Call for Submissions: Romantic and Erotic Fiction

Here’s a new call for submissions of romantic and erotic fiction in various genres.

Call for Submissions

Steam Romance, a publisher of romantic and erotic fiction is looking for writers! New to this genre, but not publishing, Steam is fresh and ready to take on select stories that are just as fresh…and sexy!

We are looking for:

Short stories that are between 15k-40k words. Novels that are between 50k-100k words.

We are accepting stories in almost all genres, but will give priority to stories of the following romantic fiction or erotica categories:

  • Contemporary, especially stories with a modern, strong lead female character
  • Steampunk
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Paranormal Fantasy
  • Dystopian
  • For Men

We define romance as: love stories with strong writing, developed characters, and a solid plot. Stories should have happy endings and should depict love scenes in detail. We define erotica as: arousing stories with explicit sex scenes; generally happy stories, though not necessary to have a neat and tidy happy ending.

Source: Call for Submissions

Steam Romance is a paying market. They pay royalties on a monthly basis. The exact rate isn’t specified, although on their Write for Steam page they say, “Because we are a small publishing house, we don’t have the costs associated with running a large business. These savings get passed on to authors through higher royalty payments. Try us and compare, you’ll see we offer nearly twice what a larger publishing house will pay.”

For more information, including how to submit, click through to their Call for Submissions page. Good luck, and if you have a story accepted by them, do let me know!

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Miappi Review and Giveaway

Miappi is a new application that allows you to create a smart-looking “social media wall” on which your social media posts from various networks are automatically displayed.

The developers were kind enough to offer me a review copy of the basic WordPress version of the application, so here’s what I found…

Miappi is provided in the form of a WordPress plug-in. You can download it from this page of the WordPress.org website, or just search for Miappi from the “Add New” page of your WordPress dashboard plug-ins section. It is in the usual Zip format, and you simply have to download and activate it.

It’s a little unusual, though, in that you don’t configure it from the WordPress dashboard but rather from the Miappi web page. You have to pay for an account (though see below), which allows you to log in to your personal page and set up the application there.

With the standard WordPress version of Miappi (which costs $49 a year) you can include feeds from your Facebook profile and business pages, along with a selection from Instagram, SoundCloud, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube. I say a selection, because with this version you are allowed a maximum of four different social media feeds (which must all be connected to you personally).

Once you have configured your page, you can place the Miappi wall either in a sidebar widget or in a post by copying and pasting a bit of code from the Embed page. On this page you can also change the dimensions of the wall and various aspects of how it is displayed. You can see a sample wall I created using the feed from my Nick Daws – Freelance Writer Facebook page below.

[miappi user="ewriter" width="600px" height="600px" fontsize="14" bgcolor="#000000"]

There are other versions of Miappi available with additional features. The Business version, for example, lets you have up to eight social media feeds, including public feeds not connected to you personally. You can also have up to two feeds based on a hashtag. The cost of this is an eye-watering $149 a month, though.

And that is really my biggest reservation about Miappi. I do think it is expensive for what you get. On the other hand, if you are active in a niche with strong visual content especially, it could be a valuable resource for you.

Anyway, if you’re interested in giving Miappi a spin – and have a WordPress blog – by courtesy of the developers I have three free one-year subscriptions to give away. Just enter NDPromoCode022015 when ordering from the MIappi website to get one of these. When they’re gone, they’re gone, so don’t hang around if you’re interested in this.

The developers have also kindly given me 20 promo codes providing a 50% discount on any price plan (valid up to 30 September 2015). Just enter the following code when ordering: NDPromoCode012015.

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

 

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Guest Post: 22 Top Tools, Websites and Apps for Writers

Today I am pleased to bring you a guest post by writer James A. Rose. In his article James sets out 22 great online resources for writers, many of them free. Over to James, then…

* * *

The muse of the past was something slightly indescribable. It could be a person, a place or a state of mind. Its influence was unpredictable and arbitrary. Capturing your muse was like corralling a unicorn. In other words, it was pretty much an impossible task.

This is no longer the case thanks to our current informational and technological age. You can summon your muse at will with the same tool that most likely serves to distract you from your writing efforts. The modern gamut of technology contains more information and inspirations than we can possibly imagine, and some very clever people have found a way to make tools that organize this information in ways that are most advantageous to writers.

I’ve assembled a list of some of the most useful tools I have either used or read about. The list is divided into five sections, being Suites, Word Processing, Organization, Brainstorming, and Reference. Each item listed in each section is referenced as Desktop, Website, or Mobile App. Some of the tools listed as Desktop or Website also have a mobile app, which is noted.

