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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Amazon Tagging: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I've written about tagging on Amazon a few times on this blog. Here's a link to my original post which explains what it is and how authors with books for sale on Amazon can benefit from it.

To recap briefly, Amazon now allows anyone who has ever bought a product at the store in question to apply 'tags' to any book on sale there. Potential buyers can click on the tags associated with a book to see a list of other titles which have had the same tag applied (and which presumably they might therefore be interested in as well).

Tagging may also be used by Amazon to inform their 'You might also like...' recommendations, and so forth. All this makes it potentially a very powerful promotional tool.

In recent weeks I've been paying much more attention to tagging on Amazon - not only of my own books, but those of other writers as well. It strikes me that the system is poorly understood, and also sadly under-utilized by authors and publishers. It is also, unfortunately, open to abuse.

In my travels across the Amazon (LOL) I've seen plenty of examples of bad and even ugly use of tagging. Let's start with an example of the latter. Here are the tags for Dead and Alive, Book 3 in Dean Koontz's Modern Frankenstein series...

As you can see, these tags appear to have been applied by one disgruntled reader who has taken the opportunity to protest at what he considers an unreasonable delay in releasing the book. (In fact, if you read the reviews, you will see that Dean and his publishers had a very good reason for delaying this New Orleans-set title.)

I call this ugly tagging, because it is simply one person (ab)using the system to make derogatory comments. It's very easy to see how this sort of thing could get out of hand. Amazon might then have to introduce an approval system before any tags are applied (or, more likely, scrap the system altogether).

Fortunately 'ugly' tagging isn't too widespread, but there are lots of examples of 'bad' or pointless tagging. Here are the tags of a randomly chosen example from, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger...

Among the tags applied to this best-selling novel, you will see book, books, drama, fiction and other terms which are so vague that they are unlikely to be any help at all in telling people whether they might like the book in question. Some of the other tags, such as overrated, probably fall into the 'ugly' category.

What seems clear is that many people are confused by tagging and its purpose. Only a relatively small number of people apply tags, and an even more minuscule number do it in a worthwhile, sensible way. Paradoxically, however, this makes it a particularly powerful tool for authors and publishers, due to the general lack of competition. (Personally I see no objection to authors and publishers tagging their books, as done properly it helps readers understand the content of the book and whether or not it would appeal to them.)

So what tags should you apply to your book to help boost its sales? First and foremost, they should be specifically relevant to the book. If your novel is set in the sixties, for example, '1960s' could be a good, specific tag to apply. Your book will then appear any time someone clicks on the '1960s' tag on the pages of any other books which also have this tag. If a reader is interested in another book set in the sixties, there must be a good chance that yours will appeal to them as well.

To create such a benefit, your tags should of course be shared by other, related titles. Producing unique tags will not generate any immediate benefits for you, although it might do if people apply the tag to other books subsequently.

Ideally, of course, what you want is for your book to be linked to other, top-selling titles whose Amazon pages attract a lot of visitors. Tagging gives you an effective (and legitimate) way to achieve this, albeit at one step removed. Give your book some of the same tags to a best-selling one, and as long as the tags are specific enough to sound interesting, you will get a proportion of readers clicking on them to see related titles. Hey presto! Your own book will then appear.

Suppose that none of the tags currently on the book page you want to attract potential buyers from is relevant to your book, though? No problem! Just apply an appropriate tag to both your book and the top-selling title. Because of the small number of tags which have been applied so far, this technique currently works well even with best-sellers.

Finally, if you want to get multiple tags for your books, you could do a lot worse than join the co-operative tagging service called Tag My Book on Amazon. Members of TMBOA tag one another's books to help boost their positions (the more times a particular tag is used on a book, the higher up the list it is displayed for that tag). The TMBOA website has separate pages for and See also my earlier blog post about this site.

Good luck, and happy tagging!

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Twin Keys to a Long-Term Writing Career

Someone asked me the other day how I get writing work in these recessionary times: is it through advertising, my website, my blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites..?

I think they were surprised by the answer I gave. Nowadays, by far the most important source of work for me is clients I have worked with in the past, often for many years. And the next most important is personal recommendations.

I do get work offers from the other sources mentioned, but it is much less significant in financial terms. Other than maintaining an online presence, I don't advertise my writing services at all.

It comes down to two things really: the first, of course, is delivering a good service to clients, so they want to hire you again. And the second is networking, by which I mean building and cultivating a network of contacts, both online and in the 'real world'.

One obvious method of networking is to build good relationships with the publishers and editors you write for, and other writers you meet and work with. This can pay off in all sorts of ways. First, if they like you and your work, there is every chance they will come back to you for more in future.

Here's an example. Over ten years ago I answered a newspaper ad for a short story writer. I sent in a sample story, which was accepted, and ended up writing 11 more for the novelty publishing house in question. Another editor in the company saw my stories and asked if I'd like to contribute to a project he was working on. The upshot is, for that one company I've written humorous recipe books, Internet guides, quiz books, party packs, 'Cyberbabe' and 'Cyberboyfriend' CD-ROMs, online games, tee-shirt and mug slogans, and many more - all stemming from that one 'little' job ten years ago.

What's more, editors move on to new jobs, and naturally they like to bring their favorite writers with them. An example again: years ago I wrote a series of articles on business-related matters for an editor I'll call Vanessa. That went pretty well, then she got a job as editor for a personal finance newsletter, and she asked me to write regular articles for that as well. This continued for some time, and I even carried on writing for the newsletter for several years after Vanessa moved on.

Then Vanessa went freelance, and one of the assignments she got was writing a series of travel books. While she was working on those, the publisher asked her if she knew any other writers who might be interested in writing a similar book, and she put my name forward. The result was that I ended up writing two books about living and working in Italy and Germany.

Of course, networking is a two-way thing, and it works best if you can reciprocate. So I was pleased to be able to put some work Vanessa's way later with another of the mail-order publishers I work for regularly.

And here's another - slightly strange - example of how networking can pay off for all concerned. Last month, I switched roles with a fellow writer/editor called John, whom I've known for many years. Here's how it happened...

For over ten years I've been editing a series of monthly updates on investment-related topics. Most of them were written by John, though occasionally I contributed one myself.

Anyway, the publishers decided that the series finally had to end, so I thought that was both me and John out a job. Then they got back to say they were launching a newsletter on a similar topic, and would I be interested in editing it for them?

Well, because of all my other work, I didn't want to take on another major monthly commitment. But it occurred to me that John would be ideal for the role, so I recommended him to my client. The result is that John has just been appointed editor, and has asked me to write articles for him every month. So, as I say, we've swapped roles, but otherwise it's business as usual!

These things happen regularly in the writing world. In my view, delivering a good service and building up a network of fellow authors, editors and other publishing industry professionals are the two most important things any writer can do to ensure a long and successful career in this field.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guest Post: Seven Ways to Use One Article for Book Promotion

Today I'm delighted to welcome to my blog Joanna Penn, from The Creative Penn, the hugely popular blog devoted to writing, self-publishing, print-on-demand, Internet sales and promotion for authors.

