only a general overview.

For the benefit of those who didn’t see the posts, and to refresh the memories of those who were kind enough to read them, I will summarise both posts before I go on.


Amazon Bitch – Part 1 of 2
I related a brief history of my self-publishing experience on various platforms. It couldn’t help but be brief, because I’ve only been on the scene since 2012.


Amazon Bitch – Part 2 of 2
My second post of the pair was aimed at sharing ten personal tips to aid success in the world of self-publishing. Prior to making my list I did not refer to the other zillion posts on the Internet with ten tips for success. My wish was to focus on what I knew.
In closing the second post I suggested that I would return with an update if my figures reached a healthy level. For ‘healthy’ in the world of self-publishing, read ‘breathing unaided’.


It was as we entered November 2014 that I reached a point where my novels, short story anthologies and poetry anthologies were all published on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Having freed myself from other publishers I enrolled all of my work on Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP Select), and in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL).


At this point I’d like to bring up something that may have been overlooked, or misunderstood by some authors. The Amazon Terms and Conditions for publishers are long-winded and detailed, so before you tick all the little boxes and publish all over the place, spend a while reading their terms. If you transgress and you are found out, you could come unstuck. As a guide, it took me 30 minutes to read the terms and conditions.


Okay, let’s get back on track. By November 2014, I had all of my books published on Amazon and I submitted myself completely. One of my fantasies has always been to submit myself to an Amazon. In this case it was to give my books a chance.

By enrolling on KDP Select my books gained me more royalties, and on KOLL, to buy or borrow was the reader’s choice.
Within a week my novels were being borrowed, which means I was getting royalties from readers who might go on to borrow more of my titles, if they enjoyed the first one.

It should be considered too, that if we humans feel the need to offer our opinion, we do, so that old advertising ploy, ‘word of mouth’ comes into play.


By the end of November I saw an increase in sales on all of my novels and a regular trickle of borrowing across my entire portfolio – yes, including my poetry series. Really!
In order to stimulate sales, I tried the option of giving away a book for a day. If you want to see a spike in your Amazon sales graph, give a book away for a day and tell Twitter and a couple of Facebook groups. I’ve now employed that tactic a couple of times and it works.


How does it work for the author by giving away a book?
It works for this author, because at the back of all of my books I have a list of my other titles and each has a brief synopsis.

Looking at my figures from early November 2014 to the end of January 2015, I’m pretty confident that I’m gaining repeat business from readers.


Does it work being an Amazon bitch?
Personally, I believe it works for me. I have no connection to any of the other publishers and I don’t sell my books from my author website. There is absolutely no chance of me breaking any rules because I’ve affiliated myself to one publishing house.
I don’t conduct a daily sales check, because that would drive me insane, but I do check my sales weekly, and against the marketing ideas I try on a particular date.
The Books page on my author website offers links to both main Amazon websites to buy my work and I think that’s working for me. We reap what we sow, especially in self-publishing, and I take nothing for granted.


I hope as always that at least some of this has been of benefit to my peers out there. If you are a novice at the self-publishing business and you haven’t read the two posts mentioned in my intro, please consider checking them out – my points are for the benefit of all of us. atasteofhoney(1)

A Taste of Honey was not included in my previous posts, due to it being published in December 2014.

The good news is that sales are climbing and reviews are favourable.
Thank you for taking the time to consume my thoughts. All feedback is welcome.


Amazon Bitch – Part 2 of 2

£ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $

We can lie and fall into the self-denial category, or we can come right out and admit that we may enjoy our writing, but we would like to make some … no, a lot of money from it. I’d love to see one of my stories being adapted as the basis of a movie, but maybe that’s a topic for another post.

My suggestions on how to be successful with sales are based on my own experience, not on a list provided on the Internet. There are several on there, I know.Smoke & Mirrors 020614

1. Present your books to the best standard you can. Consider the actual writing, punctuation, grammar, editing and formatting. Do not under any circumstances publish something that has only been written in one draft. My average for a novel is four drafts. My short stories usually take about six or seven drafts.

2. Pay to have eBook covers designed. Sales of my novels increased dramatically after I’d had the covers designed by a professional. Expensive perhaps, but following the revamped covers, the sales of one of my novels paid for the covers of all three novels in less than three months.

3. More than one title assists sales, but that doesn’t mean you should rush out your next book. Take your time, get it right and watch your books sell because readers trust your name and brand. Do not allow your name to be discredited by a poor book – and poor reviews.

4. Increase your social platform. There was a time when I scoffed at social media, but now I use it daily. Why? I post a link to my author website on three different Facebook groups daily. I occasionally post on Twitter, but not as often.