Suites

Scrivener – (Desktop)

Scrivener is a complete suite of writing tools with the purpose of easing the burden of organizing the complex information sets required for long documents. Some key features include index cards, outlining, research archival and access, style templates, progress tracking and much more. This is my personal favorite writing tool. After using it for a while, I don’t know how I got along without it.

Writer’s Blocks – (Desktop)

Writer’s Blocks gives the author total control over their long form document with a wide variety of tools for organization, formatting and research. This software uses blocks with drag and drop ability as the basis for research and document structuring. This program is a little over priced and Scrivener is better in my opinion.

Snowflake Pro – (Desktop)

Snowflake Pro is a program based on the Snowflake writing method created by Randy Ingermanson. This software puts you through a series of paces with clearly defined steps to help the author visualize story progression. This process could be very helpful to some writers but the interface and features of the program are quite basic. Perhaps used in conjunction with another more robust tool, Snowflake Pro could be quite useful, but still overpriced.

MasterWriter – (Desktop)

MasterWriter is perhaps more suited to songwriters and poets due to its heavy focus on vocabulary tools. Features include rhymes, phrases, synonyms, culture references (mostly drawn from Wikipedia), basic organization, and more. The pricing is monthly, yearly or bi-yearly. I suppose this is due to the regular updating of the reference tools. Master Writer could be a convenient tool but unnecessary for most of us. Several browser tabs open to some excellent websites could perform the same service for free.

yWriter – (Desktop)

YWriter is a fairly basic and free novel deconstruction tool in the vein of Scrivener and Writer’s Blocks. Organize scenes, chapters, characters, and storyboards with some drag and drop functionality and progress tracking. YWriter is a great tool for authors that may be considering organization software but are unsure of the level of benefit in regards to productivity. If the author deems this program useful then maybe upgrade to one of the other paid options.

Word Processing

WriteRoom – (Desktop)

Reasonably priced and exclusively for Mac, WriteRoom touts its ability to provide a distraction free writing platform with a very basic user interface. It basically attempts to recreate the experience of using a typewriter or a computer in the early eighties. I’ve never been distracted by the tool bar at the top of Word but if you are, this may be exactly what you need.

Write Monkey – (Desktop)

Though not affiliated with each other, WriteMonkey is basically a free Windows version of WriteRoom.

iA Writer Pro – (Mobile App)

IA Writer Pro is an app that attempts to recreate desktop word processing functionality on a mobile device and it does a pretty good job. Also a desktop application for Mac, this app is one of the most efficient mobile word processing programs I have used. This program includes a very clean interface for those that get distracted by a lot of buttons and options, and it is compatible with MS Word.

IOS: Yes

Android: Yes

Dragon Dictation – (Mobile App)

You’ve probably heard of Dragon desktop software by now but may not be aware that they have an app. Well, of course they do. It works great and allows for easy copy and pasting into almost any popular word processing application. Carrying a notepad everywhere can be cumbersome and it is not always convenient to take out the phone and start texting. This app is the perfect solution.

IOS: Yes

Android: Yes, but only allows you to use your phone to dictate to your PC.

Organization

Text Block Writer – (Desktop)

Text Block Writer is a free tool for organizing virtual index cards. It’s pretty basic but gets the job done. Be careful when downloading this program. Some locations have been reported to include malware or adware with the file. I cannot provide a link but CNET is usually reputable.

Index Card – (Mobile App)

Index Card is a corkboard IOS app that obviously allows you to organize ideas with virtual index cards. Color coding, versatile labeling and sharing capabilities make this a fabulous app for writers on the go.

IOS: Yes

Android: No

Mindmeister – (Website)

Mindmeister.com is a high quality mind mapping tool. Mind mapping can be a great way to break down a complicated task such as writing a novel. Free accounts are available and the paid accounts are very affordable. There are plenty of mind mapping tools online, some of which are free with the cost equating quality, but MindMeister is one of the best.

IOS: Yes

Android: Yes

Mind Node – (Mobile App)

Mind Node is a beautiful mind mapping app for IOS. It is a very versatile program with an interface well suited for mobile use.

IOS: Yes

Android: No

WorkFlowy – (Website)

WorkFlowy.com is an outline and list creation tool. It has a clean and simple interface, and is free for personal use.

