Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Years!

Thanks everyone for making 2013 an amazing year for us here at Findlay Books. In 2013 we distributed 87,000 kids ebooks and print books throughout the verse - that is nearly 90K kids ebooks being read by families all over the world. What an amazing achievement. We also helped 90 new self-publishers learn all about how to get their loved stories sold online. We formatted ebooks, connected people with illustrators, connected with illustrators ourselves, and wrote about 20 new kids ebooks. 2013 truely has been AAAAMAZING!

I can't wait to see what God has in store for us in 2014!

All the best and hope and pray that you have a better holiday season than our little family did! :D

Love and wishes,

Joy and Bevan Findlay

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas from Findlay Books!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Findlay Books. We hope you all have a fantastic Christmas, celebrating with your loved ones where ever you are in the world. Thank you for making this last year so wonderful, and we hope that the next year will bring blessings into all of our lives and work places. Have a great New Year's celebration and we will catch up again in January 2014.

Love and blessings to you all,

Bevan, Joy, Zach and Kiara Findlay

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

19 December The Week that Was.

6 Geese-a-Laying!
As we gear up for Christmas and keeping the squidlets busy without driving us nuts over the holidays, we have picked up many fantastic Christmas ebooks and colouring pages too. The kids have enjoyed reading many stories by familiar authors from all over the world!

Our Christmas Giveaway ended with five winners receiving some amazing ebook packages! What a fantastic way to end the year!

Not much else to report from us here at Findlay Books. We have our gift shomping done, gifts wrapped, and our decorations up - although I have to admit that our 40cm tall Christmas Tree may not be big enough any longer - it is swamped in too many decorations. Time for an upgrade I think. All that is left to do is buy food and get our Christmas meal ready!

I did want to let you all know that we have some fantastic free promos on most of our ebooks on Amazon. So please visit my author page to fine out what books are free today: http://amzn.to/19dzcEr - sort by 'price low to high' and you should find all our freebies!
Have a great Christmas Season and we'll chat again next week! 

Thanks for your support ~ Joy and Bevan Findlay

Monday, December 2, 2013

Best 100 Blogs for the Modern Wirter

I came across this list of the Best 100 Blogs for the Modern Wirter - so worth sharing on my main page. Along with other great links to fantastic resources for the self-publisher, you will find this on our links page here on Confessions of a Kiwi Self Publisher.

~ Joy

Week that was Dec 3rd.

This week here at Findlay Books we have been getting ready for the Christmas Season. 

We're now running a fantastic Giveaway, see the Dango Giveaway tab above. We have FIVE fantastic prize packs available for all aged kids. It has been so much fun putting this one together as we are working with 18 other Authors who are all giving a total of 47 books! You can enter below.
I have lost most my voice this week from a nasty cough this last weekend - even missed Findlay Family Christmas dinner last night - phooey! But with a young neice recently in hospital with broncitis I was happy to stay away to keep her safe. The kids enjoyed it though!

So not much on this week, reading, pretending to write, getting ready for loads of free promos and discount deals. If you'd like to see more please visit Joy's author page on Amazon. Enjoy your week and thanks again for all of your support! ~ Findlay Books

Terms & Conditions
The giveaway will close on December 13th, 12am (New Zealand Time).
Winners will be announced and contacted by email. Their prize pack will be sent by email in .mobi file format for Kindle from each contributing author. None of these ebooks can be exhanged for money. The prize pack that includes the Rainbow Poetry Amazon Gift eCard will be sent along with all the other ebooks from the authors of that prize pack.
The giveaway is in no way endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, Kindle or Amazon. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

28 November the week that was.

Shorts of Air and Darkness Astro-photography
Don't you just love it when you meet people who find great value in what you have to offer? Skills, experience, knowledge - working experiential knowledge - that they can learn from to see their publishing dreams become a reality? I've met five more new self-publishers this week and was thrilled to be able to guide them towards their dreams coming true ~ I love my job! I don't remember drinking so many caramel latte coffees in one week before - I might have to go decafe.... Pffft ~ kidding!

Safe to say it has been another exceptional week at Findlay Books. We have formatted a few more ebooks for authors, and picked up another few clients who have a bunch of books to be converted and we discovered that we are under charging for our Digital Formatting Services by 75%, so our prices will be going up in the New Year.

