Dealspotr – A New Deal Spotting Site Open to Everyone!

In this post a few weeks ago I talked about Top Cashback and Quidco, two websites that offer the opportunity to get money back on a huge range of online shopping deals.

As a result of that post I was invited to check out another site that aims to help canny consumers save money on their shopping. This one is called Dealspotr. It is US-based, but anyone in the world is welcome to join.

The way Dealspotr works is that when you sign up you provide some basic information about the sorts of things you like to buy online (groceries, fashion, cosmetics, health/medical products, etc.). You can also subscribe to specific brands such as McDonald’s. Any time you log in, the site then shows you the latest deals in that category (see screen capture below).

Dealspotr website

Dealspotr also has an important community aspect. For example, members can vote on their favorite deals, and the deals generating most votes are highlighted in the Hot Deals or On Fire Deals categories.

As well as savings, however, you can also make money from Dealspotr, by earning points that can be redeemed for gift cards. You earn points for sharing deals, finding (curating) deals, flagging up expired or invalid deals, referring new members, commenting on deals, and various other actions. You will earn a $10 gift card for every 10,000 points you earn. And you can get your first 5,000 points (worth $5) by clicking through to Dealspotr using my link.

I have only been a member of Dealspotr for a short time but am very impressed with the concept and the sort of deals you can access via the site. It is a good example of how a website can be greatly augmented by encouraging members to engage and interact with it.

At present Dealspotr is likely to be of most interest to US residents, but many of the deals are also open to people living elsewhere. And as the site grows, I expect more and more deals targeted at people living in the UK and other countries to appear as well.

If you have any comments or questions about Dealspotr, as ever, please do post them below.

Join Dealspotr here and get 5000 points straight away!






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Ride the Star Wind: Call for Submissions

Here’s a nice (paying) opportunity for all you science fiction, fantasy and horror authors!

Broken Eye Books, a Seattle-based independent publishing house, is inviting contributions for a themed anthology series of weird horror set in or inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. This will be a follow-up to their original Tomorrow’s Cthulhu anthology (pictured above).

The next release is Ride the Star Wind: Cthulhu, Space Opera, and the Cosmic Weird, presenting tales that combine space opera with cosmic weird horror, either set within the Cthulhu Mythos or inspired by it. On their website they say:

Send us into space, away from earth, and bring the weird! Give us adventure and wonder, spaceships and monsters, tentacles and insanity, determined struggle and starborne terror. Whether sprawling in scope or tightly focused and personal, make sure to give us a taste of the greater universe of your story, such as the culture and politics. Make us long to know more of your universe. 

We want diverse stories with modern sensibilities from many different voices that show the immense and diverging possibilities ahead for weird horror. We want to forge ahead and explore the new and the strange. We are actively seeking submissions from writers from underrepresented populations. (This includes, but is not limited to, writers of any race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, class, and physical or mental ability.) 

  • We want stories that mesh space opera with cosmic weird horror
  • For the elements of space opera, modern touchstones include James SA Corey (Expanse series), Ann Leckie (Imperial Radch series), Iain Banks (Culture series), Nnedi Okorafor (Binti), David Brin (Uplift trilogy), and Becky Chambers (Wayfarers series). For mixing elements of space opera and cosmic weird horror, the short story “Boojum” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette is a great touchstone. The technology level for submissions can fall anywhere in the soft- to hard-science range.
  • Stories should also be set within or be inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. We want to see the Mythos continue to grow and evolve, to expand as a shared literary world and not be tied to outdated and limiting sensibilities. We are not interested in stories with bigoted, unbalanced views on race and gender.
  • Subversive or experimental stories are welcome. 
  • No pastiches of previous eras for either the space opera elements or the weird horror elements. 
  • Original, previously unpublished short stories (3,000-6,000 words) and flash fiction (1,000 words or less).
  • Pay rate of 8 c/w for first rights to digital, audio, and print formats in English. 
  • Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but please, let us know as soon as possible if your submission has become unavailable before you hear back from us.
  • Only one submission per author.
  • We seek both rich characters and grandiose ideas. We seek diverse characters.


For more details, including how to submit, click through to the Broken Eye Books website. The submission window is open from October 31, 2016 to January 31, 2017. They say, “The published  anthology will be a mix of stories both from invited authors and from slush pile submissions. Don’t self-reject. If in doubt, submit.”

Good luck!

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Publisher's Power Tool

Review: Publisher’s Power Tool

Publisher’s Power Tool is the latest writing product to be launched by my colleague Amy Harrop and her business partner Debbie Drum. Amy and Debbie were kind enough to allow me a review copy, so here’s what I found…

Publisher’s Power Tool is a guide to publishing picture books for children and adults using the presentation software MIcrosoft PowerPoint (other software options are also discussed). The guide then reveals how to publish them as ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle platform and/or as print books using Amazon CreateSpace.

