Helping authors publish

Category: Articles (Page 2 of 2)

Sign up to my mailing list to get notifications of new articles, as well as a weekly curated list of links that authors should find useful or interesting, and updates about my services.

Easy Backups With Dropbox

Backups will save you from all sorts of problems such as ransomware, burglary, computer failure, and simple human error like mistakenly deleting files or chapters. Dropbox provides an easy way to make an off-site backup of works in progress. This article and video show how to set up a Dropbox account and start using it to make backups of important files.

Signing up on the Dropbox website
Setting up a new account

If you don’t already have one, you will need to create an account on the Dropbox.com website. To do this, go to www.dropbox.com and fill in the Sign up form. This will take you to a page where you can download the Dropbox installer.

Install

Once the installer is downloaded, run it to install Dropbox. As part of the installation, a new folder named Dropbox will be created. Anything saved in that Dropbox folder will be automatically backed up to Dropbox’s servers. Simply by working from that folder, you can ensure that your manuscript is always backed up.

On the free plan, you can store up to 2GB of files. When signed in to the Dropbox website, simply click on your user icon to see how much space you are using. Changes and deleted files are kept for thirty days. If you make a mistake and need to go back to a previous version, or if you accidentally delete a file, you can restore a previous version of the file for up to thirty days. Paid plans offer more space and longer retention of changed or deleted files.

Backup Your Work

Once the installer has finished, click the Open my Dropbox button and go through the introduction. Windows Explorer will open displaying the new Dropbox folder, which will have a shortcut to a web page and a PDF.

Dropbox file listing on website
File listing

At this point, I suggest you move any work in progress to the new Dropbox folder. It will be automatically backed up. Whenever you save, the new version will be backed up and old versions will be kept for thirty days. This process is completely automatic and happens in the background.

Restore Old Version

If you need to go back to an older version of a file, log in to the Dropbox website and go to the Files area, where you will see a list of your files. Click on the ellipsis menu next to a file and select Version history to see older versions.

File version history on Dropbox website
File version history

You can restore an older version by clicking Restore, or click on the file name to see a preview. From here, you can download the file, which may be useful for comparing an older version to the current version.

Restore a Deleted File

To restore a deleted file, go to the Dropbox website and log in. On the file list page, click Show deleted files. Deleted files will now be displayed, with a rubbish bin icon and a Deleted notation.

Restoring a deleted file on Dropbox
Restoring a deleted file

Click on the file’s ellipsis menu and select Restore. Confirm, and the file will be restored and downloaded to your computer, where it will re-appear in your Dropbox folder.

Video

The video below is a screencast, showing Dropbox being used to save, backup, and restore files.

Hire Me

If you need help with installing Dropbox or setting up a complete backup solution, email me.

Introduction to Book Marketing

If you want to sell books, you will need to market them. This post will give you a head start on book marketing. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but just an introduction.

For self-publishers, book marketing is a long-term activity. Your book will be available at online retailers for ever, unless you decide to take it off sale. You don’t need to make a big splash at launch.

Have a Good Product

Before you start, make sure that you have a good product. Your book should be properly edited, have a professional cover, and have a solid description. If you don’t have these three in place, time and effort spent on marketing will be wasted.

Write More Books

If you only have one or two books, the best thing you can do to sell more books is to write more books. It’s hard to hear, but it’s good advice nonetheless. Having multiple books means that you can experiment, and every time someone reads one book and enjoys it, they might buy all of your other books. This is especially true if you write a series — anyone that enjoys the first book is likely to buy the next one.

Set up a Website

If you haven’t done so already, set up an author website. Ideally use your name as the URL, but if it isn’t available, try adding something like “author” or “books”. Make sure that your website has a way for people to sign up to your mailing list.

I recommend WordPress, since it is easy to update, widely supported, and there are lots of themes, so you can make it look the way you want it to.

Set up a Mailing List

Use a service such as Aweber, MailChimp, or Seva to create a mailing list. Whenever you have news (a new book, a sale, whatever), email your list and tell them about it. These are people that have specifically chosen to hear from you, so they’re more likely to buy your next book.

Add an “About the Author” section

Make sure that your book has an “About the Author” section at the back. Include links to your website, mailing list, and your other books. When you release a new book, update this section in all your other books to add a link to the new book. When a reader gets to the end of your book, these links give them a chance to immediately buy more of your books. If they enjoy your writing, they’ll want to buy more of your books. Make it easy for them to do so.