We are planning a MASSIVE Christmas Giveaway this year. We are giving away 47 ebooks from 19 different kidlit authors who come from all over the world! Each of the 5 different
prize packs contain about 8 - 10 Kindle ebooks with one containing an Amazon gift eCard. So exciting, I can't wait, so watch out for it - Starts December 1st!!!

We have some very exciting changes in store for the new year - can't tell you much now, only that I am a little scared about how much LEARNING it will actually take to get it off the ground ~ talk about stretching the tent pegs aye?

If you love the new hoodies we purchased (pic above), please check our Jason Brown's Redbubble page. He has hoodies, calendars, posters, framed prints and so much more. He's a NZ local lad who is raising funds purchase professional astro-photography equipment so he can continue to do what he really does do best! Jason is on Facebook would love for you to visit his page. And if you are wondering how an astro-photographer has anything to do with self-publishing - Jason's amazing moon pics feature in our 'Rocket Boy goes to the Moon' and he didn't charge us to use them! We love supporting those who support us! Thank you Jason.

Have a fantastic week everyone and enjoy the season and the LOADS of free Christmas ebooks there are out there for the squidlets!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Finding an illustrator.

One of the biggest requests we get from workshop attendees is information on where they can find a reasonably priced illustrator. Below is a list of illustrators that other authors have used and recommended to me. What they will need to know is how many images/pages do you require, how much you will pay (negotiate) and how you will pay them. Below this list is an example of a Writer Illustrator Agreement once you have set the image amount and price for the job. 

Finding an the right illustrator for your project depends on a few things: quality of workmanship, the right 'look', ease of communication, and price comes into it too. I like working with new illustrators to give them an introduction into the world of self-publishing, I indicate what I would like my illustrations to look like, and we agree on 'price' or 'service'. Most important to me is being able to work with someone I can trust to create what I want. 

The two illustrators I currently work with have very different styles of artwork, but that works for the different series of books that I am creating. They communicate well, they are really easy to work with, and I have formed a great friendship with them too. When they are in the same room together they are so funny! They are going to be presenting at my next self-publishing workshop in the New Year and they both crack me up!

So, some things to be aware of: please be aware that you need to sign the rights over for the images from the illustrator to the writer, but they should still have the ability to use the art work to promote their own business/services, I.e: they can not on sell the images, and you can do with them what you want.

Also, make sure you agree to the length of time you expect work to be done by. The illustrators I work with have other jobs - plural - so my artwork fits in around their other paid work, meaning it takes much longer for them to create stuff for me. 

I checked out Elance.com this week and have had nearly twenty responses to my ad in two days for an illustrator to illustrate a 32 page book with cover. One of these responses came from an illustrator in NZ, but he didn't state what he would charge which is a shame as I probably wont ask him. The average price has been about $500.00.

All the best in finding someone to help bring your children's stories to life! Please let us know how it all goes for you ~ Joy.

**Subscribe by email and 'Join this site' for more details on how to Self-Publish from NZ**

New Zealand Ilustrators
Sandra Morris Illustration Agency (NZ)

FBI Illustrators (Fabulous Bureau of Illustrator) 

Jason Brown (NZ)
Email: unkaval@gmail.com
Photography can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/astronomr/ 
Paul Lafaele (NZ)

Paul Elder (NZ)

Chan Ghee Leow (NZ)

Danielle Tran (NZ)
021 106 1755

Suzanne Beer (NZ?)

International Illustrators
Elance (Intl)

Ewa PodleĊ› (Intl)

Isella Vega (Intl)

Hozayfah Art (Intl)

Pat Lewis (Intl)

Jim Brenneman (Intl)

Veronica Grech (Intl)

Helen H. Wu (Intl)


Feel free to copy and past this agreement – fill in the (brackets) appropriately.

Writer Illustrator Agreement

(Author's name)
(Author's address)

(Illustrator's name)
(Illustrator's address)

Party A: (Author's name)
Party B: (Illustrator's name)

Party A has prepared a children’s book with a title of (Name of Book), of approximately (Number of words) words. Pursuant to the terms and conditions herein (Illustrator's name) shall prepare (Number) number of colour illustrations to be incorporated in the book. The completed illustrations shall be delivered to the (Author's name) no later than (Date), 2013.

