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.

7 New Releases

I had no intention of announcing the release of seven new books at one time, but, well, I forgot to announce the Word 2019 releases and then it happened that the Easy Excel 2019 proofs arrived at the same time as the Excel 2019 Formulas and Functions Study Guide was finished and here we are.

So, if you have an interest in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel 2019, read on. If not, you can skip this.

First up, the Microsoft Word 2019 versions of Word for Beginners and Intermediate Word are now out. Once more, if you bought the originals, no need to buy these ones, too. I don’t think there’s anything so drastically different between them that you’d need the new ones. I think I may have moved one item from the intermediate level to the beginner level but that’s about it.

You can click on the images below to be taken to the store of your choice.

Okay. Next up. The Easy Excel Essentials 2019 books are now out. These are intermediate-level titles that focus on one specific topic: PivotTables, Charts, Conditional Formatting, and The IF Functions.

In this case, I’d say there are substantial differences in the IF Functions title because Excel 2019 includes IFS, MAXIFS, and MINIFS which didn’t exist before. So if you’re looking forward and don’t need to worry about backwards compatibility, this is the book you want. If you work with a lot of different Excel users and so can’t risk using the latest and greatest, then stick with the old version. Excel 2019 Charts also covers histograms which was not covered in the original title and Excel 2019 Conditional Formatting is expanded a bit.

Also, the print versions of these books have very different formatting. I decided this time around to go with the standard computer book size formatting for the print versions so these are all 7.5″ x 9.25″. They also have larger text than the original series so may be better for those who struggle with small type.

The astute observer may also notice that the 2019 books do not include Formatting or Printing which were part of the original series. Mostly that’s because even though I meant the titles in this series to be bought as one-offs a lot of people buy the entire series at once so I wanted to focus in more this time around. Really, if you need formatting and printing, just buy Excel 2019 Beginner. It will cost you less and you will learn more.

Okay. Final release to announce, Excel 2019 Formulas and Functions Study Guide. This is the equivalent to the quiz books for the Excel Essentials series. Basically, it takes the content of Excel 2019 Formulas and Functions and walks through that content in a question and answer format. There are also ten bonus exercises at the end to test putting the functions to use in real-world scenarios.

Once more, if you already bought and worked with the original 50 Useful Excel Functions and 50 More Excel Functions and their associated quiz books, probably no need to buy this one. It does cover some new functions like TEXTJOIN and IFS but you can probably fill in the gaps from within Excel itself without needing to buy a new book for it.

(Not that I object to making money, so buy it if you want. Just saying you don’t have to.)

First Release of 2020

This is a book I’ve been meaning to write for a couple of years now. I figure it puts a nice pretty bow on the first twenty years of my professional life which revolved around financial services regulation first on the regulatory side and then on the consulting side.

It may be one of those books that doesn’t find its audience, but I hope over time it will come to the attention of the sort of folks who see a title like Regulatory Compliance Fundamentals and think, “Oh that looks interesting.” Because it is if that’s your thing.

It’s short, 102-pages, but packed with knowledge. ($9.95 USD ebook/$19.95 USD print)

Regulatory Compliance Fundamentalsv2.jpg

There’s Still Time…

KKR made a brief comment on her May reading list post that dovetailed nicely with a comment I’d made recently in a writer’s group about releases and that also fits with my current reading list.

Basically, the comment was about how people don’t always read a book when it’s released, they read it when they find out about it.

That can be years after a book was written and published, assuming it’s still available to be read in some way, shape, or form.

For example, I’m currently reading the entire J.D. Robb In Death series. I’m about halfway through. The first book in that series was published decades ago. But for me it’s a new series that I’m racing my way through. My mom happened to mention it for the umpteenth time (she buys the new releases as soon as they come out in hard cover) and I said, “Oh, let me try it. I’ll borrow the first one from you next time I see you.” Twenty-some books later I’m still enjoying it.

I had the same thing happen with Robin Hobb. I didn’t start reading her until she’d published three trilogies in that story world.

Which is why I sometimes find the self-publisher and trade publishing focus on strong launches so interesting. I get it. The odds of having a book that stands the test of time and gets word of mouth referrals are higher the better a book launches, especially with Amazon’s built-in bias for rewarding success with more success.

But there are so many books that have done well later as people started to read them and recommend them to one another.

I always think of Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft as a perfect example of this sort of thing. That series didn’t do well until he submitted it to the SPFBO. One of the fifty best fantasy novels I’ve read, but it was languishing in triple-digit ratings for a couple years before it got its break.

That doesn’t mean every book that doesn’t sell well right away is some work of genius, of course. Odds are more often on the side of a book not being that great. But if you have faith in what you wrote, don’t give up just because you weren’t instantly amazingly successful. Keep working it. You never know.

(I say with hope as I have two Bookbubs on two separate series coming up this month…)

 

Some Microsoft Word Tips

This morning I hit publish on my last titles for 2017, Word for Beginners and Intermediate Word. That makes 441,312 words written (give or take) and 409,252 words published for the year. Phew. A little more than half of that was non-fiction since that seems to have become my focus for the second half of the year, but I did have two novels in there, too.

Anyway.

While I was writing the Word guides I kept finding myself saying “never do this” based on things I had actually encountered in my professional career. Finally, I started writing them down so I could share them.

So here they are. Things you should never do in Word (because there’s a better way to do it). With suggestions of how to better handle it using Word 2013 as my source.

1. Never manually number a list of items. (Especially in the midst of an automatically numbered list.) Instead use the Numbering option in the Paragraph section of the Home tab. Or the Format Painter in the Home tab if there’s already a numbered list you’re trying to continue.

2. Never add a return between paragraphs to create space. Instead, use Word to add space before or after your paragraphs. You can do this using the Line and Paragraph Spacing option in the Paragraph section of the Home tab or by right-clicking and choosing Paragraph to bring up the Paragraph dialogue box.

3. Never use the tab key or, worse, manual spaces to indent a paragraph. Instead, right-click, choose Paragraph, and bring up the Paragraph dialogue box. Then go to Indentation and under Special choose First Line.

4. Never manually add page numbering to your document. Instead, go to the Header & Footer section of the Insert tab and choose from the options in the Page Number dropdown.

5. Never manually add headers or footers to your document. Instead, go to the Header & Footer section of the Insert tab and choose from the options in the Header or Footer dropdowns.

6. Never manually mark text to be deleted with a strikethrough. Instead, use track changes which is available under the Review tab.

7. Never manually mark text as inserted by changing its color and/or underlining it. Instead, use track changes which is available under the Review tab.

8. Never make comments within the text of the document and set those comments aside using brackets, highlighting, or different colored text. Instead, use New Comment from the Comments section of the Review tab.

9. Never use enter to get to the next page when you need to start a new chapter. Instead, insert a page or section break into your document by going to the Page Setup section of the Page Layout tab and choosing from the options under Breaks.

10. Never manually build a table of contents in your document. Instead, use the Heading 1, Heading 2, etc. styles on your section headings and then have Word insert a table of contents by going to the Table of Contents section of the References tab.

11. Never manually break a table that’s long enough to repeat across more than one page into multiple tables so that you can repeat the header row on each page. Instead, right-click on the top row of the table, choose Table Properties, go to the Row tab, and click the box for “Repeat as header row at the top of each page.”

There you have it. My list of eleven things you should “never” do in Word.  And, of course, it just so happens I covered how to do all of these things the “right way” and much, much more in my Word guides. Items 1 through 5 are covered in Word for Beginners. Items 6 through 11 are covered in Intermediate Word. Just sayin’…