Ebook Learning Experiences

Hello, world! I'm still alive though I haven't blogged in a few days. I've been snowed under with work.

First, I had an exhausting time getting my last ebook published. I had a self-imposed deadline, and I nearly killed myself meeting it.

When I got that book published, I went back to the edits on The Trouble With Love . I even had a new cover designed for it since I had a thematic idea for the series now.

So The Trouble With Love, Book 1 of Texas One Night Stands, has a new cover, and Book 2 of Texas One Night Stands, Romeo and Judy Anne is live and available for sale now.

I've just finished uploading revised files of all my romance novel ebooks so you should be receiving a message from Amazon telling you that you can upload a revised file at now charge. I sent a notice to Nook about that, but I never received an acknowledgment that they would notify their buyers. In fact, they ignored me completely.

Now I'll turn my attention to finishing my next romantic comedy Old Enough To Know Better and getting back to my blog series Ebook Success, soon to be an ebook too.

Bottom Line

I just want everyone to know that I will always go back and correct an ebook with typos or errors regardless of whether a copy editor did a sloppy job or what. Even if I contract with someone to do editing or cover art or whatever, I figure the buck stops with me because my name is on the cover. I want my books to be the best they can be, and that includes their editing and formatting. So, I'll always go back and make corrections if they're called for.

Learning Experience

Publishing ebooks has been a learning experience involving every aspect of the publishing business. The insight into what copy editors and typesetters do has been most informative.

Since I've got ebooks out, and I read a LOT of ebooks. I see some errors from book to book. Now that I kind of understand this aspect of the business, I can see why these typos and errors appear in ebooks. Part of it has to do with how writers write. In the past, we probably all kind of did it the same. We think at the keyboard.

We type a word and automatically hit the space bar. Maybe we decide to end the sentence there. If it's dialogue, we might type the end quote marks without thinking to go back and remove that tiny space.

The problem is that when a copy editor edits on the monitor, that space looks so tiny as to be invisible. Then when it comes out in ebook, that space is like the Grand Canyon. We writers have keyboard habits that when digitally published can create messy ebooks.

We're also used to using diacritical marks. If you publish with Smashwords, these diacritical marks create havoc, causing all kinds of weird marks to appear.

Part of it has to do with what version of MS Word you are running. MS Word is the industry standard for the source file on most digital publishing platforms. The most recent version of Word seem to create problems.

With Kindle, there are some formatting issues that I just can't make sense of. If a new paragraph starts, and the page scroll makes that paragraph appear at the top of the digital page, it will not be indented. Ever. I don't know why. Makes no sense, but I've seen this in just about every Kindle book.

Some people have weird block indentations appear suddenly in their Kindle displayed ebook. They didn't purposely indent it this way, but it will appear throughout the book here and there.

Takeaway Truth

An author should work hard to produce a good ebook and to present it well, but some technical issues just seem to be out of the author's control. Focus on what you can control, and don't agonize over the rest.

Blog Better: Your Audience

If you've been following my advice on becoming a blogger, or, a better blogger, in order to market and promote yourself, your book, or your business, then you know that you need an audience.

The Battle Cry

"To build an audience, push content." Ah, yes. We hear that all the time along with "Content is King."

I've talked before about specific ways to get your imagination working for you in generating topic ideas. Just look read any of the articles in Internet Success and/or Writing Biz.

Today, I'm going to give you another tip about creating content and pushing it out into the cyber world.

Who's Your Daddy?

Actually, the question is: "Who's your audience?" But, it's kind of the same thing in that you want to know who's the boss, who's top dog, who's supporting you. That's the audience. Your audience. Of course, that begs the important question: Who are these people?

Get your note-making apparatus (pad and paper, netbook, PC, whatever) and let's start learning about the people that read you: your audience.

Even if no one currently knows you're alive on the Internet, you are, and, to paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams: "If you write it, they will come."

Let's put on our sleuth hats. (Looks like that silly thing Sherlock Holmes wore in the old b&w movies.) We'll begin by asking an important question. You pretend to be the reader for whom you search.

Important Question

What information do YOU want from a blog?

Yes, you. Because you should have a lot in common with the readers you want to attract. If you're cruising the Internet, you're looking for certain information. That information depends on what interests you. That's probably the kind of information you want to present on your blog.

Are you starting a blog about collecting teddy bears? Then what would you want to learn from a blog like that? Where you find the teddy bears? How do you determine value? How do you clean old teddy bears? How do you store them or display them? History of various famous teddy bears? How do you avoid fakes? How do you make replica teddies? On and on, the questions go, generating topic ideas about which you'll write.

Are you a freelance writer and want to start a blog about that in order to increase your visibility to the Internet world? Then what kind of information would you be looking for as a freelance writer? Paying market information? Avoiding would-be scam artists who cheat writers? How to write better? Faster? How to generate ideas? How to sell yours services? How to create a royalty system that pays you again and again?

Are you starting a blog about your favorite pro golfer? Then what would your readers want to know? If you were a typical reader, what info would you want? The latest woods and irons on the market? How to hit a fade? How to play for free? Profiles of PGA golfers? Photos of famous golf courses? Your opinion about the recent PGA Championship?

Got It?

By now, you're probably saying: "Okay. I get it. I'm not just a blogger, I'm a reader too." Yes, you should be interested in reading the same kind of content about which you'll blog. You'll think of questions for which you'd want answers, and then you'll write those answers in the form of blogs.

Create Average Reader

Write down the ideas about your readers as you discover them. Then, write a short paragraph about your average reader. Male or female or both? Age? Why they want to read you? In fact, do as many fiction writers do and make a storyboard with pictures of your readers. Get some old magazines and cut out pictures and tack or tape to the storyboard. Make a sign with your blog title and tack it at the top.

When you write a post, visualize talking to Average Reader because, in my opinion, that's what a good blog post is: a conversation between you and your reader.

Takeaway Truth

By what you write, you will help someone with a question, problem, or issue they're confronting. When you put a face, albeit imaginary, to your readers, the content becomes organic and much easier to create because you're not working in a vacuum. You're making a human connection.

Note: If SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider making a donation by clicking the button below, or perhaps subscribe, for only $.99 per month to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.