Set up Your Page on Author Central

Log in to Amazon Author Central using your Amazon login details, and fill in as much information as possible. Make sure that all of your books are listed. If any are missing, use the “Add more books” button to claim them.

Do the same at Author Central UK. There are some slight differences, but Amazon UK will use this information, so it’s worth taking the time to set up both.

Set up a Facebook Author Page

Set up a Facebook page under your author name. This is not the same as your personal profile. It is designed for fans to follow, and allows you to post things of interest to your fans without having to let them see your personal profile and information. You will also need an author page to run Facebook ads.

Make the First in a Series Free or Cheap

If you write a series, make the first book in the series free or cheap. This reduces one barrier to people trying this first book. Because it’s the first in a series, the readers that enjoy it will buy the next book in the series and hopefully every other book in the series.

Amazon won’t let you set the price to free, though other retailers will. So to get it free on Amazon, make it free elsewhere, then contact KDP support and tell them that it’s free elsewhere, with links to the free book at large retailers (Apple Books, Kobo, B&N Nook). Ask them to match the free price.

Add an Excerpt

Add an excerpt from your next book to the back of the book, with a link to buy the next book. This is most effective if you are writing a series, and add an excerpt from the next book in the series.

Paid Advertising

You can buy adverts on Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook. These can get expensive quickly, so make sure you limit the maximum spend.

Google AdWords is also a possibility, but very few authors report success with it. On the other hand, many authors have had success with Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook ads.

Run a Sale

You can change the price of your book at the online retailers at any time. Take advantage of this to run a sale. Drop the price, then advertise the sale via social media, your email list, paid email lists, paid advertising, etc. After a limited time, put the price back to the normal price.

Email Advertising

There are many email lists that promote cut-price and free ebooks. These lists collect email addresses from readers, then email them links to discounted and free ebooks. You can pay to have your book included in one of these mail shots.

These sites all have minimum requirements, which vary from site to site. Most of them require a minimum number of customer reviews on Amazon, so check that you meet the criteria before applying. BookBub is the biggest, most expensive, and most difficult one to be accepted for, but the others can also have a significant impact.

There are many of these sites. This is a short list of ones that are generally recommended:

Bloggers

There are lots of book bloggers on the web, many of whom specialise in particular genres. Getting a book reviewed by a blogger with a large following can lead to more sales, and some bloggers will also leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Google “book blogger” and your genre to find book bloggers in your genre.

Before contacting a blogger to ask for a review, make sure that you read their review policy. If they don’t review self-published books or books in your genre, move on. When you write to them to ask for a review, be polite and courteous. Remember, you’re asking them to give up their time to help you.

Conclusion

Book marketing is a huge topic, and this is just a short introduction. There are more articles in the marketing category, and my weekly newsletter often has links to information and advice about marketing.

The Alliance of Independent Authors has a Self-Publishing Advice Centre, with lots of advice about all aspects of self-publishing, including marketing. If you join the Alliance, you can access a private members-only Facebook forum, where you can ask specific questions and get answers from experienced self-publishers.

Setting up HTTPS and SSL on WordPress

There are several good reasons to set up HTTPS and SSL on your website. It gives your site a small SEO boost. You may need it for GDPR compliance, because the GDPR introduces a requirement to handle personal data securely. If you have an email sign-up form, this should use HTTPS, as GDPR considers emails to be personal data, and HTTP is not secure.

From July this year, the Chrome web browser will start labelling all web pages that do not have HTTPS as “Not secure“. This could cause some confusion, potentially giving your users the impression that your website has been hacked, or that it has some other security issue. Whatever else it does, it certainly won’t give a good impression.

SSL Certificate

HTTPS requires an SSL certificate, which will need to be installed on your web server by your hosting company, and they may have already done so. Website Planet have a simple form that you can use to check if you have a certificate (https://www.websiteplanet.com/webtools/ssl-checker/).

Screenshot of the Website Planet SSL Checker
SSL Checker results for authorhelp.uk

Simply enter your website address and click the button. The results include a lot of detail, but if the shield is green with a tick, then you have a certificate correctly installed. If you don’t have an SSL certificate, check your web hosting company’s documentation to find out how to add one. Some offer them for free, others charge extra. You can then use the SSL checker again to check that it is installed and set up.