(Author's name) shall reasonably cooperate with and assist the (Illustrator's name) in preparation of the materials. (Author's name) knows and accepts the style of drawing of the (Illustrator's name), possesses a sample of it and will give the (Illustrator's name) freedom in her artistic invention.

(Illustrator's name) shall prepare the following, to the satisfaction of the (Author's name):
1. a cover, with the original to be approximately 8.5 inches x 8.5 inches in size in colour
2. (Number) number of other illustrations related to the work, to be approximately 8.5 inches X 8.5 inches in size.

As (Illustrator's name)'s sole compensation herein, (Illustrator's name) shall be paid a total fee of $____ NZD, to be paid as follows:
Deposit of $____ NZD after all work has been completed. Fees related to wire money transfer shall be split between (Author's name) and (Illustrator's name) 50/50.
No further compensation shall be due. (Author's name) shall have the right to unlimited reproduction and use of the illustrations thereafter.

(Illustrator's name) shall keep the existence of the work, and all information related to the same strictly confidential until the work is published or otherwise is released into the public domain. After the publishing of the work the (Illustrator's name) will be entitled to present the illustrations as a part of a public presentation of her work (especially, but not limited to her internet profile), with a reference to the book of the (Author's name).

(Illustrator's name) shall receive credit in any distributed version of the work as the illustrator, in such places as are customary and usual within the trade for the type of work. (Illustrator's name) will be granted freely four copies of the above mentioned book (of each of its editions), after it will be published.

(Illustrator's name) warrants that the materials delivered herein are the original work of the (Illustrator's name) and that the same do not violate any copyright, trademark or other protection of intellectual property by (Illustrator's name). (Illustrator's name) further warrants that (Illustrator's name) has the full right to convey the rights granted to (Author's name) herein. (Illustrator's name) shall indemnify the (Author's name) from any such claims related to the work of the illustrator. Provided, however, that in the event that the (Author's name) specifically requests in writing a particular form of rendering that the (Author's name) shall be responsible for such claims to the extent that they are proximately caused by the (Author's name)'s request.

This is the entire agreement between the parties, and the same may only be modified by a writing executed by the parties hereto.

Partnering Organization: (Author's name) 





Partnering Organization: (Illustrator's name)





Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sideloading your MOBI files onto your Kindle Ereader or Kindle App.

 "Sideloading" MOBI files

If you have ever been given a MOBI file in a competition or a giveaway you need to follow the instructions below explain learn how to "side load" the files into the Kindle reader app. Kindle ebooks are MOBI files and can only be read with a Kindle Ereader or a Kindle app, or some other compatible software. If you do not have one of these you will need to download Kindle Reading Apps for FREE on your iPad, PC, Mac, Android tablet or phone. Find out more here: http://amzn.to/13Y17RB

Once you have the Kindle app on your computer/tablet/smart phone, you will need to follow one of the following sets of instructions.

Sideloading a MOBI e-book file into the Kindle for PC software:

  1. Ensure that you have installed, run and registered your Kindle for PC Software.
  2. Select the file you have downloaded (make sure you know where you downloaded the file to), right-click and go to "Copy".
  3. Now browse to your "Documents" folder (default C:\Users\\Documents), and you should see a folder called "My Kindle Content"; open this.
  4. Paste the files into this folder (shortcut: CTRL-V).
  5. Run the Kindle for PC software and your books should appear.
Sideloading a MOBI e-book file onto a Kindle Fire (or similar mobile device):

  1. Using a mini-USB to USB cord, connect the Kindle Fire to your computer.
  2. Download the e-book file to your computer (from the links above, again making sure you know where you downloaded the file to).
  3. Using a file explorer program (on a Windows PC, try pressing the Windows Key+E), open up the Kindle (will show as a temporary drive under "Computer"). Also open the folder on the computer with the file.
  4. Drag the e-book file from the computer to the Kindle Fire "Books" directory.
  5. Follow your computer's procedure for disconnecting peripheral devices. The book will now be available in the Kindle Fire's "Books" tab.

If you have any trouble, or any further queries, please feel free to contact us:


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Week that was: 13 November 2013

Another fantastic week here at Findlay Books. We have been gearing up for the workshop this weekend with registrations still coming in - seriously, I had one lady apply and pay today in less than two hours! Fastest rego ever!