IOS: Yes

Android: Yes

Story Tracker – (Mobile App)

Story Tracker is an IOS app that will allow you to track every place, either online or off, to where you have submitted your work. This can be a submission to a marketplace, journal, magazine, blog or a publishing house for example. You can keep detailed notes on all your work and where it’s been distributed.

IOS: Yes

Android: No

Brainstorming

Story Starters – (Website)

TheStoryStarters.com is a neat website with a simple premise. Just click the button and it generates a story idea. That’s all there is to it. Whether this will really be useful to you a writer is questionable. The ideas are randomly generated by a computer and some of the ideas can be pretty wacky, but it’s fun and free so go check it out.

The Imagination Prompt Generator – (Website)

At Creativity-Portal.com you will find the Imagination Prompt Generator. Click the button and receive randomly generated prompts and questions to provoke your writer’s imagination. This may not be a great source for a novel premise but is fun nonetheless. This tool is really better for writing project ideas to improve skills but it could spark an idea for a great story.

The Brainstormer – (Mobile App)

The Brainstormer is a fun IOS app created by Andrew Bosley that randomly combines a noun, a setting, and a concept. Click the button and wheel spins to generate potential story ideas. Sometimes this idea will be pretty farfetched but sometimes the wheel presents a compelling premise. The app also features a character builder, a world builder and a creature builder. It’s great fun.

IOS: Yes

Android: No

Lists for Writers – (Mobile App)

Lists for Writers is an app on multiple platforms that compiles lists of names, personalities, plots, settings, action verbs, occupations and much more. This is a very useful tool for overcoming writer’s block.

IOS: Yes

Android: Yes

Storyometer – (Mobile App)

Storyometer is another IOS app that aids in overcoming writer’s block. It can randomly present names and ideas or present prompts in question form to induce brainstorming. This app is cheap, fun and quite useful if you’re stuck.

IOS: Yes

Android: No

Reference

VisuWords – (Website)

I love this site. VisuWords.com uses a graphical chart to show relationships between words through definitions, synonyms and grammar. The chart is color coded and can be manipulated with your mouse. This is just a great website for learning or writing.

WordBook – (Mobile App)

Wordbook is a dictionary and thesaurus app that features recorded pronunciation, etymologies, a spell checker, and much more. This is one of the best vocabulary reference apps I have seen to date and would recommend it as an indispensable tool for writers.

IOS: Yes

Android: Yes

I hope you found this list useful and are able to use it to advance your writing skills and career. Whether you need assistance with organization, vocabulary, editing, or ideas; a tool exists. Or should I say there’s an app for that? The advent of self-publishing technology and tools such as those listed above means this is a great time to be a writer. Until the day when you can purchase a little flying robot that hovers over your shoulder while providing inspiration and guidance, these tools can be your muse on demand.

 James A. Rose is a writer for InstantPublisher.com, a full-service self-publishing company with 100% of all work performed in-house. We have been helping authors realize their dreams for the past 14 years. Whether you’re printing a novel, how-to book, manual, brochure or any type of book you can imagine, our step-by-step instructions make publishing your own book simple and easy.

Facebook.com/InstantPublisher

Twitter.com/instntpublisher

 * * *

Many thanks to James for an interesting and valuable post. If you are anything like me, some of these resources will be familiar to you, while others may be new. Do take a few moments to check them out.

And, of course, if you have any comments or questions – for James or myself – please do post them below.

 Wordcloud courtesy of Word It Out.

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Passive Publishing System

New Launch: Passive Publishing System

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Amy Harrop, a successful Kindle author and publisher of many guides and software products for authors.

I thought you might therefore like to know that her latest product, Passive Publishing System, has just gone live. Written with Rob Howard and Deb Drum, it reveals how authors can cash in on two alternative publishing platforms to Kindle, the iBookstore and Scribd. PPS is a combination software tool and training course that finds popular niches with high interest and low competition on these platforms.

  • iBookstore – The iBookstore is now the #2 digital publishing platform (behind Kindle) but it has about 1/10th of the competition (depending on the niche/category). Amy claims it is easy to make sales on this platform, with no marketing needed.
  • Scribd – Scribd is now a subscription platform similar to Kindle Unlimited and Oyster. Amy says that publishers who place their books on this platform (you can’t do it directly for their subscription program, but Amy shows you how in the training) make easy sales, again with no marketing needed.
The included PPS software does keyword, niche, and competition analysis specifically for these two platforms. The product also includes complete training on how to easily publish to both, as many people have no idea how to get their content into these marketplaces.
 