WordPress Setup

Now that you have the certificate, you need to make sure that browsers actually view your pages over HTTPS instead of HTTP. If you’re using WordPress, I recommend the One Click SSL plugin.

Screenshot of One Click SSL settings
One Click SSL settings

Once it is installed and activated, go to the settings. It has a button to check that SSL is enabled. Assuming that check passes, you can then enable SSL. Make sure that SSL is enabled and that SSL Areas is set to “Everywhere” (see the screenshot above). Once that is done, every visitor to your website will use HTTPS instead of HTTP.

My WordPress hosting includes an SSL certificate and will serve all pages over HTTPS by default.

Large Print Editions

At the time of writing, I’ve released large print editions of three of my books. It’s not necessarily something that I would recommend to other indie authors, unless you have reason to believe that there is a market for a large print version. In that case, this post should help you create something that is genuinely useful for those people that struggle to read standard print.

Font and Font Size

Obviously, large print books need a larger font size than normal. 16 point is generally considered a minimum size, though 18 point is recommended if at all possible. Having decided on a minimum font size, there should be no text in a smaller size. Page numbers, copyright information, etc should all be at least as large as the main body text. Headings should use a larger font size, as with normal print, but nothing should be smaller than the minimum size that you choose.

Large Print

It is also important to consider the font face. A sans-serif font should be used, and if at all possible, avoid using italics, underlining, or blocks of capital letters. I use the Tiresias LP font, which was specifically designed for use in large print documents. Download a copy here: Tiresias_LP.zip.

White Space

In general, plenty of white space makes a book easier to read for those with sight issues. Single spacing can make it difficult to find the start of the next line, so use 1.25 or 1.5 spacing instead. Similarly, indented paragraphs can make it hard to find the start, so use block paragraphs instead of indented paragraphs.

Margins should be wider, at least 25mm (1 inch) wide. If you have footnotes, move them to the end of the chapter or to a section at the end of the book, so that they do not clutter the page.

Left Align

Most print books use full-justified text, so that the right side of the text is lined up along the right margin. However, this leads to uneven gaps between words. For this reason, left-justified (or ragged-right) text is more readable, and so should be used in large print books.

Headings should also be left-aligned rather than centre-aligned. This makes them easier to find.

Images should be aligned to the left for the same reason, but there should be no text to the right of the image. A partially-sighted reader may not realise that there is text next to the image. The image should be clear, and any text inside the image should obey the same rules as the rest of the text in the book. If possible, move the text out of the image. If this isn’t possible, ensure that there is good contrast and that the text is on a plain background.

All text must be horizontal, including things like labels on diagrams and images.

Keep Things Together

It is important to keep related items connected, without large spaces. If your contents page doesn’t already have a row of dots between the chapter name/number and the page number, add them. Tables should usually have lines around the cells. It is also important to avoid widows and orphans (single lines from a paragraph at the top or bottom of a page).

Don’t use hyphens. If a word won’t fit on a line, put the whole word on the next line rather than splitting it with a hyphen. Hyphenated words (eg u-boat) should be on one line, not split over two lines at the hyphen.

Use a Clear Layout

Hopefully your books have a consistent layout already, but this is particularly important when designing books for the partially sighted. Headings should be clearly different to the body text. It’s a good idea to include chapter names on page headers if possible, as it allows the reader to easily determine where they are in the book.

Mark it as Large Print

Large print banner

Finally, make it clear that the book is a large print edition. In KDP Print, make sure that the “Large Print” box is ticked on the Paperback Details page. In IngramSpark, tick the “Large Text Edition” box in the Print Options section. This will set the metadata so that retailers can categorise it as a large print edition. In order to make it clear to human readers, however, the title should be modified. This need be no more than appending “(Large Print)” to the end of the title. The cover should be marked to show that it is a large print edition. This can be as simple as a coloured band with “Large Print Edition” printed in it.

Further Reading

This blog post covers the essential points. If you wish to find out more, the following are likely to be useful:

Conclusion

Making a large print version of paper books isn’t too difficult, although a large number of images will make it more challenging. In my experience, sales have been minimal. That may be true for you too, but the only way to find out for sure is to try it. If you don’t want to do all this yourself, I can do it for you.