Just call me SPAMMO! I have discovered that I have been spamming all of my international author friends untentionally by posting heaps to all the book groups that they belong to - I feel aweful - I hate spamming and find out I am the worst one of all. If you are reading this, my Az author friends - please forgive me - making loads of changes so this wont happen anymore. :)

My husband Bevan has finished his last exam today! Well done Babe, it has taken 5 years on and off for us all to live through this season, but it is finally over and I AM SO BLIMMIN' PROUD OF YOU!

I am trying out Amazon's new Countdown Deals to see how well my kids ebooks sell through this new promotional avenue on Amazon - very exciting results so far.

The week feels like it has only just begun and it has been really busy. I can't wait to let you all know how our second workshop goes this weekend. Stay tuned!

Over and out!

PS: If you are keen to read a few ebooks by Joy Findlay (me) then leave a comment below and I'll PM you a favourite.

*Giveaway not associate with Blogger or Amazon.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Booksellers, Independent Bookstores and 'Treasure!'

Booksellers lists a bunch of contact details for independent books stores in NZ. http://booksellers.co.nz/independent-stores  It is a great resource for finding email addresses for stores that could potentially purchase your printed books. Bronwen from Happy Bee Books has compiled a list of email address and started emailing them with some success. She found that some the of contact email address didn't work.

What a fantastic resource for those of you who are distributing in NZ.

All the best Bronwen, and congratulations on the launch of your first self-published book 'Treasure!'. You can find more information about Bronwen's new book here: http://www.happybeebooks.com/ She is also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Happybeebooks

Aaharrr me-harty!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Publishing on Draft2Digital


Just started using Draft2Digital today. Overall result - much more user friendly than Smashwords. Here are a few things I learned during my initial experience with D2D:

* Although they say they don't need a style guide like Amazon and Smashwords, you can upload your doc and Epub files but correct formatting is still really important.

* You have to use Word and not Libre Office to create the contents page, for some reason Libre Office spits the dummy at the contents table.

* We had to halve all of the URL links as they ran off the page on the PDF preview file (for CreateSpace).

* They do accept Epub files, but often the ones we create aren't acceptable to iBook...

* I'm not sure how it will go with a fixed format ebook though as they don't accept MOBI files, so if I only want to publish on B&N and Kobo then I think that its ok.

* You can email them your EIN number instead of printing and mailing forms.

* Royalties are paid via PayPal/Chq each month.

* No start-up fees. They take 15% royalties though.

* I received an email from D2D letting me know the additional information I would need to provide them with for publishing my book file to CreateSpace ie: Cover jacket (they attached a Createspace template for this!!!), update on the price (giving cost price amount and supposed royalties earned on each dollar I added to that cost price), and they asked me to email all of this BACK TO D2D - not to CreateSpace. Simple easy!

So far I'm pretty happy with the service - much more user friendly than Smashwords.

Now I just need to get a better cover designed and I can actually look at distribution in NZ.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Busy Mama, Busy Self-Publisher

I was asked yesterday how do I manage being a stay at home mum (SAHM) and a self-publishing business owner. It is a really great question. I have only been a sole trader business for 18 months and learning to manage my home, the squidlets, laundry and a book business has been interesting. It became much easier when my daughter turned three and we could place her in kindy a few days a week. It also helped that my hubby lived in another city at the time, studying towards his degree. Empty evenings became full of writing and illustrating, formatting and publishing.

I love what I do and I only do what I love. That means the stuff that I should be doing doesn't always get done. I am two months behind on my accounts, and laundry - although washed and dried daily, it doesn't make it off 'cloth mountain' until the weekend. Some days I nail it! I write new stories, connect with my illustrator, promote my books and a bunch of others, and move up the Amazon rankings, all the while keeping kids safe, fed, clothed and the house spotless. Other days – not so much. It wasn't until after leaving the house, dropping Mr 5 off at school, and arriving at our first appointment today that I realised that, not only had I not brushed my daughter's hair, but she had glumps of tooth paste in it, on her face and on her Petal the Owl hat. Oh. My. Goodness!

