Saturday, 8 February 2014

Free eBook promotion now ended

My five day marketing plan has now ended. From Monday to Friday last week I gave away copies of my first eBook: 10 Plumbing Tips. I'd added in a sample of my newest eBook: Finish The Job! in the hope this would result in follow through purchases.

Was it worth it?

Only time will tell.

It's been an interesting experiment in self publishing though.

I did substantially more marketing for my second eBook than my first. I wrote to a local radio station and my local newspaper asking if their listeners and readers would be interested in a free eBook. I got no reply from either of them. I'm going to have to follow up on that. Ask what they would be interested in: as broadcasters and publishers; find out how better to frame my offer.

I wrote to most of the suppliers we bought our plumbing supplies from offering a free copy of my new book. One supplier accepted the offer and wrote back to say he'd enjoyed it. Another didn't want a free copy.

I also wrote to a couple of the charities mentioned in Finish The Job! One of these wrote back and were even kind enough to place a review on Amazon for the first book.

I sent an email to some of my colleagues at work. Posted a couple of times on a forum I frequent. I sent a few tweets out but got no retweets that I could see.

All in all, I didn't do a lot of marketing. I'm conscious that both books are very short and very much an experiment. I didn't want to waste time promoting something that may never sell well.

However, at least 10 Plumbing Tips may be widely read...

Over the course of the week 716 eBooks were given away worldwide through Amazon.

That's 716 people who may at some point in the future go on to purchase Finish The Job!

The statistics on that give away are fascinating. All my promotion was done in the UK (apart from my blog which isn't all that widely read...)

On day one I checked how many copies were being downloaded fairly frequently. It looked like 10 copies were being downloaded every hour in the US. By 7AM the next morning I could see that had been the case:

The downloads tailed off after that but by the end of the week I still had given away 659 copies in the US.

The bulk of the rest were in the UK, then Canada, Germany, India and one copy each in Italy, Spain and France.

During the week I bought and read an eBook: Going Global - How to sell your ebook in the German Market. The book contains some valuable advice on selling English language books in the German market. While the links to review sites and companies are solely relevant to Germany, the advice in the book is applicable worldwide. I'm going to use the advice when I release my next eBook later in the year.

I've only sold two copies of Finish The Job! since I released it. Both of those were to colleagues!

For an experiment it has been a success as far as learning goes but a failure in terms of making money. I realised fairly quickly that my ambition to gain a 70% royalty would put off potential buyers and dropped the price to £0.99.

Whether I sell more copies or not, I'm glad I wrote and published Finish The Job! Having started the story in 10 Plumbing Tips, I wanted to complete it. My ultimate goal is to complete and publish my novel and to make money from my writing. The more I can learn now, hopefully the easier that will be.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Oops I... accidentally published another book

Apparently Amazon doesn't allow publishing in advance. I had assumed - a word I'm really starting to hate - that because in traditional publishing it is quite common to set an advance publication date, it would also be possible using Amazon KDP.

Not so. (However, if I just haven't discovered how yet and there's a KDP expert out there, do let me know!)

After a mad week of final editing and formatting, my intention was to set a release date mid February and do some advance marketing.

Quite late on Thursday evening I completed the book description on Amazon KDP and found that I could only set a publish date for that day. I assumed (hisss) that I would have a chance later on to change that but no, pressing submit is like fire and forget. The book was going to be published no matter what I did.

My second book Finish The Job! has now been available on Amazon since early Friday morning (31st January 2014):

It actually worked to my advantage. I'd been meaning to update my first book to include a preview of the second and apply some of the learnings I'd made while working on the second book.

I've renamed and re-branded my first book to: 10 Plumbing Tips. Now book one of "The shower room saga" ;) If you can't have a laugh with this writing and publishing business then what is the point!

Having actually spent some time reading the terms and conditions on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) I now realise the reason my 99p eBook was being sold for £1.02 was because VAT is not included in the price I set. You have to add 3% (or rather deduct 3%) for books sold in Europe.

I chose not to publish Finish The Job! through KDP Select as it ties me into only selling through Amazon and I want to explore publishing through Nook and other outlets. But 10 Plumbing Tips is still tied into KDP Select which means I can offer it for free for five days - from 3rd to 7th February 2014!

I initially set the price of Finish The Job! at £1.99 which allows me to earn the higher rate of royalty (70%). However that does mean I'm paying for electronic transfer at 10p per Mb. As I've 25 full colour photos and numerous tables that I've had to save as pictures as well, that cuts down my profit by some 30p per sale.