Romeo and Judy Anne

I am completely exhausted. However, I achieved my goal of getting my 6th ebook uploaded today, on my 4 month anniversary of being an Indie Author.

Romeo and Judy Anne, Book 2 of Texas One Night Stands, should be live on or before Wednesday.

Tomorrow, I'll have my nose back to the grindstone, uploading a new cover for The Trouble With Love, which will match the one for Romeo in style and colors, and working on my next ebook Old Enough To Know Better. I'll also get the next segment of Ebook Success: Categories ready to publish this week.

Tonight though. I'm celebrating. If you were here, I'd pour you a glass of bubbly. What, you may well ask, am I celebrating? Let me count the ways.


1. 4 months of being an Indie Author

2. 6 ebooks published though 1 isn't live yet (5 fiction and 1 nonfiction)

3. Hitting the Kindle Top 100 Paid list with my 4 novels

4. Having all 4 books firmly entrenched on the Contemporary Romance Bestsellers lists

5. Having my nonfiction book Written Wisdom be #64 in Reference / Quotations

6. Selling more than 91,000 ebooks just on Kindle U.S. in 4 months

7. Having more fun with my writing than ever!

Takeaway Truth

Celebrate your victories, however large or small, because they make it possible to withstand the slings and arrows of this business.

Secure Your Expensive Gadgets

Recently, I was listening to someone’s tale of woe regarding their lost–or stolen–laptop. We’ve all got where we take our laptops, iPods, Kindles, etc. for granted. We treat them as if they’re no more valuable than a Bic pen or a scratch pad. Of course, that’s not the case. Perhaps we need to be more cognizant of securing our valuable electronics.

Last year Dell issued the results of a study conducted by them and the Ponemon Institute during the first 6 months of 2008 on business travel and laptops. The results were shocking in that they found nearly 12,000 laptops were lost in U. S. Airports every week.

Of these lost laptops, almost 70 percent were never found. Where were most laptops lost? At the good old security checkpoints. (Gee, I always worry about walking off without my shoes!)

Unfortunately, more than 50 percent of business travelers carry private corporate info on their laptops yet 65 percent of users who do this do not taken any steps to secure it when traveling. Oh, and get this. About 42 percent of those surveyed said they don’t back up data.

Some Security Rules

Good security practices are usually just a matter of common sense.

1. Just like your carry on luggage, don’t leave your laptop alone for even a minute.

2. Make it more secure by installing a security cable to physically attach the laptop to your person. You can buy them online or in stores.

3. You can even LoJack your Laptop. Just Google that keyword phrase to find out more.

4. Don’t carry private financial information or other data that you want to keep safe on the hard drive of a laptop you travel with. Just like you don’t carry all your credit cards when you travel, don’t carry all your private information.

5. Use complicated passwords of at least 7 characters: upper and lower case letters and numbers. Be sure to write down the password so you won’t forget it.

6. For heaven’s sake, backup your data. Multi-gig Flash drives are cheap and easy to use. There are lots of choices for making backup copies of your entire hard drive. Choose one and consistently use it.

7. Don’t hang out in suspicious WiFi’s just because they’re free. You get what you pay for, and some WiFi’s may give you more than you want like some neat little worms and viruses.

8. Just like we tell our kids: be aware of what’s going on around you. If someone seems too interested in you and what you’re carrying, keep your guard up.

Takeaway Truth

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure even when it comes to securing your laptop and other electronic gadgets.


Oliver Wendell Homes Jr. said: "Leisure only means a chance to do other jobs that demand attention."

Oh my goodness! Was that true way back then also? I mean the life of the Honorable Mr. Holmes spanned the 19th and 20th centuries. Was leisure time already a defunct concept then?

I know it seems to be extinct as the dodo bird now because I never seem to stop working. Even on the weekend when I'm not working on a manuscript, I'm sneaking away to blog or email or learn some new tech concept or something.

I'm thinking about declaring a No Work zone at least on Sunday afternoons. For me, No Work would mean no Internet. No computer. No texts. No anything but pursuing something unrelated to writing. Wonder if I could actually abide by such a ban?

Takeaway Truth

There's too much crammed into most of our lives. Perhaps it's time to make leisure, at least a few hours of it, a priority each week so we can recharge our creative energies.

Good Habits Beget Good Habits

Am I a writer who is a mother or a mother who writes? Is there a difference between the two? I know that, as an author, I put writing as a high priority. There are some of us who place it above all else in their lives, and, sometimes, I envy those women.

They're the ones who can knock out 500 words or more every day while their children are raising all kinds of hell. I've known women writers who could focus on their writing even if their children were giving each other lobotomies in the kitchen.

Sigh. I'm not like that. I'm a mother who writes. That doesn't mean I piddle with my writing. I take it seriously. I conduct my career like a smart business person. However, when my kids were little, if one of my kids was unmercifully teasing his or her sibling, I felt compelled to step in and point out the error of his ways.

Age Doesn't Matter

Now that they're grown, I still find myself helping them with problems and with projects that need to be done albeit only if asked. Sure, my writing is priority numero uno--but it's still not more important than raising good human beings and helping them when they need it.

This tightrope we stay at home moms walk as we raise children and also try to have a meaningful career is pure hell sometimes. I found many years ago that one of the secrets to success was habit.


Ben Franklin said: "In the beginning, man makes the habit. In the end, habit makes the man." OMG! How very true. If only I'd been smart enough when I was in my formative years to make only good habits. Sadly, I'm like everybody else in realizing the power of habit only when I'm older.

Virtually 90% or more of everything we do is dictated by habit: what we eat, how we dress, whether we exercise or not, how we communicate, how we spend our leisure time, what we read, what we watch on TV, how we spend our money, etc. Changing a bad habit to a good habit requires immense motivation and action and time.

Design Your Habits

If you want to be a writer, begin now to establish a writing habit. Set a quota for how many words or pages you'll write each day, and get started. So you've got a house full of munchkins? That's wonderful because as soon as they can understand verbal communication, you can start educating them about establishing habits.

They will grow up respecting Mom's writing habits, and they'll see the rewards you reap because of those habits. You'll be teaching them that they can get what they want out of life by working at it and creating positive habits and also what's important by what you let take you away from your work.