I hope to review Passive Publishing System here before too long, but because I am currently undergoing some medical treatment time is a bit short at the moment. PPS is currently available at a launch price of just $27. This will be going up to $37 very soon, so it’s definitely a good idea to check out the info page now if you think this product may be of interest to you.
 
With Kindle becoming ever more competitive, and recent changes to Kindle Unlimited potentially making it less remunerative for authors, all e-book writers owe it to themselves to investigate alternative publishing platforms. Kindle is definitely NOT the only game in town now, and in future you may well find that other platforms such as the iBookstore and Scribd (not to mention Udemy) prove more profitable. In any event, they represent additional potential profit streams no entrepreneurial author should ignore!
 
If you have any comments or questions about Passive Publishing System, as ever, please do leave them below.
 
UPDATE MARCH 2016Passive Publishing System has just been updated and relaunched. See my new blog post and review here.
 
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Short Stories with Strong Female Protagonists Wanted by Metasagas Press

Those of you who write fantasy or science fiction might be interested in this opportunity from Metasagas Press. For their new anthology Futuristica (Volume 1) they want stories of 3,000 to 10,000 words, and are paying a decent 6c a word. More information from their website can be found below…

Submissions Guidelines & Payment Information

We pay 6 cents per word against a pro rata share of royalties. We buy first rights and exclusive eBook rights for 6 months after the date of publication. We do not purchase reprints. We accept simultaneous submissions. Manuscripts should be in standard manuscript format. Manuscripts should be between 3,000 and 10,000 words. No prior publishing experience is required.

Story Criteria

Story content must be original. We do not accept fan fiction or derivative works. We prize diversity, specifically stories that include multicultural backgrounds or lead characters of atypical ethnic origins. Basically, while we have nothing against heterosexual white American males, we feel they are already adequately represented in science fiction and we want stories about the rest of humanity. We are interested in character-oriented fiction.

Women Positive

Not every princess needs saving. We want stories with awesome female protagonists. Zoë Washburn? YES! Princess Leia? Definitely! That blonde girl from The Temple of Doom? No! Bella? Hahahaha. No.

Sex Positive

If it isn’t consensual, it isn’t sex. Can the story contain sexual content? Absolutely! However, the sexual content should be integral to the story, but not the whole story. Does there have to be sex in the story? Nope. No demeaning sex acts. No rape. Period.

Science Positive

Stories should explore science fiction, scientific fantasy, space opera, emerging technologies, etc… We have a preference for near future, near Earth settings. No high fantasy, please. No dragons or dinosaurs, unless they also have lasers.

Source: SUBMISSIONS | Metasagas Press

Stories can be submitted via the form on the website. The last date to submit stories for consideration is 31 August 2015.

Good luck!

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Spotlight: Blogging for Writers

In this series of posts, I’m highlighting a number of my downloadable writing courses.

Today I’m focusing on Blogging for Writers, which (like many of my courses) is published by WCCL (also known as The Self Development Network).

Blogging for Writers is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know to leverage your writing skills to maximum effect as a blogger.

Whether you want to attract more readers, generate more book sales, or get more clients for your writing and editing services, blogging has the power to do this. And the same applies if you’re hoping to join the growing ranks of authors such as Zoe Margolis and Tom Reynolds, whose blogs have been spun-off into best-selling books and even TV series.

On the other hand, if you simply want to earn a sideline (or even full-time) income to supplement your writing earnings, blogging can do this for you too. And yes, I’m definitely speaking from experience here 😉

Blogging for Writers is intended both for complete newcomers to blogging and for those who may already have a blog and now want to move up a level and unleash the full power of this highly writer-friendly medium.

And here’s a true confession for you. I only actually discovered that BFW had been published when a reader of my Facebook Page, Charles Olsen, posted the following message:

“Almost finished going through your book ‘Blogging for Writers’ for the first time, preparing to set up a new blogging site. I am finding a lot of great ideas there, so many things that I would never have thought of on my own.” 

You can check out Charles’ message, and his follow-up where he talks more about the benefits he is enjoying from the course, by clicking here. And, by the way, you can see how astonished I was to discover that the course was out and I hadn’t known!

Blogging for Writers covers pretty much everything you need to know about blogging from a writer’s perspective. The main manual has eight substantial chapters, each with screengrab illustrations. The chapters are as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Easy Ways to Make Money Blogging
  3. Setting Up Your Own Blog
  4. What to Blog About
  5. From Blog to Book
  6. Monetizing Your Blog
  7. Attracting Readers
  8. Onward and Upward

You also get a range of free bonuses, including my unique 4-Week Blogging Action Plan (to take you “from blogging zero to blogging hero”, as WCCL’s copywriter neatly puts it!), my guide to writing irresistible blog post titles, a list of 50 niche blog topics with big earning potential, and more.

