Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kindle Publishing - Follow Up Number 1

My book has been on Kindle for a week or so now and it has given me time to make some minor alerations in the description.

First of all I noticed that I'd put the wrong date in the description which I quickly changed. This can be done easily through the 'actions' button on the far right of your kindle book homepage that shows all your titles.

Next I had to think about the category as I'd placed it in the Science-Fiction category. As I class my writing as SF it seemed the natural thing to do, but was it?

One reason for questioning that approach is that although the stories have been published in SF magazines and happily sit there, three of them could also sit in the general fiction category, whilst the fourth is not technological and wouldn't be out of place in general fiction. So I changed them.

They now sit in the general fiction category and the short story subsection of that category. Good move? I don't know yet, but one of the handy attributes of the Amazon Kindle site is that you can change the categorisation very easily, so I can experiment over time.

Keep your eyes on this blog for more information...except when you're driving as that could be fatal.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why? Who? What?

Why is chatting on facebook with other humans seen as anti-social whereas reading a book on your own isn't?

Why can you never find something until you don't need it?

Why do TV presenters assume we're deaf and shout at us?

Why do we become more aggressive when we get into the driver's seat of a car?

Why do some assume that the more something costs, the better it must be?

Who decides what books should be classics?

What is the point of the Mayfly?

Why do children only copy their parents bad habits?

Who decided that grass should be green?

Why does the worst weather of the week usually occur on a Saturday?

Why does the best weather usally occur on a Monday?


Feel free to add your own Why? Who? What? in the comments.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kindle Publishing - The Result

It's done. The book is now available for download and is selling like hot cakes. Well, maybe not hot cakes, but someone has bought a copy.

You can find it at and, for the rest of the world,

You can also read kindle books on your PC/Mac/iphone/ipad/Android with the right software, also available free from Amazon. I downloaded the PC software and then made a grab for as many free kindle books as I could. They're mostly old books from Ancient times up to Charles Dickens, Herman Melville and Oscar Wilde's era, but you do get some odd ones in there from writers I'd never heard of...and whose names I can no longer remember.

After publication on Amazon, I received three emails to help me further, including advice on setting up an 'author page' where I gave some brief biographical details, links to this blog and other things too.

There are also links to pages that show how to make changes to the listing (just as well really) and also some advice on marketing. I'll check these out over the coming days and write about them here.

With that, I wish you a great weekend full of happiness. And if you happen to find yourself on Amazon, I know a great little book of short stories you can buy to read on your Kindle, computer or phone.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kindle Publishing - Part 2

So you've got your book ready. It's edited, spellchecked, been converted to the right format and you're ready to upload it to Amazon. What next? Uploading of course.

If you've followed the instructions in the previous post and are happy, the next step is to let Amazon do the work and sell it for you. In comparison it's a piece of pie/cake/muffin/doughnut (delete according to taste).

First of all, you need to go to the kindle publishing page and sign in to your regular Amazon account. That's right, you don't need a special account to do any of this. I told you this was easier.

There is an upload button which will take you through the rest of the procedure, during which you will need to give some personal details (name, address etc), your bank account details (how else will they pay you) and details of the book.

It will then be uploaded and converted into their own format, after which they'll take a look at it to make sure that it isn't racist, homophobic etc, and then it will be listed as publishing. In short, within two/three days your book will be available on Amazon to be bought and downloaded.


The decisions that you will have to make regarding the book you upload will be about DRM, lending and royalties and these will be down to personal preference.

I chose not to have DRM (Digital Rights Management) on my book so that buying it was less restrictive for any readers. Lending is not about libraries, but whether buyers can lend it to other kindle users. I chose to let the book be lent so I would hopefully get a larger readership.

Royalties are either 35% or 70%. Simple choice you'd think. Nah. The lower royalty amount has a minimum price of 99c/75p whilst the higher has a minimum of $1.99/£1.45. You set your own price between these minimums and the maximum (which is about 200 $/£ if I recall correctly)

I chose the lower royalty and the lowest price in order to get more people interested in taking a chance of my book. As I haven't spent any money on producing the book, this seems sensible to me as I have no costs to recoup. Once I am famous I can charge more.