What I have come to realise is that my business comes second to my kids - always. It didn't use to. I spent camping last New Years glued to my laptop watching book sales roll in – not that watching it would have made any iota of difference to the numbers. I get carried away at times, so excited about writing my latest story, reading my latest novel, watching my latest numbers that I forget that two littlies need my care and attention. Tooth paste fights in the upstairs bathroom only ever happen when they believe I'm not going to take notice.

We have a rule in the house now. No computer time before or after school. That rule applies only to me. Pretty bad, I know, but at least it works - until I made the local paper yesterday and got inundated with workshop registration enquiries. http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/western-leader/9281179/Family-live-e-book-fairytale

I'm a SAHM who sells self-published children's ebooks on Amazon. And I am bloody good at it!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mum's Blog Interview

I was interviewed by a Mum's Blog today and through I'd share the interview here. Enjoy reading!

Describe your business in a sentence.
Findlay Books publishes children's ebooks written by Joy Findlay. We began by writing, illustrating and publishing all our own ebooks on Amazon.com and became so successful that we now work with illustrators and teach others how to self-publish their own books for both print and digital retail. Along side this we run a website that promotes free Kindle ebooks for Mum's and bubs. Ok that was more than one sentence – sorry.

How did it all begin?
My husband was studying at the University in Auckland while I raised two young kids in Hamilton. We just couldn't afford to live together in the bigger city. We had him home on weekends but it was a lonely time for me as a stay at home mum. He purchased me a gift, a tablet computer and as I began to download books from Amazon for myself and the kids, I realised there weren't a whole lot of cheaper books that I wanted to purchase for the kids. That was when I realised I could probably make better ebooks and sell them myself on Amazon. And that was how it all started.

We have published 66 ebooks on Amazon and have over 200,000 children's ebooks out in the world now. I have had huge success with it that I am now teaching other people how to self-publish their own stories and picture books.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned in the last couple of weeks?
The best thing I have learned in the last couple of weeks is to not stress the small stuff. At the moment Amazon has made some pretty major changes on their site and self-published authors like myself are seeing sales slow down quite a bit. It has forced us to get together online and talk about how to promote our books better. I have loved learning from these international children's book authors and am looking forward to Christmas and New Years again which is our busiest time of the year. Their biggest advice was to just chill. I love it!

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an air hostess, a writer, and film and TV director then I wanted world peace. I out grew the air hostess dream, and interestingly the writer dream too. I skipped both of them and made my way into TV and video production from high school. Since then I've discovered my writing dreams again and who know, maybe one day we will find world peace!

What’s your best skill outside of writing and selling children's eBooks?
I am what I call myself a 'Digital Builder'. You give me images and audio and I can put together your video. Give me images and words and there is your ebook. Sometimes it works with cooking ingredients too. I love being creative and experimenting, it energises me.

What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday?
My husband has been studying off and on now for 5 years. Because of his crazy work load and university schedule, we decided that he wouldn't study on the weekends if he could help it. Our Sundays are our family time where we take the kids (Kiara, 4 and Zach, 5) to the beach for a play, the park for a bike ride or the lake to feed the ducks. That is my absolute favourite thing to do on Sundays at the moment.

What embarrassing incident have you never gotten over?
Oh goodness, um, that would have to be the time this guy asked me if I liked him, to my face and I said that I did. He told me, flat out, that he was sorry but he didn't like me that way. Ok, so this incident might not really count because two months later he asked me out and we were married seven months later!

How do you jiggle the juggle?
Ok, so I had to google this question to understand what was being asked and laughed at the fitness bra ads and juggling routines. I think I'm being asked how do I manage being a busy mum and raising two squidlets while running a home based business – here's hoping...

At first it was hard to manage everything, but having kids in school and kindy has helped a lot. My two kids are an integral part of my creative writing process. If I need a name for characters I ask them, and I pass the book by them before I publishing it. I guess you could call them my quality control. They are apart of our ebook publishing business just as much as my technical-brains husband is.

A majority of my work is focused on building my author platform which involves marketing and promotions. On top of that I am meeting new people every week who are interested in learning how to self-publish. Social networking is a must for self-published authors and I spend at least 4 hours a day online connecting, promoting and reading articles about the publishing industry in New Zealand and around the world.

I connect with my illustrator at least once a month and meet with other writers each fortnight.