Joanna is also the creator of Author 2.0, a free blueprint for authors hoping to use Web 2.0 methods for publicizing and promoting their books.

In this guest post, Joanna reveals seven ways you can use a single article to help promote your book.

* * *

Web 2.0 technologies have empowered authors to write, publish, sell and promote their books online in many different ways. There are so many options now that utilise free software. They take some time and effort to achieve, but you can gain fantastic results.

One effective book promotion tactic is to use articles. These can be segments of your book, or an article written on the topic of your book. This works for both fiction and non-fiction. Repackage parts of your existing written work into articles of around 500-700 words each. You will also need a 'call to action' on the bottom of the article that contains your contact details and book buying information. I'd also recommend including an offer that gets people to click through, for example, 'Get Three Free Chapters Here'. Here is an example if you are unsure.

Here then are seven ways you can take one article and turn it into multiple channels for book promotion...

1. Turn it into a blog post with free services such as Wordpress or Blogger. Blog posts turn into individual web pages indexed by search engines, so each article of yours will represent a new web page.

2. Post it on, and These sites are specifically for article marketing and millions of people search them each day. People can download your work for free, but you get great exposure.

3. Post a link to it on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. This will bring people's attention to your article, and to your book if it is referenced. People can also forward your link on to others, generating a ripple effect for your promotion.

4. Add it to a collection of articles and release as a free (or paid) ebook through or Scribd. You could offer a selection of 10 articles for free download. Once you have between 70-100 articles, you will even have enough for a regular book that you can sell separately.

5. Record yourself reading the article and release it as a mini-audio or part of a regular podcast. You can record yourself using a basic microphone and the free Audacity software [ND: This is explained in detail in The Ultimate Podcasting Kit from WCCL]. You can then release it on your blog or through a network like BlogTalkRadio.

6. Make a video of yourself talking about the article and post it on YouTube and TubeMogul. You can use a basic video camera, a webcam or Flipcam. At you can even record straight to the screen. Many people use YouTube for primary search, so you need a video presence.

7. Turn it into a press release. You can reshape your article into a press release by linking it to a newsworthy subject, adding quotes, and targeting it to a specific market. Send it to journalists you have targeted for your specific book niche.

These ideas will cost you nothing in money - just your time. Multiply these by as many articles as you can write in a specific period and you will see how this can generate an effective web presence in little time!

There are many more ideas in Author 2.0 Blueprint: How to use web 2.0 tools to write, publish, sell and promote your book, available free by clicking on the link.

* * *

Many thanks again to Joanna for a very informative post. I do highly recommend checking out her blog and her free Author 2.0 Blueprint.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Review: The Ultimate Podcasting Kit

The Ultimate Podcasting Kit is a new product from WCCL, who also publish my courses The Wealthy Writer, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The Ultimate Podcasting Kit is written by Bob Ferris. I must admit Bob is a new name to me - as far I know this is his first WCCL production - but he clearly knows his stuff where podcasting is concerned.

The Ultimate Podcasting Kit is provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux. The PDF files are password-protected, but that's only a minor inconvenience. Once you have opened them, you can print out all or any of the pages as you wish.

Like all WCCL products, The Ultimate Podcasting Kit is beautifully produced, and it has clearly been professionally designed and edited. The main manual (I'll get to the bonuses later) weighs in at a substantial but not overwhelming 114 pages. It takes you step by step through everything you need to know to create and publish your very first podcast.

Assuming no prior knowledge, The Ultimate Podcasting Kit starts by explaining what podcasts are and how to find and listen to other people's, before going on to discuss coming up with ideas for your own. The manual looks at the different options for creating podcasts before coming down firmly in favour of the open source (and therefore free) Audacity software. It explains how to record and edit your podcast using Audacity and how to publish it online.

Of course, there is no point creating a podcast unless you can get people to listen to it, so the last part of the main manual discusses how to publicize and promote your podcasts. Five chapters are devoted to this subject, so it's covered in considerable detail.

Three bonus reports are also included. Possibly the most useful is Get Audacious With Audacity. This is a step-by-step guide to using the Audacity software (for which a download link is provided). It's illustrated with plenty of screengrabs, and should be sufficient to get even a complete newbie up and running.

The other reports are Sizzling Interview Techniques and How to Produce Sensational Shows. These include lots of ideas and suggestions to help ensure that your podcasts attract (and keep) listeners.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Ultimate Podcasting Kit. Even by WCCL's high standards, I think it is one of their best products yet. If you want to create and promote your own high-quality podcasts, this kit - along with the free Audacity software - should provide everything you need to get started.

Do I have any criticisms? Not really. If I was being ultra-picky, I might like to have seen some mention of the latest Internet radio services such as Blog Talk Radio, which can help bloggers create their own online radio shows and save them as podcasts. Such services do not, however, give anywhere near the same quality you would get by following the methods set out in The Ultimate Podcasting Kit.

To sum up, if you are interested in podcasting - and more and more writers are using podcasts to help promote themselves and their work - and you want to do it to the highest possible standard, in my view The Ultimate Podcasting Kit would be the ideal guide and resource for you.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Special Guest: Danielle Thorne

As previewed in this post, I am delighted today to welcome romantic/historical novelist Danielle Thorne to my blog.

Danielle is visiting as part of a Virtual Book Tour to celebrate the publication of her novel THE PRIVATEER.

Without further ado, then, let's get on with the interview...

* * *

ND: Welcome to my blog, Danielle. Could you start by telling me how you first got into writing. What was your first published book or story?

DT: I was born with stories in my head. I won a national Honorable Mention for poetry with Scholastic in Junior High and went on to pursue poetry and then later freelancing. As a young mother I completed two manuscripts and almost had one published but it fell through. Sadly, it took a tragic car accident that almost took one of my parents to make me accept how unpredictable life is. Since then, I've researched and completed three novels of different genres in the last three years. Two are set to be released this year as an e-book and print; the third is under consideration with a New York publisher at this time.

ND: The Privateer is based in 18th Century England, but you actually live near Atlanta, Georgia. What made you choose to write about this period and setting, and how did you go about researching it?

DT: By the time I reached my thirties I didn't think there was anything left to capture my imagination! Then the film 'Master and Commander' debuted and I fell instantly in love with the Age of Sail. Patrick O'Brian is a master storyteller and I have read all of his series, and other seafaring authors, too.

Sea fiction teaches you that naval officers could be either good or bad; they didn't all fall into one category. Of course, this would apply to pirates, too. I love what Disney did with 'Pirates of the Caribbean'; they took a despicable lot of greedy, bloodthirsty criminals and made one very human. In essence, they made the act of piracy gray: Who were these men? Were they all bad guys? What were their back stories?