It Is What It Is

Face it, when working at home, there are always distractions. When your child is a toddler, they require intense mommy time. When they're older, you might think that the time issue becomes none existent. Wrong! There are play dates to monitor, school projects, volunteering, dance classes, soccer, baseball, and car pools ad infinitum. There are sicknesses and broken hearts and teen hormones to get through.

Then there are life problems like your aging parents, bad economies, unemployment, failing health, failing relationships, and home remodeling to distract you from your writing. The list is endless.

How I Did It

Our house was the house where all the kids gathered, and I'll give you a tip. That's what you want. It's a lot easier to make sure your kid isn't getting influenced by stuff you don't want when they're all at your house.

When my youngest was a toddler, I decided I wanted to write for publication. So she and I played a game every afternoon during the time when she once napped. (She gave them up early.) I put her at her little table and chair with a big drawing pad, and I sat on the floor next to her. I told her we were going to play school. That school was a wonderful place she would go where she could use paper and crayons to create anything she wanted.

I told her we would make lots of pictures. One for Daddy, one for her brothers and sister, grandmom, granddad, friends, neighbors, and we'd talk about her pictures and what they meant and show them to everyone. I told her it was okay if she didn't finish every picture by the end of our "school day."

For at least an hour every day, she would draw pictures, and I would write words. I admired her art work, and, when she tired, which usually took much longer than an hour, we'd put school away and read stories.

Long Term Perspective

I never realized how that daily afternoon of playing school formed her until years later. As she got older, she had the ability to entertain herself doing art and crafts. She was always investigating some new artistic endeavor. In high school, she said she wanted to be an artist. She won first in state art and went on to major in fine arts.

After graduation, she worked in graphic art design, and then decided she wanted to teach. Today, she teaches art in high school and does freelance graphic design for clients. (She does my book covers.) She's also getting her Master's degree in Art Education.

To this day, if she wants to work on some huge project, she'll break it down into how much work she must do every day in order to complete the project by a deadline.

Start Now

You can do this too whether you're trying to teach a child good habits or trying to teach yourself how to form good habits. Get started writing or painting or whatever it is you want to do. Set a plan that lets you accomplish a manageable chunk each day.

Desire will get you going. Discipline will make you keep at it for a time, but there will come a day when those two just aren't enough to get you through the malaise of daily life or the twin demons of rejection and lack of validation. That's where habit can carry you through to the finish line. A habit makes it easier to do an action, even when you really don't want to do it, than to ignore it and let it fall by the wayside.

Takeaway Truth

Make good habits and communicate to your children about what you're doing and why. Be faithful to your habit, and that will teach them the value of commitment and follow through.

Get PayPal Donate Button

If you read to the bottom of my blog posts this week, you've probably seen my PayPal Donate button. One of my readers said my advice was worth its weight in gold. He suggested I put a Donate button up so I did.

I'm game to try just about anything that's not illegal or immoral--or maybe not too immoral. After all, to paraphrase Mae West, once we were all as white as snow, but we drifted.

So I went looking for this PayPal button, but even more importantly, instructions from someone who knew how to put it on a blog.

My Google search led me to great step by step instructions at DipInIt, some guys who are my new online buddies. Click their name, go there, and follow their incredibly easy process.


I wanted the flexibility of putting the Donate button on some posts. I didn't want it slapped on everything because I know that not everything I write is of earth-shaking importance or relevant to a writer's search for success.

In the Comments form after that blog post, I asked them how to put it on some posts but not install it in the HTML where it would appear on all. Much to my surprise, they answered promptly. How refreshing!

The answer is you just copy the PayPal code, save it somewhere (I have mine in a Flashnote on my desktop), and then paste it when you want it to appear. Easy-peasy.

I put a button in my sidebar, easy to do as a Blogger Gadget. (DipInIt explains how to do this if you don't know.) My sidebar button is fairly invisible because there's so much other competing things on my sidebars now. Guess I need to de-clutter, but all the stuff that's there is important so which do I cut? Decisions, decisions.

Now, I'll stick the Donate Button after this post. Visit DipInIt for other Tips & Tricks. You'll learn something new with each visit. Tell them Joan sent you!

Takeaway Truth

The Internet has a wealth of information out there if you just know where to look. When you find something of value, bookmark it and tell others.

Note: If SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider making a donation by clicking the button below, or perhaps subscribe, for only $.99 per month to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.

Ebook Success: Ad Copy, Part 1, Keywords & Tags

Welcome back to Joan's Golden Rules for Ebook Success.

It's been less than 4 months since my first ebook Just One Look went live.

I've now sold more than 80,000 copies of that book and my other 3 romantic comedies:

Still The One

JANE (I'm-Still-Single) JONES

The Trouble With Love
(Soon to have a new cover when I publish Romeo and Judy Anne, Book 2 of Texas One Night Stands.)

Why I'm Sharing

I'm sharing what I know--first and foremost, because that's just me. Secondly, because I know how hard it is to make a living as a writer. I'm passing on what I have learned as well as how I have put that knowledge to work for me. I'm not an expert. I'm just a working writer who has had some success.

I hope this will help shortcut the process for you. I hope you can achieve your own brand of success and have fun doing it.

Previously Published

Ebook Success: Get Educated

Ebook Success: Write Business Plan

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 1

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 2

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 3

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 4

Ebook Success: Working With Cover Artists (addendum published the next day)

As a reminder, here's my list of golden rules--called golden because I hope they will help you earn heaps of gold from your ebook sales.

Joan's Golden Rules

1. Get educated.

2. Write a business plan.

3. Choose cover art wisely.

4. Write professional ad copy.

5. Choose price wisely.

6. Give a smart sample.

7. Write a good book.

8. Customize Marketing and Promotion.

Write Professional Ad Copy

I fear I'll have to break this into parts because I'm short of time. As Dean Wesley Smith reminded me this morning: "Writing is my #1 priority." That hasn't been the case lately with planning a wedding and about a hundred other issues that are sucking away my time and creative energy.

Enough already! Right? Let's get to it.

What's ad copy? I'm not a professional marketer, but I've written a lot of ad copy for clients. I look at ad copy as an author's opportunity to use words to attract readers to his or her book. I'm talking about only the words that an author can control.

