Periodic Reminder re: Advertising

It is not cheating or gaming the system to advertise your books.

There are absolutely people out there who engage in shady practices with respect to advertising (I’m looking at you people who send fake clicks against books that use the keywords you want to use), but the mere act of using, for example, Facebook ads, does not make you some sort of cretin that can’t even be assigned a name because you’re such an insult to real authors whose books fly off the shelves all on their own.

I wouldn’t still be publishing if I hadn’t managed to get some sort of grasp on advertising. Because I wouldn’t have sold anything more than a handful of copies here or there and I would have quickly decided that there were better ways to spend the hours of my day than putting up my books that I’d spent hundreds of hours on and only hearing crickets.

Some people don’t need advertising. They write something that readers are actively looking for and where there isn’t enough competition to drown out their visibility. They started in trade-pub and have a pre-established audience that’s waiting for their next book. They have a lot of well-connected friends who like them enough to get the word out about their books. They hustle in some other way that gets them in front of readers.

But if you don’t fall into one of those categories, it is actually okay to learn AMS or FB ads and use them to promote your books. Do not let other people’s skewed perceptions make you fail.

This post triggered by a comment that may not have even been meant the way I read it, but also by the many, many times I’ve seen a forum discussion where the implication was that “real writers” don’t have to advertise.

Ah, Planning Time

I usually sit down at the beginning of the year and set up some goals for both personal and business so that I have some sort of direction heading into the new year. Because of how the year started, I was a little behind on doing so and only sat down to think about that today.

(Not that I don’t have a running list of possible projects at all times, but this is usually the time of year when I try to at least pick one or two. Especially since some of those projects have been on that list for years now.)

Every year I ask myself, “If you could only write one more book, what would it be?”

Because that’s a good way to choose what to write if you want to accomplish something meaningful, right? Pick the one that matters the most to you.

Except…I never have an answer to that question.

I don’t have that “one” book that I’ve always wanted to write. When left to my own devices I tend to do something like write a book about an obscure software most people won’t use and for a niche audience on top of that. (Hence, Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts.)

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed writing that book and I’ve enjoyed writing the other ones like it that I’ve written over the years, but if someone did an exit interview with me at the end of my life, I probably wouldn’t list that book or any of those others as a life accomplishment.

So then I usually turn to the money approach.

What have I written that did well enough that I should write more of it? And that does sometimes work. Some of my more profitable titles have come from that approach.

Although most series have diminishing returns after a certain point unless you’ve really hit on something special. You can keep advertising the series, but people will fall off at certain predictable points in the series so that the number of readers who make it to Book 10 are almost never the same as the number of readers who read Book 1.

And sometimes there’s just no more to say or write about it. The couple got their HEA, the ultimate bad guy is dead, or it stretches believability to think that yet another person could possibly die in that quaint little village of a hundred people and in such a way that the only person who cares about it is the retired school teacher who now runs a knitting club.

That author can certainly write more. And in that genre or adjacent to that genre to try to keep those readers, but the series has seen its end. And not all readers will move to the new series.

Plus, not every author wants to keep writing the same thing, even if it is profitable.

The third option is the “shake it up” approach where you look at everything you’ve already done, decide that more of the same won’t get you where you want to be, and venture off onto a completely new path.

Depending on the path, that can be great. Or not.

I know more than one author who saw exponential improvement by switching genres. I’ve also known many who’ve found that non-fiction in an area of expertise they have has done far better than any of their fiction. But I also know of more than one author who switched tracks and saw even worse sales than before.

A side version of this is the new format/new platform goal. I’ve made goals in the past to list all my books on X site or to put out books in audio or print or large print. Sometimes that’s been a really good use of my time. Other times, not so much.

I was looking at audio sales the other day and I have one series that doubled my money and one that I might as well have never bothered with because it will never earn back its cost. Same with large print. Worked a treat in one genre, but a dud in another.

Bottom line is that sometimes it’s just a crap shoot and you can’t know what the dice are going to give you. Or how the world is going to change underneath you.

Which is why I usually go through this exercise, make goals to publish whatever I was working on in December so I do hit at least one goal for the year, make a few extra goals to have something to aim for for the year, and then completely ignore them but somehow end up hitting about 75% of them while also doing another two or three projects that weren’t even on my radar at the beginning of the year.