THE PRIVATEER is my take. It's about a man forced into piracy at a young age. He uses his intellect and ambition to escape the fate that awaited those pirates who were caught. With his pardon and years of swashbuckling experience, my character, Julius Bertrand, knows he can be of use to the British Navy and he determines to ascend society and become a success.

As we all know, nothing ever turns out as we plan it, so Bertrand has to deal with old enemies who put a bounty on his head to stop him from interfering in some nefarious plans involving diamonds.

The research was no chore. I've always loved history and dabble in UK genealogy. Besides buying books about the era and using the Internet, I spent long hours in the downtown Memphis Library reading reference books and documents from the West Indies. I probably have more pages of notes and copies filed then there are pages of THE PRIVATEER. My favorite part of research, though, was a three-day cruise through the Caribbean. To actually stand at the rail and look out over the ocean and taste the salt in the wind...that brought it all to life for me.

ND: The Privateer is being published as an e-book. Is there any special reason you chose this format rather than conventional print publication?

DT: I actually spent several months pursuing a contract in New York and met with some positive responses. It's such an oversaturated market - when you look at how many authors are trying to get their foot in the door, you appreciate the positive feedback and opportunities.

Finding a publisher that wasn't specialized in just one area was difficult. THE PRIVATEER has a broad appeal - it falls into several genres: historical, adventure, and romantic, so after some close calls I decided to test the waters with e-publishing, since I was more familiar with the process. I started at the top and quickly got a contract with Awe-Struck Publishing. They publish historicals and romances, and were very receptive to the premise of THE PRIVATEER. Looking back, it's the best thing that could have happened. These past three years I have seen e-books explode onto the scene and I am committed 100% to helping e-publishing become as accepted and understood as reading in hard copy.

ND: Could you tell me a bit about your typical working day? Do you have any special writing routines or habits?

DT: I am still raising a family so my writing has to be juggled to fit a busy schedule. I write during school hours and mess around a bit in the late evening if I have things to do. However, when I am engrossed in writing a manuscript, it becomes all encompassing. There are many weeks of fast food and dirty laundry. I've been known to go up to 72 hours without sleep. As my experience grows, I am learning how to balance and organize better, so I look forward to being more productive in the future.

As far as habits, I can't do without index cards. I use them to plan, plot, take notes, you name it. My office is littered with them when they're not laid out on the floor in scene sequences. Another habit I have, and not a good one, is snacking in front of the computer screen when I get stuck on a scene. Bad idea, but putting sugar into my mouth seems to make my brain work better. THE PRIVATEER probably equates to somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen pounds of chocolate. Me and the 3 Musketeers are very close.

ND: Are there any tips or advice you would like to pass on to other aspiring novelists?

DT: When you finish something, start something else. Every manuscript is a learning process and you do get better and better. Another tip is to be open-minded about negative feedback. Some, if not most of it, is well-meant and you need to learn the difference. When you start getting the same kind of comments about your story or style, it's time to be honest with yourself. You can't learn if you don't make mistakes.

ND: What other writing projects are you working on at the moment?

DT: Getting the word out on THE PRIVATEER takes up a lot of time but I enjoy getting to know readers and authors all over the world through blogs like this. On the creative horizon is a modern day sequel to THE PRIVATEER where one of Julius Bertrand's descendants discovers a missing diary and a shipwreck - keys to a hidden treasure. Think Goonies - but all grown up with a lot more romance and smarter adventure.

And then this coming August, my contemporary romance TURTLE SOUP will be released. TURTLE SOUP is a fun short-novel set between the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean, the Georgia Aquarium, and a fictional bakery just down the street. I've posted an excerpt of TURTLE SOUP at my website:

ND: Finally, one question I always like to ask visitors to my blog: What are your three favorite websites, and why?

DT: For absolute crazy pirate fun, you have to check out Swansbrough Manor:

These folks give whole new meaning to the phrase getting in touch with your inner pirate. Every late summer, Mr. Swansbrough begins building his pirate ship as an ADDITION to his home in Central Georgia. The Black Pearl is completed by Halloween night and the whole family and community get involved incognito - swashbuckling around giving pirate tours as visitors come out of their Swansbrough Manor Cemetery...which is actually a private home and front yard. Last year they took donations and were able to buy a kiln for the art department of their elementary school. Everything went to charity, but these pirates put on a great cemetery and pirate show that is funded from out of their own pockets.

My second favorite website would have to be for research purposes. I found more information that I ever dreamed of about Regency England and Jane Austen at Jane Austen's World:

There are even articles on flora and fauna, not to mention the little quirky things no one ever thinks to write up essays on. They have a great search function and always provide up to date programming you can catch to enrich your research.

Last, for genealogical purposes: is great and I made incredible progress with a membership from them, but I always keep on my favorites list because I spend a lot of time there. The best thing about Family Search is simply that it is free. It provides free, no-membership access to the IGI (International Genealogical Index) and has a lot more information on how to get started on genealogy and find other resources. I don't just love the history of Sail, I love my own, too!

* * *

Thank you very much to Danielle for answering my questions in such fascinating detail - I now feel much more in touch with my own inner pirate!

If you enjoyed reading about THE PRIVATEER, do check out Danielle's website - and, if you think you might enjoy reading the book, consider paying the modest fee to download it from Awe-Struck Publishing.

By the way, while exploring Danielle's website, I noticed that she has created a nifty video trailer to help promote her book. I asked Danielle how she did this. She was kind enough to provide a detailed reply, but I'll save it for another time. Something else to look forward to!

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about Danielle and her book today, and that it may have inspired you to redouble your efforts to achieve your own writing goals.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Review: Pod Publicity

Today I'm reviewing a new e-book by Heather Wallace, the full title of which is POD Publicity: How to Take a Print-on-Demand Book From Obscurity to Profitability.

POD Publicity (as I'll call it from now on) is a well-written, downloadable manual in the universal PDF format. It's 67 pages long, so quite concise.

All the URLs are hyperlinked, and I was impressed to see good use of the left-hand Bookmarks panel to provide links to the chapter and section headings. This makes finding your way around much easier than is the case in some PDF manuals.

So far as the content of POD Publicity is concerned, to borrow a well-known advertising slogan, it does exactly what it says on the tin. If you've written a POD book, it will show you a wide range of ways you can promote it. These include blogging, social networking, guest posting on other people's blogs, article writing, forum marketing, and various others.

POD Publicity doesn't tell you how to create your book, though Heather does have some advice on the best services to use, choosing a good title, and so on. Basically, though, this manual is all about publicizing your POD book, and there are some real gems here, based on Heather's experience as the author of two self-published titles, two POD books and three ebooks.

One chapter I particularly enjoyed concerns promoting your book on Amazon, using tags, Listmania lists, Amapedia, and so on. In my view the tips in this chapter - titled 'Navigating the Amazon' (LOL!) - are worth the price of the guide alone.