This has to all happen around the school and kindy run and cooking dinner, but sometimes the local roast takeaway comes in handy. Lets just say that laundry is the one ball I drop often and, although I wash clothes daily, it doesn't get folded and back into draws until later each weekend.

What does the future of Findlay Books hold?
We are really excited about our next three children's books being published as ebooks and print books in November. These three books are NZ themed books for kiwi kids. One is all about a weta finding a new home, another is about our DIY nature and revolves around a robot being built, and my third is about camping in the back yard with Dadda. I can't wait to show the world the amazing illustrations my good friend Paul Lafaele is putting together for them.

We are also running a 6 hour workshop on self-publishing for those who are interested in learning more about how to self-publish from NZ. So if you have a story in your heart that you have always longed to publish but didn't know how, then this workshop is for you. It is being held on 16th November in Avondale, Auckand, and will cost you $60.00 to attend.

How do we find you?
For our children's ebook catalogue and more information on our Self-Publishing Workshop, please visit our website: www.findlaybooks.com.
For giveaways and updates on our new release books, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/findlaybooks and for finding free kindle ebooks daily, visit www.ebookmamas.com

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Touching Base

Time management – something every great writer and self-publisher has a successful handle on. Me – not so much. In between feeding a family of five (including one cat), umpiring squidlet disputes, laundry, shopping, school holidays and a social life, writing and self-promotion gets kinda lost in the mix.
I haven't touched this blog since my last post 22nd September and for a blogger that is pathetic! It is no wonder that a guest post that my good friend and fellow self-publisher Zee Southcombe shared on my blog brought in three times as many readers than most of mine. She is damn good at what she does and I do not doubt she will be selling books long before she has even published them.

So what have I been doing since last month? Reading. Yep, loads of reading! And not just the good stuff either. To learn my trade, I have been reading what rates as a good book and what doesn't meet the mark. I've been reading heaps of kids books too – some great, some not so great. And I've been reading romance novels and YA/NA too, but discovered that I prefer the 16k novellas – the longer reads keep me up until 2am.

I've actually discovered there is a real market for short stories – or novellas. It seems to be a common marketing tool – write a novella, get readers invested in your characters and their drama, sell it for free or .99 and direct traffic to your next full novel in the series. I've also seen novella writers pop one out each month/couple of months to keep their books in the 'New Release' sections of the online retailers. Dang – if they can write that much each month then good for them. It seems to be a successful marketing tool for some, and for others it is just too much to get done in short space of time.

I've been connecting with many other Amazon children's authors online too. It has been really encouraging that I'm not the only indie author who has seen a major drop in book sales over the last few months. And it isn't just kids books either. It seems to be across the board, worldwide. So I’ve been 'hanging' out with other authors to share advice on how to make things work for us again. I've enjoyed getting to know these amazing people.

And I have been organising a Pamper Me Giveaway for another book promotion business I run. There are some amazing prizes for one lucky Kiwi Mama to win. I've collaborated with a few other businesses this time and can see the value in this already even in our first day running it. I'm hoping to gain more interested in my promotions site and gain a little momentum with that. Its my 'promotions nest egg' for in five years time when EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG are publishing kids ebooks and you wont be able to see mine for the trees. It is working. And I'm enjoying it.

So, six weeks out and we start promotions for our next Self-Publishing Workshop. We will be promoting it here quite a bit so apologies if you get sick of it. :) But it is worth it. We cover the basics of self-publishing, covering everything from using a professional editor to cover art to working with image heavy fixed file ebooks. It will be a fantastic workshop for anyone who would love to learn more about self-publishing from NZ. So if you know anyone who might be interested, please let them know!

Thanks for reading, hope the absence hasn't put you off.

Until next time, keep self-publishing!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Zee Southcombe: On Blogging

Zee Southcombe: "In the time that I’ve been blogging I’ve done heaps of research and learnt lots about developing image, expanding content, using social media, building an audience and keeping track of it all. I wrote a five-part blog tutorial for emerging bloggers to review their own sites, and make improvements in a range of areas. The series came about through my own experience in self-reviewing, and questions I have had about being a writer and blogger."

More here: http://zeesouthcombe.com/2013/09/23/blog-review-series/

Thanks Zee - such a great set of blog posts for indies who are getting started on their Publishing Platform.

