New Releases and Random Writing Thoughts

First, I had a few new releases recently. Between moving and unpacking (how many books can one person own??), I didn’t post about them here because they were compilations of the Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Access titles I released earlier this year.

But here you go: Excel Essentials 2019, Word Essentials 2019, PowerPoint Essentials 2019, and Access Essentials 2019. These are perfect choices for anyone who knows they want to go as far as I can take them with learning one of the above programs. Otherwise I recommend starting with the beginner title in each series because often that’s all someone needs to learn when they’re just getting started.


Now on to the writerly thoughts…

First, I had to work on these books a little earlier than I wanted to because of the lovely changes that IngramSpark (“IS”) has made recently. If you’re not aware of them, then settle in for a quick rant.

IS charges about $50 for every new title that’s uploaded to them and then they charge $25 to change a cover or change the interior. But there have always been promo codes floating around. Participate in NaNoWriMo, get a code for the next six months. Go to a conference, get a code for the next six months. Join a member organization like ALLI or IBPA get a code for however long it last until they decide to change it.

I joined IBPA and had a code from them that I happily used for all of my uploads and updates. But then suddenly this year IS decided that you could only use that code 50 times in a year. Which seems like a lot. 50 times. Who would need more than 50 uses?

Well, let’s look at my year-to-date. I published 22 titles so far. The four main Excel 2019 titles, three Word 2019 titles, three Access 2019 titles, three PowerPoint 2019 titles, and the Microsoft Office for Beginners 2019 title were all in paperback and hardcover. So that’s 28 uses of a code right there. Plus the other 8 titles that in this case were just paperback. So 36 uses for new titles.

Normally I might do something like update other titles I already had out to change the Also By page to reflect my new releases. If I did that for my cozies at this point I have 9 titles in paperback, paperback large print, and hard cover large print. That right there is 27 code uses and we’re not even touching on the new title which would be another three uses. So for one new release of my cozy mystery series I’d need 30 code uses.

Well, imagine how unhappy I was when IS decided that limiting codes to 50 uses per year wasn’t enough and instead decided that you could only use a code five times in a month. More uses per year (60), but it would take me six months to get all of my cozy titles updated for a new release under that scenario and wouldn’t be able to publish or update any other titles in the interim.

What makes it even worse is that they seem to have an automated process for interior updates once a book is published. So they’re literally charging $25 for a process that doesn’t involve a person. And they’re changing their rules to try and get that money out of authors who’ve been publishing with them for years who didn’t sign up for that kind of b.s.

(Their stated reason is because they want to support legitimate publishers only and not scammers, which…well. Way to throw the baby out with the bath water.)

So anyway. This latest release of four titles involved eight books, one paperback and one hard cover of each title. So to avoid paying $50 for books that might not make that money back (I do the hard covers for libraries but there’s no guarantee they’ll want the collections), I had to start the process in July and use my five codes in July and then finish it in August to do the last three titles.

Good times. Love me some self-publishing fuckery. (And there is always self-publishing fuckery.)

What else? If you haven’t yet heard about A+ Content on Amazon, it’s worth taking a look now that they’ve opened it up to all self-published authors. I’ve submitted some content for some of my titles, but it takes about a week to get approved from what I’ve heard so I don’t have examples of my own yet, but here is a link to what an author I know has done and I think it looks really good.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08NJLC6R1

Scroll down to the From the Publisher section to see what she did.

One of the advantages with adding this content is that it can push an entire carousel of Sponsored Product ads down below that section, allowing authors to own more of their product page. (Not always, but sometimes.) Also, it’s pretty if done well. I think each of the images she’s added to her page there make a reader more likely to buy the book. For example, it takes what was already a strong image from the cover and makes it much larger and more engaging.

To add A+ Content, click on Promote and Advertise for one of your books and then scroll down to the A+ Content section. Next, choose a marketplace and click on Manage A+ Content. That takes you to a separate dashboard where you can create your content.

You can add the same content across books by listing multiple ASINs. (If you have a lot of books you should really have a list of these as I discussed ages ago in Excel for Self-Publishers which is no longer widely available but still available on my Payhip store.)

Content has to be added for each country, but there’s a note that they’ll let you know which other countries would accept content in that language and let you carry it across. I won’t know how well that works until my content is approved and I can test it out, but basically if you’re adding new content, just do it for one country and wait for it to get approved before you try to do all of the countries.