Let's Break It Down

Regardless of the digital publishing platform you use, they all contain the same "word" opportunities. I break Ad Copy into these categories:

1. Keywords or Tags

2. Categories

3. Author's Bio

4. Product Description

Keywords or Tags

If you want to know more about the importance of keywords or tags, read the guest blog my friend and Google guru Jason Matthews posted on SlingWords on the subject. You'll learn a lot if you get his book Get On Google Front Page.

Quoting Jason's Product Description for his book:

"What exactly is SEO? ... It's the factors utilized by a website or blog that help the search engines find them and see their relevance to the subject of search. Some are out of your control.... Most of the factors are in your control, like keywords, meta descriptions and tags, categories/labels, titles, link-building...."

When someone searches Amazon, they're using a Search Engine. If you have tagged your book in a way that makes it accessible to readers who would like your kind of book, then they'll find you. However, the more a book has had readers click "Agree With These Tags," the higher in the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) your book will be listed.

What You Control

Those with few agreed tags won't fare as well in the SERP as those with many. Unfortunately, this isn't something you can control because you can only click your own tags once. Those pesky tracking cookies keep you from clicking like a crazed research experiment monkey seeking some kibble.

Keywords and tags were removed in late May because there were so many organized tagging groups that it defeated the purpose of impartial tagging by readers and skewed their algorithm.

Your friends and family can tag for you if they are also readers of your work. Let your conscience be your guide, and be forewarned that there can be consequences. If Amazon thinks you're trying to work the system, they can stomp you faster and flatter than an armadillo crossing a Texas highway at night.

Choose Wisely

What you control is the assignment of initial tags. Amazon lets you assign 7 tags when you're listing the book with KDP. Once the book page is live, you can add 8 more.

Though 15 is supposed to be the maximum, drive-by tagging by readers will up that number of tags when they add something different, and that's okay. That's desirable. They can also agree with the tags they see listed, or they can disagree.

Other platforms have different parameters. Know what they are before you start. In fact, before you ever sit down to upload your ebook file, have a list of the tags or keywords you'll use. Write them out.

Don't Waste Tags

Let me repeat--choose wisely. I've done a lot of analysis of other authors' book pages. I'm still surprised by how many who use tags that are redundant which means they've wasted that tag.

You want tags that explicitly describe your book, and you definitely want a tag indicating genre. You don't want to tag a book as "Kindle book." If someone is shopping in the Kindle Shop, they won't put that into Amazon's search engine.

All About Focus

If you have a choice between contemporary romance and novel, contemporary romance is the tag you should use. Start with genre specific and narrow your focus. Think about a bookstore. If you go into a bookstore, where do you go first? If you're a mystery reader, you head there. Do you start with the first book and scan all the shelves? No. You then look for police procedural or cozy or amateur sleuth or whatever.

When you create your tags, pretend you're a bookstore owner trying to stock inventory.

Monitor Your Tags

Once your tags are in place, you must monitor them. Why? Because there are some really vicious people who frequent the Amazon book pages. If you've ever angered someone, you run the risk of having them vent their ire on your book page.

I've been immersed in ebook culture for only a few months yet in that time, I've found 3 authors I know who were victims of vandalism on their book pages, and I've heard of entire groups of publisher-sponsored ebook authors who've been subjected to this.

What happens is that these people who don't like you add Keywords to your book pages that will put you on the hit list of readers. One woman who wasn't selling despite a good product emailed me and asked me to tell her why I was doing so well, and she couldn't sell more than a copy or two. I visited her book page.

First, I scrolled all the way down and looked at her tags. Oh, my gosh! She only had 2 tags. The first one was SPAM, and the second one was SPAMMER. Who's going to buy a book from someone labeled that way? Obviously no one since her sales were languishing.

I notified her immediately. She was aghast. She remembered going to a Kindle forum and talking about her book, not even in a BSP way. Someone snarked at her so she withdrew. That snarker could have been the one who tagged her book, or it could have been someone else who was jealous of her print success or whatever.

The other case was similar. The author of Christian fiction had posted in a Christian forum. Someone took exception to what she said and visited her book page and left a really nasty calling card.

Know This

If you're going to publish ebooks, it's even more of a glass house than print publishing. Edna St. Vincent Millay once said, paraphrasing, "Anyone who publishes a book willfully appears in public with his pants down."

There are people out there who just love to tear down others. If you don't believe me, just read some of the reviews on a book page. The more popular a book; often, the worse the reviews. Some aren't content to leave nasty reviews. They may attack your book page.

Get in the habit of checking your book page tags to make sure they haven't had the digital equivalent of stinky brown-stuff smeared all over them.

If you find something like that, notify KDP customer service to see if you can have it removed. Chances are they won't. So enlist the help of readers who like your work to go to the bad tags and follow whatever process indicates they do not agree with the tag. Normally, that's to remove the check mark next to the tag.

Read more about Amazon Tags to find out crucial information as well as your rights.

Harry Truman said: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Just know that there will be heat. Make your peace with that now. Start thickening your skin. Remove your feelings from the end of your elbow. Most important, develop a mindset and a plan to deal with it. And check those tags frequently!

Takeaway Truth

A rising tide floats all boats. I wish you magnificent ebook sales. If my advice helps, please let me know.

Note: If SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider making a donation by clicking the button below, or perhaps subscribe to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords, only $.99/month. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.

5 Ways To Make Content Sparkle

I'm always telling authors to start blogs because a good blog is a great marketing tool for a published author.

Here are 5 ways for a writer to create content that educates the beginner AND entertains the pro thus keeping both the beginner and the pro glued to the page or the screen.

1. Write with a compelling voice that makes the reader feel as if they’re having a great conversation with the writer. That way, they read the words, not skim the copy, because they’re afraid they’ll miss something entertaining.

2. Punch up the copy with something unexpected. Quote a source that might be a surprise, i.e. Shakespeare, or toss in a humorous quotation, something that will pull a grin from the reader.

3. Use numbered lists. Readers love this because psychologically they feel as if they’re getting step by step help in an area. Even pros will read lists because they’re always looking for new ideas. Both groups are right. Sometimes, another writer’s numbered list really knocks the old ball over the fence!

