Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Conf 616: Ebooks, going in

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The website and test title is up. Getting there with the actual book now. There's so, so much more to think about than just the words - font style, font size, spacing, page layout, stills, covers. Covers!

Thought I'd cracked it with Amazon's free online publishing tool Create Space which offers free cover templates as well as a marketplace but that's for hard copy books. If you're thinking of self-publishing books, music or video, worth a look. The samples don't look great but they've just announced a competition Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Fairly sure it's free to enter. There are two prizes, one for General Fiction one for Young Adult fiction, both Penguin publishing deals with $15,000 advances.

Spent an age on Google trying to find a good ebook cover template site. After seeing American author, Writing Spirit's tweet of her latest cover, all very professional-looking and done in Word, I found my way. It's knowing where to click inside all the graphicy bits. I'm enjoying all the visuals side a bit too much, have to discipline myself to get the words edited and proof read. To stand any chance of picking up the link from the press it has to be up there within a week on the outside. I must get confirmation from my agent she's happy for me to do this as well.

Happy New Year to you, thanks for staying with me all this time, and please come again soon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Conf 615: Books dead or alive

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“I’m on the publishers’ side,” says the author Lionel Shriver, whose novel We Need to Talk About Kevin won the Orange prize in 2005. Her principal US publisher, HarperCollins, holds the digital rights to her eight published titles.
“If a publisher has worked hard to keep your work in print, and consistently marketed it, and built up an author’s brand, that should be rewarded. Anything that upholds the value of the physical book gets my support.”
Quite right. But for new authors and those mid-listers (of which I suppose I'm one) the arrival of the ebook can only be good news.

I love real books as passionately as anybody. Borders' closing down sale in Hammersmith last week, with everything, including the shelving, piled up like the dregs of a jumble sale, was a very sad sight. The thought of public libraries disappearing into a sea of screens is even worse. But I don't think that'll happen and I'm sure the smaller bookshops we all love so much will survive.

A few months ago I went to a debate Books - Dead or Alive at the Society of Authors. It was chaired by Margaret Drabble with Suzanne Baboneau, Publishing Director of Simon & Schuster and Richard Charkin, MD of Bloomsbury. Nobody denied the industry was going through a difficult time, but the consensus was that eBooks are another place for writing to exist. They'll have their place alongside traditional paperbacks and hardbacks rather than replace them. One author stood up and said he'd bought back the rights to his out of print novel to publish online. He wasn't only seeing it come alive again but was making a nice little income as well. Suzanne had done some research on the main users of eBooks in the US and found that the most frequent users are couples. One can read in bed with the lights out whilst the other sleeps. The obvious other main use will be for travel. Suzanne uses her eReader for reading submitted manuscripts on her commute, as I expect most editors and agents do now. Just think, one day the printing and posting of 3 chapters and SAE will be gone forever.
Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Conf 614: Successful Failures No 437

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@paulcarr - Twitter profile: writer, hideously successful failure, kind of a dick.

Did you read about bestseller Stephen R Covey's decision to publish his ebooks exclusively on Amazon Digital? Now Friday Project founder Paul Carr has put his (already published) book online via a technical website. Bringing Nothing to the Party, True Confessions of a New Media Whore is great. Don't know what the electronic term is for page turner, but it's one of those and I really couldn't stop reading it this morning. Download and read the politics behind his decision at TechCrunch.

I've been busy writing up my new non-fiction book these past weeks. Am hoping to get it out on Amazon before the newspaper profile comes out in mid-January. I've nearly finished the text and then need to do the stills. Through eHow, found the simplest way was to put the text and stills on Google Documents and then transfer it back on PDF and then, with a bit of messing around with fonts, spacings and covers you have your ebook. I've done one trial run with a short story, next will be following the eHow guide to putting the non-fiction onto Amazon. Looks fairly straightforward but will see.

I'm keeping this to non-fiction in the hope that my agent will respond positively to the new novel. The wall between fiction and non-fiction is fairly solid, there's been no interest on that side and I am checking in and keeping her informed. I've still had no news though which is worrying. I'm convinced she hates the new novel. Waiting for the verdict is just one of the worst things about writing. Author friends have been saying for weeks it's OK, and I know I know agents are really busy people. JUST PICK UP THE PHONE! I know, I know, but I'm just too scared now and don't want to ruin my Christmas.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

CONF 613: Successful Failures No 436

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A seasonal offering here Roger Lewis'Seasonal Suicide Notes - a failure no more, surely. Simon Gray laugh out louds.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Conf 612: Amazon Digital

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Am in full self-promotion mode now. Newspaper did want pic, taken by myself on my iMac yesterday sans hairdresser but with new lip gloss & eyeliner. I'm now rushing to finish next non-fiction book. With my agent's permission I want to get this out on Amazon Digital in time for publication in mid-January.

