Jeff Phelps Books

Guest Post: Launching Into Kindle by Jeff Phelps

Today I am pleased to bring you a guest post from my old friend (and sometime co-writer) Jeff Phelps.

Jeff is a widely published poet and novelist, and this year published his novels Painter Man and Box of Tricks on Kindle for the first time. In his article he talks about the experience of formatting and publishing his novels as Kindle ebooks, and some of the lessons he learned from this.

Over to Jeff, then.

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My two novels, Painter Man and Box of Tricks were published as paperbacks by the Birmingham-based Tindal Street Press in 2005 and 2009 respectively. They had never been issued as electronic books, which I always thought was a pity.

By early 2015 the paperbacks had all but sold out. Profile Books, who had taken over the lists when Tindal Street Press closed, were not printing another edition. Painter Man and Box of Tricks were becoming rarities.

For my own use I managed to buy a few copies at cover price from Waterstones in New Street, Birmingham before they cleared out their old stock and moved to High Street. Even now you can get new copies from Amazon for around £150 or used for a penny. Such are the unfathomable vagaries of the market.  

There had been some excellent, enthusiastic reactions to both books. Among the most memorable was from a man for whom Painter Man had fitted his situation perfectly and a readers’ group in the north of England who had chosen Box of Tricks as their ’book of the year’ from among others they had read, including luminaries such as Daphne DuMaurier, Ian McEwan and Hilary Mantel.      

So when the rights to the novels reverted to me in late 2014 it seemed like the perfect opportunity to relaunch the titles in a new format. There seemed to be so much life still in them.

So where did I start?

I’d recently installed Scrivener on my computer. It’s the ideal word processing package for a novelist, indeed for anyone attempting long or complex pieces. Scrivener’s ‘bells and whistles’ could easily be (probably have been) the subject of lengthy articles on their own. Scrivener has templates for drama, non-fiction and short stories and innumerable tools for keeping track, outlining plots, comparing versions and so on. Text can be written in a format that’s easy to view and work with (Courier font, for example) and then compiled in a form to suit whatever is needed – with a few clicks to specify or confirm font, paragraphing, titles and so on. I soon discovered there was a simple choice in the compile menu which could format a novel into a file ready-made for Kindle – a .mobi file.

I already had the text of the novels in Word so it was a fairly straightforward task to import each novel to Scrivener, breaking it down into chapters as I went. It’s necessary to divide them in this way as chapters are automatically recognised and separated in the final version and given page breaks and chapter numbers, or titles if preferred.

I did spend time making sure the spelling, spacing and titles were consistent, that there was the same indent for paragraphs throughout and so on. A lot of the fine editing had already been done for the paperbacks so I had a head start. I knew the text was generally in good shape.

I revised and updated the acknowledgements and was able to add a few more complimentary comments that people had made – another advantage of the books having been previously published. In Scrivener these pages are simply added in as part of front matter, from where they are automatically compiled in the right place.

It felt like a good opportunity to look at the book covers again, too. I gave this a lot of thought. Experience told me that book covers didn’t always look good on Kindle devices. The screen is small and the detail can get lost, especially on older models. It also struck me that a cover isn’t permanently visible, the way it is in a paperback. When you close your book on a Kindle device it just shuts down and when you go back to the book it opens at the page last read. You might only ever see the cover once. Even when a book opens for the first time on Kindle it tends to default at the first page of text and miss out the cover and the title pages. I wondered whether I could describe the covers of any of the electronic books I had on my machine. I don’t think I could. All this led me to conclude that the cover of a Kindle book is rarely seen so is not a big selling point, except maybe as an ’image’ that goes with the title on websites and social media.

I considered using the original cover designs from the paperbacks, but my permissions only extended to the text, so I decided to start again with something I had clear rights to. After several false starts I found a striking image of the Perch Rock lighthouse in New Brighton where Box of Tricks is set. The photograph was taken by a relative, Robbie Girven, and he kindly allowed me to use it. I was able to add titles and text using Picasa. Painter Man uses a photograph I’d taken myself in Plymouth, UK, of a peeling face on a wall by the remarkable artist Robert Lenkiewicz, who specialised in paintings of vagrants and outcasts. Check out his amazing work if you don’t know it.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Johnson who worked valiantly to design both covers and whose witty drawings I found on Facebook and instantly loved, and to the consummate artist Robert Perry whose nocturnes of the Black Country partly inspired the scenes and characters in Painter Man. Neither was used as it happened. If Monet was alive today I believe he would have been painting the Black Country exactly as Rob Perry does.

After that the rest seemed straightforward. My good friend Nick Daws had given me lots of advice from his experience. He recommended some of the self-help guides that can be downloaded to Kindle, usually free or at low cost. I used How to Create an Ebook with Scrivener by James Gill and Building your Book for Kindle (Amazon kindle). Both guided me perfectly well through the technical aspects and included the invaluable advice to download free preview programs to view the books as they will appear on various devices. This allowed me to check everything before publishing. Sure enough, on my first attempt the front matter was missing, italics were shown as underlined and chapter headings were repeated. I only had to go back into Scrivener’s compile menu to correct these and resave the file.