Editing: Use Regular Expressions to Find Common Errors

I have a great editor, but I understand that she is human, and therefore she makes mistakes, and misses things, just like I do. Therefore, I like to try and make my manuscript as good as I can before I hand it over to her. The trouble with editing your own work is that all too often, your brain sees what is supposed to be there, not what is actually there.

One tool I use for finding errors is regular expressions. Regular expressions are like search and replace on steroids. Instead of finding simple strings of text, regular expressions provide a way to find patterns within the text. This makes them ideal for finding certain types of error that can occur all too easily when writing a long piece of text. The use of copy & paste, deleting, etc, can mean that even simple grammatical mistakes or typos can slip in and not be noticed.

Below I have listed some regular expression searches that I currently use on my manuscripts before sending them to my editor. To use one of them, simply copy it into the “Find” box in your word processor, just as you would type in a word you wanted to search for in the text. Note that they are formatted with a different background colour because spaces at the start or end can be important. It is possible to use regular expressions to replace text, but I haven’t included replacement expressions because I prefer to be cautious and make corrections manually. I’ve tried to order them in increasing complexity, and I’ve included some explanatory text for each one.

LibreOffice Find & Replace dialogueThe expressions given below should work in LibreOffice and Scrivener version 2.4 or later (earlier versions don’t support regular expressions). Microsoft Word also supports regular expressions, although the syntax is rather unusual, so you’ll need to check the documentation for help. Whichever software you use, you will have to tell it that you’re doing a regular expression search, rather than a normal text search. In LibreOffice Writer, use the “Find and Replace” function (not “Find”). Click “Other Options” in the dialogue box, and tick the “Regular expressions” tickbox. In Scrivener project search, select “RegEx” from the operator section of the magnifying glass icon menu. In Scrivener document find, select “Regular Expressions (RegEx)” from the “Find Options” drop-down menu.

Note that, when copying and pasting from your browser into the search box, make sure that the quotation marks are correct – they sometimes get mangled.

Punctuation And Quotation Marks

This is a simple expression, but there are two versions. In British English, the convention is to have commas and full stops outside quotation marks, whereas in US English, commas and full stops are placed inside the quotation marks.

Expression to find commas and full stops inside quotation marks (use this if you write in British English):

[.,]”

Expression to find commas and full stops outside quotation marks (use this if you write in US English):

“[.,]

These simple expressions match a quotation mark followed or preceded by a full stop or a comma. Square brackets are used to group characters, so that if any character in the square brackets is present, a match is found. In this case, the square brackets are used to match a full stop or comma, but nothing else.

“a” instead of “an”
This expression will find words that begin with a vowel immediately preceded by “a”, instead of “an”:

 a [aeiou]

The first three characters are simple: space, lower case “a”, space. Then square brackets are used to group all five vowels. Note that the “Match case” option must be selected in LibreOffice for it to work correctly.

Oxford Commas

At school, I was taught not to use Oxford commas, but I use them in my books because they can avoid ambiguity. Unfortunately, because I didn’t use them for so long, I frequently forget to add them. Consequently, one of the first regular expressions I wrote to check for errors in my writing was to spot missing Oxford commas. Note that this won’t find every sentence that is missing an Oxford comma, but that’s why you have a human editor ????

\w+, \w+ and 

If you have the opposite problem, and you don’t want Oxford commas, the following expression should find them:

\w+, \w+, and 

“w” matches a word character, ie any character that can be part of a word (letters, numbers, etc). The “+” means at least one of the preceding characters must be present, so “w+” matches a word.

Missing Capital After Full Stop

I started using this expression after seeing this error in a book published by HarperCollins. If the big publishers can miss such basic mistakes, so can the rest of us.

Note that the “Match case” option must be selected in LibreOffice for it to work correctly. Acronyms followed by lower case letters, eg “The N.C.O. said” will not be matched.

[^.][^A-Z]\. [a-z]

This expression introduces a new twist on the use of square brackets: if the first character in the square brackets is a “^”, it matches anything NOT in the group. So, “[^.][A-Z]” matches anything that is not a full stop, followed by anything that is not an uppercase letter. The next term is “.”, which matches a full stop. When not in square brackets, a full stop is a wildcard, but placing a backslash before it tells the regular expression engine to treat it as a full stop, not as a wildcard. Finally, it matches a space followed by a lowercase letter.