As it's been many weeks now and still no news on the novel, I'm going to check in to make sure I didn't get lost in the spam filter. This means steeling self for bad news but at least I've got other things going on.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Conf 611: Down To Business

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No news from agent. It's only 2 weeks and I'm trying to be cool about it. Trouble is I had such a dangerous burst of confidence, did you notice, it's taken some coming to terms with. I've now gone from excitement at the possibilities ahead to complete 100% conviction that that's it. Rejection and big slide down snake are imminent.

I've been quite good at not thinking about it. Had some great feedback from the newspaper editor on the supplement I've been working on. They're going to give me as big a plug as they can. Asked for a full page profile and there's a possibility of a photo shoot to accompany. Cuts will no doubt be made and pic highly unlikely, just as well as hairdressers are way out of my budget zone at the moment. What's great about it is the platform it gives me to have another go at selling my new non-fiction idea. The mag comes out in middle of January so I've got a bit of time.

Meantime had a great couple of days at the business startup show last week. Not that I have a business, yet. But I've got my Idea and have been messing around with a beginner's Mr Site web-builder. So I printed up some business-cards on the Mac and off I went. Went to lots and lots of talks, or seminars as they call them, and learnt so, so much. The seminars were free and very popular so the queues were long, but fun with everybody chatting away. It was like a parallel London in that respect. Back out on the street everybody stopped talking to each other again. I got quite high on it all, imagining how much fun it would be to have a business. To actually get out there and be doing something constructive about my future instead of sitting at the computer for months and months on end and then eventually sending it all off. And waiting and hoping. And dreading and waiting. Then the bad news, or good news that soon turns bad. I'm going to write up my notes now. Might do them here.

Top Ten Tips for Web Success

Consistent colours
Size 12 font minimum
7 seconds to capture new visitors' interest
Avoid hyphens in web names, very important
Contact details are very important. Have a postal address. Can lose up to 70% of customers if you don't give an address. If need be make it a PO Box service.
Don't write loads
1 paragraph only on home page
Update every 2 weeks - improves search engine position
Make Wikipedia, My Space pages and link back
Key words in content. But the trick of writing key words over and over in the same colour as the background is not to be attempted. Banned by Google.
If you get a web designer to make your site, get a fixed price NOT hourly.
Use istock photos, free resources. istockphoto.com

Somewhere between these notes, I think it's here moved on to another queue for

Real teccie super-expert, founder of Shopzilla (sold in 2005 for $M569!) and dot Tel and his talk on

Search Engine Optimization on a Budget

How to get to the top of Google, known as SEO.

(Somebody in a queue told me that if you're not in the top four on the first page, forget it. Everybody's fighting for those slots and some companies pay SEO Optimisers a great deal of money to get them up there. Also, incidentally, she told me her husband writes Apps for iPhones & one of the newest ones is an estate agent, Rightmove, which has an app for house hunting. So you stand in the street and open the App and it'll tell you all the houses for sale closest to where you're standing!)

He said that in the world of SEO experts there are many lies and snake oil fallacies.
They sell with pitches like Number 1 Google guarantee. but under what terms? For how long? Crabs? Risks? Bing? The thing is, if there's a loophole it will be found and then Google will hurt you. You'll slide right back down to the bottom, like me and my novel pitching, back to the beginning you'll be sent.

The fact is things change. Signals are constantly changing. User behaviour changing. People have more knowledge of search engines. Average number of words in search box used to be one, now it's 3.

Mobile phone usage - people want to type less on mobiles, and navigate more. They'd rather push a button than pull up a keyboard.

Cat and mouse fight with SEO optimises chart system.

Meta tags, keywords. MILLIONS use the popular ones like finance, news etc. SEO impact is ZERO. DON'T waste time managing Meta tags. Exploited words are never, ever used by search engines.

The thing to do is

1. Make the engine find YOU
2. Make people choose YOU

INDEX

You can get easily indexed.
Best results for search is content, on pages.

All about links? Not true.

AUTHORITY. ON TOP!

DOMAIN string most important part. Domain URLS are criticl. .info. .biz. dot whatever GET IT.

AGE - you have to wait. Older, better. First 3 - 6 months it's a 'sandbox', to avoid spamming.
Changes slow to appear. Read up on "Google dance".

Since Twitter - real time search is a big deal.

Google thinking of integrating real time search. Feeds from Twitter, Real time, encyclopaedic.

PAGE LOAD TIME:

5 seconds, horrible disaster.
1 second good.
0.2 seconds feeling of 'instantaneous'. Magical. Cost of clicking on another page, ZERO. Reader will STAY and click around.

Increase speed, reduce clutter.

Increase no. of valuable placements. DON'T TRY to outsmart algorythms. Ask is what I publish useful to those who look at it?

Classic SEO tactics
Flash, real media
Don't EVER duplicate content, you get massacred.

To point the search crawlers to all your properties - guerilla tactics, ADD POINTS OF PRESENCE Twitter, Facebook, Linked IN, Google Profile (beware, keep updated). Actively participate in forums, don't spam forums, show you're an expert in your field, Traffic from communities much more valuable than search engines. If in community talk about your side (VG)

He knew his stuff. At the end of the next queue was Richard Farleigh. I didn't take any notes. Just sat and stared...

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.