Monthly Archives: November 2015

Amazon Publishing – A few pointers for newbies

Our book in Kindle and iPad simulatorsPhil: It’s true, we are going to bring the book out using Amazon. That means someone has to get down’n’dirty with the mechanics of stuffing our words into their system so you can buy it. This sort of work is defined as “nerdy” so falls to me apparently.

I’m pleased to say, it’s remarkably easy, or at least appears to be so far.

Here are a few pointers to help anyone thinking of following the well-worn path we are currently walking:

Set all the text in your manuscript up using “Styles” rather than fiddling with the fonts. Define your own styles by all means but use them consistently.

For example, all our text is set up using “Body Text” style. This is currently 12pt Times New Roman but in truth it doesn’t matter. All the words in this style will be shown the same size, even if the reader makes the font bigger on their device.

(As an aside, e-readers are great news for those with poor eyesight. You can set the font size to massive, no need to search out large print books. Mahoosive fonts, especially with a high contract background, make reading a possibility for a huge number of people technically registered blind – accessibility needn’t mean special equipment, hooray!)

I’ve also got a chapter title style and one for e-mails shown on the page which we like to show using courier font.

If I’d set this up from the start, work at this end of the process would be reduced as the manuscript would be properly formatted already.

I’m hoping this also helps when we look at paperback print options. With large chunks of text defined by styles, I can alter the entire book with a few clicks.


Pay attention to the sign up process.

Even for non-US authors, there’s a load of American tax questions to answer. Mostly in the negative for us but it’s a bit of a bind doing them. Be prepared.


Amazon isn’t based in the UK. You’ll need the international versions of your bank account number.

I headed over to my banks’ website and after a little searching found a number generator that gave me the required information.

You can only pay royalties into a single account. Candice trusts me so it’s going into mine and I’ll transfer money to her. This is pretty safe. I’m only going to spend my cash on toy trains, old cars and unfashionable clothing. If I suddenly turn up in a flash car wearing designer labels, she’ll guess something is up and demand answers when I regain consciousness. If you are less trusting, set up a special account.


If the book is a joint effort, share the login details.

Seriously, if one of you drops dead, how frustrating would it be for the other not to be able to administer the book? I’m not sure it is strictly speaking allowed, but seems a sensible move.


Once your book is on sale, buy a copy.

This way, it will appear in the “People who bought this also bought this” bit of the page. The more people who buy, the more often you’ll appear. Don’t give copies to friends and relatives, make them buy it for added exposure.


You’re not going to get rich.

We’re going to sell at £1.99 or its equivalent in other countries. Amazon takes 86p of that for providing the service. Stop moaning, this is world-wide sales for a relatively small fee. Imagine the printing and shipping costs you are saving.

We are lucky to be realistic about this. Writing is very, very rarely a route to riches. However, if we do strike it rich, we are prepared to deal with this.


 I hope this helps. In a short while, once final polishing is complete, we’ll be doing it for real (I’ve tested everything so confidence is high). I’m genuinely surprised how easy all of this appears. Let’s hope I’m still saying this soon.

Then we only have the reviews to worry about!

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An offer for Black Friday

Candice: I’ve been thinking about clever marketing ploys both at work and for the launch of the book.

Yes, there is that word again ‘launch’.  As of a week Friday (ie not Black Friday but the week after) the book will be officially out there.  No pressure on me as I am only up to Chapter 14 on the proof reading, but Phil and I have set ourselves a date, and I have also told my work I want to do the business wide email on that day – and the topic of  my email is clever marketing ploys.

So what is my one for this blog post?  Picking up what is in the zeitgeist and putting it in your blog (or tweet or other form of social media).  So what is being talked about at the moment – well the big shopping phenomenon of Black Friday.

It only really hit the UK last year and it went so well/badly (depending on which retailer you are) that they are doing it again. I think the fights over cut price tellies have put people like Asda off but some are still going for it so I will be keeping my eyes peeled.  Martin Lewis was even talking about it on his money saving show tonight.

But how does that work in self promotion? Well, our SEO (ie what people use to find out site) is not that high. We don’t pay for it so its all about the words that we write about. By putting in a term that people are looking for then you might pop up on their google search and be of interest.

But then you might get alot of people going, “I was looking for discounts at John Lewis”  But to anyone who has navigated to our site – look out for a book called Kate vs the DirtBoffins – available on Amazon soon.

Right – best get back to the proof reading.

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Training for politics with Portillo

Michael Portillo Train The last time I saw a politician on stage in Leamington, it was Tony Benn. Can’t remember what he was talking about much as I was working, but the bits I did catch, I didn’t agree with. What with me being a bit of a leftie, that was a surprise.

Spotting that ex-Tory, Michael Portillo was appearing locally, you might expect that I would have run a mile but since his post-MP career has involved talking about trains a lot then perhaps less so. Truth is, in his post parliament career, he comes across as very interesting so I tootled along for entertainment.

Entertaining, it certainly was.