I'd wondered about using Amazon coupons for an initial release sale but that seems to be linked to physical sales through rather than Kindle sales. I could have enrolled in Kindle Select to access a countdown deal but in the end realised I can simply change the price myself so I've taken the price down to the absolute minimum across the UK, Europe and US. It will take effect by Monday which is when I have my free promotion on 10 Plumbing Tips!

I can always raise the price later if I want. You change it in KDP and within a day it has updated. The control over your product is amazing!

Once you've read either of the books, do leave a review on Amazon.

Sunday, 5 January 2014


I'm not a fan of odd numbered years. It's not rational but there you are. I have plenty of reasons to like odd years and odd numbered dates for that matter, but I prefer even numbered.

Give me the choice of living in a pentagon shaped house and a hexagon one and I'd probably prefer the hexagon.

I wasn't looking forward to 2013. 2012 was a good year. A fun year.

Turning 40 was initially stressful but once I'd reached it, I began to enjoy it. What did I have to look forward to in 2013?

At the start of the year I felt I was no closer to completing a novel than I had been in 2012. For all that even numbered year was good, I tied myself in knots over editing.

I had no major goals planned though I did have one practical goal that I wasn't especially looking forward to: Goal 41: To install a shower downstairs and decorate room. I never noticed before now but I chose to achieve my 41st goal when I turned 41. That is NOT going to become a tradition!

Turned out that installing a shower downstairs was just about all I could manage last year. At one point it felt like it nearly killed me. But sometimes we need failure and disaster, just like some forests need to be burned down occasionally to enable new growth:
If I never fail, will I ever grow? A scary question.

I failed big time in 2013 but as a result of my foolishness when I injured my back, I had time to think. Time to remember what was really important to me. I decided I was going back to my first novel: Fallen Warriors.

All that editing failure in 2012 had taught me something. But it took a couple of weeks of lying on my back to figure out what that was.

I also decided to take a risk. A friend: Frank Mason, was offering coaching sessions. Signing up to let someone else help direct my life was scary. But it seemed provident.

Those coaching sessions have helped. I'm now paying Frank for one monthly coaching session and I'm using them to hold myself accountable for my writing. I'm also using them to analyse how I've gotten on and plan ahead.

The coaching has helped. I've written over 100,000 new words in 2013. That is over five books including my novel. My novel is now at 100,000 words long and I have a plan to complete it.

Did I mention I published a book last year? Just over 3,000 words long but I'm now finishing off the sequel which will be available by the end of the month. Then I'm going to complete the two other non-fiction books I've been working on and publish them.

2014 is going to be a good year. A fun year. But it is going to be good and fun because of the work that went on in 2013.

2014 also needs to be a year of hard work. I need to write another 100,000 words this year. Part of that will be completing my novel. Part of it will be yet more non-fiction books and I'm wondering, hoping if by year end I'll have started on my next novel... But that is too far in the future.

Have you taken time to look back over the last year and found what influenced and affected you? If not I encourage you to do so. May 2014 be a great year for you!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Salvador Dali Muffins

I had a hankering to bake last night. A few weeks ago I'd found a recipe for Butternut squash muffins by Jamie Oliver. They turned out pretty tasty.

I wanted to end the year doing something creative and I'd bought a fancy new muffin tray over Christmas and wanted to try it out. It has a funnel in each muffin base to speed the cooking and allows you to bake muffins you can turn over and fill with cream or some other filling. I'm thinking volcano muffins!

Also, I'd bought a butternut squash and was determined to use it!

Unfortunately I didn't grease my new tray sufficiently well and so I'm breakfasting on muffin crumbs. However you can get about 48 small muffins from one butternet squash and using the standard tray and muffin cases I was able to bake quite a few that turned out okay.

Well, okay apart from those cases I overfilled before placing in the oven (I can hear my daughter now: "It's pronounced oven, Dad! Not oven..." Eyes roll. Shakes head. How do you pronounce oven?)

Twenty minutes or so later I had a batch of Salvador Dali muffins:

They may look like the warped creation of a twisted mind but they taste just as good as the crumbs I'm eating for breakfast and as the ones whose cases I didn't overfill:

And for those expert bakers out there, that first picture... I know, that's not a muffin tray. I was too impatient and press ganged an ordinary cake tray. If you want to see a picture of my new fangled vented funnel tray - one that's not got deep baked muffin all over it - check out this one on Amazon:

And that's all for now. Happy New Year to one and all! May you all enjoy working towards and achieving your goals this year.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

100,000 words - a shout out

I reached a major milestone today, passing 100,000 words written on my novel.

I've known for weeks, maybe months that this would only be a milestone and would not signify the completion of my goal to publish a novel.