Honestly, the goals that work best for me are actually ad spend goals. I determine to spend $X per month on advertising my books which ensures that no matter what I decide to write for the year, I focus on promoting it and/or what I’ve already written and do so consistently month-to-month.

Whether that comes from AMS or a Bookbub feature or FB ads or a free first in series run doesn’t matter. It forces me to keep some sort of momentum. And if I find that no advertising works for anything I have, I can then brainstorm new covers, new titles, new categories, new blurbs, new audiences, etc. until I do get something that works.

Obviously, if you’re new to setting an ad spend goal like that, start small. You should build up to higher ad spends only after you know that what you’re doing will actually generate profitable sales.

So there you have it. My super exact approach to annual planning. One you may not want to actually follow. Haha.

2021 Recap

I don’t normally do one of these, but it was a busy year and it’s quite possible that I published a few books but never mentioned that I’d done so.

I’m not one for big releases. I put a book out there, throw some AMS ads at it, try to remember to post to my blog and send a newsletter and maybe remember to do a FB post, and then it’s on to the next. If it does well, great. If it doesn’t, I turn the ads off and carry on.

So, 2021:

Let’s start with the video courses. New ones as well as two old ones that had been unpublished and I republished:

And now on to the books:

And some of the non-ML Humphrey stuff as well. The MH Lee title is very short, but I published it so I could publish the audio since that was a little experiment I did this year to see if I’d want to narrate the cozies myself since they’re written in first-person. (Conclusion, probably not because I’d need a better recording space than I currently have although it was interesting realizing how much more dynamic a story is in my head than on the page.):

I didn’t feel like it but I actually got a lot done this year. Keep in mind that about half of what you see above is either a collection or derived from other material so it was less writing than it looks like. But still…Not bad for a crazy up and down year where I also had to go through the process of listing my house twice, the process of selling it once, lived in a hotel for three weeks with my dog, and then had to move into a new place and go through all the fun of unpacking and setting up.

(Which I must find somewhat fun since I’ve already rearranged my office and my bedroom at least once each.)

What does 2022 have in store? I’d really love to dive in on some fiction. I’ve actually on my personal FB declared it the year I “walk into the woods” and basically try to get away from outside distractions so I can really focus in on the projects I want to do.

Of course, just yesterday I wrapped up the second draft of a non-fiction title. And it probably warrants a second title since I’d wanted to do a book about X and Y but only X fit in the first book. So…good intentions and all that.

Honestly as long as I’m moving forward and enjoying myself I call that a win. Hope you all had a good holiday and wishing you as good a new year as it can be.

Random New Release Thoughts

These are just random thoughts for the writers out there after I did this latest release.

First, I hate WordPress these days. Ever since they changed to whatever this block thing is it has been a nightmater. Sometimes I can’t edit text in a block. And trying to get images aligned is often painful.

On that last post it also kept resetting my left-alignment of the images and dropping them to their own line until I was ready to scream, which is why the images in that second row are not aligned with one another. I gave up.

I don’t understand why people break things that were just fine the way they were. Probably something about mobile compatibility. All I know is it hurts to deal with WordPress these days but I’m too lazy to do anything about it.

Second, I am also annoyed with IngramSpark and their changes this last year. As an IBPA member I have five free new publications or updates available each month, which seems like it would be enough, but it really isn’t.

As you can see, I just published five new titles. But they were derived from two other titles and in the process of getting these five new titles ready to go I noticed a few minor issues in one of those older titles. So I had to update the paperback and the hard cover version of the old title which then used up two of my five codes for the month.

Since these new titles are not going to be big sellers that means I won’t publish on IS until January now. But that also means I need to be sure to get the cozy finished and formatted and at least submitted there this month. That will use up my remaining three codes for December because with those I do a regular print version, a paperback large print version, and a hard cover large print version.

And that doesn’t leave any room for updating the interior of any of the prior cozies in the series to list the latest title in the Also By section.

Oh and they’ve added some big scary message when you go to update an interior file about how if you want to update your title it’s going to be unavailable for purchase until they’ve caught up with printing all outstanding orders and only then will they send you the file for review which will take 2-3 days. So, do you really want to update this file even though it could be unavailable for weeks?

(This is not actually new. I ran into this a couple summers ago where they didn’t process some updates to files for weeks because they were printing existing orders.)

