Back In The Saddle

Well, after an overly extended break where I took the time to retool parts of the next books, I have finally managed to come up with what will be the end of book four which had been nagging me for over a decade.

That being said, the book of short stories are now in the process of being massaged and edited for release sometime in the next week or two.

More to come as the break is over and the work is begun once again 8)

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The Holidays are Here!

One of the most difficult time to find time to be creative is during the Holiday season that starts just before Thanksgiving and lasts through New Years.

Why? Well, for starters – family obligations, Black Friday and the preparations for Christmas that are and can be a LOT of work for everyone involved.

And not to mention the New Years fun.

Which brings up yet more fun: what does one want for Christmas this year?

For myself, I found a great option using my Amazon Store to give a central point for tips that family could visit as a starting point should they need one.

The best thing one could have is family, friends, and of course fans who enjoy your stories. Without any one of those there wouldn’t be an ability to be creative.

Hopefully this holiday season finds you and yours healthy and wise and safe among your family, friends and fans as well.

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How to backup your Amazon aStore and why.

storefront1One particular benefit of the Amazon Associates program is the ability to create your own on-line store that contains links to Amazon products of your choice.

Having access to such an on-line store can and does greatly benefit both you and those that you may list through purchases that occur when people who visit your store choose to purchase the products listed therein.

While you won’t earn a percentage of each particular sale from your store directly, you will manage to earn a small percentage of sales in their entirety each month that your store is open and available.

You can spend countless hours, days and even weeks creating a layout that contains links to products categorized and organized as you wish along with how you want them to be presented to those that may visit your website.

wp1WordPress even has methods to incorporate your store into their various themes that allow them to seamlessly integrate into your website.

Once you are done your store can add much content and opportunity to your website.

backup1At this point it may be a good idea to consider making a backup of your links, just in case.

Of what, you may ask?

 

closed1Well, in the event that you happen to run afoul of the terms and conditions of the Amazon Associates program, there is a good chance that your store account will be terminated and you will no longer have access to your store.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your store is gone, it simply may mean that you no longer have access to modify or update it.

Once the dust settles as to why you may have incurred such a closure, you will need to create a new store to replace the old.

Backing up your store as you create or update it will make this process much easier as you can load lists of ASIN numbers quickly and easily to rebuild a category should you need to.

Within the aStore console you simply do the following:

  • select a category
  • select ‘Add products’
  • select ‘Upload a List’
  • select the second tab, ‘View All ASINs’
  • select ‘Highlight ASINs’
  • right click and select copy
  • open a file of your choice – I happen to use text files – paste the list and save the file.

At this point you now have a backup of that particular category. Should the need arise  you can import that list and have it look the same as when it was backed up.

It should also be pointed out that if you were to add or remove items, you should also update the backup file(s) accordingly.

A second method, should you find your aStore closed but still available, would be to go through each link within a category of the old store and paste the links into a file.

Each link will have the ASIN number at the very end where you can trim each line and have the same list that you would have had were you to have gone through the previous backup procedure.

storefront1While many may scoff at the necessity of such efforts, should you find yourself in the situation that I recently did — it will pay dividends as you work to recreate your store.

When Amazon closes an aStore, it is not possible to reopen it and you have to reapply and create a new one.

wordpress-backupHopefully now, should you happen to have an aStore, you will know a couple ways to make a backup and feel more confident that you won’t have to start from scratch if the occasion should arise that you were to lose access to it.

 

 

 

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BEFORE you publish, consider acquiring an LCCN.

libofcong1What? You have no idea what an LCCN is?

LCCN = Library of Congress Control Number.

Read more here from the LoC website.

Also Mill City Press has a great description here.

Createspace info can be found here.

What this basically will be is the number assigned through a case that is opened by your publisher to get your book entered into the process of acceptance into the Library of Congress. This control number typically can be displayed on your copyright page if you were inclined to do so.

As I discovered recently with my first book, if you overlook this step as I had, you will need to open a case with the Library of Congress yourself and then send two copies of your work to them for consideration.