How many words is enough? Every novel is different but I know the story is far from over and so I need to continue writing until it is complete.

Back in 2009 I wrote about my plan to succeed as a writer. It seemed like a good plan at the time and certainly enabled me to flesh out large parts of the plot I'm now using. I've followed a different plan since May this year and that's enabled me to keep momentum going. But that plan has started to become unworkable as work and family and other commitments have taken over my week.

I've set a new goal. A new target of 150,000 words. I've a new deadline to achieve this by and need a new plan to carve out time to write.

But for now, I'm going to give myself a virtual pat on the back and celebrate.

May you continue to find strength and time to work on your goals.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

To Sharon and Mike - Microsucks crack hack team

I happen to know a couple called Sharon and Mike. Good friends of ours over many years. This post is not about them.

I think I first spoke to Sharon some months ago when she ever so helpfully called me to say Microsoft had uncovered a virus on my PC.

I was quite rude to her - assuming it was Sharon. I actually cursed her. I don't mean swore at her, I literally cursed her. I believe in the power of blessings and curses and although I rarely curse, that seemed like an appropriate occasion.

She called again this morning. I was in a much better mood and so decided to handle the call differently. [Perhaps it was a different Sharon, would she really be calling me back again after I was so rude the last time?]

What's that you said, there's a virus on my computer? Oh My! Malicious software? Oh dear!

(She was so helpful, Sharon was. She said she worked for Microsoft and they had been informed there was a virus and dangerous software on my PC and she was calling to help. I listened with a degree of patience.)

Was my computer on? (She asked.)

I said I would turn it on.

(I went and boiled the kettle. My wife came down, a perplexed expression on her face from overhearing one side of the conversation.)

(I smiled and whispered and then went back to the phone.) Just a few minutes, maybe this is why my computer's been so slow...

(I made tea for my wife and No Caf for myself. (There's a story I've been meaning to tell about that but maybe later...))

(Then went back to the phone.)

Is the computer on?


Okay, I'm just going to transfer you to our support team. On the other side of the office.

(Sounds of chairs scraping across a floor. Whispered conversation. (We've got a live one?))



This is Mike. I'll be helping you today.

So kind of you Mike.

Have you got icons on your screen.


What can you see on your screen?

A hill. (Okay. I can be an annoying git. I admit it.)

(Silence.) Can you seen icons?


On the left?

Well, some of them are on the right.

What can you see on the screen.

(I struggle with this. What is he asking me?) A hill. (I answer.) And blue sky.

Okay. What operating system are you using?

Windows 97. (I used to get this answer a lot when I worked in IT support.)

Can you click on the four pane window button and hold down the R key.

(I actually lost him at this point. Four pane window button? Okay, I know how to answer that.)


What do you see?

The Start menu.

No, hold down the R key and press the Four pane window button.

(Ah, not something I've ever done but does this open the Run dialog?)


What do you see?

The Run window.

Okay, in the white box... (No need to be patronizing!)  type www.


g o g l



/339bx [!!! Warning - I may have misheard the guy but on no account try typing that web address into your computer!!!]


Then this will take you to a web page.

Wow (I replied) You're going to have to spell that for me, that's a long web site address.

No. type (I think that was what he said and yet again - DO NOT TRY THIS ADDRESS AT HOME!) [P.S. If anyone had the time to help me set up a reverse hack to identify these people I would love to hear from you!]

Okay, have you done that...

(At which point my patience and sense of fun both evaporated quite quickly. Maybe something to do with the fact I'd finished my drink. Maybe I'd just had enough of wasting my time. Whatever, I dropped the act.)

No. You should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to install a virus or malicious software on my PC! (I got quite snappy with him, this man pretending to be Mike. Pretending to help me while actually installing a Trojan or worse on my computer. Was he looking to steal my credit card details? My identity? Or maybe just turn my computer into a Zombie which could be sold to the highest bidder.)

Are you playing with me. (He asked. Yes, I had been. Wasting his time as he and "Sharon" had wasted mine except I wasn't also trying to steal anything from him.)

I hung up before he had a chance to and took a deep breath. I hadn't done any real good. Maybe delayed these scum for a few minutes in their attempts to break into my online world.

I didn't curse either of them this time, though maybe I should have. Perhaps I just couldn't bring myself to as what they are doing is no worse than GCHQ and the NSA. Hacking into our private lives. Stealing our data. Making our chance of online privacy that less likely.