Here’s a thought: Don’t take the file off of availability unless I ask you to or am changing the cover. Let me approve the changes to the book so that they’re there and waiting. And once you’ve printed the pending orders using the old file, slide right in there with the new one. I don’t think their system is set up for the “I noticed a typo on page 12, it annoys me and I want to fix it, but it’s not a material change” approach to book updates.

I honestly think they made that change to the codes to make more money but they should realize that that’s not really what’s going to happen with most authors. Most will just use D2D or PublishDrive to get there instead or will join member organizations like ALLi and IBPA instead of pay that fee. (And seriously, if you’re paying that fee, see the above list for ways to not pay that fee.)

Third, I can’t decide whether publishing those five titles I just published was a complete waste of time or not. In one of my “dig into the numbers” moments I looked at profit by series by day since release by hour spent. And what I noticed was that using that metric (which levels things out in terms of how long it’s been since a title was released and how much time it took to write/edit/prepare the title) the Easy Word Essentials books had done alright. Well enough it seemed to make sense to go ahead and do the 2019 versions for them.

But I forgot all the fiddly bits about publishing like the uploading to all the platforms. And the getting the Books2Read link. And posting about it here. And adding the title information to Bowker. And making sure it’s listed on Goodreads. All stuff that I don’t count against each book, but that takes time.

Basically what I thought would be a two-day project became a five-day project.

Then again, it’s quite possible I would’ve done nothing but go down internet rabbit holes with those five days because I was giving the latest cozy time to rest before I do a final pass and didn’t want to dive in on a big project until I finalize it.

So was it time wasted? Perhaps. But at least it was time wasted that has the potential to earn something as opposed to getting involved in discussions in FB groups or watching drama on Twitter.

One of the best things I ever did was shut down my Twitter accounts. It was too much angst and drama and judgement on there.

What I have done is bookmarked a few people I like on there and then I use that link to get to their Twitter feed so I can still see what they’re putting up. And if you go in in Private mode on your browser, you can skip all the stupid pop-ups trying to get you to sign up for the site.

So I still get to see what people are saying there, I just don’t participate in amplifying it. But even that I’m going to try to back away from in 2022. Does it help my writing to see round ten of Twitter discourse X? No, not really.

I think I’m going to try to walk away from FB groups in 2022, too. I’m only in a couple at this point but the largest one is losing its value because it got too big and is now mostly newbies derailing threads by asking really basic questions they could figure out on their own with a quick internet search.

In the last week I’ve seen threads derailed by people asking what BBFD means and what Vellum is. (BBFD is a Bookbub Featured Deal, Vellum is a very popular formatting software.) Pretty sure either one would’ve been solved with a quick search because these are not new or obscure.

It’s a little issue, but man does it add up. And that sort of “I wandered into a room, have no idea what’s happening, and expect everyone to answer all my questions for me” thing leads to the eventual decay of good groups. The people who don’t want to stop and explain Self-Pub 101 eventually wander off and you’re left with the people who don’t know anything asking questions of the people who think they know something but don’t.

Hm. Looking back through this post it seems I’m in a cranky mood…Winter does that to me, I think. And bad change. I don’t mind change, but stupid change annoys me. And there’s always lots of it in this industry.

The Need For Focus

One of the hardest things I ever did in my life was triple-majoring at Stanford while also working full-time and living half an hour from campus.

(For my non-fiction bio I tend to just list the Econ degree but I also completed all of the requirements for a degree in anthropology and one in psychology and all three are listed on my diploma.)

I had taken a year off from college between my sophomore year and my junior year and when I went back I realized that I needed a “real major” that would let me easily get a job after graduation.

Since Stanford didn’t actually offer accounting or business for undergrads, econ was as close as I could get to practical. (I really should’ve done computer science, but it didn’t occur to me at the time.)

By then I had inadvertently made it halfway to both a psych degree and an anthro degree and I didn’t want to just give that up. So I sat down and figured out that if I took a full course load for the next two years, I could complete all three.

(I will note here that I was partially able to do this because I was a transfer student and they didn’t make me do what I think was called CIV at the time and also this was before they majorly upped the units required to get an Econ degree. That year in fact it went from a 60 unit major to a 90 unit major and I had to declare before the switch to not have everything fall apart. Anyway. Back to the story.)

I decided on this plan before I returned to school. So when I got there I got the first job I could find, put my head down, and pretty much didn’t think for the next two years.

