Friday, 18 June 2021

Tiny, tiny instructions

 Will be playing with my new software for a day or two until I get the hang of it. 

Like all "gadgets" from China (or Taiwan or anywhere in the Far East,) the technical aspect is good but the instructions that come with it are the opposite.

I struggled with the the tiny, tiny print and the film scanner yesterday but could only get a negative image on the scanner rather than the computer which kind of defeated the object of the exercise. 

Applied to dh, who has no fear of  attacking things intuitively, (and has better vision than me!) whereas I hesitate in case I do more damage than good. Evidently I had managed to screw up the menu, but he soon had it sorted again. So today I am all set to go, except that I have an appointment with the dentist at 9.45.


On the right is the final attempt at a cover for my latest story set in 1911. I took the advice from Cathy and Tamian and finally got all the bits as they were intended to be. I definitely need more practice with layer masks!

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Uncertainties

Finally, revision of the Matho trilogy is complete.

I sent it off for re-publishing this morning, and can 

now relax and enjoy the garden, the sunshine and dog walks!

Currently uncertain as to beginning any new writing project. It takes so long to complete, and though there are lots of ideas spinning around in the subconscious nothing  is solidifying into an idea that I am prepared to spend a whole heap of time on. Perhaps I just need a rest, time off to relax. I can always concentrate on marketing and improving covers. 

Recently I put my cover for Silver Season up to Discovering Diamonds Cover critique duo (Cathy Helms and Tamian Wood) and received some really useful comments that have spurred me on to  do something about it. For the moment I'm so relieved at having got the revision off to Kindle that I'm going to relax and enjoy an ice-cream in the sunshine - oh, and watch Rafa go for his 14th Roland Garros championship.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Ad results

 All my ad campaigns on Amazon were scheduled to end  on the last day May 2021.

All 34 of them! What has my dabbling achieved? 

I have spent less than £25 and earned roughly double that. No vast fortune, I agree, but then I didn't throw myself into it with gay abandon and create 200 plus ads as some do. But it was enough to make me want to do the stats, and confirm that though there were no sales in the US the whole exercise gained me more dollars from Amazon than I have in a while using other methods. 

I haven't spent a huge amount of time on it, either.  And a big plus is that I have not been dodging about on Facebook and Twitter with book ads, which does take up a lot of time. I used that time profitably, too.

So I shall take a little break, see if I can spruce up my Hooks, and start again. Meanwhile, there are book descriptions to check, blurbs to polish and keywords to collect. At least I now have all my book prices in line over the last month!


Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Cow trouble

 

Hoping to spend some time in France this year, I was meandering through some of my blog posts. This one is from July 2015:

In the heat of the afternoon it has become my habit to take a nap. Sometimes I fall asleep over the computer because I'm up at six to walk Tim while it is cool, but sometimes I take myself to the bedroom and lie down. It is cool there on the west side of the house, and as this terrible heat continues, that is welcome. It wasn't long before Dh crashed through the door, Tim barking hysterically in the distance, and the news that, like Houston, we had a problem. "The cows are in the garden and Tim's setting them off." Exit husband, pursued by moi.

 Sure enough, there are two very large chestnut beef cattle wandering only yards from the bolly fence and Tim is beside me at the window bouncing on his hind legs and barking insults at them. (He had followed Dh inside, which is a good thing.) We hastily shut the door to keep him there.

H’mm. Unused as we are to dealing with cattle, especially very large ones with horns and not much to choose between bulls and cows in muscular power, we discussed what to do. I feared they could wander around the corner and up onto the bolly and into the house. Or fall into the swimming pool and damage both it and themselves. They were within ten feet of the bolly when I remembered the "bull" was one of the calves born this year and still following his mum. The old bull lives with his harem, but I've only seen him at a respectacle distance of 100 yards across the field. The son was impressive enough and he was interested in the long grass growing by the head of the pound and snatched at it, occasionally casting an evil look in our direction. I persuaded Dh that it would not be a good idea for him to go and round them up and "chase them back into their field."