There is plenty more about Blogging for Writers, including the specifics of what each module covers, on my publisher’s information page, so please click through any of the links in this post to find out more.

And, of course, if you have any comments or questions about Blogging for Writers, please feel free to post them below!

 

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An Ugly Way to Go

Guest Post: Humorist Iain Pattison explains why he’s adopted a quirky approach to attracting new readers on Amazon

Today I am pleased to bring you a guest post by my old friend – and former Writers Bureau colleague – Iain Pattison.

Iain is a UK-based author, competition judge, creative writing tutor and script doctor. His short stories have appeared in a wide range of magazines and literary publications, including Woman, Woman’s Own, Take A Break, Chat, Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, Writers Forum, Acclaim Magazine, and The New Writer. They’ve also been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and featured in numerous North American short story and flash fiction anthologies.

In his entertaining article below, Iain spills the beans on how he adopted a more entrepreneurial approach when his original short story anthology, Is That a Pun in Your Pocket, stopped selling. There are useful lessons all authors can learn from this, non-fiction as well as fiction.

Over to Iain, then…

* * *

It’s a story that’s as old as time itself – or at least, as old as the digital age. You’ve got an eBook that’s doing well, attracting glowing reviews, and enjoying steady sales. Then, without any warning or apparent reason, it starts to falter. Sales dip, reviews dry up and no one mentions it any more on social media.

This is what happened to me recently, when sales of my comedy short story collection Is That A Pun In Your Pocket?: 21 Short Stories to Tickle Your Fancy began to slide. From being a book that created a buzz, garnered loads of five and four star reviews and saw sales rocket so much that other authors were asking me to share the secret of my success, I suddenly found that I had a parrot that, if not deceased, was pining for the fjords too damn much for my liking.IPcover

I was surprised and rather perplexed. I’d have understood it if “Pun” hadn’t done well at the start, had been tied into some topical date or event, or it or I had been the subject of some nationwide scandal. But none of these were true. (I certainly hadn’t been controversial in the Nationwide, although I couldn’t necessarily vouch for my behaviour in other building societies.)

So what to do? Belonging to the noble order of quitters, whose sacred motto is: “If first you don’t succeed, immediately give up and have a pint”, my initial reaction was to mutter darkly and forget the whole business. Let the parrot die.

I’d seen too many authors panic into dramatically dropping the price, doubling the decibels and frequency of their “BUY MY BOOK”!!!” tweets and Facebook posts, while messing about with cosmetic Frankenstein revamps to their creations. I wasn’t going down that road, thank you very much. I still had a little pride.

But no matter how much I tried to put it all behind me I couldn’t ignore that niggling, itching, troubling voice in my head. What God of publishing had I offended? Where had it gone wrong?

Donning my metaphorical deerstalker I set off to investigate. I quizzed lots of people, sought opinions, had many “It’s okay – give it to me straight” conversations, accepted advice, criticisms and sympathetic cups of tea.

And rapidly a clear answer emerged from all the probing and pleading. Is That A Pun In Your Pocket? had been a hit with those who knew my work – but it had failed to attract the attention of the wider reading public. Yes, I’d enjoy a mini sales surge every time I was interviewed on a writing website or did a guest blog, but the reality was that I was selling in a bubble and had exhausted my available audience. (You can experience the same effect if you sit through one of my after dinner speeches!)

I just wasn’t attracting new readers. The world was taking one look at my wonderful, satirical, deeply insightful and whimsical book and saying: “It’s good, but it’s not quite Carling.” And those I asked weren’t shy at letting me know why.

It didn’t matter how entertaining or clever my stories were, I’d got the three key selling points of any eBook badly wrong. 

Casual browsers and impulse buyers were being turned off by:

  • the price
  • the book title
  • and the cover

So just about everything important!

To examine each of my crimes in turn: I’d suggested to the publisher that the collection should be priced at £2.99. It had seemed a reasonable amount at the time. After all, the book was packed with competition winning stories, tales that had appeared in anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic and been broadcast on Radio 4. What I hadn’t realised was that other short story collections on Amazon were priced around £1.99, and with eBooks an extra £1 makes a huge amount of difference to allure and saleability.