Uploading to Kindle was straightforward, too. I set up an account with Kindle Direct Publishing and followed the guidance. There was even a useful graph for choosing the price that will work best, based on past sales of similar titles.

One thing the guide hadn’t told me was that there’s a place in the Kindle publishing process to insert the front cover (and even a cover designer) – so I had to go back, take the cover image out of Scrivener’s front matter and insert it here instead. It only took me a matter of minutes.

After that I simply pressed publish and waited for the novels to appear on Amazon, which in my case they did after about an hour.

One can go back and change things after publication – not only the sales price but the text or the details. For instance, Nick Daws suggested I add more detail to the book description which I was able to do easily. It is the main selling point – the first thing that’s seen on Amazon. There’s a character limit of 3,000, so plenty of space to describe the books and put a few good quotes and recommendations in.

That felt like the end of the process but of course in many ways it’s just the beginning. One needs to keep putting the books in front of people, encourage friends to buy, promote reviews (good ones, naturally) on Amazon and elsewhere and request shares on social media… and, of course, write about the whole process on websites such as these. Please share! Jeff Phelps

Painter Man and Box of Tricks by Jeff Phelps are available from Amazon. They are currently priced at £2.65 in the UK store, $3.99 at the US store.

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Many thanks to Jeff (pictured, right) for an interesting article that I am sure will be helpful for anyone who is considering publishing a Kindle ebook in 2016.

If you have an e-reader, tablet or smartphone yourself, incidentally, I highly recommend both of Jeff’s novels. To my mind Painter Man has the greater emotional impact, while Box of Tricks has a bit more humour. If you like well-written, literary (but unpretentious) fiction, I promise you will enjoy both. If you do, please take a moment to review them on Amazon.

If you have any comments or questions for me (or Jeff), please do post them below.

 

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A Very Happy Christmas to All My Readers!

Just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Very Happy Christmas!

Even if you don’t celebrate the religious festival, I hope you enjoy the festive period. Thank you for reading at least some of my blog posts this year, and contributing to some interesting discussions.

Naturally, many people at this time are fully occupied with family celebrations. If you have any time on your hands over the holiday period, though – or you just need a break from the festivities – the forum at myWritersCircle.com is always open for discussions about writing, or any subject you choose in The Coffee Shop.

If you feel like doing some reading – maybe on your new Kindle or tablet – you may like to check out my post “Nine Top Ebooks About Writing That Are Free Today“. As far as I know, all these ebooks are still free!

And if Santa brings you a bit of extra cash, here are links to my posts spotlighting some high-quality resources I recommend for any aspiring writer…

Geoff Shaw’s Kindling – Still the number one resource for Kindle authors.

CanvaKala Photo Editing Plugin for WordPress – I use this all the time to find and edit photos for my blog.

Grammarly proofreading and editing software – The latest version is much improved on its predecessors. There is also a free browser extension you can download.

Piggyback Publishing Profits – The latest guide from the prolific Amy Harrop sets out a clever method of “piggy-backing” on the success of popular titles to drive sales of your own books and ebooks..

Kindle Quiz – This sets out another approach to ebook publishing I really like. Quiz books are “hot” right now, and easy to publish for Kindle if you follow the step-by-step advice in this guide. The method combines very well with the one set out in Piggyback Publishing Profits, incidentally.

Write Any Book in Under 28 Days – I couldn’t close without mentioning my own top-selling writing course, which has been used by thousands of writers to plan and write a full-length book of their own.

Any of the above would be a great investment for your writing career in 2016.

Once again, I do hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and a happy and creative new year. Thank you for being a valued reader of Entrepreneur Writer.

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Twelve

My Top 12 Posts of 2015

2015 was, of course, the year I launched Entrepreneur Writer (after I parted ways with WCCL, the publishers of my previous writing blog).

It’s been an interesting challenge running a WordPress blog for the first time, and I’ve really enjoyed learning to harness its potential while sharing advice and information for writers world-wide.

2015 was also, incidentally, the first year I saw myself described (in Writers News magazine) as a “veteran freelance writer”. Ah well, it comes to us all!

Here then are my top twelve posts this year, based on comments, pageviews and social media shares. They are in no particular order.

I hope you will enjoy revisiting these posts, or seeing them for the first time if you are new to EW. Don’t forget, you can always subscribe to Entrepreneur Writer to be notified of new posts as soon as they appear.

  1. Five Things I Wish I Had Known as a New Freelance Writer
  2. My Top Ten Tips for Making the Most of Online Writing Forums
  3. Review: Canvakala WordPress Photo Editing Plugin
  4. 22 Top Tools, Apps and Websites for Writers (Guest Post)
  5. Humorist Iain Pattison Explains Why He Has Adopted a Quirky Approach to Attracting New Readers on Amazon (Guest Post)
  6. The Best Ways to Make Money Online in 2015
  7. Ten Things I Have Learned About Buying Information Products Online
  8. Give It a Week
  9. Search Your Hard Disk at Lightning Speed with Lookeen Free
  10. Nine Top Kindle Ebooks About Writing That are Free Today!
  11. Geoff Shaw’s Kindling – Still the Most Comprehensive Guide for New Kindle Authors
  12. Instagram Makes Poetry Profitable at Last!