Portillo appeared on stage and stayed put without a break for 90 minutes. For the first hour he anecdoted through both the political and media work. Kicking off with some old jokes he then moved on to his first job in the commons, briefing Margaret Thatcher every morning at 7am on the days news so she could be prepared for her early press conference.

From then, he seemed to have a ringside seat on many major moments of her career both as civil servant and then MP. This carried on right up to her resignation.

After this he had a memorable moment in the 1997, losing his seat to Stephen Twig on live television – the highest profile scalp claimed by Labour in their landslide win.

Although there was a return to parliament a couple of years later, it was then his work on television that took over the talk.

We learned how the series Great British Railway Journeys came about. Apparently he had presented a program on Great Railway Journeys in 2002 using his Spanish heritage as a guide for the trip. Eight years later, the producers of the new series remembered this and offered him the gig as presenter – There have now been 6 series, 2 set in Europe and another due next year set in the USA.

I was interested in the mechanics of the filming and was pleased when someone asked the question in the half-hour Q&A that ended the evening. This was much like a literary festival session except that people generally got on with asking questions. The topics shuttled between politics and media stuff but he fielded each with aplomb.

The question that interested me most related to the modern trend for MPs to rise through the ranks of working for other MPs. To my mind it fills parliament with people who have no experience of the “real world” outside the Westminster bubble. Portillo explained that these people were simply better trained than others when it came to appearing in front of party selection panels. They knew the right answers, they know how parliament works and so they are the ones who stand out from the crowd.

Anyway, an excellent evening. Maybe it’s true that you get more right wing as you get older or maybe it’s just that I’m happy to listen to anyone reasonable and entertaining. It’s odd that I have no interest in biographies but will happily go to an event where someone could easily be promoting one.

There was certainly a glimpse into the world of Westminster and it’s given me some ideas. After all, we have a young(ish) character working for a minister. Perhaps we could map out a future for him as we traverse the story arc of our novels.

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How to self publish – the idiot’s guide (or the guide by two idiots..)

Candice: Time is a ticking.  Phil and I have a deadline, and its not the one on the side of this blog. All thoughts of finishing book 2 have gone out the window to get book 1 out the door.  Why did we not do this earlier?

In dropbox sits a lovely laid out book, waiting for me to proof before we tick and few boxes and it goes live.  OMG!

I’ve been surfing around guides on How to Self Publish, all written by Self and ‘Real’ published experts.  The general gist is its easy, in fact it’s a no brainer, and Amazon is the place to do it.

Now I know a lot of people have issues with big conglomerates.  I’m not a big fan and do like buying things from the small as well as the large, but I’ve still got a stream of boxes landing at my door as Christmas approaches as its easier to get certain things on line than go to the shop. (Though I did pick up a lovely pair of boots in Jones sale today…)

But in this one site I have been reading they do give good reasons why the Amazon deal is the way to go.  Including how people are ready to spend when they hit their site, unlike just general browsing, they have good SEO so that people can find you easily (in fact they put a lot of cash into being high up on google search) and they can open your audience with their recommendations.

So lets go with the big beast and see where we go from here.  I just need to get on with the proofing and we can get it out the door.  Keep your credit cards ready for D day!

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Flying without wings

Candice: So while Phil has been stalking someone on the train I have been flying around Europe (both literally and figuratively) for work.

I do enjoy my new job, but at the moment we are motoring towards year end and its all about planning and budgets.  I spend a lot of my time doing spreadsheets or presenting ideas to people to get their OK.

The other time is spent brainstorming ideas with different companies or other people within my company who are based in Europe (hence the flying).

You know you are tired when you fall asleep on the sofa on a Monday night!

Then alongside this Phil is busy getting us ready for the big launch, the star that he is.  We’ve got Kindle log ons, Amazon accounts and all kinds of fun stuff to get us out by Xmas.  And we will get there by hook or by crook (though I think I’ll need to take a day off to do it)

The other thing than really gets me at the moment is the dark nights.  The need to turn the lights on at 4.30pm and then really all you want to do is eat some stodge, curl up on the sofa and forget it.  Even me, as the most motivated exerciser, needs an extra kick to get out the door.

But, motivated I am and motivated to finally rub the nose of people by saying I’m a published author, what a great Christmas present that will be. (on a par with the bag I have planned as my Xmas present I would say, but just)

Roll on last proofing sessions, mad tweeting to promote it and then relaxing with a large glass of prosecco and throwing some shapes at the xmas party.

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Never mind The Girl on the Train, who is Katherine?

Girl on the trainPhil: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is an international bestseller. People on trains up and down the country are reading it. SJ Watson says it’s “Gripping, enthralling – a top-notch thriller and a compulsive read.”

SJ Watson is wrong. I started reading it and far from being a compulsive read, by the third chapter, all I wanted to do was shout at the pages, “Get a mooooove on!”

The story is supposed to be slowly revealed, mostly through the alcoholic haze of it’s main protagonist. I pretty quickly worked out I didn’t much care about her and looked up the plot on Wikipedia.

Job done.

There IS mystery attached to this book though. On the frontispiece there is a handwritten note:

To Katherine,

Lovely to meet you today,

I hope you enjoyed it!