Then there was the title. I’d assumed that a generic, tongue-in-cheek label would convey that this was a fun book, something guaranteed to raise a smile – an easy read that didn’t take itself too seriously. What I hadn’t realised was that most book buyers browsing on Amazon prefer a “does what it says on the tin” title. As with jokes, you can be too clever or oblique. Yes, the second part – “21 Short Stories to Tickle Your Fancy” – hinted at the tone and subject matter but many browsers weren’t reading past the opening words “Is That A Pun In your Pocket?”  Even those potential buyers who did, seemed confused – and I was asked on more than one occasion if this was a book of jokes and riddles or radio scripts.

As for the negative reaction to the word “pun” – who’d have guessed it? Well, I should have. For me it seemed an easy way to summarise the deft wordplay and satirical semantic flourishes that I like to include in my multi-layered comedy. Unfortunately, for others it suggested the childish, groan-inducing headlines you see in newspapers around Easter promising Eggs-tra Special Fun. Everyone fixated on the poor three letter word – to the exclusion of anything else. Even those kind souls who left five-star reviews all worked in a mention. My fault – not theirs.

All that was bad enough, but arguably it was the cover that was causing me the most problems. How do you illustrate “Is That A Pun In Your Pocket?” without devising something visually baffling or guaranteed to be so rude it would make even Frankie Boyle blush. So I’d plumped for a text-only cover, and in so doing ensured that the book appeared drab and uninspiring next to all the colourful, dynamic, loud and eye-popping artwork and photo-montages of the opposition. Yes, it had a jaunty typeface but it came across a bit like a wallflower maiden aunt at a swingers’ fancy dress ball.

And one of the harshest pieces of feedback to swallow was that it looked so sedate that some wrongly assumed that it was a non-fiction book. So a wallflower maiden aunt librarian with horn-rim specs at a swingers’ fancy dress ball. No wonder it didn’t score!

Having digested these bitter revelations, I came to a conclusion. I wasn’t heading for despair but back to the drawing board. I was going to have another bash.

As I mulled over how to revive the parrot, two chance conversations changed my whole way of looking at the task.

Firstly, my wife Liz (immensely wise in everything except choosing me as a husband) remarked that if she was categorising my stories she’d say they were “quirky” – in fact, most of my output, even the fairly straight tales, were “quintessentially quirky.”

Then a writer friend asked me why I was so surprised that ‘Pun In Your Pocket’ had stumbled and fallen. Didn’t I know that stand-alone eBooks were notoriously difficult to sell? “If you want to make any money, you need to be producing  a series of linked books,” he said. “If readers like one, they’ll immediately want more of the same and buy several others in the series.”

Eureka!!!! Cue cartoon light bulb flashing on above my head. And Quintessentially Quirky Tales was born.

I’d bring out a series of light-hearted eBooks all under the same marketing banner, all priced at £1.99. There would be 15 stories to a volume – mostly humour. And each would have an easy to understand and categorise title such as Fiddle of the Sphinx and other Quintessentially Quirky Tales. In addition, each volume would feature a striking cartoon cover designed by the same brilliant artist – each image different but the overall typography and layout clearly conforming to a recognisable QQ brand.IPSphinx

There would be at least two volumes launches a year. In between, I’d periodically offer a discount promotion through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program on one of the existing series – just to keep interest bubbling over.

Luckily – and crucially -when I explained my vision to the publisher of Is That A Pun In Your Pocket? he loved the idea and generously offered to kill the original book so I wouldn’t be competing against myself.

So that’s what happened and, after a hectic few weeks of editing, formatting and cover design, the first two QQ volumes have just gone live on Amazon. I’m thrilled with Fiddle of the Sphinx and other Quintessentially Quirky Tales and its sister title An Ugly Way to Go and other Quintessentially Quirky Stories and hope the reading public will be as well. 

There’s one additional feature to my original vision – each QQ volume contains a guest story from an author whose work I love and whom I think my readers will love too. In volume one it’s Glynis Scrivens and in volume two it’s Chloe Banks. Both have contributed entertainingly quirky yarns. I believe that cross promotion and author co-operation is the way of the future so I’m excited to see how this pans out for us.

Well, the adventure is off and running. If you fancy checking out Fiddle of the Sphinx, and reading the first story for free, please click here

And for An Ugly Way to Go, this is the link you want.

* * *

Thank you to Iain Pattison (pictured, right) for an interesting and thought-provoking article. I hope the new publishing initiative is a roaring success! IainPattison

I do very much agree with Iain that for e-book writing especially nowadays, writing a series is the way to go, and this applies just as much to non-fiction writers as fiction.The advantages in terms of cross-promotion and building your personal brand are too great to ignore.