~ Joy

Monday, September 16, 2013

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Writing is fun. You get to spend time with imaginary friends, playing dress-up in your head. Writing is therapeutic, it is a fantastic way to figure out what's going on in your heart. Writing is the business of art, and the formulation of thought. I've been writing since I was a teen, and enjoying the effects of that writing on listening ears. My best audience ever is a classroom full of bright eyed and bushy tailed squidlets, so responsive to anything I have to say. I love it.

With the major changes happening with the publishing industry in New Zealand (NZ) at the moment, my new writing career might not ever get off the ground here. Sure I have made more in my first year and a half selling ebooks overseas than many new authors have in NZ, but that is changing so fast now that I have no idea what is going to happen this coming summer season.

I have been seeing the steady decline in sales over the last few months and am glad that writing and self-publishing is not our main source of income. I have come to a crossroads, a decision to look at what is important to me as a writer, a reader and an entertainer of thoughts. Do I keep writing and selling my ebooks for profit that this little self-publishing business has produced, or do I stop striving for sales and relax a little more into the life of a carefree writer? Big decision really.

The life of a self-publisher is a balancing act. I know few who can successfully pull it off and make loads while still having a life and growing a family. Actually I don't know anyone in New Zealand who have done it successfully yet. Writing in this nation means keeping your day job. I am blessed to have an excuse to be at home all day long so I can write and promote my writing. Preschoolers make way for an amazing world of opportunity. But I'm not so sure if I want to be a career writer, always striving for a promotion on someone else's blog, advertising platform or website.

Don't get me wrong, I am still going to sell ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords, and can't wait for my illustrator to finish my next KIWI THREE Series, but I've realised that what is important to me now is enjoying the writing and try to relax a bit more with the sales side of things. So what if that book promotion site has rejected my fourth book for promotions next month? So what if my sales are on par for the worst month ever? So what if I don't get traffic to my website/blog/twitter/Facebook page, it isn't the end of the business, nor then end of my writing.

Don't sweat the small stuff! I have to keep telling myself this every day. And I have to change my focus too. Spending hours (literally) online daily is just not where I want to spend my time and energy. Planning the layout of my next three ebooks with my illustrator – definitely! Sitting at my computer writing for older kids a series of fantastic fantasy stories – definitely! Reading to my own two squidlets each and every day – definitely!

I'm a writer, a self-publisher, a blogger, an ebook promoter, and a bloody fantastic children's ebook author who happens to be hitting the 'indie author's sales decline' just as much as the next. But you know what? I'm still a writer and I'm still excited about self-publishing.

Because I love what I do.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Zee Southcombe Guest Post.

Introducing Zenobia Southcombe, a writer, a poet and a fantatsic social networker! Zee has just started down her journey to self-publishing and has surpassed me in every way with regards to social networking. She connects with people: writers, readers, self-publishers, critics and illustrators in ways I have yet to discover. She is posting a series of blog posts on blogging and social networking and just quietly, I love her to bits!

Blog Review Part 3 of 5: Social Media
Hi, I’m Zee! In the time that I’ve been blogging I’ve done heaps of research and learnt lots about developing image, expanding content, using social media, building an audience and keeping track of it all.

This is part of a five-section ‘how-to’ for writer/bloggers. Each article will be published at the start of the week for the next five weeks. The aim is to help bloggers to conduct a self-review.

This series came about through my own experience in self-reviewing, and questions I have had about being a writer and blogger.

Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the most popular social media platforms, but what's the best way to use them? Here are some ways you can make the most out of these online tools.
Okay, I love Google+ - or rather, I love the conversations and people on Google+, and most referrals to my blog are from this site.
Join a community. Communities on Google+ are a bit like Groups on Facebook. I looked around for a while before finding the communities that suited me best, as it seems that many end up as blatant self-promotion and nothing else. When looking at a community, read the rules and scroll through the posts. Look at the comments on each post - are there any? You want to find a community that really is a community, and builds connections between people. My favourite is Support-a-Writer, founded by Alana Munro, and I haven't found a community to beat it yet.
Add to circles. When you add people to your circles, you can see posts they share with you. Often, they add you back, so posts you share with your circles (which is the default mode) will be shared with them as well (make sure you add Joy & Zee!).
Share your posts. Write a little something about the post as well, and reply to any comments that people leave for you, which leads me to…
Comment! This is the most important of all. If someone comments on a post you shared - reply. If someone posts a site that you visited - go back to Google+, thank them for sharing the link, and write your thoughts. If you see something you can add an opinion to, do so. You end up having some interesting conversations, and making some wonderful friends. Tag by using "+" instead of "@".