4. Use metaphors and similes that speak to the audience’s cultural experiences. In #3 above, I used a baseball metaphor because it’s springtime which is baseball season and just about everyone understands a baseball home run. Sports allusions are great for male readers, but female readers understand them too. So don’t be afraid to use sports, literary, political, or whatever-floats-your-boat metaphors and similes.

5. Reference what others have done. Don’t be afraid to refer to what others have written on the same subject. Acknowledge the body of work that has already been created. Give links if possible; share that link love. Honor your fellow writers.

Don’t be afraid to tackle a subject that’s been done over and over because the way you write it may be the way that speaks to someone who really is looking for an answer. That’s content that works in every way.

Takeaway Truth

Always remember that different writers present the same information in different ways. Maybe you’ve read 100 articles on a particular subject, but article number 101 is the one that really explains it so you finally understand.

Feed Blog To The World

Today, I'm going to tell you how to make the most of your blog by "feeding" it to other applications like Twitter, Goodreads, etc.

(I had planned to post the discussion about Ad Copy on my Ebook Success series today, but I'm going to be gone all day. I didn't have time to finish it last night. So look for it perhaps tomorrow.)

This post was prompted by email correspondence between my friend AnneMarie Novark and me yesterday. I was trying to help AnneMarie get her blog set up to feed it to her social network sites.

Much of the time, I tend to think that everyone knows all this technical stuff rattling around inside my head so I never mention it. When someone asks me how to do something, I think: "Maybe others don't know this as well." So then it becomes blog fodder.

So, here's how to capitalize on the sparkling content you post by sharing it with some of the popular author social media.


I'll tackle the hardest first. Facebook isn't easy if you're trying to feed a Blogspot blog. If you've got Wordpress, there's a plug-in you can use that's user-friendly. Otherwise, you have to set up the process through Notes / Import Notes Settings.

Here's a link to help get you started and learn more about it. Instructions are under FAQ but you have to search (click on Account / Help Center / type in "feed blog" and click the link that appears.)

Currently, I know of no way to feed your blog to your FB Profile page. I've attempted a couple of processes, but there seem to be glitches with the ones I've tried. If you successfully do this, let me know so I can post the info here.

In the meantime, you might install a FB Share widget. I have one on my sidebar, but it's so far down it probably isn't noticed most of the time. A reader can click that button and share a post on FB instantly. (Go, find, click!)

The Facebook Share button is a Blogger Gadget or widget as the rest of the techno world calls it. Open your Dashboard, click Design, click Add A Gadget. When the Add A Gadget window opens, in the Search box, type Facebook. Scroll down until you see the Share gadget, click to add. Then go drag and drop it where you want it.

Personalize it if you wish. Don't forget: click Preview. If you like what you see, click Save.


This is the easiest. Just go to Twitterfeed. That's where I feed this blog.


I also feed SlingWords to Goodreads, but I find most functions on Goodreads a bit obscure. Of course, that's probably just me because I don't spend a lot of time there. Go to your Dashboard.

In main section, click on YOUR BLOG. In the right hand side of page that opens, in pale gray print you'll see next to NEW POSTS, edit blog settings. Click EDIT BLOG SETTINGS.

If you haven't fed your blog through already, it should open a page that says: Already Have a Blog?

If you already have a blog somewhere else, enter its Atom or RSS URL, and your Goodreads blog will automatically show summaries from your external blog whenever you post there. Fill in the blanks and click SAVE. That should fix you up.

Note: Atom is the default Blogger feed. If you don't know, from Dashboard, click Settings, then the Site Feed tab. Scroll down to the feed box. If it's blank, you are using Atom. If you've registered with Feedburner and have put that URL in the feed box, then use the RSS URL from that.

Amazon Author Central

If you're selling books, you need a page set up on Amazon Author Central. If you haven't set up your Amazon Author page, why not?

Go to your author page where you edit your BIOGRAPHY / BLOGS / EVENTS. Next to Blogs, you'll see Add Blog. Click that and follow the instructions.

Takeaway Truth

If today's post helps you, click the FB share and see how it works. Also, thank AnneMarie for asking the original question!

(A faithful reader who praised my blog (thank you!), suggested I put a Donation Button at the end of my blog posts. I'm willing to try most things so I thought I'd see if the great amount of time I devote to helping others via this blog was actually appreciated.

If what you read here helps you get ahead, please consider making a donation by clicking this button, or perhaps subscribe to the Kindle edition of SlingWords which is only $.99 per month. In any event, thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.)

Do Computers Still Need Defragging?

My husband faithfully defrags his computer every week. I try to emulate his computer maintenance habits, but a lot of people ignore doing this. They seem to think that was something you did when computers ran DOS or an early version of Windows.

The Truth

Defragmenting your computer system, or defragging as everyone says, is a habit everyone should acquire because it will keep your computer running at peak performance. Defragging regularly will keep your PC from picking up those bad habits like running slow and snail’s pace performance.

What defragmenting does is to analyze your hard drive and reorganize the files it finds so they can be accessed faster. It’s easy to do, and the software tool used to do this is part of the Windows package. Just open Disk Defrag and select your options and click run.

Takeaway Truth

A well-maintained computer will perform better and generally last longer.

Best Laid Plans

Robert Burns wrote a poem To a Mouse in 1786. One often quoted line from that poem has been used to entitle books like John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, movies, and even this humble blog post.


Burns was ploughing a field when he turned up a mouse's nest. His poem was an apology to the mouse:

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane (You aren't alone.)
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men (The best laid schemes of mice and men)
Gang aft a-gley, (often go awry or astray)
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, (And leave us nothing but grief and pain)
For promised joy.

Describes My Publishing Schedule

I'm quoting this today because it aptly describes my publishing plans for this month. I've been trying since May to finish the first book in my novella series The Good, The Bad, and The Girly, but real life keeps interfering.

I've had readers emailing me and wanting to know the exact date this month that Old Enough To Know Better, the aforesaid ebook, will be published.

I'm heaving sighs suitable for an overwrought heroine in a swashbuckling historical romance because I have to announce: the book won't be ready this month.