I hope you will enjoy reading (or re-reading) these posts, and look forward to bringing you plenty more in 2016.

If you have any comments or questions, of course, please do feel free to leave them below.

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Goodriter

Goodriter’s Big Launch Giveaway

Goodriter (yes, that is how they spell it!) is a new website aimed at writers and aspiring writers.

They describe themselves as a one-stop online shop for writer-related resources, offering the opportunity to save money on books, software, courses, and publishing services.

There isn’t a vast amount on the Goodriter website yet, but one thing that did catch my eye is that they are giving away an impressive range of freebies just for signing up to their mailing list.

It’s not just the usual PLR stuff you’ve seen a hundred times before either. The giveaways include high-quality ebooks which have recently been on sale on Amazon, ClickBank, JVZoo and so on (and in many cases still are). If you’ve been around online for a while, you’re likely to recognize quite a few of the author names too.

Here’s just part of the list…

Book Launch – Chandler Bolt
How To Make A Living With Your Writing – Joanna Penn
Writing Habit Mastery – Steve Scott
Structuring Your Novel & The Structuring Your Novel Workbook – K.M. Weiland
Growth Hacking For Storytellers – 5 Ebook Series – Monica Leonelle
Gotta Read It – Libbie Hawker
Prosperity for Writers – Honorée Corder
Mini Story Roadmap Kit – Jennifer Blanchard
Productivity For Authors: 13 Tricks Every Lazy Author Needs To Know – Mark Messick
Twitter Hashtags For Authors – Ani Alexander
Make Money With Non-Fiction Kindle Books – John Tighe

As well as ebooks, the freebies include complete courses, audio books, interviews, and more. Take a look at the Goodriter website for the complete list.

Obviously this isn’t just altruism from Goodriter. They are building a list, which will be used to offer subscribers discounts on other writing products and courses (including some of mine, for all I know). They will then earn commissions from any sales.

Nevertheless, in my view it’s definitely worth signing up to get your hands on all these goodies, which should keep you busy till Christmas and well beyond! You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time, even straight away if you like.

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

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The Tablecloth Trick

Instagram Makes Poetry Profitable at Last!

I read an interesting article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper last week.

It was all about a new breed of poets who are publishing their work using the photo-sharing service Instagram (and others). Some of these writers are attracting huge numbers of followers, which in turn has led to publishing deals, media appearances, and so on.

The article focuses especially on one of these poets, Thailand-born Lang Leav. It says:

In 2013, Lang Leav self-published a small debut poetry collection, Love & Misadventure, online. Two years later, she was meeting her fans on a book tour in the Philippines. “It was insane,” she says. “The organisers had to limit each signing to 500 people per session … and I was being escorted by armed guards.” Many queued for hours, some camping out overnight for a chance to meet her.

Poet Lang Leav

Leav is one of a new generation of bestselling poets catapulted to celebrity – and coveted book deals – through the use of social media, and the huge followings they have built up. Dubbed the “Instapoets”, they have thousands upon thousands of followers hooked on their every post across Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter – and they defy the age-old preconception that it is not possible to make a living out of being a poet.

Source: How do I love thee? Let me Instagram it

As someone who once wrote (not especially good) poetry and performed it for a token fee (or nothing) in pubs and arts centres, I was intrigued by this development, which I hadn’t heard about before. And at last I had an answer to the question of what is Instagram for 😉

Just for fun, I dug out one of my old poems and turned it into an Instagram-style photo using the online PicMonkey service. It’s posted above, although I’m not sure I shall be joining Lang Leav at one of her book signings any time soon! But certainly if I was a young poet starting out today, this is an avenue I would want to explore.

Anyway, in case any of you are interested, here are a few more tips for aspiring Instagram poets drawn from the Guardian article and elsewhere:

  • Use hashtags to help get your work noticed. These are (of course) words or short phrases following a hash symbol. Two that are commonly used for this purpose are #instapoetry and #instagrampoetry.
  • Poems can take any form you choose, but for this medium it’s best to keep them short. Some Instagram poets specialize in haiku and have achieved large followings creating these pithy, 17-syllable poems.
  • Experiment with different colours and backgrounds. There is lots of scope for being creative here. A four-line poem about violence by Rupi Kaur in the Guardian article is accompanied by a hand-drawn illustration of a globe, with countries hit by terror attacks marked with little black hearts.
  • It’s not just Instagram. You can also post your poems on other social media, including Tumblr, Twitter and (of course) Facebook. 
  • You can (and probably should) set up a blog too and publish your work there. Give readers a way of subscribing to see your poems as soon as they are written.
  • You could also set up an email newsletter with news about your work, publishing plans, book signings, and so forth.
  • Keep posting, and if you build up a big enough fan base a publisher may come calling, or you could publish yourself using Amazon Kindle or Createspace.
  • You might also want to consider investing in FollowAdder for Instagram, dedicated software for managing your Instagram posts and building your audience more quickly (see also the banner ad below).

If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please do post them below!

 

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