I had a goal: complete my degree in that period of time and with all three majors.

There were some bumps along the way. Like them changing the requirements for Econometrics to have two pre-reqs that I didn’t have yet so I stumbled through that class half-blind and only thanks to the mercy of the professor who let me still take it.

And I did not do my best in every class. I for the first time ever had some C’s show up on my transcript. I think I even had a C- which was a horror to me, but at least it wasn’t a D which wouldn’t have counted towards the degree.

And I definitely didn’t see the larger picture, so made mistakes that way. I had an opportunity to do field research the summer after junior year but there was no flexibility in my plan to do that so I missed out on what could’ve been an incredible experience and could’ve put me on a very different path. And I didn’t realize the prep work required to get an investment banking or consulting job so missed out on those opportunities because when it came time to interview no one cared about my triple major.

But because I had set this huge goal and then drove for that goal at the expense of everything else (including, some days, my sanity), I hit it.

Which means I know that when I set a big goal, put on blinders, and drive for that goal I can get there.

The problem is, life rarely gives us the time and space to do something like that.

I was in school during a period of time where I could forget about the larger world for two years. My father had already passed away and no one else in my family was in immediate crisis. I had a six-inch black and white television in my apartment. I didn’t have a computer. This was pre smartphones.

All I had was work and studying. I had almost no idea what was going on in the larger world.

I was also off-campus so not caught up in the ongoing dramas of those around me. (Unlike say, my freshman year, which was awful in that sense.)

And the world itself was stable. I just looked on Google and it seems the biggest events happening around then were the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which was more salacious than world-shattering, and the death of Princess Diana, which was tragic but not of impact to me personally.

I could afford to focus because I knew the world was going to continue on in mostly the same shape and form for that two years.

The reason I’m talking about this now is because there is a part of me that wants to do something like that again. Set an incredibly hard goal for myself, put on my blinders, and just go.

No questions, no second-guessing, no changing course. Just…go until it’s done.

I don’t even know what the goal would be. Maybe write a nine-book epic fantasy series in a year? Just dive in so deep the real world has no meaning and my goal becomes everything.

The problem is, I don’t think I feel secure enough in our world these days to do that. The current world is not stable enough to ignore for a year or two.

On the political side things have eased back a lot in the last year or so. I, like others, no longer feel a constant need for vigilance. I can go a week without knowing or caring what the President is doing right now. Whereas for the four years prior to that there was a lot of, “what now? oh dear god.”

But we’re still teetering on the edge there. I mean, if the U.S. defaults on its debt? Holy shit, the world will change in a moment.

And then of course there’s COVID. I got my family through the first year safe, but it is not over and I’m not sure I can get them through the next year safe.

And I’m pretty sure some friends of mine will not make it through the next year safe because they seem to think that these things only go in one direction and so things can’t get a little better and then get a lot worse. Since things got a little better at one point, they are full-on living like it’s over. I cringe every time one of my friends posts about taking her young child traveling all over the country like it’s nothing.

(And maybe they’ll be perfectly safe. That is absolutely possible. I told a friend recently that we’re all playing a game of Russian roulette where we don’t know the number of bullets or the number of chambers. But every exposure is a pull on that trigger. Maybe no bullet this time. But next time? Who knows.)

And then of course there’s just this shitty world sometimes, you know. This week there was a school shooting. In a county where one of my friends lives. Where that friend has a fifteen-year-old and a thirteen-year-old. So when that shooting happened, I had to wonder if it involved my friend’s kids. Only when the news published the ages and genders of the kids could I relax that worry.

Of course, the question becomes, how much of that do I need to monitor or own?

If my friend from college twenty years ago has a kid that ends up hospitalized for COVID, is that mine to carry because I see it on Facebook?

Right now I would say, yes, because that’s my friend and as a friend you care about the struggles of your friends.

But how much of that is from social media making our social circles wider than they really ought to be? And bringing in more stress and anxiety as a result? If I didn’t have Facebook would I still be in touch enough with that friend to share in their struggles?

And how much of the wider world do I really need to monitor? If I have no control over what’s happening, then should I be letting all of that into my space to derail my goals?

I could’ve spent the last few days mired in Twitter outrage about SCOTUS. Legitimately so. But what does that actually accomplish? My reading Twitter threads, if they’re not there to inform me on something I didn’t know or to help me gauge risk or to give me an action I can take, what does that actually accomplish? It just ratchets up the anxiety without changing anything.