Love Andrea

P.S. You really were great x

Who is Katherine?
Who is Andrea?
What did they enjoy?
What was she great at?
Why did she abandon a book with such a personal inscription to a charity shop?
Did she,like me, think the story needed to get a move on?
Did she think that if she’d been so great, Andrea might have given her a better book?
Had Andrea read the book, or was it chosen because it was the current best seller and therefore must be good?

We shall never know. Might make a good basis for a story though.

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And another thing – did Hitchhikers really need one more sequel?

AndAnotherThingPhil: Some books inspire an almost religious devotion. People read and re-read them. They sit in pubs enjoying alcohol-fueled dissections of the text. Every nuance is chewed over. If there are funny lines, they are quoted until they are no longer humorous.

Once such series is The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams.

Originally a superb radio show, the scripts then became a 5-part trilogy of books, a pretty good (for it’s time) TV show and the second worst film ever.

At some point, Adams suggested that the 5 part series of books wasn’t quite complete. The last one was a bit bleak and ended with everyone about to die. No problem, he would one day write a sixth book and put it all right.

Then he died.

Now, if you are a publisher who owns the rights to such a series, you don’t let the death of an author put you off. This book has best seller written all over it. You’ll shift a ton of hardbacks too because the hardcore fans won’t want to wait for the paperback.

When it was announced that Eoin (pronounced Owen) Colfer had been signed up to write the final volume, there was always a mention in the press release that Adams wife had approved the choice of author.

Cynics suggested that along with discovering the idea to write a 6th book, she’d also discovered the Mercedes Benz catalogue. That’s the trouble with cult books, people want them left alone. Perfect. Unsullied.

I wasn’t sure. Quite frankly, I was happy with the 5 books and didn’t feel the need for another, so I forgot about it.

That was until browsing through a charity bookshop where I spotted a copy. For a moment, I pondered and then decided that I’d always wonder if I didn’t buy the thing and give it a go.

So I did.

And now I know. They should have stopped at book 5.

It’s not that this is a bad book, it’s just that if you are taking over a much loved series, you better be brilliant. We want to believe that it’s the original author writing it, not some interloper doing an impersonation.

This isn’t a great book. The story is confusing, the vital footnotes non-existent and I don’t see what it adds other than cash to people’s bank balances.

It’s a bit like watching a bad actor overplaying everything. What we’ve got it Hitchikers turned up to 11. Adams was far more subtle and if I’m honest, grown-up. Colfer made his name in books aimed at youngsters and it shows in places. I don’t envy him the task he faced, after all you are never going to keep everyone happy but that doesn’t make me any less grumpy.

As I say, this isn’t a bad book but I was happy to have forgotten it and I’ll be happy not to add it to the shelves with the others. It can go off and live with someone else and I’ll let the story slip from my mind. In fact a pint of pan-galactic gargle blaster might be just the thing to help with that…

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Queen Mum by Kate Long

Candice: A while a go Phil and I went to a West Midlands writers event in Worcester where Kate Long was one the speakers. An interesting lady who had obviously been around the block of writing with her first book being made into a film.

Phil bought ‘Queen Mum’, tale of two neighbours, their differing lifestyles and approaches to parenting and the impacts when one appears on a national reality TV show.

Juno seems perfect to the outside world, with two well behaved girls and an arty husband.  Stay at home mum Juno spends her day preparing healthy food and planning her girls lives’ so they get the best of everything.  Next door lives Ally with her son who is going off the rails, a uncomfortable relationship with her husband and a terrible history of losing a child, run over when she isn’t looking.

Introduce the show ‘Queen Mum’ and in comes Kim, blue collar mum with two teenage lads and a husband who treats her as the house skivvy. Food is always fast and everyone just does their own thing.

In front of the TV cameras and everything starts to fall apart as Juno’s history comes out – she is not as perfect as she seems, her name isn’t even Juno. Ally is struggling with her own battles, labeled as the ‘woman who lost a child’ and trying to give her son and husband space when she still worries about everything they do in case she looses them too.

I have to say that I thought Juno needed her comeuppance, she was annoying in her perfection and when her one daughter suddenly becomes the bad kid at school then she learns that you can’t control everything.

But there is more than that when her whole world becomes unraveled as Kim, who goes on to win the show, gets all the tabloid fame and Juno is vilified for her approach. Eventually she even loses her husband.

Published in 2006 the world has changed since the time of early reality TV, ‘Wife swap’ etc. Things could have been alot worse with Social Media ! It picks up on the truths and pulls apart the lies in everyone’s lives leaving you not sure who is right or wrong.

I am not sure what Kate was trying to say in this story as none of the characters are perfect, but I think it is a learning that we all can’t be ‘Queen Mum’ but I have to say I didn’t really care as it was just an enjoyable read, and I had the luxury to read it on holiday I was able to submerse myself in their world better than I would at home.

And I struggled to read it at some times because I could see which way Ally’s story was going and that is a personal fear of mine, one distraction and your child is under the wheels of a car.  I’ll be keeping Erin very close from now on. I’ll also stop trying to be the perfect mum!

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