We were virtually trapped inside. I suppose we could have gone downstairs, through the garage and legged it in the opposite direction, but where would we have gone? We did not dare let Tim out, for the mother might have decided to protect her young bullock, or ….anyway, we stayed inside and phoned Tom, who lives not far away. Thankfully he knew the farmer to whom the cows belong and volunteered to phone him. He lives even closer than Tom.

Dh suspected said farmer would arrive with a tractor and trailer to take them away. I imagined two men and cattle dogs. Dh whizzed down the drive on the little bike and unhooked the chain across the drive for him. He hadn’t got back to the house when  a small Renault van showed up at the far side of the west field, slowed and bounced across the rough grass to park in the shade of a walnut tree. Out got one man dressed in tee shirt and short shorts, very tanned, very dark, a veritable Rafael Nadal lookalike but ten years older. Bonjours all round and big smiles – ours of relief to see him, naturally. I had stayed on the upstairs balcony with Tim and Dh went over to greet the farmer, who raised his cap to me as gentlemen used to do in England and old gentlemen still do. "Bonjour, madame," he said with a big smile.

 

DH offered him a stick, and the farmer laughed and said Non. Off he went, all alone towards the end of the lake where the dreadful duo had now wandered. We hung out of the window, hoping he wasn't going to get hurt, watching his careful approach, retreat, approach and the not exactly friendly response of the cattle. Within ten or twenty minutes he chivvied first the bullock and then the cow down into the stream. From there he shepherded them 100 yards back up the river and into their own field at the east end of the the mill. There was much laughter and relief when he came back to his van and promised to repair the fence.

 He was as good as his word, too. Twenty minutes later we heard the tap tap tap of a hammer and saw him making good the gap where the cattle had simply wandered down the stream and onto mill land – from where there was open access to the asparagus field and the road and crepes at Clermont-de-Beauregard for all we knew.








Saturday, 15 May 2021

Pricing fair and foul

I've been thinking about the pricing of my books.

I've never known what to charge, and there are many views out there from which to choose. Traditional publishers still opt for high prices and for  a hard or paperback, there are costs. I appreciate that. But I do object to high prices for Kindle formats from them. I'm holding out on a title I want to read but it is on sale on Kindle at £4.99. I'll wait a little and see if it drops in price.

But last week I noticed that my books are all over the place as far as price goes, so I've decided to bring them all into line with each other if nothing else! It will take a little time to work through them and alter the marketplace prices so that the price is the same be it for sale in the UK or Australia. 

I checked the £1.99 cover price against euros, dollars, reals and rupees and though the numbers vary, it is the same charge - or it will be when I through with the task. 

The £1.99 price is tempting, but $2.80 doesn't look quite so tempting. There is a school of thought that says I should make it $1.99 but that means the book sells for less in the US than it does in the UK, and that seems hardly fair. I appreciate that exchange rates fluctuate but I don't think traditional publishers change the price every few days, so I won't either!

It will still be possible to have a week where the price is discounted or goes free for a few days.


 



Friday, 30 April 2021

Back Matter in books and marketing

 


Back matter these days shoud always contain a hook in the form a enticing sample of one of your other books. Such a pity I’ve only given a list of the other titles – I never thought of giving a sample. That should be rectified as soons as I can.

Keywords and categories can help too and not just in setting up your new book on KDP. Take every chance you can to put hooks out to catch an unsuspecting reader.

Hooks are everywhere. A blog should have hooks to attract new readers Every piece of marketing you do should have hooks. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken a catchy phrase or sentence to help create interest in my books. Huge embarrassment binds my tongue and I shrug and pass on to the next topic of conversation. How many potential sales have I ruined? Word of mouth recommendations are the most successful and the devil to come by so instead I should have had a lovely strapline to use in such situations.

So should you!

 

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Look Inside

 


Amazon provides a Look Inside feature. Many customers use it before deciding to buy or to choose another title in preference to yours. The first chapter should be so good that no one walks away at this point!

In the argument about whether to place glossaries and such like at the front or the back of the book, I suggest it might be wise to let the customer get at the first chapter without distraction. Other Book titles, glossaries and possibly even maps, should go at the back where they don’t get in the way of this first, all-important read.