So why do it? Why do any of it? Wouldn’t it be better to put on those blinders and focus on a goal? But can I? Or do we live in a world right now that is unstable enough that it can all be taken away tomorrow and do I need to monitor for that?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers on this one.

I can’t tell how much is “danger” that requires my attention and how much is just a false sense of immediacy that I could safely ignore that would then let me focus and accomplish something big and great that I will not accomplish otherwise.

I’m hoping to work it out for myself before January. (Haha. Right.) That will let me know whether next year’s goals should be “write a couple novels while the world burns” or “write two million words of publishable words while the world burns.”

More Random Writerly Thoughts

This morning I was curious and tried to look up an author’s books. And I’m pretty sure they’re only listed on Smashword and publish print through Lulu. Which, ouch.

I understand that not all authors worry about making money from what they do, but that’s an interesting set of choices to make to be found by readers. I had tried looking them up on Amazon before I clicked their links on their website, because I’m weird that way, but there was nothing for me to find. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does that.

Then again I have another author I know who is very serious about doing well at this and they published non-fiction but only in ebook and only on Amazon. Which means all those Fortune write-ups are mostly wasted. If you’re going to pursue more traditional media coverage, then being available on all major platforms and in all formats is kind of key.

I also know an author who has done incredibly well with a few series for a short period of time on each one through KU who can’t be bothered with print. More understandable there because fiction readers that read self-published books do lean more towards ebook, but that author is still leaving money on the table every time their books are on the top 100 list.

I know we all have different goals in what we’re doing and different bandwidth and energy for doing all the various aspects of this writing gig. Still. I think sometimes it’s “can’t be bothered” but sometimes it’s “I was given really bad advice.”

Like the author I met with a while back who was going to use IngramSpark for ebook distribution. (Plenty of discussion on why that’s a bad idea in the Wide for the Win Facebook group.)

So, yeah, interesting choices. Of course, I’m sure someone looks at mine and thinks the same. I am not immune to bad choices.

Also a few AMS comments for the day.

Years ago I opened I think it was an Advantage account in the UK. I’d actually transitioned from using it for the most part in the last year or so because the account I can access through my KDP account is just fine. Which is good.

Because when I was looking at ad spend this month I noticed that for that account they tacked on 20% tax. Must’ve been because I never fully completed setting the account up back then, which was the trick to get access to AMS in the UK without having to pay the fee for that type of account.

I am not seeing that same 20% charge on my KDP UK AMS account.

I have to say that tax must really disadvantage authors who are getting charged that amount. 20% is a lot. I still make $2 when I spend $1 on AMS so I could keep going, but if someone were operating closer to the edge, that would push them right over into unprofitability. And if all they’re doing is paying attention to their dashboard numbers they won’t even see that.

For the record, I track AMS ad spend in a spreadsheet and not only do I add in any extra fees or taxes like that I also add in 3% for a credit card fee for all of my foreign AMS ad spend because that’s what my credit card charges for foreign transactions. If you’re not factoring in those extra costs, you could be losing money and not realizing it.

Also, I just have to roll my eyes at the scammers in one of my niches. I at some point mentioned that X keyword was one of my best keywords and now I get to watch that particular keyword be hit by fake clicks on a regular basis. It looks awful day of but then Amazon seems to back it out a few days later.

Some days I turn of that keyword and its iterations and let them have their way and some days I’m luck “fuck it” and just let it ride because I know in a few days it’ll sort itself out. But it would be nice if we operated in an environment where that kind of crap didn’t happen and it was just about the books and the readers.

But it’s a lesson, too, that you can’t expect the same strategy to work long-term. New players, new opportunities, new developments. It’s 3-D chess played against ten thousand opponents.

Which reminds me of the guy who posted in one of my FB groups some thing about how writers don’t have gold medals to compete for and so it’s all just one big love fest. And I was like, uh, Hugos? Nebulas? Booker Prize? Pulitzer? And what about Amazon rankings? Last I checked, only a hundred spots available on each list.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. The writers who form good peer groups absolutely help each other succeed. I can point to numerous examples of that happening. A good group forms and they all find long-term success. And the social support is pivotal for some to keep them going.