There! I said it. It's just not humanly possible to get it finished by the end of the month. Blame it on a month-long illness from end of May to end of June from which I recovered in time for my daughter to come home from grad school and get engaged with plans to marry next spring break.

What? A wedding in a little over 6 months? You've got to be kidding!

She wasn't.

Do you know how hard it is to book a March wedding with only this much lead time? No? Well, it's hard. Most of our first choices for everything were already booked.

So, for two weeks, I've been checking out wedding venues, reception venues, caterers, photographers, DJ's, bakers, florists, and all the other millions of details that go into planning a wedding. Amazingly, we got most of it taken care of.

My daughter escaped back to grad school for the second semester, leaving me here with contracts that have to be signed, photocopied and returned (with big whopping checks!). I'm also left with a case of exhaustion and feeling about as creative as a prairie chicken.

Add to that my self-imposed task to review all my existing ebooks once I discovered a less than stellar copy editing job had been done and dealing with book thieves who post my books online for free download, and you get a picture of a tired writer who needs to recharge her creative energy.

Once I get the big details of the wedding completed, I'll start pounding the keyboard again. I hope to have Old Enough To Know Better published in August if real life doesn't rear it's demanding head again.

For all of you waiting for that book, I apologize. Hang in there. In the meantime, I will have Book 2 of the Texas One Night Stands series published on time. I think you'll really love Romeo and Judy Anne.

Takeaway Truth

Planning a wedding in the pages of a book is a lot easier than planning one in real life, but I'm sure there will be even more joy in the real occasion than in the fictional to make all the effort worthwhile.

Lightbulb Moment For Jim Butcher

When I'm driving or walking, I like to listen to my iPod, specifically, to the Podcasts of Barnes & Noble’s Meet The Authors series. One that I've particularly enjoyed was the interview with Jim Butcher.

I really like his Harry Dresden series. (Amazon has a volume containing Books 1-6.) When SyFy ran about 12 episodes of The Dresden Files, I'd hoped the series would be popular enough to warrant continuation. Sadly, that didn't happen.

I’d like to share a bit from the interview with Mr. Butcher. Now, his series is quite successful, but he struggled in the beginning as most writers do. Here's his lightbulb moment.


Mr. Butcher had taken classes for several years from Deborah Chester, who has written nearly 40 books and holds the John Crain Presidential Professorship at the University of Oklahoma where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on writing style and structure in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Like most popular authors with many books on her resume, Ms. Chester began her career by writing romance novels before she moved into other fiction genres, most notably science fiction and fantasy. She’s also novelized several science fiction television series.

Rest Of The Story

Anyway, Jim Butcher told how he broke that invisible barrier between unpublished and published. He’d been taking Ms. Chester’s classes for about 4 years and had written 4 books that didn’t sell. He mostly ignored Ms. Chester’s experience, instruction, and insights and kept doing it his way. After all, he related, in a very amusing manner, he had a degree in English literature, and all she’d done was publish about 40 books.

Finally, he told her that he’d do it her way, and he filled out the character charts and did all the pre-writing instruction and wrote the most outlandish book he could just to show her that it wouldn’t get published. Surprise! Upon reading the first part, Ms. Chester told him, to his shock, that the manuscript was salable, and it was.

After publishing several novels in the Dresden series, he sent her a letter which she now includes in her students’ packets. Basically, the letter said: “Shut up and do what she says.”

Good writers recognize good writing, regardless of the genre. If an author has managed to publish several books in whatever genre, chances are he or she knows what it takes to write a novel that will sell–whatever the genre.

Takeaway Truth

Writing is one of those businesses where degrees really won’t help you a whole lot. What you really need, beyond the requisite narrative and grammar skills, is the heart / soul / mind / voice of a storyteller.

UK Ebook Sales

To my surprise, I've begun to sell quite well in the UK, and so have my BWFs (best writing friends). Therefore, I wasn't surprised by the recent Publishers Association report that revealed about UK ebook growth in 2010 was "staggering."

Stunning Stats

Across all categories, ebook sales across the pond grew by more than 300% over 2009 levels. That's $26 million in dollars or over 16 million in GBP. By end of December 2010, ebooks had captured 6% of the market.

Both adult fiction and nonfiction grew by 300%, but children's and YA grew even more--by over 500%!

These statistics don't include what The Publishers Association calls "consumer reference" digital sales, i.e., dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.).

Takeaway Truth

Digital publishing gives the non-NYT bestselling author a shot at reaching international audiences.

Walking With Jeffrey Archer

Sadly, I didn’t have Jeffrey Archer in person accompanying me on my walk this morning. I had his voice on my iPod in the form of a podcast from the Barnes & Noble‘s Meet The Author series.

In the podcast, Mr. Archer talks about his book A Prisoner of Birth which was published in 2008 and was the current release when he was interviewed. Currently, Mr. Archer’s seminal work Kane and Abel has been released in a special 30th Anniversary Edition. Waiting in the wings is Only Time Will Tell with an August release date.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Mr. Archer, not only because of his elegant British accent, but also because of the wisdom he imparted, much of it gained from his own experiences. After all, one hopes that if one ends up in prison, as he did, that one gains wisdom about life that will prevent making similar mistakes.


We are all prisoners of birth because no one can decide who their parents will be. Fortunately, we all have the ability to free ourselves from captivity, that is, whatever fate others may perceive is ours or what we ourselves may think we are destined to live.

I hadn’t read A Prisoner of Birth. After hearing this podcast, I think I must add it to my bookshelf. Again, I recommend this Podcast series. Each episode has been a delight.

Takeaway Truth

Hearing an author discuss the writing of a book, along with life insights gained from real world experience, adds another layer of richness to the reading of a work.

Working With Cover Artists

Working with an artist is an interesting process. Even when that artist is my daughter whom I think I know about as well as any person can know another, I discovered that imaginations don't often match up. What I think is cute or fun isn't necessarily what she thinks and vice versa.

If you're trying to establish a working relationship with a graphic artist who is an unknown quantity to you, then you need some guidelines about how to make a cover artist/author relationship work.

Working With Cover Artists

After listening to Adina Reeves, my daughter the artist, complain about clients, from the time she worked for an ad agency to the time she started doing freelance design work, I knew she was the person to ask about what is involved in creating cover art for a book.