Also, if you use the comparison chart option it’s not well-sized for cover images, but you can do a white background and have your cover only take up part of the allowed space and that seems to work.

What else? I’m sure there were some other writerly thoughts I’ve been having lately but I’m still in post-move malaise so don’t ask me what they were. If I remember, I’ll post again.

Back To School Sale

Since the world is still on fire and many people are dealing with back to school craziness, I thought I’d do what I could and put a bunch of school-friendly titles on sale for a couple weeks. Each of the below titles is on sale for $2.99 USD.

Click on any of the images below to be taken to a Books2Read page for that title that has all the stores listed. (If you’re already set up with them you’ll go straight to your chosen store.) Or you can use any of the store pages on the right-hand side here and get to the books that way.

Excel Essentials

Excel for Beginners open sans boldv2 Intermediate Excel Open Sans50 Excel Functions open sans

50 More Excel Functions open sans

 

 

 

 

Word Essentials

Word for Beginners open sansIntermediate Word open sans

 

 

 

 

PowerPoint Essentials

PowerPoint-for-Beginners-Generic    Intermediate-PowerPoint-Generic

 

 

 

Access Essentials

Access for Beginners 20200202Intermediate Access 20200202

 

 

 

 

Data Principles & Budgeting

Data Principles for BeginnersBudgeting for Beginners open sansExcel for Budgeting open sans

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind this is only for the ebook versions, but all of these titles also have paperback versions and most have hardcover versions as well that are, I think, reasonably priced.

And some of these are very good deals indeed, because I was being lazy so I priced everything at $2.99 which means that Access for Beginners, for example, which is usually $7.99 is on sale for the same price as Excel for Beginners, which is normally $4.99. (USD. But equivalent discounts in your local currency.)

Enjoy.

 

 

New Release: Microsoft Office for Beginners

Just a quick note that buyers can now get Excel for Beginners, Word for Beginners, and PowerPoint for Beginners in one book, Microsoft Office for Beginners. This one is geared towards those who are looking to get a basis in all three program at once. It gives a bit of a price discount compared to buying the individual titles by themselves.

The ebook version ($9.99 USD) is already available everywhere. The paperback version ($29.95 USD) will be available within the next day or so. Click on the image below to choose the store you want or on one of the store tabs on the right-hand side.

Microsoft Office for Beginners4

Excel, Word, and PowerPoint Essentials

Excel Essentials 20190222  Word-Essentials-Kindle  PowerPoint-Essentials-Kindle

I published Excel Essentials, the collection of the four individual titles in the Excel Essentials series a while back. At the time I didn’t publish the ebook version on Amazon, but that is now available on Amazon for anyone interested.

And because I am also done with the Word Essentials series and the PowerPoint Essentials series at this point, those too are now available as standalone titles. Note that Word Essentials and PowerPoint Essentials only contain two titles each so are that much less expensive than Excel Essentials which contains four titles.

Also, for at least the next week or so Word Essentials and PowerPoint Essentials will not be available on Apple but they will be there soon. (I’m changing how I distribute my books there and it takes a little longer than I’d expected.)

The books are all available in ebook, paperback, and hard cover but it may take a few days for them to reach all the stores.

For those of you who already own the individual titles (Word for Beginners, Intermediate Word, PowerPoint for Beginners, Intermediate PowerPoint, etc.) there is no new material in these books, it’s just another way to provide the information for those who know they want it all at the time of initial purchase.

As of now I’m done with writing new material on Microsoft Office, but if there’s something specific you want to see that I didn’t cover, let me know and if I think it’s within my skillset I’ll work on it. That’s actually how Excel for Budgeting and Mail Merge for Beginners both came to exist.

 

Intermediate PowerPoint Now Available

It took me over a year to write it because I truly do not like SmartArt and that had to be covered in an intermediate-level guide to PowerPoint (I find people misuse it atrociously), but it’s finally done.

So if you wanted an intermediate-level guide to PowerPoint that covers charts, shapes, WordArt, SmartArt, headers and footers, and a lot more, here you go. (And the paperback and hardback versions on currently almost 20% off on Barnes & Noble for those of you who like print.) Click on the image below for the universal link.