By acquiring a LCCN number prior to publication, your publisher – in my case Createspace – applies for you and also submits a copy of your book for consideration.

The difference in price initially on the surface is roughly ten dollars (US).

For a LCCN before publication through Createspace (at the time of this post) it is twenty-five dollars (US) while applying directly through the Library of Congress is thirty-five dollars (US) plus two copies of your book and postage to send them.

The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

While acquiring this number does not guarantee that your work will be accepted into the Library of Congress, it at least gets the work information entered into their database which other libraries will access.

Not all public libraries that you may have offered your book(s) will enter the information in all databases.

Is it worthwhile to consider as part of your publishing process? I would venture to say yes without question.

budget-hiWith every book that you publish there will be a budget of some sort for advertising and such and a LCCN number guarantees that it will be found in a place that makes it worthwhile.

 

Sometimes the best investment is one that although it involves a gamble of sorts does give a return worth the price and effort in the process.

 

So in the end, I will recommend it as something to seriously consider if not already place in that checklist that is used when you publish.

Every little bit helps 8)

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A good place to think about your current work in progress

hunter_taking_aim_at_a_buck_clipart_imageRecently I was able to get away for a few days and enjoy my annual trek to Northern Minnesota in search of the ever elusive deer that are rumored to live around my parent’s cabin. There is nothing more peaceful than sitting on a deer stand, trying to avoid boredom, than to consider where your current work in progress is at and how it should move forward.

Does that mean I had all kind of notebooks or even a laptop out in the woods? Absolutely not.

squirrel1Instead I literally had a pluthera of squirrels to bounce ideas off of as they ran around me or toss up thoughts thrown out for the various birds that happened to swoop by. Now for those of the more organized variety this may have brought much angst as to keeping track of what you may have come up with – but on the same token it allows you to sit back and actually think about your story without having to make those cursed notes or pesky reminders.

If forces you to just sit there and think about things and sometimes your books and the story lines that they contain.

More often than not, I have learned to sorta, kinda, know how a particular book is going to end, but often find myself muddling in the middle as I try to go from how things started out to how I’m going to actually get there. By playing, replaying and replaying yet again the threads that are going to have to be there, once I got back I feel that I have a much better grip on how the current work in progress will progress once I get back to it.

Although I did manage to see four deer and actually get a shot off at two of them, regretfully we left the herd more or less intact for next season (my Dad got a doe) while still managing to work out some kinks that will eventually bubble up to much clearer and more concise ideas to work with in time.

Sometimes just letting it sit on a back burner is often the best tonic to any writer who’s every growing imagination needs much food for thought even while on vacation 8)

sleeping-hunter-with-deer

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Don’t forget your local public library

public-library-clip-artOne particular place that can get your book out to the general public along with giving them a chance to read it — which for many artists such as myself is what, in the end, drives us to write in the first place — is none other than your local public library.

Budgets being as they often are, consider donating a copy of your work(s) to your local library(s) as a method of assuring that they will have them on their shelves.

Many distributors, including Createspace.com will offer channels that already include many systems that public libraries use to order their selections, however it is entirely possible that your book(s) may not be among those that they opt to order for reasons that are entirely beyond your control.

Another option is to have friends visit their local library and ask about your book(s) which could result in an order being placed for it — or have them donate a copy themselves.

hammondavelibrary1I personally have memories of having wandered the many aisles of our local Hammond Avenue library in Superior Wisconsin years ago as I wondered how cool it would have been to have seen my name on the shelves along with the many that were already there.

bl-kassonpublibrary2Fortunately, now I can say that it is very cool thanks to our local Kasson MN public library. I’ve also donated a copy to the library in Rochester MN and within the week I plan to donate a copy to the public library in my hometown of Superior WI.

Although the Hammond Avenue Library is no longer a public library, I will feel proud to have completed the circle of someone who once wondered what it would be like, to someone who does and can appreciate the work involved to have been found on that shelf amongst so many others.