Publisher’s Power Tool is being sold via the popular and well-established WarriorPlus platform. The main guide is a 69-page PDF. As you would expect with any of Amy and Debbie’s publications, this is well written and attractively presented. It is illustrated with graphics and screen-captures where relevant.

The manual explains how you can capitalize on the huge market for picture books. Although children are the obvious target audience, the authors make the point that there is a sizeable market for adult picture books as well, including how-to books, humour books, and inspirational books.

The main part of the manual walks you through creating a picture book yourself with the aid of the PowerPoint software. It sets out the advantages of using PowerPoint for this purpose, including the ease with which you can create a template for publishing a series of such books. You can also easily insert pictures in bulk, which is a great time-saver. And it is also very easy to edit and rearrange the pages in a PowerPoint file, until you have your book looking exactly the way you want it.

The latter part of the manual then discusses how readers can publish and market the books themselves. Eight pages are devoted to Kindle publishing and ten pages to print publishing using CreateSpace. Clearly, covering how to do all this in detail would require a much longer book, so what Amy and Debbie have done is link to useful resources throughout the manual. Some of these are resources they have produced themselves, while others are from external websites. I understand that there may also be some extra reports and/or training videos with the finished product, although my pre-publication access only included the main manual.

The one thing that isn’t discussed in any depth is marketing your picture book (although the manual does discuss how to make the most of categories, keywords, and so on when listing your book on Amazon). Still, there is of course plenty of information about this available elsewhere on the internet, both free and paid for.

Overall, I think Publisher’s Power Tool is another excellent addition to the growing roster of writing resources published by Amy and Debbie. If you are already a confident PowerPoint user you may find some of the advice on using the software familiar, but it is still enlightening to see how the authors adapt it to this particular purpose.

Publisher’s Power Tool is currently on a launch special offer after which – as is Amy and Debbie’s usual practice – the price will be rising by $10. If you want to broaden your publishing portfolio with something that is fun and not too time-consuming, it is definitely worth checking out.

If you have any comments or questions about Publisher’s Power Tool, as always, please do post them below.


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Time to Start Planning for NaNoWriMo 2016!

Once again, it’s that time of year to start planning for NaNoWriMo.

For anyone who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month, and it comes around every November.

From humble beginnings in 1999, when there were just 21 participants, NaNoWriMo has grown into a world-wide phenomenon. In 2015 431,626 people took part, and the numbers this year are expected to be even greater.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are always welcome), and no prizes either. Essentially, it is a challenge to help you write that novel you had always meant to write but keep putting off.

By registering with NaNoWriMo, you are joining a world-wide community of writers who are all seeking to achieve the same end, and are thus able to encourage and support one another.

This year a number of members of the myWritersCircle forum (which I co-founded) have registered for NaNoWriMo already, and more will no doubt follow. If you are looking for some ‘buddies’ to share notes and compare progress with, check out this forum topic.

Although there are no prizes for completing a novel for NaNoWriMo, if you do (and you have to prove it by uploading your work to the NaNoWriMo site), you will be able to download an official ‘Winner’ web badge and a PDF Winner’s Certificate, which you can print out.

And, of course, you will have the first draft of a novel you should be able to polish and submit for possible publication (or publish yourself).

There are lots of useful resources on the NaNoWriMo website, including wordcount widgets, web badges, flyers for downloading, motivational articles, and much more. There is also a busy forum where you can compare notes with other participants.

NaNoWriMo is also, by the way, a great opportunity to apply the techniques taught in my publisher WCCL’s Novel in a Month course, or indeed my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

I’d like to wish you the very best of luck if you do decide to register for NaNoWriMo. Please do post a note below if you succeed in completing the challenge!

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Why Now is the Time to Start Promoting Your Amazon Affiliate Links Extra Hard

If you are reading this blog, it’s quite likely you have a book or e-book on Amazon. If that’s the case, you should be promoting it extra vigorously right now. And, specifically, you should be promoting it as an Amazon Associate (as Amazon calls its affiliates).

There are various reasons why promoting your book as an Amazon Associate is a good idea. The obvious one is that any sales generated through your link will attract commission from Amazon. Assuming you’re earning royalties on sales as well, in effect that means you’ll be getting paid twice over for every sale.

But there’s another particular reason to promote extra hard via Amazon just now, and that’s because you will receive commission from Amazon for ALL purchases made by a customer who visits the store via your link.

