Category Archives: About

A wrong cover and a revamp – case study of rebranding an indie novel

The story of our cover redesign – thanks Roz Morris!

Nail Your Novel

bookshop 12 april 023 smlYou know my bookseller friend Peter Snell, of Barton’s in Leatherhead? (He’s the co-host of our Surrey Hills Radio show So You Want To be A Writer.) Peter is a staunch supporter of indie authors, and he mentioned to me that he’d been talking to an indie writer I know who wanted advice on revamping her novel cover.

Oh you mean Alison Ripley Cubitt, I said. Her science fiction novel?

It’s not science fiction, said Peter. It’s a contemporary eco-thriller.

And therein lay Alison’s biggest problem.

So how did she end up with a cover that sent the wrong message? How was she persuaded to change it – because she’d made that choice for a good reason. And what did she change it to?

I thought this would make a useful case study. Publishers often rebrand covers if they keep a title in print a long time, and…

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The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers

Brilliant investigation into Author Solutions and all the companies it uses to prey on emerging writers.

David Gaughran

authorsolutionsPRHThe more you study an operation like Author Solutions, the more it resembles a two-bit internet scam, except on a colossal scale.

Internet scammers work on percentages. They know that only a tiny fraction of people will get hoodwinked so they flood the world’s inboxes with spammy junk.

While reputable self-publishing services can rely on author referrals and word-of-mouth, Author Solutions is forced to take a different approach. According to figures released by Author Solutions itself when it was looking for a buyer in 2012, it spent a whopping $11.9m on customer acquisition in 2011 alone.

This money is spent on:

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Transylvanian Granny Says Fracking Will Make Your Flesh Fall Off

Anti- fracking protesting in the South Downs looks tame in comparison to the way they do things in Romania.

Here’s the Channel 4 News story on it where villagers from poor communities, the Orthodox church and urban eco-warriors are united in taking a stand against the global corporations who want to exploit their land and extract shale gas….


The Lasting Legacy of a Good Read

Prolific crime author, Ruth Rendell has been busy recently, promoting her most recent novel, Archie and Archie, the second she has written, aimed at adults that are learning to read.  Featuring a cat and a dog, the book is made up of words of two syllables or fewer. An ambassador for the National Literacy Trust, Rendell says that there are millions of adults who cannot read at all and many more are barely able to read newspaper headlines.

I, for one, would far rather that the UK government put the money earmarked for the Trident nuclear deterrent, into health and cash-strapped local authorities so that they can retain their library services.  Cutting library services in an effort to balance the books is a tragedy for those who suffer the stigma of being unable to read.  The inability to read causes misery for millions. And the long-term effect on the British (and global) economy of improved literacy will have a far greater impact than that of the legacy of any politician.

It might seem odd to donate a signed copy of Revolution Earth to a literacy program in the USA when we live in the UK, but such is the global reach of the reading community that a request from a friend on Goodreads really brought the problem of literacy home to me.  The ability to read is such a fundamental life skill that I for one take it so much for granted. It is tragic that there are still so many people in the world who, for whatever reason struggle to understand written language.

Dawn Lowery runs a youth literacy program in Dalton, Georgia and we were delighted to donate a signed copy of our book to Dawn who, as well as being actively involved in the youth literacy program, lends books out to hospital patients.  Dawn not only volunteers her time to others but does so as a single parent, raising three kids all under 12, the youngest of whom is 10 months….

Here is my interview with Dawn:

Alison: Dawn, can you tell readers a little about the literacy program and the

community it serves?

Dawn: First Alison, I want to thank you for your generosity in donating a book to our program. I live in Dalton, Georgia yet our programs help clients across the United States. If we receive a request for books we will do our best to accommodate the request.

I help to operate a small non-profit organization which has a couple of different literacy programs. One program centers around adult recovering patients in local hospitals. We lend books to patients in the hospitals and before they go home they give then back to the nurse and the process continues on to other patients. I believe that this allows for patients to heal quicker by keeping their mind off of their injuries and/or pain.