There are some tax details that you will need to be aware of, VAT in the Europe and whatever it is in the states or elsewhere, which are spelt out in the terms and conditions which I DO URGE YOU TO READ FULLY. Not because there are any traps in them, at least none I could see, but so you are aware of what they can and can't do.

There is a short guide to this on Amazon as well a community and forum to join which has even more help.

One other little beauty that you may want to advertise to one and all is the free Kindle Reader for PC. That's right, I said free. You can get the software from Amazon and then download books to your PC/Laptop and read them. No need to buy a kindle at all. It's also available for Mac, ipad, iphone and android.

So there you have it, a guide to publishing your opus on Amazon. Mine will be available by the end of the week. It's currently titled 'Published Short Stories', but I'll have to change that name as I changed the title (to 'It Can Be Done, It Should Be Done') and forgot to change the listing title in the submission (whoops).

I'll do a follow up blog on this next week, by which time I may well be one of the kindle millionaires. Oh come on, let me dream for a few days at least.


It's now available via Amazon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kindle Publishing

Publishing a book on Kindle is so darn hard isn't it? Actually, no.

I set up an account for myself on Amazon to publish via kindle and then created a book worthy (I hope) of being sold and read. Here is what I've learnt.

Software needed

MobiPocket creator. This is a free download and can be obtained very easily.
Kindle Previewer. Available from Amazon, another free piece of software.
MS Word or Open Office Writer. Open Office is free, MS Word isn't. You also need a fairly new version of MS Word as you will need to save the document as an HTML file. If your copy of word is over ten years old, you might need to replace it.

A useful piece of software would be a text editor such as windows notepad so you can edit some of the html code...I'll tell what and why later.

What you need to do

First of all type your masterpiece, edit it and spellcheck it. Make sure that you have your paragraphs formatted in your chosen style and all other formatting instructions done.
TIP: Don't use more than one font. I used Times New Roman and it translates very well onto the electronic page. Fancy and non-standard fonts may not translate so well.

Once you've done that, save the document as an html page. This is done by selecting 'save as' from the file menu. Then open MobiPocket creator.
TIP: When installing the creator, choose the 'easy' option...unless you feel adventurous.

On the MobiPocket homepage you'll see a link 'import from existing file'. Select the 'html' option and follow the instructions that follow. You build the book by selecting 'build' at the top right.
TIP: You could try to use the 'word document' instead of 'html' but I have no idea how that will turn out.

Once the book has been created, open the kindle previewer, open your new book (a 'prc' file) and check it.

HTML code

I mentioned html code earlier well this is the part where you may need it.

When you insert the 'copyright' (©) symbol in Word, it may not translate correctly and come out as a Scandinavian or Old English symbol. If this is the case, open notepad, then open the html file in notepad. Your copyright symbol will usually be near the start of the book, so look for the text near the symbol, probably your name, and you will see some code that begins with &# and is followed by three numbers. To get the copyright symbol you need &# followed by 169.

Save it, close notepad and return to MobiPocket creator. Go to the 'home' page, select your book from the list in the bottom right under 'open recent publication', select the html item, delete it and then select the 'add file' button on the far left. Insert your new html file, rebuild the book and look at it again in the kindle previewer. You should now see the copyright symbol.


Once you have completed this, upload it to your kindle account on Amazon and wait for the money to roll in...or not.

It took me a few hours to get the hang of this, but even if it takes a day, you get to upload your work direct to Amazon without paying anyone and have another market for your writing.

I haven't uploaded my book yet as I want to get a good cover picture (only black and white allowed at the mo for some reason), but when I do, you'll be the first to know. Well, maybe the second after I've told my family and my writer's group.

See you on Wednesday.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Words of the Vikings

Ever wondered where words in the English language come from? No? Shame on you.

The Vikings invaded Britain in the 8th-10th centuries and eventually settled in the North and East, as well as parts of Ireland, Scotland and France. Not only did they leave us blonde hair and blue eyes, they also left some of their language, especially place names.