And in the coming weeks, in the run-up to Christmas, Diwali and Hanukkah, many people will be buying multiple items as gifts. If they do some or all of their gift shopping via your link, you will earn multiple commissions.

Admittedly, Amazon doesn’t pay a fortune to Associates. Commission starts at just 5 percent, rising to the dizzy heights of 15 percent for some products. By way of comparison, affiliate commissions paid on downloadable products are often over 50 percent, and in some cases up to 100.

Even so, if someone spends a lot of money on a visit (and it happens at this time of year) the returns to you as the referrer can be substantial. Darren Rowse (aka Problogger) regularly lists surprising products people have bought from Amazon on visits via his links. Here’s one eye-opening list he posted a while ago.

If you’re not an Amazon Associate already, you can easily join by scrolling down to the foot of the Amazon homepage, clicking on Associates Program, and following the instructions to sign up. Note that you will need to join each national store’s Associates Program separately to promote there.

Once you’re in, Amazon have a huge range of banners and widgets you can use on your blog or website. They include, of course, simple image ads such as the one below for my latest Kindle e-book on…

You can also have all manner of other widgets, including slideshows, word clouds, best deals boxes, and so on. Here’s an example of a seasonal banner that is automatically updated by Amazon.

Of course, it’s possible that all you want is a simple text link. Oddly enough, this isn’t as straightforward as you might think with Amazon. For text links Amazon give you about five lines of code which are designed to display your link in a pre-formatted, Amazon-approved style.

If you don’t want their complicated and largely superfluous formatting, here’s a simpler alternative. Use the following framework to construct your link:


Or for Amazon UK use:


The ASIN is the unique identification number every product on Amazon has – you will find this in the product details. My own affiliate ID on Amazon UK is nickdawswriti-21, so a basic text link for my e-book above for the UK store would look like this:

One slight drawback of this method is that if your visitor is located somewhere with a different national Amazon store, they won’t automatically be redirected. If you are targeting a multinational audience (very likely online) you might therefore like to use the free Geniuslink or Booklinker service.

Both of these are run by the GeoRiot organization. They create a single link that detects where visitors live and automatically forwards them to their own national store, with your affiliate link included if you have entered it for the store concerned.

I wrote about Geniuslink in this recent post, and Booklinker in this one. Geniuslink has a few more bells and whistles than Booklinker, but once your links are generating over 1,000 clicks a month you start paying for the service. Booklinker is a more stripped-down service, but it is free however many clicks your links attract.

Here is a sample link created with Booklinker for my Kindle e-book on plotting: Click on this and it should take you straight to the appropriate page of your own national Amazon store. Do try it and see 🙂

Good luck on Amazon, and I hope you sell lots of book, e-books and more expensive items as the festive season approaches!







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Win an iPad Pro in this Free Contest from Aweber

As part of their current Today Is Your Day promotion, my colleagues at the autoresponder service Aweber are running a free giveaway with an iPad Pro as the top prize.

It’s effectively a prize draw. You can get one entry just by signing up to their This Is Your Day mailing list, and a further four entries by sharing your own Today Is Your Day story on social media. Some examples of existing entries are shown in the screen capture from the website below.

This Is Your Day examples

As you may gather, the idea behind Today Is Your Day is to inspire people to try something new, whether to grow their business or start a money-making sideline (or side hustle in the modern parlance).

Aweber are also offering free mini-guides to a range of projects that could fit this description, from starting a podcast to creating your own online course. My earlier post Today Is Your Day: A Free Resources Set for Entrepreneurs from Aweber discusses this in more detail, of course.

As well as the chance of winning an iPad, every entrant can also download a range of free smartphone, desktop and tablet wallpapers to help keep them focused and inspired.

Enter your email address on the contest page and as well as one entry in the giveaway you will also receive an email with a link to the free wallpapers. The contest ends on September 30, 2016, with the winners to be announced on October 3, 2016.

The contest and wallpapers are provided free and without obligation, although obviously Aweber hope that you will sign up to their service if you haven’t already. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I do recommend Aweber if you are looking for a service to help run an email list or newsletter on your behalf.

Good luck in the Today Is Your Day contest and, as ever, if you have any queries or comments, please do post them below.









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Words'worth cover

Review: Words’Worth – A Fiction Writer’s Guide to Serious Editing

Words’Worth – A Fiction Writer’s Guide to Serious Editing is a book by Jane Riddell, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle e-book form. Jane was kind enough to send me a review copy, so here are my thoughts…

Words’Worth (as I’ll call it for short) is a concise (54-page) guide for fiction writers who wish to edit their own work (or have no other option). The main content is set out in three chapters: Overview Editing, Line-by-line Editing, and Pace.