Adina has had all these situations described below in dealing with authors who want book covers. If you think authors suffer from the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome (I don't get no respect!), then try being a graphic artist.

The problem lies in the fact that most people don't realize how hard a good artist works. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of authors who just plain take advantage every way they can.

There are also many who don't know what's easily doable and what's extremely time-consuming to create. My daughter actually has some of these things listed in her contract so that was a good starting point. The others listed are from conversations with her.

12 Tips For Good Artist/Author Relationships

1. Have an idea of what you want on the cover because the artist can not read your mind.

If you say an embracing couple, then give details: what the couple look like, what they're wearing, is the embrace sweet or sensual, what's behind the couple, do you want their full body shown or just faces or just body parts.

2. Don't say a sexy cover or a funny cover or a scary cover without giving some clue as to what you think looks sexy, funny, scary, or whatever. Again, artists aren't mind readers.

3. Be sure you know what the quoted contract price will give you. If you know you want more than what is quoted, then be up front and negotiate it in good faith. If you request a specific image or font, artists must pay for these, so know what you're getting into and ask whether using a requested image or font adds to the price.

4. Most contracts state that minor changes are allowed. If the contract doesn't define minor changes, ask. Usually, minor changes are limited to color of font, type of font, and/or text placement.

Most cover artists send a "proof" file that's low resolution image for you to approve the design before they proceed. Don't say that the design looks great, and, then when the final file is sent, say that you want the black hair on the woman changed to red hair, or long hair should be short hair, or you want a man to appear to be an amputee or you decide that you really don't think the man looks "bad boy" enough and can he be changed to a different guy in the embrace.

Requesting that a couple appear dancing on top of a wall when the wall was the only requested image is not a minor change. If in doubt about the design vision you have, please discuss this with your artist before signing the contract.

I've been amazed at some of these requests made to my daughter after she's completed all the work and is expecting payment. All of the above are major changes that require hours of work.

5. Don't accept the proof file as good to go and then change your mind after the work is done and refuse to pay because the artist won't make more changes.

6. Don't ask the artist to use copyrighted materials without permission, and chasing down the copyright owner to request permission is not time the author has to spend unless you are paying by the hour. Another artist's work, like the cover on a print book, is protected by copyright. Don't ask your artist to use the same image of a house or tree or woman unless those images are in public domain or royalty-free images available for purchase. Don't ask for a copyrighted image to be recreated exactly because that's infringement.

7. If the artist wants an art copyright notice in your book, then please give it! Their work is copyrighted, and they deserve the recognition and legal protection. Don't agree to do it and then not include it because "it's too much work to change my copyright page."

8. If the photograph the artist uses requires notice in the art copyright, don't argue about it and refuse to post it because "it's too much work to change my copyright page." That's nonsense, and we all know it.

9. The book cover the artist designs for you is limited to the uses in the contract. Don't take the design and put it on products at CafePress unless you have permission to do so.

10. For God's sake, don't stiff the artist. If the artist did the work according to the parameters of the contract, pay her or him. If you want the design changed, but you approved the proof, you owe for the design. Pay for it and then work with the artist to change it.

11. Don't be shocked if cover artists start instituting a Kill Fee, similar to a writer's kill fee, in their contracts because of too many bad experiences with clients.

12. If you choose an artist with a low fee, know that there are limits to what can be achieved for that fee, and make sure they are spelled out in the contract. If you want something different, then ask for a quote before you sign the contract.

Takeaway Truth

Chose an artist who has good business and design skills, communicate well with the artist, and you'll get book covers you love. It's a win/win for both artist and author.

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 4

Welcome back to Joan's Golden Rules for Ebook Success.

No, I'm not an expert. I'm just a working writer who has had some success with my ebooks. Because I know how hard it is to make a living as a writer, I'm passing on what I have learned as well as how I have put that knowledge to work for me.

I hope this will help shortcut the process for you. Maybe you can achieve your own brand of success in a shorter period of time.

So far, I've discussed:

Ebook Success: Get Educated

Ebook Success: Write Business Plan

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 1

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 2

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 3

As a reminder, here's my list of golden rules--called golden because I hope they will help you earn heaps of gold from your ebook sales.

Joan's Golden Rules

1. Get educated.

2. Write a business plan.

3. Choose cover art wisely.

4. Write professional ad copy.

5. Choose price wisely.

6. Give a smart sample.

7. Write a good book.

8. Customize Marketing and Promotion.

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 4

I had wanted to conclude this cover art discussion today, but there's so much information that I want to give that it would make the post as long as one of Joe Konrath's. *g*

Therefore, I'll say this is the last of the Cover Art discussion, but I'm going to post what I'll call an addendum tomorrow and give you Guidelines: Working With A Cover Artist, courtesy of Adina Reeves, my cover artist.

Today, I'm giving you these resources:

1. Resource Directory: Micro-stock Photography sites if you want to DIY

2. Resource Directory: Freelance Graphic Artists

Resource Directory: Micro-stock Photography

Stock Photography is the term applied to photographs licensed for specific purposes. Thanks to the Internet, professional photography is available to anyone who's willing to register, search through images, and use the photo in keeping with the applicable Image License Agreement.

Just about everyone refers to the above as stock photography, but, in actuality, microstock photography services is what non-professional users access. The two terms have become more or less interchangeable.

Getty Images and Corbis are the most well-known stock photography companies, but the Internet offers many microstock photography websites with searchable databases. For our purposes, I'm just going to refer to this affordable photographic art as stock photography.

Some photographs are offered free for use on eBook covers. Others may require a minimal fee for use. Best of all, you can find the images by searching the site's database, purchasing the image, and downloading it instantly.


1. You must register in order to use the site's images.

2. If a fee is required, you may have to purchase a subscription plan or purchase a block of credits. Read carefully.

3. Most images that request a fee are priced according to size with the lowest price for X-small, and the highest for X-large image size.

4. In downloading the image, you want the highest resolution image possible. If all you need is a thumbnail image, the smallest size image will work. For most ebook covers, the medium size works well.