The opening line of the chapter is like the first line of your blurb. It should arouse curiosity and engage interest, needs to be so good that the customer will decide right away to buy.

Like the title and cover, the first lines must reassure that the customer is in the right place; that the genre is the one he thought it was and likes to read. Check your first lines and remove anything that might prevent a sale. This is not the place for back story, poor spelling, stilted language, or poor formatting. Concentrate on the things that will help the reader make a good decision – suspense, curiosity, personality, language that flows smoothly, ideas that link to one another without a distracting jerk. Take time to get it right.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

More about Blurbs

 


I’m really getting into Bryan Cohen’s advice on Amazon Ads and reading around on the merits of various things to improve sales.

A book blurb is a great big hook. It should arouse curiosity in any potential buyer. The title and cover create expectations and you need to reinforce these early in the blurb.

A good blurb needs engaging content. Think about the features that will sell your book and use them. Cut out the material that customers don’t need to know. Does the customer really need to know the names of multiple characters when checking the book out in the bookstore? Don’t give away the ending or important plot twists - the customer should remain curious. Regard Curiosity and Suspense as sales tools.

(The pic? Blackthorn in flower)

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Revamping book covers

 


Most authors would prefer that 1 in every 10 potential customers bought their book. The thought of the ratio being 1 in 10,000 gives them the shivers.

So how can they help themselves? The cover is the first hook to get that customer to buy.

Did you know a book title can be a hook? I didn’t, so I listed the main hooks to remind myself next time I am busy revamping some of my own covers:

1) a catchy title

2) the genre must be explicit

3) keywords in the title, subtitle, or series should be *genre* relevant. (that word was transposed into gender by my pc, but I caught it in time!)

4) Always remember that in fiction, shorter titles sell better.

The cover offers opportunity for more hooks than you might think. Perhaps the most important is being able to tell in a 3 second glance what the book is about. Colours, font and making keywords stand out in a thumbnail ~ it all matters. I shall never look at a cover in such a simple way ever again.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

That Cover!

 


What thoughts run through your head when you look at a book cover?

 

Some covers you like, some you don’t. But do you ever stop to analyse why? Probably not. I know my first cover was a blurry photograph of a beautiful beach.

It could be that it was a nice picture, but it didn’t tell you what the book was about.

Maybe the image was inappropriate for the story.

 

Nowadays I think much more carefully about a cover. You could say I am eagle-eyed now!

If a model is used, I ask ifs the expression implies the right mood? Is the costume correct for the time period of the novel?

Does it look amateurish?

 

Some things look plain wrong. The perspective might be incorrect, with sunlight coming from the wrong place or, worse, two places at once. Red-eye can easily be corrected these days, but not blurriness - better to choose another image.

 

I try to avoid a run-of-the-mill image that bores the observer.

Too many competing images are distracting for the reader and there may be technical issues due to untrained use of software that are spoiling the result.

Sometimes the image may become skewed or distorted.

A cover can be too sexy for its target audience, colours may clash and there may be too much text on the cover. A spelling mistake is a disaster. Fortunately, I never made the mistake of using the word “by” followed by the author’s name. If I have, my memory has air-brushed it out of my mind!

 

I try to remember its always easier when one main image with a clear message is used.

Monday, 29 March 2021

That all important Font

 

Whether designing a book or just the book cover, the choice of font is important. Think of it as a design element that will help attract the audience you want. 


Of course, if you find a font you love, you may then find that graphic artists come out of the internet woodwork and say it is overused and passé. To them it probably is, but I doubt it will be to the general reader. But it might be wise to get a feel for how used it is before you decide. Some of the overused fonts might be Times New Roman, Arial, Papyrus, or Algerian, for example. 


There are many fonts out there. I tried Google fonts recently and grew dizzy checking them all but I was glad I looked. Sometimes I found it hard to differentiate between one font and another - they looked so alike to my untrained eye. There are lots of other sites, too. Type  Free fonts in your search box and check them all to get an overall impression of what you could use. 