POD Publicity covers some similar ground to The Best-Seller Secret from my sponsors WCCL. The Best-Seller Secret is aimed at a broader market than POD Publicity, and it sets out a week-by-week pre-launch strategy. On the other hand, POD Publicity is particularly relevant to POD authors, and it offers some great additional tips, many of which are also relevant to non-POD authors.

In my view, if you're going down the POD route, POD Publicity should probably be your first buy, while with other forms of publishing and self-publishing The Best-Seller Secret might be the better choice initially. For the maximum benefit, however, I'd really recommend buying both.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Appear on my blog!

Just a quickie to point out that, if you're on the micro-blogging service Twitter, YOU can appear on my blog!

This is via the TwitterRemote widget, which appears in the right-hand column of the blog. I've put a screengrab of the widget below...

For your profile to show up, you do first have to sign in to TwitterRemote, although in future (once Twitter implements OAuth, which should be soon), this will not be necessary.

The good news is that you only have to sign in once, after which your profile will automatically appear on the TwitterRemote widget of any blog or website that uses it when you visit. This can be great for meeting like-minded Twitter users and boosting your follower numbers.

If you have a blog or website, you can get your own TwitterRemote widget free of charge. Just visit this site and follow the step-by-step instructions. You can then see who is visiting your site and maybe get in touch with them.

I'll hope to see your profile showing up on my blog soon!Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Co-operative Tagging Service for Amazon Authors

A few weeks ago in this post I wrote about tagging, an easy and legitimate way for authors to promote their books at the Amazon online bookstore.

Well, I recently heard from author Todd Fonseca about a blog he has set up called Tag My Book on Amazon.

This is basically a co-operative service for authors to help one another get more tags for their books. Essentially, you upload details of your book to Todd's blog, including its Amazon page and the tags you want added (up to three). Other users of the service then visit your book's page and add these tags for you, thus raising your book's profile and helping potential buyers find it more easily.

It's a free service, and depends on the goodwill of everyone involved to make it work. If you hope to benefit, then, you should also spend some time going through the list of requests from other authors and applying tags as requested.

Tag My Book on Amazon is aimed primarily at authors with books listed on, but Todd says he is happy for users whose books are only available on (or other national sites) to use the service also. However, he points out that you can only apply tags if you have actually made a purchase at the Amazon store in question, so UK users are unlikely to get as many tags as those in the US.

Still, I think Tag My Book on Amazon is a brilliant concept, and if you have any books for sale on Amazon you should definitely check it out. Click here for more information about tagging, and click here to submit your book.

Finally, I also recommend reading the other articles on Todd's blog, especially Tag My Listmania, which reveals how to use Amazon's Listmania feature to help promote your books, and Shelf My Book, which is another co-operative scheme to help promote your title on the Goodreads website.

UPDATE! Todd has now added a dedicated page for authors who want to promote their books on

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Filedbyauthor: a New Promotional Website for Authors

A quick mention today for a new website that offers free publicity for anyone with a book published in the US or Canada.

Filedbyauthor aims to provide a promotional platform for any such writer, by giving them a free, hosted, and e-commerce-enabled web page, ready to be claimed and enhanced. They say:
"With more than 1.8 million pre-assembled author web pages and over 7 million book titles, Filedbyauthor is the most complete site for finding and engaging with authors and their work."
Any published author (or co-author) can access and update their author page, which is linked to individual work pages. In addition to the free level, Filedbyauthor has two paid-for membership levels offering additional web marketing tools. These include blogs, additional linking and media postings, event listings, online press kits, and banner customization.

Filedbyauthor isn't just for authors, though. Any reader can join the Filedbyauthor community and start connecting with authors. Readers can fill in their own pages, collect favorite authors and books, write reviews, rate works and authors, and comment through wall postings.

Although most of my books are published in the UK rather than North America, I qualified for inclusion on the site by virtue of a couple of titles and duly claimed my page. I haven't done much with it yet, but you can see it if you like by clicking on the banner (provided automatically by the site) below.

View Nick Daws's profile on FiledBy

It's early days for Filedbyauthor - and the site itself is still in beta - but already it looks as though it may become an important resource for both writers and readers world-wide. If you've had any books published in North America, in my view it's well worth claiming your author page now.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Five Things I Wish I'd Known as a New Freelance Writer...

I've been a full-time freelance for nearly twenty years now. I've made a few mistakes along the way, but I've learned a lot as well. So what advice would I give to anyone starting out on this path today? Here are five things I really wish I'd known all those years ago...

1. You Don't Have to Know Everything

When I was beginning my writing career, I worried a lot about what I didn't know.

Every time I came across a word I hadn't seen before, rather than view it as an opportunity to learn something new, I took it as a further sign that my vocabulary wasn't wide enough to succeed as a writer. (In fact, I now realise that while having a good vocabulary is definitely an asset, you could go through an entire writing career without ever knowing the meaning of palimpsest, clepsydra, ursine, and many more...)

It wasn't just vocabulary either. I worried that I didn't know whether I should use "toward" or "towards", "forever" or "for ever", "continuous" or "continual", and many more. And I could waste a whole morning agonizing over whether I should use a dash or a colon in my opening paragraph.

What I realise now is that most of these things matter little. Quite often, either choice will be acceptable. My advice to a new writer today would be to get a good dictionary and style guide, and refer to these whenever you're in doubt. But if you're still not sure, just make your best guess and move on. The chances are that whatever you choose, your editor will change it anyway!

The Americans have a very good expression for this: Don't sweat the small stuff.

2. It Pays to Specialize

There are lots of other would-be freelance writers out there, so you need to do whatever you can to make yourself stand out. For me, anyway, that has meant specializing.

Specializing has all sorts of advantages for a freelance writer. If you are regarded as an "expert" in your field, editors and publishers will turn to you when they need a writer on the subject in question. In addition, because of your perceived expertise, you may be able to charge a higher rate than an "ordinary" freelance.

Don't just stop at one specialism, though. Try to develop a number. My specialist subjects include self-employment, advertising and PR, careers, the Internet, gambling for profit, popular psychology, English grammar, writing for profit, and several more. At least then, if there is a fall in demand for one of your specialisms (as has happened for me in recent years with careers writing), you have other strings to your bow.

My advice to a new writer would be to start with an area you know a lot about, or have a particular interest in, and make it your business to become an "expert" in that field. Write a few articles about it, perhaps for low-paying markets when you're getting started. Once you have published some work on your specialism, people will start to regard you as an expert in it, and more work is likely to follow. By researching more articles and talking to "real" experts, you will build up your store of knowledge, until you really are something of an expert in your chosen field. It's worked for me, anyway ;-)

3. Don't Take Criticism Too Seriously

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you shouldn't listen to constructive feedback on your work. However, you should evaluate it carefully and be prepared to reject it if you don't agree with it.