5. Royalty-free does not necessarily mean the image is available without cost. Some stock images are offered by the artist free of cost. Other images require a fee to be paid to download the image. Royalty-free means that you don't have to pay a fee each time you use the image. If it's free or you pay a fee, the image is yours to use as often as you wish. Check the Image License Agreement to know the limits of your usage.

Image License Agreement

Generally speaking, the following represents a usual Image License Agreement at most Stock Photography websites. Read the agreement for whichever website you plan to use and make sure what you want to do is offered by the Image License Agreement. Always follow the agreement and the Terms and Conditions of Service of the website.

Sample -- You May Use The Image

* In digital format on websites, multimedia presentations, broadcast film and video, cell phones.
* In printed promotional materials, magazines, newspapers, books, brochures, flyers, CD/DVD covers, etc.
* Along with your corporate identity on business cards, letterhead, etc.
* To decorate your home, your office or any public place.

Sample -- You May Not Use The Image

* For pornographic, unlawful or other immoral purposes, for spreading hate or discrimination, or to defame or victimize other people, societies, cultures.
* To endorse products and services if it depicts a person.
* In a way that can give a bad name to the Stock Photography Website or the person(s) depicted on the Image.
* As part of a trademark, service mark or logo.
* Selling and redistributing the image either individually or grouped with other images is strictly forbidden.

Contact The Photographer

The Use and Do Not Use sections are usually followed by a statement to contact the photographer if you want to use the image in any way not specified by the above, for example, some of the uses listed below:

* In website templates that you want to sell or distribute.
* For creating printed reproductions that you want to sell.
* On "print on demand" items, i. e., tee shirts, postcards, mouse pads, mugs (products personalized on sites like Cafepress), or other mass-produced items.

Stock/Microstock Photography Websites

Here are some I use frequently. There are many. Just make sure they're credible and that you read their agreements and understand them and follow their parameters to the letter. If you have any doubts about how you may use their images, email them.

Stock Exchange says that they are the leading free stock photography website. I know I use them a lot, and I always include a photo credit embedded in the image to recognize the photographer who made his work available for free. Stock Exchange is now owned by Getty Images.

Reflex Stock offers a subscription plan but also has individual pricing that's affordable for many images.

Big Stock Photo, owned by Shutterstock, is also affordable and operates on a credit system as does most of the websites where you have to pay a fee for images.

Cutcaster is very low-priced and very user friendly. I've uploaded some photographs there and so has my daughter the artist.

Clipart Graphics offers high quality clip art, and there are some book covers that might call for that kind of design.

Free Digital Photos offers free and fee-based images.

StockVault offers free stock photos and images for personal, educational and non-commercial usage. Read their agreement to see if you can use them.

FreeImages offer free images and only request a credit line.

Dreamstime is another site I use frequently because they have a good selection, and they're reasonably priced.

Shutterstock is the largest subscription-based stock photo agency in the world. These are a bit pricey, but if the perfect image is here. . . .

iStockPhoto touts themselves as "the web's original source for user-generated, royalty-free stock photos, illustrations, video, audio and Flash."

Fotosearch has been around more than 20 years, and they're another resource that's pricey.

Resource Directory: Freelance Graphic Artists

If your DIY cover art just isn't good enough--and trust me, nothing screams "cheap eBook" more than an amateurish cover--try one of these freelance book cover artists to get the professional look you need. Since my daughter has taught me most of what I know about graphic art design, I'm listing her first. You can look at any of my book covers to see her work. She has 2 other authors for whom she's providing book covers, but she is open to more cover art work.

I've seen work done by most of the freelance artists listed below. The names of the ones I don't know were provided to me by authors who have worked with them or who know the work of the others. I'm pretty sure you won't go wrong by using any of these.

I wasn't given information about how much they charge so you may have to shop around. I know my daughter charges a flat rate, and her rates are posted on the page for which the link is given.

These aren't in alphabetical order since I'm trying to get this published before the next arctic freeze induced electricity blackout occurs.

Directory of Book Cover Artists

I'm in the process of setting up an Indie Author Resource Page on this blog. If you'd like to be listed as one of the artists, please email me.

Adina Reeves
blakecreative at hotmail dot com

Donna Maloy
Donna at donnamaloy dot com

Angela Waters

BJ West
BJ at BJWest dot net

Emma Peterson


Katerina Vamvasaki
cathringo at gmail dot com

Kim Killion

Kristin Lawrence
Klawrencegraphics at gmail dot com

Mandy Roth aka Natalie Winters

Patricia Ryan
Pat at PatRyanGraphics.com

Patty G. Henderson/Boulevard Photografica
blvdphotografica at aol dot com

Rae Monet

Julie Ortolon

Lex Valentine

Tara at FantasiaFrogDesigns
Stock Designs for Customization
fantasiafrogdesigns at gmail dot com

Check back tomorrow for Guidelines: Working With A Cover Artist, by Adina Reeves, my daughter who is my cover artist.

Drop by next week for Ebook Success: Ad Copy, Part 1.

Takeaway Truth

A rising tide floats all boats. I wish you magnificent ebook sales. If my advice helps, please let me know.

Computer Security 2 Step

There are a couple of things that should be the foundation for maintaining the security of your computer. They’re easy to do, and they don’t cost very much.

Basic 2 Steps

1. When you purchase a software product, always register it so you’ll get the updates when they come out. Then do the update! It’s amazing how many people don’t bother with this. The software company should be reputable and not some malware producer so you shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of the update. Just set it to automatically download and install, and there is no bother.

Why do this? Software updates are of two types: improvements to the original app and patches to plug security holes that hackers can find. So update to keep your product and your computer itself safe. Besides, up to date software makes your PC run at peak performance, but out of date apps will actually slow your performance.

2. Use a security software product. Most computers come with McAfee or Norton. If you don’t want to pay the annual subscription renewal, then use one of the free softwares you can find online. There are some good ones. If you want to pay, but don’t want the hefty annual subscription, try Sunbelt Software’s VIPRE product. That’s what I run on my laptop. You can get a site license to cover every PC in your home for less than the renewal on one of the majors.

Then use the security software to monitor your email, attachments, and website activity as you cruise the net.

Takeaway Truth

A little prevention is worth hundreds of dollars in cure.