(Although I think sometimes that social support is a bit like what I saw with skydiving where you end up with a peer group because you all do Y together and then it’s really hard to walk away from Y even though you should because it also means losing your entire support network, too.)

So, yes, there’s absolutely value in having friends and not trying to compete with your fellow authors or be jealous of their success.

But, at the same time…Don’t be fooled into thinking there is no competition or that visibility isn’t impacted by who else is out there. When you search for X type of book, only one book can be listed first. And people only have so much downtime to spend on reading. If they’re getting their needs met elsewhere (which may not be happening, given my recent run of bleh books I’ve read), they aren’t going to find you.

I personally have no interest in “Being #1”. I could go my whole life without winning a literary award and be perfectly content. And I’m happy to let someone else get the suicide and death threats for not writing their series fast enough or in the right way.

I just want to hang out with my dog, keep a roof over our heads, and do something that engages my mind without destroying my spirit. But I also know that to hit that #2 part of my goal I have to contend with the fact that this is in fact a competitive industry and there are “winners” and “losers” no matter what someone’s goal is.

Anyway. Back to it.

The Grind Stage

A few weeks back (maybe, what is time anymore) I watched a Wharton seminar where they interviewed a couple of very successful entrepreneurs. And one of the comments from that session was that to succeed in business you need a lot of persistence.

I think about that often. (I also think about Seth Godin’s The Dip often.)

Because probably any successful venture has what I’m going to refer to as the grind stage. You’ve started out, you’ve chosen a direction, and now you have to get to the top of the mountain. Which is a bunch of putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

I hiked a 14’er once. (That’s a 14,000 foot mountain.) We had to go up 3,000 feet in elevation to get to the top. I was not in good shape. I wasn’t in bad shape, but it was not an easy hike for me. The guys I was hiking with were in good shape. This was not their first. And they eventually left me in the dust.

But I got to the top. By pushing through each and every single step forward. Literally. Sometimes on that hike I would take only three steps before I paused for another breath.

But I got there eventually.

Was it worth it? Yeah, probably. The view at the top was gorgeous. I recovered after a few days. And I can always say I did it. No one can take that from me.

But to get there I had to go through the grind stage.

Publishing I think is like that, too. Or maybe on a broader scale, being a writer is like that.

You have those early bright moments. That first book in your hands. That first person who loves it. That first big promo that gets you that pretty best-seller tag for an hour. That first fan email asking for more.

But then the shine kind of wears off.

Sure, more people love it, but some don’t, right? Or you get another promo and you’re happy to get it, but you know that as high as you’re flying today, you won’t be tomorrow.

Or maybe you get the fan email that says they’re never going to read you again because you took too long to write the next book or you killed their favorite character or you included the wrong kind of character or whatever their personal peccadillo is.

That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you have to show your mettle. When it’s not shiny and fun and new anymore and there’s 2,500 feet of mountain still to go to get to the pretty view.

That’s the moment when you need to put your head down and force yourself to take the next step. That’s the moment that sets apart those who make it to the top from those who don’t.

(Unless, of course, you’re really not on a path to the top of the mountain at all, which, well, yeah, that happens, too. What’s that they say about the journey being worth it? It better be, because you may never get anywhere you were trying to go. Haha. Sigh.)

Anyway. Perseverance. It has to kick in at some point if you want to make it somewhere that’s hard to reach.

(This post brought to you by my first box set promo with Bookbub that’s coming up tomorrow. I actually felt a little shiver of excitement about it today and realized how rare those moments have become now that I’m in the grind stage. The first in series has had a handful of Bookbubs at this point, but this will be the first one for the box set. Fingers crossed it does well even though there’s nowhere for readers to go because I sit around having deep thoughts or taking side paths into mountain meadows instead of writing the next damned book.)

Video Courses and Affinity Templates

Those who’ve been around here a while may remember that at one point I had Excel for Beginners, Intermediate Excel, and the Easy Excel Essentials content (Printing, Formatting, Pivot Tables, Charts, IF Functions, and Conditional Formatting) available as video courses through Udemy.

I pulled those courses when they introduced a nonsensical tax form that I couldn’t fill out. But I still had the videos. And when I went back and looked at them this week, they were actually good.

They use the whole “I will tell you, then I will show you” approach which is not my personal favorite, but it is theoretically the best way to present information for a large audience, so that’s why I did them that way.