The idea is that you use the advice in the book as a kind of checklist once your first draft has been completed. The chapter on Overview Editing covers such matters as locating the reader in time, avoiding melodrama, and providing breaks from tension. Each item is described in a paragraph or two, and in most cases examples are given as well.

The chapter on line-by-line editing covers the sorts of thing typically covered in traditional copy editing, including avoiding cliches, using strong verb forms, active rather than passive voice, and so on. Finally, the chapter about Pace covers such matters as varying sentence length and deleting unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.

I thought that the advice was sound and the plentiful examples were helpful. If I was being picky I would say that there could have been a bit more about the key areas of viewpoint and showing not telling (writing in scenes, in other words). While the need to avoid telling after showing is covered, the fundamental principle of showing rather than telling isn’t discussed in any depth. That is a relatively minor criticism, though.

New fiction writers should find Words’Worth an invaluable guide to making their writing as tight and compelling as possible. Old hands will find much of the advice familiar, but the book can still serve as a useful checklist and aide memoire.

Words’Worth is not, of course, any substitute for a developmental editor: someone who can assess your book’s basic structure and suggest ways it can be revised and improved. For many new authors accessing such an individual may be difficult or impossible, however.

Likewise, this is not a proofreading guide, and some common mistakes in new writers’ work (the omission of the vocative comma, for example) aren’t covered here. If you’ll excuse a quick plug for my own work, you might find my own guide Essential English for Authors useful in this respect.

Nonetheless, Words’Worth is a book that new fiction writers in particular will find extremely helpful, and at its modest asking price it will definitely be a valuable addition to their resources library.


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Today is Your Day

Today Is Your Day: a free resources set for entrepreneurs from Aweber

My colleagues at the leading autoresponder and mailing list service Aweber have recently released a new (and free) set of resources aimed at entrepreneurial businesses and individuals.

These resources are collectively called “Today Is Your Day”. Each one provides a checklist for completing one particular task to help boost your bottom line, from creating a YouTube video to growing your email audience, creating captivating images to growing your podcast. Banners linking to each resource are published below…



Take the first step towards growing your podcast



These resources are provided free and without obligation, although obviously Aweber hope that you will sign up to their service if you haven’t already. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I do recommend Aweber if you are looking for a service to help run an email list or newsletter on your behalf.

The checklists are quite concise but provide a practical step-by-step guide to what you should be doing to achieve each of the objectives listed. Links are provided to other useful resources as well.

As ever, if you have any queries or comments, please do post them below.






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Do All Writers Need to Hire an Editor? Here’s Why I Say No!

A trend I’ve noticed recently among writing blogs and websites is a growing consensus that to succeed as a writer, you MUST engage an editor for your work.

This is an assertion that I feel needs to be challenged. Yes, a good editor is a wonderful thing to have, but there are two major stumbling blocks.

First, finding a good freelance editor isn’t as easy as you might think. Bear in mind that anyone can call themselves an editor. As well as the genuinely good ones, there are plenty of deluded amateurs and some out-and-out fraudsters. Sorting out the good from the bad and the ugly is by no means a simple task.

And even if you are lucky and find a good editor, their services aren’t cheap. For a full-length book you can expect to pay several thousand pounds/dollars. If you are self publishing – on Kindle, for example – you need to think carefully whether any boost in sales that may result will cover this.

Self-publishing authors sometimes believe that a freelance editor will be able to help them with the deeper, structural aspects of their book as well. This is akin to the role performed by developmental editors in traditional publishing houses. Whether a freelance editor can realistically offer this service is in my view very doubtful, however.

Developmental editing tends to be a slow, iterative process. The editor typically reads and reflects carefully on the manuscript, then raises queries and offers suggestions to the author. The author duly reflects on this and gives his/her reactions, and so on. This can work very well with a salaried editor who is employed by a publishing house, but it is not really compatible with freelance editing, where you are charged by the page or the hour. If you hire a freelance editor, what you are basically getting is a copy editor. They may (or may not) make the odd structural suggestion as they go, but it is a long way from the in-depth feedback you will get from a developmental editor in a publishing house.

My advice is therefore to ignore anyone who tells you that you MUST hire an editor. Instead, I recommend a two-pronged approach. First, be sure you are fully up to speed with the basics of grammar and punctuation (my course Essential English for Authors might be helpful here – just saying!). Aim to be your own best editor (and proofreader) rather than relying on someone else.

And second, make full use of free and low-cost resources such as beta readers (other authors are often happy to reciprocate in this role) and online forums such as myWritersCircle. Off-line resources such as writers’ groups can be a big help as well. By this means you can get a lot of valuable feedback about your work without spending a fortune.