Remember that judgements about quality (or otherwise) are often subjective. There's a story I tell in my CD course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days about a time when I regularly wrote careers information articles for a large UK publishing house. These were basically four-page articles about different jobs.

I submitted my articles to one particular editor at the publishing house. Invariably they came back to me covered in red ink, with insertions, deletions and transpositions all over the place. I tried to learn from her comments and improve, but still every time the articles came back changed almost beyond recognition. She still put the edited articles through, but I honestly felt like a schoolboy whose report card read, "Could do better".

Then I got a new editor - a man this time, as it happens. I submitted my latest article to him, and waited for it to come back to me covered in red ink as usual. And waited. And waited. So eventually I phoned him up and asked what had happened to my article. "Oh that," he said, sounding surprised I had even mentioned it. "It was fine, so I put it through for publication."

The truth is that in writing, as in life, everyone has different views of what is good and what is bad. So listen to criticism by all means, but try to evaluate it objectively, and always feel free to reject it if you think it's wrong. And never, ever, take criticism personally.

4. You've GOT to Put Yourself About!

However good a writer you are, no publisher or editor is going to beat a path to your door. Especially when you are starting out, you must be prepared to send off torrents of query letters, emails, book proposals, and so on. Look for publishers seeking writers - the Writers Wanted board of my forum at is one good place to start - and if a vacancy looks interesting, fire off an application.

Put yourself about in the flesh too. Join your local writers' circle, go on writers' courses and conferences, volunteer to give talks, and run classes in adult education. In the online world, set up a writing homepage and/or a blog, and join at least one writers forum. And sign up at social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and FaceBook. All of this will help raise your profile as a writer, and make it more likely that potential clients will get in touch with you.

And also under this heading I'd add, build up your network of useful contacts. These can come from all sorts of places: fellow writers you meet, proofreaders and editors you work with, folk you meet on courses, people you interview for articles, people you connect with via online services such as Twitter, and so on. Nowadays, at least half of all the new writing opportunities that come my way do so as a result of networking.

5. Enthusiasm isn't Everything - Maybe Just 90%...

OK, I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, but one thing experience (mine and other people's) has taught me is that enthusiasm will carry you a long way as a writer. I'm sure it's true in other fields as well, but clients generally are more inclined to hire writers who are enthusiastic about their work rather than those who seem simply to be going through the motions.

Obviously, you DO need in addition the writing skills and other qualities to deliver a good job. Without enthusiasm, however, you will probably never get the chance to demonstrate that you have these skills and qualities.

Look at it this way. If an editor gets two applications, one from someone who is relatively inexperienced but brimming with enthusiasm, the other from someone with an impressive CV who sounds as though they could barely be bothered to get of bed this morning, nine times out of ten it's the writer with the enthusiasm who will get the gig, even if they may not have as much experience. It's human nature that we all respond better to people who have a positive attitude themselves.

So before sending off an application for any writing job, ask yourself honestly: Do I really sound as if I want this job? Do I appear excited by the prospect of working with this company? Can the client see that I am bursting with ideas and raring to do a good job for him? Or, conversely, does my application sound half-hearted? Does it sound as though I don't really expect to get the job, and don't much care one way or the other? If the latter is the case, hit "Delete" and start again. You MUST, MUST, MUST convey enthusiasm in all your applications and proposals!

If you have any other useful hints or tips for new writers, feel free to add them below as comments.

Happy writing!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

An Easy Way to Promote Your Book on Amazon

If you have a book (or books) for sale on Amazon, here's a quick and easy way to promote it.

It's also free of charge. And don't worry, it doesn't involve submitting a five-star review under a pseudonym (which I'm sure none of my readers would do, of course...).

The technique is based around tagging, which Amazon has recently introduced as one of several ways of making its site more interactive and 'Web 2.0'.

Registered users of Amazon can apply up to seven tags to any book. The tags are meant to provide useful information on the content of the book in question. So a book about writing might be given tags including 'writing', 'creative writing', 'article writing', 'writing for money', 'screenwriting', and so on. As a matter of interest, I have copied below the tags from the listing for the popular On Writing by Stephen King.

Tags help people searching on Amazon. Someone wanting a book on writing stand-up comedy, for example, might search for all books with a tag of 'comedy writing'.

Tags improve the experience of Amazon users, so in my view it is quite legitimate for an author to apply tags to his or her own books (and I have done so). Not only will this mean that people interested in the topic of your book are more likely to find it, the tags may also help Amazon with its 'You might also enjoy...' recommendations which appear on the site and in emails it sends out. It's not clear at the moment how extensively Amazon uses data from tagging, but as the system becomes more widely known it's a good bet it will increase.

So if you have any books on sale on Amazon do take a moment to go along and tag them, and do it also on other countries' Amazon sites where they are sold (.com,, .de, .fr, and so on). It could give your sales in the coming months a very handy boost!

* My sponsors, WCCL, produce a guide called The Best-Seller Secret, which reveals a raft of other techniques you can use to drive your book into the Amazon Top 100 List. Check it out!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review: Blog Carnival Submitter

Regular readers will know that recently I've become a fan of blog carnivals as a way of generating more traffic to a blog. I blogged about the subject earlier this year in this post.

So when I heard about a new piece of software called Blog Carnival Submitter that promised to automate the process of finding blog carnivals and submitting links to them, I had to get a copy to check it out.

Blog Carnival Submitter works in conjunction with the BlogCarnival website, which opens by default in the lower panel of the software (see screengrab below). The BlogCarnival site acts as a kind of central clearing house for blog carnivals, although there is of course no obligation for carnivals to register with them.

Most of the things you can do with Blog Carnival Submitter you can also do on the BlogCarnival website, but Blog Carnival Submitter makes the process quicker and simpler, especially for multiple submissions.

You start using Blog Carnival Submitter by clicking on Find Blogs in the upper left-hand panel. This enables you to search the BlogCarnival site by keywords. You can search for a number of different keywords to produce a longer list (using the keyword 'writing' produced fewer carnivals than I expected, so I added other terms such as 'author' and 'work from home').

Once you have a list of suitable blog carnivals, the software will check if they are valid or not. You can delete any that aren't, and save the list for future use if you want.

You can then choose any posts you want to submit to these carnivals from your own blog/s, using the panel at the top right. It takes only a moment to add the necessary details, and you can then set the software to automatically submit all your chosen posts to all your selected blog carnivals (or select what to submit where manually if you prefer).

Blog Carnival Submitter also has a range of additional features. In particular, as the BlogCarnival website for some reason blocks users from certain countries, Blog Carnival Submitter lets you submit your blog posts using an anonymous proxy server. This is a very useful feature if it applies to you, although thankfully for me in Britain it isn't an issue.