My own Government, run by David Cameron and Nick Clegg (with the complicity of Ed Miliband) continues to demand the right to spy on me and you and my children because... Why? None of their reasons add up. The more they break online encryption the less secure my bank account becomes. The more the employ outside contractors to troll the Tera bits of data they accrue on you and I, the more likely it will get stolen.

Their protestations that Terrorists will be scared into hiding their illicit activities is a foolish sham. The real danger has always been from people who know how to hide what they are doing and those people are not going to be caught by sniffing every packet of data that is routed from here to the U.S.

As Isaac Asimov once wrote, Welcome to the goldfish bowl. Orwell warned that Big Brother is watching you. It doesn't matter how savvy I am in recognizing attempts to hack onto my computer. The State is already hacking my data right now and has been for years. It's enough to steal anyone's good mood.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Love my neighbour

I very occasionally teach at my local church. It is something that all Christians are encouraged to aspire to. When I do teach I usually quite enjoy it. At least I do now. When I started I got cold sweats and palpitations. (I'm not really sure what palpitations are but they seem to sound like what I experienced ;)

Part of the reason I enjoy it now is that I've developed a style which is much more conversational. I don't believe teaching means I have to stand behind a pulpit and lecture. No, teaching that I benefit from is interactive.

If I'm being taught I like to ask questions. I like to disagree. And when I'm teaching I now encourage discussion and conversation. I find that much more natural (and less scary) and it seems to work better for groups I'm teaching as well.

I used to hand write out what I was going to say: word for word. I will still sometimes write out passages I want to say and aspire to one day be able to memorize and simply be able to confidently speak without referring to notes. But that can wait for a day when I've got time.

I'm teaching tomorrow and all I've basically done is to look up the occurrence of the word neighbour (or neighbor in some versions) in the book of Proverbs. Turns out there are quite a few - though not as many as the word poor but I'll get back to that.

I quite like researching a topic (in case you hadn't worked that out by now) and this seemed like an interesting one. So why did I pick Proverbs? Well - it is one of the easiest ways to get a handle on what God is saying.

Proverbs is called the book of wisdom for a reason. If you've never read the bible it might be worth starting with Proverbs. (I'd recommend Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the best first books to read but Proverbs is a close fifth...) It always surprises me how much of our every day language comes straight out of the bible and an awful lot is from Proverbs.

Our church is focusing on the concept of love your neighbour this year. It seems highly relevant given the way everybody I know is struggling financially. Our church runs a food bank - Bethlehem House of Bread and there is a consistent need for it.

I often associate Jesus words about loving your neighbour with helping the poor but is that really all he meant? I expected the proverbs about neighbours to be connected to poverty but it turns out that just isn't true. I found four main themes regarding neighbours in Proverbs:
  • Be generous
  • Do unto others as you would have them do to you
  • Persistence can result in change
  • Some neighbors are to be avoided at all costs!
And of those four the vast majority were of the "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" variety. Only two connected with generosity out of eighteen. So, when Jesus said "Love your neighbour" did he have the Proverbs in mind? Certainly, his parable about the good Samaritan can be read that way.

Here are most of those verses:

Be generous
Proverbs 3:28
Say not unto your neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when you have it with you.
Proverbs 14:21
He that despises his neighbour sins: but he that has mercy on the poor, happy is he.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you
Proverbs 3:29
Devise not evil against your neighbour, seeing he dwells securely by you.
Proverbs 11:9
A hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.
Proverbs 11:12
He that is void of wisdom despises his neighbour: but a man of understanding holds his peace.
Proverbs 24:28
Be not a witness against your neighbour without cause; and deceive not with your lips.
Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.”
Proverbs 25:7-9
What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?

Proverbs 26:18-20
Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”
Proverbs 27:10
Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you - better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.

Proverbs 27:14
If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.

Persistence can result in change
Proverbs 6:1-3
My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth.
So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go - to the point of exhaustion - and give your neighbor no rest!

Some neighbors are to be avoided at all costs!
Proverbs 16:29
A violent man entices his neighbour, and leads him into the way that is not good.
Proverbs 17:18
One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.
Proverbs 21:10
The soul of the wicked desires evil: his neighbour finds no favour in his eyes.
Proverbs 29:5
A man that flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet.

So, the above verses are from Proverbs. They're all connected to the concept of neighbours. I'm not going to tell you what to think about all this - I want you to tell me. So go on, discuss!

[All verses above are copied from Bible Gateway:
King James Version in plain text
NIV in bold
Thanks to Biblica regarding terms of use of copyright for NIV text:
I have paraphrased the KJV to remove thees and thous etc.]

P.S. My Goal 68 is: To have my neighbours round for a meal.
I haven't forgotten!