If you hear of a good editor and can afford their services, by all means use them too. But be realistic about how much benefit you are likely to get from their input, and weigh this carefully against the costs involved.

Remember, also, that with e-book (or POD) publishing, if someone tells you about a mistake, it is a very simple matter to correct and republish. Getting everything 100 percent correct before publishing, while still desirable, is therefore no longer so essential.

Of course, if you’re aiming to get published by a traditional publishing house, some of the above comments may not apply. But still, bear in mind that in-house editors provide their services free of charge if the publisher sees potential in your work. Your objective as an author should therefore be to ensure that your manuscript demonstrates such potential. No freelance editor will be able to ‘fix’ your manuscript if it is basically unpublishable. But that won’t stop them taking your money, of course.

So that’s my view, but what do you think? Should all aspiring writers be told to hire an editor for their work, or is this (as I think) unrealistic in many cases? Please post any comments you may have below.

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Puzzle Publishing Profits

Review: Puzzle Publishing Profits by Amy Harrop

Puzzle Publishing Profits is the latest writing product to be launched by my prolific colleague Amy Harrop.

Amy is a successful self-published author, and publisher of many guides and software products for authors. She was kind enough to allow me a review copy, so here’s what I found…

Puzzle Publishing Profits is a guide to making money by publishing puzzle books of all types, probably using Amazon’s CreateSpace print publishing platform. It is being sold via the popular and well-established WarriorPlus platform. The main guide is a 60-page PDF.

As you would expect with any of Amy’s publications, this is well written and attractively presented. It is illustrated with graphics and screen captures where relevant.

In the manual, Amy explains how you can capitalize on the huge market for puzzle books. She starts by discussing the wide range of such books and reveals the various target audiences for them, from children to the elderly. She also discusses current trends in the puzzle books field. The manual covers crossword puzzles, Sudoku, logic puzzles, maze puzzles, word-search, graphic puzzles, math (or maths) puzzles, brainteasers, and many more.

The latter part of the manual then discusses how readers can write, publish and market these books themselves. Amy recommends publishing in print rather than Kindle e-book form, as in general people like to complete puzzles using a pen and paper, not on a tablet or e-reader. As mentioned above, she recommends using Amazon’s CreateSpace POD (print on demand) self-publishing platform.

Clearly covering how to do all this in detail would require a much longer book, so what Amy has done is link to useful resources throughout the manual. Some of these resources she has produced herself, while others are from external websites. An example of the former is a six-page spreadsheet listing sources of online puzzle-making software (free and paid for), puzzle-making resources, forums, Facebook Groups, Yahoo Groups, and Pinterest pages. The forum, groups and Pinterest pages strike me as being more relevant for puzzle aficionados than for puzzle-book makers,. but the software and resources websites are certainly worth knowing about.

There is some good advice on publishing your puzzle book using CreateSpace, again with links to other resources for finding out more. The manual closes with an 8-page discussion of how to promote your puzzle book. This focuses especially on writing a good description of your book for the Amazon store, and using social media to build your following and help spread the word. I thought there were some very good tips here.

When preparing puzzle books, Amy advises strongly against referring to actual product and brand names. While I understand her caution, personally I think it’s a bit excessive. While I would agree that producing a Frozen puzzle book is a bad idea and would likely attract the attention of the Disney company lawyers, simply mentioning the name of a movie or TV show in a broader-based book is unlikely to cause problems. If that were not the case, most trivia quiz books (such as the one pictured below that I wrote a while ago for my clients at Lagoon Games) would never see the light of day. The key thing is to be sensible and only refer to high-profile, trademarked productions in a broader context. In a themed puzzle book about movies, for example, you could (in my view) have a wordsearch puzzle featuring the names of well-known characters from children’s films.

TV trivia quiz book by Nick Daws

As well as the main manual, buyers of Puzzle Publishing Profits get two bonus items. I didn’t actually receive these with my pre-launch review copy, but here are the descriptions from the sales page:

Amy Puzzle Book Bonusese

It sounds as though these will add value to the main manual, especially the CreateSpace publishing guide.

In summary, Puzzle Publishing Profits is an eye-opening guide to a field that appears crammed with potential right now, and it has definitely inspired me to think about trying it myself. It is currently on a launch special offer for $17 (about £14), after which – as is Amy’s usual practice – the price will be rising to $27. If you want to broaden your publishing portfolio with something that is fun and not too time-consuming, it is definitely worth a look.

If you have any comments or questions about Puzzle Publishing Profits, as always, please do post them below.





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