5. If an author website is beyond your reach financially, get a blog organised in the meantime. My first blog lasted over a year before I realised how many mistakes I was making with the content.

6. Only when you have two or more books to promote – consider an author website. If a website is out of reach – use a blog template to build an author website, but treat it as an author website – not a blog. If necessary, set up two blogs. One used as a blog, and the other as an author website. If you have any issues about the difference, please feel free to check my own.

7. Organise an Amazon Author Central page. This can be done on both the UK site and the US site. I have a page on both.

8. Review the work of your peers, and don’t stick to your own genre. I’ve reviewed Young Adult, Supernatural, Romance, Thriller, Suspense, Erotica, The Classics, Humour, Science Fiction and Children’s books. You will gain by:
a) possibly learning something, and, b) the recipient author and others might even check out your work. We all need each other, and we need to do our best in writing and support.

9. Price your books appropriately. Use common sense and remember you might become the next Stephen King, or Jackie Collins, but until you are at that level – be honest and realistic, not over-confident and greedy.

10. If you intend to produce a collection of short stories, publish a couple on one or two reading and writing sites and get feedback / reviews / critiques from total strangers. That really is a wake-up call. Make the number of stories in an anthology worthwhile.

Coming Around - 020714


However you read into my blog posts or my occasional Facebook rant, I am not a know-it-all, and I accept that I sometimes make a mistake, but I put myself and my writing through the wringer. I give many hours over to learning about and improving my craft.

We owe it to each other and to the industry not to put something out there half-cocked. If your mum, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, or Auntie Agnes likes your writing then I’m happy for you – but please don’t take their word for it that you’ve got it right and you’re good.

Why do I rant about getting the writing as good as we can?
1. Would you ride a bike, or drive a car with loose wheel nuts?
2. Would you buy a keyboard with two letters missing?

We are asking people to give us money for these things that we write. It’s a transaction whereby we suggest that what we’ve produced is worth money, and the buying public pay their hard-earned money in good faith.

I keep my book prices low. I don’t do it because I’m rich, because I’m not. I also don’t do it because I haven’t made any effort, because I work damn hard. I keep my prices low because I’m not a household name and I’m realistic. I want to build my personal brand and I will only be able to do that with a good catalogue of books that have received good reviews and are making sales.

I can sense that I’m going off on a tangent, but I hope I’ve managed to get at least a couple of points out there.

Lest I forget, I don’t expect to see my sales increasing after leaving Kobo and Smashwords, but within 24 hours of enrolling on the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library my books were being borrowed again. If it gets to a healthy level I’ll write a post.

All comments are welcome as always and thank you for reading.


Amazon Bitch – Part 1 of 2

Yes, I’m coming out as an Amazon Bitch.

Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904

Apart from reading conventional books, as a Kindle user it was logical for me to self-publish on Amazon when I eventually took the plunge.

I published Ten Days in Panama in November 2012, happy to leave it and get on with other projects. Sales were occasional and single figures inside any given month.

I published Beyond The Law in October 2013 and it made sales quite fast, comparatively speaking. It also reached double figures in one month before I made any effort to ‘promote’ it on social media. Beyond The Law - the cover 2904

In both cases I enrolled in the KDP Select (KDPS), and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). I figured that a little bit of extra publicity would be good, even if it meant that some folk might borrow my hard work, instead of buying it.

My sales increased a little – for three reasons.
1.  I had more than one book on the system. The more titles you have out there, the better.
2.  I was making an occasional sale to far off lands like Japan and India, and I saw my books being sold, and occasionally borrowed.
3.  I increased my social platform, which in my case meant going on Twitter and Facebook more often than twice per month – and I joined a couple of Facebook groups.

I tend to work on more than one project on an ongoing basis, so May and June of 2014 saw publication of my two short story anthologies, which were rapidly followed by my third novel, Amsterdam Calling in July 2014. I didn’t enrol any of these on the KDPS or KOLL schemes.
Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714

In July 2014, I allowed my 90 days to expire on my first two novels, so I was free to publish elsewhere. I published all of my work on Kobo and also on Smashwords. During 2013 – 2014 I published my five-book series of poetry anthologies and they increased my profile.

Bang up to date and by mid-October 2014, I had not sold a single copy of anything on Kobo. The books sold on Smashwords only just made it to double figures. Neither of those sites has worked for me. Over the same period I’ve watched sales of my novels increase steadily on Amazon, but the reasons I will relate in the second part of this tale.

With effect from 21st October 2014, I have unpublished from both Kobo and Smashwords. As soon as I had confirmation, I went to my Amazon bookshelf and enrolled my full collection on both KDPS and KOLL.
In the next post I’ll talk about how to increase sales, in my humble opinion.
Thank you for reading and any comments.

See you at the weekend for Part 2.