Overall, I think Blog Carnival Submitter is a neat, if not earth-shattering, piece of software. It will be most relevant if you regularly submit links to a range of blog carnivals, or you plan to. If you just want to test the water with a single post, you may as well use the BlogCarnival website itself. But if you get serious about this method of traffic generation, in my view it's well worth paying the modest fee for Blog Carnival Submitter. I shall definitely be using it myself from now on.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Coming Soon to This Blog: Kristin Callender

Just wanted to let you know that next Thursday, 19 March, I will be welcoming US author Kristin Callender to this blog.

Kristin is visiting my blog as part of her virtual book tour to launch her novel The Truth Lies in the Dark.

The Truth Lies in the Dark is a mystery about Amanda, who has no memory of her life as a child. Raised by her protective grandparents, she knows only what they have told her about her past and her family. But reoccurring nightmares tell her something different, and leave her feeling like a stranger in her own mind. Then her grandfather leaves her an unfinished letter that confirms her doubts and fears. As she begins to search for her true identity she finds that everyone in her life has been keeping a life-changing secret from her, even her loving husband, Nick. In the end she must answer the two most important questions: Who is trying to help her, and who is trying to make sure the truth remains 'in the dark'?

In her post, Kristin will be talking about how she came to write her book, and passing on her tips for new novelists. She will also be revealing her three favorite websites (something I like to ask all my visiting authors!).

You can read more about Kristin and her novel on her website, and also discover where else she is visiting on her tour.

The Truth Lies in the Dark is available from and it is also the featured title of the month from her publishers, Blue Water Press.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Get More Visitors to Your Blog from Blog Carnivals

Patras Carnival the float of the king of CarnivalImage via WikipediaIf you read this blog, there's a good chance you're a blogger as well.

And if that's the case, did you know that you can generate links and traffic to your site by contributing to - or even holding your own - blog carnival?

I only found out about blog carnivals towards the end of last year. The concept is that someone who owns a blog announces that they will be holding a carnival on a particular topic and date, and invites contributions.

Any blogger can then submit a recent post they have made that is relevant to this topic. If your post is accepted for the carnival, a link to your post is included when the carnival is published. Note that some blog carnivals accept all submissions, but others are quite selective.

Being included in a blog carnival creates an inward link to your blog post. This can help improve your blog's search engine ranking, and also generate extra traffic to it. Bloggers whose work is featured in a carnival are expected to help publicise it, so a busy carnival can attract a lot of traffic for all the participants.

The best way to get started in this field is to visit the website and search for carnivals in your niche (e.g. writing). In many cases you can also submit your post to a carnival via the website. The video below explains how to go about doing this:

If you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the video.

If you would like to see a published blog carnival, click here to view a recent issue of the Write Anything Creative Carnival. The next issue of this wide-ranging carnival is due out on 14 February 2009 - so if you want to make a start with blog carnivals, it could be a good one to submit to now.

I would just add a couple of tips from my admittedly limited experience of blog carnivals. First, if you choose to provide any additional information about your post on the entry form, bear in mind that it may be published word for word in the carnival, so think carefully how best to phrase it. And second, choose your post carefully. It should be something reasonably substantial and original, that visitors to the carnival will find genuinely worthwhile and interesting to read.

Good luck, and see you at the carnival!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

What I Learned From My First TV Appearance

I'm hardly an 'A List' writer, but from time to time I do get asked to appear on TV or radio. Typically, nowadays, this happens when a producer Googles the topic of his show, and one of my books comes up in the results list.

TV appearances in particular can be a great opportunity to promote yourself and your books to a large audience - so while I do still get a bit nervous before going in front of the cameras, I usually accept any invitations. (Although I did turn down one opportunity recently to discuss obituaries, where I had been asked because I wrote a novelty book about 'famous last words' ten years ago.)

Anyway, I thought in this post I'd tell you about my first-ever TV appearance, nearly twenty years ago, and what I learned from it. It was arranged by the publishers of a book I had written called How to Find Your Ideal Partner. As you may gather, this was a guide for single people on how to find the love of their life - sadly it's out of print now...

The publisher told me I'd be appearing on a regional evening news programme. Unfortunately it wasn't in my area but in the East of England. I was promised a rail travel voucher and an overnight stay in a nice hotel, but no fee. Still, hopefully the appearance would give sales of my book a big boost, in East Anglia anyway...

At first, all went well. I arrived at the station mid-afternoon and found my way to the hotel. I had been told a taxi would pick me up at six pm, so I amused myself for an hour or two watching afternoon TV and using the hotel swimming pool and sauna.

The taxi duly came, but instead of taking me to the studio as I expected, I was delivered to a local technical college. 'This is where they're filming,' the taxi driver explained helpfully.

OK, then. I headed for the college reception and explained my business. I was directed to a small room where a trio of bored-looking technicians were drinking coffee from plastic cups. I introduced myself to the one with the most impressive stubble. 'Oh, you're the relationships expert, aren't you?' I duly accepted this description. 'They want you up in the library.'

So off I went. I was immediately grabbed by the producer and told to stand by one of the bookshelves while the Glamorous Female Presenter introduced me. He gave me a slip of paper: 'Here's what we want you to say.' It was along the lines, 'I'll be telling you everything you need to know on how to meet the man or woman of your dreams.'

And within moments a camera was pointing at me and the GFP began, 'Tonight I want to introduce you to Nick Daws, our very own Doctor Lurrrve...' I was so stunned by this, I completely forgot what I was meant to say and instead muttered something like, 'Hey, there.' 'That'll do,' the producer said, and off we marched to the next location...

To cut a long story short, instead of the cosy studio discussion I had envisaged, the show in question was a manically paced, 'zany' affair. After the library, we invaded a workshop, where the only female student was asked embarrassing questions about whether she fancied any of the men there, and I was asked to pontificate on the attractions (or not) of evening classes for those in search of a mate.

Eventually I got a chance to sit down and the GFP asked me a few more serious questions about the dating game. I answered as best I could, and then suddenly the shoot was over. 'Thanks, mate,' one of the techs said as they were leaving. 'That was good TV.'

It was half-past six and I was left on my own as the crew bundled into their van and headed off to the local pizza house. I realised as they drove off that, in all the frantic excitement, I had completely forgotten to mention my book....

So that was my introduction to the crazy world of television. Here are a few things I learned from it. I pass them on in case any of you find yourselves in the position I was...

* Find out as much as you can beforehand about the show you are appearing on. Don't trust your publisher to tell you the whole story!

* If it's a regular show, try to watch it yourself a few times to get a feel for the style and approach.

* If it's not in your area, ask a friend or relative who does live there to watch and report back (and preferably send you a recording). Nowadays, you may be able to check it out on the Internet as well.

* Remember that the producer and interviewer will have their own agenda and 'angle' they want to pursue. Try to find out in advance what this is. If you're not happy about this, then say so.

* Have your own goal or target as well. If you're going to promote your book, DON'T forget to mention it! Be sure to take a copy with you, and if at all possible show it to the viewers.