Anyway. I have now added those videos to the Teachable store I set up. So if you prefer to learn visually that is now an option. Use code MLH50 on Excel for Beginners or Intermediate Excel to get those half off. The individual Easy Excel Essentials courses are also available for just $15 a pop.

I expect I will add more video courses. I’ve started prep for an Excel formulas and functions course and know I definitely want to do that one to complete that series of videos, but not sure what will come next. So if there’s some topic you’d really like to see covered, now is the time to let me know. No guarantees I’ll cover it, but if it was already on the list it may move higher.

Also, when I put together the Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts content, I decided to put templates that people could download up on Payhip. So if you want an Affinity Publisher file that already has the master pages and text styles created that’s where you can find them. It saves some time, for sure, but you still absolutely need to know the basics of working in Affinity Publisher for a print layout to effectively use them. They’re not for an absolute novice.

Alright then. That’s it. Hope you’re all doing well.

Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts

I mentioned my newest project the other day and it’s now done. Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts is available in ebook, print, AND video.

So what is this book about? Can you guess from the title?

Basically, it walks a new user through how to use Affinity Publisher, one of the Affinity suite of products, to format a fiction title.

I actually started using Affinity Publisher for my non-fiction because I ran into an issue with using Word where the resolution of the images that exported into PDF weren’t what I wanted them to be and the only way to fix it was to use a paid Adobe product.

I’d heard a lot of buzz about Affinity so decided to give it a try and loved it.

They have great instructional videos on their website which is what I used to learn the program, but for me the videos just weren’t in the order I needed them to be. So I was 80% of the way through them before I knew that they covered everything I needed. Also, there are just certain things that are specific to self-publishing (like exporting All Pages not All Spreads) that trip new users up.

So in my latest “I don’t know what to write next” funk, I sat down and started to write up how to use Affinity Publisher for a print layout.

175 pages and 100 screenshots later, I had a book and hadn’t even touched upon how to use it for non-fiction. And then I realized I should probably do videos as well.

Sixty-plus videos later…I now have three video courses listed in addition to the books.

The video courses can all be found on Teachable. And if you use code MLH50 you can get them for 50% off.

Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts is the video version of the books. There are about eighteen videos and about 90 minutes of content.

Affinity Publisher Quick Takes is basically a reference library for when you’ve forgotten how to do something and need a quick one-minute refresher. That one currently has fifty videos, but most are a minute or less.

And then there’s a bundle that lets you get them both at once.

I’m new to Teachable so if you see something that looks unfinished, please let me know. There were lots of moving parts on that one.

Anyway, hope this is something someone out there can use. I know I would’ve certainly appreciated having it when I was getting started with Affinity. (Not that I would’ve bought it because I’m that do-it-yourself-as-cheap-as-you-can sort of person, but ya know.)

Knowing me there’ll probably be a non-fiction supplement at some point as well as one for basic cover and ad image design. Hard to believe that there’s still that much content left to cover, but it really is an amazing and versatile program that I’ve found invaluable over the last year.

More Amazon A+ Content Thoughts

I just went through the process of updating some of my A+ content on Amazon so thought I’d share a few additional thoughts.

One, someone pointed out that on mobile the A+ content shows up above the blurb. So if you think you have a really powerful blurb and that’s what sells your books, you may not want to use it. Or may only want to use it on your print titles which may be more likely to be purchased by desktop users.

Two, I found out the hard way that you have to list all versions of the book separate for the content to show up on the product page. So I’d listed my ebook ASINs when I set up my content and had to go back and edit the ads to include my print ASINs.

Three, you can only put the content on books published via Amazon. For example, I have a couple of print books that I only publish through IngramSpark because I want them to have spine text and for those ones I couldn’t add A+ content.

Four, Amazon will automatically copy your U.S. content to the UK, DE, IN, CA, and AU stores for you. All you then have to do is go to each of those stores and click the “show auto-created content” button to show those ads. They’ll be in draft format so you have to go through and submit them for approval, but at least you won’t have to recreate them.

Five, if you do edit a U.S. ad the foreign copies will revert back to draft. This includes adding new books to the listing. So when I added my print books to my A+ content in the U.S. that put all of my foreign ads back to draft. (Good times.)

But, yeah, overall I like it. I’m sure readers that scroll for rank and reviews aren’t as happy, but that’s a very small subset of most readers and probably mostly author-types that do that I’d think.