Missing Brackets

It’s far too easy to forget to close brackets, or to accidentally delete the closing bracket. This expression will find an opening bracket that doesn’t have a matching closing bracket.

\([^)]*$

Since parentheses have a special meaning in regular expressions, the opening bracket is prefixed with a backslash. This tells the regular expression engine to treat it as a simple opening bracket. The “[^)]” matches any character that is not a closing bracket, and the “*” means “match this zero or more times”. Finally, the “$” indicates the end of the line/paragraph.

Repeated Word

Repeated words crop up sometimes, and often aren’t noticed if the word happens to appear at the end of one line and the start of the next line.

\b(\w+)\b \b\1\b

This one may look rather odd, but is simple once you understand it. As above, “w+” is used to match a word. The parentheses are used to group the characters that are matched, so that they can be referred to later in the expression. The “1” matches the group in the parentheses. “b” denotes a word boundary. In this case, it is used to ensure that only complete words are matched. Without the word boundaries, it would match a term like “anderson song” as the “son” would be matched in both words.

Putting all that together, this expression matches a complete word, followed by at least one space, followed by the same complete word.

Want To Learn More?

If you want to learn to write regular expressions to find the mistakes that you find yourself making, www.regular-expressions.info is an excellent learning resource, and regex101.com has a regular expression tester, which will also explain the elements of the regular expression.

Hire Me

If you don’t want to run these regular expressions yourself, I can do it for you. I run a set of regular expressions over every manuscript that I proofread, at no extra cost.

Backup Your Manuscripts And Marketing Files

Some time ago, I read a news story about an author who ran into a burning house to save his laptop. Luckily, the author survived and rescued the novels stored on his laptop. If he’d had a backup, he wouldn’t have had to risk his life to save his work. Backups will also save you from burglary, computer failure, and simple human error like mistakenly deleting files or chapters.

Backup

What is a Backup?

At its simplest, a backup is just a spare copy of any important files, like your manuscripts. Ideally, a backup will have the following properties:

  • It’ll be located in a different physical location. A backup won’t save your work from a fire or burglars if it’s next to your computer.
  • Backups will happen automatically. If you have to remember to do it, you might forget, or decide that something else is more important.
  • It’ll keep older versions as well as the most recent one. This enables you to reverse changes if you need to.
  • It will retain deleted files. If you delete a file by accident, you can get it back from the backup.
  • If your files are stored by a third party, they should be encrypted. This keeps your private files private.

How to Make a Backup

Many authors aren’t very technical, and those that are probably already have a backup routine in place. Luckily, there are plenty of simple options. Online cloud storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive will probably suffice for a work in progress, but these services usually don’t offer encryption, so I can’t recommend them for sensitive or private files. Three possible solutions are CarboniteCrashplan, and Mozy. All three work on Windows and Mac, provide all the features listed above, and aren’t too expensive.

I’ve used Dropbox for several years, but have little experience of the others, so can’t recommend them. They all have limited free options though, so you can try them out and see which one works for you.

Mr Backup

Backup your Website, Mailing List & Email

Your web and mailing list hosts probably have backup procedures in place, but it’s still sensible to keep your own backups. If your web or mailing list host decides to terminate your account because you’ve contravened your terms of service (whether you did or not), a backup will allow you to switch to a new provider.

With hosted WordPress websites, you’re largely reliant on them for backups, though you can go to Tools->Export in the admin area to export your posts and pages (not images). For self-hosted WordPress sites, there are plugins to help with backups. I have used BackWPUp, which will backup your database and files, and can save the backup to various places.

MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Aweber have reasonably straightforward instructions for exporting data. You can also export your data from FacebookTwitter, and Google. Unfortunately, Facebook’s export doesn’t include data from pages. For email, you’ll have to check your email provider’s help pages to find out how to export your messages. There isn’t a simple way to automate any of these, so I suggest you set up a repeating reminder in a calendar program. If you really want an automatic option, it may be possible to set up a recipe on If This Then That to (for instance) append Tweets to a file in Dropbox.

Test Your Backups Regularly

A backup is worthless if you can’t get your files back from it. Periodically check your backups and make sure you can restore files. This doesn’t have to be complicated, just pick several files at random. For each one, restore the latest version, plus an older version.

Hire Me

If you want one-to-one help, or you want me to set something up for you, email me and we can discuss your requirements.

Newer posts »

© 2020 Author Help

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