And if you enjoy reading quirky, well-written short stories with a clever twist at the end, I highly recommend giving Iain’s books a try. They are perfect for reading on your Kindle on the beach or by the pool this summer. In addition, as Iain is regularly asked to judge short story writing competitions, you may pick up some useful lessons about his tastes and preferences by reading his own stories!

For the convenience of my non-UK readers (though they will work for UK readers as well) here are universal links to Fiddle of the Sphinx and An Ugly Way to Go. These should take you to the relevant pages of your own national Amazon store, wherever in the world you are based.

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

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The Best Ways to Make Money Online in 2015

 

I read an interesting article by Dr Andy Williams this week on his EzSEO blog. In it Andy answers a commonly asked question about the best ways of making money online today. This is of course a subject in which I have a particular interest, so I was keen to see what he had to say.

I have reproduced the opening of his article below.

I got an email today. The person wanted to start an online business, and they asked me to help them learn how to create affiliate sites. That got my thinking…

If I was starting out today, what would I do online?

What would you do? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

If I was in a hurry, I would not create affiliate sites. With the changes in Google over the last few years, affiliate sites are no longer a quick solution for a long-term, sustainable business. They take time to build and mature and get one thing wrong, your work could wiped out overnight. Don’t get me wrong, as part of a long-term strategy affiliate sites are fine, but they are not a source of instant income like they used to be.

So what would I do?

Well, I would want something that was not dependent on Google, and there are two clear winners for me – Kindle books & Udemy courses.

The great thing is, if you can do one, you can do both…

Source: What would I do now? – ezSEO Newsletter

Kindle is, of course, a well-known option among entrepreneur writers. A small but growing number have become millionaires through Kindle publishing, and many others are earning a worthwhile sideline or even full-time income.

On the minus side, in recent times it has become a very crowded marketplace, and getting your title to stand out has become increasingly difficult (though it can still be done, of course).

Udemy is the new kid on the block, and as yet it has failed to get on the radar of many writers. I agree with Andy that it should, though.

Udemy allows anyone to publish courses on almost any subject, from writing to programming, foreign languages to astronomy. Courses can include video, audio and text. You set your own price, and split the income with the platform. You can also publish free “taster” courses, which can be a great way of building your list.

This is clearly not an opportunity for fiction writers (unlike Kindle) – but if you have any kind of expertise you can share, it is definitely worth looking into. I certainly plan to investigate it in more detail myself in future.

I should also mention that Andy has his own comprehensive course on creating Udemy courses, which you can read about in his blog post. It is currently available at a huge discount. This is not an affiliate link and I don’t make any money for recommending it. I am simply mentioning it as a service to my readers. I’m a big fan of Andy’s books and courses, and in my experience they always deliver amazing value for money.

* Have you tried Udemy yourself, as a student or instructor? If so, what did you think of it? I’d be intrigued to hear your views. Please leave a comment below as usual!

 

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Niche Publishing Monthly

Niche Publishing Monthly Review

Niche Publishing Monthly is the latest product for writers to be released by the prolific Amy Harrop.

Niche Publishing Monthly is, as the name implies, a monthly membership service. Each month subscribers receive an information pack focused on one particular niche publishing opportunity.

The pack includes background information about the niche concerned, the results of Amy’s keyword research, competition analysis (including Kindle), and much more. The idea is that you use this information to create e-books and other information products to appeal to people interested in that niche.

This service is therefore aimed primarily at writers (and other entrepreneurs) who have some experience in online publishing, rather than absolute beginners.

Amy was kind enough to allow me pre-launch reviewer access to the first monthly issue of Niche Publishing Monthly, so here’s what I found.

The “Niche of the Month” in the first issue is the hugely popular online game Minecraft. The main information is contained in an 18-page PDF. This starts by discussing the Minecraft niche and the demographic it appeals to (I must admit I found some of this information quite surprising).

After that, Amy sets out the fruits of her research into the Minecraft niche, looking at relevant keywords (e.g. Minecraft hacks) and the search volumes they attract. She also covers the various potential outlets for publishers (Kindle, Smashwords, the iBookstore, and so on) and discusses their relative merits and the terms they offer to author/publishers.

In the next part of the guide – arguably the most useful – Amy sets out the different types of product that could do well in this niche. With Minecraft, for example, she lists quiz books, how-to guides, beginner guides, and even joke books. There is also a separate spreadsheet listing the top-selling Minecraft e-books in the Kindle Store, including their length, number of reviews, price, estimated gross sales, and much more. There is plenty of food for thought here, even if you are not a Minecraft aficionado.