Intermediate-PowerPoint-Generic

Excel, Word, and PPT Books Now in Hard Cover

Just a quick announcement to let you know that Excel for Beginners, Intermediate Excel, 50 Useful Excel Functions, 50 More Excel Functions, Excel Essentials, Word for Beginners, Intermediate Word, and PowerPoint for Beginners are all now available in a hard cover version.

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I have to say, I’m pretty excited about this one because the books feel much more substantial in hard cover than paperback. (That Excel Essentials one which combines the other four Excel titles into one book is a behemoth. It’s one inch thick and weighs two pounds! Who knew I had so much to say about Excel.)

The covers are case laminate so there might be a little denting at the edges like you can see on 50 More Excel Functions in the photo, but overall I was pretty impressed with them. And keep in mind with the skinnier ones that the spine text might be slightly off center because of print-on-demand variances, but it will be there on all of them.

They should be available on Amazon (here’s my author page for the U.S.) as well as Barnes & Noble and any other location where you can order print books.

A Little Reminder on Backwards Compatibility

Microsoft is at it again, releasing new versions of its Office suite of products. So new users will have Word 2019 and Excel 2019, for example.

And on the Excel side there are a few exciting (to me, because I’m a nerd) changes they’re making. A lot of it around IF functions. Here’s the link to what’s new in Excel 2019 and the link to what’s new in Word 2019 for the curious.

The key issue here, though, is backwards compatibility. Just because you may have the latest and greatest does not mean anyone else does. And using one of those new functions if you’re going to be sharing your files with someone who isn’t upgraded to the latest version is going to mean they can’t use what you send them.

So by all means, upgrade and try the new functions in Excel. But if you intend to share that document with clients or counterparties, be sure that they can use the file you send them.

Let me give you a personal, very painful example of how I learned this lesson the hard way.

Back during the big mortgage crisis I had a consulting client who had a large residential and commercial loan portfolio. And I ended up in a role where I was helping someone who was an expert in calculating a bank’s allowance for loan losses automate that process using Excel. The goal was to create an Excel workbook we could then hand off to the client so they could make that calculation going forward whenever they needed to. When we were done, all they’d have to do is put their current data into one or two worksheets and everything else would be calculated for them.

It took about a week for me to put the workbook together because there were a lot of moving parts, but I finally had it ready to go and handed it over to them to test.

(Now, I should add here that for a long-term solution Excel was not an ideal choice. But for something they could have up and running in two weeks? It was probably the only choice. And this was at a point in time where bidding things out and taking six months to build a technology solution were not options.)

So, anyway, I handed it off.

The client came back and said they couldn’t use it. Because it relied, in part, on using the SUMIFS function, which was available in my version of Excel but not their version. And getting a large corporate client to upgrade their version of Office is not a simple process, especially during the midst of a financial meltdown where it was very possible that company wasn’t going to exist in six months.

So I had to spend a couple days rewriting that whole workbook to remove the use of every SUMIFS and replace it with multiple IF functions in multiple columns that could accomplish the same result.

It was not fun.

Thankfully, I worked for the type of boss who didn’t blame me or yell at me for my mistake, just told me to fix the issue. If I’d been working for a different client or a different boss that whole situation could’ve been much much uglier than it was. As is, it was bad enough.

So remember: keep in mind who you’re working with when you create an Excel workbook (or even a Word document or PowerPoint presentation) and make sure that they’ll be able to use what you give them when it’s done.

(I should add here that all of my current Office guides are written using the 2013 versions of the products–so Excel 2013, Word 2013, and PowerPoint 2013–and with most of it compatible back to the 2007 versions, partially for these reasons.)

Why I Should Never Walk My Dog

First, I have a new release out if anyone is interested in learning Microsoft PowerPoint. Paperback available here and ebook available all over the place.

That meant that yesterday I sat down and asked myself what to write next. I had a total of fourteen non-fiction ideas, nine fantasy series or book ideas, five romance series or book ideas, and a thriller idea.

By the end of the day I’d settled on one of the romance novels and a non-fiction book to work on over the next two months.

And then I took my dog for a walk this morning.

By the end of the walk I had realized I could actually tweak a non-fiction title I’ve started and finished about ten times now and probably finalize and publish it in the next week. So I’m probably going to do that instead.

(This is how I have managed to work almost exclusively on non-fiction for an entire year now. Because non-fiction is so much easier for me to write.)

I really should know better by now…