To many it may not be as big a deal as it may have appeared to me, but in the end it should be as the local library is perhaps one of the first places that many young readers start their journeys as they delve into what is out there to read and enjoy.

Kids often do pay attention to what their parents may have read 8)

Just a thought to consider when you next ponder where you would like your books to be found as kindness to local libraries is guaranteed to get you Karma points.

And everyone needs those 8)

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Why have ads on your website? Because people shop.

Not long after I launchadvertising1ed my blog/website, I began to hear more and more about “opportunities” to make money by using ads – through Facebook, Google and other such services that are more than happy to take money to help you make money through them.

Wait, what? Suddenly worried that you may be on someone’s Facebook friends list and will now get bombarded with ads? In the words of Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers: R-e-l-a-x.

Facebook advertising uses lists that people build through various methods to createbull_title_card
lists of yet others who either match or have similar likes. If you, much like myself, avidly watch the new TV show “Bull” with Michael Weatherly, you could almost call it a “ghost jury” not unlike those portrayed in the show.

Marketing these days has all KINDS of ways to get ads to people on most any device that they own. Facebook and Google have gotten very good at it by giving the right tools to the right people. More than a few books have been written on how to make money simply by investing in Facebook advertising.

Want an example of how it works?

As the investor in the video above mentions, he’s been able to make quite a living at this process and explains that if you get an ad from Facebook and click on it, even though you don’t necessarily purchase that item, anything that you then continue to browse to will count for the person who placed the ad. In the case of one example, someone clicked on an ad for one of his book collections, opted out of buying it but decided on a sudden whim to purchase a three thousand dollar Rolex watch. Since the purchase was made while he had still been on the site that he’d used the ad portal to get to, the person who placed the ad got a small percentage of the sale. Such things can and do add up even where small percentages are concerned

In this way both the advertiser and the vendor benefit from a kind of teaming up of resources.

Now this often doesn’t come cheaply and you really need to  investigate before investing as the name “Ponzi” kept coming to mind while I looked into it – in this case it’s actually not a pyramid scheme at all, you actually get what you pay for with what you opt to invest over time – I realized it’s more like gambling that can and does pay off.

Reportedly, according to what he’s stated on occasion when asked, this particular investor often spends upwards of six hundred dollars a day on Facebook Ads that in return bring him roughly fifteen-hundred dollars or more in return.

Now before you pull out your checkbook, please realize that the person that I refer to has worked for years to finesse his list of a target audience and has mastered the art of such advertising along with what platforms he uses his ads upon and actually gives classes on how to do it. For someone starting out, as he often has suggested, you can get by through five to ten dollars a day to see how the returns come back for your investment.

Still a little risky and rich for my blood.


Amazon Associates     VS     Google Adsense

In my particular case I’m not ready for such investments or gamble, so I looked into other advertising ideas for my blog/website – Google Adsense and Amazon Associates.


Google Adsense

The good and bad of Google Adsense is that they only work with websites that are at the roots of any particular service provider. To those who don’t speak Geek, this means that if you have a website hosted beneath another, much like I originally had with my kiltedswinebbq.com and sellersjr.com (sellersjr.com originally was hosted as kiltedswinebbq.com/sellersjr) – they won’t let you use their services as explained through e-mails that are generic enough in nature not to explain the problem in any clear or concise manner (sorry Google, but you really need to work on that).

It actually wasn’t until I’d spent several hours researching and posting in their forums that someone explained what the problem actually was.

To solve the problem of hosting and roots, at least in my case, I separated both my websites to their own hosted entities, moved my WordPress blog/website and then reapplied – and waited. And waited. And Waited.

Did I mention that I waited?        dad_sleeping_on_a_couch_0515-1005-1302-0338_smu

One problem with Adsense is that you really don’t get much control over what and how things are done on your website other than laying out how and where ads will appear. As someone in my writer’s group recently pointed out from their experience with the service that it’s possible that you may get things advertised that you really wouldn’t want to be associated with and some hosted ads do come with hacker baggage nowadays so …

Needless to say, once I discovered how difficult it is for their analytics to analyze my website, the decision became very, very clear.