The guide concludes with links to various useful resources for content creation, including websites, articles and videos. There is also a link to a spreadsheet listing related blogs, Google Plus communities, Facebook Groups and Pinterest boards.

Obviously, Minecraft might not be everyone’s ideal niche, but from Amy’s advice and resources guide, I am certain most writers could come up with something publishable on this topic. Amy does say, however, that a broad variety of niches will be covered in the coming months, including Health, Hobbies, Relationships, Self Help, Fiction (Romance, Thriller, Mysteries, etc.), Kids’ Books and Topics, Popular Culture, and more.

Any downsides? Well, if large numbers of subscribers are all targeting the same niche in any particular month, this will inevitably increase the level of competition. I don’t think that will be a major obstacle in practice, though. It’s not as if everyone will be publishing the same thing. There are lots of different sub-niches you can target, and different media as well. In addition, after every month that particular issue will be removed, so nobody else will be able to access it. So in practice it’s highly unlikely that any of these popular niches will ever become swamped.

In summary, Niche Publishing Monthly is another great-value product from Amy Harrop, especially at the launch price of just $9.99 (about 6.50 UKP) a month (and you can of course cancel at any time). Clearly it will still be down to you to apply the information provided and create your own products, but that does mean that you should end up with something unique that should generate a growing online income for you for many months to come.

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

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Ten Things I Have Learned About Buying Information Products Online

In the last few years I have bought a LOT of online information products. Some were writing-related, while others were about running various types of online business. Many were bought for the purposes of reviewing them on my blog or for my clients at More Money Review.

Buying and reviewing these products has given me a few insights into how these products are sold and how to spot the good ones from the average, the poor and the downright scams. So I thought today I’d share some of the things I’ve learned through doing this. Some of the items listed below are a bit tongue in cheek, but in my experience they are all essentially true…

1. If it’s sold from a video sale page, always be wary. In addition…

2. The longer the video and the less other written information, the greater the likelihood it is a scam.

3. Similarly, the vaguer and/or more outrageous the promises made, the more likely you are looking at a scam.

4. On the other hand, sale pages with detailed and informative text and relevant graphics are a promising sign.

5. If there is no way of contacting the vendor from the sales page, don’t expect any support if you sign up either.

6. NEVER give your real phone number, or you will almost certainly receive a stream of phone calls from telemarketers trying to sell you ever more expensive “upgrades”. If it’s compulsory (a warning sign in itself, of course) enter a string of zeroes. That’s never failed to work for me.

7. There will almost inevitably be a “one time offer” (OTO) after you have made your purchase. This is where you discover that the original sales page omitted to mention that there is something else you need as well to make any real money from the opportunity. My advice (which admittedly I don’t always take myself) is never to pay for an OTO. You can almost certainly still buy it later if you find you really want to, often at the same price. But until you’ve tried the original product, how do you know if you need the upsell or not? And even if you end up paying slightly more later, overall you will still be much better off than paying for every OTO on the off-chance you might need it.

8. If you buy an information product, give yourself time to read it and properly apply the information it contains. Don’t put it to one side as soon as some other “bright, shiny object” distracts you. The internet is awash with “opportunities”, with many more being added every day. It’s highly unlikely you are going to miss anything life-changing if you forswear buying any other information products while you focus on the one in hand.

9. If you’re looking for advice on whether a certain product would be right for you, beware of Googling for reviews. The great majority of online reviews are placed by affiliates who are seeking to make money by hyping new products to the skies, whatever their actual merits (or otherwise). Instead, check out independent review websites such as More Money Review, which – as mentioned – I write for myself. Another review site I like is One More Cup of Coffee by “Nathaniel”. His reviews are always honest and entertaining. Admittedly, he is actively promoting Wealthy Affiliate throughout the site, but as that is a pretty good product (and free at the basic level) I don’t have a problem with it. You can see my own review of Wealthy Affiliate on this page of the MMR site, incidentally. Note that you will need to register (free) and log in to read the full review.

10. Finally, remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. If there really was an easy, fail-safe method of making money online, everyone would be doing it by now. There ARE genuine ways of making money on the internet, from blogging to Kindle e-book writing, online auction trading to affiliate marketing, but in all cases you really do need to work hard at it. Sorry!

If you have any questions or tips you would like to add to my own, please do post them below.

Wordcloud courtesy of Word It Out.

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