When you see a town with 'by' at the end it is probably of Norse origin, such as Rugby, Derby and Grimsby. Another marker is 'thorpe' as in Scunthorpe as are 'thwaite' and toft. The norse word 'by' meant farm or town, 'thorpe' meant village, 'thwaite' was a lonely spot whilst 'toft' was a piece of ground. Toft is probably where we get the word 'tuft' for a piece of grass.

They also left their mark in our surnames. Not only were the above endings used (my surname of Willoughby meaning a farm by the willows), there is also 'son' to contend with.

It doesn't necessarily mean that you are of Viking descent if any of the above apply, but it may just explain that urge to take a large axe and cleave someone in two if they are annoying you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Never Undervalue Yourself.

Writers, generally, fall into two groups: Those that have massive egos and see no fault in their work, and those who see every fault and some faults that don't even exist.

If you're reading this I doubt you're in the former group as you wouldn't be online trying to learn, which means that to one degree or another you, like myself, undervalue your writing and your ability to write. Don't.

This evening I went to a parent evening at college for my eldest son who is studying a City & Guilds in Hospitality and Catering. The report was glowing so much I wish I had taken along some sunglasses. I wasn't overly surprised as I'd had a few chats with his tutor and assistant over the past few months. My son was.

He tends to view everything negatively and finds it hard to see his achievements. Tonight he was faced with his successes couldn't ignore them. He was wearing a large smile when we left.

Sometimes we all need to step back and realise how much we HAVE achieved as writers and stop being so hard on ourselves, to stop undervaluing our ability.

In light of this I would like you all to do one thing: today or tomorrow, think of how far you have come as a writer and as a person and enjoy it...every moment. If a negative thought comes into your mind, lock it in a dungeon somewhere until it's learnt to behave.

Because of his excellent report, I promised him a treat. After all his kitchen training and the sumptuous meals he has cooked this year, he decided that the one thing he REALLY wanted was a McDonald's chicken burger.

Ah well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Yesterday was awful, hence the lack of a post.

However, it ended better than it began. I have begun to chart the family tree, at least my fathers side of it, with the help of my aunt who did some digging around at Kew records office. I've also discovered some things that make my family seem more normal.

Then I had a rehearsal last night at which my ability in cutting/splicing music was put to the test and found acceptable. I also managed to speak two lines without referring to my script.

It's just a pity that the sun was out yesterday and I couldn't enjoy it as much as I would normally.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Filler

More useful ditties this week about the English language from that wonderful book 'i before e, except after c'.

Writing Stories

Viewpoint, Mood, Plot, Characters, Theme, Setting.


Very Many Pupils Come To School

Affect, or Effect?

RAVEN: Remember - Affect, Verb; Effect, Noun.


Finally, after reading, listening and seeing what is happening in Libya and the Middle East, I remembered this song by Beverley Craven. Hope.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Learning From A Master

Stephen King is a rarity: a great writer.

There are lots of good writers out there, some average ones and innumerable bad and terrible ones. So what is it that makes a writer great? If you can answer that question, write a book about it and your fortune will be made.

Even it we do not have that knowledge, by reading the books of great writers, we can a lot about the craft of writing.

I've always had a negative viewpoint on Stephen King as a writer, solely due to the fact that he writes horror. I viewed his books as visceral, peppered with unnecessary expletives and more gore than you can shake a stick at. Problem is, I'd never read any of his work and my view was based on the film adaptations such as The Lawnmower Man, The Shining and Christine.

A few years ago someone mentioned a book on writing by Stephen King titled 'On Writing', and to this day I have yet to find a clearer account of how to write or what it takes. It was written in his own style, made no promises, but did give plenty of down to earth, simple advice.

One point he made early on was new writers should never worry about their perceived lack vocabulary as their knowledge of English will be enough for them to write a book. Having read Insomnia I can see what he means.

Which brings me to his own work.