I gave up on trying to get Adsense to work with my site. If your curious – yes, I’m still waiting as of this post to hear that my website has not been accepted into the Adsense program.

They who hesitate, at least in this case, have lost out.


Amazon Associates

So then I turned to the Amazon Associates program.

Given that my book(s) have been or will be published through Createspace which is a subsidiary of sorts with Amazon, I opted to help support that which helped me get my various books published as they have or will.

Now this doesn’t mean that you will suddenly begin to get pop-ups or any such annoying ads – but you may find books listed with links to their Amazon pages where you can purchase them, which if you were to click on and follow the links, Amazon keeps track of where you got to them and those of us who are part of the program get a small percentage of the sale in return.

Before you start shaking your head, let me give yet another reason for consideration of going with this particular process.

Previously on my website, I’d gone through a LOT of trouble to build code that randomlyrandom-number-generator-158591 placed links to books that I thought others might enjoy and to help get the word out about books written by local authors.

Fortunately, I am very adept at programming most anything including my VCR and smart phone (sorry couldn’t resist age old humor) and was able to deliver what I wanted without having lost much speed on the load to my website or having it look the same way each and every time someone visited it.

Not that anyone else may have noticed, but I do and did. Think about the last time that you updated your website and how it looks each time people revisit it versus their original visit.

There was really no benefit to me for having done this other than the karma of feeling good about doing what I could to help others.

Now with the Amazon Associates program I can do much the same thing and bring yet even more to the table by giving prospective viewers of my webpage not only the links to the same books, but their prices as well – which may or may not yet further draw them to check said books out and if they happen to purchase the books I get something in return for my efforts.

Another great thing about the Associates program is that it allows you to place banner ads for Amazon services that will also bring you some income if visitors happen to apply through your ad.

Does this seem diabolical? It shouldn’t. Everyone shops, Googles and peruses such places as Amazon and other on-line retailers where they spend much more these days than they would have otherwise done had they gone to brick and mortar stores in the same instance.

All it does for those who happen to partake in the program is to offer a method that will in turn perhaps help pay for their web hosting or other such methods of advertising (and yes, my website could be and probably is considered an advertising tool in and of itself for my hobbies).

AD Block

AD Block

So in the end, if you don’t want to see ads as you visit websites, by all means turn them off using addons to your browser such as adblocker or others such tools that are out there.

For me it was just a better way of doing what I’ve already been doing and in this case perhaps getting some return for my efforts.

I hope you enjoy the new look 8)

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Beware the draw of the money sink

moneysink2As you embark on any project, whether it be construction, maintenance or even a hobby, there will always be ways to have others spend your money. Often this can be in a good way through the use of professional services that truly endeavor to make what you do better.

But then there are those who will be more than happy to lure you into spending money getrich1just for the chance that they may be able to help you. Now, as well meaning as these people or business may initially appear – they may not be the best way for you to spend your hard earned money and should be thoroughly reviewed before any consideration is given.

Recently, having published my first book, Blood-Lines, I have been researching ways to get my book both marketed and reviewed. Along the way I’ve discovered many paid services that will only consider your book for review if you pay a stipend or full amount up front with no guarantees that you will ever have your book reviewed by them.

In other words you’re taking a calculated gamble and/or risk that such effort and investment will pay clip-art-casino1off and give dividends that will be far more than what you invested.

Now, I am in no way, shape or form suggesting that this particular practice is in any way fraudulent as these services do indeed need to make money to survive just like anyone else – but what I am going to to point out is that caution is best served when dealing with such services.