Most of my followers on Facebook are friends I know in real life, so this is one area of social media that I need to give a bit of a push to - any ideas are welcome! On another note, here are things you can - and should - be posting on your page:
Ask a question and make sure that you reply! A blogger that does this well is Writings of a Mrs, who asks a new question every day.
Photos! There are two great ways to share images on your Facebook page. Firstly, to share an image with your thoughts as done successfully on Tales of the Borderline's page. The second way is to share quotes in image format. I find stock photos or use my own (to make sure there are no copyright issues) and add text.
Share your posts with care. Facebook doesn't like links, so don't link back to your blog too often - once for each blog post is enough. Make sure you write a wee blurb about the post as well.
Writing updates. While I was writing my first draft of John Carroll's Adventures (currently in editing phase), I would regularly post updates of my word count, and got awesome support from my friends.
Other pages' stuff. If you see something interesting on someone’s page, share it on yours "With thanks to <insert page name here>". Credit where credit's due, guys. You can 'tag' them in the post so they see it by typing "@" before their name, but you can't tag personal accounts.
This one is Joy's favourite, right Joy? Jokes aside, while it took me a while to get used to Twitter, I have come to like it. Short, sweet and to-the-point - what more could you ask for?
Follow people. Search for writers, bloggers, candle-makers - whatever floats your boat, and follow them. Many people follow back so this helps build your own following as well. If someone says something you wish you said first, retweet them by clicking the icon with two arrows (kinda like the recycling sign). The tweet is then posted to your timeline, with the original tweeter acknowledged.
Tweet @people. Build conversation by replying to a tweet, or writing a tweet directly to someone, again by using "@". For example, if I want to tell Joy she's awesome, I would write "@FindlayBooks you are awesome". This is the best way to build connections on Twitter.
Share your posts & self-promote. Be careful here, please. I tweet my blog posts once or twice each, as they can get lost in the multitude of tweets, and sometimes retweet my old blog posts to give them a bit of love. HOWEVER, I have unfollowed people on Twitter as their stream is crammed with "read my post" or "buy my book" which is tiresome.
Make lists. I use these to make sure I don't miss posts from friends. I have a list for my Google+ community, a list for my real-life friends, and a list for each of my writing groups (you can set these to private so only you can follow them, or members can subscribe so they can all follow). You can make a list from your profile page (see below) and add people by clicking on the head-and-shoulders by their name, and choosing "add to list".
You'll soon find the sites that suit you best and develop your personal take on them. Remember to add anything I've missed out in the comments below!
Now, here are some extra things to think about:
Consistent Branding
Going back to basics, create consistency by having the same profile photo, colours, fonts and background across your various profiles and pages, as well as your blog. This means you can be easily recognisable by people that have met you on a different online space.
A Two-Way Relationship
What's the point of social media? Beyond 'building your platform' or 'developing an online presence', it's all in the name: it's SOCIAL. So get talking! Make sure you take the time to read, comment and reply to people. Networking is about building connections, not about being in-your-face about your book or your blog.
Set a Routine
It's easy for social media (and blogging) to suddenly take up a whole lot of time that could've been spent on writing. Set yourself a routine for social media. I work in the afternoons, so in the morning I make a cup of tea and check Facebook, Twitter & Google+. I usually spend about an hour reading things people have linked to and commenting, or replying to Tweets / Posts. I often Tweet throughout the day, and have started a daily midday(ish) Tweet about what I'm thankful for that day. I try to check everything briefly when I get home in the evening, but usually leave replies until the next morning. Some people are constantly online, and others check in once or twice a week – find a routine that suits you.
Thanks, Joy, for hosting Part 3 of 5 of my blog review series. Remember tocheck out Parts One & Two, and keep an eye on my blog for thelast couple of entries.
I look forward to your comments - Zee Southcombe 