As I said, I had a negative view, but, Stephen King is an internationally known author and keeps writing bestsellers. His first book, Carrie, was published in 1974 and he has written at least one novel per year since then. Some have done better than others, but they have all been bestsellers and continue to sell to this day.

So what is it that makes his writing so good that people keep coming back to him? That was a question I could only answer by reading a couple of his books.

As chance had it, I was browsing in a charity shop and they had an offer of two books for £1.50 and they had two of King's novels there, Insomnia and Dreamcatcher. Remembering his track record, the advice from almost all writers that you need to read to learn how to write, I picked them both up and bought them.

I read Insomnia first and what a book it is.

First up, the language is plain and straightforward. There are no words that you need get out a dictionary for and his descriptions are detailed without being overwhelming or overlong.

Secondly, the swear words are not scattered around on every page. The use of expletives is narrow and only where it truly fits the character and the scene, something that a LOT of 'intellectual' authors should learn how to do.

Thirdly, his ability to tell a story is superb. Although the book is over 600 pages long, at no point did I feel it needed cutting down, nor did it lag in its pace.

I have learnt a lot about writing from that one book and I will read more of his back catalogue over the coming months and years.

Who are your favourite, bestselling authors? Who are the ones that have been writing for twenty years and are still at the top of the tree? Who could you learn from?


Monday, March 07, 2011

The Laughing Gnome.

I'm still in a good mood...six days running now.

So to share my good mood, I thought I'd share this song with you. The Laughing Gnome, by David Bowie (yes THAT David Bowie).


Friday, March 04, 2011

Friday Rules

I recently bought a book from a second hand store called ' i before e except after c', which has the subtitle, 'old-school ways to remember stuff'. So I thought I'd share some to do with English.


What's a Conjunction?

FAN BOYS is the answer: For And Nor But Or Yet So

I like that one and it may help teenagers too.

Licence or License?

Easy to learn to rhyme for this one:

S is the verb and C is the noun,
That's the rule that runs the town.

'A doctor practises medicine at his practice.'


I'll do some more of these over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Ever Had One Of Those Days....

...Where everything goes right? I have.

Three clients call me in one day, two of which I could deal with on the phone and one which will end in a paying job on Monday.

I have been smiling most of the day...I'll wait till your jaw reconnects with your head before continuing...even though the sun hasn't been out for most of it.

My joy may have something to do with some books I bought second hand. Three Terry Pratchett's, a Dickens, a Dumas, a Bible and a Barker. It may also be that I've put my name forward to act in a semi-pro play that's been entered in a competition. As the director is not just scraping the bottom of the barrel, she's pushed through the bottom into the slime underneath I have a chance of acting in it.

I've also continued with the novel which is currently know as 'A Stitch In Time'. Now that I have managed to get the first chapter sorted out properly (it's only taken me two years) the rest is flowing easily. I am up to chapter 3 and fifteen thousand words, knowing that I need to add parts in to chapters 2 & 3 during the editing process.

I have also come to see that I write in the same manner I used to program computers. I do an outline; create the flow; write a pseudo-novel (the first draft); write the novel; debug the novel.

The outline is usually in my head. I start with a beginning, which is normally a question and an ending. Then I work out how to get from beginning to end in a rough outline, still in my head, before I start to commit anything to paper. I still use pen and paper at this stage as I love crossing things out and putting arrows everywhere.

After that, I write the pseudo-novel, but I try and get the first chapter right before I go further. If the first chapter isn't correct, I give up and try something else.

Once the pseudo-novel is complete I go back and edit it, adding in bits here, taking out paragraphs there, placing characters in a situation that they should be in but were forgotten about etc.

Then I debug it. Spelling that I'd missed, paragraph size and structure, continuity problems such as a character I killed in chapter 4 suddenly reappearing with a glass of beer on the veranda in chapter 9.

All being equal I should get the novel finished by the summer and along the way get some more short stories published along with a hat-full of book reviews (I have a small head...large ego but a small head).

In other words, it's been a good day and I shall sleep soundly tonight, unless my son manages to poison me with his cooking.