As an Indy Author, I am probably among the majority who have little or no budget to work with and have invested as wisely as I can, where I can. In my case this has involved good-guy-vs-bad-iclipartpurchasing the rights to artwork for covers and such, ordering books to give away to libraries or posters to hang on my wall (just in case I ever am called upon to do an author event, I’ll have bling to bring 8))

At the moment I have little or no budgetary funds to apply for services that I probably should be using; such as editors or cover designers so I end up doing much if not all of the technical work myself.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no artist (as my daughter Taylor who IS an artist can attest), but I can see what I want my covers to look like and through such great services such as Shutterstock.com or DeviantArt.com and others I have been able to gather the look and feel that I wantedwriter1 and build my covers using such inane tools as paint.net and other graphics tools that allow someone with the least amount of artistic talent to use what technical skills they may have to deliver an end product that is pleasing to the eye of most people.

There are a lot of free services out and about as well that will work with you to get your book seen, heard or reviewed while there are also several that will only do so if you choose to invest in their efforts.

And this can and is often a good way to know which ones will actually do what they advertise. Before investing, always check on what others will have to say about such services simply because if they are paid they will get reviewed without doubt.

Money talks, as it were.

Free services will also have reviews which should give some indication if they are worth looking at as well.

Just remember, free does not always mean completely free.

There are enough tales of warning out there from authors who have had to write off investments to know that what you see is not often what you get.

An old saying, often used in most any situation, suggests that things come to those who wait and it often bears fruit. Few if any authors are overnight successes. Perhaps taking the slow road to success can build a better platform and protect your investments as you go.

Just more food for thought to consider.

 

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Adventures with Smashwords Part 2

swlogoWell after discovering the difference between fixed format and free-flow with my kindle e-books I have to admit that Smashwords offers much to consider as their format and the suggested tools to achieve it have helped to get my e-book formatted properly for both SW and Kindle free-flow formats.

Now, my e-book has one format but two different versions to allow for a difference in copyright pages to acknowledge the distribution by KDP and SW. Unlike KDP, SW also has an ISBN associated with the e-book.

Fortunately for me this also means far less maintenance as I only have on e-book to edit as necessary.

While several marketing channels do overlap, I have been able to opt out of those that KDP will have my e-books in to avoid confusion (hopefully).

Going forward I will continue to use both distribution methods as a way to ensure that those on platforms outside of what Kindle can accommodate have an option to get my book and enjoy it.

The verdict? Two thumbs up!

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Kindle Formats – Fixed vs Free Flow

When you opt to create a Kindle version of your book there are two forms of your end product that you must consider.

Unfortunately for me, after reading several how-to’s and being a newbie to most things kindle, outside of owning a few e-books and having read them on my phone and Amazon Fire HD 8 — I opted to follow the advice of using the Kindle Textbook Creator Tool which creates an e-book almost identical to the printed version of my book with a table of contents which allowed the reader to accurately move within the text via the Kindle application itself.

Seemed to make the most sense at the time.

Unfortunately this  tool does exactly what you ask it to and you get an e-book which on the surface looks like it will work on most any Kindle device that you might opt to load it on.

After purchasing the e-book and downloading it, all things looked good.

Which proved not entirely to be the case.
Although the e-book loaded fine on my Amazon fire and Android phone, it would not show as available for my Wife’s Kindle Paperwhite which in turn led me to discover through an
e-mail response from KDP support that my e-book was in a fixed format while the Paperwhite and many devices like it are free-flow only.

This in turn led to some research and the discovery of yet another Kindle tool: KindleGen

Once I took my original manuscript that I had formatted for e-book reading and ran it through the Reanimus Nuclear Assistant tool, I was able to rebuild the file with proper page breaks and a table of contents which also allowed for it to become a template for publication on Smashwords as well with the proper ISBN so that both e-book products have the same look and feel.

In the end, I now understand what both tools are and how they work along with what output they will give you should you opt to use them.

The next step was to unpublish my initial e-book and republish as a new version using the
mobi formatted file and it has a much better look and feel as a free-flow book on both my devices and my Wife’s Paperwhite which also accepts it now.

Once Amazon re-links the printed book with the new e-book and the data from the old, things will be much better.

So there you have it, yet another thing to consider if you choose to publish your book and an example of how I’ve learned what and what not to do.

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