The second program promotes literacy to lower income at-risk youth. We help to provide free books to children – particularly teenagers, who live in families that can’t afford to purchase books for their children. We feel that this helps to promote literacy and can take their imaginations and minds off of their current problems and issues, thus creating valuable literacy skills and memories.

Alison: What is the age range of the students you support and do you find that more boys than girls are in need of literacy support, or is it more evenly spread than that?

Dawn: We help children from 3-18 years of age. We find that both boys and girls need literacy support. Often times, the children that need help will surprise you – they are intelligent and have great personalities. Some children that we support, who are now citizens were born overseas and English is not their first language. They are not only learning to read, they must learn the English language as well. When a child like this receives help they then go home and teach their parents and grandparents to read as well.

Alison: Would you have any approximate statistics of how many people in your state or your town cannot read?

 Dawn: I have not seen adequate studies concerning percentages of illiterate people in the state of Georgia. If I had to put an approximate number on it I would guess that 1 in 7 individuals either can not read or are reading at a much lower level then they should be.

Alison: And finally, can you tell us about your work where you lend books to hospital patients. I was visiting my local hospital recently and it got me thinking about how I would feel if I was a hospital patient and was desperate for a book to read. After all, when you are ill, you can’t exactly get up and walk to the nearest public library (if you are lucky enough to have one), can you?

Dawn: No Alison, once you are admitted you are pretty much stuck there. I contact local hospitals (or they contact us) and we offer books to patients who are healing from surgeries and illnesses. There are many people who either have no family or friends who come to visit them while they are in the hospital or they are admitted to the hospital expectantly. These are patients who sit by themselves for hours or days while their bodies heal. I feel like books can help keep their minds busy and allow their bodies to heal much quicker. As we all know, books can also allow us to escape our troubles and problems allowing our minds a chance to clear, relax, and renew. Believe it or not, many patients say they are eternally grateful for the service that we try to provide and often times we are told that we are the only visitors that have come to the patient’s room.

If you are reading this interview and would like to donate a book and help Dawn’s work in youth literacy or hospital program you can contact Dawn at:

You can also ship books or monetary donations to the organization’s address:

Wee Care Community Outreach Inc

C/O Dawn Lowery

2873 Wells Drive

Dalton, Georgia 30721

All donations made within the United States are 100% tax deductible Federal Tax ID Number:  20-5077011

Self published authors share 5 things they learned in 2012

This week, a big thank you to Susanne Lakin for the opportunity to guest on her excellent Live,Write, Thrive blog.

In the three months of 2013 we have: published a Epub version on Kobobooks, created a print version on CreateSpace and found out the hard way that if you try to do everything yourself,  be it book designer, formatter, distributor and marketer, that these jobs use up valuable time, the time you should be spending on writing the next project.  Something to bear in mind for the next book? Here is the link to Susanne’s blog:

Is the KDP Select Free Promo Still Worth the Effort?

KDP Select Free Promo – August/September 2012

KDP Select, launched in December 2011, sold itself on the premise that if authors made their ebooks available for free for a limited time, this would lead to an increase in sales. In return, authors had to sign up to distribute their ebooks exclusively on Amazon.
For a number of authors the free downloads have resulted in a big bump in sales – although the anecdotal evidence is that month on month, those free promotions are yielding far fewer downloads than they once did. But Amazon has been working hard behind the scenes to keep its authors happy and in August this year the company announced not only the launch of Kindle in India but that India was going to be the latest territory to be included in the Select program. The ability to sell our books to one of the world’s largest English speaking countries is an opportunity not to be missed. At the same time as India came on board, Amazon launched its latest Kindle ereaders, one of which, the Kindle Paperwhite will be on many a Christmas wish list.