Some will be suited to a particular genre and to misuse a Sci-fi font on a Romance book would be a disaster. If you are new to this game, then the only way to get a feel for the genre type fonts is to study the market and since we might soon be allowed out into bookshops again, that is a delightful way of working. Until that happy day, online is the way to go. Good hunting! You might find me there, searching for that elusive, just-right font!


PS The moody seascape has nothing to do with fonts!

Sunday, 21 March 2021

The all-important Blurb

 

"Better to perfect the blurb before you publish." 

I wish I had read that sentence years ago! 

But I’m finally learning something of the trade, so I have been browsing top-selling books in genres similar to mine. I used to think the blurb should tell what the book is about, but now I know it is to reveal the genre/subject without confusing or contradicting the title or the cover. And, of course, it should make the reader want to read the book.

Bookshop browsers have, for many reasons, a short attention span and the bottom line is that the blurb needs to be concise. Don’t add anything that is unnecessary. Arouse the curiosity of the potential reader and make them look inside the book. Do it by creating questions.

If the reader cannot guess the genre, then the blurb has failed. Check that it is punchy, flows well and check for errors. Match language to target audience, do your homework and your research. Make sure your best point is in the first line, because Amazon will truncate much of the blurb. If your book isn’t selling as much as you’d like, then take a long look at your cover, the title, the blurb and the story idea.

The blurb is the easiest thing to change, so start with that.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Gardens & the promise of Summer

 Two days of wonderful sunshine and gardening has been done. The hands and knees kind, trowel in hand and weeds ripped out of the damp ground. I spent £38 on plants and have positioned and planted the less tender plants already. Bill thinks I've done it too early. "We aren't out of the woods yet. One sharp frost and they'll die and you'll have to buy more."

This is the first time in ages the garden is getting any real attention. With us spending five or six weeks in France during June and July, the garden usually runs wild very quickly. But last year we didn't get out of the country due to Covid, and this year it looks much the same. If we do go, it will probably be autumn rathe than summer.

 At least we are prepared. I have renewed my passport in the last week, and Tim is up to date with his inoculations. When we do go, he'll need a 9 page document from the vet which will cost me another £120 or thereabouts, all to prove that he is healthy and rabies free. Those mad Brexiteers didn't know what they were doing. 

Of course it isn't only this country's restrictions and lockdowns to consider. France may close her borders and we have no answer to that. Just today I saw a report that claimed one third of the councils in this country recorded a rise in new Covid illnesses this week. That is after they've been going down for two or three weeks. I can see the restrictions going on for ever.
 

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Spring Clean


 Currently doing a spring clean on my computer. I may lose a few URLs but its worth it because things change so rapidly in the electronic world. I have blog addresses from 2012  and some of the bloggers have set up newer blogs elsewhere since then. 

I'm writing - or should I say re-writing?  part 2 of my Scots Queen trilogy. I've learned such a lot and it gives me pleasure to get rid of clunky sentences and add in what I now feel are important bits of characterisation. There's a new cover, too. As for paperbacks I think they are a waste of time for me. They take so much more effort, particularly for the cover, and the number I have sold is minimal. Sometimes they don't look as expected no matter how carefully checked they were. The first excitement of having my very own paperback in my hands was wonderful, but I'm over that now, so I think it will be e-books only in the future.

Most attention is on Amazon Ads which I began January 12th. I began with ads in the US. Recently I have put a few ads to show in the UK which operates a little differently to the US system. So far I have no great insights to share, but then I'm still learning the ropes and I was told right at the beginning that it would take perhaps 3 months for real results to show. I am keeping careful track of what I'm doing and what results I get. 






Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Dabbling in Amazon ADs.

 Dabbling in Amazon ADs. 

Discovered that campaigning in the US is relatively easy, but doing the same thing in the UK is difficult.

I have sent one AD off to be verified, and I shall let it run for a few days while keeping a close eye on it. So far my experience is with the US, where I got almost 40k impressions (ie, when the AD is presented somewhere) and under 40 clicks (which is when someone clicks on the Ad) and a great big resounding 0 on sales. Not that it cost a great deal. I don't think I got to $4. Now, if I had the courage of my convictions I might have entered a great many more ADs and had more success. I'll never know, will I?