* If you have a good anecdote to impart, tell the researcher beforehand. There is every chance it will be passed on to the interviewer, who will take the opportunity to ask you about it.

* And finally, don't take any of it too seriously. Try to relax and be yourself. TV is entertainment - it's not a matter of life or death.

So those are some of the lessons I learned from my first TV appearance - I'm glad to say others I've done subsequently have been a little more successful. But what about YOU? If you've been on TV or radio to discuss your work, I'd love to hear about your experiences and any tips you'd like to share. Please use the comment facility below.
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Promotional Site for Ebook Authors

I recently heard from Australia-based Mark Gladding about his new website eBooks Just Published.

This site is a resource for authors who want to announce their ebooks for free. It also allows readers to subscribe (either via email or RSS), so that they can keep up to date with all the latest ebook releases.

The site announces both fiction and non-fiction, the only major criterion being that the ebooks are DRM-free. It's important to note, however, that eBooks Just Published is NOT a publishing or hosting site. Each ebook listed needs to include a link back to the publisher's or author's own sales site.

eBooks Just Published does not carry any advertising at the moment, so I asked Mark how he plans to make money from it. He told me that his company, Tumbywood Software, also produces the program Text2Go, which turns text to speech. He is therefore hoping that some visitors will purchase the software to listen to their ebooks on the go.

Apart from that, though, Mark says he doesn't have any other money-making plans for the site: "I really just want to make it a useful resource for authors and readers at this stage."

It's early days for eBooks Just Published, but already I'm impressed with it and plan to use it myself in the future.

One thing I've noticed as well is the number of free ebooks that are available. For example, you can download an electronic version of the excellent and thought-provoking Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (which I'm currently reading as an Amazon Vine selection) free of charge via the site.

My advice is to check out eBooks Just Published and sign up to receive the email or RSS updates. Even if you don't plan on releasing any ebooks yourself, there are some real gems already available via the site for free or modest cost. It's definitely a resource to keep a close eye on.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Review: The Best-Seller Secret

The Best-Seller Secret is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Essential English for Authors, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The Best-Seller Secret is written by Dan Strauss, Senior Editor of the WCCL Network, and successful author Mel McIntyre. It's provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format, and is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Like all WCCL products, The Best-Seller Secret is beautifully produced, and it has obviously been professionally written and edited. I should make one point clear right away, however. Despite the title, The Best-Seller Secret will NOT show you how to write a best-seller (for that, try Novel in a Month or my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days).

Rather, The Best-Seller Secret is for anyone who has written a book, or is on the way to doing so, and wants to know how they can get it into the Amazon online bookstore's Top 100 Books list, with all the benefits that can flow from this.

You might perhaps think that only a major publishing house would have the resources (and budget) needed to propel a book into best-sellerdom. But, as this guide reveals, the Internet has changed all that.

The main manual - I'll get to the bonuses later - sets out a ten-step strategy to make your book an Amazon best-seller. It would be unfair to the publishers to reveal too many of its secrets, but they include getting celebrity endorsements, building up a pre-launch network of people who will help to promote your book, and using free bonuses to encourage people to buy.

The Best-Seller Secret really does make this whole process seem realistic and achievable. Yes, it will involve you in doing some work, but the returns (both direct and indirect) from having an Amazon best-seller should justify this many times over. It definitely can be done, and the guide includes several case studies of successful campaigns.

One thing I particularly liked about The Best-Seller Secret was the 'Campaign Flow Chart', which shows visually over several pages how to organize your publicity campaign. It's good to see WCCL using a few more diagrams and illustrations in its products these days. I was also impressed by the way the authors weren't afraid to discuss potential pitfalls and what to do if a particular aspect of your publicity campaign goes wrong.

In addition to the main guide, you get three additional bonus items. These are as follows:

Guide to Promoting Yourself & Your Book - This is a list of twenty 'quick-and-dirty' techniques for getting news of your book out to the world.

What's It Worth?- This mini-guide looks at pricing your book and, more importantly, easy techniques you can use to justify giving it a higher price tag.

Sample Letters & E-mail Templates - This is a set of templates you can use for e-mail messages to help market your book. It includes sample messages for endorsement requests, joint venture proposals, sales letters, and so on.

Really, my only reservation about The Best-Seller Secret is that it won't be suitable for every writer. As mentioned above, it's only likely to be relevant to you if you've written a book, or are well on the way to doing so. And it's likely to work best with non-fiction books, although many of the strategies would be effective with novels too.

I also think that the methods set out in The Best-Seller Secret would work best - or at least be easiest to apply - if you are self-publishing. It could undoubtedly work with conventionally published books too, but you would need to liaise closely with your publisher. Of course, it's hard to imagine that your publisher would have any objections if your efforts result in your book becoming a best-seller!

In summary, if you're writing a book or have written one, this guide to turning it into an Amazon best-seller could be one of the best investments you'll ever make. If you haven't yet written a book, a guide such as my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days might be more useful to you now, and then buy The Best-Seller Secret once your book is well on the way to completion!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finding a Publisher for Your Novel

I've had a few queries recently from writers frustrated by their inability to get a publisher to look at their novel. The one below is typical:

You know, I think the one biggest need for the writing community is a primer on how to actually get printed. I have written four novels now. I have submitted one to several companies (with no answer), one to an agent (with no discernible activity), and have two waiting in the wings. It seems I can get no one to look at any of them.

How do you find a publisher that is willing to work with you? I've most often heard that "it's all in having the right contacts" but how do you establish those? I resist vanity press and don't know the first thing about web publishing. I just want someone to publish my books. I am very frustrated. Writing the book is by far the easiest part of the whole thing...

I do have a lot of sympathy with the frustration expressed here. For a new writer today (who isn't already a 'celebrity') even getting a publisher to look at your work is a challenge. For what it's worth, here are a few suggestions that may help overcome this problem.

1. Try a Range of Agents and Publishers

The old days when you were told to avoid multiple submissions are long gone - life is simply too short to wait for some lowest-of-the-low junior editor to pluck your manuscript out of his/her in-tray and condescend to read it.

For checking out publishers and their requirements, I particularly recommend the annual Writer's Market and Writer's Market UK. These are comprehensive guides to the US and UK markets respectively, and both list a range of publishers in other countries as well.

There are nowadays some great interactive websites where you can search for agents who handle the type of book you are writing, and read comments by other authors about their experiences with them. LitMatch and QueryTracker are two such sites I highly recommend.

And by the way - don't just limit yourself to the country you're in. Publishing is nowadays very much a multi-national industry. If you're a UK writer specialising in hard-boiled detective fiction, you may find you get a better reception from some US publishers. Or if you're an American author specialising in historical novels set in 19th century London, you could most certainly try some British agents and publishers as well.