I had enrolled in Select in June 2012 and had sold a modest number of copies of Revolution Earth. By August sales began to slow down and by the middle of the month I decided I needed to kick start the marketing process. It was time to think seriously about using up some of those free promo days in Select.

Never before had I given away my writing for free, and to me, it seemed risky: I still had to overcome my reservations about giving away a book that took six years to write and which had cost £500 to produce. And if there was one thing I was fairly confident about, it was that I’d got the costing right at $3.15/£1.99. But then it hit me that it doesn’t matter how well a book is priced, no-one can buy it if they don’t know it’s there in the first place. And so, I figured, that the benefits of the free download did in fact outweigh the risks and went ahead.

I felt more confident after reading thriller author, David McGowan’s blog post on Goodreads about the promotional sites where you can advertise your freebie. I picked a date at the end of August and gave myself ten days to let everyone know. Many of the bigger sites recommend you give them four weeks notice in advance of your promo and I soon realised that I might have left it a bit late.

I chose to make use of just three free days, rather than the full five you are allocated and I ran the promo over a weekend, starting at midnight on Friday 31st August. Midnight PST (Pacific Standard Time) is 8.00am BST (British Summer Time) and as I now live in the UK the timing was ideal. Amazon do warn you that the promo may not start exactly on time, so be careful about scheduling any automatic tweets too early. I had to reschedule a few of those as it was 9.15am by the time the promo finally kicked in.
And here is what happened:

In total there were 3197 downloads – the majority of which came from the US but with a small but significant number from Amazon in Germany. I had an inkling that a book with an environmental theme might appeal to this market, thanks to the feedback from a German/Kiwi on Authonomy. And I knew that New Zealand is a country that attracts travellers and settlers from Germany and The Netherlands.

So how has the freebie impacted on sales? Since the promo there have been 32 purchases and 4 borrows so far. This might not sound like much and I could, no doubt have received more if I had pitched the book as a mainstream thriller – but I didn’t want reviewers coming back to me later on complaining that they thought they were getting a Lee Child action thriller when the book has a non-linear structure in the first few chapters, (ereaders seem to suit a more straightforward narrative), it’s set in New Zealand and Australia and one of the main characters is a chippy young woman with a social conscience.

I asked for feedback from fellow indie writers on Authonomy on how their free promotion went and thriller writer, Terry, who was kind enough to share his stats received double the number of downloads that I did – at 7,500. He had 5000 in the US and 2500 in the UK although only 9 in Germany. Since the promotion, he too has had a spike in sales with 50 in the US and 70 in the UK – as well as 5 borrows.

Terry ran his promotion for only two days and if I was doing this again I would keep it to two days. The first day of my three day promotion I received around a quarter of all the downloads; it went very quiet on the Saturday but on the final day we both found that things began to go crazy – particularly in the US as the deadline approached.

I am pleased with my modest results. I now have 25 pages on and 20 pages on of – ‘people who bought this also bought this’ – which is very useful to me to find out what other books in my genre have been purchased and what the best price point is ($3.15 and under). I haven’t regretted the promo at all – I’ve learned more about book marketing in the past three months as an indie than I ever did having a publisher that marketed my book for the first six months and then sold the business to another publisher who did no marketing whatsoever…..

I received a number of re-tweets and mentions in some of the smaller sites. I didn’t get picked up by Pixel of Ink, which, if you are lucky enough to get promoted by them, can have a major impact on the number of downloads you receive. Another Authonomy colleague received 11,000 downloads from both the US and UK after their support and this bumped her sales from a handful to around 30. I did get featured and re-tweeted by the friendly folk at: Free e Books Daily, Book Your Next Read, Squid Inc,The Digital Ink Spot and Free Book Dude.

One thing I would say is that how many downloads and sales you will get does depend on what sort of genre you write in and not everyone agrees that giving away free books is a good thing. If I was doing this again I would start at least three weeks in advance of the promo and definitely give Pixel of Ink another shot. But whether you choose to go down the Kindle Select path or not – good luck to you all!