2. Enter Writing Contests and Competitions

I can speak from personal experience here - winning a high-profile contest really can open doors for you. A few years ago I won a short story contest run by a top UK women's magazine. As part of my prize I was invited to an awards ceremony at London's Dorchester Hotel. I was seated with (among others) a BBC producer, a literary agent and a book publisher, all of whom were keen to find out what other literary gems I had in my locker. In many ways the contacts I made through winning that competition were more valuable to me than the prize itself.

3. Get Testimonials in Advance

Anything you can do to help your book stand out from the rest will help. And one way of doing this is to get 'testimonials' for your book from published authors and/or celebrities, which you can submit to an agent or publisher along with your manuscript. My course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days goes into some detail about this, incidentally.

4. Make Your Novel as Good as It Can Be

You really do need to ensure that your novel is as good as it can possibly be before you submit it.

If you know that grammar and spelling aren't your strong points, therefore, ask someone you trust to go through it for you, or pay a professional editor. In any event, there is a lot to be said for getting your work checked over by someone seeing it with fresh eyes.

Be sure, especially, that the opening pages of your novel grab the reader. The days of long, rambling introductions are long past. You need to capture readers' interest and attention in the first few pages, either with the quality of the writing or an exciting scenario (preferably both).

Don't assume that publishers will overlook a few little mistakes either - they won't. You are entering a highly competitive arena, and only your very best work will do if you hope to succeed.

5. Don't Expect It to Be Easy

Perhaps I'm stating the obvious here, but getting a novel published is not - and never has been - easy. Even J.K. Rowling had her first Harry Potter book rejected by twelve publishing houses before a then-small independent publisher called Bloomsbury decided to take a chance on it.

Neither does it necessarily get easier once you've been published. I was talking recently to my friend Jeff Phelps, the award-winning novelist and short story writer. He told me that he had just sent his latest novel to his publishers and received a reply showing polite interest but asking him to rewrite the entire book and then re-submit it (still with no guarantee it will be accepted). And Jeff is a meticulous writer, so I'm sure there was nothing wrong with the book stylistically.

Looking at it from a publisher's point of view, publishing a first novel from an 'unknown' writer is a huge gamble. Publishers know that most first novels lose money, though there is always the hope that, like J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel, one will succeed spectacularly. As an author, your task is to demonstrate to a potential publisher that your book has that added 'X factor' that will make it stand out. And publishers also want to see that you have the ability to write more books, preferably lots of them. Even if your first book fails to make money for them, then, hopefully your second or third may be the 'breakthrough' novel that catapults you into the big time.

6. Consider Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is not the same as vanity publishing. It just means you take the financial risk of publishing your book yourself.

Print-on-demand services such as allow you to publish your book yourself and only pay when an order is actually received, so the risk is far less than the traditional method of getting hundreds or even thousands of books printed in advance.

As a self-publisher, you will have to handle everything from design to publicity yourself (or pay someone to do it on your behalf). However, all the profits will go to you as well. And a growing number of books that were initially self published are subsequently picked up by mainstream publishers.

7. Use the Internet to Promote Yourself and Your Work

This is a huge topic, and I can't go into great detail about it here. But there are lots of ways you can use the net to raise your profile and generate interest in your book, both from readers and potential publishers.

Here's just one example: You could publish extracts from your novel on a blog or website. Indeed, some writers have put their entire books online. If publishers can see that your work is attracting interest from readers, it may provide the encouragement they need to offer you a contract. At the very least, it means your work is being read and enjoyed by others rather than gathering dust in your desk drawer.

Finally, though, I would say: persevere. If you believe in your work and are sure it is worth publishing, keep sending it out. Eventually there is a real chance that someone else, an agent or a publisher, will read it and agree with you.

Good luck, and enjoy your writing.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Info for Bloggers

A little while ago in this post I mentioned a new service called BlogRush that aims to help bloggers attract more visitors. I know a number of you signed up with BlogRush as a result of that post, so I hope you are reasonably pleased with the results you are getting.

I thought you might like to know that the people behind BlogRush have just launched a new (and, again, free) website called TrafficJam. TrafficJam displays the most popular blog posts in the BlogRush network, both overall and in specific categories.

I was pleased to find that my recent post about the new Qassia revenue-sharing website was at number 18 in Traffic Jam's Writing & Literature category, so it appears on the first page for this category. The rankings are updated regularly, of course, so my post may have gone up or down by the time you read this!

For BlogRush members, TrafficJam provides an opportunity for your best posts to gain extra publicity. And it's also very useful for seeing the post titles that are attracting the greatest interest from readers (coming up with good titles for your posts is the key to getting more visitors from BlogRush)

But even if you're not a BlogRush member, you might still want to use TrafficJam to review the most popular posts in any category. If you're looking for ideas for topics for your own blog that will attract readers, TrafficJam should prove a useful research tool - and it's also a good tool for discovering blogs you may not have seen before covering your area/s of particular interest.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Grab This Free Report on Publicising Your Book!

If you've written a book, or are in the process of writing one, here's a free report you won't want to miss.

Beyond the Press Release: 10 Exciting Book Buzz Ideas That Will Take You to the Top is written by Sandra Beckwith, an award-winning US book publicist, author of two publicity books, and online course instructor for Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz. You can download the report free of charge by clicking on this link.

The report comes in the form of a highly professional-looking PDF. It's much more than just the 10-point list I half-expected to receive. There are 13 pages of excellent advice on promoting your book, including some ideas I'd certainly never thought of myself. For example, here's an extract from Idea 9, Start Your Own Holiday:
Whether its serious or lighthearted, your holiday can be the launch pad for an annual publicity campaign.

Every year, humor writer Jen Singer generates national publicity for her collection of laugh-out-loud parenting essays, 14 Hours 'Til Bedtime, through the holiday she created, 'Please Take My Children to Work Day.'

How can you not smile when you see that title? Whether you're a humorist, a science fiction writer, or a biographer, you can use this technique to generate buzz for your book every year, too.

Start by brainstorming ideas for a holiday that is appropriate and relevant to your book but attention-getting, too. A funny holiday will get more attention than a serious one, but a lighthearted concept isn't required. Here are a few examples using books written by a few students in my book publicity course to get you thinking:

'Visit a Cemetery Day' for Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial
'Call a Sick Friend Day' for How to Say it When You Don't Know What to Say: The Right Words for Difficult Times
And Sandra goes on to explain how you can make your holiday 'official' by registering it at a certain website.

As well as the free report, you also get a free subscription to Sandra's monthly newsletter. This is also very informative, and includes interviews with successful authors and publicists, tips on publicising your work, and much more. Obviously, though, you can unsubscribe to the newsletter any time you like.

I'm sure Sandra hopes that as a reader of her report and newsletter, you might like to buy her book publicity guides and workbooks, attend one of her courses, or even hire her professional services. However, there is no hard sell involved. I've also corresponded with Sandra recently, and found her friendly and helpful.

As I said above, if you're writing a book or have written one, I do recommend going to Sandra's website and grabbing a copy of her free report while it's still available.

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